Chaos settling; Mike Flynn on Fact and Theory; More on Free Trade; Bureaucracy; Climate Change; and More…

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

If Republicans want to force through massive tax cuts, we will fight them tooth and nail.

Senator Elizabeth Warren

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

James Burnham

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

“Deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”

Immigration without assimilation is invasion.




image   image


Meet Tinky. He comes with Ryan and Kelly, who are taking care of Roberta. They live upstairs, as does Tinky, but he wanders the house as dogs do and he cheers Roberta up. Ryan and Kelly are settling in, and Chaos Manor is slowly returning to the mild but chronic chaotic state, or at least I certainly hope so. I have been working with the iPad 2, which I have neglected lately, and now that Eric has pretty well restored Precious, the Surface Pro 3 with Pro 4 Keyboard to the Standard Windows 10 rather than the Insider more frequent upgrade versions I am able to get some work done at the breakfast table. Eric restored the latest release of Windows 10 using a thumb drive since Precious doesn’t have a DVD drive; a fair number of updates to apply in order, but no serious problems.

Except one. When I tried to use the Microsoft Pen with the Surface Pro, nothing happened. One Note would open when you pressed the “eraser” key, but otherwise it didn’t exist as far as the Surface is concerned. We fussed with it for an hour, resetting the machine and otherwise fooling with it, but always with the same result. Bluetooth was working, the computer said it saw there was a pen and they were coupled, but the pen didn’t work. Eventually we figured it out: the pen battery was burned out. That takes a AAAA battery. Those aren’t easy to come by.

It turns out you can take certain 9 Volt batteries apart, and Lo! there are AAAA batteries inside it, and you can unscrew the pen, and replace the 1.5 volt AAAA battery you find inside with one from the 9 Volt battery. will tell you more. Of course it still didn’t work after we did that. AAAA batteries are not common and not very standard, and the polarity isn’t well marked. Once we got the polarity right, Eric took a piece of aluminum foil and folded it up to go inside the pen, and that tightened things up enough that it now works, so I’m busily using the Surface again; but I’ve also ordered some standard AAAA from Amazon. I don’t know how long the Microsoft stylus batteries last, but I got Precious several years ago, and the pen stylus worked until this Summer.

A long time ago, I had a Compaq tablet/laptop, with handwriting recognition, and OneNote; the combination was one of the best research tools I have ever had. I’m hoping the Surface Pro will have the same capabilities. I know you can take notes with the Apple iPad, but I don’t know of a good handwriting recognition program. You get pdf files, so they can be copied, but the notes are not searchable. You can use the keyboard to put searchable text in among your handwritten notes. The iPad is small, light, easily carried, and will serve nicely as an electronic notebook (there are a lot of good apps for organizing them; summarizes some of them).

I haven’t much hope that the Surface handwriting recognition program will recognize my handwriting: since my stroke I can’t read all my own notes – but we’ll see. More on The Surface Pro with OneNote another time.


The news media seems to be divided into several camps regarding President-Designate (not quite yet President Elect until the Electoral College returns are counted and certified by Congress) – regarding Mr. Trump taking a congratulatory telephone call from the President of Taiwan. Those who don’t like Trump – most of the usual media – are convinced that he is a bumbling ass who probably didn’t know what he was doing, and we will have to leave it to the professional diplomats to straighten this out, if it can be done at all, but it probably can’t be fixed, o woe, WOE!

The others are themselves divided into various camps. There are those who think he probably doesn’t know what he was doing, but it’s not all that bad, and we can fix it (possibly with some well placed bribes). There are also those who think Mr. Trump knew exactly what he was doing: he was sending them a personal message. We do not yet know if the President of the United States will accept phone calls from the President of Taiwan (Once known as the Republic of China); it hasn’t happened yet. But Mr. Trump, personally can and has; if you want the next President of the USA to not take those calls, well, possibly we can make a deal. How much is it worth to you? Our current President is not all that unhappy about your actions in the South China Sea, for example; but Donald Trump certainly is not happy and has said so. What the next President will do is not yet known… And so forth.

