Maintenance and Barratry; ZenBook; Regulation and other stakes

Chaos Manor View, Monday, June 6, 2016

D Day; The Longest Day

D Day, the Allied invasion of Europe at the Normandy Beaches, remains the single most complex one-day event in human history.

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

Under Capitalism, the rich become powerful. Under Socialism, the powerful become rich.

Under Socialism, government employees become powerful.



Yesterday, Alex and I spent much of the day installing ZEN, the ASUS 15” ZenBook laptop, up in the Monk’s Cell, which is primarily a place to write fiction. We also installed a 25” external monitor that had been previously in the other upstairs where my main office used to be before the stroke and may be again as I get more skilled in going up and down stairs. My big problem is that I have trouble carrying anything, particularly coming down, but I really feel safer going up if I have both hands for the banisters. That makes it tough to get my iced coffee or whatever I want to drink up to where I am going to work, but eventually I’ll manage. Meanwhile, I have the Monk’s Cell (no telephone, no extraneous noises, cannot hear the doorbell, no games. No books; just fiction writing equipment) operating again.

Once it was set up I decided to see what I could do on the new system and chose to work on the novel I am doing with Larry Niven and Steve Barnes. That required some fiddling around to understand how OneDrive shares Word files. It turns out to be tricky. There is a way to work with Word OnLine, but that is very limited, spell checking and auto-correct don’t work properly, and in general if you are doing anything but minor typo corrections that you can see and know what to do about, it isn’t useful.

You can, however, open a local copy of Word, then open the on-line document (provided that its owner has shared it, and then you have the document and when you save it in the normal way (or autosave at one minute intervals) the save is to the on-line copy you opened. What you can’t do is make a new copy and store it in that online document or location: you only have access to the document, not the on-line folder that it’s in. This can and will be corrected; I’ll ask Steve to create a folder, store the draft in that, and share not the document but the folder itself; this will let me create notes files and store them in there, and do other useful things. I’m only just getting used to this method of collaboration; after all, Larry and I started working together on MOTE on Selectric typewriters, then graduated to passing 6 inch floppies back and forth (each floppy disk held about a chapter of text). When we both acquired Zip Drives we could exchange drafts of the novel; a giant sneaker net. We could then use WORD to compare different drafts, agree as to which text was best, and consolidate into a new master draft. I make no doubt that’s what will eventually happen here. Back in my BYTE days this sort of thing generated columns: if the procedure seemed complex to me, it certainly would be to readers.

I wish someone like me was still writing my BYTE User’s Colum.

Eventually we got WORD, the ZenBook, and OneDrive working properly, and I sat down to work on the book.

It was the most pleasant experience I have had in years. I could type without very many errors: the ‘chiclet’ keys on the ASUS 15” ZenBook are spaced just right. I seldom hit the alt key and the space key simultaneously, of my common typing errors, and the c key and the space key are separated enough that I seldom put a c at the end of every damned word I type, and – well, I needn’t enumerate all my typing errors. But it was a great experience not making so many.

Moreover, the 15” screen being very near the keyboard – which I have to stare at – makes it easy to correct my sentences. The result was a productive afternoon, and writing became more fun again.

That leaves me with a dilemma. I’m doing this on Eugene, my “main machine”, a big powerful desktop with big SSD and spinning metal disks and a Logitech K360 wireless keyboard which is the best I have found up to now. And I wish I had the ZenBook here.

Incidentally, I find the Surface Pro keyboard pretty good, too, but it’s small, and the screen is small, and I have never been tempted to prefer it to a big desktop; if they made a 15” Surface I would definitely try that; but a Surface Pro is, after all, a Tablet with detachable keyboard, and the ZenBook is a laptop with a touch screen; not quite the same thing.

If there were a way to fool a ZenBook into thinking it was an input device for Eugene I’d buy one in a minute; the typing experience was enough better that I’d make the money back in increased productivity in no time (well, in months anyway). Of course another and more drastic remedy is to get a ZenBook and make it the main machine, relegating Eugene to a kind of server and backup system; and I may yet do that.

Anyway the good news is that I’m writing faster and less sloppy, practice makes perfect, and I don’t hate writing any more. Even with the Logitech K360. But I’d sure rather be typing on the 15” ZenBook, then editing on a big monitor screen.

Peter Glaskowsky suggests that there are probably keyboards exactly like the ASUS ZenBook; he uses Apple, and Apple make external keyboards much like the MacBook Pro so that is big Apple workstation can be exactly like the MacBook Pro he normally carries. All I need to do is pay attention/. Of course going out to Fry’s is an expedition for me, but I’ll go investigate. Meanwhile if you know of a program to persuade a Windows 10 laptop that it’s really no more than an input device for another computer, let me know.


