A mixed bag. Good news in commercial space;

Memorial Day Weekend

Saturday, May 27, 2017

The map is not the territory.

Alfred Korzybski


Recovery continues and I’m almost caught up with mail. I have a large accumulation of items that ought to be posted – some anonymous, which I don’t like much, but the content speaks for itself, and I understand why some of my correspondents prefer not to be publicly identified. I suppose that’s a form of leaking, but I prefer that to silence.

I’m not up to full energy yet, I sleep more than I used to, and I get less done; but I’m beginning to be back in business.


If there is anything interesting in this week’s Weekly Standard, I won’t see it. I gave up reading the standard neo-con editorials several months ago, but I usually enjoy the opening humor in the Scrapbook; but it too has now become a Trump bash along with everything else. I started — attempted to start – the article on the “special investigation” but it opened with sufficient Trump bashing that I simply threw the whole thing in the trash. I don’t know how long my subscription runs, but I won’t be renewing. One fewer thing to read, so it will save time. There’s nothing in it I can’t get almost any random “news” source. I use the word “source” but I don’t really mean that: the New York Times used to say that citing anonymous sources was a last resort; but that was long ago and in another country. Now it’s using actual sources that’s rare.


I don’t usually recommend video editorials, but this one is short and very well worth the couple of minutes that it takes; I think you will appreciate it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6F0Hv9TUrfs


This is from the Daily Signal, a Heritage publication. The complete story (along with a fund raiser plea) is at http://dailysignal.com/2017/05/23/what-a-tea-party-leader-thinks-of-lois-lerners-latest-move-in-the-court-case/?utm_source=TDS_Email&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Top5&mkt_tok=eyJpIjoiWlRsa1pUWXdPVEl3TVRoaSIsInQiOiJmektWVm02TUU4NFU1TEc1YzNLb2JDaVVXcUY0d2VJcVIwREJxbXBaZENSRXltMlZNUDI3R1FQU1JKMjdubW1kVDVUclU0dWN4WFV1dGxvUXNcL1BiV1NFbUFFZjlydzJCbGRVTTdUQXlNdlBsTmRmSm1XWndXQk9lTlc1cUFwOE4ifQ%3D%3D and is interesting. Apparently as a government worker you can be so outrageous as to put yourself in danger of tar and feathers… and the government must protect you from that public outrage by keeping it secret. Deep government indeed. I’m sure it’s all Trump’s fault, through Russian operations.

Lerner and Paz said in the court papers that making public details about how IRS workers in Cincinnati and Washington, D.C., “handled applications for tax-exempt status from tea party groups” could endanger their lives, USA Today reported.

Engelbrecht’s organization, which filed for tax-exempt status in 2010, was asked hundreds of questions by the IRS that she said “had nothing to do with nonprofit status.”

After the IRS requested copies of speeches she had given and groups she had interacted with, Engelbrecht said in the interview, she had had enough.

“We finally sued them and are still in court with the IRS over viewpoint discrimination,” Engelbrecht said.

“The only way you can ever heal a problem is if you understand the root source.

But lawyers for Paz and Lerner said their testimony in out-of-court depositions should be kept private.

“This documentation, as the court will see, makes very personal references and contains graphic, profane, and disturbing language that would lead to unnecessary intrusion and embarrassment if made public,” the lawyers said in a court brief.

The lawyers added that “public dissemination of their deposition testimony would put their lives in serious jeopardy.”

“That is a stunning admission, that what they did is so egregiously wrong and so criminal that people might be very angry with them over it,” John Eastman, professor of law at Chapman University, told The Daily Signal in an interview. “That’s exactly why it’s important that this see that light of day.”


The Real Reason Zuckerberg Supports A Universal Basic Income.



Roland Dobbins

This was on Fox News among other places; Mr. Zuckerberg wants the government to fund a minimum annual wage, paid by taxes 9eventually; there isn’t much detail about that part). If a Harvard dropout thinks this way, imagine what he might come up with as a graduate.


I doubt whether Larry and I working hard for a month could have made this up. It illustrates why your $28,000 student loan debt might not have bought you as much as you thought it would.



When Bill Waterson published this Calvin and Hobbes comic literally decades ago it was funny. Real funny. Then, in 1996, Alan Sokal got a nonsensical paper published in a peer-reviewed journal. Now this:


It’s absolutely hilarious, and it makes me wonder what the reviewers who liked the paper talk about when they’re not being academics.