I tend to the latter view. Many of Mr. Trump’s “mistakes” turned out to serve him well. We’ll just have to see. At the moment he is not in control of the foreign policy of the United State, and will not be for weeks.


More on Free Trade

Lincoln’s epigram

Dear Dr. Pournelle:
Of course Lincoln was right that if he bought a shirt made in England, his money would go out of the United States and to England. But his accounting for what happened then was inaccurate. England, in turn, imported quite a lot of things from the United States; in fact, England had free trade precisely to make it easier to do so. The Anti-Corn-Law League had stood up for free trade in grain because they recognized that the high price of grain supported by English tariffs meant hunger for many working people. England was one of the world’s great centers of textile manufacture, but one of their major sources of raw material was American cotton; in fact, the laborers in the North of England who stood up against slavery did so knowing that the blockades of the Civil War would shut down some of the factories that employed them, which I have to call heroic. In normal times selling that shirt to the United States provided money to buy American food and fiber, keeping the factories running and their workers fed.

William H. Stoddard


Are robots good for democracy?

“A topic for another time; but are robots good for democracy? And what do we do here?”
I don’t know. But droid armies might be just the thing to protect the interests of the cloistered, wealthy elite from the seething masses. The Sci Fi movie Elysium captures the idea pretty well.




Robots will make things and perform essential services. But we need not pay the people thus displaced to sit on their keisters. As I have suggested in the past, we can move to a full employment model. The ADA suggests that there are no disabled. We will find something for everyone to do.

There are many things that are difficult to automate: supervisor at sheltered workshops, for example. Other tasks we can deliberately fail to automate. Removing high corners and replacing them with wheelchair-friendly corners, for example.

Making everyone employed means that all will have health insurance . . . except the unemployed. And we only employ those who are citizens, or at least those who are here legally.

Cost more? You bet. Cost less than welfare? The robots are a comin’.



I noticed that recently you mentioned the wealth that had ‘developed’ in Hong Kong. With respect, I must disagree.
Hong Kong is often used as a counter-example to the overwhelming historical evidence that, for countries without an open frontier, sustained rapid population growth guarantees poverty for the many (moderate population growth does not guarantee prosperity, but only makes it possible). But it is not.
Another example: in 1960 Saudi Arabia had a very small population of about 3 million. They hit an oil bonanza, and their population doubled and then doubled again, but they remained rich. This is not because more people allowed them to ‘develop’ more wealth. This is because the Saudis stumbled onto a pot of gold large enough to support their (in absolute terms) small population.
Now Hong Kong: they developed nothing. They only stumbled onto a pot of gold. That was to be the toll booth for shipping goods made with (de facto?) slave labor on the mainland to the wealthier west. For a long time most goods stamped “made in Hong Kong” were in fact made in China (I know people who grew up there: it was an open secret).
And yet, even with this bonanza – which is NOT repeatable for most societies – outside of the fancy banks, most Hong Kong residents are quite poor (A person with a gallon of water valued at $1 in Hong Kong is on paper richer than a Canadian with 50 gallons of water valued at ten cents total – but who is really better off? GDP/capita misleads). And now, with no resources, limited industry, and China now able to ship goods directly to other countries, Hong Kong is headed down. Low tariffs won’t help the people of Hong Kong.


Pentagon waste

I didn’t know if you had seen this report regarding Pentagon waste. They have over a million pencil pushers making an average of $200K a year in salary and benefits, constituting 25% of the defense budget. And they tried to bury the report. Truly disgusting.


Long ago, Dan Golden fired over a thousand senior civil servants at NASA headquarters. When I visited him a few weeks before he fired them, the 8th Floor was humming, lines at the copy machines, loud sounds of typing and printing.  A couple of weeks after he dismissed them I visited Dan again.  The place was quiet. People working at their desks.  I asked a senior career engineer “What did all those people do? You seem to be handling it all.”  He looked up and said, “You know, we can’t figure out what they did.”

