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Monday  September 20, 2010

"You know there is something strange going on when Republicans, who ostensibly should be pro-privatization, are arguing as though they are from the Soviet Politburo."


--- Roland Dobbins


SUBJ: Those TSA Gomer Gestapo Goons again 

This follows closely with your recent posts concerning not answering federal agent interrogations.

Two blog posts on an American citizen who refused to be interrogated on legally returning to his country and was detained for it:


MANY comments ensued on the blog.

and the eventual takeaways:


Sadly it seems there are few rams among the sheep. Most just bleat pitifully and submit. But we were born free . . .

Cordially, John

I have found TSA people more polite and professional in recent times. The remedy has to come from the top, not the ranks. By top I mean Congress.

And see an important item in VIEW.

Note: some readers have written to say that "Gomer Gestapo" as applied to the TSA is a bit over the top. Perhaps so, although their performance in Burbank in confiscating the yogurt and prosecuting a frantic mother trying to get her children and an elderly mother onto an airplane comes pretty close. In these economic times it is difficult to fault someone for taking a job in security theater, and I doubt that most of those in TSA have the attitude that Americans are subjects, not citizens, and must be made to understand that. On the other hand, reducing citizens to subjects seems to be a major effect of TSA, and for the most part TSA remains a kabuki security theater, expensive and not terribly effective.


Letter from England

Two weeks ago, BT contacted us and asked if we would be willing to upgrade from BT Total Broadband to BT Infinity. Now we have a requirement for a VPN--imposed by the US Government--so I asked if the new broadband service would support that. The salesman checked with his manager and assured us, 'yes', so we agreed.

Came the day of the switchover, and the new service turned out not to support VPN. We called up BT, explained that this was not acceptable and insisted on being returned to the old plan. They agreed grudgingly. So an engineer was dispatched to switch us back last Wednesday. Since that we haven't had broadband, and our phone service has been flakey. We called up BT Wednesday night, reported the fault, and were promised an engineer would show up Saturday afternoon. He didn't. Saturday evening, we called up BT, learned there was no record of the engineer visit being scheduled, and got a new appointment for next Wednesday.

 It doesn't help that I'm mildly deaf (tinnitus--a high-pitched whistle) and have trouble understanding the high-pitched accents of some call centre employees.

 Anyone want to make a bet on whether the engineer shows up?

 Other stories:

 Police overreaction, but completely predictable: <http://tinyurl.com/25gme2y>

 Criticism of the immigration cap by companies unable to fill high-tech and senior positions from inside the EU: <http://tinyurl.com/36n8koa>. A Minister agrees <http://tinyurl.com/39bxgpu>. I've been working in reach-out recently, where the university provides expert support to high-tech companies. Often we need to find a qualified staff engineer or scientist to work with the company and serve as the conduit for the university expertise. Since the UK educational system has at most one year of taught classes beyond the bachelor's, it's extremely hard to find qualified staffers for those positions.

 Special needs education in the UK 'has been abused' <http://tinyurl.com/35wdygo>.

 UK exams system 'diseased' and 'almost corrupt' <http://tinyurl.com/28zhc4y>

 Strongly recommended: "Yes, Minister." It's 30 years old and just as true today as when it was originally televised.

 Cardinal John Henry Newman, a champion of liberal education, is beautified <http://tinyurl.com/38nbuh2>


Why I use a Macintosh: Eccl 12:3 "those who look through the windows see dimly" (Crossan's translation).

Harry Erwin


Subj: Exploratorium podcasts: "Speaking of Music Rewind"


>>In celebration of the Exploratorium's 40th Anniversary, we've been combing through our archives and revisiting our rich history. One gem we discovered is the highly regarded Speaking of Music series, which was co-presented by the Exploratorium, Charles Amirkhanian and KPFA radio, and produced by Mr. Amirkhanian from 1983 to 1992. In the series, conversations between Mr. Amirkhanian and prominent musicians and composers took place before a live audience. We are releasing these archived files as a podcast series called "Speaking of Music Rewind." We'll publish one episode a month for the entire 40th anniversary year, concluding in November 2010. <<

Rod Montgomery==monty@starfief.com


Lucius Quinctius Cincinnatus


I learned about Lucius Quinctius Cincinnatus in the sixth grade, and again in Latin, Civics, and World History. I did not go to a private school, but I went to the best school in my region and one of the top two or three in the Great State of Maine. Over the years, I had forgotten his name. But I always talked of the Roman who gave up power and returned to his fields as an example of greatness. Many of my friends, even mentors, disputed the veracity of my statements. I will not forget Cincinnatus again. I too have long admired this man--whose name escaped me and who no one I knew after school could remind me of until today. Thank you for helping me to remember his name.

-- BDAB,

Joshua Jordan, KSC

Of course the American Cincinnatus was George Washington, who could have been a king.