Wall Street Journal

Peter Thiel’s Legal Smackdown

With Gawker under attack, the press wakes up to a justice system that invites abuses.


L. Gordon Crovitz

A Silicon Valley billionaire’s decade-long mission to drive a snarky website out of business has the media up in arms: What happens to freedom of the press if wealthy people can fund lawsuits to bankrupt media outlets they don’t like?

Good question. Here’s a better one: Why did it take so long for journalists to discover abuses of the legal system that torment every other industry?

Media commentators have almost universally condemned Peter Thiel, a PayPalco-founder and early investor in Facebook,for how he went after Gawker, which outed him as gay in 2007. Mr. Thiel defends his actions as “less about revenge and more about specific deterrence.” Gawker, he argues, plays a “uniquely degrading role in our culture.”

Mr. Thiel, himself a Stanford-trained lawyer, was smart enough to take advantage of a radical change in the U.S. legal system. He paid the lawyers representing professional wrestler Hulk Hogan, who sued for invasion of privacy after Gawker disseminated an explicit video of the plaintiff and another man’s wife.

Until recently Mr. Thiel’s backing would have been a crime, known as “maintenance” and dating from 13th-century English statutes aimed at preventing feudal lords from interfering with the legal process. English jurist William Blackstone defined maintenance as “officious intermeddling in a suit that no way belongs to one” and characterized it an “offense against public justice, as it keeps alive strife and contention and perverts the remedial process of the law into an engine of oppression.” But laws against maintenance, as well as the related offenses of “champerty” and “barratry,” were repealed in most U.S. states in the 1960s, when lawyers persuaded policy makers that funding to encourage more litigation was good for society.

It was long understood why only parties to a lawsuit should have an interest in it: The wealthy could influence others’ cases, outside funding would encourage “vexatious” litigation, and conflicts in interest between funders and litigants would corrupt the legal process. Example: Mr. Hogan’s lawyers excluded a claim that would have activated Gawker’s insurance to pay its fees and damages, and they rejected settlement offers. It looks as if the lawyers’ primary loyalty was to Mr. Thiel, who signed their checks, not to their client. [snip]

There is a great deal more in this article, and it’s all worth your reading.

When I was growing up, lawyers did not advertise, and ambulance chasing lawyers were a figure of fun. When I was a professor of political science at Pepperdine, many of my students were pre-law, and were still required to learn about barratry and maintenance; now, I suppose; that’s all forgotten. Lawyers advertise of TV, scout around for clients whom they hope to use in filing class action suits, and it’s all supposed to be better now; and you can believe as much of that as you want to. I suppose it is far too late to suggest that the common law was wiser than we knew.

Walter Olson, author of “The Litigation Explosion” (1991), explained in his blog that Mr. Thiel’s approach was predictable after maintenance “metamorphosed around the 1960s into what we now know as the public interest litigation model: foundation or wealthy individual A pays B to sue C. Since litigation during this period was being re-conceived as something socially productive and beneficial, what could be more philanthropic and public-spirited than to pay for there to be more of it?”

With maintenance decriminalized, Mr. Olson warns, “It will be used not just against the originally contemplated targets, such as large business or government defendants, but against a wide range of others—journalistic defendants included.”

Oh, well.


Everyone talks about how slow the recovery from the Great Recession is. It’s certainly slow. But is it recovery? And is this a Recession? From all I can see, it’s a Depression, and we’re still in it. They say unemployment is lower, but what they really mean is that more people have given up looking for employment. There are plenty of people out of work, but they don’t count as unemployed because they know they’ll never find a job, or be competitive in getting it if they do.

This used to be a free country.

How to Kill the Internet

Steve Case reminds us that AOL flourished with Web freedom—the sort now in danger.


L. Gordon Crovitz

The 20th anniversary of the launch of The Wall Street Journal’s website last week was a reminder of a simpler time. No one at Dow Jones had to ask permission of any government agency or gatekeeper. The company developed its own business model—the then-revolutionary idea of charging a subscription fee. Consumers decided if access was worth the original $49 a year.

This era of permissionless innovation has slammed to a halt. President Obama insisted last year that the Internet be regulated as an old-fashion utility, with bureaucrats setting rates, suppressing innovation and discouraging investment. AOL founder Steve Case’s new book, “The Third Wave,” warns what could happen next.