Another of Pournelle’s laws of bureaucrat: work expands to fulfill the requirement that bureaucrats look busy. ” Don’t take this one too seriously.



More query than suggestion to Trump on “sanctuary cities”
Dr. Pournelle –
I am so glad to hear that Mrs. Pournelle is doing better.
I am somewhat torn about sanctuary cities. While I believe the policy is ill conceived and detrimental, I recognize that it is very Madisonian. Madison presumed that one of the checks and balances would be that local magistrates would not enforce mandates from the national government that were deemed to be unjust or onerous. [There is a history of this: the Fugitive Slave Act was ignored by many sheriffs and individuals, not just in the northern states but also by some in southern states.]
However, I don’t think it appropriate that cities and states with policies to not remand criminal aliens to federal authorities should receive immunity in federal court for the acts of criminal aliens. My understanding is that a suit is not allowed unless it is reasonable to presume that the city or state could have predicted a specific act.
Is it possible for legislation to remove this protection from lawsuits in Federal Court or would this require a constitutional amendment?

I tend to favor local control whenever possible; but immigration and border control are national matters, and I doubt many courts would hold otherwise. It certainly does not take a constitutional amendment to make states deal for favors. If they want independence from Federal control, they should not accept Federal tax money…


The Case Against Dark Matter.



Roland Dobbins


Until we understand gravity and its propagation speed, we cannot assume there are no explanations other than dark matter for the unexpected movements of far away objects. I would not lightly throw away the uniformity principle.


The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby (left), recently said that dealing with the religiously-motivated violence in Europe “requires a move away from the argument that has become increasingly popular, which is to say that ISIS is ‘nothing to do with Islam’… Until religious leaders stand up and take responsibility for the actions of those who do things in the name of their religion, we will see no resolution.” (Image source: Foreign and Commonwealth Office)

For the first time, a European establishment figure from the Church has spoken out against an argument exonerating ISIS and frequently peddled by Western political and cultural elites. The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, speaking in France on November 17, said that dealing with the religiously-motivated violence in Europe

“requires a move away from the argument that has become increasingly popular, which is to say that ISIS is ‘nothing to do with Islam’… Until religious leaders stand up and take responsibility for the actions of those who do things in the name of their religion, we will see no resolution.”

Archbishop Welby also said that, “It’s very difficult to understand the things that impel people to some of the dreadful actions that we have seen over the last few years unless you have some sense of religious literacy”.

Continue Reading Article

A German court has ruled that seven Islamists who formed a vigilante patrol to enforce Sharia law on the streets of Wuppertal did not break German law and were simply exercising their right to free speech.

The ruling, which effectively legitimizes Sharia law in Germany, is one of a growing number of instances in which German courts are — wittingly or unwittingly — promoting the establishment of a parallel Islamic legal system in the country.

The self-appointed “Sharia Police” sparked public outrage in September 2014, when they distributed yellow leaflets which established a “Sharia-controlled zone” in the Elberfeld district of Wuppertal. The men urged both Muslim and non-Muslim passersby to attend mosques and to refrain from alcohol, cigarettes, drugs, gambling, music, pornography and prostitution.

Continue Reading Article


No Peace Within Islam

The headline for this was said something about a “shock poll”

involving British Muslims:


Forty-three per cent of followers of the religion living in the country believed that parts of the Islamic legal system should replace British law while only 22 per cent opposed the idea.

Researchers also found “deeply worrying” levels of belief among British Muslims in conspiracy theories such as blaming the US government or “Jews” for the 9/11 terror attacks on America.


Life could get interesting in England, especially considering “Mohamed” is the second most common name in the United Kingdom according to an article I read the other day.