Taking Back Governance: My Cursory How To


There are some other points that I would like to add to adjunct to what you posted today. One point is that people--who wish to take back government--can support candidates in other states and geographical areas. While this does conflict with the position that one is probably better off to not worry about how people do things in other areas, there seem to be exceptions. Nancy Pelosi stands for much that I stand against. Helping to defeat her is priority for me, thus I would want to help anyone campaigning against her--and I offered support to the man who created the commercial where Pelosi is the Wicked Witch of the West. I offered to write letters to the editor or to go on talk radio--as my finances are committed to a wedding and honeymoon for this fall. Also, I cannot physically be in that district to help.

I will continue to offer financial support to Ron Paul--even for his races in Texas. I will continue my support because he introduces excellent legislation--two pieces in particular are shot down annually and one of those requires Congress to follow the Constitution. I would encourage others to offer financial, literary, or oratory support for candidates anywhere in the world that support their particular agenda. The "special interests", "big business", and "the elite" seem to apply the same pattern. I believe that local involvement is crucial and should maintain a high--if not the first--priority when participating in politics. Beyond that, it seems necessary to me that we identify the several centers of gravity belonging to the opposition and that we shift our perceptions concerning those centers of gravity. Those same centers of gravity are critical vulnerabilities. In my opinion, we need to organize our centers of gravity against those critical vulnerabilities, maintain a higher operating tempo, adapt, and overcome.

Another activity that I've done, and others can do, is to acquire, purchase, or--even better--create campaign materials for the candidate(s) of your choice. I bought stacks of Ron Paul cards that looked liked over-sized bookmarks. Every time I went out to do something, I put one on some of the cars near mine and all the cars along the way. I left them wherever I saw brochures and advertisements posted--if it is socially acceptable for solicitors and community organizations, why not us?

There is one more project that I would implore all Americans to undertake for the rest of their lives. Buy some pocket Constitutions, hand them out, and encourage others to read them. You might have to spend 50-100 dollars a year on a significant stock of these. Is it worth it? How much do you pay for your car or house each month? What about utilities? What about property tax? Think of this as your Government of the United States of America payment. A price of 50-100 dollars a year is a lot less than the men at Valley Forge paid for our freedom. Sure, people might laugh at us, scowl at us, etc. Be prepared for people to even be suspicious that you want to give them something for free. It is all part of the payment. Unlike they who fought and died for this country during the Revolution, we do not have to risk life and limb to get our point across.

I would add that blogging is an acceptable activity--generally--but more so for those who are physically isolated. Health problems, logistics, geographical location, and other factors may keep a person isolated from society most of the time. It seems important to me that we encourage such people to continue to share and interact with us through the internet. I have some close friends who primarily use the internet because of the aforementioned considerations. Thus, I would encourage anyone who knows someone who is largely isolated to get a blog, read the news, and share their ideas with us--especially if they are older. We don't have much time left before the Great Generation is gone. We need to listen, challenge, and learn--in my opinion.

Thank you for all that you do Jerry, and I would like to thank all who contribute to Chaos Manor through the Mail. Our community is becoming and indispensable resource to me. All the work that members put in is important and I appreciate all of it. -- BDAB,

Joshua Jordan, KSC Percussa Resurgo

And do not forget the value of silence. When the primaries are over, consider well what you say, even if your candidate lost.

Russell Kirk told us that Conservatives approach defects in their nation as they would the wounds of a father. Not with glee. It is well to remember that.


Peakless oil? 

3 to 4.3 Billion Barrels of Technically Recoverable Oil Assessed in North Dakota and Montana’s Bakken Formation—25 Times More Than 1995 Estimate— http://www.usgs.gov/newsroom/article.asp?ID=1911 

And 17 Sep 10 comments by Dr. Blick at: http://icecap.us/index.php/go/joes-blog 



Measuring Earth's temperature

Hello Jerry,

CP explains in 'Mail' that NASA, Hanson, et al aren't really saying that they know the 'temperature of the Earth' with great precision but are using imprecise data to establish an anomaly trend: "It seems pretty clear that Hansen (and I assume other researchers) are not really attempting to establish an average temperature of the earth from all that weather station data. Rather, they are trying to establish the degree of drift (or anomaly) from the mean value of the data history that is available in each location. In other words, they don't average temperature globally and then look for changes from the mean. Instead, they establish changes from the mean at each location, and then average the anomalies globally. It may seem like a subtle point, but it is the basis for claiming that they know the amount of change accurately, even if they don't know the absolute value accurately."

I suppose an example of this concentration on anomaly trend and paying little attention to absolute precision would be demonstrated by this NASA press release: "from a January 12, 1999 Associated Press article by Randolph E. Schmid, titled "Researchers: 1998 was the hottest year on record.": "The NASA findings indicate a mean worldwide temperature of about 58.496 degrees F., topping the previous record, set in 1995 of 58.154." ( http://news.google.com/newspapers
AAAAIBAJ&pg=1268,931341 )

I wonder what accuracy they could have achieved if they had paid a LOT of attention to absolute precision instead of blowing it off in favor of measuring the anomaly?

