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Mail 496 December 10 - 16, 2007
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December 10, 2007
Is Global Warming an “informational cascade?”
This is a little old, so I don’t know if you have seen this article:
It describes why the scientific consensus that a diet high in Fat leads to heart disease is wrong. This same phenomenon of “informational cascade” can also explain the “consensus” on Global Warming. Some excerpts below:
Thus begins an “informational cascade” as one person after another assumes that the rest can’t all be wrong.
Because of this effect, groups are surprisingly prone to reach mistaken conclusions even when most of the people started out knowing better, according to the economists Sushil Bikhchandani, David Hirshleifer and Ivo Welch. If, say, 60 percent of a group’s members have been given information pointing them to the right answer (while the rest have information pointing to the wrong answer), there is still about a one-in-three chance that the group will cascade to a mistaken consensus.
The scientists, despite their impressive credentials, were accused of bias because some of them had done research financed by the food industry. And so the informational cascade morphed into what the economist Timur Kuran calls a reputational cascade, in which it becomes a career risk for dissidents to question the popular wisdom
But when the theories were tested in clinical trials, the evidence kept turning up negative. As Mr. Taubes notes, the most rigorous meta-analysis of the clinical trials of low-fat diets, published in 2001 by the Cochrane Collaboration, concluded that they had no significant effect on mortality.
“This is a matter,” he continued, “of such enormous social, economic and medical importance that it must be evaluated with our eyes completely open. Thus I would hate to see this issue settled by anything that smacks of a Gallup poll.” Or a cascade.
Any similarity to the global warming consensus cascade is probably not coincidental. It used to be called a band wagon effect, but we are wiser now and reject all that folk wisdom. Scientists are above anything a crass as a band wagon.
Very interesting article. I don't have the source data ID, but will try to find it. Most enlightening is that the scientists did not expect to see this and are puzzling out what it means. Maybe it means that a warming climate triggers a change in the albedo and eventually a global cooling.
Warming Creates More Night Shining Clouds
Irene Klotz, Discovery News
We can't predict next year's weather but we can predict the climate for a hundred years, and do you want to buy a good toll bridge?
A couple of bicycling links--
Health and safety (put down your coffee first):
All vehicles on the road are equal (some are more equal): <http://www.surreycomet.co.uk/news/wbnews/display.
A couple of security stories--
Iraqi problems with technology:
Blankets as security risks:
End of McCann probe:
Unnecessary and bizarre translations: <http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk_news/story/0,,2224240,00.html
Scientology to be banned in Germany as totalitarian: <http://www.guardian.co.uk/germany/article/0,,2224328,00.html
DRM-crippled WD drive: <http://www.theregister.co.uk/2007/12/07/western_digital_drm_crippled_harddrive/
Public grant to Labour to train staff on how to handle contributions: <http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/politics/article3019191.ece
Think-tank warns on IDs:
Harry Erwin, PhD, Program Leader, MSc Information Systems Security, University of Sunderland.
Weblog at: <http://scat-he-g4.sunderland.ac.uk/~harryerw/blog/index.php>
Subject: Former Nuclear Activist Changes her mind
"The only way to rescue our plug-hungry planet from catastrophic global warming is to embrace nuclear power, and fast."
Gwyneth Cravens was a former nuclear protester, but now she sees nuclear energy as the only way to "save the planet".
Subject: Words from the past
In case you had missed it ...
Includes the audio. The first time I've ever heard Mr. Heinlein's voice.
From another conference:
From someone you know. I'd put in his name but I have to ask first. We all know this is true.
The answer, again from someone you know, was
|This week:||Tuesday, December
It seems the 2004 Samuelson paper does not mean quite what we thought:
I am not sure I understand. The comparative advantage that China has vis-à-vis the USA is all our regulations to cut productivity. The Americans With Disabilities Act is a huge primary hamper. Minimum wage is less so, but still effective. OSHA, requirements for retirement funds, health care -- all these cut American productivity without hampering Chinese workers.
American labor unions have great legal advantages in negotiation and bargaining, and all that comes on top of the mandated programs.
Now clearly there are social balances here; no one really wants to make American factories unsafe, and return to the days when William Lloyd Garrison had a policy of firing his factory workers without pension when they reached the age of 35 on the grounds that they didn't work as hard as youngsters. (Although Circuit City recently fired all its experienced sales staff because they earned too much, and replaced them with new hires; the logic of capitalism is inexorable absent government intervention.) There needs to be a balance.
The first step in achieving the balance would be to get the Federal Government entirely out of the labor regulation business including health and safety. Most people won't recall that Constitutional amendments allowing Congress to regulate and forbid child labor twice failed, and the Supreme Court held for years that Congress had no power to regulate work conditions in the states. This eventually fell to reinterpretation of the Constitution, so that it was held that window washers in Michigan were engaged in interstate commerce because some of the offices in the building might be engaged in interstate commerce, etc. Prior to all that, the Congress didn't interfere with labor conditions, and the states set such matters. The result was at least some competition among the states to keep productivity higher.
Do understand, I am no advocate of unrestrained laissez faire that leaves everything to the market place. The market place, unrestrained, would not only bring back child labor, but left to itself, would eventually sell human flesh and rent out children for prostitution. There is nothing on this earth that someone will not market given freedom to do so. On the other hand, while I have little confidence in Sacramento, I have far more confidence in Sacramento than I do in Washington DC. After all, Sacramento -- and Los Angeles -- are safer places to live, and have better schools (awful as they are) than the District of Columbia where Congress has the full power of a state government. I have more confidence that Sacramento will set working conditions more appropriate for California than I do in Congress's ability to do so. I also believe that some states, faced with unemployment from job exports, will chose to pay attention to world conditions and change regulations to favor jobs over ideology. Some won't. Fine by me.
Comparative advantage has caused the US to accumulate enormous debts. We owe, if not our souls, then much of our hide, to Japan and China. We then build enormous bureaucracies to take care of those whose jobs were exported. This will become more acute as workers without any accumulation of retirement benefits get older.
We sow the wind.
Re: comparative advantage
We all (should have) learned in school that we are protected from excesses of federal government by the Bill of Rights. Unfortunately, modern courts, Congresscritters, and media types are unable to count to 10.
Amendment Ten The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.
Does anyone still take this seriously?
Not at present.
"Okay, my mind is on fiction tonight and it's all Joel's fault. On my way home last time, and on my way out this time, I found and reread one of the true classics of heroism and leadership in the English language. I am referring, of course, to Watership Down
Not an example which would have immediately come to mind, but actually a pretty good choice. Hazel isn't the Schwarzenegger Hero, nor is he the Flash Gordon type. Hazel has flaws and weaknesses, and recognizes that. Hazel has good advisors and listens to them. Hazel knows the big thing is to keep trying, and have a vision of where they need to go. As I thikn about it, Watership Down is the same sort of story Battlestar Galactica Reimagined intended to be, but done well.
Subject: Ice clouds -- The doubletalk;
Quotes from Warming Creates More Night Shining Clouds, Irene Klotz, Discovery News, Dec. 10, 2007 (linked in Chaos Manor Mail 10 December 2007):
"These clouds are changing in ways that we don't understand," AIM principal investigator Jim Russell, with Virginia's Hampton University . . . .
"A small change in temperature is causing a dramatic change in cloud behavior," [Virginia Polytechnic Institute's Scott] Bailey said. [Bailey is the deputy principal investigator for AIM.]
So letmesee, the principal investigator says the clouds are changing in ways that we don't understand but his deputy appears to understand those ways and is confident that global warming is the cause of the changes.
Gosh, science is so much easier when we don't allow that messy data analysis to interfer with our prepared conclusions.
Respectfully h lynn keith
Subject: French Frigate Appears Online
"The French Navy sent a virtual (but real looking) frigate to the online game Second Life for a one week visit (November 29-December 4). The purpose was to help recruit the nearly 4,000 new sailors the navy needs to attract in the next year:"
December 12, 2007
I got started late today, so this will be short shrift.
Subject: Human Factors: The Checklist: The B-17 Episode and its lessons for 21st-century medicine
My brother Dave sent me this:
In 1935, the Boeing 299 prototype, of what later became the B-17, crashed and burned on what should have been a routine test flight by the Army Air Corps' most senior test pilot. The aircraft was deemed too complicated to be flyable.
How they made the B-17 flyable has lessons for 21st-century medicine.
This piece belongs on the Mandatory Reading List for High School Seniors, right next to Peter Drucker's _The Effective Executive_.
