Friday, April 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
If you establish a democracy, you must in due time reap the fruits of a democracy. You will in due season have great impatience of public burdens, combined in due season with great increase of public expenditure. You will in due season have wars entered into from passion and not from reason;
It has not been a great week: tax time, and a resurgence of my mild cold, and between them a great depletion of energy along with consumption of time. The IRS has invented more forms to use up our time, particularly the self-employed, while the print seems to get smaller and the instructions more complex every year.
I’ll start with this:
OMB asks for help to drain the swamp
This is like a dream come true–I’m really encouraged. OMB is actually soliciting suggestions from the general public as to which agencies, regulations, etc. could be eliminated. Sounds like a great opportunity to bring up the Bunny Inspectors as well as a few hundred other possibilities. Your idea about having all business regulations which are based on number of employees to double the number of employees would be another good one to submit.
The deadline is June 12, so almost two months to get all the ideas in.
My pet peeve is the militarization of seemingly every cabinet department, forming their own SWAT teams, acquiring fleets of armored vehicles and arsenals of weapons. This has lead to numerous horrible episodes such as a Department of Education SWAT team breaking down the door of a house where they thought a person who had defaulted on student loans lived, only to find out that the person had not lived there for months. I guess they needed the practice or something.
I don’t know why these departments can’t just utilize local law enforcement or FBI field offices as needed, rather than having their own independent forces.
I’d also like to know what was behind Homeland Security’s order for 1.6 billion rounds of handgun ammo (100 year’s supply) a couple of years ago.
I hope this effort is more effective than filing complaints with the Do Not Call registry. Time will tell.
I urge you to flood them with real and sincere recommendations. Yes, I’ve sent mine, but I don’t have great confidence that they are getting to the people I send them to. It’s a beehive back there, and everyone I know has a palace guard determined to keep people from bothering their bosses. When I was Newt’s science advisor it was simple enough to get to him when he was Minority Whip; I just walked into his Capitol office, appointment or not. But when he became speaker, I couldn’t get a message to him, at least not reliably or in a timely manner. If I was in Washington I could walk into his office – the staff all knew me – and sit at his desk until he came in, which assured a few minutes and sometimes more, but that was in the last century; after 9/11 you can’t just walk into the Capitol and linger. Now the Palace Guards rule everywhere. Pity, but there it is.
Anyway: bunny inspectors in the Dept. of Agriculture are certainly doing a job that need not be done, at least not by Federal agents. Agriculture for some reason has the job of insuring that stage magicians who use rabbits in their act have a license to do so, and that they follow Federally mandated rules for caring for those rabbits. I wish I were kidding about this, but I am not. It is so absurd that no one takes it seriously, and the savings cannot be all that much – I am not sure how many bunny inspectors there are. But there are a number of them. And they have supervisors. In the 50 States, there must be as many as ten districts, each with a senior civil servant supervisor, and perhaps a half dozen agents, and secretaries, and I have never met anyone who believes this is a job for the Federal Government. If the States want to regulate back yard rabbit pens – yes, you need a Federal license to sell pet rabbits (although apparently not if you sell them to be eaten). I wonder that the bunny inspectors don’t die of shame when telling people what they do for a living, and I suspect their children don’t admire them much; but there it is. If we need that sort of regulation, surely it is best left to the States? Or counties, or cities, or towns. I am sure there are local politicians with in-law relatives who would love to have such a high prestige job. Let city councils and county supervisors worry about the bunnies.
A more serious proposal (although I do not mean that abolishing the absurd office of Bunny Inspector is not serious):
If you want more people working, make it simpler to hire them. Exempt more small businesses from regulations. Double the exemption numbers. That is, if a regulation stipulates that it applies only to firms with ten or more employees, make that number 20. If 9 make it 18. I would go further, and double exemptions up to 99 employees; certainly, up to 50. There are a lot of businesses that might expand were the regulations not so expensive and/or oppressive. This simple exemption would let tens of thousands of firms hire more people, and would cost not very much. It could be passed in a week by Congress, but a Presidential Executive Order could accomplish a lot.
I used to have a list of Federal Jobs that don’t need doing; I probably could think of more, but those examples ought to be enough for a start.
I have often mentioned the expansion of armed Federal Agents, some indistinguishable from military units. We have no need of that. It would be cheaper and more effective to use local police for most Federal actions, and cheaper as well. What with Sanctuary Cities that may be a bit difficult to get across in these times, but there is no question that the Federal Government has too many armed agents.
As to Homeland Security’s purchase of a billion rounds of ammunition, maybe they need to go after a rogue baggage inspector?
