Separation of Powers; Superbowl LI; a correction; more on health care. The Map Is Not The Territory

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Amnesty International Boss Endorses “Jihad in self-defence”

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

We are a nation of assimilated immigrants.

Immigration without assimilation is invasion.



I have had a mild cold that is not mild at all in that it pretty well saps my energy and leaves me sleepy. I discover that Roberta has had the same condition for a couple of days. We also have some other problems; the symptoms are sufficiently similar that I am pretty sure we’ve both got some form of crud. In my case it has the effect that my get up and go has got up and went, enough so that I don’t feel much like writing this tonight, so I’ll be brief, and most will be mail, with, alas, very brief comments; I’m typing badly and that’s sufficiently frustrating as to change my mood, which is likely to cause me to say things I shouldn’t – and if you could see the monstrosity I typed for ‘shouldn’t’ back in the last clause, you’d understand all too well.


I just watched Superbowl LI. I had figured the New England Patriots to win, but when the first quarter ended Atlanta 21, New England 0, I more or less stopped watching. Fortunately I did watch the half time show and thus the amazing third quarter, and if course I watched the fourth quarter and the first Superbowl sudden death overtime. Atlanta won the toss for overtime and oddly enough elected to let New England receive, but that makes so little sense that I must be misinterpreting what happened. In any event, New England received, and promptly marched up the field to First and Goal, then touchdown winning the game. Sudden Death.

Lady Gaga’s half time show was spectacular, and didn’t make one political statement, or indeed any statement at all. I’m not a big fan of such spectacular events, but that’s my age showing. She certainly is an amazing athlete, and the event was well planned, huge, with tons of special effects, and probably sold a lot of Pepsi.


A Federal Judge in Washington is trying to say that Trump’s executive orders regarding restricting immigration are not constitutional, and the need to suppress them is so urgent that he has issued a judicial order. This judicial order seems to me to be unconstitutional on its face, because he says that he finds that Trump’s finding of a threat to national security is not his finding, and is not in accord with the historical record since 0/11 2001.

This is sufficient judicial activism that I think it warrants a Bill of Impeachment by the House; there is little likelihood that the Senate would convict, but the impeachment would send a clear message. Whatever the scope of the Federal Judicial Branch it does not extend to finding of facts about foreign affairs; if there is one thing clear in constitutional law, it is that the President controls foreign policy and foreign affairs in general. Judges generally don’t find facts anyway; juries do that.

If the executive orders applied to US citizens., the courts could claim some jurisdiction under the constitution; but the President is in charge of who may and may not enter the United States absent relevant legislation: and the relevant legislation, black letter law, gives what amounts to absolute discretion to the President over non-citizen immigrants, specifically mentioning exclusion by country of origin. This appears to be a clear case of a judge saying that what he wants the law to be is in fact the law; it is an unconstitutional act, and deserves impeachment, if only for the encouragement of other judges. I doubt it will happen, but were I a representative I should certainly introduce such a Bill. I doubt it would pass, but I strongly believe in separation of powers, and Judges do not exist to protect non-citizens from being treated as threats to national security, That is the President’s job.


Behold Bat Bot, the Flying First Robot Bat.



Roland Dobbins


Problem with a URL in the “Confirmation; Velikovsky…” post

There is a problem with a URL in the “Confirmation; Velikovsky…” post at
In the lead in to the article about Obama appointments to Federal jobs, the URL you posted is malformed, and points to your local cached copy. Oddly enough, I don’t have rights to access your user account on your personal machine. (Who knew?) Fortunately the correction is simple because the URL you want is embedded in the URL that was pasted.
The URL that was actually pasted:
The URL you intended to paste:
However, that article only consists of a three-sentence summary and a very few comments about this NY Times article:

While you might want to point to the original article, the NYT article is about how ill-prepared the incoming administration was for the actual handover, but did not have to be because Chris Christie’s planning appears to have been competently if incompletely executed before he was removed from the Transition team. In spite of the thrust of the Federal Soup summary, it looks like the summary is talking about a different article entirely.

Here are two articles about the apparent “burrowing” of Obama appointees into career Civil Service jobs, all of which are more on point than the NYT article that the Federal Soup summary linked to:
This one is about a specific case:

I don’t know which way the NY Post and the Daily Caller lean politically but the Caller’s article looks like a responsible piece of journalism, except for leading above the fold with a picture of a mole. Granted that the caption explains the photo choice, it still seems gimmicky for a serious news organization. But in newspapers, the writers didn’t usually get to pick the headline or select the photos that accompanied their articles. (If they were also the photographer or accompanied the photographer, the writer could make sure that certain shots were or were not taken, but which one got used was the Editor’s choice.)