Indeed. The story was mandatory for those of us who went into human factors, for obvious reasons.
"The Americans With Disabilities Act is a huge primary hamper."
ADA has forced American business and education to take a look at what people can actually do. I was told in a seminar setting at one time that a business was expected to spend $200- cash to accommodate an individual, and to vary business operations in financially insignificant ways (ie. scheduling, or allowing use of devices). I know that silly demands have made the news, but there are silly lawsuits all the time.
I submit that getting people looked at by employers is a net positive to the economy. Certainly getting universities and state licensing authorities to look at such people is a net positive.
I was an aircraft mechanic (A&P). With computers I was able to meet expectations for a Bachelor's degree, but still hit a glass academic ceiling. After evaluation of my learning disabilities, I am now employed as a lawyer. I don't know if that (another lawyer) is a net positive for the economy, but my salary is three times what it was, and that is how services are measured.
I couldn't have gotten through law school or the bar exam without accommodation. The only time I have invoked it in a work setting was for a particularly bone headed boss who forbid me use of voice recognition software.
- David Schierholz, Esq.
And we need to threaten employers with imprisonment if they don't accommodate you. I'll take your word for your abilities. On the other hand, there was the company that had to hire a deaf programmer, then find someone who could sign technical terms so that the programmer could sit in meetings with understanding. That added a bit to the cost.
And one of my favorite restaurants closed because a customer declined to come in through the kitchen. It was physically impossible to build a ramp that would let this professional whiner -- he has lawsuits against 20 places including one where the mirror in the men's room is to high to allow him to "preen himself" -- come in the front door. The owner sold the property to be developed into condos.
Now all this may be a good idea, but it isn't cheap. It isn't cheap to pay the bureaucrats who enforce it. I am all for handicapped people being employed; but one needs to be aware that ADA plus free trade means exporting jobs.
A tariff equal to the added costs of our regulations would be one solution to the problem.
"The market place, unrestrained, would not only bring back child labor, but left to itself, would eventually sell human flesh and rent out children for prostitution. There is nothing on this earth that someone will not market given freedom to do so. On the other hand, while I have little confidence in Sacramento, I have far more confidence in Sacramento than I do in Washington DC."
Both points well taken - and well put. But no doubt you trust your next-door neighbor even more than Sacramento; yet you will not entrust him with the task of preventing child prostitution. He lacks the power and the organization. So you rely on the next best thing; Sacramento.
The question is if Sacramento has enough influence to protect American workers from the ravages of predatory capitalism. Our historical experience is that it does not. If you leave worker-protection up to the states, then you get a race to the bottom. We can set up tariffs and barriers against unfair foreign competition (though presently do not) but cannot do so within the Union; this suggests the need for federal action.
But does not prove it. DC is even more distant, and even more corruptible, than Sacramento. In particular, predatory capitalists have disproportionate influence there. The GOP has proven to everyone that you cannot trust the federal government - especially when it's run by the GOP.
So it's a dilemma. How much unreliably-protective government to fend off the reliably-rapacious market? It's a permanently open question; therefore it should always be up for re-negotiation.
Allow me to edit you a bit: "The market place, unrestrained, would eventually sell human flesh." May I quote you thus? It's vivid, and I think accurate. I'm glad to see that you fear and distrust the Market as well as the State. Throw in the Church too, and you will have an accurate view of civilization. I call the Market, State and Church the "three monsters", for their man-eating tendencies. Part of their function is to keep the other two in check.
You also say: "There is nothing on this earth that someone will not market given freedom to do so." "Freedom" is an ambiguous word in this context, given that one of the things eventually marketed would be power to deny the freedom of others. Slavery is the archetype of that hypocrisy. Karl Marx predicted that capitalism will penetrate everywhere; maybe you agree.
Sincerely, Nathaniel Hellerstein
I have more faith in my neighbors than in Sacramento.
And I would have thought the Church was the inspiration for the notion that slavery is wrong. Surely it has said so since St. Paul's time. The Abolitionists certainly thought they were doing the Lord's work.
Marx viewed the world through one lens, and came up with class warfare as the key to history, and the interests of the working class as the fountain of morality. Neither conclusion is supportable by rational argument.
I am glad you find hope in Democratic control of Washington DC. Allow me to dissent. I have no more confidence in Pelosi than I did in Armey. I will cheerfully admit that I wish Newt Gingrich were back as Speaker.
You seem to reject the conservative notion that if something works reasonably well, then rushing out to improve it is not a good notion. That is what the Democratic Party has stood for for over fifty years, and the results have not been very cheering. As to the Republicans in power, they spent like drunken sailors and rather than cast out a lot of the deadwood we had accumulated added more. But then except for Newt we have had few actual conservatives occupy positions of leadership in the Republican Party since Reagan, and he was hampered by the Cold War and the conditions the left put on efforts to win that war.
Subject: Informational cascade
Hello Dr. Pournelle,
Informational cascade obviously exists, but it may be a subset of the phenomenon described by Dr. Jerry B. Harvey as "The Abilene Paradox". Or maybe vice versa. It occurs regularly in meetings where the output of the meeting is a plan for action which every individual who signed on recognizes to be at best ill advised or, more commonly, totally counterproductive to the stated objective. Look around. Is there ANY government program for which this is not true? Of course the shining example would be the whole diversity-is-our-strength/affirmative action debacle, supposedly intended to make racially diverse, culturally orthogonal groups love and respect each other, but if you don't like that one, pick another at random.
I first ran across "The Abilene Paradox" when I was working for the government. My branch chief attended a lecture by Dr. Harvey, which was taped. All the attendees got a copy and he showed it to us as a command performance. In addition to his initial discovery of the paradox, which led to the name, Dr. Harvey described a consulting job in which he was supposed to save a dying company. The company was basically healthy, but it had one project, peanut oil to jet fuel, which was bankrupting it. Dr. Harvey visited folks in the entire chain of command, from the worker bees to the president. ALL agreed that it was the stupidest idea that they had ever heard, but were going all out because they didn't want to 'let down the team', or some such buzzword (this was in the early '80's when I saw the tape). Of course the solution was obvious and Dr. Harvey saved the company and rode off into the sunset a hero. (By the way, if anyone has a copy of that tape guard it with your life. "Saturday Night Live" has never had a skit to equal it.)
Abilene paradox returns around 30,000 hits. Here is one. : http://www.masterfacilitatorjournal.com/archives/skill103.html
NONE however can match the effect of watching the taped lecture by Dr. Harvey.
Bob Ludwick Front Royal, VA
December 13, 2007
Dear Dr Pournelle
I find myself somewhat skeptical of the alleged anthropogenic aspects of global warming. While I personally do not know how to define much less measure a "global temperature", I'll assume, for the sake of discussion, that there is a workable definition of a thermometer that the majority of climatologists and astrophysicists can agree on. I will also allow that the earth is warmer now than it was 150 years ago at the depth of the Little Ice Age. What I have difficulty with is the apparent scare tactics, the demonization of any and all holding opposing views, and the use of statistical models to predict the earth's temperature a century from now in order to create a climate of fear. I believe I've seen similar sentiments expressed by you so when I found the three reports below, I had to forward them. (BTW, I've often found eureakalert.org to be an interesting place to visit.)
Briefly, a study of the climate models themselves indicates that they may not be reliable; Greenland's melting (like the Wicked Witch of the West) may not be entirely related to anthropogenic CO2; and who'd a thought the roaring 20's were such bad news for Greenland's glaciers?
All of which goes to show we don't know what's going on. What seems certain is that panic is the wrong move. Bankrupting ourselves means we will not have the means to do anything if we discover what is happening and want ways to change it.
Russell Seitz, for example, has looked into ways to change the albedo of the Earth through biological manipulation. I worry about such moves, but it's certainly worth studying. We can remove CO2 by stimulating sea algae growth. Or -- we can rejoice that the Earth is warming a bit and areas previously uninhabitable can e inhabited. The sea level rises are hard cheese on Bangla Desh, but the weight of all the sediments brought down from the mountains to their delta is going to sink their lands anyway -- the same goes for much of the New Orleans delta. If we want to Do Something about that, it would help if we paid attention to what is actually going on, but that doesn't grab headlines.
And so it goes.
Subj: Teller centennial: Power to the people!
Some of the global warming people are beginning to believe in nuclear power. France and Japan have long moved that way. About 100 nuclear power plants a year would halt the CO2. Solar Power Satellites could make it possible to beam down power to developing nations. There are alternatives to burning fossil fuels, as we all said 50 years ago. That was Ted Sturgeon's speech at the Nebula banquet I put on just about 30 years ago. Harrison Brown echoed him. We have known these things for a long time.