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Most Respectfully,

Joshua Jordan, KSC

Percussa Resurgo


NPR Lost the Plot

As the English say, NPR lost the plot. I got in the car this morning and had to drive over an hour to get to my destination and listened to NPR. I heard about some nut that allegedly shot a bunch of people in a church because he didn’t like their melanin content when compared to his own. That story took most of the morning because he was defending himself and they had to interview people and discuss this.

This piece segued nicely into a segment on the hate mail sent to mosques in the Greater Los Angeles area. And this was a lengthy piece. I suppose pieces like this need to be done, but I doubt the writers of the letter were tuned in and the piece was constructed in such a way that you were made to feel as though you were part of a large public outcry to get the writers of these letters to come and debate their ideas with the people in the mosque. We were told the FBI and LAPD are involved in investigating this “hate incident”, which is “not a hate crime”.

After that, NPR focused on Trump’s business ties and how he could be violating the Constitution and how the Democrats need to have a plan for the next two years and so forth. This went on for a period of time.

Then NPR did an in-depth segment about a group of white supremacists in a small town in Montana. So far as I could tell they never interviewed the white supremacists themselves, only a few local towns people. Nobody had much to say; so some people somewhere have strange beliefs and they’re no longer relegating themselves to cabins in the woods but living among us in small towns in places like Montana. This is not new, but it is new to them and very important — requiring much of my drive to showcase.

At no point did NPR discuss the Daesh attack by a Somali immigrant in Ohio at a university. What an oversight. I couldn’t believe it! I went to their webpage, surely they covered it on the website — NO!

Why is NPR leaving out an important story? Why does NPR ignore domestic terrorism?

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Most Respectfully,

Joshua Jordan, KSC

Percussa Resurgo

I think you know the answer.


Dear Jerry:

Forget the Climate Wars– they  just don’t make existential threats like they used to.

Here’s the nice note Nikita Khrushchev sent to  Fidel Castro , in response to  that great humanitarian’s  request  to blow us off the face of the earth:

Russell  Seitz

Fellow of the Department of Physics Harvard University     

       Senior Research Fellow,  The Climate Institute


Global Warming and Consensus

I was reading in your update your reply to Robert Porter’s query on just what is known on Global Warming. It reminded me of an incident from one of the new Cosmos episodes hosted by Neil deGrasse Tyson.
In the episode, Sisters of the Sun, Tyson showcased the women of astrophysics, those women at Harvard who worked for Pickering in classifying stars; they were called “computers.”
In this episode, Tyson tells the story of Cecilia Payne whose doctoral thesis, “Stellar Atmospheres, A Contribution to the Observational Study of High Temperature in the Reversing Layers of Stars,” correctly identifies the composition of stars.
At the time, the accepted wisdom – the “consensus,” if you will – was that the composition of stars was similar to that of Earth. Payne concluded that this was not so; that hydrogen, for example, was a million times more abundant.
When she submitted her paper to Henry Russell, an astronomer of note at Princeton, he convinced her to not make such a conclusion, so she succumbed to popular pressure – again, the “consensus” – and modified her paper accordingly, admitting that something must be wrong with her analysis.
However, the fact is, Payne was right and the consensus was wrong. But, because the consensus was popular, science accepted it as the Truth.
We are supposed to accept Anthropogenic (man-made) Global Warming – AGW – merely on the weight of “consensus.” A consensus that is, in my opinion, in addition to be not in keeping with the Scientific Method, highly suspect.
We have “climate change” rammed down our throats because of the hallowed “consensus.” Not because of any PROOFS, but merely because it’s popular.
Those who question the validity of this popularity are shunned, ridiculed, ostracized, even called to be killed.
Because those who support man-made “climate change” can prove what they claim?
Not in the least.
Because it’s “popular;” there’s a “consensus.” Skepticism, the foundation of science, is ignored.
Well, as the story of Cecilia Payne demonstrates, just because there’s “consensus,” doesn’t mean it’s right.
Cam Kirmser


Mike Flynn, one of the coauthors of Fallen Angels, presents a disquisition on the classical problem of facts and theories; this used to be taught in schools, but is not much so taught today. I urge you to read it. Twice.

