The Budget Deal; Return of IQ; and much more

Chaos Manor View, Friday, December 18, 2015

“This is the most transparent administration in history.”

Barrack Obama

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


White House Declares Total Victory Over GOP in Budget Battle.” Washington Times

Republicans ‘rein in’ the IRS in new budget after years of grievances

Washington Post

The establishment Republicans have given up the power of the purse, which was the Constitution’s main check and balance mechanism against the executive power. They have been so fearful of Obama’s threat to hold his breath – shut down the government – if he does not get what he wants that they gave him “total victory”, albeit with a few bones tossed to the establishment. Despite majorities in both Houses and thus total control over spending, the Republicans have passed a budget that the White House can claim to be total victory. It’s depressing even if it was predictable.


There Will Be War Volume Ten will be on Amazon Monday. We will see where it goes from there. There is already a campaign to boycott the book on the grounds that the publisher is a scoundrel. This is apparently something to do with fan politics and awards. I can only say that it has been a pleasant experience to work with them. I have all the editorial decisions, of course including story choices, and they do all the paper work including paying the contributors. No other publisher was willing to do that. I am not involved in award politics and have not been since Lucifer’s Hammer. More importantly I am not able to handle payments to twenty people (actually far more than that; the series, twenty-five years old, was not interesting to any publishers when I got the offer to publish it again, and the first nine volumes of There Will Be War (well, the first four; the others are coming out over time) did well enough that they made an offer for me to edit a tenth volume. I find them very competent and helpful; payment from Europe has been a bit tricky but the problems seem to have been solved and the contributors received advances on non-exclusive rights, which is a bit like finding the money in the street for those whose stories have already been in print. We also have some good stuff from new authors, who apparently prefer to be in this book rather than in the traditional magazines; I’m a bit flattered. Anyway it’s done. If you like war stories you will like this book. Now on to Avalon.


Went to a neighborhood party with people we see often as we take our daily walks. One was a man we met the first day we lived here. We watched their children grow up. It involved a walk of about a block, in the dark, this being just three days before Winterset. I used the Rollator walker that I tend to use if I’m going to be out on the streets; it was my first time using it to go to a private house. Bit clumsy getting up two steps to get in and worse getting down them to get out, but all went well and we had a good time. It’s almost exactly a year since my stroke.


I need to do a full essay on IQ. I know quite a lot about it, at least what was known back when I was in graduate school, and what you can and can’t predict from individual IQ scores; and of course what you can reliably predict about groups from IQ scores. I’ve sort of stopped talking about it lately because it always starts a storm, and I’m a bit weary of the same arguments over and over again.

I learned that IQ was the best single predictor of “success” so long as you define success in any reasonable manner. You must have an objective and reliable measure of “success” (actually that would be part of my definition of rational) and you must have a reliable and well known IQ test. Lately just saying that much produces a storm of protest, but not much data; the data seem to support the validity of IQ being the best single predictor. Of course you must understand that “best” often leaves a lot of room for error, which is why IQ works so much better predicting group averages than individual performance.

Comes now Garret Jones with Hive Mind . Jones is an economist and deals with numbers; he doesn’t purport to understand IQ in any professional way. The WSJ reviewer of his book says “To Fight Poverty, Raise IQ Scores” which is perhaps much like saying “to become a successful author, write a best seller”. It’s true enough but how to do it?

And that’s what I need to do an essay on; because Jones confirms what I learned in graduate school: “Smarter people, on average, are more patient and interested in saving. And indeed national savings rates correlate with IQ scores.” The reviewer, Nicholas Wade, a long time science writer, continues “There is something dismaying about the possibility that a single number, like an IQ score, could reveal anything significant about an individual’s character or potential. And maybe IQ scores don’t say much about any particular individual. But, as averages, they do measure something significant about groups of individuals, correlating quite well, for instance, with income.”

So an economist finds what psychologists have always known, and what Richard Lynn, Professor of Psychology, and Tatu Vanhanen, Professor of Political Science claimed in their hard to find and very expensive book IQ And The Wealth of Nations. IQ measures something important and you ignore it at your peril. Now I spent two years in graduate school working on that hypothesis, so I would be expected to have that conclusion; but Johnson has data.

It’s late and I have to get to bed; I’ll expand on this another time. I’m pleased to have good evidence that despite the US Courts which forbid use of IQ in most uses, it’s important , worth studying, and cannot be ignored. I knew that all along.


