Wednesday, June 14, 2017
The map is not the territory.
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
After months of expensive “investigation” of the alleged “Trump-Russian” conspiracy to illegally influence the outcome of the US election. The results are clear: there is no evidence at all for this collusion, and there was no basis for the charge to begin with, and certainly no reason to continue it. There were numerous crimes discovered by the “investigation”, to wit the leaking of classified information (some leaked by the investigators), and the unmasking of US citizens recorded when they made contact with FICA authorized surveillance of foreigners; but none of these resulted in indictments, or even the identification of the leakers and unmaskers.
The “investigation” has consumed a lot of resources, including significant portions of the time and energy of Trump associates, officials, and appointees, to no visible advantage to the people of the United States; this has been obvious for some time, and must have been plain to President Trump and his advisors since shortly after his inauguration. It was probably suspected before that, but after he became President of the United States he was legally entitled to all the yield of the “investigation”, and it was clear to the Trump administration that the considerable cost and effort had produced nothing of value.
The latest hearings have made this clear to everyone although it has been fairly obvious to serious analysts for some time.
Given the worthlessness of the “investigation” of the “Trump-Russian Collusion” we can discuss other matters which have consumed much time, effort, and attention.
loyalty and investigations
Dear Mr. Pournelle,
I am startled by your recent comments:
“Why should the President not expect loyalty from the Director of the FBI? Is the top investigating agency not subject to control by elected officials? This insistence of Administrative Independence is the very essence of the deep state, of the experts who have a right to rule not subject to the elected officials; it is a resurrection of the old divine rights, only the deep state is superior to everyone else: they and only they have a right to rule.
Mr. Comey had spent months “investigating” the Russian question without finding anything to prosecute. It consumed time, distracted from proper government, and to what purpose? Was the President improper for asking when this very expensive and distracting investigation would end? Do we want the FBI “investigating”whomever it wants to, subject to no elected authority?”
Loyalty first: while I agree that the FBI is subject to control by elected officials, I think bringing *personal* loyalty into the issue is troublesome. “A government of laws, and not of men.” Consider your own comment: “It is no secret that many holdover officials were explicitly not loyal to the President, and some were proud of dragging their feet or even sabotaging Mr. Trump’s action.” Is it that you suppose they remain “loyal” to the goals of President Obama, and you object to this? Very well. I can see that as a problem. Should they then instantly shift their “loyalty” to a new object? That looks more like opportunism: as in the opportunistic vicar of the old song, “And this be law that I’ll maintain until my dying day, sir; that whatsoever king may reign, still I’ll be the Vicar of Bray, sir.”
For that matter, President Trump appears to disagree with your conclusions. He has argued that “loyalty” is all about loyalty to the constitution, and to the nation. I certainly have no quarrel with this. But I do think that expecting personal loyalty to the *leader* is dangerous. I simply do not trust any President that much, including Presidents of my own party.
“Mr. Comey had spent months “investigating” the Russian question without finding anything to prosecute. It consumed time, distracted from proper government, and to what purpose? Was the President improper for asking when this very expensive and distracting investigation would end? Do we want the FBI “investigating” whomever it wants to, subject to no elected authority?”
Let’s test this. What would have been your reaction if President Obama had asked the FBI to cease its investigation of Hillary Clinton? It had gone on for months, and found nothing to prosecute.
Conceding that some such authority resides in the Presidency, I would insist that in any instance where the investigation touches upon possible actions of the President or his associates, no President with integrity or a sense of honor would try to impede it.
Summing up: an insistence that government officials should be personally loyal to the President, and that the President has the power to shield himself from investigation, would be convenient for an autocrat or for a conspiracy. But I think it’s altogether inappropriate in a Republic.