Facts and Theory

Your correspondent, Mr. Porter, asks what is the difference between a Fact and a Theory. This was not a question much asked in the 19th century, when the difference was clear, but the certitude with which many Theories have been repeated in the Late Modern Age give them many of the appearances of Facts, so the question does now need some clarification.
Basically, there is a three-layer cake in science: Facts, Laws describing regularities in the Facts, and Theories that provide a narrative explanation from which the Laws may be deduced and the Facts predicted. (Especially, New Facts.)
1. Facts.
Mr. Heinlein once said that Facts are “self-demonstrating; but this isn’t true. Fact comes from factum est, “that which has the property of having been accomplished,” “something done”; cognate with feat. This is clear in German: Tatsache, “deed-matter.” Down to Jane Austen’s time, the expressions “in fact” and “indeed” were used interchangeably.
In modern terms, a Fact is a product produced by a measurement process and in general two distinct processes will produce two distinct sets of results. For example, there are at least two ASTM-approved methods for measuring the coefficient of friction of packaging materials. One uses an inclined plane and translates the tangent of the angle at which the package begins to slide into its CoF; the other employs a dynanometer to pull the package and translates the Force at which the package begins to slide horizontally into the CoF. The same package, tested by each of the two methods, will in general return two different values. In other words, there is no such thing as the coefficient of friction. There is only the result of applying a specified method of measurement.
I recollect a situation, lo, these many years ago, when we discovered that the thickness of an aluminum can depended on the technician who measured it. Tech B consistently obtained thinner sidewall measurements, even when measuring the same can. The reason, as it turned out, was that she thought the micrometer was a C-clamp and screwed the barrel as tight as she could. But unlike steel, aluminum is compressible; so…. 
Dictionary definitions are often of little help in the practical problem of actually producing the measurement; and whether a measurement meets a requirement or not may depend on how that measurement has been defined operationally. In another case, a dimension on a beverage can lid was measured differently by ourselves and by our customer. Both gauges gave the same result on the gage block, but different results on the lids. The customer’s gauge was hand-held and the part dangled vertically from the pin. Our gauge was mounted vertically on a granite block and the part sat in a “nest” holding it at a certain angle. We were not actually measuring the same dimension, and the difference was enough to put one set of measurements out of specification and the other set in.
Even so simple a problem as determining the diameter of a pipe is fraught with questions. A pipe has infinitely many diameters, so in practice we can only take a sample of them. So how many diameters will we measure? At which locations on the pipe? Shall we use a pair of calipers or some other instrument? Will we report the mean of these diameters? The median? The extremal average? Far too many folks show a touching faith in the reliability of measurements. Hence the straight-faced reporting of political opinion polls and who has gained or lost ground since yesterday. What does the GNP mean when it includes not only the tons of steel poured but also the gallons of martinis poured? It’s not that combining these figures means nothing, John Lukacs once wrote, but that it might not mean what you think it does. Can we legitimately add values for manufacturing and for service? What about popular vote totals for States with different rules for eligibility? Or temperatures for Anchorage and New Orleans?
Now throw in questions of accuracy, precision, linearity, reproducibility, and stability of the measurement process.
2. Laws.
Regularities in the Facts are called Laws, preferably stated in the privileged language of mathematics — Euclidean geometry in the case of Newton, or differential equations in the case of Maxwell. For example: that a body moving under uniform acceleration will cover the same distance as a body moving at the mean velocity during the same time was demonstrated by Nicholas Oresme using Euclidean geometry in the 14th century. But the thing to remember is that Laws are descriptive, not causative. Objects do not fall because of the Law of Gravity; rather the Law of Gravity simply describes how they fall.
3. Theories.
A Theory finally is a story we tell ourselves so that the Facts and Laws “make sense.” From the story you can deduce the Laws and predict the Facts. More importantly, you can predict New Facts that were not used in developing the Theory in the first place. To the instrumentalists, that is all they need to do. They need not be True in any cosmic sense. In fact, any finite body of facts can support multiple theories that can account for them. There are today several theories that account for the facts of quantum mechanics: Copenhagen, standing wave, multiple worlds, transactional. (They are called “interpretations” for some reason.) This Duhem-Quine Theorem in Logic is what lies at the root of falsification mania. There is always more than one way to skin a cat, and more than one theory to explain a fact. Sometimes a new Fact can blow a well-established Theory clean out of the water. The Ptolemaic model explained the motions of the heavens tolerably well since the second century. (Motion around an epicycle around a deferent is mathematically equivalent to motion on an ellipse.) And the Aristotelian physics on which it was based had stood even longer. But when the phases of Venus were discovered by Lembo and others (all within the same month!) Ptolemy went down the tubes and his model was replaced with Tycho’s model. (Both Tycho and Copernicus explained the same data. They were mathematically equivalent, given only a shift in the center of the coordinate system.)  It was only with the discovery of stellar aberration, Coriolis effects, and stellar parallax between the mid-1700s and mid-1800s that geomobility was proved in fact.
So we might say that Falling Bodies are the Facts while Gravity is a Theory meant to explain them. To Aristotle, this was a tendency inherent in the bodies themselves by which they moved toward the center of gravity. To Newton, it was a mysterious action-at-a-distance by which bodies reached out (somehow) and “attracted” other bodies (somehow). To Einstein, it was a property inherent in mass that “bent” the space-time manifold so that other bodies would move along geodesics toward the minimum gravitational potential. Each of these narratives (in of course greater detail) pushed our understanding of mechanical motion forward.
Similarly, the Evolution of species is a fact, and Natural Selection is one theory put forward to explain it. Sexual selection, neutral selection, natural genetic engineering, et al. are other theories.
This may be more explanation than the question wanted, and we are overlooking #4. Models. In the third phases of Modern Science, oftimes data itself is actually model output masquerading as data. For example, when some of the measured data is missing or if the instrument is broken or out of calibration, the missing data may be replaced by kriging or some other model output and then treated as if it were data. Or Something Else might be measured, such as tree rings, and translated to temperature by means of a statistical correlation model. A Model is sort of a hybrid of Facts, Laws, and Theories, partaking in many cases of the worst flaws of each.
Mike Flynn