Still yet more on democracy…

It is said that the problem with democracy is that the people will vote themselves ever-larger government benefits and bankrupt the society. This is, of course, false. Just look at what is going on in the United States today: Wall Street is being given trillions of dollars in subsidies while little people get zero percent interest on their savings, and pensions and social security are set to be ravaged to help pay for this largesse to the plutocrats. A mandatory private health system was enacted that will radically increase the profits of for-profit insurance companies while the average person faces costs so high that they cannot actually afford to use their insurance. Trillions of dollars are spent in wars whose only obvious point is to enrich politically connected defense contractors, while roads and bridges in this country are allowed to fall apart. The borders are being thrown open to massive third-world immigration so that wages for the many can be driven down and profits for the few driven up. None of these things are happening because the people themselves want them.
No, the problem with democracy is that it is so easy for the rich to bribe elected representatives, and use the government to steal from the people. People vote for a candidate who says one thing, and after being elected, they do what they have secretly promised their wealthy patrons.
What do I think of direct ‘mob rule’ democracy? I think that it might be a good thing (Switzerland anyone?). Or at least, not as bad as rule by kleptocracy masquerading as democracy.
So why do we have a representational democracy? I think the problem is information. In a large and complex society, it is impossible for any single private citizen to be up on all the details of all the issues facing the society (especially if they have a day job). So they have to delegate political power to elected representatives, and therein begins the rot, because these representatives can be so easily bribed.. Same with the press: no single human being can evaluate all the information directly, they must have journalists to research and condense the issues for them: and these journalists can be, and increasingly are, bought and paid for by large corporate conglomerates.
And if I had a good solution for this I’d be king. I would only say that pretty near any system can be made to work, sort of, if the elites have a sense of honor and duty to the nation as a whole. And there is no system that cannot be corrupted if the elites care only for themselves.
Didn’t you once have a novel where you said that the elites had to participate in long boring formal ceremonies, to remind them of their connection with and duty to their nation? Have we lost something recently?


Cicero said that the problem with democracy was it prevented able men from rising to the top. Aristocracy was better, but the ruling families become corrupt. Monarchy puts too much power in one man. The object is to establish a Republic, which has elements of all three. The Framers in Philadelphia during that hot summer of 1787 were well aware of Cicero as well as his predecessors and successors; and attempted to build that. They left many questions to the States, They were well aware that individually they would be conquered without a national union, but it was impossible to get them to agree on a single government. Seven of them had by law established religions, with state enforcement and taxes; the First Amendment has such curious language precisely to keep Congress from disestablishing the State religions. The last one vanished by state action not long before the Civil War. E Pluribus Unum.

Adam Smith warns us that whenever capitalists get together they scheme to get the government to pass laws favoring them; in particular to make it difficult for newcomers to enter their particular business. Massive government regulation, requiring experts to tell you how to comply with the law, serve that purpose nicely. Then there are government subsidies to various industries and firms. There is regulation of prices, keeping them high. There are bunny inspectors whose job is to see that no one sells rabbits without a license – and that stage magicians have a Federal license to use rabbits in shows.

This sort of crony capitalism was precisely what the limits on Federal Power were attempting to prevent. Individual states might be corrupt, but the general government would not be; it had not enough power.

If you believe that populations will not vote themselves largesse from the public treasury I suspect your education in history has not been great. Certainly regulators are bribed all the time, but so are legislators for favoring special interest groups – including public service unions. The hostility of the teachers unions to charter schools even when it is shown that the students are generally better off by the new arrangements, is well known. At onetime school districts were small, and relatively autonomous. Some were corrupt; most were not. As districts consolidated and the federal government became involved, more money was spent, but centrally; it is a matter of debate as to whether all that money was used wisely; if indeed the students learn more now than they did in times past.

The Swiss Confederacy has retained far more power in the Cantons, but it did have one Federal Power: universal military conscription and half a lifetime in the reserve army. It is generally conceded that the Swiss system works well for the Helvetian Confederacy; whether it could be expanded to all of Europe, or transplanted to the United States, is doubtful.

Republics fall. This one has lasted longer than most. Whether it remains a Republic now can be debated.


Major AI advance could have big implications for enterprise software (ZD)

Beyond recognizing handwritten characters, the software also drew its own as part of a visual Turing Test. Most of the judges weren’t able to tell the characters were drawn by a machine.

By Chris Kanaracus for Constellation Research | December 18, 2015 — 12:41 GMT (04:41 PST) | 

Ideas advanced in an AI (artificial intelligence) program newly unveiled this week could have big implications over time for enterprise software. Here are the details from MIT’s Technology Review:

Taking inspiration from the way humans seem to learn, scientists have created AI software capable of picking up new knowledge in a far more efficient and sophisticated way.

The new AI program can recognize a handwritten character about as accurately as a human can, after seeing just a single example. The best existing machine-learning algorithms, which employ a technique called deep learning, need to see many thousands of examples of a handwritten character in order to learn the difference between an A and a Z.

The software was developed by Brendan Lake, a researcher at New York University, together with Ruslan Salakhutdinov, an assistant professor of computer science at the University of Toronto, and Joshua Tenenbaum, a professor in the Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences at MIT. Details of the program, and the ideas behind it, are published today in the journal Science.

The researchers used a technique they call the Bayesian program learning framework, or BPL. Essentially, the software generates a unique program for every character using strokes of an imaginary pen. A probabilistic programming technique is then used to match a program to a particular character, or to generate a new program for an unfamiliar one. The software is not mimicking the way children acquire the ability to read and write but, rather, the way adults, who already know how, learn to recognize and re-create new characters.


