Russian Hacking, Free Trade, and a Marvel in the Universe; Apple Discomfort

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

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.



I wish I could return all my Apple devices for refunds. Actually, that isn’t true; I like my Apple iPhone 6, and I’ll keep it; but the iPad is far more trouble than it’s worth, and the MacBook Pro, while useful, suffers from the same security mania that makes the iPad useless. I can’t even install free apps on the iPad. I tell it to install; it asks for my Apple account password; I go find that and mistype it, but eventually I get it right; whereupon it tells ,me it has sent a security number to a trusted device. I go looking for trusted devices. Naturally they have to be Apple. Eventually I remember that the iPhone is an Apple device and I trust it, and lo! I find there is a message with a code number. I type that into the iPad. It is rejected. I try again. Still rejected.

I give up. I have an iPad with almost no apps because it takes all afternoon and another Apple device to get an app for it, and that doesn’t work because – I don’t know why. It took me a while to figure out that the trusted device was the iPhone; could the delay be it.? I suppose I will have to go to the Apple Store and see if anyone can fix this, but at this season that’s not a practical thing to do, and I’m not really all that mobile at my age anyway.

I thought the Surface Pro was a fussbudget and it is, but it’s got to be better than having to own two Apple devices before you can use one of them, and then having them send you a security number that doesn’t work, with no instruction as to what to do next. Congratulations. My iPad is now so secure I can’t use it, and I don’t know what to do next.

I like the MacBook Pro. I like the keyboard. But the security paranoia with the need for two devices to do the most trivial tasks like installing a free app is too much for me. And the message with the code seems to have vanished from the iPhone now; it’s neither in mail nor in messages. I suppose I must have dreamed it?


Roland tells me

Steve Sailer cites you in Taki’s Magazine.



Roland Dobbins

I didn’t find the reference in my first look, but then I got

Dr Pournelle,

You were mentioned in an article by Steve Sailor in Takimag today, referencing your 

“At the end of the 1990s, as the Clinton administration gave the green light to American firms to shut down their plants and subcontract with China, I became intrigued by sci-fi author Jerry Pournelle’s compromise suggestion that Congress simply impose a 10 percent across-the-board tariff on all imports. This might be enough to make corporations at least think twice about laying Americans off. And a flat tariff would reduce the kind of political corruption that traditionally accompanied setting tariffs.”

Matt Kirchner

I wrote that in quick response to Walmart’s efforts to get their suppliers to go manufacture stuff in Mexico because it would be cheaper to make there and import it; that way Walmart could charge lower prices, and the government could pick up all the costs associated with lost jobs, welfare, unemployment, and the rest of it. I also stopped going to Walmart, which I suspect they never noticed. It does seem a quick and dirty solution to many of the Free Trade problems. It is very likely that some kind of unrestricted Free Trade will result in lower consumer prices, at the cost of higher unemployment, a larger welfare burden, some social problem, and community disruption. Precisely how those costs balance out I can’t say, but a 10% tariff on all imports of any kind would seem a good first step. Of course it will never happen. Lobbyists will seek exceptions, and pretty soon we’ll have an enormous tome describing the customs and import fees; but perhaps we could try?


Which brings us to:

Your recent post and other protectionism issues

I have researched the area for a monograph someone commissioned, and I have been trying to boil down something readable from that to send you, now that you have been covering the area. Meanwhile, I can give you some things relating to John B. Robb’s points at

The points he calls fallacious, in Keegan’s and Lincoln’s earlier stuff, aren’t so much fallacious as only complete and accurate in special cases – special cases that don’t obtain as, when and if the conditions for free trade theory hold. But he can’t use that to rebut Keegan and Lincoln because that builds in a hidden circular argument, i.e. that the conditions for free trade theory do hold now, whether here in Australia or where you are in the U.S.A., and that is the very thing that is at issue. It isn’t “settled science” after all. As it happens, many of the conditions for Lincoln to be right did apply in his time and place, though it would be wrong to take his position as universally applicable. (I can’t substantiate much if any of this here and now, for reasons of length; it will have to wait for my fuller


John B. Robb is getting distracted when he responds to “Shylock Holmes’s argument that free trade is contrary to the interests of many individuals”, that you linked to. It’s perfectly correct, as Robb points out, that the same is true of any business that does less well or any person who doesn’t make the best of things, and that none of this leads to any of those deserving being bailed out.