Thanks for all you do for us!

–Gary P.

Thank you


health care

Dear Mr. Pournelle,
I’ve been thinking about your comment: “As you point out, advances in science can develop procedures that, if given to all, would consume the national budget. They cannot be given to all; should they be available to those who can pay for them, but not to others? This is certainly inequality. Now what of those who contract a very expensive life threatening disease; a remedy, not precisely a cure but an effective treatment is found; should it be given to all those – a minority – who need it? Free? Means tested? It is also discovered that there is a rather simple way to make sure you never get that disease; the prevention is well known; yet there are some who continue to get it. Should they have the expensive remedy? Free? Make those who don’t get it pay for those who do?”
I find myself with questions, but nothing I trust in the way of answers. Any practicable system will at some point lead to triage: that will involve tragedies, and it will involve making decisions where there is no happy choice. I also presuppose we will find it impossible to do this well. We will be making decisions on the basis of inadequate information, and in any system there will be some incidence of waste, greed, and abuse. To paraphrase Mark Twain: we too are human, “and worse than that I can say of no man.”
In consequence, I need to stipulate that while I may find gross flaws in any proposal, that doesn’t necessarily mean it isn’t the best we can do. I don’t think there is any really satisfying way to do triage.
With that in mind: currently, we have what appears to be an example of a failing state-sponsored system in Britain’s National Health Service. Once rather excellent, it’s been the target of budget cuts for years. As a result, there aren’t enough beds in Britain’s hospitals: which means, for example, that surgeons have to decide which life-threatening emergency gets surgery, and who gets to wait on a gurney in the hallway for another couple days. Or, to address your question about disease and prevention, it’s being suggested that overweight patients will not be allowed to have hip or knee replacement until they lose weight. So yes, these questions are being asked, and nobody’s happy with the answers.
Any state-sponsored system will have to compete with other priorities, and the grim fact that it is paid for through taxes. If the system works, there’ll be the temptation to trim it a little. Then a little more.
Our own system has different problems. One of them, I think, is the “fiduciary responsibility” provision of laws governing any corporation with stockholders. I do see the point: if you’re responsible for other people’s money, you’ve got no right to direct it toward your private projects. The problem is, insisting that shareholder profit must *always* be the highest priority leads to its own unintended results. There’s plenty of profit in funding Viagra production, but not so much in the expensive research needed to develop new antibiotics before drug resistant bacteria whack us. As another correspondent pointed out, we’re paying a lot for this system, but the results are not commensurate. Decisions are being made: but I can’t say they’re being made well.
Likewise, insurance companies have an incentive — perhaps even a legal responsibility — to deny or delay coverage when any reasonable case can be made for that. In most cases, with standard treatments, insurance works well enough. If it didn’t, nobody would buy the stuff. But when we start getting toward the difficult decisions, this isn’t a system I’d want to trust with triage.
If allocation of limited medical resources were based on ability to pay, I would expect bad results. I’m remembering a hospital I used to visit regularly, more than twenty years ago. They built a new VIP ward; elegant rooms, special service. In this case, I’m not sure it did any serious harm to medical care for other people, and I was told it was a real money-maker for the hospital. But I don’t think much of this as a way to allocate scarce resources. I’d rather see people trained for heart surgery than for celebrity facelifts.
If resources for medical care were unlimited, a better argument might be made for “pay your way.” But I don’t believe wealth should carry an entitlement to lay claim to limited resources. Triage will be hard enough without people waving money at it.
Questions, not answers. In the end, I think the choices facing us with health care are unsettling enough it is not realistic to expect we’ll come up with a *satisfying* solution. And yet, these choices will in fact get made: by default, if not by decision. What I would hope for, is a “less bad” approach. Recognizing that it will be clumsy, there will be abuse, and unintended consequences will bite us.
What I would *not* trust, is any proposal offered as a way to fix everything, or as the obviously right approach. Not gonna happen.
I would hope for an approach which recognizes responsibility to the whole community, and does not leave the choices up to institutions or factions which will profit from (or be hurt by) the decisions. In our context, I think that means government involvement. We don’t have any other institutions which are even *allowed* to recognize that responsibility.
As a second factor: I think that in any situation where competing interests are involved, “checks and balances” are wise. In our economy, I don’t see any institution other than the federal government which has even a chance of balancing corporate power.
Will it do so? Or will they cozy up together? I can’t confidently predict an answer. But I don’t see a better candidate for checks and balances.
You raise important concerns about national defense, and about handing on debt to later generations; but those deserve separate response after I think about them more.
Allan E. Johnson

This deserves a longer answer than I have the energy to prepare. Some is I think misconceived, but the thoughts are worth considering. It does not address the fundamental problem: why are my children obliged to accumulate debts to pay for elderly people who need medical care? We have spent more in the last eight years than in the last century, and much of it went for free stuff for the voters. It built a debt double the debt accumulated from George Washington until the inauguration of Obama, yet the infrastructure is not repaired. We do have generous health care, even for people whose health problems are self inflicted; to be paid for by borrowed money to be repaid by our grandchildren. Is this wise? And how is it ethical?


