Constitutional Crisis? Wealth concentration and Distributism; Planetary Defense

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Being intelligent is not a felony. But most societies evaluate it as at least a misdemeanor.

-Robert A. Heinlein

The map is not the territory.

Alfred Korzybski

“The wealth of our middle class has been ripped from their homes and then redistributed across the entire world.”

Donald Trump

Between 1965 and 2011, the official poverty rate was essentially flat, while the government spending per person on poverty programs rose by more than 900% after inflation.

Peter Cove

John Glenn must surely have wondered, as all the astronauts weathered into geezers, how a great nation grew so impoverished in spirit.

Our heroes are old and stooped and wizened, but they are the only giants we have. Today, when we talk about Americans boldly going where no man has gone before, we mean the ladies’ bathroom. Progress.

Mark Steyn

Liberalism is a philosophy of consolation for the West as it commits suicide.

James Burnham

[For homosexuals] Death is the sentence. We know there’s nothing to be embarrassed about this. Death is the sentence.

Imam Farrokh Sekaleshfar in an address at Hussein Islamic Center, Orlando. Florida, 2013

We are a nation of assimilated immigrants.

Immigration without assimilation is invasion.

We have to start with the premise that the goal is to defeat the enemy.

Jim Woolsey

bubbles

It’s breaking news, so no valid comments are possible, but it is my understanding that the so called Republicans have passed a sanctions bill penalizing Russia: and forbidding the President from rescinding any of them without consent of Congress. The rumor is that President Trump will sign it. That is such a bad action that whoever advised it ought to be fired, and the Congresscritter who proposed it marked for primary opposition at the next election. It is an attempt to break down the separation of powers in the Constitution, and deliver control of foreign policy over Russia to Congress, relieving the President of that responsibility. Of course there are stories of how the President wanted that, but the sources are, as is traditional with today’s journalists, anonymous.

I know no more than that. I hope it’s all made up. But if Mr. Trump signs anything like that, it’s a big mistake.

bubbles

 

My Apologies: my posts are answered with a message saying inappropriate response by server.  I got use to that happening at midnight but it’s happening now.  Worse, while this is posted, the formatting is wrong, and I’ve no choice but to try to fix it. And every time I do it sends a message to the world about the new post, although I thought we had that tamed down; and when it is sending the appropriate response it never sends another unless considerable time has passed.  I can hope all this will fix itself.  I am not spamming you with “he posted” messages, something is broken. It will I am sure be fixed. Apologies.

 

bubbles

You might find “The CEO Pay Machine” by Steven Clifford worth your time, and the Wall Street Journal review by Phillip Delves Broughton in yesterday’s Wall St. Journal even more so. It was entitled “Excess at the top” which implies a point of view, and after reading the review – if you can find it, it seems to have vanished from the Internet – you will have much to think about. Of course we don’t so much need educating as reminding; we all know about executive compensation going wild. But it never hurts to contemplate the matter.

 

 

 

A Better Way to Reward CEOs

Many companies are led by chief executives whose contribution to profit may be minuscule but whose compensation is astronomical. Philip Delves Broughton reviews ‘The CEO Pay Machine’ by Steven Clifford.

In 1978 the average chief executive at a large company was paid 26 times more than the average worker. By 2014, depending on your method of calculation, he was paid 300 to 700 times more. It has become standard for a CEO to make more than $10 million a year, and a few make more than $100 million. These aren’t founders or major shareholders but hired guns, managers playing with house money.

It is not like this everywhere. In the U.K., the fifth largest economy in the world, the pay ratio of CEO to average worker is 84 to 1. In Japan, the third largest, it’s 16 to 1.

So what happened in America that so much is now lavished on the executive class? And does it matter? To the second question Steven Clifford, a former chief executive at King Broadcasting and now the author of “The CEO Pay Machine,” responds with an emphatic “yes.” The outsize income, he thinks, feeds inequality and mistrust in our democracy. In response to the first question he argues that a system of compensation has emerged over the past four decades that rewards mediocre executives by stiffing shareholders, employees and society at large.

The CEO “pay machine” works like this: When a chief executive is hired, a company will also hire one of a handful of compensation consultants to establish a benchmark for his pay. The consultant will look at a bunch of companies in different industries and then propose that the CEO be paid at the 75th percentile. (No company wants to think it is paying its CEO at the 25th percentile.) The consultant is out to please the future CEO, since the real money will come if he is hired to design the company’s pension or health-care plans. Charlie Munger, Warren Buffett’s business partner, once said that he would “rather throw a viper down my shirtfront than hire a compensation consultant.”

But salary is just the beginning. Next come the short- and long-term incentive plans. Short-term plans contain bonuses for meeting annual targets or for simply accomplishing the tasks one expects of a senior manager. In 2014 Les Moonves, the CEO of CBS, received a cash bonus of $25 million. Roughly half of that was reportedly paid to recognize Mr. Moonves’s “leadership and direction in the creation of premium content.” In other words, doing his job. [snip]

Now I am not for confiscation of other people’s money, particularly if the confiscated funds go into the money available for the confiscators to spend – the incentives are horrible – but I do have some objection to great concentrations of wealth in the hands of those who didn’t earn that wealth. I don’t feel menaced by Bill Gates or Warren Buffet, but the great wealth of new rich is disturbing; is it stabilizing?

[snip] The marvelous thing about bonuses at this level, Mr. Clifford notes, is that they aren’t binary. If you fail to meet your targets, you don’t lose your bonus; you just get less of it. If you have a $1 million bonus target, chances are that the board will shave maybe 10% off if you underperform. And $900,000 for failure isn’t bad. Of course, there are also long-term incentives: the stock options and the restricted stock that vests over time. [snip]

It’s enough to encourage Distributism: some wealth is confiscated, but then distributed so widely that there isn’t all that much incentive to take more. The spending power is not given to politicians, nor does any one person or family get so much that there is much incentive about doing it again. The purpose is not to “soak the rich”, but to ameliorate some of the ills of concentration of wealth and power. Perhaps a foolish notion; yet we did get along without executive salaries in the tens of millions of dollars for a considerable time, and it likely did us good.

bubbles

An essay from the past that most of you may not have seen.