But there are two things he has slid past without noticing:-

– There isn’t just a moral case for welfare, there’s also a pragmatic one, the same one that brought in the Elizabethan Poor Laws and Bismarck’s welfarism (I think I touched on this area in earlier economics material I sent you). If you don’t buy off trouble that way, you get trouble a different way as crime of necessity goes up, the whole “nine meals away from anarchy” thing that is nearly proverbial.

So if you don’t buy off trouble you have to pay for policing or put up with even more damaging kinds of crime. Bearing that in mind, one important question isn’t so much whether protectionism is less efficient than free trade without the cost of welfare as whether it is more efficient than free trade with the cost of welfare, if you are going to be keeping people out of dire poverty one way or another anyway (or paying anyway, for not doing that).

– There’s a circular argument hidden in his own argument there too.

Yes, none of the losers under free trade deserve compensation in the same way that they would if they had things they owned taken. But the very fact that they don’t own the resources is part of what is damaged, if there is damage. It is what socialises the losses in the first place – yet his argument assumes a properly functioning market, so that there can be no such damage. Not only is that “bad” in a pragmatic sense, by allowing net losses through the externalities involved, from some perspectives it is unethical too, i.e. it is wrong that there isn’t that ownership; in fact, that is just precisely where Distributists are coming from (and I know you know something about them). Adam Smith’s first use of his “hidden hand” phrase was in arguing that the self interest of businessmen wouldn’t let them offshore their business as they wouldn’t be able to oversee it properly if they did (there wasn’t so much “corporate veil” then, which ties in to this whole issue of alienation of individuals from ownership – but, again, I have to leave that for the fuller material).

Shylock Holmes himself did observe that compensation often isn’t provided, but he is slightly in error in thinking that it can be in principle if free trade delivers. He is looking at a situation involving just two countries, and things get a lot weirder when three or more are involved, particularly when financial structures stop it being plain barter and/or there are absentee ownership mechanisms (and there are). In particular, a country might not have the option of free trade with compensating welfare after all, if it can’t access the gainers in other countries to get them to pay for it (think “Mexico will pay for the [fill in the blank]”). But again, that needs that fuller treatment I mentioned…

May I close by wishing you and yours a Merry Christmas and improvements in health? I’ve just had a few health problems of my own, so I do sympathise.

Yours sincerely,


There is considerable food for thought in this, including a revival of thinking about distributism. The first thing to understand about distributism is that it is not another excuse for confiscation and reward for the confiscators. The goal is not to enrich the recipients, but to distribute the means by which they can become independent of the wage system. This is a complex subject, and one we don’t have time and space for here. One example: widely distributed – available at low or no cost – education is a form of distributism, but as it is usually carried out it produces yet one more center of power, ships that exist to serve their crews, and bureaucracy. I for one would like to see education distributed back to local school districts run by the people whose children go to the schools and the taxpayers who support them. This would require ending Federal Aid to Education and the whole national education apparatus; not because it never does any good, because of course you can find examples to refute that, but because it has created a system of education indistinguishable from an act of war against the American people. Local school districts would undoubtedly produce some truly horrible school systems, and once did; but it will also produce some splendid school systems, such as the California public school system in the early part of the 20th Century – see the California Sixth Grade Reader of that era, and compare with your child’s present eighth grade reader.

Which takes us a long way from Free Trade. And I still think a 10% – 15% universal tariff on imported goods would be the simplest way of preserving jobs without imposing too much needless interference with the economy.


I will continue to worry about the assault on the election until the Congress, in January, formally certifies the results of the Electoral College voting and Trump becomes not just President-Designate as he is now, and the actual President Elect of the United States. Porkypine has more to say on that:

Electoral College Fix Attempt?