And yes, Cogent Social Sciences has removed the paper from their web site. But I’ll bet the reviewers are still employed there.

Takeaway quotes:

“If you’re having trouble understanding what any of that means, there are two important points to consider. First, we don’t understand it either. Nobody does.”

“It gets worse. Not only is the text ridiculous, so are the references. Most of our references are quotations from papers and figures in the field that barely make sense in the context of the text. Others were obtained by searching keywords and grabbing papers that sounded plausibly connected to words we cited. We read exactly zero of the sources we cited, by intention, as part of the hoax.”

What do you want to bet that Cogent Social Sciences is flooded with bogus papers? If I had $625 to burn, I might want to do it just so I could brag that I had been published in a peer-reviewed journal.

Richard White

Del Valle, Texas

And yes, there really is such a respected peer reviewed journal, still being published.


Capleville education ca 1945

Dr. Pournelle,
I think that there may be a few details of your primary education that are also pertinent to any comparison with the present:
1. Probably your Tennessee rural school was segregated, indicating that there was another primary school with different standards in the same district.
2. Your teacher may have had a two-year degree in education. The black student’s school teacher(s) may not have had even as much. The current school district probably requires its teachers hold a Masters of Education degree, or that teachers be a candidate for MS, and have earned multiple specialist certificates.
3. No one in the federal government even kept statistics on attendance, competence, nutrition, diversity, or other attributes ad nauseum on the Capleville schools. This may have been implied in your description, but should be stated explicitly.
4. The principals, and likely the teachers, of the two respective Capleville schools probably knew at least one of all the student’s parents socially.
5. No one outside of Capleville cared or regulated the quality of Capleville schools education. (Again, implied, but deserving of explicit statement).
If there is a present-day Capleville school, it likely serves many, many more students of many different backgrounds, is required by State and Federal regulation to meet a variety of standards (often without commensurate funding) and bureaucratic oversight, liability insurance or bonding, expensively diploma’d and certified teachers and administrators, the immediate availability of social, medical, and psychological health services, and must meet an arbitrary level of educational standards for most subjects for the majority of students. The eductional standard is notionally oriented to the successful graduate going on to attend just enough college or university to be indebted for 10 to 20 years of loan payments of a substantial part of their annual earnings. The class of ’45 graduate was expected to operate a tractor or a grain elevator with little or no further education.
More likely, the small town school system has been absorbed by a system that has all these features.
20 years later, my own education took place under systems (some in Tennessee) that had begun to change, but were not really substantially different.
My takeaway from the comparison is that (1) the ’45 – ’65 system doesn’t scale up to a larger student population. (2) No matter how integrated, the current system hasn’t become color-blind, but is probably more culturally-dependent. (3) Teacher education is not a determinating characteristic of educational competence. (4) Neither legislative nor judicial regulation can instill educational competence. (5) Higher costs don’t drive educational quality.
Did I miss anything?
Hoping that you and Roberta continue in your recovery,

So I should shoot dope or otherwise handicap myself? How is this relevant to the topic of discussion, namely the upward spiraling cost and lowering standards of the public schools? I put it to you that I received a better education at lower costs than public schools deliver to essentially anyone today; the fact that there was a segregated school, Hickory Hill, about half a mile from where I lived is irrelevant. It so happens that Shelby County boss Ed Crump insisted of “equal” in segregates schools (in teacher qualification, etc.), is also irrelevant.

They paid less for Capleville than the worst schools just about anywhere, segregated or diversified.

Or are you saying that if we must educate blacks it will necessarily cost more? I doubt you meant that.

I don’t purport to know how to fix 75 year old problems, and generally do not discuss that subject. My topic was today’s schools, which I contend cost more and deliver less than the “primitive” schools I attended.

Jerry Pournelle

Not at all. Nor was I trying to give offense.  I was trying to, at a minimum, sing what I thought was the refrain: government is incapable of providing universal goodness no matter how pure the motive.  Perhaps I am still missing your point?

I didn’t understand you to be merely reminiscing, or that you thought we could return to 1945 in order to fix education.  But it is interesting that you should lead your response with self harm through drugs or handicapping.  I’m going to have to think about that. 
Two factors changed the student population of school systems since your Capleville: a huge increase in population and integration.  When the baby boom flagged, the population continued to increase through immigration.  None of these are bad things, but they changed the dynamic.  It is a frequent kind of mistake to believe that small successes can be scaled up to be bigger successes simply by making them bigger. 