The Dark Secret at the Heart of AI
No one really knows how the most advanced algorithms do what they do. That could be a problem.
I have long said that by 2024, half the jobs in America can be done by a robot costing no more than a year’s salary of the human now doing that job. After reading this article I am inclined to raise that percentage.
In 2015, a research group at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York was inspired to apply deep learning to the hospital’s vast database of patient records. This data set features hundreds of variables on patients, drawn from their test results, doctor visits, and so on. The resulting program, which the researchers named Deep Patient, was trained using data from about 700,000 individuals, and when tested on new records, it proved incredibly good at predicting disease. Without any expert instruction, Deep Patient had discovered patterns hidden in the hospital data that seemed to indicate when people were on the way to a wide range of ailments, including cancer of the liver. There are a lot of methods that are “pretty good” at predicting disease from a patient’s records, says Joel Dudley, who leads the Mount Sinai team. But, he adds, “this was just way better.”
More and more people are arguing that as robots increase productivity, we must consider giving a basic living salary to all citizens (which is certain to mean all residents and their children, citizen, legal alien, undocumented alien, and illegal alien). Do we reconsider the difference between “deserving poor” and “Undeserving poor”? And who decides? Those who produce nothing, and whose contribution is to consume? What will they consume? What can they do that anyone wants done? I can think of people now who do things I don’t want done. Will there be more of those? If we can afford more bunny inspectors will we hire them?
Science fiction has skimmed across this, but the robot economy is coming faster than we thought. Note that robots are better – sometimes by a lot – at diagnosing future cancer than the best doctors. Now. Already. And they can’t tell you how they do it.
Subject: Here is your laugh for the day!
Colonel, U.S. Marine Corps Reserve, Retired.;
Former Governor of Wasit Province, Iraq;
Righter of Wrongs; Wrong most of the time;
Distinguished Expert, TV remote control;
Chef de Hot Dog Excellence; Avoider of Yard Work
United passenger drug off flight
He paid for the service, he had a right to expect it. A united pilot called into Rush today saying flying is a privilege and that they could not tolerate belligerent passenger because of 9/11. 9/11 was caused by trained terrorists which I’m sure were very docile up until they started slitting throats. In the case of terrorism, belligerent passengers are probably an asset. And united sells services not privilege. I shall not be flying united any time soon.
How Algorithms and Authoritarianism Created a Corporate Nightmare at United.
And see below on artificial intelligence.
…and this is aside from things like the robustness of the equipment, the ecological damage caused by e.g. solar collection mirror systems frying birds, or windmill farms killing birds and/or diverting migratory paths, and other adverse effects, such as how windmill farms create such turbulence that no radar — military, civilian aircraft, weather — can get any sort of reading within an active farm.
Numerous myths are perpetuated that are not supported by any fair reading of the available data
~Stephanie Osborn, “The Interstellar Woman of Mystery”
Award-winning author of the Division One, Gentleman Aegis, and Displaced Detective series
Dear Mr. Pournelle,
Since the argument has been made that money is the best, and sufficient, way to allocate health care, you might be interested in this article from today’s (London) Times:
It appears that Aspen Pharmacare, having bought the rights to five cancer medications, considered destroying existing stocks of a medication used to treat leukemia as a way of increasing the price “by up to 4,000 percent.” There appears to be evidence that the company orchestrated shortages in other ways: one Italian distributor reported that it “was having to choose which of two families with a child suffering from cancer was to receive the sole package they had because of a deliberately small supply.”
Whatever arguments can be made for the virtues of a free market, I don’t think any such market can be claimed to exist when a company can place the lives of its customers in danger unless they pay whatever price the company sets.
Allan E. Johnson
I do not think many would disagree, but those who do would argue that it is their property and they should be free to destroy it. I recall during the Depression milk poured out on the ground, and eggs being destroyed; small pigs being killed; all by order of the Federal Government trying to end the Depression by raising prices. And yes, it did happen.
During the Great Depression of the 1930s, agricultural price support programs led to vast amounts of food being deliberately destroyed at a time when malnutrition was a serious problem in the United States…. For example, the federal government bought 6 million hogs in 1933 alone and destroyed them. Huge amounts of farm produce were plowed under, in order to keep it off the market and maintain prices at the officially fixed level, and vast amounts of milk were poured down the sewers for the same reason. Meanwhile, many American children were suffering from diseases caused by malnutrition. [
Dark Matter “Bridge” Interesting article at the Wired website. It’s headline basically says that galaxies are connected by a “bridge” of dark matter.