The “Moscow hacked the DNC to elect Trump” story is a nothingburger if you dig. Russian-origin hacking code was allegedly used against the DNC, which if you know anything about these things proves precisely nothing.

Among the non-Kremlin possibilities that covers: Russian merc hackers hired by third parties, non-Russian hackers who recycled the code from the wild, or for that matter a false-flag op by any one of the large number of non-Russian groups with reason to spoke Hillary’s wheels.

(Some of the possibilities on that last list aren’t even foreign, if you think about who might be that mad over what the DNC did to Bernie, or about what Hillary did to US classified document safeguards in general.)

The CIA officially seems to have very little to say about this. The “story” is apparently based on anonymous CIA leaks. At which point I’d assign it no more credibility than all the other traumatized Hillaryite eruptions we’re seeing. (I’ve had an old and dear and otherwise rational friend explain straightfaced to me that it’s 1933 all over again and he’s rededicating his life to fighting this second coming of the NSDAP. This seems a common delusion just now; I doubt CIA-employed Hillaryite Dems are immune.)

Yet the MSM is riding this for all it’s worth, lack of facts be damned.

And now John Podesta, Chairman of the Clinton Campaign, is calling for the Electoral College to be briefed on “President-elect Donald Trump’s ties with Russia” before they vote a week from now.

This strikes me as no longer funny – indeed, way over the line.

Reality-impacted progressives in overshared-denial mode have been good for quite a bit of cheap amusement. But now we have the losing campaign manager publicly calling for Federal interference with the Electoral College before it votes, backed by a fact-challenged media frenzy. This is AT BEST irresponsible. It needs to be watched closely. In the current climate it could very rapidly cease being funny.




In the realm of drawing logical conclusions from sparse facts, where I occasionally have my moments…


> Napolitano: NSA hacked Clinton emails after revelation of secrets


> Take with whatever size grain of salt you prefer.

I had this as my second most likely explanation months ago, but I lacked confirmation from any “30-year NSA official.” Judge Napolitano is now a media figure, to a considerable degree provocative by profession, but not previously prone to simply making such things up. I may now have to bump this theory up to number one. (Albeit still a ways from proven, as one “30-year NSA official” could easily have his own axes to grind, or simply be mistaken.)

FWIW, my previous leading likely explanation was that a deeply angered Sanders supporter might have contracted out the DNC hack. (In the nature of such things it would then be entirely possible the contractor would be Russian-connected.)

On a related subject, it strikes me that Trump’s recently expressed disdain for his daily intel briefings as overly repetitious quite likely relates to Obama’s reported campaign to influence Trump to overturn as little as possible of O’s “legacy”.

The tell: As part of saying Trump really should swallow his daily briefings like a good boy, Obama just (apparently gratuitously) asserted straight-faced that intel has been kept utterly separate from politics these last eight years.

Oh, really? I assume you saw the numerous reports from mid-level intel types a few months back of word coming down the chain of command not to contradict the preferred narrative in Iraq and Afghanistan.

I take Obama’s gratuitous and massively disingenuous claim that intel is NOT being politicized as a strong hint he’s politicizing Trump’s daily briefings for all he’s worth. Else, why say that? Trump has not said a thing about tendentious politicization of those briefings, just that they’re somewhat repetitious. (If I’m right, this was remarkably diplomatic of him.)

Viewed in this context, both the CIA’s (alleged) well-beyond-the-facts position that Russia actively intended to elect Trump and the leak of it also look like a direct bureaucratic challenge to him. General Flynn is already on public record that the CIA is overly politicized.

Conventional wisdom is that nobody wins, alligator-wrestling the CIA.

We may soon get to see if that’s true.



Russians and the election 

Dear Dr. Pournelle,

Here is an article which seems to me to be fairly level headed.

So here are the conclusions I am drawing, based on my reading:

1) The Russians attempted to influence the election by hacking into servers, then releasing any damaging information publicly.

1A) The Clinton Email server was a ridiculously soft target.

2) These leaks were exclusively targeting Clinton, not Trump.

2A) I infer this is because Trump has not expressed any interest in opposing Russia’s ambitions, while Clinton was responsible for Kosovo.