Allan E. Johnson
Mr. Johnson presents his case well, but it does not convince me. The President had every right to conclude that the “investigation” had been and was both expensive and fruitless. Unlike President Obama’s Attorney General who directly ordered the FBI to convert the investigation of Mrs. Clinton to a “matter”, President Trump was careful to avoid the imperative: he indicated his strong preference. Of course he had already done that publicly. He used the same method regarding the Flynn affair; he did not order that this cease, but he made it clear that he thought there was nothing there; as indeed seems obvious to all the sane analysts I know. All we know about this case is that General Flynn did not mention his conversation about diplomatic sanctions against Russia to the Vice President, although it would be astonishing to learn that the Vice President was unaware of this, and indeed what would have been astonishing would be if that topic was never discussed with the Russian Ambassador: some thirty Russian diplomatic families were being expelled from the United State for nothing they had done but as a part of President Obama’s retaliation for Russian hacking. The call was made on a Trump Tower telephone (and thus could easily be recorded by Mr. Trump’s technicians) to the Russian Ambassador. General Flynn certainly knew that the Russian Ambassador’s telephone calls were tapped by US intelligence agencies. General Flynn had headed one of them.
Whatever the reason for General Flynn’s dismissal by President Trump , it is unlikely to have been for this one; more likely there was something else (clash of personalities among the advisors, I would guess). Later President Trump told the Director of the FBI that General Flynn is a good guy, and this matter can be ignored. There is probably a story in here somewhere, but it is unlikely we will discover it, and it is probably none of our business anyway.
And that brings us to loyalty. It is simple. “I didn’t appoint you. You are a hold over, but you make important decisions. It would be improper for me to ask you to break or ignore the law and we both know that; but there are many decisions that are legal either way, but it is pretty clear which way I would make them. Will you be guided by that, or will you seek ways to undermine my policies?” This is often the case with holdovers: their predecessors had one style, the new boss has another. Will you work to support him, or will you try to do him harm? This is the essence of loyalty, is it not?
As to President Obama asking Mr. Comey to ignore transgressions by Mrs. Clinton, what makes you think he did not? She surely violated all kinds of rules and regulations concerning revelation of classified documents, deletion of documents she was under subpoena to deliver, destruction of her subpoenaed server, etc., and all that was dismissed as no crime for lack of intent to do evil: she meant well. Is that a decision that the Federal Bureau of Investigation ought to make? I would think that is the essence of a political decision. I do not think it was improper for President Obama or hos Attorney General to make it; but I do question whether it was not above Mr. Comey’s pay grade, and I would think your letter implies you would have to agree.
As to the President shielding himself from investigation, that is why Mr. Trump did not do that, even if the investigation had gone on for months without uncovering a scrap of evidence that any law had been broken by Mr. Trump, his relatives, or his staff. It was without any point, yet endless; I suspect it will continue into the 46th President’s term.
I recommend to your attention two articles from today’s Wall Street Journal:
The Ethics of Gene Editing
Is it moral to alter an unborn child’s genome to reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s? What about editing for hair color or athleticism? Amy Dockser Marcus reviews “A Crack in Creation: Gene Editing and the Unthinkable Power to Control Evolution” by Jennifer A. Doudna and Samuel H. Sternberg.
Amy Dockser Marcus
Until recently, the name Jennifer Doudna was not widely known. Among scientists, she was recognized as a prominent biochemist. She ran her own lab, at Yale, then at the University of California, Berkeley. She made important findings, such as elucidating the three-dimensional structure of RNA, a molecular workhorse that carries genetic information and catalyzes protein synthesis in the cell. Her days revolved mainly around petri dishes and test tubes. Then along came Crispr.
Crispr, an acronym for Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats, is part of the immune system of bacteria, helping ward off attacks by viruses. Ms. Doudna and a key collaborator, Emmanuelle Charpentier, figured out a way to program Crispr-Cas9—a tool that includes Cas9, an enzyme produced by the Crispr system—to target and edit DNA in a test tube.