Carrier Deal

One thing you didn’t mention in your note:
“The Trump Carrier Deal
Carrier gets $7 Million in tax incentives.”
That’s *over 10 years*. So the wage base is $490M to offset those against. $49M is for one year.
So, an even better deal. The state gets $1M in revenue from those workers over a year (or so) and it “pays” 700K for the deal.


A Modest Proposal Concerning Robots

Dear Doctor Pournelle,

Rising productivity through greater efficiency leading to lower employment and the problem of how to fairly distribute the wealth is indeed a vexation.

One solution: If robots will do the work, but humans receive the benefit, then create a right to robot ownership. I suppose the courts will have to find an emanation from a penumbra of this somewhere in the constitution. Let each citizen receive title at birth to a certain number of robots. Five? Sounds like a good number to me. A new entitlement, the right to robots!

Of course there are a lot of devilish details. There will be a robot market. People will offer to manage your robots, for a portion of your robotic’ earnings. Maintenance will have to be done, replacement and upgrade robots purchased.

The lawyers will have a field day with this one.

Of course, we will have to pass Robot Laws. It will be illegal to teach a robot more than it need know to perform assigned labor. Robots may not travel without a pass from their owner. Anyone caught preaching Robot Rights will go to Coventry.

Perhaps we can count them as three-fifths of a human being and allow their masters to vote for them?

We might even free and grant limited civic rights to a few, very intelligent robots.

Just a modest proposal!



Actually, this is a form of Distributism. . It might be possible. Alas, robots as we have them today are not very fungible. But they might get there.



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



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