Trouble with Marx

My memory fails, and I forgot the name of my favorite economist. I racked my brain to no result. I have his books upstairs, but while going up is easy, coming back down is not, and coming down carrying things is worse. Then I remembered his book, “The trouble with Marx”. The economist I had in mind was David McCord Wright.

I also remembered I had written about Wright’s observation that Marx was correct in some of his projections, and I had written about that, so I googled The Trouble with Marx Pournelle, which took me to an odd page: it was a serious discussion of Marx and Marxism from a long time ago. Much of it appeared in my journal at one time, including letters to me (which had full credit to the authors but there was no mention of me, my journal, or the original source.

The question of concentration of wealth arises again. Wright devoted some time in his book to Marx’s predictions about concentration of wealth under Capitalism, and speculated that one thing that had served the United States well was the Sherman Anti-Trust Act, and vigorous enforcement under trust busting presidents.

Marx was a founder of the Communist International, and he did have some ideas about “the specter” that was haunting Europe. As you say he was cheering for one side in the ‘class war’, and it’s often hard to separate that from his economic analysis.

Some of his analysis is plain silly, like the “labor theory of value’. Fortunately that’s not required for his major analytical thought, because if it were a necessary assumption then Marx’s thought would be as unread as pre-Lavoisier theories of oxidation. In fact, though, the ‘labor theory of value’ was part of what you rightly call cheering, and unrelated to any objective analysis.

Marx did not understand production, and particularly had no notion of the power of technology. He thought anyone could operate the “tools” and “means of production” and that the control and ownership of the power plants and big machine tools was terribly important. That’s to some extent what misled Stalin and Mao, of course. They ought to have known better. Marx wasn’t imaginative enough to see that the Industrial Revolution wouldn’t stop with massive centralized machine shops (made necessary because energy distribution was difficult and expensive); but Stalin and Mao ought to have known that there was a Second Industrial Revolution characterized by the hand-carried quarter inch electric drill that made distributed production possible. Now we have the Third brought on by the small computer and once again all is changed. Marx foresaw none of this, and his economic analysis is based on a very obsolete theory of industrial production.

As in the computer business, hardware often trumps software. Ownership of the means of production is no longer an automatic key to wealth, nor is it all that hard to acquire the means of production. Particularly in the computer/intellectual property field, the means of production are available to almost anyone.

So much for the fundamental flaws in Marx.

Even so, Marx was certainly influential among German economic theorists, and through them Asian including Japanese; Karl Wittfogel being one of the more important. Wittfogel almost single-handedly converted an entire generation of Japanese economists to Marxism, which meant Communism, until his break with the Party over the Hitler/Stalin Pact. He later used his great familiarity with Marx’s theories to see a major contradiction in them.

One of the major attractions of Communism was being on the inevitably winning side. Communism claimed to be scientific, and its adherents were marching in step with the flywheel of history. That’s a powerfully attractive argument to some. It was for me in my early twenties. It seemed to prove something.

But in Oriental Despotism, Wittfogel pointed out that Marx himself was horrified to see a contradiction: that state capitalism, modeled after the old hydraulic societies (Egypt, Babylon, etc.) could be eternal, not evolving, because it had no internal contradictions as Marx claimed everything except the classless society would have. Marx called this “the Asiatic Mode of Production” and was intellectually honest enough to leave the speculation in Das Kapital, but not honest enough to pursue the implications: that there could be eternal states, never changing much, never evolving, with utterly despotic governments. Such states are vulnerable, but ONLY to OUTSIDE pressures; as an example, the Great Mogul Empire lasted until a handful of Europeans pushed it over. Wittfogel also showed that the USSR was very nearly such an Oriental Despotism, and that China always was one: it was when it ceased to be such under Sun Yat Sen that it became vulnerable, and Sun Yat Sen was able to bring about partial revolution in China only with outside help.

Wittfogel is important to understanding Marx because he took Marx seriously and dealt with Marx’s arguments. David McCord Wright does much the same. His book “The Trouble With Marx” was originally a scholarly work much unread, and because of that was something of a failure as a Conservative Book Club selection since many buyers through that club didn’t know what to make of an economist who took Marx seriously as an economic theorist: they were looking for an anti-Communist tract.

Lester Thurow of MIT sometimes takes Marx seriously, but not often. He is a great lecturer, and it’s always worthwhile listening to him, but his analyses tend to be trendy and topical; I am not sure I have heard much from or about him since Hillary Clinton’s attempt to “reform” American health care, a subject about which Thurow knows more than most, although I strongly question his assumptions.

Wright believed that the American anti-trust laws were the major defense against the kind of destruction that pure capitalism can bring. And of course Schumpeter looked into the face of the capitalist abyss and withdrew in horror.

One attempt to mitigate the effects of unrelieved capitalism is economic nationalism, as well as local control of institutions. By local control, I mean using zoning laws to prevent WalMart from coming in and displacing all the local merchants. I won’t get into the desirability for a local community of placing large barriers in the way of WalMart; I do question the sanity of national laws that prevent the local community from having a say in the matter.

Similarly for economic nationalism: while a global economy is inevitable in the long run, as Keynes said, in the long run we are all dead; what matters are the living; and a nation that allows a skilled worker with 25 years investment in a particular company to suddenly be put on the street while his job is exported to a foreign country may well enjoy cheap jockey shorts, but may also have created a disaffected class from among those formerly the most patriotic. “For a man to love his country, his country ought to be lovely,” said Burke; and a country that is more concerned with cheap goods than the employment stability of its work force, and which goes out of its way to make it easy to export jobs, may be in trouble.