Bob Ludwick


Texas and the Erlenmeyer Flask

I wish I could say it was an Urban Legend, but it's true. Buy an Erlenmeyer flask in the Great State of Texas without a license and you could go to jail. And a whole lot of other lab equipment. And it's just as much a crime as if you didn't have a license to sell pseudephedrine -- you know, that over-the-counter stuff you take to relieve sinus headaches.


Permits are free, but have to be renewed every year. I didn't read deeply enough into it to find out whether simple possession is a crime, or if there are special requirements for going into the garage and making one's own. I no longer have access to the equipment, but I learned to bend tubing and make condensers and such in High School Chemistry. I wonder how many Chemistry teachers retired rather than deal with all these new regulations.

--Gary Pavek


A stimulus for the package.


---- Roland Dobbins

Your tax dollars at work. Makes you humble and just a little proud to know you are part of something like this.




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Tuesday,  September 21, 2010

Last Day of the Summer of Recovery

Christine O' Donnell controversy

Hello Jerry,

I was just curious about your stance with regards to the recent Christine O' Donnell controversy.

Let me say that I completely understand the significance of the Tea Party as a movement, the potential it has to reshape the political landscape, and I can definitely empathize with more grassroots action, and supporting Tea Party candidates above, as you call them, Country Club Republicans, seems like a very good way to send a message to those "big government" Republicans.

But, for example, your stated dissatisfaction with the Christian Science Monitor's headline/article.

It seems pretty reasonable to me that that tape could very well be a political liability. In fact I don't see how that is even a controversial thing to say.

Not that it *should* be an issue, or that it has any relevance whatsoever to the upcoming elections, but the reality is voters are often swayed not by logical arguments but by emotional reactions.

A lot of the Tea Party's support comes from fairly conservative Christian corners, and you don't think that *some* of them might take issue with her own admission of having been involved Satanic witchcraft, even if the tape is over a decade old? To me that seems like it would (unfairly) represent a political liability to her campaign.

Now, on a personal note, beyond all that, I find it a little concerning that she is partly riding on this platform of claiming to bring fiscal responsibility to Washington, when multiple reports (even from Conservative media) are suggesting that she can't even manage her own finances, is currently unemployed, is using campaign funds for personal expenses, and hasn't even paid off the debt from her previous 2008 campaign yet.

The smear jobs aside, doesn't that seem like it could raise legitimate questions as to her suitability for government?

I just don't think that anyone who is criticizing her, or questions her ability to do the job necessarily has an axe to grind.

And I find it a little disconcerting that she seems to be receiving blind support from some (Limbaugh for one), to the extent that they will ruthlessly attack any conservative who dares to criticize her, or even simply asks her to account for herself, all seemingly because of *what* she is (a Tea Party candidate, female no less) and not really based on anything she has herself accomplished.

Maybe I'm just missing this huge piece of the puzzle here, but it doesn't entirely make sense to me.

And please understand I very much respect your opinion, even if I don't always agree with you.

I apologize if this begins to sound a little sappy, but you are one of the most inspiring modern thinkers I'm aware of, and I greatly admire your integrity with regards to your ideals. And as always, I really appreciate being able to read your thoughts, and how you often present alternate points of view from other media I read (both right and left wing media), and you taking the time to read my jumbled thoughts.

I am eagerly looking forward to Lucifer's Anvil (or whatever you guys end up calling it), buying it and reading it straight through. Hope you are well.


First be clear: there are entirely different qualifications for being a legislator and being an executive. Legislators have authority but not power; they must earn power by working with fellow legislators. They don't get any as part of their office. We can, should, and always have had the benefit of legislators who were deeply flawed. Henry Clay, Daniel Webster, and John C. Calhoun come to mind. I would not have cared to see any one of them as President, but they were important Senators in the history of the Republic.

Legislators represent people and ideas.

The Tea Party had two choices: form a third party, or attempt to work within the two party structure we have. I quote Haley Barbour in this morning's view. Every Republican should be proud that these Tea Party candidates chose to run in our primaries. 

The appeal of the Tea Party is that the candidates are not professional politicians of the slick never-sinned variety.  As to attacking O'Donnell, what unforgivable sin has she committed that those of us who do not live in Delaware should denounce her? Is it that we are afraid that she has done something that the opposition in Delaware will not bother to point out to the people of Delaware? It is not in my interest to have Creeps elected to important offices in my government and Party. It is in my interest that the Party be be rational and conservative. But then it would be in my interest that George Washington be resurrected and accept nomination for President. I find that an unlikely event.