Subject: The British Empire
I was researching the use of the Ching Sling today and through a reference, wound up looking into the British Empire. Wow. 400 years. No news to you, of course, but I am humbled by what came before us. Of course we no longer study history. In the case of the British, what could we possibly have to learn from a little island the ruled 1/4 of the earth's population and lasted for 400 years?
The $80,000- (per year!) positives don't get measured (certainly I did not go into the New York City litigation arena [at age 40] and say, "This is where you can stick the knife in my intellect".) I understand, everyone has an anecdote about something. But I am picking apart CATO Institutes's article on the subject and it doesn't consider smart people in it's calculations.
Anecdotes are easy. Litigation reform is hard. And it should be. The courts create much of our law. I suspect that among the many reasons the American economy works so well is that those who can afford the better lawyers, working harder, get to shape the law here. Big companies beat back the nut cases like the people you mention, who I imagine were from the early days of the law, and we have something reasonable now with a net gain to the economy. Then the electorate can knock the big companies back, (as long as the electorate keeps the will to do so).
David Schierholz, Esq.
I will point out that "mainstreaming" the handicapped, while good for them, is often disastrous for the other students; combine mainstreaming with No Child Left Behind and the teacher's time is of necessity allocated to those doing poorly to the neglect of those who will in fact keep the economy going. Our school system is a disaster for the bright normal kids who are the only people who can keep a First World Economy on track.
I'll leave it for others to point out that while charity is a Christian obligation, I have seen absolutely no reason why there is a moral obligation for a secular state to treat the handicapped in any way other than as equals. Equality under the law works all ways. ADA is a residual of Christian sentiment among the American population. When it is eradicated, as it will, the logic of the market place will take over.
Subject: On forgetting the obvious
"Some truths are so obvious that to mention them in polite company seems either pointless or rude. What is left unstated, however, can with time be forgotten. Both of these observations apply today to the American way of war. It is obvious that a military can only fight well on behalf of a society in which it believes, and that a society which believes little is worth fighting for cannot, in the end, field an effective military. Obvious as this is, we seem to have forgotten it."
I don't agree with everything written here, but this article is well worth a read for those trying to figure out the proper relationship between the Armed Forces and the rest of society. He does talk about the need the warrior class feels to be respected, but does not speculate on what happens if this respect is deemed to be gone forever.
Subject: Dishonest Political Tampering with the Science on Global Warming - by Christopher Monckton, Denpasar, Bali - The Heartland Institute
Decline of Education - more evidence in
The latest round of international test scores paints a grim picture for the United States. The new results were released from the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA), which tested hundreds of thousands of 15-year-old students from 30 industrialized countries. The results, which were released last week, show that American students are below average in math and science. Out of 30 industrialized nations, American students rank 25th in math and 21st in science, and our average scores on both tests are below the U.S. averages from the 2003 test. America is falling behind its global competitors and the economic security of our children is at risk. (snip) "
Subject: Tracking Santa
"In 1955, a Colorado Springs based Sears placed an ad for local kids to "call Santa" on a special hotline that the department store had set up. No one seemed to notice that the hotline's number was misprinted. So instead of calling Sears on Christmas Eve, children all over the Colorado Springs area ended up calling Colonel Harry Shoup, director of operations at NORAD's predecessor CONAD, asking "where's Santa?"
NORAD <http://www.norad.mil/> (North American Aerospace Defense Command) is responsible for air and space tracking, originally designed as a sophisticated detection system for inbound Soviet ICBMs and nuclear-armed bombers.
Colonel Shoup realized what had happened, and played along. He asked his staff to check their radars to see if there was any indication of Santa moving on a south-ward vector from the North Pole. Thus, a tradition was born."
Sent in the presumption that somebody will find this useful.
Please withhold email address if published.
With reference to the ADA, one of your correspondents stated, "I submit that getting people looked at by employers is a net positive to the economy."
Don't you just love government initiatives that cannot stand on their own merits, but have to have their non-related and unmeasurable side "benefits" touted?
Since the space shuttle era began, I call this the "Tang" factor.
Subject: Disablity Act -
No offense to your correspondent, but I wouldn't hire a Lawyer who needed accommodation to pass the Bar or has learning disabilities. I want an attorney who has the very best brain that I can afford. Likewise I don't want a Firefighter who needs accommodation because she isn't strong enough to carry a full grown man down the stairs, or an airline pilot who needs corrective lenses, or a doctor who needs an interpreter because he doesn't speak English. What's next? ADA action because the NFL won't hire anorexic linebackers?
It boils down to this: People with disabilities are disabled! That means that there are some things that they cannot do. Yes it's not fair, but get over it: life isn't fair. A (very) politically incorrect friend noted recently that all this touchy-feely, no one left behind/no one gets ahead, socialism started when women were given the vote. That's something to think about....
A MAMMOTH HEADACHE
News2007372 <http://adamant.typepad.com/photos/uncategorized/2007/12/12/news2007372.jpg> The Northern Lights have seen strange sights, but nothing weirder than what befell a gaggle of wooly mammoths lumbering across the Siberian tundra some 30,000 years ago-- the sky lit up with a bang as they were struck by a hail of micrometeorites the size of shotgun pellets.
We owe this earth shaking discovery not to the fearless frozen mammoth hunters of Yakutia, but an Arizona rockhound who had the presence of mind to bring a magnet to the fossil ivory booth at the Tucson mineral show
-- Russell Seitz
Subject: You stinkin' socialist, you! --
Greetings, tovarishch poor-Nyelavitch!
I have just been informed by The World's Foremost Reliable Source (Rupert Lord Murdoch, Grand Imperator of County Nuz), that those who wish to be paid for their work when it is sold via online media are "socialists"!
(For reference, I believe Nial Kavutosky's Glorious Televisionary Presentation will eventually post a transcript of today's Victory Interview with Lord Murdoch, celebrating the conquest of the reactionary Kapitalista counterrevolutionaries at the House of Jones, Lord of Dow.)
Lord Murdoch masterfully swept away the so-called "interests" of those socialists (the likes of you, and me, and, as he has revealed, VERY few others) who think they have some kind of "right" to be paid for their work when it is distributed via the Internet.
In Hock [koff koff] Signal Vinces! Hail Rupert! Hail Rupert! Hail Rupert!
We who are about to consume salute you!
[[This moment has been brought to you by The Orwell Society. Translation services courtesy of the Santayana Foundation. Additional support provided by the Corporation for Bread and Circuses. Coming Soon -- "Page Three Girls of Wall Street."]]
'Global warming' strikes again.
-- Roland Dobbins
December 14, 2007
Subject: housing crisis, Gingrich speech
"Are we really saying that the people at the bottom should lose their houses, and the bankers who sucked millions out of them shouldn't feel any pain?"
The banks are feeling a LOT of pain - the kind of pain that means the most to them - $300-400 billion worth of pain. What other penalties could we possibly assess that would hurt them as bad as this?
I wondered if you'd seen this Gingrich speech. Very sensible and cogent. "We should win" - a daring, even subversive concept!
Sleepwalking Into a Nightmare
Speech by Newt Gingrich
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich delivered the following remarks to a Jewish National Fund meeting Nov. 15 at the Selig Center.
I just want to talk to you from the heart for a few minutes and share with you where I think we are.
I think it is very stark. I don't think it is yet desperate, but it is very stark. And if I had a title for today's talk, it would be sleepwalking into a nightmare. 'Cause that's what I think we're doing.
I gave a speech at the American Enterprise Institute Sept. 10th at which I gave an alternative history of the last six years, because the more I thought about how much we're failing, the more I concluded you couldn't just nitpick individual places and talk about individual changes because it didn't capture the scale of the disaster. And I had been particularly impressed by a new book that came out called “Troublesome Young Men,” which is a study of the younger Conservatives who opposed appeasement in the 1930s and who took on Chamberlain. It's a very revealing book and a very powerful book because we tend to look backwards and we tend to overstate Churchill's role in that period. And we tend to understate what a serious and conscientious and thoughtful effort appeasement was and that it was the direct and deliberate policy of very powerful and very willful people. We tend to think of it as a psychological weakness, as though Chamberlain was somehow craven. He wasn't craven. Chamberlain had a very clear vision of the world, and he was very ruthless domestically. And they believed so deeply in avoiding war with Germany that as late as the spring of 1940, when they are six months or seven months into they war, they are dropping leaflets instead of bombs on the Rohr, and they are urging the British news media not to publish anti-German stories because they don't want to offend the German people. And you read this book, and it makes you want to weep because, interestingly, the younger Tories who were most opposed to appeasement were the combat veterans of World War I, who had lost all of their friends in the war but who understood that the failure of appeasement would result in a worse war and that the longer you lied about reality, the greater the disaster.