Couple that with an education system almost guaranteed to produce many graduates with no skills whatever and not even the learning skills of acquiring skills, so that they must now compete for menial jobs not merely with local menials but with the entire world including a single mother in Thailand, and you have an even more interesting situation. It is an experiment I would not care to have run, but we are running it here.

A world economy is probably inevitable in the long run, but I am not convinced that marching in step with the flywheel of history is always the right idea; and I am certain that Marx had some deep insights into what unrestrained capitalism can and will do.

I always thought David McCord Wright and Wilhelm Roepke to be economic theorists worthy of far more attention than they receive, because I always thought one ought to, and Schumpeter and those two did, take Marx quite seriously.

State capitalism is every whit as able to pave the road to serfdom as is communism. One may say it won’t happen here, but the one who says that isn’t reading newspapers.

All of which points us back to Roepke’s Humane Economy; and I am out of time just now.

bubbles

Planetary Defense

Jerry,

Nice remarks about the Tunguska meteorite, and I love the National Science Foundation connection, as it is my former employer. If you don’t know this project:

https://www.lsst.org

It’s interesting, because it will survey the whole sky every couple of weeks. When I worked at NSF, I happened to be at an early review of this project, which was sort of a walk through of the work before it was presented to the National Science Board (NSB) for approval. All big NSF projects go through this, and the preliminary step is the “Director’s Review Board” (DRB), which is basically for the NSF Director and his closest advisors to listen for red flags before it goes to the NSB for final approval.

I was at the meeting because I had a project headed along the same trajectory, but I listened to the LSST briefing closely, and they stated something like “It will see and update the position of every magnitude 13 object every two weeks.” (I don’t remember the exact magnitude). And that was an interesting statement, so I broke protocol, raised my hand and asked,

“Given the albedo of a typical asteroid, what size asteroid does this mean that LSST can detect?” That comment caused a stir, for two reasons: (1) Lowly Program Officers do NOT ask questions at a DRB meeting, and (2) the reaction in the room clearly showed that a lot of people thought it was a good question!

The LSST presenters sort of huddled over this question for a few moments and came back with a rough answer: LSST should be able to detect a rock about the size of the Arizona Meteor Crater event. So, LSST won’t give us a warning on everything, but it IS an early warning system for civilization enders, and in fact, for most things Hiroshima-scale or larger.

And that’s nice to have, and a good first step. Of course, if we detect a civilization ender, we still lack the capacity to DO anything about it, but presumably an early warning would be extremely motivating.

The LSST web page now talks about the planetary defense benefits of the project. I can’t take credit, but I’ll say this: I asked that question, sometime around 2010, because there was nothing like that listed in the benefits of the project.

And I think it’s a great example of how you never know how basic research will pay off.

Chuck=

Precisely.

bubbles

Microsoft Outlook

Dr. Pournelle,

    I understand your issues with Outlook. I’ve been supporting the product for five years, or I was until I had to stand on the dock waving goodbye as my job set sail for India. Before that I worked several jobs where I used it for daily communication. I remember my first look at 2007, I think, where the menus went away and were replaced with the”ribbon.” Everything that was hidden in the menus, is now hidden in plain sight. All that was easy, is now not.

    I have yet to play with 365. A) Being  unemployed, I can’t afford it. B) Being principled, I wouldn’t afford it. Note: That being principled bit was not taking a shot at those who pay for it. I just have a deep-seated aversion to paying for software. Being inconsistent, however, I’m sitting here at a Windows machine righting this, because I paid good money for the machine and am not facile enough with Linux to function in it one hundred percent of the time. In my head, I didn’t pay for Windows, I paid for the hardware.

    Want to have some fun? Try importing your Windows pst files to Mac. That can be done, but the formats for the two operating systems were totally different, and the process not easy. Also, bringing them back to Windows is nigh impossible. Of course, being a major corporation, they had left Windows XP in 2012 for Windows 7, just after Microsoft had ended support for it. If anyone remembers, Windows XP was released in 2000. So we were using Office 2010 on Windows and 2011 on Mac. It may have gotten easier since then, but I doubt it.

    In response to your comments about Microsoft having forgotten the normal user, the little guy, as it were. Is that not just a symptom of our society as it stands today. We’re forgotten, unless we gather en masse. Gather, and pull out the torches and pitchforks, ie. Tea Party. I guess, what I’m getting at is that you won’t get any notice if you don’t have a million or two to drop on the table. That’s the way we’ve been slipping for years. The only thing that really disappoints me however is that they’re trying to make it harder to join the club. Comments about which, I believe I’ve seen here.

    I digress. Back to Outlook. I’m using an Open Source mail client. I’m not totally enamored of it, but it’s free, and it’s almost as pretty as Outlook. I do miss some of the features of Outlook, especially the archiving and contact management. I’ve yet to find an Open Source substitute that handles those as well, but I’m still looking.

    Oh, well. What is one to do? As I’ve heard a wise man say, repeatedly, “Despair is a sin.” I guess I’ll keep my head up, and soldier on.

Atrox melior dulcissima veritas mendaciis,

Douglas Knapp

bubbles

Word autocomplete, Christopher Chyba

Hi Jerry:

I don’t use Word 365, but in all the newer versions of Word (2010, 2013, 2016) all of the detailed settings are accessed through the File tab, then Options, then Advanced.  There is a checkbox in the “Editing options” category for “Show Autocomplete suggestions”.