I doubt that O'Donnell would have been my personal choice for a candidate, but I wasn't there. I doubt that I would support her for President. I have no great difficulty in believing that she is amenable to advice from people other than the Country Club Republicans who despise her; and that they will give her good advice. Que mas desea Usted?

Regarding a remark made on a TV show when she was 19, I can only say that I am glad you do not have access to the sorts of things I said in my days of student government as an undergraduate. But perhaps you should take the trouble to find out what she actually said, and in what context, when she was 19 and in a televised give and take mayhem before condemning her?

If you live in Delaware I make no doubt that all sides of that and everything else will be made clear to you. But I doubt that in her wildest days Miss O'Donnell would vote to attach an amnesty for illegal aliens up to age 35 to a defense appropriation bill. I am quite certain that her Democratic opponent would. Think on that while contemplating remarks about dating habits at age 19.



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Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Gomer Gestapo?


I don't know who picks mail captions, but although the above is a fine example of alliteration, isn't it a bit over the top? Gestapo?

I will fight for the right of anyone to characterize anyone, any way they want, but that does not mean I have to agree with them. Seems I remember from my history that a few of them Gestapo and Nazi types were even meaner than the immigration and border folks that my brother complains of.

Maybe I was warped by a mother that taught us back in Iowa that the policeman was our friend.

Keep up the good work.


I have added a note to the comments on the letter.


my wife's view on political contributions

I mentioned this morning that she might want to write a check to Carly's campaign [Carly Fiorina, Republican nominee for Senate in opposition to incumbent Barbara Boxer, oops, Senator Barbara Boxer, not just Ma'am] or the like. Her response: "let them use their own money if they want to run. I would rather write a check to the church or one of the disaster groups....." Recall this is from an MIT trained engineer and a University of Chicago MBA. I wonder how many other of the "well educated" around here [Silicon Valley] have that attitude? My senior partner and a multi-millionaire in his own right seems to understand the need for Carly and others to win as well as the antecedents, but does not contribute to any of the campaigns.

Where did this come from and what do we do about it?


If we are contented with the government we have, then we need do nothing to change it. If we want self government, we must be prepared to do some governing of ourselves. That is often difficult for those with specialized skills and great education (if only because they are often in bondage to pay for that education); but the price of good government is vigilance on the part of the governed. If we do not have time to be candidates, we must be prepared to seek out those we approve of and persuade them to run. If we not participate in the nomination process we have even more obligation to participate in the general election. It is not invariable that we get the government we ask for, but it is more often than most think. Now the Public Service Unions are dedicated to one party and they have an automatic money raising system in their dues, and thus automatically support increases in government workers and in their pay.

That must be overcome (and eventually that machine has to be turned off -- how is is different from the old City Bosses who simply required party loyalty as a condition of employment?). Turning off that machine will take a great deal of dedicated effort -- by someone -- and a lot of financing.

Restoring something like the Republic will be neither cheap nor easy.

Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty. That is a slogan -- and one neglected for far too long. Or is this the future we have all been waiting for?


David Friedman on the Chinese Yuan and other matters.

I recently wrote my old friend Dr. David Friedman, economist son of the late Milton Friedman and Professor in the Law School of Santa Clara University, How an economist became a law professor is itself an interesting story.  I asked:

According to the Wall Street Journal we want the Yuan to go up. The Yuan is underpriced now meaning I guess that we can buy too many of them for too few dollars?

I don't pretend to understand this part of international finance. The Fed pumps out money, and we want the Yuan to go up. That seems odd to me.


David Friedman answered:

The reason "we" want the Yuan to go up is, ultimately, the same as the reason we have tariffs--because producers are a concentrated interest group and consumers a dispersed interest group, and the welfare of concentrated interest groups is more heavily weighted in the political marketplace.

A cheap Yuan--an exchange rate at which a dollar buys lots of yuan--means that Chinese goods are cheap in the U.S., American goods expensive in China. American firms that compete with imports don't like that, nor do American exporters, for obvious reasons.

All of this ties into the old mercantilist idea that exporting more than you import ("favorable balance of trade") makes a country rich, importing more than you export makes it poor, on the theory that the former arrangement results in gold coming into the country, which makes the country rich. It's economics that has been obsolete for a couple of centuries but is still widely believed, hence the continued use of "favorable" and "unfavorable. I've referred to it in the past as "Ptolemaic economics." I'm attaching a chapter from my _Hidden Order_ that discusses it. Here is the short version:

The exchange rate is a market price. Like other market prices, it goes to the level at which quantity supplied equals quantity demanded. Supply of yuan on the yuan/dollar market is by Chinese who want dollars, demand is by Americans who want yuan.

