Not really a New Year Post

Thursday, January 5, 2017

“I am very optimistic about — about Iraq. I mean, this could be one of the great achievements of this administration. You’re going to see 90,000 American troops come marching home by the end of the summer. You’re going to see a stable government in Iraq that is actually moving toward a representative government.”

Joe Biden on coming great achievements, 2010

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

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

Mark Steyn

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

James Burnham

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



Protests against Trump continue in New York City, with promises that the Democrats will desperately oppose any Trump appointment to the supreme court


Schumer Poised to Oppose Trump Supreme Court Nominees

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., is reinforcing his opposition to any Supreme Court nominee President-elect Donald Trump will nominate.[snip]

The ‘most transparent’ president in history issues record number of ‘midnight’ regulations




President Obama has issued 145 “midnight” regulations with a cost of more than $21 billion since the election of Donald Trump, the most by a lame-duck president in a generation, a study has found.

The conservative American Action Forum said Thursday that Mr. Obama’s rules, issued from Nov. 8 through Dec. 31, include 31 “economically significant” regulations with a cost of at least $100 million each.

“The administration has published more than 21 million hours of final federal paperwork requirements since November 8,” said Sam Batkins, AAF’s director of regulatory policy. “At the current pace, the Obama administration is going to be the most active ‘midnight’ (period from Election Day to Inauguration Day) regulator in more than a generation.”

The Republican-majority House on Wednesday passed the Midnight Rules Relief Act by a vote of 238-184. It would amend the Congressional Review Act to allow Congress to repeal any regulations finalized in the last 60 legislative days of an administration under a single disapproval resolution.

The measure now goes to the Senate for consideration.

The House also on Thursday passed the REINS Act, a bill that would require any executive branch rule or regulation with an annual economic impact of $100 million or more to come before Congress for an up-or-down vote before being enacted.[snip]

This should be interesting. In addition to opposing Trump’s Supreme Court appointments, some Democrats are also trying to oppose his Cabinet appointments. A few are fishing for anti-Trump Republicans in hopes that they can delay any Trump actions against Obama regulations, and stop the Senate from accepting the bill that gives Congress control over financial and other executive department regulations. The Obama administration has issued a record number of regulations since the November election, including several they claim cannot be undone by Mr. Trump; and with a vacancy in the Supreme Court that is possible. The Republicans, of course, are “the Party of No”.

Apparently some Democrats are hoping that a constitutional crisis will shut down the government and they will emerge in better shape than the November, 2016 election left them in. I do not wish them good luck with that reasoning.


The week has been expensive, and I have to get to work trying to stay even, or at least not get too far behind. Last year was more expensive than I hoped; this year threatens to be worse. Today I was told that repairs to the leaking washing machine will cost more than a new one,. And they won’t warranty their work on the old one. Roberta has always bought Maytag, and I suppose I need to look for a new one. Any sane suggestions?

Roberta is slowly improving in speech and general coordination, but it’s a lot slower than any of us thought it would be. Alex and I went to Larry’s New Year Party – Roberta couldn’t go, but we had people to take care of her, and she was well in bed before the changing of the year. I didn’t feel very festive, and we left not long after the ball fell. Roberta was asleep of course, and all was well. I saw some of the people we see only at New Year. I hope we can take Roberta next year.

Everything is on hold in Washington and New York, and it’s been pretty quiet out here. Things will heat up after the inauguration. CES is going well, and Eric and Alex are there, so we’ll have some reviews next week. Steve Leon and his associates will have over 100 exhibitors at his Show Stoppers party; I wish I could be there,

It was a quiet year in technology, everything moving forward, but we’re so used to new marvels that we barely notice them now. Multi-terabyte drives for under a hundred dollars. Yawn. Solid state drives moving up the gigabyte scale. Yawn. Data transmission speeds unimaginable a decade ago. Yawn. We’re seeing the consequences of exponential growth, and we’re getting used to it.

But think on it. I’ve said before, by 2024 (and I think sooner) technology will allow over half the present jobs in the United States to be done by a robot costing no more than the annual salary of the person now doing it. The robot will last ten years (after which it will be replaced by a more efficient robot). At least ten of those robots can be “supervised” or operated – think of the operators of the Spinning Jenny – by a single human, and the number that of robots human can supervise will be growing constantly, although he may need robot assistants. Of course his job is not eternally guaranteed.

I may live to see that. Most of you will. And we’ll still be blowing people up with suicide bombs, running over festive crowds with trucks, and fashioning IED’s.