And they were severely punished and isolated by Chamberlain and the Conservative machine, and as I read that, I realized that that's really where we are today. Our current problem is tragic. You have an administration whose policy is inadequate being opposed by a political Left whose policy is worse, and you have nobody prepared to talk about the policy we need. Because we are told if you are for a strong America, you should back the Bush policy even if it's inadequate, and so you end up making an argument in favor of something that can't work. So your choice is to defend something which isn't working or to oppose it by being for an even weaker policy. So this is a catastrophe for this country and a catastrophe for freedom around the world. Because we have refused to be honest about the scale of the prob lem.
Let me work back. I'm going to get to Iran since that's the topic, but I'm going to get to it eventually.
Let me work back from Pakistan. The dictatorship in Pakistan has never had control over Wiziristan. Not for a day. So we've now spent six years since 9/11 with a sanctuary for al Qaeda and a sanctuary for the Taliban, and every time we pick up people in Great Britain who are terrorists, they were trained in Pakistan.
And our answer is to praise Musharraf because at least he's not as bad as the others. But the truth is Musharraf has not gotten control of terrorism in Pakistan. Musharraf doesn't have full control over his own government. The odds are even money we're going to drift into a disastrous dictatorship at some point in Pakistan. And while we worry about the Iranians acquiring a nuclear weapon, the Pakistanis already have 'em, So why would you feel secure in a world where you could presently have an Islamist dictatorship in Pakistan with a hundred-plus nuclear weapons? What's our grand strategy for that?
Then you look at Afghanistan. Here's a country that's small, poor, isolated, and in six years we have not been able to build roads, create economic opportunity, wean people off of growing drugs. A third of the GDP is from drugs. We haven't been able to end the sanctuary for the Taliban in Pakistan. And I know of no case historically where you defeat a guerrilla movement if it has a sanctuary. So the people who rely on the West are out-bribed by the criminals, outgunned by the criminals, and faced with a militant force across the border which practiced earlier defeating the Soviet empire and which has a time horizon of three or four generations. NATO has a time horizon of each quarter or at best a year, facing an opponent whose time horizon is literally three or four generations. It's a total mismatch.
Then you come to the direct threat to the United States, which is al Qaeda. Which, by the way, we just published polls. One of the sites I commend to you is AmericanSolutions.com. Last Wednesday we posted six national surveys, $428,000 worth of data. We gave it away. I found myself in the unique position of calling Howard Dean to tell him I was giving him $400,000 worth of polling. We have given it away to both Democrats and Republicans. It is fundamentally different from the national news media. When asked the question "Do we have an obligation to defend the United States and her allies?" the answer is 85 percent yes. When asked a further question "Should we defeat our enemies?" – it's very strong language – the answer i s 75% yes, 75 to 16.
The complaint about Iraq is a performance complaint, not a values complaint.
When asked whether or not al Qaeda is a threat, 89% of the country says yes. And they think you have to defeat it, you can't negotiate with it. So now let's look at al Qaeda and the rise of Islamist terrorism.
And let's be honest: What's the primary source of money for al Qaeda? It's you, re-circulated through Saudi Arabia. Because we have no national energy strategy, when clearly if you really cared about liberating the United States from the Middle East and if you really cared about the survival of Israel, one of your highest goals would be to move to a hydrogen economy and to eliminate petroleum as a primary source of energy.
Now that's what a serious national strategy would look like, but that would require real change.
So then you look at Saudi Arabia. The fact that we tolerate a country saying no Christian and no Jew can go to Mecca, and we start with the presumption that that's true while they attack Israel for being a religious state is a sign of our timidity, our confusion, our cowardice that is stunning.
It's not complicated. We're inviting Saudi Arabia to come to Annapolis to talk about rights for Palestinians when nobody is saying, "Let's talk about rights for Christians and Jews in Saudi Arabia. Let's talk about rights for women in Saudi Arabia."
So we accept this totally one-sided definition of the world in which our enemies can cheerfully lie on television every day, and we don't even have the nerve to insist on the truth. We pretend their lies are reasonable. This is a very fundamental problem. And if you look at who some of the largest owners of some of our largest banks are today, they're Saudis.
You keep pumping billions of dollars a year into countries like Venezuela, Iran and Saudi Arabia, and Russia, and you are presently going to have created people who oppose you who have lots of money. And they're then going to come back to your own country and finance, for example, Arab study institutes whose only requirement is that they never tell the truth. So you have all sorts of Ph.D.s who now show up quite cheerfully prepared to say whatever it is that makes their funders happy – in the name, of course, of academic freedom. So why wouldn't Columbia host a gen ocidal madman? It's just part of political correctness. I mean, Ahmadinejad may say terrible things, he may lock up students, he may kill journalists, he may say, "We should wipe out Israel," he may say, "We should defeat the United States," but after all, what has he done that's inappropriate? What has he done that wouldn't be repeated at a Hollywood cocktail party or a nice gathering in Europe?
And nobody says this is totally, utterly, absolutely unacceptable. Why is it that the number one threat in intelligence movies is the CIA?
I happened the other night to be watching an old movie, “To Live and Die in L.A.,” which is about counterfeiting. But the movie starts with a Secret Service agent who is defending Ronald Reagan in 1985, and the person he is defending Ronald Reagan from is a suicide bomber who is actually, overtly a Muslim fanatic. Now, six years after 9/11, you could not get that scene made in Hollywood today.
Just look at the movies. Why is it that the bad person is either a Right-wing crazed billionaire, or the CIA as a government agency? Go look at “The Bourne Ultimatum.” Or a movie like the one that George Clooney made, which was an absolute lie, in which it implied that if you were a reformist Arab prince, that probably the CIA would kill you. It's a total lie. We actually have SEALs protecting people all over the world. We actually risk American lives protecting reformers all over the world, and yet Hollywood can't bring itself to tell the truth, (a) because it's ideologically so opposed to the American government and the American military, and (b), because it's terrified that if it said something really openly, honestly true about Muslim terrorists, they might show up in Hollywood. And you might have somebody killed as the Dutch producer was killed.
And so we're living a life of cowardice, and in that life of cowardice we're sleepwalking into a nightmare.
And then you come to Iran. There's a terrific book. Mark Bowden is a remarkable writer who wrote “Black Hawk Down,” has enormous personal courage. He's a Philadelphia newspaper writer, actually got the money out of the Philadelphia newspaper to go to Somalia to interview the Somalian side of “Black Hawk Down.” It's a remarkable achievement. Tells a great story about getting to Somalia, paying lots of cash, having the local warlord protect him, and after about two weeks the warlord came to him and said, "You know, we've decided that we're very uncomfortable with you being here, a nd you should leave."
And so he goes to the hotel, where he is the only hard-currency guest, and says, "I've got to check out two weeks early because the warlord has told me that he no longer will protect me." And the hotel owner, who wants to keep his only hard-currency guest, says, "Well, why are you listening to him? He's not the government. There is no government." And Bowden says, "Well, what will I do?" And he says, "You hire a bigger warlord with more guns," which he did. But then he could only stay one week because he ran out of money.
But this is a guy with real courage. I mean, imagine trying to go out and be a journalist in that kind of world, OK? So Bowden came back and wrote “Guests of the Ayatollah,” which is the Iranian hostage of 1979, which he entitled, "The First Shots in Iran's War Against America." So in the Bowden worldview, the current Iranian dictatorship has been at war with the United States since 1979. Violated international law. Every conceivable tenet of international law was violated when they seized the American Embassy and they seized the diplomats. Killed Americans in Lebanon in the early '80s. Killed Americans at Khobar Towers in '95 and had the Clinton administration deliberately avoid revealing the information, as Louis Freeh, the director of the FBI, has said publicly, because they didn't want to have to confront the Iranian complicity.
And so you have an Iranian regime which is cited annually as the leading supporter of state terrorism in the world. Every year the State Department says that. It's an extraordinary act of lucidity on the part of an institution which seeks to avoid it as often as possible.
And you have Gen. Petraeus come to the U.S. Congress and say publicly in an open session, "The Iranians are waging a proxy war against Americans in Iraq."