In a world without capital flows, trade automatically balances, since the reason Chinese want dollars is to buy American goods and the reason Americans want yuan is to buy Chinese goods. But in a world with capital flows, Chinese (including the Chinese government) may want to buy dollars in order to buy U.S. bonds, or stocks, or real estate in the U.S., or even to pile up dollar bills in their vaults, although that's less likely ... . So a "trade deficit" aka "unfavorable balance of trade" is another name for a capital inflow. Chinese are spending less on U.S. goods than Americans on Chinese goods because some of the dollars Chinese are buying with their yuan are used to acquire capital assets in the U.S.

A capital inflow is neither good nor bad in itself. The U.S. ran a trade deficit during much of the 19th century because we were importing European capital and using it to build railroads and canals as such. At the moment, I think we are importing Chinese capital in order to help fund our enormous deficit, which I am inclined to regard as a more dubious policy.

I hope that adequately answers the question.

Incidentally, re your discussion of useful pirates. I finally got permission from my publisher to web _The Machinery of Freedom_, my first book, which has been effectively out of print for some time. I did it by webbing a pirate edition that I had found online.

Several thousand downloads in the first month. --

 David Friedman



"The problem is that the statistical models used in determining the "significance" level of a result involve assumptions that are often not met in the experimental design and this is because the experimenter hasn't been taught much about statistical inference and its assumptions."

That's one problem. The other is that many, perhaps most, people who use significance levels misunderstand what they mean. What they measure is not the probability that your theory is true given the data but the probability that the data would support your theory as strongly as they do if the theory were false (false in a particular way defined by the null hypothesis). It's easy to confuse the probability the theory is true given the data, which is what you want, with probability of the data given the theory is false, which is what you have.

I've just been having a correspondence with someone at NSIDC over arctic sea ice data where he makes both your mistake and mine. He thinks you can calculate the probability that there is a continuing long term downward trend by starting with a null hypothesis of constant area plus random variation (he doesn't put it that way, but it's what he is doing) and asking how likely the observed trend is given that hypothesis. He is missing the fact that there are lots of other possible alternatives to his preferred model, as well as the fact that the confidence result doesn't measure the probability that the theory is true.

All of this is coming out of my discovery, a year or two back, of a claim on a NASA/JPL web page that the latest evidence showed the trend was continuing--at a point when the latest evidence showed that the trend had reversed (perhaps temporarily due to random error) a year and a half earlier, with arctic sea ice area actually going up rather than down. I discussed it at some length on my blog and eventually got into an email discussion as well. I don't mind people claiming that the latest evidence doesn't refute the trend--very likely arctic sea ice area will go back to declining (this year's minimum is lower than last year's but higher than the two previous years'). But I object to scientists misrepresenting the data, and claiming that a recent increase is evidence of a continuing decrease qualifies.

I tried to explain to him the Bayesian approach, which does give you want you want--provided you have a prior probability. Whether successfully I don't know.

On the subject of historical novels, which you touch on in the column ... . Have you read _The Sand Reckoner_? A very good one about the young Archimedes. --

David Friedman

I'm not certain that I have made the mistake of confusing the real world with the models, because I don't really have a model of climate in mind. My views are predicated on a few data points: that the Earth was warmer than it is now in historical times (the Medieval Warm), that it was colder in historical times (the Little Ice Age) and that there is a lot of data to support other times when it was warmer (the Roman Warm) and colder (the First Dark Age, and of course the Ice Ages) in the not all that distant past. Given that, I reject the notion that we have a valid model, and in particular I reject the notion that we ought to base expensive policy decisions on what we believe is our understanding of climate.

But David's point is well made.


British Skylon Single-stage to orbit


Any opinion as to whether this might be a viable approach, with its dual air-breathing jets / rockets burning liquid hydrogen?

Note that the designers claim there will be excess liquid hydrogen left over after orbital insertion, which should be vented prior to reentry.


Regards, Brian Claypool

I know no more than the NASP study results. I was once very enamored of the concept of ramjet to near orbital speed, then either change to pure rocket, or use the ramjet as a first stage and at near orbital speed and very high altitude launch a rocket powered orbiter. It sounds so logical.

All the studies I have seen and/or taken part in say the concept is sound, but we do not have materials that will allow lengthy atmospheric flights at hypersonic velocities. In order to do it you need unobtainium for the leading edges of the wings and the throats of the air intakes. It is for this reason that I went over to vertical takeoff ships that spend as little time as possible in the atmosphere.

I wish them very well. The concept is attractive and makes sense. I supported the National Aerospace Plane (NASP) studies in the hopes that this would lead to flying hardware. The study results were not encouraging to me.

There may be new developments in material science that will make an airbreathing ramjet approach to orbit feasible, but if so I have not heard of them.


Danish rocket built by volunteers to launch one person into suborbital space

A private Danish rocket built by volunteers to launch one person into suborbital space is set to fly its first test flight Tuesday with a dummy pilot riding aboard.

If successful, the rocket should carry its payload up almost 19 miles (30 km) into the upper atmosphere. The project could pave the way for Denmark to eventually become the fourth space-faring nation to send humans into space after Russia, the United States and China.