On another note, you might be familiar with the Google feature called  “Scholar.”  Many years ago it was on the main page of features, but it is now buried way far down (unless you use it frequently, in which case it will move further up in the menu hierarchy).  From a Google search page, you have to click on the “Google Apps” icon, then the “More” button, then the “Even more from Google” button.  Scrolling to the bottom of that page you’ll see an array of icons, arranged in alphabetical order.  Look for the one labeled “Scholar.”  Finally you have to click on the “Search Scholar” button.

A Scholar search on Chyba Tunguska yields

https://scholar.google.com/scholar?q=chyba+tunguska&btnG=&hl=en&as_sdt=0%2C22

The paper in question might be this one (published in Nature):

http://eadproject.com/files/The-1908-Tunguska-Explosion.pdf

The co-authors were PJ Thomas and KJ Zahnle.

Hope this helps.

Best regards,

Doug Ely

Thank you. Yes, the options menu is where I find editing – not under proofing where I looked, but under advanced. Alas, it does no good. On all of my machines the “Show autocomplete options” box is checked; but on one – and only one – of my machines, the autocomplete options do not appear. I even tried unchecking it, exiting Word, then opening Word and rechecking. Nope. Then leaving it checked I used power options to turn the machine off, then turned it back on. It seemed to have no updates to offer. Autocomplete did not work, I’m tempted to say of course. The next step I suppose is to see if I can uninstall then reinstall Word, but as everything else is working and it is such a minor problem, I probably won’t. since I have other work that is more important.

Thanks for reminding me if the Scholar option; I eventually found Christopher Chyba, but only by remembering his name; no first page returns to Google of Tunguska even suggested that anyone of that name exists, much less says that he pretty well settled the “mystery”. It is I suppose more exciting to fill the returns with articles about “we don’t know” and “it’s a mighty mystery.” Which means that using that for anything like meaningful research is absurd: we have a consensus on climate change, supposedly, and you have to hunt to find that there are serious doubts from people usually labeled Deniers and thought by most Believers to be fools or mendicants; whereas with Tunguska there really is a pretty wide consensus that Chyba figured out a model that pretty well cover the known evidence, and while there are a few who don’t agree even they say he’s reasonable; but the first page returns on Tunguska still emphasize “mystery” and “we don’t really know” – something they’d never say about our understanding of climate change. Disappointing.

bubbles

bubbles

bubbles

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

bubbles

clip_image001

bubbles

Planetary Defense; Tunguska; Curses on Microsoft Improvements; and other items of importance.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Being intelligent is not a felony. But most societies evaluate it as at least a misdemeanor.

-Robert A. Heinlein

The map is not the territory.

Alfred Korzybski

bubbles

Microsoft is on a mission to improve office to beyond the comprehension or use of the average computer user, possibly to get rid of office users who are not enterprise clients or very large accounts; they certainly don’t care what damage they do to people who just want to use the stuff, write letters, maybe run a blog or Facebook (not that I Facebook) or generally just use it.

My recent adventures with Outlook, all caused by Microsoft improvements, are not over, but we now see a complex path to restoring what I had before their improvements made it temporarily impossible to use. For a while I couldn’t even search Outlook mail files – an error known to have been caused by one Microsoft “fix”. There were others. I’ll try to have an account of the whole adventure, but I don’t have time now. At least that crisis is over; I almost lost all my subscriber files, because Microsoft keeps “Contact” files in a screwy format different from mail files. I have lost the “category” flags which gave me a quick visual view of a subscriber’s status, but the information that caused those characterization flags was preserved, and can be restored by hand. A tedious process, but it can be done.

On that score, we’ve not had a pledge week for some time now, because I haven’t been providing much for you to subscribe to. I’m doing more work on fiction now – I have a good chance of finishing this volume of the Janissaries series this year, possibly earlier, if my health holds up and there are no more Microsoft crises. Yes, you guessed it, it was intended to be the last volume in the series, but it won’t be. It will have an ending that makes sense, and it will be a final ending for some characters – I don’t mean I’m killing them off, although some will die. Others. Though, reach a state where they need not be tracked individually. But there are also new and very important characters, and they will have to be followed as they interact with Rick and Tylara. Worked on it a bit today, and I pretty well see where this volume is going. I had hoped to end the series, but I just can’t.

Then there is LisaBetta, a story of a girl pretty well raised by a strange kind of AI on a world that we might grow into in fifty or so years. John DeChancie has done a first draft, and I promptly got absorbed into everything else and it sat neglected for months. It’s good stuff, and I’ll have to get at it. I also have to remember that perfect is the enemy of damned well good enough.

And Starborn and Godsons, the third book in the Legacy of Heorot series. Is coming along nicely, with some writing that ignores that aphorism. Larry and Steve has some really great scenes, and I’ve done some I’m proud of.

And now that Roberta is coming along nicely, and I’m recovered pretty well, and I’ve survived Microsoft’s improvements, I can get at it. Except one on the War Colleges want Strategy of Technology for a text and could I help with the revisions, and Colonel Doug Beason and I are doing an anthology on planetary defense (of which we have none), and that takes time, and every time I pay a bill I worry a bit; but I feel better than I have in years, I get my time consuming exercises, and…

Well, the point is that if you haven’t subscribed in a while, now would be a good time to renew, or and if you never subscribed I operate this place on the public radio model. We don’t have ads and distractions, I don’t often bug you for money, but if I don’t get subscriptions it will slow down or go away.