As Ms. Doudna writes in “A Crack in Creation,” written with Samuel H. Sternberg, a biochemist and former member of her lab, Crispr will allow an organism’s DNA to become “almost as editable as a simple piece of text.” Using Crispr, scientists will have the capacity to alter, insert and delete genes in plants, animals and, yes, humans. The discovery, published in the journal Science in 2012, set off a frenzy of interest that has not yet subsided.[snip]
I have ordered her book and will have more to say on this subject; it is a subject of vast importance.
A Regulation That Protects Big-Hospital Monopolies
By restricting construction of new medical facilities, certificate-of-need laws drive up health-care costs.
In Cartersville, Ga., two highly regarded obstetricians, Hugo Ribot and Malcolm Barfield, hoped to add a second room to their one-room surgery center. But the plan hit a snag. They needed to obtain a “certificate of need” from Georgia’s Department of Community Health. Three large hospitals in the area—which provide similar services at far higher cost—blocked their application. Dr. Ribot and Dr. Barfield are now suing the state for restraint of trade.
Thirty-five states and the District of Columbia have certificate-of-need laws governing the construction of new medical facilities. These laws give favorable treatment to major medical centers and other existing hospitals by limiting competition. Result: higher prices for patients.
In the 1960s, when the certificate-of-need concept appeared, health-care delivery was different than it is today. Indigent patients were often treated in charity and teaching hospitals, which relied on paying patients to keep them viable. That changed in 1964. Thanks to Medicare and Medicaid, hospitals got paid for taking care of the poor.
Health costs were escalating, but policy makers and economists misdiagnosed the cause, pinning the blame for price inflation on excess capacity. In New York, the hospital industry petitioned the state for protection. Without a certificate-of-need law, they claimed, competitors would lure away established hospitals’ paying patients, leaving them to act only as a safety net for the destitute. The result, they said, would be financial ruin. Other states soon followed suit. [snip]
Repealing Federal support for this local regulation would have a significant effect on health care costs. It is not needed.
Democrats Coming Around?
Well, sanity seems to make a comeback in at least one Democrat:
Sen. Dianne Feinstein on Sunday said Congress should look into former FBI Director James Comey’s revelation that former Attorney General Loretta Lynch asked him to downplay the nature of his investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails.
Testifying before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Thursday, Comey said Lynch had asked him to refer to the probe as a “matter” rather than an investigation, an exchange that he said made him feel queasy.
Asked whether Lynch was providing cover for Clinton, Feinstein said she couldn’t answer.
“I would have a queasy feeling too, though, to be candid with you,”
she said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “I think we need to know more about that, and there’s only one way to know about it, and that’s to have the Judiciary Committee take a look at that.”
Why didn’t they take a look when it happened? At least they’re willing to look now.
◊ ◊ ◊ ◊ ◊
Joshua Jordan, KSC
I have always thought that Mrs. Feinstein was one of the least insane of California’s stark raving mad Congressional and Senatorial delegation; it remains to be seen if that sanity extends any further.
Soviet Saboteurs From Nicaragua
Good Morning, Dr. Pournelle –
I just read your June 10 Chaos Manor, and wanted to comment on a post by Ed about Soviet saboteurs from Nicaragua in the US posing as illegals.
Back in the late 80s I worked in Advanced Technologies at General Dynamics in Fort Worth. I was a part of the team working on the A-12 ATA for the Navy.
In addition to my RCS R&D work, I was also the Security Representative for my department. I recall a meeting of security reps where we were told of this exact threat; although, the warnings didn’t include the Nicaraguan component.
At the time, as I recall, there were indications of an uprising in the Mexican state of Chiapas. We were told that illegals in the US may try to damage US infrastructure to get US attention off the uprising, occupying US interests internally.
After reading Ed’s comment, this background might have been just the thing to help the saboteurs get in; professionals hidden among the amateurs, as it were.
Happy Monday, Doctor, and may it bring you another week of continued recovery for you and your wife.
Organleggers in Los Angeles?
There have been organleggers in California for decades. They are available through the Dark Web at surprisingly low costs. If course there is no real way to verify what you will get, and not much you can do about it if the quality is lower than advertised.