Tuesday marks the earliest launch date within a longer launch window that stretches from Aug. 30 to Sept. 17.

,,,,,, The $70,000 effort funded by private sponsors and donations includes the capsule, booster and an offshore launch platform.


Since we haven't heard further I assume it has been delayed a bit. Nonetheless progress. Some Washington lawyers wouldn't get out of bed for $70,000.

Neil C

I wish them well, but I wouldn't ride it.

When I first met Jeana Yaeger (copilot with Dick Rutan of the Voyager on the first non-stop non-refueled flight around the world) she had volunteered to let Captain Robert Truax launch her 70 miles downrange in what amounts to a reinforced garbage can atop one of his sea launched Sea Dragon rockets. Truax was once a major figure in rocket development and a rival of Max Hunter for the mantle of Werner von Braun and this was a serious proposition; it didn't happen largely because other events made it pointless. But Miss Yeager was ready to take the ride.

I wish the Danes well, but I wouldn't ride that rocket...


: Have the English Lost Their Minds?


This caused me to eject my beverage from my mouth:

<snip> The UK's tax collection agency is putting forth a proposal that all employers send employee paychecks to the government, after which the government would deduct what it deems as the appropriate tax and pay the employees by bank transfer.





Logical, though...


Is someone/something kidnapping Japanese Struldbrugs?


- Roland Dobbins


Christine O'Donnell: witch

"Yeah, but she's our witch."

Thanks to Instapundit for this Firefly clip:


Tom Brosz

Not a witch at all, but what the Hell.


Elizabeth Moon: Take 2

(Stupid return key, Mea culpa.)


I'm not sure if anyone has alerted you to the furor over Elizabeth Moon's recent essay on citizenship, but it touches on a lot of your concerns:


Many of The Usual Suspects have come out of the woodwork to insult Moon over a less-than-politically-correct view of modern Islam...

-- Lawrence Person

Elizabeth Moon one-time Lieutenant in the US Marine Corps, has strong opinions, states them well, and defends her views. She, like me, is a winner of the Heinlein Medal.










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Thursday, September 23, 2010


Demon Weed v. John Barleycorn


 You wrote:

I still do not see how Marijuana comes under the Constitution but Alcohol does not. Clearly there is no power to forbid alcohol -- it took the 18th amendment to do that, and it was repealed. Where is marijuana different?

One difference between marijuana now and alcohol then is that now we have the federal Controlled Substances Act (CSA), 21 U.S.C. Sections 801 et seq., which protects all Americans against the evils of the Demon Weed. When the State of California in its arrogance attempted to legislate regarding a matter that the federal government had already determined, federal law had to prevail. A second difference is that Wickard v. Filburn - the case that gave us the "aggregation principle" - was decided in 1942, so that this rationale was not available during the Prohibition Era. I will hazard a guess that you might object to the Court springing on us new principles not explicitly found within the four corners of the Constitution, but such will happen in any judicial system, certainly in one with common-law origins. And that is no bad thing, IMHO.

This argues that an unconstitutional law may be made constitutional by Act of Congress: just pass enabling legislation. This seems to be an accepted view among some.

I would have said that proof by repeated assertion is no more valid in Constitutional argumentation than anywhere else.


Everything Old is New Again

Modern-day Wikard v Filburn:




-- "The past, while much studied, is little read." - M.M.


: Fascinating Poll of Independent Voters 

Here, in a nutshell, is the raision d'tere, for the TEA Party. It's not about Republican and Democrat. It's about SPENDING... GOVERNMENT SPENDING, SIR! Remember that TEA stands for Taxed Enough Already! That's why O'Donnell has a shot in Delaware; why Angel in Nevada; why Republican nominees in California; et al. It just happens to be coincidence that the Republican Party has been the voice of fiscal conservatism (even if not in real practice) for so long that the TEA Party has been identified as part of the GOP.

David Couvillon Colonel, U.S. Marine Corps Reserve, Retired.; Former Governor of Wasit Province, Iraq; Righter of Wrongs; Wrong most of the time; Distinguished Expert, TV remote control; Chef de Hot Dog Excellance; Collector of Hot Sauce; Avoider of Yard Work 

From the Weekly Standard tonight:

What’s the one issue that independent voters most strongly demand that a candidate get right? According to a survey of 1,000 independents (and likely voters) recently conducted by Democratic pollster Douglas Schoen and commissioned by Independent Women’s Voice <http://www.iwvoice.org/> , the answer isn’t “national security,” “taxes,” “immigration,” “the size of government and its level of spending,” “putting a mosque near Ground Zero,” “the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan,” or “the stimulus and bailouts” — all of which were listed as options. Rather, the answer is “health care reform.”