Humans Are Slamming Into Driverless Cars and Exposing a Key Flaw – Bloomberg Business


“If you program them to not follow the law, how much do you let them break the law?”


A key question for robot cars.


Dear Dr. Pournelle, 

As you have discussed, one of the difficulties in assessing climate science is properly collecting data for it; this article claims that faulty site location is exaggerating warming trends in the US.
I present it for your perusal. Perhaps if you have some NOAA readers in the audience they might wish to clarify the matter. 


Brian P.


As a comment on an article about Google using airships to further communication in India, and the Indian Government being reluctant, (A Potential Blow to Google’s Project Loon: Indian Official Throws Water on Internet Balloons

Project Loon, Google’s pie-in-the-sky plan to blanket the globe with Internet through a chain of balloons floating in the stratosphere, is getting some traction. The Google X project recently signed deals in Sri Lanka, a small country, and Indonesia, a much larger one, for early testing. In Indonesia, the deal involved three telcos, which will share their spectrum with Loon to deliver network coverage.)

I said

One is led to wonder if baksheesh is the answer…  Of course that is a very politically incorrect thing to say.  Assume I didn’t mean it.

And got the reply

A Potential Blow to Google’s Prrecode)

Hi, Jerry —

Interesting. I wonder why Google isn’t using tried-and-true technology to accomplish the same thing. Cell towers are easy to build, and India certainly has satellite launch capability; why rely on balloons, which are vulnerable to weather change and have a tendency to snap their tethers and go wandering? And one one think people in Kashmir would be fretful about balloons or blimps over their territory. Any idea what the logic behind this is?

— Allen

I see your point, and I don’t know. Satellites are expensive and need maintenance; doubtless air ships are cheaper.  I have not taken a serious look at airship operations in decades; have you?

Rhine valley. I wouldn’t mind doing one of those.

That’s a different thing, though, from what we apparently have here, which sounds like a civilian variation on the unmanned EWS balloons that the Air Force has been experimenting with lately (like the one that snapped its tether last summer above Maryland and went drifting over the countryside before sharpshooters managed to bring it down). From a conversation I once had with a hot-air balloon pilot, I gather these things are hard to control. Once they’re aloft, even a moderate breeze can produce a pendulum effect that sends them rocking back and forth. Hardly what I’d call a stable platform for cellular communications.

Yeah, you’re right: balloons are cheaper than satellites. Maybe that’s the rationale. But hardly foolproof. Remember the scene with the lost barrage balloon in the movie Hope And Glory? (And if you’ve never seen that film, by all means, rent it and watch it…highly recommended!).

— Allen

It’s an interesting topic.


Dear Dr. Pournelle, 

First of all, allow me to express my condolences for your daughter’s accident while riding a horse. I hope she recovers well! Also, congratulations on getting out “There will be war”. I look forward to reading it.  

Unfortunately, I write with bad news: It seems the “Dyson sphere” we thought we had detected was actually a comet swarm. Maybe next time!


Brian P.

We’re all sad. Stephanie and Jim are convinced it’s comets, which is good enough for me. They would like it to be something different. Thanks for the kind words.


On War: Worth Your Time

This is a good read:


Declared war identified the enemy, brought full mobilization of all the national assets for the duration and included central command of the economy with price controls, rationing, conscription and funding through war bonds. It was old-fashioned, big war that employed the operational art, and U.S. tactics conformed to our notions of national ideals, culture and honor.

If we no longer practice big declared war, what are we doing instead and how is that working out for us? How did we devolve from old fashioned war to today’s persistent conflict? How will America use its military power in the future?


The more I read of this article, the more it is clear to me this country subsists with an unacceptable state of readiness and, frankly, I don’t see much use for most of the people I see on TV other than cannon fodder. What else can we do with the “campus safespace” kids who are offended by Woodrow Wilson and want a “home” rather than an “education”? What use are they in war other than cannon fodder? If they can’t be challenged intellectually, how will they ever demonstrate physical courage?

Consider the number of prescriptions from mental health drugs in this country. Consider the high school drop-out rate. Consider the obesity rates. Look at how even the slightest things offend people to the point of infantile catharsis that always seems to go viral in the schizoid collectives that indulge in these grotesque acts of self-abasement. We’re going to war with these losers? And we think we’re going to win? Yeah, nobody wants to hear it because they all know someone I’m describing and I’m an “evil” man for talking so “hurtfully” about these “unique snowflakes”, but we’re in a lot of trouble.. And if we don’t quit trying to be a bunch of creeps and get our act together, we’ll have more than hurt feelings and broken ideals to worry about.

◊ ◊ ◊ ◊ ◊

Most Respectfully,

Joshua Jordan, KSC

Percussa Resurgo


: Secretary of the Navy issued a mid-course correction,

The Title, “SECDEF Carter Directs Navy to Cut Littoral Combat Ship Program to 40 Hulls, Single Shipbuilder” might be better phrased, “SECDEF tears the Navy a new one!”

While budget disagreements inside the Pentagon are common the tone and language of Carter’s memo directed at Mabus – who has led the Department of the Navy since 2009 – was unusually stringent.







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




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