I was so deeply offended by this, it's hard for me to express it without sounding irrational. I'm an Army brat. My dad served 27 years in the infantry. The idea that an American general would come to the American Congress, testify in public that our young men and women are being killed by Iran, and we have done nothing, I find absolutely abhorrent.
So I'm preparing to come and talk today. I got up this morning, and a friend had sent me yesterday's Jerusalem Post editorial, which if you haven't read, I recommend to you. It has, for example, the following quote: "On Monday, chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said, 'The problem of the content of the document setting out joint principles for peace-making post-Annapolis has not been resolved. One of the more pressing problems is the Zionist regime's insistence on being recognized as a Jewish state. We will not agree to recognize Israel as a Jewish state. There is no country in the world where religious and national identities are intertwined.' "
What truly bothers me is the shallowness and the sophistry of the Western governments, starting with our own. When a person says to you, "I don't recognize that you exist," you don't start a negotiation. The person says, "I literally do not recognize" and then lies to you. I mean the first thing you say to this guy is "Terrific. Let's go visit Mecca. Since clearly there's no other state except Israel that is based on religion, the fact that I happen to be Christian won't bother anybody." And then he'll say, "Well, that's different."
We tolerate this. We have created our own nightmare because we refuse to tell the truth. We refuse to tell the truth to our politicians. Our State Department refuses to tell the truth to the country. If the president of the United States, and again, we're now so bitterly partisan, we're so committed to red vs. blue hostility, that George W. Bush doesn't have the capacity to give an address from the Oval Office that has any meaning for half the country. And the anti-war Left is so strong in the Democratic primary that I think it's almost impossible for any Democratic presidential candidate to tell the truth about the situation.
And so the Republicans are isolated and trying to defend incompetence. The Democrats are isolated and trying to find a way to say, "I'm really for strength as long as I can have peace, but I'd really like to have peace, except I don't want to recognize these people who aren't very peaceful."
I just want to share with you, as a grandfather, as a citizen, as a historian, as somebody who was once speaker of the House, this is a serious national crisis. This is 1935 or 1936, and it's getting worse every year.
None of our enemies are confused. Our enemies don't get up each morning and go, "Oh, gosh, I think I'll have an existential crisis of identity in which I will try to think through whether or not we can be friends while you're killing me." Our enemies get up every morning and say, "We hate the West. We hate freedom." They would not allow a meeting with women in the room.
I was once interviewed by a BBC reporter, a nice young lady who was only about as anti-American as she had to be to keep her job. Since it was a live interview, I turned to her halfway through the interview and I said, "Do you like your job?" And it was summertime, and she's wearing a short-sleeve dress. And she said, "Well, yes." She was confused because I had just reversed roles. I said, "Well, then you should hope we win." She said, "What do you mean?" And I said, "Well, if the enemy wins, you won't be allowed to be on television."
I don't know how to explain it any simpler than that.
Now what do we need?
We need first of all to recognize this is a real war. Our enemies are peaceful when they're weak, are ruthless when they're strong, demand mercy when they're losing, show no mercy when they're winning. They understand exactly what this is, and anybody who reads Sun Tzu will understand exactly what we're living through. This is a total war. One side is going to win. One side is going to lose. You'll be able to tell who won and who lost by who's still standing. Most of Islam is not in this war, but most of Islam isn't going to stop this war. They're just going to sit to one side and tell you how sorry they are that this happened. We had better design grand strategies that are radically bigger and radically tougher and radically more honest than anything currently going on, and that includes winning the argument in Europe, and it include s winning the argument in the rest of the world. And it includes being very clear, and I'll just give you one simple example because we're now muscle-bound by our own inability to talk honestly.
Iran produces 60% of its own gasoline. It produces lots of crude oil but only has one refinery. It imports 40% of its gasoline. The entire 60% is produced at one huge refinery.
In 1981, Ronald Reagan decided to break the Soviet empire. He was asked, “What's your vision of the Cold War?” He said, "Four words: We win; they lose." He was clearly seen by The New York Times as an out-of-touch, reactionary, right-wing cowboy from California who had no idea what was going on in the world. And 11 years later the Soviet Union disappeared, but obviously that had nothing to do with Reagan because that would have meant he was right. So it's just a random accident the Soviet Union disappeared.
Part of the war we waged on the Soviet Union involved their natural gas supply because we wanted to cut off their hard currency. The Soviets were desperate to get better equipment for their pipeline. We managed to sell them through third parties very, very sophisticated American pipeline equipment, which they were thrilled to buy and thought they had pulled off a huge coup. Now we weren't playing fair. We did not tell them that the equipment was designed to blow up. One day in 1982, there was an explosion in Siberia so large that the initial reflection on the satellites looked like there was a tactical nuclear weapon. One part of the White House was genuinely worried, and the other part of the White House had to calm them down. They said, "No, no, that's our equipment blowing up."
In the 28 years since the Iranians declared war on us, in the six years since 9/11, in the months since Gen. Petraeus publicly said they are killing young Americans, we have not been able to figure out how to take down one refinery. Covertly, quietly, without overt war. And we have not been able to figure out how to use the most powerful navy in the world to simply stop the tankers and say, "Look, you want to kill young Americans, you're going to walk to the battlefield, but you're not going to ride in the car because you're not going to have any gasoline."
We don't have to be stupid. The choice is not cowardice or total war. Reagan unlocked Poland without firing a shot in an alliance with the pope, with the labor unions and with the British. We have every possibility if we're prepared to be honest to shape the world. It'll be a very big project. It's much closer to World War II than it is to anything we've tried recently. It will require real effort, real intensity and real determination. We're either going to do it now, while we're still extraordinarily powerful, or we're going to do it later under much more desperate circumstances after we've lost several cities.
We had better take this seriously because we are not very many mistakes away from a second Holocaust. Three nuclear weapons is a second Holocaust. Our enemies would like to get those weapons as soon as they can, and they promise to use them as soon as they can.
I suggest we defeat our enemies and create a different situation long before they have that power.
I had a conversation to this effect with Newt when he was Speaker; long time readers will recall that I advocated energy independence as soon as the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War made that feasible, then again on September 12, 2001. Americans can trust our military power, but armies break things and kill people; they don't build democracies. We can build auxiliaries who can build societies, but they will not be Legions; we do that at the cost of military power. It is also very expensive.
Americans can trust our technologists. I suppose I ought to revise The Strategy of Technology, which was written as a strategy for the Cold War, but is perfectly applicable to the current situation. Technology can be created on demand, and can form a part of a national grand strategy. Newt understands that having read Strategy of Technology before he became a Congressman.
Americans cannot trust our diplomats to win serious conflicts. This is not intended as insult, it is observation coupled with history. Democracies seldom vote for policies that are good for democracies; it is even more rare for democracies to pursue diplomatic strategies over any long period of time, and without stability diplomatic strategies do not win serious conflicts. America has transitioned from the Old Federal Republic into a centralized democratic empire; from the Melting Pot to "diversity". This makes diplomatic strategies even more unlikely.
We can defeat our enemies and we can do so with a combination of building new auxiliaries and a new strategy of technology. We can also win the cultural wars if we let the Melting Pot do its work. Neither is likely, but despair is a sin.
(A pdf copy of The Strategy of Technology is sent to all patron subscribers.)
Subj: Thomas P.M. Barnett vs CoDominium
But the CoDominium was an alliance whose parties hated each other, and who allied only for the purpose of keeping the peace holding all other powers down. Dr. Barnett's regime would be an alliance of parties who have no really serious conflicts with each other, just occasional disagreements on the pace at which they all proceed together -- some maybe a little ahead of others, but all agreed on where they're all going -- with inevitable globalization, including globalizing the Gap territories on the points of bayonets where necessary.
Dr. Barnett's regime is utopian, rather than dystopian.
Dr. Barnett, when you come right down to it, is selling Hope: "A Future Worth Creating". And as far as I can see, he's selling into a marketplace of ideas in which the only other thing on offer -- in one flavor from the Lind-4GW crowd, in another from such conservative neo-isolationists as Dr. Ron Paul -- is Despair.
I invite you to read Newt's speech above. I have always advocated an American strategy of technology including both military and economic self-sufficiency; trade from a position of strength, not of need.
The Chinese have never been interested in partnerships; as the Middle Kingdom they have their notion of their place in the Sun, and it does not include equality with any other nation.