Russia Hacked our Election! (So what?) | Scott Adams’ Blog,
Scott Adams is so right here he couldn’t put this in Dilbert – people would claim the fiction was too far out:
Examples: “Given all the American hackers who opposed Hillary Clinton, there is perhaps a one-in-a-hundred chance Putin’s hackers (if they exist) got to the DNC and Clinton’s servers before the hordes of non-Russian hackers did it.” And
“Aren’t all the big countries trying to influence elections in all the other countries, all the time?” and
“Putin seems like a smart guy. It’s hard for me to believe he thinks he would come out ahead by destabilizing the world’s most important military and economic power. And that is doubly true when you are teaming with that country to fight ISIS, put a cap on North Korea, and keep the economy chugging along. It’s hard for me to imagine a scenario in 2017 in which Russia gains by poking America with a sharp stick.” and
“We’ve been brainwashed by the media and our own government to believe Russia always acts against our interests. I think it would be more accurate to assume Russia always acts in its own best interest, and that can sometimes be in conflict with our interests. But not always. There is no rule that says Russia’s best interests have to diverge from America’s. For example, both countries want to defeat ISIS. Both countries prefer a non-nuclear North Korea. Both countries prefer robust trade. And so on. As a thought experiment, imagine the United States watching some other country’s election process while believing one of the main candidates would be a disaster for the world, including the United States. Would our intelligence services try to influence that election, even if it was a NATO country?”
“But something much larger than government-on-government influence is happening, and I’d like to call that out in this post. We keep talking about physical border security, but what about influence security? Any country with widespread Internet access is susceptible to the same kind of fake news and other social media influence that we suspect Russia of doing. And every citizen can play this game. For example, if I were highly motivated to influence an election in Great Britain, I’m sure I could move a few thousand votes in any direction I chose. Could it be said in that case that America is trying to manipulate a foreign election? Yes, unambiguously so. And I believe it is totally legal, even if I use fake news as my persuasion.
“From 2017 onward, the democratic process in any country is open to “voting” by the entire world. The foreign “votes” will come in the form of social media influence on the local voters. There is no practical way to stop any of that from happening. And that means political power will migrate from the traditional triumvirate of politicians, rich people, and the media, to individual persuaders who are good at it. In 2017 and beyond, the best persuaders in the world will be influencing democratic elections in every country. And those persuaders will be from anywhere on the globe. Borders can’t stop persuasion.” And
“Did Putin or other Russian nationals try to influence American elections? I assume so. I also assume America has done the same – in terms of influence on their local politics – to Russia, and to every one of our allies. And if we aren’t doing that sort of thing, why the hell not? Voting is open across borders now. We would be wise to vote in those other countries. That’s what Russia did. Allegedly.”
One smart dude.
The doomed Greenland ice sheet
Your latest post contained this:
“Joe Bastardi (@BigJoeBastardi) tweeted at 7:25 AM on Sat, Jun 10, 2017:
Greenland, for example, has been losing one cubic kilometer of ice every single day
Another flat out lie from AL Gore. ”
Let’s assume for a moment that Al Gore was NOT lying. Never a safe assumption, given his unbroken 30 year string of counter examples, but we’ll just charge ahead.
Losing 1 km^3/day means that in one year, it will have lost ~365 km^3. Since, coincidentally, it takes around 361 km^ to raise sea level by 1 mm (assuming all the water stays in the sea and doesn’t get evaporated and rained out over land), that means that in a mere 100 years, using a little poetic rounding, the frantically melting ice cap will have raised sea level by around 4 inches. And all the folks who march into the ocean up to their chins next week and stand there patiently for a century will have drowned, earning themselves a long-delayed, but richly deserved Darwin Award.
Not to worry however. Since the ice cap supply is limited to 5e^6 km^3, it will be gone in only 5e^6 days (~13,500 years) and we (actually, our 500+ great grandchildren) can quit worrying about it.