The article is at: http://www.wired.co.uk/article/dark-matter-bridge
There was also an article about a dark matter galaxy: http://www.wired.co.uk/article/dark-matter-galaxy-dragonflies-44
I keep hearing alternative physics theories that do not require dark matter or dark energy, but they are well beyond my expertise. I grew up with the poem
The other day upon the stair
I saw a man who wasn’t there.
He wasn’t there again today.
Oh how I wish he’d go away.
We were taught that as a sort of algorithm, and it stuck with me; matter that you can never see and doesn’t exist anywhere near us seems strange to me; a bit hard to believe.
Air intel and Syria, and TLAM
In partial response to one of my speculations, you wrote that you’d argue with my “…assumptions regarding our intelligence services. Some may be more competent in persuasion than they are in finding evidence.”
Perhaps. Yet it is my experience that the political and politically motivated representatives of the misnamed “intelligence community” in DC are not the same as the military tactical intelligence troops and commanders in the field (who are, incidentally, substantially less leaky). Long term observation and recording of the battlespace is well within the capabilities of all of our military services, and the tactical and logistics intelligence gathered thereby are from a professional cadre of well trained enlisted, commissioned, and (unfortunately) civilian contractor technicians with a primary interest in supporting military operations and not on beltway infighting. Can’t say that politics is not involved, but at that tier of intelligence gathering and interpretation, I’ll put my money on the E3 who is producing reviewing the imagery and the 05 planning and evaluating the strike (both likely USN, lest anyone’s anti-USAF bias gain influence).
Just FYI, TLAM has demonstrated an excellent runway damage capability in publicly released information from as much as 20 years ago. The very dated linked video puff piece shows some of that capability in testing at about 40 second mark: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8sa7ZX58Kk4
The best use of a limited number of those would not be on a taxi way, but to damage large sections of the runway. If one had a lot of them, then taxiways are a good target, but better to use penetrators to take out sheltered aircraft and stored munitions, and HE to take out un-hardened targets. In the videos shown on the internet, with my less-than-well-trained-or-current skills, I saw very little runway and no obvious munitions storage structures. All I’ve seen was apparently infrared or low-quality, thermally-enhanced imagery, and has little detail. Damage to a “cold” aircraft structure was hard to spot, and had little resolution. I could not identify exactly what was burning at the hot spots, and they weren’t in frame for very long.
Of course, I’m not doing this professionally, and I don’t play an imagery analyst on TV. I have no evaluation of the provenance of the video, although I have some ex-professional opinions on the image quality. Mostly, it hasn’t been worth the short time I’ve invested in it: we need a pithy acronym for Just Another Fake News Story.
Best wishes to you and yours,
Mostly I don’t believe Assad had motive to use sarin to kill 83 civilians; he could get that many with a platoon of light armor and a French 75, with far fewer consequences. I think Trump was taken in by a false flag operation and his family’s tears. He asked what he could do.
When the President realized what message that strike would have on Xi in his relations with North Korea, he simply did not listen to more false flag arguments. The strike was in fact pretty good foreign policy, although the Mother of All Bombs was even more so. That is a Machiavellian policy I can admire if not advocate. Minimal casualties, maximum effect; and if you’re going to do it. do it right. Check. No small injuries.
A fresh Diatribe for 20170413
Islam permits, encourages, and regulates slavery. So why should we be surprised to see it returning to Libya now that Obama took away the government that was preventing this stuff? Of course, our lefties are so ideologically headcrammed into holes in the ground they’ll never believe this is happening.
Libya: African migrants sold as slaves in slave markets https://www.jihadwatch.org/2017/04/libya-african-migrants-sold-as-slaves-in-slave-markets
The regulation on slavery amounts to something very close to “do what you want but don’t destroy it’s value.” Sometimes brutality improves the value of the slaves to the Muslims. For example, blacks taken in slavery to Saudi Arabia and other Arabic Peninsula nations were routinely castrated so that they would not contaminate Muslim women. In this case young children were brutalized while grooming them for the sex slave market – in Britain.
UK: Muslim rape gang in court over 170 charges of sexual exploitation of 18 children https://www.jihadwatch.org/2017/04/uk-muslim-rape-gang-in-court-over-170-charges-of-sexual-exploitation-of-18-children
They were captured off the UK streets. Therefore they were slaves. And, anything goes. Isn’t ANYBODY going to do something to stop this? Has the UK completely lost it’s moral compass? Has Europe as a whole lost it’s moral compass? It hurts to read this sort of news and then see nobody who can and should do something about it move off their backsides and actually do something constructive.
And perhaps that’s enough for the day.
Freedom is not free. Free men are not equal. Equal men are not free.