The United States has had global partnerships. The special arrangement with Britain was one of them. Alas, there will not always be an England to work with. The price of this global "partnership" with the Chinese will not be small.
1405-1433 A.D. Chinese send seven voyages in 317 huge technologically advanced ships with 37,000 crew. These missions were not for conquest, religion, or trade, but instead were designed to extend Chinese influence and impress their neighbor states. Economic pressures ended the expensive voyages after a short time, and China isolated itself.
"In 1424, the Yongle Emperor died. His successor, the Hongxi Emperor (reigned 1424-1425), decided to curb the influence at court. Zheng He made one more voyage under the Xuande Emperor (reigned 1426-1435), but after that Chinese treasure ship fleets ended. Zheng He died during the treasure fleet's last voyage. Although he has a tomb in China, it is empty: he was, like many great admirals, buried at sea."
"His [Zheng He's] missions showed impressive demonstrations of organizational capability and technological might, but did not lead to significant trade, since Zheng He was an admiral and an official, not a merchant. Chinese merchants continued to trade in Japan and southeast Asia, but Imperial officials gave up any plans to maintain a Chinese presence in the Indian Ocean and even destroyed most of the nautical charts that Zheng He had carefully prepared. The decommissioned treasure ships sat in harbors until they rotted away, and Chinese craftsmen forgot the technology of building such large vessels."
How would the world be different today had the Hongxi Emperor of China been interested in colonization and conquest?
Will today's China also turn away at some point, possibly from space exploration?
Maybe more to the point, has the United States turned away from space exploration?
NASA converted the last three Saturns...man-rated, perfect record, most powerful machines ever made by humans...into lawn ornaments and apparently destroyed all technical records related to their construction. Sounds like the Chinese after 1433, doesn't it?
Recently, in a nominal effort to get back to the moon, NASA has indicated it is trying is trying to bring the remaining Saturn team back on board.
"What is happening in the Marines and the Army, is that infantry officers are being assigned to conduct civil affairs missions, with their only training being infantry officer basic. Field artillery officers are being assigned to run information operations campaigns, and understand the finer points of media relations when their only training consists of targeting and gunnery. No one in the [combat arms] military really wants these jobs, but men step up to do them because they are on the ground and realize that "hey, someone has got to publicize what we're doing here." Or "hey, the civil military component of our operations is probably as important as our kinetic ops." So officers step up and fill the gaps.
These "soft power" billets are jobs that need to be done. The Army and Marines are trying to be generalists in addressing the problem, but getting actual experts from other government agencies in the field to do these jobs."
It would be nice if the rest of the government was actually playing purple like DoD. We were told they would be there.
The problem with regulation is that the cost of producing & enforcing regulations seems to be about 1/20th of what they cost those regulated. If disability rules, or many others, were funded by government payments then they would be genuine charity (ignoring that taxes are not paid proportionately to voting strength). Enforcing such costs on business is not sharing the pain it is merely moving it to somebody else. If the government had to bear the costs it creates it wouldn't do so.
the 20% figure comes from
The problem is this:
economic freedom is a "necessary & sufficient condition" for success
requires some explanation as to what is "success." Complete unregulated economic freedom will certainly produce a maximum return on investment to the investor. It can also product social instabilities. William Lloyd Garrison railed against slavery while dismissing injured workers without compensation, and dismissed all his factory workers when they reached the age of 35. This certainly made for productive mills, and demonstrated the economic superiority of free enterprise over slavery. Under slavery the social custom (and in some states legal requirement) was that aged slaves had the right to live in peace on the land they had worked; when I was a child in the segregated South, it was still the custom that a sharecropper had the right to live out his life in the house and on the land he had worked for much of his life. This was expensive and certainly didn't aid production; turning them out would have raised production.
I have said this many times: economic freedom, unregulated, is the sufficient condition for slavery to reappear. The free market will eventually sell everything for which there is a demand, including child prostitutes and human flesh.
On the other hand, a command and regulated economy is massively unproductive, as witness the Soviet system of Agriculture, NASA, and the American education system.
Subject: At the risk of punning, thank god for Christian sentiment
We wouldn't want people to make money because of excessive "Christian sentiment in the American population". My point is that benefits at the top of the bell curve outweigh the costs on the bottom half. It can't be proved because the data are at least as hard to get at as the data on global warming, and there are too many people who want to muddy the waters on the subject, rather than debate it rationally (such as the gentleman I choose not to name who had the last comment in yesterday's mail). And yes, there are costs to the bottom half of the bell curve, but there are always costs to the bottom of the bell curve, whatever you do. Having perforce hung out with them for the first half of my work life I am sympathetic.
Market forces always work, but they are subject to group think (it is actually formalized as "benchmarking" in the business schools) which can make the pace of progress glacially slow. For good or ill sometimes people who have studied the subject know what the right thing is, but getting it adopted is not easy (Morton Thiokol & Challenger? Or, for a mixed moral and economic example of government interference, slavery versus the much more efficient share cropping [I will grant that that might have gotten out of hand, at least as far as the net economic benefit. But everyone knows what I am talking about.])
Speaking philosophically and not legally, kicking the group out of their rut is a legitimate function of government. There are plenty of balances in the United States to push back if government throws its weight in the wrong direction. Many of the regulations we live with and gripe about have economic benefits. I have a friend who brought her Ph.D to this country after her department chair indicated that the ladder through the glass ceiling had its base in his bedroom. Yet those laws were criticized for burdening business with private matters.
I have not tried to counter arguments that mainstreaming mentally handicapped has had bad results (on some occasions absurdly bad results), or that your favorite restaurant was unjustly closed. Believe me, with a bright three year old I am concerned with education. But I am not aware that employers have been threatened prison on such a regular basis that it is economically significant. I am sure sure that there is a bone headed judge somewhere who would do it. Getting judges that bone headed at the trial and appellate levels would be very bad luck.
Response to your e-mail, and not particularly relevant to the discussion on the web site, although you are welcome to put it up: Law school is the last discipline that adheres to the one exam, written timed essay, per course. It is widely understood there is a premium in law school to the ability to push a pen across paper, a skill utterly unnecessary in legal practice (in the last century), but utterly necessary to passing a law school exam- unless ADA is invoked (yes, there were some changes for ordinary students, but only after ADA students paved the way, and this is as of five years ago). I am about four hours into getting these ideas on paper. There is no possibility that I would pass a law school exam without it. And I had to go to the Dean in my third year when a new administrator who was not competent in ADA came in and tried to change the procedure, with sixty grand in tuition sunk.
And, on a completely different note, you commented yesterday: "The Federal Reserve is going to make interference with the money supply an international affair." (For my conservative bona fides (on fiscal matters), I am a lifelong Republican, and when the Republicans started spending money like drunken sailors, I ran out and bought a house at the top of the market, figuring that inflation would bail me out. Democrats as the fiscally conservative party?) I've spent the last semester taking a three unit advanced auditing seminar, the one on audit failures a la Enron. I've spent the last three months with my face down in audit work papers 12 hours a day, and other financial documents that are pretty current.
With the sub-prime mess still shaking out banks are scared to lend each other money. They don't trust the auditors as much as they did ten years ago, and we are inside the annual audit cycle anyway. In other word the auditors may not have forced all the write downs that are going to happen, some of which may force banks into insolvency. By holding cash internally the banks maintain their own liquidity and don't get caught.
That money isn't rushing out to chase goods and services- hence it is not inflationary. It is sitting in the banks, effectively missing from the system. But not having it in the system prevents necessary lending from happening. Trying to stick with a strict gold standard got us the Great Depression, when everyone put their money in gold, in their mattress, and deflation resulted.
In this case bankers are figuratively looking out of the corners of their eyes, waiting for the first bank to fail. When a full cycle of annual audits is done, the bankers will have more confidence in each other and start to take that money out and lend it. In the mean time it effectively isn't in the economy, so it isn't inflationary, its deflationary. If the central bankers are artful (and the evidence tends to suggest that they have been far more artful than they were in the Carter years) the money resulting from this action will be withdrawn from the system as interbank lending perks up. It is their sole job to regulate the currency, and they do it well.
Now, in the context of one bank controlled by one man, in a simple agricultural economy, having a dollar tied to seed wheat made a lot of sense. But when Lazarus Long burned it he was right too- it is his IOU, it has no effect on the economy. Likewise, when the banks won't put it out there it can't be inflationary. The effect of moving this class of business onto the central bankers is that the central bankers become the insurer and take losses on whatever banks finally fail. The effect is more like the government stepping in after 9/11 and issuing terrorism insurance. They are back out of terrorism insurance now, but it was necessary at the time.