When his company launched in the 1980s as America Online, it was a closed network. Internet access was limited to the government and universities—it was actually unlawful to use the Internet for business. That changed after a bipartisan consensus led to deregulation. In its heyday, AOL accounted for half of Internet traffic. “For most Americans,” Mr. Case recounts, “AOL was, for its time, Google, Facebook,Twitter,Amazon, Spotify, YouTube and Instagram combined.”

Mr. Case describes how that first wave of innovation was followed by a second wave of rapid creation of websites and services. Google, Facebook and thousands of other companies launched products and services into the open, unregulated Internet.

If today’s Internet regulations had been in place, AOL would have been stymied. One key to AOL’s success, he writes, was “striking deals with media companies that had trusted brands in order to attract a mainstream audience.” The 2002 how-to book “AOL for Dummies” described how to use the service to gain access to premium news: “Reading a two-paragraph newswire story is one thing, but reviewing an in-depth analysis of those same events in The Wall Street Journal or the Financial Times is another thing entirely.”

The new Internet rules put access to selected content through mobile subscriptions at risk. The Federal Communications Commission is considering a ban on inexpensive plans, including selected Web access, offered by T-Mobile,AT&Tand Verizonto millions of Americans. Similar regulations in India prohibited Facebook’s Free Basics for daring to offer a free version of the Internet.

As a federal appeals court in Washington considers whether to invalidate Obamanet regulations, the FCC is doubling down. Last week the Democratic majority voted for the first time to regulate the price of business broadband, such as the dedicated lines linking banks to ATMs.[snip]

There’s more, but you get the idea. What we need, they say, is more regulations. There are people out there working without permission. Don’t they know that’s a crime?

What’s Killing Jobs and Stalling the Economy

A toxic regulatory brew, from Dodd-Frank to state licensing laws, has poisoned the formation of new firms that drive growth.


Marie-Joseé Kravis

An economy that has struggled for growth for seven years showed fresh signs of trouble Friday with a sobering jobs report. Nonfarm payrolls climbed by a mere 38,000 in May—the fewest since September 2010. The Bureau of Labor Statistics also reported that a record 94,708,000 Americans were not in the labor force last month, as the labor-force participation rate fell to 62.6%, from 63% two months earlier.

When thinking about what has stymied the U.S. economy, I sometimes recall a biology lesson about the role that cell death plays in explaining embryonic development and normal growth of adult tissue. In economics, as far back as Joseph Schumpeter, or even Karl Marx, we have known that the flow of business deaths and births affects the dynamism and growth of a country’s economy. Business deaths unlock resources that can be allocated to more productive use and business formation can boost innovation and economic and social mobility.

For much of the nation’s history, this process of what Schumpeter called “creative destruction” has spread prosperity throughout the U.S. and the world. Over the past 30 years, however, with the exception of the mid-1980s and the 2002-05 period, this dynamism has been waning. There has been a steady decline in business formation while the rate of business deaths has been more or less constant. Business deaths outnumber births for the first time since measurement of these indicators began.

Equally troubling, the latest analysis of Census Bureau data by the Economic Innovation Group points to the increasing concentration of new business formation in a smaller number of U.S. counties. The findings show that 20 counties account for half of new businesses and that most counties had fewer business establishments in 2014 than in 2010. Even accounting for so-called dynamic counties, the total number of firms in the U.S. remains lower than it was in 2004. [snip]

Isn’t that the definition of depression? It certainly is not a growing economy.

But perhaps the problem is that we do not have enough regulations. If that’s the case things ought to get better, because nothing can be more certain that both Democrat candidates believe we are too unregulated, and they want to fix that.

If Bill Kristol and the neo-cons have their way, one of the Democrats, probably Hillary, will get the chance to fix it good.

I remember growing up in a free country.

But we have inequality! We have to fix THAT.


Empire: A Path Forward?

This antiwar site may reveal the grand strategy needed by US policy makers, moving forward:


After repeatedly warning the Iraqi forces in recent weeks against doing anything to slow the buildup of troops around Mosul, US commanders are now advising that Iraq put the offensive on hold for several months, as a recognition that Iraqi troops are “exhausted” and need a break.

Officials say Iraqi troops are struggling with logistics on any offensive outside their territory, and that the US has to basically ferry food and water to them to keep the troops supplied when on an offensive. The Pentagon insists without this the Iraqi offensives would’ve already stalled.


They fought Iran for seven or eight years, cut down cables, and electrocuted advancing forces in swamps. Now they’re tired? This is a serious problem.

We can try to use air power, special forces, and logistics and be leaner but we’re going to need to have a credible force to cast and be prepared to commit those personnel and materiel.

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Most Respectfully,

Joshua Jordan, KSC

Percussa Resurgo

Well, we had someone keeping Iran busy: the Baathist regime in Iraq. We destroyed that. We had someone to keep Libya going: it was Khadafy. We killed him, and ISIS moved in.