US Army joins dystopian planning…

Per Mike Davis, author of “Planet of Slums” and “Buda’s Wagon: A Brief History of the Car Bomb,”…“This is a fantasy, the idea that there is a special military science of megacities,” he said. “It’s simply not the case. … They seem to envision large cities with slum peripheries governed by antagonistic gangs, militias, or guerrilla movements that you can somehow fight using special ops methods. In truth, that’s pretty far-fetched. … You only have to watch ‘Black Hawk Down’ and scale that up to the kind of problems you would have if you were in Karachi, for example. You can do special ops on a small-scale basis, but it’s absurd to imagine it being effective as any kind of strategy for control of a megacity.”

In any event, the producers of the included video and the concept itself seem enthralled with the idea of urban war in large cities – maybe especially those in the States. 

Charles Brumbelow


New MIT Study on Dyslexia


I am currently sitting on the local Board of Education. This study should have us all thinking about reading interventions in terms of when they should begin and just how much can be accomplished.

Essentially the research shows that people with dyslexia have less brain plasticity and neural adaptation.

Distinctive brain pattern may underlie dyslexia

Here’s the full study.

Dysfunction of Rapid Neural Adaptation in Dyslexia

Here’s the Gabrieli Lab at MIT:


Alas that’s Roberta’s domain and she’s not up to commenting. Good to hear from you.


Happy New Year, also a few worlds about ICBM detection

Mr Pournelle,

I wish you and Roberta Happy New Year and all successes in recovering features that your family as a remarkable and redundant system had lost yesteryear due to health issues. It’s always very nice to see people of your age not only alive and well, but thinking well and looking into the future. You surely know that Jan 2nd was Isaac Asimov’s birthday; and nowadays, after Frederik Pohl passed away, of all SF writers, who lived through good portion of twencen and stays active in the Net, you’re probably most closely resemble Hari Seldon from Foundation who, when asked why should people concern ourselves with matters of the next centuries and millenia, replied in kind with your blog that while he himself could not be alive half a decade later, he nonetheless identifies himself with that mystical generalization called Humanity.

Also of some interest to you due to hacking elections turmoil may be that article (in Russian)

which, along with a journey down the memory lane, says that for the first time in 25 years all gaps in Russian ballistic missile early warning system, left by 1990s military industry collapse and Soviet Union dissolution, are sealed due to upgrade of old ICBM radar stations with new Voronezh-class radars. The article specifically emphasizes that BMEWS of USSR from the Cold War era possessed significant blind spot on its northeastern flank, an artifact of the Perestroika, when Gorbachev had agreed to demolish half-complete early warning station and army base in Yeniseysk, Krasnoyarsk Region, as the United States regarded its installation inconsistent with ABM Treaty of 1972. In some point of time after the US withdrew from the ABMT, construction of Yeniseysk radar station had been renewed and now it’s completed as an interim facility, and three more bases are planned to erect, including, btw, station in Sevastopol, Crimea, on the site of its predecessor, completely deteriorate d and shattered down under scarce Ukrainian maintenance. I think the action of issuing such article, signed by Russian military expert Mikhail Khodarionok, just coincided with the expelling of Russian diplomats for hacking. Or maybe not, who am I to know for sure?

Best regards,


If you are going to twist a bear’s tail, you ought to be sure your powder is dry…


8 facts on the Russian hacks



waves of culture

Dear Mr. Pournelle,
Your correspondent “Petronius” took aim at the notion that “All People Want the Same Things.” I am convinced he’s quite right: which brought to mind some research which deserves to be more widely known.
A readily available source is Fons Trompenaars and Charles Hampden-Turner’s book “Riding the Waves of Culture.” They also have a web site: What’s interesting is that they do much more than observe that different cultures do in fact want different things: they’ve analyzed some of the differences, and laid them out in an array of polarities.
One that caught my attention was behind the survey question: You are a passenger in a car. Your friend is driving. He carelessly hits and injures a pedestrian. The police arrive. The question: *should* you tell the truth about the accident, or *should* you lie to protect your friend?
What’s interesting is that it’s framed as a *should* question: that is, it’s not about whether you live up to your principles, but rather about what those principles *ought* to be. It appears that Americans tend to assume that justice and truth-telling are principles of high importance; but some other world cultures are at least as much convinced that *friendship* is more important. From that perspective, *of course* you should protect your friend.
Well, I disagree: and I also suspect that “friendship before justice” is also a set of values that makes corruption very easy. So I’m far from arguing for cultural relativism. But I do think their findings are important. It’s not that other cultures are less principled than ours. It’s a deeper disagreement on what those principles ought to be.
I’m far from sure where this leads us. But it certainly seems to be something I need to know.
Allan E. Johnson

It’s hardly a new question. Even John W. Campbell, Jr., took a shot at it.





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



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