And as a last comment on the sub-prime crisis, all of the people who collected a point or two for selling sub prime loans are licensed by the states. I have not heard anything about tightening regulations in Sacramento. These are the people who should have the knowledge to protect people retail, and it is the duty of Sacramento to regulate them. Trying to insure that that the unsophisticated do not get hurt hurts the economy, and they don't learn to be sophisticated. And trying to insure that the stupid not act stupid is futile.
David Schierholz, Esq.
I'll leave it to others to analyze the Great Depression and the cost of leaving the Gold Standard. As to your view that mainstreaming adds more productivity by putting smart handicapped people into classrooms where the teacher spends more time on those who are failing, I have seen no evidence of this.
I thank you for posting the speech from former Speaker Gingrich. I think he's touched on the central issue here: we're not treating this "War on Terror" like a war. I'm too young to remember a time when the US was not a world super power. However, my grandfather was in the military during the time after WWII and I learned enough in school to know that people make sacrifices during a war. People give up metal, rubber, plastic, sugar, time, money, spouses, children, parents. If this is truly a war, we must treat it as such. If it isn't, we must come home. Instead the current administration would rather assure people that everything is fine and they'll handle the middle east. All we have to do as citizens is trust them and we'll be safe. We've seen that all that gets us is trillions of dollars in debt, a ruined international reputation, and a good number of our own liberties removed.
If we are truly in danger (and a case can certainly be made for it) then we must defeat our enemies by any effective means necessary. If this means covertly destroying refinement facilities, so be it. If it means a public display of force and an embargo of food/fuel into the enemy nations, so be it. If it means demanding that all nuclear research stop by a given date and enforcing it, then we should set a date and then start bombing centrifuges. And if we insist that this is truly a religious war (which could be assumed based on the assertion that Israel must be destroyed), then we should make it very clear that for every suicide bomb that goes off in public place, regardless of whether it's on western or middle eastern soil, then we will take out mosques starting in Mecca.
If on the other hand we argue that we have no place in middle eastern politics (similar to how we ignore warlords in much of Africa) then we must pull out completely, both politically and economically. You've asserted before that we could have been energy independent for the cost of what we've spent on this 'war.' Arguably the only reason these countries have any power at all is the hundreds of billions of dollars that we, principally America, are pouring into their economies. The kicker here is that the middle east oil barons don't seem to be any better at saving than your average American. If we stopped buying oil tomorrow, their economies would likely implode remarkably quickly.
The core issue here is our indecision. We as a nation have grown so self involved that we insist on sticking our heads in the sand and ignoring the situation at hand. Instead of truly fighting this as a war, we've become world police. If we want to destroy our enemies, then we must destroy them. If we do not see these people as enemies and want to live peacably with them, then we must pull out all interference, while at the same time fortifying our own position. As long as this nation remains stagnant on this and all issues (energy tech, space tech, transportation, education, health care) we will very quickly find ourselves outpaced and overpowered by some new empire. History has shown that it does not go well for an empire that has fallen. I'd rather see the US become the next step in Daniel's statue during my own lifetime (or my grandchildren's for that matter.) And the sad thing is, if we can reclaim our ambition, there's no reason that the US should fall anytime soon.
Subject: Russell Seitz on ocean fertilization
It doesn't look like it went through any peer-review process, but this is cool! Russell Seitz posts an entry (which he got from the Nature Climate blog) on early 20th century ocean fertilization as an unexpected by-product of coal-powered sea transport.
- Doug Wilken
We've been talking about this for 30 years. I probably got the idea from Russell in the first place, but it would have been a very long time ago. It's in A Step Farther Out. (Available free to all subscribers.) Actually, the whole notion of Energy Independence is in that book.
Doug Wilken got it wrong
Doug Wilken has kindly referred to an Adamant post thus :
"Russell Seitz posts an entry (which he got from the Nature Climate blog) on early 20th century ocean fertilization as an unexpected by-product of coal-powered sea transport. http://adamant.typepad.com/seitz/2007/12/iron-rain.html "
He has that slightly wrong- I'm the author-- I submitted it to Nature as Correspondence and they suggested the beta go up on their Climate Feedback website.
A more formal and quantified version is being prepared for peer review best
-- Russell Seitz
December 15, 2007
-- Roland Dobbins
Monkton is a scientist lord, who shares the Nobel with Al Gore, and very much dissents from Gore's views.
Russell Seitz speculates that Norway awarded the Nobel to Gore as an investment: they have a lot of natural gas, and if Gore manages to kill the coal industry and coal fired power, then there will be enormous demand for natural gas; making conservatively a trillion kroner profit for Norway for an investment of half a million kroner -- only the investment is in Swedish kroner, since the Prize is paid for already, and the money is in Sweden. So a trillion for a good dinner and an airplane ticket is a pretty good investment.
The wisdom of crowds.
- Roland Dobbins
Unmanned Aerial Vampires.
- Roland Dobbins
Subject: Thursday mail re "disability"
Re this posting:
"Subject: Disablity Act -
This poor poster will be very disappointed to find out that he has flown with airline pilots who wear glasses. You can take my word for it because I have been a pilot with a major airline for 35 years. I would guess that in the last 5-10 years of our careers about 50-60% of us needed corrective lenses. Some for night only, some for reading charts, some all the time.
For those with atomic clock lust...
"Mrs. Costner says the first indication that something might go badly in July came five months earlier in February when she was out of work due to an on-the-job injury.
Mrs. Costner says state labor officials told her she should not be drawing workers compensation benefits through Wallace Hardware because she had returned to work at Koch Foods the previous month following another on-the-job injury.
Records indicate that someone using her maiden name — Hale — and her Social Security number had fallen off a production line at the Koch Foods deboning plant in the East Tennessee Progress Center, according to the Newport woman.
"I've never deboned a chicken in my life," she said Wednesday afternoon.
The foreshadowing for Mr. Costner materialized in April 2006 when learned that he was in danger of losing his driver's license because of unpaid citations for speeding and driving without insurance.
The traffic stop came at 3 o'clock in the morning while Mr. Costner was asleep. Also, the driver reportedly did not speak English.
Police identified Mrs. Costner's impersonator as Elizabeth Velasco Bautista, who later pleaded guilty to criminal impersonation, according to Detective Bob Ellis with the Morristown Police Department.
The interloper in Mr. Costner's life was Douglas Valdez, according to Ellis. Ellis says Valdez avoided the identity-theft charge because a judge ruled that it was not a crime to use someone's identity to obtain employment. "
That last sentence is my personal favorite.
As I understand it the story gets worse. The IRS now wants $8,000 in taxes on the income earned working in the chicken deboning plant, Koch refuses to admit that it wasn't the Real Costner who worked there, and the Federal Government is going to sell their house to collect the back taxes.
It is not a crime to use someone else's identity to obtain employment, and having done that, apparently it is not a crime to stick someone else with the taxes you ought to have paid.
Welcome to the new Democracy.
|This week:||Sunday, December
Subject: Mr. Will today
I know that you don't normally care for Mr. Will, but the conclusion of today's column on subprime montages gives seriously to think (Notes added):
(1) The modern educational system appears designed to assure that ease of victimization.
(2) The Nanny State at its best.
(3) I don't want to sound like a conspiracy theorist, but does this fit any definition of "Kelo Step 2"?
My view of Mr. Will is more complex than that. I don't dislike him, and given what he must do to stay where he is, he may well be as effective as he can be. He has to skate a narrow line along the edge of the ice.
As to the credit crunch and Washington intervention, I am with the President that no relief will be given to anyone who isn't living in the house, and the only relief should be from sudden escalation of payments (and that temporary). The bubble was caused by pumping far too much money into the system: when there's a great increase n the amount of money chasing a limited supply, the inevitable result is increase in prices, whether the bubble be in housing, high tech stocks and Internet startups. or education. The American education establishment is capable of absorbing as much money as is poured into it, and the result in higher education is to destroy and semblance of independence among a middle class that now starts life saddles with a lifetime of debt to pay for overly expensive education responsive mostly to a set of academics who despise America.
And we never catch wise.
If the colleges had to compete for a limited supply of money they would start trying to deliver what the customers need, not what their tenured professorate and equally tenured administrators want to provide.