I’m sure Putin hasn’t forgotten that. She would also be an activist

president, opposing Russian ambitions around the world. Thus, he

acted in Russia’s great power interest.

3) The impact of the leaks was minimal. Very little truly

embarrassing information was leaked. While I don’t know how many

votes were flipped on the basis of wikileaks revelations, I suspect the number is quite small. How many voters in Michigan accessed the wikileaks site themselves? Wouldn’t they get most of their information predigested from news media such as CNN?

So I am willing to agree that Russia attempted to influence our election, and perhaps even succeeded to a marginal degree. But I don’t believe Clinton would have won absent their tampering.

These are my thoughts and conclusions. Do you believe I am wrong at any point? If so, I would appreciate your feedback.


Brian P.




I saw that photo on your site of Roberta at home! ☺

She looks good. Hoping for her continued strong recovery.

Here is an article from The Intercept that I think present a more reasoned analysis than the rabid and transparent “Hillary-got-robbed” meme that is storming through the media presently. Title and plain text link follow.


Basically, the evidence presented by private firms is wholly inadequate. The “Intelligence Community” is, through one political appointee, allegedly saying “just trust us”. We know that’s a bad idea. Always verify. And there is doubt that the “Intelligence Community” actually holds the opinion claimed, as I think you have already noted. Title and plain text link follow.

Exclusive: Top U.S. spy agency has not embraced CIA assessment on Russia hacking – sources



And from a person I respect:

Russian Hacking Subject

I take the subject of national security seriously. The Russians did their best to make sure Trump would be elected.
1. Trump is a useful puppet. Putin wants to use him to destabilize Europe and to weaken NATO severely enough to take over the Baltic States, Ukraine and Belarus. He won’t stop there if he can get away with the first. He’s already playing footsie with Viktor Orban in Hungary.
2. He hates democracy in general and will do anything and everything to discredit it at every turn.
3. Putin hates Hillary because he believes that she sparked the demonstrations in Moscow against his re-election and the revolution in Ukraine. He cannot accept the fact that outside assistance is not really necessary for people to protest. He sees a meddling hand behind everything; after all, that’s what he would do.

Which is the view of some senior career people in one of the branches of the “Intelligence Community”; I put that in quotes for reasons explained in yesterday’s post. Note that by law the only person authorized to speak for the “intelligence community” is Director of National Intelligence James Clapper.

In a statement from the director of national intelligence, James R. Clapper Jr., and the Department of Homeland Security, the government said the leaked emails that have appeared on a variety of websites “are intended to interfere with the U.S. election process.”

The emails were posted on the well-known WikiLeaks site and two newer sites, and Guccifer 2.0, identified as being associated with Russian intelligence.

“We believe, based on the scope and sensitivity of these efforts, that only Russia’s senior-most officials could have authorized these activities,” the statement said.

Continue reading the main story

Less often mentioned are US citizens attempting to interfere in Russian elections, including those of Mrs. Clinton opposing Mr. Putin. Mr. Putin is both proud and volatile, and has a long memory.


Russian hacking

Dear Mr. Pournelle,
I found your comments on intelligence gathering helpful and informative. Thank you. I would, however, suggest a different perspective.
What I’ve read lately from Mr. Trump includes: Saturday Night Live isn’t funny; “Hamilton” is overrated; the New York Times is failing; Russia will not invade Ukraine; the hacking might have been some guy in New Jersey; he’s really smart, and doesn’t need intelligence briefings; and, actually, he won the popular vote.
Some of these assertions, taken one by one, might be defensible. But do you see a pattern? And what, would you say, is the predictable fate of leaders who cannot hear bad news?
Mr. Trump does not need people telling him he’s right. If he is surrounded by flatterers, this will not be a successful presidency. What he *needs*, is people like General Mattis, who are able to tell him something he doesn’t want to hear, but say it in a way that he can hear it.
Allan E. Johnson

I know for a fact that Mr. Trump always has people around him who will tell him things he doesn’t want to hear, and that he takes the information seriously, although sometimes his public position does not acknowledge that.