And this is the silly season. Nothing much is really happening, and most of it isn’t worth commenting on (by me; it gets plenty of comment from others).

https://www.jerrypournelle.com/paying.html

bubbles

One of the ways Microsoft improved Word for me: they turned off AutoCorrect on one of my machines. It used to be that if I typed in a few letters of a day of the week, it would offer to complete that, and if I typed in a day of the week follower by a comma, it would put in the date if I pressed return. Not the Earth, but convenient, and on all my other machines it does that. Not this one. And if I ask for help, I’m likely to get help that says I should go to the tools menu – a menu that no longer exists and hasn’t for a while. Or none at all. Microsoft doesn’t seem to have a name for this feature, and HELP is the usual uninformative nonsense it usually is. If anyone knows what the feature is called or where to find it in Word 365, I’d appreciate the tip. I don’t use it a lot, but it annoys me that it is off.

bubbles

I mentioned that Doug Beason, (Col. USAF RET, former Chief Scientist of Space Command) and I are about to put together an anthology of stories and essays on Planetary Defense. More on that another time. Anyway, that sometimes has me thinking of events like Tunguska, a 10-30 megaton – yes, megaton – event in Siberia in 1908. A blast possibly half the size of Tsar Bomba that flattened and charred tens of thousands of trees over 2000 square kilometers, possibly the largest blast recorded in human history before the invention of the H bomb; a bigger blast than any weapons we now possess.

Meteorite is the obvious explanation, but there was no meteorite, and no crater either. When the Russians finally got around to inspecting the area – they did have rebellions, the War, Ten Days That Shook the World, their Civil War, and years of Stalin’s purges to distract them – in 1927, they could find no meteorite, no rocks, no hole in the ground, and in fact nothing that looked like the residue of a meteorite strike. It was a mystery that intrigues everyone, and back before I learned the explanation I was induced to speculate about it in broadcasts of the BBC and US public TV. I liked “black hole” as a possibility, although I knew damned well it couldn’t be that; and since I went on these shows to promote Lucifer’s Hammer I usually stuck to the comet theory. After all, we thought many comets were just dirty ice snowballs. Still do, I guess. The ice would have melted, and what’s to find?

But I learned better.

This afternoon I was reminded of a restaurant in the Baltimore harbor area, Eat Bertha’s Mussels; an intriguing name, and if it’s still there I can recommend it highly for sea food if you don’t mind sawdust on the floor.

But I remember it because it was there that Rolf Sinclair, and old friend from the National Science Foundation (and one of the reasons I used to say that the NSF budget might be the best Federal tax money we spend) took me. Mrs. Pournelle, Larry Niven, and Poul and Karen Anderson to dinner with two young men whose names, embarrassingly, I do not recall. They explained in detail, drawing some diagrams and writing equations on paper napkins just what must have happened at Tunguska. Not a comet, not a black hole, not the wrath of Jehovah or Thor, but a good old fashioned stone—not metal—asteroid entering the atmosphere at a rather steep angle and high speed. The great speed meant that air resistance to entry – hardly reentry – into the atmosphere became greater and greater as the rock descended, and eventually that energy potential exceeded the binding energy that held the stone monster—about the size of the Coliseum in Los Angeles – together. Thus it came apart. With a bang. A 10 to 30 megaton bang. Trees blew outward in a radial pattern around the impact point, but there was no impact: it blew up at a fair altitude. The debris was subjected to extreme temperatures, and everything that could be affected by that was consumed. The only thing that fell to earth was sand, and that was pretty well indistinguishable from sand blown in from the Mongolian Desert.

Thus no crater, and no trace of what hit us. Farewell the black hole, or the ice comet. Just a stone asteroid.

Of course there are a lot of them out there.

Our two dinner guests presented a paper on that to the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science – Rolf was the AAAS official who invited them to speak – and later published much the same thing in SCIENCE. And I can’t remember their names. I got to know them pretty well, too. But this was at least 27 years ago, and possibly much longer. Thin excuse for not remembering but it’s all I’ve got.

 

And a sad comment on the internet for scientific research outside your own field: the cause of Tunguska has been known for over 25 years. Yes, there are some anomalies, but not great enough to overcome the theory of a stone asteroid coming apart. That hypothesis explains all the known data, and there’s more than enough energy in a football field asteroid entering at high velocity to bring about all the observed phenomena.  Yet a half hour search doesn’t present me a link to the actual paper the lads – Chyba?—who presented the paper and explained it all to me in that Baltimore restaurant before presenting it to the AAAS. Hah! I just remembered thy name. Christopher Chyba. I got nothing searching for Chyba, but Chyba Tunguska got me a confirmation of his name and a condensation of his theory.  But note I had to know the name; otherwise Google showed me links to how it’s still a mystery, and it might be a black hole, and an old woman who’s convinced it was Thor, and – well, anything but the science.

 

bubbles

Erosion Of The US Middle Class

Jerry,

Edward Luttwak has an excellent piece in the Times Literary Supplement on the currently hot topic of “what actually just happened?” Rather provocatively titled “Why the Trump dynasty will last sixteen years”, it’s at https://www.the-tls.co.uk/articles/public/trump-dynasty-luttwak

Luttwak spends some time on the Establishment’s continuing hysterical befuddlement, but his primary focus is the core issue in the current fight over who runs America: Will our middle classes grow again and rule, or continue shrinking and be ruled forever by their (our) self-proclaimed betters?

Luttwak focuses on what he presents as a key indicator, the growing unaffordability of a new car for the average American family, and builds his case around that. It’s a good piece, I recommend it.

It also reminded me of a couple of wider-reaching pieces I sent you a year and a half ago, in late ’15 and then early ’16 right after the Iowa caucuses. I think these are worth another look, now that the dust is (one hopes) beginning to settle.