Or, as Gore would recommend, in a move that would relegate Don Quixote to the dustbin of history as an example of futility, we could ‘fight climate change’ by ruling that fossil fuels can only be used to support the lifestyles of the nomenklatura (See the current lifestyle examples provided by Gore and his fellow Greenunists.). In addition to ‘stabilizing the climate’ that will have the unavoidable ‘feature’, long advocated by the Greenunists, of reducing the population of the Earth to a more ’sustainable’ 1.0 +/- 0.5 billion. And no impact at all on the rate of change, in either direction, of the Greenland ice cap volume. Oh well, omelets and eggs, don’t you know.
This is fascinating:
When the Cold War ended in 1991 and Russian archives were opened for a while a lot of mysteries were revealed. Some revelations still cause problems, not because so many myths were disproved but because about the same time the Internet came along and made it much more difficult keep secrets or create false realities and maintain them in the future. Thus Russia and China, as well as traditionally the more open societies in the West, could not revive the useful (for all governments) secrecy and control of information that reached a peak in the 20th century. It was the reach and control of pre-Internet mass media that made so many corrupt and murderous dictatorships possible. A few are still trying to hang on, but that proves difficult in an age of instant worldwide communications that cannot to controlled.by a few.
The opening of the Soviet archives documented how crucial it was for a tyrant to declare any military information a state secret and enforce those rules. This was especially true when it came to revealing how ineffective their armed forces actually were, past and present and future. Thus until the Cold War ended the true extent of the World War II casualties Russia suffered (nearly 30 million dead) was considered a state secret and the number admitted to was less than half the real one. The extent to which corruption and government incompetence played a major role in causing Russian economic failure and military defeats also became known in excruciating detail. For example the archives revealed that the Russians, not the Chinese, ordered and enabled North Korea to invade the south in 1950. Chinese sources confirmed this once the Internet and mass access reached China. It made it clear the Chinese had always resented being dragged into a costly “Russian war.” This version of the Korean War undermines the authority of the current Kim dynasty that has ruled the north since 1945 and desperately clings to power in an age where tyrants can’t hide their misdeeds. The Kims tried to keep cell phones and Internet out and were relatively successful. But like a small breach in a massive dam the details of their misdeeds got in and caused the police state to crumble from top to bottom. For example by 2016 more and more North Korean university students were bribing their way out of mandatory participation in major “patriotic holiday” celebrations. This came as a shock to the government because eventually these university students would run the police state but if they don’t believe in the Kim version of history will the Kims still be in charge? China doubts it and most Chinese have already made clear to their own communist (but no longer socialist) rulers that this applies to everyone. The current Chinese rulers are trying to deal with reality while the Kims are trying to ignore it. And anyone with access to the Internet (which have the world population now has) can follow the drama in real time.
Other revelations from the Moscow archives revealed that the Soviets had already created schemes that were indeed stranger than fiction. These included a plan to move saboteurs from Nicaragua across the Mexican border and into the U.S. disguised as illegal aliens. Radar stations, pipelines and power towers were all targeted in great detail as were port facilities in places like New York City. Other archive documents, available to researchers for a few years in the early 1990s (when a fistful of hundred dollar bills could work wonders) delivered all manner of disturbing and now well documented proofs. The Rosenbergs were indeed Russian spies, Alger Hiss was mixed up in Russian espionage efforts and the American Communist Party was in the pay of the Soviet Union and served as a tool for espionage, subversion and propaganda. Many left wing writers and politicians were either on the Soviet payroll, or eager to assist Soviet espionage activities.
Arthur Koestler famously said that a sufficient condition for the doom of a totalitarian state would be the free exchange of ideas within it. I pointed out after the Falkland War that computers were necessary for military power, and widespread use of computers guaranteed the free exchange of ideas. I did not realize how quickly that would be effective on the Cold War.
I have no explanation of why something similar has not happened in North Korea.
Freedom is not free. Free men are not equal. Equal men are not free.