As to intelligence briefings, there is only so much time in a day.

Russian Hacking

This, in an article by the New York Times, reported via MSN:
“While there’s no way to be certain of the ultimate impact of the hack, this much is clear: A low-cost, high-impact weapon that Russia had test-fired in elections from Ukraine to Europe was trained on the United States, with devastating effectiveness.” (How Moscow Aimed a Perfect Weapon at the U.S. Election,
How can the same sentence claim that there is no way to be certain of the impact of the hack, and then claim that it was devastatingly effective? I am also astonished that no one is claiming that the Russians spoofed up false documents to taint the election — that would be manipulation. All they did was make public the truth about what the DNC was doing. Can it be considered a manipulation of our election that the electorate was told the truth about one of the political parties involved and the candidate it was supporting? Is it not even more ironic that the truth we were told detailed how the DNC and Clinton colluded to manipulate the democratic process during the Democratic primary?
I do not support hacking or any other cyber-crime. But the people of the United States are missing the real story here, hidden behind all the hand-wringing and finger pointing over the hacking.

If an American newspaper had published the various emails hacked by WikiLeaks and possibly the Russians would it be a crime? Would we insist that the Electoral College be briefed? Is it contended that those were not actually emails on the DNC server?


wrong century? and political statements

Dr. Pournelle,
I took your point, but you wrote “the disaster that befell the Democrats in 1916…” I frequently still type in the wrong century, perhaps indicating some sort of un-writeable muscle memory at work.
I note that some leaders of the “intelligence community” were quite vocal in their opposition to Trump back around the time of the republican convention, and that it was the FBI director and not any Russian group who most influenced the election. Admittedly, it was by the same method: the FBI and “the Russians” both exposed Democrat Party internal electronic documents to scrutiny by the electorate. The current effort is directed to leverage an unlikely but vaguely discussed Electoral College revolt on the outside chance the Democrat party can do what “the Russians” have failed to do — discredit the election. Which is incidentally the opposite of what Mrs. Clinton pledged when she promised to accept the results of the election.


General Eisenhower ordered Nixon to stand down even though it was nearly certain that the election of 1960 was seriously affected by fraud. President Eisenhower’s reasoning was that no good could come from encouraging dispute of an election. Of course the establishment is desperate.


Europe: Illegal to Criticize Islam

by Judith Bergman  •  December 12, 2016 at 5:00 am

  • While Geert Wilders was being prosecuted in the Netherlands for talking about “fewer Moroccans” during an election campaign, a state-funded watchdog group says that threatening homosexuals with burning, decapitation and slaughter is just fine, so long as it is Muslims who are making those threats, as the Quran tells them that such behavior is mandated.
  • “I am still of the view that declaring statistical facts or even sharing an opinion is not a crime if someone doesn’t like it.” – Finns Party politician, Terhi Kiemunki, fined 450 euros for writing of a “culture and law based on a violent, intolerant and oppressive religion.”
  • In Finland, since the court’s decision, citizens are now required to make a distinction, entirely fictitious, between “Islam” and “radical Islam,” or else they may find themselves prosecuted and fined for “slandering and insulting adherents of the Islamic faith.”
  • As Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, said, “These descriptions are very ugly, it is offensive and an insult to our religion. There is no moderate or immoderate Islam. Islam is Islam and that’s it.” There are extremist Muslims and non-extremist Muslims, but there is only one Islam.


APOD: 2016 December 11 – The Extraordinary Spiral in LL Pegasi, 


Big spiral out there. Check it out here:

This reminded me of the spiral I saw in 1997 when we hiked through the snow to our observatory to see Comet Hale Bopp in our club’s 16-inch Cave Newtonian. The spiral structure we saw that night blew me away. It even impressed my daughter, who was seven years old back then. The spiral structure of IRAS 23166+1655 caused that 20-year-old memory to come shooting up. The only thing is, because of the asymmetric sunlight striking the comet we saw only a fragment of the spiral. It was unique, though. A treasured memory!

PS – about Hale Bopp:


If you have not seen this, I urge you to look: I can’t explain it.


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



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