Not given in evidence is a teacher salary chart for the same period as the staffing chart you included.  It is another kind of mistake to believe that spending more money on a failed program will make it better.  Yet the people running the public school lobby (and those running every local school district that I have seen) seem to keep going back to that approach.  One way they do that is to claim that there aren’t enough qualified teachers; qualification often being an MS in instruction with a specialization (but not demonstrated competence) in a field of study, plus sundry other expensive training certifications.  I assert that a teacher pay scale plotted over the years of 1945-2015 would show an even greater increase than the staff chart, and corrected for inflation would show a greater increase in compensation than that of the general public.

At some point since 1964 we thought we could wag the dog by changing our perceived social shortcomings through the schools.  That move pretty much ruined education for efficiency, and otherwise the experiment has failed on multiple levels.

Did they pay less for Capleville schools than the best or worst schools of the time or the schools in the present day?  My guess is that you meant to compare your primary school to present day.  I think your experience was probably typical of the time, and not very much different from the experience of the student from about 1890 through about 1960.   It would be incorrect to do failure analysis on education without at least acknowledging that in about 1964 we began to throw out all the things we knew how to do in schools so that we could try to do things we would like to do in our society.  
The increase in school personnel appears to me to be a byproduct of your own Iron Law, and we have decided that a government bureaucracy can solve all our problems.  Perhaps a corollary is that the number of bureaucrats will modulate in inverse proportion to the efficiency of the services provided?    
Maybe I was reading the wrong music? 

My point, really, was that if local taxpayers had to pay for the nonsense we buy in the name of education, we would not put up with it; but we are in the hands of deep government, and some have known since 1980 that it would always get worse, not better. We pay a great deal more and get far worse results, and in general that statement is universally true year after year; and nothing is done or will be done. Perhaps I am merely depressed. I do know that every one of our black sharecroppers and farmhands in segregated Tennessee could read.

They paid whatever it cost to get teachers in that district. Each school district took care of paying its staff; they didn’t get State or Federal support. Only taxpayers voted in school elections.

Please excuse me if I am not as clear as usual.


In case you’ve not seen this:

The Rocket Startup That’s About to Eat Elon Musk’s Lunch

The Rocket Startup That’s About to Eat Elon Musk’s Lunch

The Rocket Startup That’s About to Eat Elon Musk’s Lunch

Rocket Lab is aiming to put small satellites in low Earth orbit at a fraction of the cost of even SpaceX.

Rod McFadden

This is an encouraging development in commercial space. International competition is useful. Use of newly developed materials for special purposes is important.


Sorry, Breaking News

I’m sorry; I know you don’t like breaking news but this is too good not to pass on:


FBI source tells me Comey dropped the Susan Rice unmasking investigation bc it would have implicated himself. Developing

— Jack


◊ ◊ ◊ ◊ ◊

Most Respectfully,

Joshua Jordan, KSC

Percussa Resurgo

I’ve seen no more on this. The list of Comey entanglements grows. But he did manage to send Martha Stewart to jail, and I am sure that made us all safer.


This is not a new happening; I’ve watched crap like this go on for some time at various universities across the nation. I’ve declined to write to you about this because you’re generally not interested in topical news. But, these affairs continued for so long that it’s time to share some of this:


Over the last 72 hours, students have taken over a small liberal arts college in Washington state, and only one adult has tried to stop them.

Students at Evergreen State College in Olympia, who filmed their exploits and posted the videos on social media, have occupied and barricaded the library, shouting down anyone who disagrees with them or shows insufficient passion for racial justice.

Biology professor Bret Weinstein was berated by dozens of students outside of his classroom Tuesday morning for refusing to participate in an event in which white people were invited to leave campus for a day. Now he says police have told him to hold his classes off campus due to safety concerns.



Don’t you love how the “journalist” says whites were “invited to leave”? You mean someone tried to kick them out? And now these kids created a climate where classes cannot occur? First they make it unsafe for speakers they don’t like to come express their ideas and now they force teachers who do not agree with their criminal activities to hold classes off campus for their personal safety? Why

would anyone pay to go to school in one of these circuses? Were I a

student, I would sue to get my tuition back.