I first took the hugely politically incorrect view that it’s not “democracy” per se, but rule by the middle class that makes Western nations successful. Democracy only succeeds if you have an informed and self-disciplined middle-class majority; otherwise it inevitably descends to “one man, one vote, once.”

https://www.jerrypournelle.com/chaosmanor/there-will-be-war-is-done-the-debates-porkypine-on-the-middle-class-and-a-great-deal-more/

Ergo, policies to foster and preserve an informed and self-disciplined middle-class majority are vitally important to free and prosperous Western nationhood. But the US middle classes are under assault across a broad front. I took a look at the wide variety of middle-class cost squeezes being applied in recent decades, and made the point that while we might not get there as fast, “one man, one vote, once” could happen here too.

https://www.jerrypournelle.com/chaosmanor/recuperation-continues-rip-ed-mitchell/

Will we continue (resume, really) middle class rule here? Things look more hopeful than they did two winters ago. But stay tuned.

regards

Porkypine

Aristotle defined democracy as rule by the middle class, as did many of the ancients. Middle class was defined as “those who possess the goods of fortune in moderation.” We do not have that now. In either party.

bubbles

Feynman on Thinking

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lr8sVailoLw

I’ll probably mention this again, with comments.

bubbles

A Solar Eclipse of the Heart

Or, one can argue that space.com has lost it.  You’re choice.

https://www.space.com/37675-warby-parker-total-solar-eclipse-parody.html

Courtesy Uncle Timmy.

Don’t miss it. I’m planning on banging pans just to make sure the sun doesn’t get eaten.

bubbles

And this deserves comments; the case for man made global warming grows weaker and weaker.

Solar Minimums May Be [the] Final Piece of [the] Puzzle in [the] Fall of Western Civilisation.

<http://www.nationmultimedia.com/detail/opinion/30322133>

—————————————

Roland Dobbins

bubbles

Apologies to whomever sent me this link: the Outlook crises ate you mail. But I had opened this link. Fascinating information on the end of the Greenland colonies after centuries. And it wasn’t the Gulf Stream. The western colony never was anywhere near any wandering of the Gulf Stream.

http://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/why-greenland-vikings-vanished-180962119/?utm_source=keywee-facebook.com&utm_medium=socialmedia&utm_campaign=keywee&kwp_0=350935&kwp_4=1409424&kwp_1=620431

bubbles

bubbles

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

bubbles

clip_image001

bubbles

Outlook madness continues; Obamacare Senators; Uranium

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Being intelligent is not a felony. But most societies evaluate it as at least a misdemeanor.

-Robert A. Heinlein

The fact that in normal life and in psychiatry, anyone who “consistently and persistently insists” on anything else contrary to physical reality is considered either confused or delusional is conveniently ignored.

Michelle Cretella, M.D.

If you like your health care plan, you can keep your health care plan.

Barrack Obama

The map is not the territory.

Alfred Korzybski

If a foreign government had imposed this system of education on the United States, we would rightfully consider it an act of war.

Glenn T. Seaborg, National Commission on Education, 1983

bubbles

Six Republicans Who Voted for Obamacare Repeal in 2015 Sank the ‘Clean Repeal’ Bill Today

Another day, another defeat for the Senate’s health care effort

http://reason.com/blog/2017/07/26/six-republicans-who-voted-for-obamacare

n 2015, when presented with a bill that would have repealed much of Obamacare’s taxes and regulations, Senate Republicans were eager to send a political message. Though the bill would be vetoed by then-President Barack Obama, 52 Republicans voted “aye.”

With 48 of those 52 senators still in office, the Senate on Wednesday could muster only 45 votes in favor of a “clean repeal” of Obamacare. Six senators who voted for the 2015 bill voted against the repeal effort.

They are Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn.

Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va.

Dean Heller, R-Nev.

John McCain, R-Ariz.,

Lisa Murkowski R-Alaska

Rob Portman, R-Ohio.

[snip]

These will probably be known in future as Obamacare Republicans. Susan Collins of Maine has already earned that title.

Straight repeal of Obamacare, leaving us where we were before Obamacare was passed, would, according to those who vote against repeal, leave millions without health care insurance. It is never mentioned in these debates that “insurance” against pre-existing conditions is not insurance at all; it is a subsidy, an entitlement; an obligation for those who have actual insurance to pay for events that have already happened to other people, and who now can say they have health care insurance; while everyone else’s premiums skyrocket. Someone you don’t know, who lives in another state, has a misfortune. You decline to donate to charity to pay for his (or her, or his becoming her) misfortune or sex change operation, and the government will send a tax collector, followed if need be by the hangman, to collect for you in the guise of “insurance” for that individual.

But we can’t just let people die in the streets.

Nor did we before Obamacare; somehow we muddled along. That, however, is generally not mentioned in these debates; and any case no reforms to Obamacare are to be considered by the Democrats who vote unanimously to leave it unchanged: after, the disasters aren’t happening on their watch. Look over there: one of President Trump’s relatives let a Russian business man pay for his dinner. Or maybe he paid. Or there’s a rumor that the people who run Snopes paid. Or maybe Stalin through his estate… Russia. Russia. Russia.

 

0130 and bedtime.  FLASH: McCain saves Obamacare.

 

Collins of Maine, Murkowski of Alaska, and McCain of Arizona voted to save Obamacare from any change or repeal; the vote was 49 to 51.  If any single one of these Republicans had voted with the rest of the Party, at least something would have happened, as a 50-50 vote would have allowed the Vice president to cast the deciding vote. Why McCain decided to save Obamacare is not immediately known to me. He blamed it on the House, according to one news story, but I do not understand that. Obamacare is now his legacy. (And of course all the Democrats. I trust you like your health care premiums.)

 

 

bubbles

“uranium flowing to Russia”

You might want to check your sources there. According to the NRC Uranium One never got a license to export and “no uranium produced at either facility may be exported.”

https://web.archive.org/web/20170129043258/https://www.nrc.gov/reading-rm/doc-collections/news/2010/10-211.pdf

Unless you have some source other than the “Clinton Cash” book, your statement is probably false.