Nearly half (48 percent) of all independent voters said that even if a candidate otherwise held perfect views (in the eyes of the voter) — even if they “agreed with him on all other issues” (italics added) — they still couldn’t vote for him “if [they] disagreed with him on health care reform.” (Another 13 percent weren’t sure whether they could abide such a costly error in judgment or not.)

And what must the candidate’s position on health-care reform be? For 83 percent of the respondents who said their vote would hang in the balance, the candidate must oppose Obamacare. So, according to the survey, if you support Obamacare, you’ve just lost 40 percent (83 percent of 48 percent) of the independent vote — before any other issue is even addressed.

Upon hearing this result, the 34 Democratic House members who voted against Obamacare must be breathing a sigh of relief that they’re not one of the 219 Democratic House members who voted for it. (No Democratic senator can breathe a similar sigh.) And they must be desperately hoping that their Republican opponents don’t force them to voice their position on repeal — for it’s hard to appear opposed to Obamacare when you don’t want to get rid of it.

For the record, here’s how independent voters ordered the eight issues in question (listed from least to most essential that candidates get them right):

8. Taxes (69% could forgive disagreements; 18% couldn’t)

7. Afghanistan and Iraq (60% could forgive; 26% couldn’t)

6. The Stimulus and Bailouts (60% could forgive; 27% couldn’t)

5. Immigration (54% could forgive; 32% couldn’t)

4. National Security (48% could forgive; 33% couldn’t)

3. Government Spending and Size (44% could forgive; 41% couldn’t)

2. The Ground Zero Mosque (41% could forgive; 46% couldn’t)

1. Obamacare (39% could forgive; 48% couldn’t)

From the Obama administration’s perspective, it's hard to imagine three worse issues occupying the medal-winning slots.

I don't know a lot about O'Donnell and Sharon Angle, but I do know that neither voted for the Health Care Act and neither attempted to ram an obscenely modified version of the DREAM act which would have given amnesty to those up to age 35 who managed a couple of years of college and encouraged a mad rush north while that door was open. I don't have to vote for either to command troops. The Constitution doesn't make Senators officers of the United States. It does allow them great influence over budgets and taxes.

Do we want six more years of Harry Reid?



Hi Jerry,

I appreciate the discussion on the Yuan, however I'm still not convinced that having a net capital flow is a good thing. Essentially, we're selling our capital assets (real estate, corporations, etc) for disposable goods (tv's, clothes, etc). While yes, we do create new capital assets (corporations), we can't create new tangible capital assets (real estate) - at some point those run out. Frankly, I don't want the chinese owning significant chunks of America.

I'd argue that this isn't any different from a homeowner taking out a home equity loan and spending it on a vacation and various toys. We had a housing bubble fueling a general economic bubble as consumers traded capital assets for disposable goods. How long will it be before the national chickens come home to roost, just like the homeowner ones just did?



My friend David Friedman is a very good spokesman for the Libertarian View. He is always worth your attention. Having said that, he is Libertarian and I tend to Conservative. We are allies but not partners, and we do not always agree. I would feel safer were David and his friends on control, and my idea of a well run Republic would be when Conservatives and Libertarians are the principal parties. Ain't likely but I can dream.

And I continue to remember Lincoln on tariff: If I buy a shirt from England I have the shirt, but the money goes to England. If I buy it from New England the money stays in the United States.

If China sank beneath the sea, would the United States survive? If China declared an embargo on buying from or shipping to the United States, would we survive? How dependent are we on China, and how dependent ought we to be on any trading partner? But it's another discussion and more involves politics than economics.


"Everyone talks about the La Brea Tar Pits, but I think this is going to be much larger in terms of its scientific value to the research community."


---- Roland Dobbins


SUBJ: "Gomer Gestapo Goons" TSA term 

1. "Humor is, by its nature, more truthful than factual." - P.J. O'Rourke, _A Parliament of Whores_

2. "If you want any discipline to shape up, first get it laughed at." - Paul Harvey

FYI, since my earlier missive, several friends have opined that applying "Gomer Gestapo Goons" to the TSA is being inappropriately derisive of both the Gestapo and of Goons.

and Jim Nabors is threatening a suit for defamation.

Can't please everyone. Nevertheless I remain

Cordially, John




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This week:


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Friday, September 24, 2010

: DC Invaded by Stinkbugs

How fitting, the professionals have suitable company:


 Joshua Jordan, KSC
Percussa Resurgo


Iran's Defecting Diplomats

In the wsj today. Sounds like your plan is the way to go. Contain them and give them time to throw the bums out.


The trick to containment is you must contain. The trick to using cultural weapons of mass destruction is to use them.