Tabloids School Media!

I know this will rankle anyone who buys into academia a bit too much.

I like to call them “skeleton people”. They rattle on longer than even I would and they know the words but not the music. But, I know you can appreciate the form and the irony of these words once you consider the source:


Journalists can’t seem to get their stories straight in the opening weeks of the Trump administration, whether in tweets or in articles where falsehoods have been spread almost daily.

The mistakes have not just been from newer liberal news outlets such The Huffington Post or BuzzFeed, but from legacy media like Reuters, The Washington Post, and The New York Times.

What follows are several botched stories or conflicting reports since President Trump took office.


I stopped here out of respect for whatever beverage you may be holding as you read this. 😉 Pretty much anything negative you heard about Trump is a lie, according to this article but most of us did not need a UK tabloid to point that out to us — at least most of the people in my life didn’t and I would expect something similar or better as the case in yours.

◊ ◊ ◊ ◊ ◊

Most Respectfully,

Joshua Jordan, KSC

Percussa Resurgo


Dark matter and simplified models
It looks like the great disconnect between predicted and actual galaxy rotation may be due not to new physics or “dark matter” but an overly simplified gravity model used by astronomers to make the prediction.
The model is not reality, and the map is not the territory

: john garnham

We need frequent reminders that we only know maps, and the map is not the territory. If you assume that the speed of propagation of gravity can very under certain conditions, and a gravitational field can be entailed – neither principle violates Newton – many observations can be explained without invoking unobservable substances or energies.



Hello Dr Pournelle,
I just saw this 15 min video on automation & bots. It scared me. It showed what you’ve been saying about automation in a way that was as clear as anything I’ve seen.
The key point I took away was that for bots to work, they don’t have to be better, just make fewer mistakes.
Humans need not apply

Rob M


Paying for communist re-education centers

Hello Jerry,

“When I was young they built state colleges for those who were smart enough for college but couldn’t afford it.  I’m a beneficiary of that system. Now they loan you money to go to a school already paid for by taxpayers.  I say give the damned schools to the professors, and stop paying for them.  Let the professors collect money to pay for their salaries.  They demand to teach what they want to teach and tell me I am a Fascist and worse if I want them to teach what I want taught.  Fine.  Let them.  Just don’t make me pay for that.  They want to be paid to teach, let them go raise the money to pay themselves and all the administrators. Leave me out of it.”

My sentiments exactly.

Our problems began when legislators found that they could ensure re-election by identifying group constituencies and giving them money and power in exchange for the group constituencies contributing to and voting for their benefactors.  Young adults preparing to enter a society in which a ‘college education’ is mandatory constitute a VERY LARGE group.  

‘Higher Education’ is an endless rathole, down which we are apparently prepared to dump an infinite supply of other people’s money as an ‘investment in our future’  and opposition to which has become political suicide.  As a result, having a degree is now mandatory for essentially ALL non-menial employment.  To OBTAIN that degree means that the student has to subject himself to four (or more) years of forced indoctrination in the unacceptability of any political philosophy other than Marxist/communist/liberal/progressive/socialist/green/cover name du jour for the same thing, provided by conveniently installed higher education professors who ‘teach’ mandatory courses that require convincing regurgitation of the approved philosophy to obtain a passing grade.  And the coveted ‘degree’.

Governments should expend public funds ONLY to purchase the goods and services necessary to fund the necessary business of governing.  NO public funds should go to a private individual except to buy something that the individual is selling and that the government needs or to hire the individual as a government employee performing a constitutionally justified task.

If it is a sound ‘investment’ to loan a young person money so that he can purchase a college education, then banks should be chomping at the bit to do so.  Personally, based on the televised behavior of college students around the country subsequent to Trump’s election, I wouldn’t loan one a dollar to purchase a bottle of Dasani if he were on fire, let alone a few hundred $k to purchase a degree in (fill in the blank ethnic/sexual/racial) studies that will be used to justify the elimination of yet more of my former ‘rights’.

Bob Ludwick  

But unionized teachers have a constitutional right to teach what they want to teach, without regard to what the taxpayers want taught; how dare you question that? Don’t kids have a right to a real education? As defined of course by experts in education. Isn’t that in the Constitution? Judges say it is.


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



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