Perhaps it’s time to build up the American forces and use overwhelming force on anyone who decides to be an active enemy. It won’t make us loved, but it might make us respected. But lest you think there is not much else at stake in this election:

10% of lower, federal judgeships are up for grabs:

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Most Respectfully,

Joshua Jordan, KSC

Percussa Resurgo


Scott Adams: ‘But Clinton supporters have convinced me – and here I am being 100% serious – that my safety is at risk if I am seen as supportive of Trump.’


This is the best subversive commentary on the Left’s behavior in this election cycle to date.


Roland Dobbins

Is comment needed?


Arthur Clarke’s Superiority.

Your afterword seems to have been prescient. And we can extend it: the aircraft carrier was new, untested in war, but built in quantities and ready for WWII, nearly 20 years after its invention. The atomic bomb was new tech, but procured in its crude state and used. It arguably did not reach usability until the late 50’s, about 16-18 years after it was invented. The laser-guided bomb/missile was new, tested in Vietnam War, found promising but not ready, constantly improved until it was used in Desert Storm nearly 20 years after its debut. The A-10 was the culmination of incremental improvements when it was introduced in the early 1980’s – in quantities. Our still reaches for that tool in every crisis. The F-15 was built as the culmination of the air superiority fighter, yet in its incarnation as a bomber (the F-15E), it is better than stealth when it flies “in the weeds.” Electronic warfare was introduced as new technology, but proved itself and was constantly improved until it was killed in the USAF to leave money for the F-35. Stealth is heavily relied-upon to solve all problems; yet improvements in radar – and we haven’t seen the advent of multi-static radar yet – is washing away its advantages. Where will electronic warfare be when we need it?

What all of this proves is that the balanced approach you advocated in 1981 is still the best approach. It suggests that the incubation time on technology is 18 years or so. More specifically, maintaining the A-10 (or the improved version due to arrive (Real Soon Now™) and improving electronic warfare (a combination of research and procurement) are things we need to do. It looks like the F-35, for which so much else has been sacrificed, is a dog: it can be defeated aeronautically by the F-16A, 35 years old. Its stealth can be defeated by radars today, and during its lifetime it will be defeated by multistatic radar (uses multiple purpose-built radar transmitters) and ambient radar (uses ambient radio sources as transmitters, combined computation-intensive receivers to figure out where the targets are)(BTW – this tech was shown to work some years ago for ATC).

Yup. Superiority all right. I have seen a comment on that story that points out that the names of the scientists used in the story reflect some of the real names of WWII engineers who provided advanced technology, like the much-ballyhooed Norden bombsight.

Today it seems that the function of the USAF is to keep Lockheed in business, not to defend the nation.


I really should try to revise The Strategy of Technology. The generation that had that book as a text is retiring.


And then:

This is something I didn’t expect:


“I don’t want to vote for Trump. I want to vote for Bernie. But I have reached the point where I feel like voting for Trump against Clinton would be doing my patriotic duty. … If the only way to escape a trap is to gnaw off my leg, I’d like to think I’d have the guts to do it.”

To be sure, not all of my Sanders-supporting readers would vote for Trump. But only a minority would ever vote for Clinton, and I’d guess that a lot of them would just stay home if she were the nominee.


Word around the campfire is that about 30% of those Sanders supporters could go to Trump and that’s why Trump is out in California, apparently inviting violent radical to assault citizens and peace officers while the San Jose mayor attempted to blame Trump the violence. Apparently, Donald Trump is the first human in history who can hijack the nervous systems of people and incite them to riot as soon as he sets foot in their city. The mayor was since forced to renounce the violence.

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Most Respectfully,

Joshua Jordan, KSC

Percussa Resurgo


You recently wrote:
” “All Economists know that minimum wages either have very little effect, or produce unemployment; that’s not a statement, that’s a definition,” Milt Friedman used to say (my source is David Friedman, Ph.D.) If you didn’t know that you should not claim to be an economist.”
I am probably your source, but I was quoting Jim Buchanan, not my father. My memory of how Jim put it is that all economists agree that increasing the minimum wage increases the unemployment of low wage workers, and that is not an observation but a definition of “economist.” But that’s not verbatim, since I’m going by a memory of a conversation from about forty years ago.

David Friedman

I’m fairly certain I heard you say your father said that, but it was long ago. Still, it serves.


Thoughts on the minimum wage.