 

This turns out to be extraordinarily difficult to do. It seems to be undisputed that the State Department approved a deal with a Russian company, but the approval was by a committee on which the Secretary of State sat. I could find no record of the votes of that Committee. It is probable that no Uranium actually has been exported as a result of this deal, although the Russian company owns 20% of it. I admit I was quoting Sean Hannity who famously talks about this. Even reading the Snopes rejection of the charge makes me wonder what’s going on here, but it is likely that no physical Uranium changed hands.

It appears not to be in dispute that a Russian oligarch donated tens of millions to the Clinton Foundation; apparently there are no Russian causes or charities in need of that money? And it is not in dispute that Mr. Clinton’s speaking fees, already outrageous, were doubled – well over half a million dollars per speech – and he delivered at least one at this rate. I have been unable to discover the nature of the speech, but given what was paid for it, perhaps it is held in close confidence.

Neither of these incidents is a criminal activity, but then most if not all of the endless expensive investigation of President Trump’s involvement with the Russians has yet to produce an actual crime or indictable offense, and most investigation allegations and results were pretty laughable. I would be astonished if the Russian Ambassador did not attempt to maintain close contact with anyone who might let slip some information useful to he boss, or if Mr. Putin did not encourage such activities, but of course I have no sources other than the media on this.

It is self evident that refusals to obey subpoenas, deleting subpoenaed messages, physical destruction of computing equipment, careless handling of classified documents, and receiving tens of millions of dollars in donations as well as hundreds of thousands in speaking fees does not get the investigative attention that a private real estate deal before the election, and a useless meeting with a Russian lawyer who deceived young Trump as to the purpose of the meeting receives.

Clearly the FBI is still afraid of the Clintons; more afraid than they are of the President of the United States. President Trump does not control the Deep State, and seems unable to dismiss holdovers from President Obama.

bubbles

My Outlook has gone mad. It will not let me search certain folders. It will not run rules on others. I am trying to straighten things out, but it is taking time. Microsoft is improving outlook for enterprise users. Small users can safely be ignored, do they are.

And now (1500) I have visitors.

2330: After dinner, visitors left, brainfog enough that I am tired of fighting Outlook: the goal is to assemble a good outlook mail file that has all may stuff in it and which I can search and run my rules on; amazing how difficult that is; I’ll explain later.

bubbles

Microsoft Office Help

I doubt that they can’t find people who use their products. It’s just that the people doing the Help files are programmers, working at Microsoft.
As programmers, they already know how the program works, so the help files and screenshots are just reminders in case a detail slips their mind.
And as programmers inside a huge bureaucracy, they don’t meet users, or care about them.

Besides, if they can’t remember how to do something, and the help file isn’t helpful, just call up the person who modified the program, and ask.
To write instructions or help files properly, said files have to be tested on complete outsiders, people without a clue as to how to do the task. Hand them the files or manual, watch them try, and if they can’t figure it out, explain what they didn’t get from the help file, then modify the file to clarify. Iterate till ten or so people in a row can find the proper help file, and do whatever is required, without asking a single question.
But all that requires taking the job of writing instructions at least as seriously as writing the programs.

Stephen

As it happens. One of my recent visitors is a former Microsoft executive. He sort of agrees. I remember when bill Gates ran the place; he was proud of having ordinary users use his stuff, and learning their problems so they could fix them..Ah well.

bubbles

From years ago (I have been forced to look at what I thought were archived files):

I still don’t understand how the Affordable Care Act is constitutional when it is a direct tax that is not apportioned and, therefore, seemingly unconstitutional. But, there is another interesting angle to the tax and the subsidies that may surprise the residents of 36

states:

<.>

The law states that tax credits will be available through so-called exchanges, or online marketplaces, “established by the State.” When it was being crafted, it was assumed that all 50 states would create their own exchanges. After it passed in March 2010, it became clear that many states would rely on the federal government to operate them, as the law allows.

In 2012, the Internal Revenue Service made the subsidies available in all states. The law’s challengers claim they cannot be offered in exchanges operated by the federal government. Thirty-six states fit into that category. Without subsidies, insurance costs would skyrocket.

</>

http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2014/11/22/supreme-court-obama-health-care/19271273/

The populist press says this could “kill Obamacare”. I doubt it. I think it is more likely this president will stand up and make a speech saying that, under this law, states have the right allow the federal government to set up and run insurance exchanges for them. And, if they do that, they aren’t eligible for the subsidies.

He, and other democrats, can appeal to the people and say the law is clear, his IRS tried to help them in the interim, but now their states will either have to get their act together or those subsidies will no longer be available and the states are to blame for this — not him, not his party, and not his initiative passed into law.

What happens next would depend on how the states react. Would they find ways harness public outrage and focus that on this president, his party, and his policies passed into law by a congress controlled by his party? Or, would the smooth talking leftists stall the matter long enough that enough state politicians would make their own exchanges for fear of losing offices in the latest debacle?

I can tell you one thing, if the Supreme Court rules in the way the snip from this article outlines, shares of ConAgra foods will increase as cynics by massive amounts of Orville Redenbacher’s popcorn as they sit back, much, and laugh at the latest debacle of this coming summer.

◊ ◊ ◊ ◊ ◊

Most Respectfully,

Joshua Jordan, KSC

Percussa Resurgo

 

Remember when the Republicans were going to repeal Obamacare?

bubbles

I am experiencing odd problems posting this, buy it appears to be going up all right; it tells me that the server returned an improper response.  But the text goes up; unfortunately there is an endless spinning wheel in the tab. Perhaps it will fix itself.

Hah. It sort of did. I no longer get the “improper response:, it loads quicker – buy the spinner is still in the tab.  Enough. I’m for bed. Good night.

And now the spinner is gone.  No trace of the problem.  it did fix itself.

bubbles

bubbles

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

bubbles

clip_image001

bubbles

Minor Disaster and Recovery; A Good Medical Report

Monday, July 24, 2017

The fact that in normal life and in psychiatry, anyone who “consistently and persistently insists” on anything else contrary to physical reality is considered either confused or delusional is conveniently ignored.