And it gets worse! This is just like in Berkley when the police were forced to stand down by the mayor and the university police were forced to stand down by the administration during one of the comparatively recent riots this year:


Things are “out of control at Evergreen,” he said.

“Police told me protesters stopped cars yesterday, demanding information about occupants,” Mr. Weinstein told The Washington Times.

“They believe I was being sought. It appears that the campus has been under the effective control of protesters since 9:30 a.m. Tuesday.

Police are on lockdown, hamstrung by the college administration.

Students, staff and faculty are not safe.”


So the administration won’t allow the police to enforce the law? Who the hell gave them the right to tell police when, where, and how to enforce the law in the first place? What is going on in this country?

Are we now run by unelected bureaucrats like the EU?

◊ ◊ ◊ ◊ ◊

Most Respectfully,

Joshua Jordan, KSC

Percussa Resurgo

This was on Fox last night, and is another example of what you get for your student loan debts. And they never catch wise… As to your final question, deep government is everywhere, and after all it’s our fault for electing Trump. Someone must provide continuity.


Niemeier:  ‘Thanks almost entirely to Amazon, more books are being published each year than ever before, and more authors are making a living with their writing than at any time in human history.’



Roland Dobbins



Incorrect statement regarding Lynch’s recusal

“Attorney General Lynch recused herself from deciding whether to prosecute Mrs. Clinton and left the decision to the FBI; this is not normal practice for an investigative agency, but then it is not normal to call in a Corporate Counsel from private practice to head the FBI.”
Lynch did not formally recuse herself from the investigation. She stated she would “leave the decision [to prosecute] up to the FBI”, but never recused herself. And the FBI (recommending whether or not to prosecute isn’t their job to begin with) conveniently came up with a decision not to prosecute…coincidence, surely.
Enjoyed the read, some very interesting things you’ve compiled.




Dear Sir,
First, I wish you a speedy return to health.
Now, on your correspondent’s fairly lengthy communique wrt Comey, I would like to add one detail that he leaves out: Comey’s involvement with the Clintons goes back to the Senate Whitewater probe in 1996, even before the Marc Rich thing. In that case Comey was, among other things, lead prosecutor, and he pressed no charges while explicitly finding that Hillary Clinton destroyed documents that she was legally obligated to preserve (and “mishandled” others that she was obligated to divulge).
It was sort of a rehearsal for the email investigation: Comey found criminal conduct, described that conduct accurately, and then declared that it did not warrant prosecution. In 1996 Comey accused Hillary of “a highly improper pattern of deliberate misconduct.” In 2016 Hillary was “extremely careless”, i.e. grossly negligent. In both cases Comey spelled out the elements of a criminal offense and then declared that there was nothing more to see or do.



Lying to Federal Employees

I just wanted to let you know that this statement below it way off and you may want to correct it.
“But then Martha Stewart was jailed by then Assistant US Attorney (for Southern New York) Comey for denying that she said something that was not a crime if she said it. She was not under oath at the time, thus providing a new code of conduct in dealing with Federal Authorities even in unsworn statements: Say Nothing About Anything. Cooperation Could Get You Jailed.”
If you look at this federal code provision you will see that lying to a federal employee is a criminal offense (I am simplifying it here) that has nothing to do with being under oath and had been on the books for quite some time. This is what Martha Stewart was charged with.
This statute may be unfair and give way to much power to the feds but it was not uniquely applied to Martha Stewart. I advise all my clients before the speak to the FBI or the SEC that lying can be worse that the underlying conduct.


Martha Stewart said, in conversation, that she never said something (a denial of an action that was itself not illegal). That was wrong – lying, forgetfulness, wandering of mind, deliberate intent to mislead? It was not in a formal statement or under penalty of perjury. I suppose Congress could make failing to bow to federal investigator, or failure to say Good Morning to a federal janitor a crime. In general this “lying” is not applied universally; this is the problem with giving “investigators” such discretion. Submitting a signed document is one thing; notes of a conversation is quite another. You may advise your clients as you will. I would advise – I am of course no attorney – my readers to say nothing, and withhold all observations including their opinion of the weather, from anyone identifying themselves as a Federal Employee. That probably hampers their “investigation” but it’s safer. Communicate only in writing, if you have the time and inclination.

I know it’s the law; but then every one of us breaks at least one Federal Law every week. That was not the purpose of this nation’s founding, and particularly not the purpose of the Philadelphia Constitution.



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



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