The notion that a minimum wage law must increase unemployment is both correct, and wrong.
If the government of Bangladesh decreed that the minimum wage would be increased to $10 USD/hour, that would not make the nation prosperous. Bangladesh simply does not have the per-capita resources and capital to support a high standard of living. It would result in either massive inflation or unemployment or something like that, and the average Bangladeshi would remain dirt poor.
However, minimum wage laws are still useful, just not the way most people think. A minimum wage law cannot create high wages – but it can stop employers from creating poverty! Suppose the natural rate (based on supply and demand) for wages for unskilled labor was $15/hour. A business could make a lot of money importing illegal immigrants and paying them $5/hour – unless that was illegal and the law was enforced. If a business could not undercut prevailing wages by importing foreign nationals to work for less, they would not bother, because there would be no profit in it.
I believe that Finland has used a strictly enforced minimum wage law specifically to tamp down in illegal immigration from Russia.
If we had kept the 1960 minimum wage law indexed to inflation, and actually enforced it, we would not now have a significant problem with illegal immigration. And wages really would be higher, because there would be fewer people competing for jobs, and productivity growth has been high.
The dirty little secret about California’s minimum wage law is that it is not being enforced. You really think all those migrant farm workers and gardeners etc. are being paid minimum wage? Not a chance. It’s all for show.
And as for high domestic wages resulting in jobs fleeing to other, lower-wage countries: does this mean that the advocates of ‘free’ trade now admit that, yes indeed, free trade really does result in a ‘race to the bottom’ in wages? That ‘free’ trade will drive US wages down? It would seem that this debate is now settled.
And robots: yes indeed, someday robots will be cheap enough and flexible enough to significantly impact the labor market. But as of this writing the number of janitors and maids that have lost their jobs to a Roomba vacuum cleaner is about zero.
When Mark Zuckerberg stops pushing for ever more immigration and ever cheaper labor I will accept that finally robots are making human labor obsolete on a significant scale, but one problem at a time, surely.

The worst effect of minimum wage is on the apprentices and others just entering the work force. The entry level jobs are always the first to go.

I doubt the demand for hand washers in car washing places is high. Automation proceeds. By 2025 half the jobs out there will be able to be performed by a robot costing no more than the annual wage of the worker it replaces. But of course laws not enforced have another kind of effect.




thoughts on required minimum wage

“Required … minimum wage”…
My personal point of view…
after forty-five years in the work force.
The battle for a reasonable or ‘sane’ minimum wage is more or less lost. There will be long term detrimental effects for decades to come.
Ah So! Can we take a page out of the Left’s playbook and start a new game? What is to prevent the Congress (that’s the Congress that we gave to the GOP that they, to date, have done nothing with) from creating a new ‘to be named later’ Federal Wage guideline low enough to guarantee employment to any person under the age of twenty-one that is willing to work and wants to learn how to do a job. Any job.
Yes, I know. That has been proposed in the past. But since it falls within the province of the Unions, and the Unions demand a much higher wage for their apprentices (so the Union dues won’t wipe out their first paycheck) the toadies in Congress go along with that reasoning, even through the Union hiring is anything but fair or unbiased. The main victims of this are the black urban youth that (in truth) desperately need the income and the discipline of a real job. But frankly this is beginning to be a problem for everyone under the age of twenty-five. It is amazing to me that today it is not unusual to find a young adult twenty-five years old that is only now starting their first job. To me that is astounding! I had my first paying job that freed me from the childhood ‘allowance’ at the age of thirteen. Actually two jobs; a local paper route and that summer a part-time job with a builder. The paper route is self explanatory, the builder had me picking things up, carrying things from one place to another and (shudder!) scraping stickers off the pane of glass of every window in a newly built house. I actually got fired from the second job, I screwed it up. And that’s the point.
If you don’t get the chance to screw up when you’re a teen, then you are not going to enjoy your first job if it comes at twenty-five. Federally imposed rules for the workplace are not going to help when they are applied to twenty-plus adults.
So lets get more of those teens a job, but it isn’t going to be a job at the ridiculous rate of $15/hour, a buck an hour over the maximum that a retired Senior will get to live on (who probably isn’t living with their parents anymore). But closer to $5/hour. Enough to buy work clothes, gas, lunch money and a future.
Their own future, not the future envisioned by the unemployable plutocrats in Washington.

John The River



Von Neumann Machines Are Almost Here
From the article: “Imagine a swarm of programmable spider robots which could repair a damaged ship in real time, or be utilized for dangerous missions in space.”
All these spider bots need now is self-replication ability.
Can’t wait for your latest Janissaries book!
Live long and prosper.

Brian Claypool




Robot article in the Wall Street Journal
What can robots really do?

Beuce Jenks

Astonishing, and a bit eerie.




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




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