Michelle Cretella, M.D.

The map is not the territory.

Alfred Korzybski

Liberalism is a philosophy of consolation for Western Civilization as it commits suicide.

James Burnham

bubbles

Major computer crisis converted to minor by Eric today, but it took all day. Writeup to follow. One Problem is that they keep improving Office, but the F1 help files are not revised, so instructions given in Help often include screen shots showing menu items that are no longer there for the version of Office you are using. This is not good. They need some product managers who care; apparently Microsoft can’t find any who actually USE their products.

bubbles

The news today is boring. Russia. Russia. But never about money flowing from Russia to the Clinton Foundation as US Uranium flows to Russia; or the enormous speaking fees former President Clinton collects in Russia. Somehow that is not important, while real estate deals in Florida before Mr. Trump was nominated were. And if you believe that…

bubbles

Is Amazon Evil?

Good afternoon, Dr. Pournelle,
I saw this article on the combination of Amazon and the Washington Establishment, and I thought that you might find interesting.
I didn’t know about the Post Office subsidy; I order a lot through Amazon, but now I’m wondering if I should drop it.
One thing the article doesn’t mention is that Amazon is also selling more industrial supplies and tools, the type of goods that companies such as McMaster-Carr sell. Amazon isn’t at that level yet, but perhaps in 5 years…
Regards,
Don Parker

I would not call Amazon evil, but I am concerned with preservation of competition. This is a subject requiring much thought and more time than I have tonight.

bubbles

Welfare-to-work

Jerry:

“Ed” suggests that we end welfare and use that money to put people to work.

The first thing to do would be to train up inspectors, to go out and check the safety of every part of the infrastructure. They can find the bridges which are disintegrating, the roads which need repair, the pipelines which are ready to fail. This is an incredibly massive job, which has long-since overwhelmed the agencies responsible for maintaining them. Their reports would allow for proper planning, increasing safety and cutting repair costs.

While some of these jobs would be physically demanding, others can be done without getting out of the car, so any level of physical fitness or disability can find a job suited to their capabilities.

They would also be long-term jobs, because by the time one area has been fully inspected and repaired, it will be about the time to start the next series of inspections.

Keith

Obama promised shovel ready jobs, but managed to double the national debt while the roads and bridges crumbled. Your scheme would generate many useful reports; but sorting the myriad reports into useful and not so much might be difficult. Creating new bureaus may not be the best answer, but it should not summarily be dismissed. Our roads and bridges – many of them – are really deteriorated; do they know that back where they failed to find shovel ready jobs?

bubbles

‘Who knew that hunter-gatherers without a written language could keep such careful records?’

‘Who knew that hunter-gatherers without a written language could keep such

careful records?’

http://sultanknish.blogspot.com/2017/01/a-drought-of-sanity-in-california.html

—————————————

Roland Dobbins

bubbles

Dr. Jordan Kare

I was fortunate enough to work on a small piece of one of Dr. Kare’s projects and had a chance to talk with him on several occasions. He impressed me as one of the smartest people I’ve ever met and was simultaneously approachable and easy to be around. I was doing some design work at Lasermotive on a laser propulsion concept and he would listen to my ideas attentively and always treated me as though I was making a vital contribution. Perhaps not, actually, but I was encouraged to keep the ideas flowing. Sorry to hear of his passing, the world doesn’t have enough people like him.

John Witt

bubbles

Give me shelter 

Dear Doctor Pournelle,

The other day I saw a Talking head, apparently a rich, progressive activist type, opine in reference to war refugees that it was incumbent as a moral responsibility on the United States to take in refugees from any country in which we wage war. Although I was taken aback by this sweeping statement, part f a group conversation on CNN, one of those so beloved “”roundtables” wherein each member attempts to outdo the others in coming up with a pithy soundbite while dancing around the issue (in this case the supreme court more or less upholding the Trump Travel Restriction Order), neither the moderator nor any other member of the cluster-chat took issue with this rather astonishing moral imperative argument.

This makes me wonder: Syria and the other sources of refugees currently tramping across the borders of the Western World are predominantly, nearly exclusively, Muslim nations. Where are the Saudis and the Gulf Arab states in all of this? How many refugees from their neighboring nations, refugees that are fellow Muslims, are they taking in? After all, these nations are some of the richest, per capita, most advanced societies anywhere, well able to afford the cost. They also have PLENTY of room.

Allow me the extravagance of a supposition: suppose New Zealand broke out into bloody civil strife, with millions fleeing the war zone for safer shores. Suppose Australia, rich and underpopulated was silent on the matter, and sealed its’’ borders. Suppose the rest of the world then insisted that, oh, let us say China and India must take in millions of New Zealanders, that it is their moral and ethical duty to take in the wretched refuse of wars horrors.

Would that not be more or less the equivalent of the current mad theory that the West must take in the Middle East’s refugees?

As for the moral argument that war waged upon a nation requires the state that initiates hostilities to take in refugees from the other:

Hmm, do I have the right to move to Japan or Germany, or Italy? Wait, the Axis in World War Two also included Hungary and Rumania! Say, I kind of like the idea of moving to the Black Sea coast of Rumania, setting up a little Dacha and having the Rumanian people foot the bill for my retirement. After all, Rumania declared war on America in 1941, and I am sure I can find a Human Rights attorney to argue that the psychic burden of that aggression has damaged me to the point where I will never again feel safe in America…

Ah, sweet idiocy, thy name is International Relations!

Petronius

bubbles

And it’s late. Tomorrow there’s still work to do cleaning up after the disaster, fiction to write, and more. Good night. Things are looking up. Medical appointment today: I remain cancer free, and came away without new medicines or new instructions.

bubbles

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

bubbles

clip_image001

bubbles