Subject: More on tuition and the government
"Ironically, these government handouts are creating the tuition problem. Tuition has risen about three percentage points faster than inflation every year for the past quarter-century. At the same time, the feds have put more and more money behind student loans and other financial aid. The government is slowly becoming a third-party tuition payer, with all the price distortions one would expect. Every time tuition rises, the government makes up the difference; colleges thus cheerfully raise tuition (and budgets), knowing the government will step in."
Subject: Another story about government subsidies
"The payments now account for nearly half of the nation's expanding agricultural subsidy system, a complex web that has little basis in fairness or efficiency. What began in the 1930s as a limited safety net for working farmers has swollen into a far-flung infrastructure of entitlements that has cost $172 billion over the past decade. In 2005 alone, when pretax farm profits were at a near-record $72 billion, the federal government handed out more than $25 billion in aid, almost 50 percent more than the amount it pays to families receiving welfare."
Way back in Eisenhower days the Republicans tried to get a law that said the number of employees in the Department of Agriculture could not exceed the number of farmers. It was, of course, rejected.
US farm policy makes no sense at all, except as a study of what lobbying can do, and a confirmation of the fact that democracies seldom vote for policies that are good for democracies. There are very good reasons to support US agricultural self-sufficiency, and to prevent too much land from being paved over and turned into urban sprawl; but American farm policy isn't doing that very well.
Just like old times:
Putin rival held in psychiatric ward 'to prevent him protesting against government'
George Santayana, please pick up the red courtesy phone...
Dear Jerry :
I see you make reference to Monckton as a 'scientist.'
He's a delightful man, the author of five books of soduku, and the inventor of the1999 Eternity puzzle, a complex jigsaw he swore was impossible to solve. I'm afraid it ended up costing him a large hunk of land in Scotland, as he put up a £1million prize to promote its sales, which an unemployed Cambridge maths wrangler very soon collected.
That's still a very respectable performance for an old Harrovian, but his only 'scientific' publications seem to issue from a think tank established by his inlaw, Lord Lawson, , and SIPPI's output seems less than scientifically disinterested. How do you say 'K Street " in English?
As to why the Swedes owe the Norwegian Nobel Peace Prize Committee next year's Economics Nobel, my thoughts are at http://adamant.typepad.com/seitz/2007/10/the-nobel-chad.html
Merry Christmas to all
- Russell Seitz
He's more of a scientist that most of the UN delegates who got their expensive vacations in Bali.
Subject: Saturn V urban legend
Let me make a couple of comments on this
"NASA converted the last three Saturns...man-rated, perfect record, most powerful machines ever made by humans...into lawn ornaments and apparently destroyed all technical records related to their construction. Sounds like the Chinese after 1433, doesn't it? Recently, in a nominal effort to get back to the moon, NASA has indicated it is trying is trying to bring the remaining Saturn team back on board", from Charles Brumbelow.
First, NASA did not destroy the blueprints; that is a myth. See:
Second, as the article points out, the blueprints would not do as much good now. The US industrial base is entirely different than it was in the early 1960's when Saturn was being designed.
Third, I regret to say, we won't get much help from the Saturn team, as nearly all of them are deceased. They were an amazing bunch .
Fourth, I agree that NASA wanted to force the US space program to put all eggs into the Space Shuttle basket, but it was a decision that was forced upon them by congress more than it was a conspiracy to destroy the remaining Saturns. They could have tried to mothball them, but that is a different exercise for a man-rated rocket than a navy warship, probably not practical.
I agree that the loss of the last 3 Saturn V's was a tragedy, but I don't think it was NASA's fault. I still almost weep when I see a Saturn launch and remember that we could DO that once, but can't anymore.
And, speaking of the Chinese, I don't think they will build anything like a Saturn V soon, but the next person in lunar orbit will probably be Chinese. I don't think we can change that now. We have a chance of beating them to the lunar surface, if we muster the national will to do so, although the current NASA administrator doesn't believe we will.
 Because his work should be noted: My father-in-law, Frank Kresse, worked on the Saturn V project for Boeing. He designed the largest gimbals ever built (to that date and probably still), the ones that swivel the F1 engines. When you see the film of a Saturn liftoff and those monstrous engines swivel during the power up sequence, that's Frank's work. Frank used to say that the best part of working on the Saturn 1st stage that your time to worry was over in the first 5 minutes of the flight.
NASA worked to obtain the results they had. They worked hard not to use the last Saturns, and Skylab was deliberately not given any way to refuel it once in orbit so it could not be boosted to a higher orbit. The Standing Army needed employment, and Shuttle was the only way.
Who is encircling whom?: China and the US.
- Roland Dobbins
Subject: Bright Cats
The Koreans have made cats that glow in the dark. (What does Sable think?) I'm starting a rumor that mice sponsored the research.
Subject: Disappearing Car Door,
Check out the disappearing car door:
(Click Below With Sound)
Subject: This Week in Science
On the limits of meteorological (and climatological) modeling: the following appears in this week's "This Week in Science" e-mail from the AAAS. (Since it is a synopsis of several articles I have not done further editing). See particularly the last sentence -- fidelity in cloud modeling long-term was one of the issues raised in the paper on global warming modeling shortfalls by Christy and others which got considerable press early this week. Apparently is also limits short-term meteorological modeling.
A whole month. Astonishing.
Subject: Logic of Capitalism
ON December 11, 2007 JEP wrote:
A major amusement park, wherein I worked for years (one of those odd jobs writers pick up when the writing isn't working out), about ten years ago had a hundred-fifty or so long-term (average of twenty-years service) hourl. Their employees who had tremendous working knowledge of the complex systems known as "Attractions"; often equaling or exceeding that of the Design Engineers and Maintenance Technicians. These employees were all at the top of the pay-scale for their positions, usually receiving an extra few dollars an hour as "Lead's", comparable in relation to salaried supervision as a non-com is to a commissioned officer. The Company hired a "Whiz Kid" to run the Amusement Park. "Whiz Kid" had no experience in amusement parks, but had done a cracker jack job at a Department Store chain, and was expected to really boost the sale of souvenirs and stuffed mice. He'd learn the rest, everyone figured how hard was running an "amusement park", right?
Well, "Whiz Kid" looked at the books, and realized he could get rid of the extra two or three dollars an hour "Lead Pay". He also took away the authority of the "non-com" veteran employees to intervene in training new hires and their responsibility for operational safety. So they mostly quit (most of them had degrees and Real job careers on "The Side" as college and high school teachers, even a few as attorneys and nurses. ) So about two-thousand years of operational experience went out the door in a little over a year.
Well, this was "No Sweat" for "Whiz Kid". He had expected and planned for exactly this situation. He knew he could replace the veteran employees with 25 year old Business School grads who would jump at the chance to work sixty hour weeks for salaries that figured out to much less than the Old Veteran's would have earned, even leaving out Over Time.. No Problem, Except:
A few months after the last of the veterans had left, one of those 25 year old supervisors, with about three months of experience (working her sixth straight ten-hour day) made a simple mistake, one that any rookie would make, one that any of the Veterans would have been looking for a rookie to make and immediately have corrected. Except the veterans were no longer there. So instead that simple mistake (it was literally placing a rope on a deck cleat at the wrong time) killed two people and maimed a third. The victims were just standing there, minding their own business with friends and family when a ten pound hunk of metal flew into them at about 120 MPH. "Whiz Kid" was very apologetic at the news conference a few days later, and the company was out several million in damages. The local news media missed this angle completely and called for the state to regulate Amusement Park Attractions. Maybe some of those Old Veterans will become State Inspectors, if there's any justice.
The Logic Of Capitalism is inexorable (Or of Empire, See Robert A. Heinlein), and you have it so right. I don't trust businessmen to have my interests at heart any more or less than I do government. Human nature is the problem, and it must be watched, like a hawk near chickens.
"There was no way Andrew could stop them, if they ordered him not to resist in a forceful enough manner. Second Law of obedience took precedence over the Third Law of self-preservation. In any case, he could not defend himself without possibly hurting them and that would mean breaking the First Law. At that thought, every motile unit contracted slightly and he quivered as he lay there." "The Bicentennial Man", Isaac Asimov, 1976
As seen above the idea of abusing robots has been around for more than thirty years. Andrew's attackers were not impressed by a clothed robot wandering around freely and judged it a good idea to harass him. If Andrew had been built by Sarcos he could have withstood a lot abuse without falling to the ground (in the story the two young men used the Second Law to force Andrew to lay on the ground but physical abuse was threatened and certainly a possibility).
Sacros has developed a life sized humanoid robot that can withstand being pushed, shoved and kicked without falling. I don't think it's ready for the football field yet but it is a start.
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