Gays in the Military


In other news: http://www.reuters.com/article/

I've never understood why a person's sexual orientation is an issue that should be expressed by one soldier to another. Sexual orientation does not -- in any way I can figure -- support the accomplishment of the mission or the welfare of the soldiers. Public displays of affection are universally frowned upon when in uniform. In fact, from 1997 to 2001 -- and this is probably still the case, I just don't care to read Army Regulations anymore -- it was against Army Regulations to have sex while you are a member of the Armed Forces, save for sex that a soldier has with his wife and this must be in the missionary position. Anything else was considered "sodomy" and soldiers can be charged under the Uniform Code of Military Justice for sodomy -- yes, even if you get kinky with your wife.

It seems to me the military has more important matters to attend to than making sure homosexuals and bisexuals receive recognition, respect, and political leverage because of their genetic disposition or their lifestyle choices. Of course, it also seemed to me from 1997 through 2001 the military had more important things to do than make sure that I had missionary sex with my wife. Note, the military does not check on these matters. However, some soldiers like to have sexual affairs and take pictures and videos -- I've interrogated several who were subsequently charged with adultery and sodomy to know. I would only pursue such cases if physical evidence e.g. pictures, videos existed -- normally these were attached to a complaint made by a wife or husband to the Military Police Desk or the Office of the Provost Marshal.

I did not grab people I suspect of committing adultery, apprehend them, and interrogate them -- though the Section Chief of Military Police Investigations encouraged this and he often had choice words for me when I did not pursue such investigations as no physical evidence existed and I did not feel it was worth my time as an MP to do that. I figured there were probably more important things going on than trying to play gotcha games with consenting adults. Other MPs loved to play gotcha games with people, it was a way of doing battle. I always exercised officer discretion and I preferred community policing to community competitions. If something made an issue in the community, I would address it. Adultery was low on my list of priorities, unless a complaint was made -- complaints require Military Police action and that action shall be firm, swift, and correct. There were more important crimes occurring, like the Majors at Command General Staff College speeding around post and dignitaries needing parking spaces. I did not join the Military Police to be a family counselor and I did not join the Army to celebrate diversity.


BDAB, Joshua Jordan, KSC
Percussa Resurgo

The controversy comes long after my time, and I have no experience with it. I thought that Don't Ask, Don't Tell was working. I think that it would not be a good thing to have screaming queens in the barracks any more than it would be useful to have provocative sluts, or raging studs; but I have never been in a command situation where that would come up, and it is well beyond my experience and probably competence.

Most of my experience with the military was as a civilian analyst with no command authority or problems.


Subject: Lying - one perspective

Jerry -

I saw this today on the Maggie's Farm blog:

"Isn't it great to live in a society where the penalty for lying to a congressman can be up to 30 years in jail, but the penalty for a congressman lying to you is another two years in office."

Peter Schmuck, a Baltimore Sun sports writer, concerning the indictment of Roger Clemens

David Smith


Link to discussion of testimony re: New Black Panther Party voting scandal

Mr. Pournelle,

Just wanted to drop a short line to you concerning the testimony of Christopher Coates, former Voting Section Chief of the Department of Justice. He is testifying today before the U.S. Civil Rights Commission concerning the instances of voter intimidation by the New Black Panther Party, and much more importantly, the efforts by his superiors to ignore the case and squelch any further inquiry into the matter. The following link to Pajamas Media is a useful synopsis of the issue: http://pajamasmedia.com/blog/

Thought you might be interested.

Thank you for your web page. I have been a devoted reader since at least 2003. I have every intention of subscribing in the near future, if only to be one of the first to read an updated, "A Step Further Out."


Jake Fetters Houston, Texas


Publishing without Boundaries: What's on the O'Reilly Radar for the Future of Publishing

View in browser. <http://post.oreilly.com/rd/9z1zrrp5

O'Reilly Webcast<http://post.oreilly.com/rd/9z1zv8is3
buotubc5ltr6qjkvhg2u5p43imobu2e2c0>  Andrew Savikas <http://post.oreilly.com/rd/9z1zgd1jcgk3brl7
d6p32e1j3h6s386pr79q5o8vn78>  Publishing without Boundaries: What's on the O'Reilly Radar for the Future of Publishing <http://post.oreilly.com/rd/9z1ztja

Presented by: Andrew Savikas, VP of Digital Initiatives, O'Reilly Media

Join O'Reilly Media and the Cleveland Digital Publishing User Group for this look at the future of publishing.

Readers are changing their habits, and are demonstrating they're as eager as ever to find--and buy--quality content and entertainment. But the transition to digital--and increasingly mobile--media delivery, consumption, and participation presents real challenges for publishers: How do you create compelling content on devices that can see, hear, talk, and know where they are in the world? What do publishers need to know about these changes to adapt their own businesses? How do you price a "book" sold as an "App"? How do you take full advantage of a reading experience that's always connected to the Web? Hear what visionary publisher O'Reilly Media sees on the horizon.


Friedman's comments

In his discussion of balanced trade, Mr. Friedman talks of concentrated interests such as producers of goods and diffuse interests such as consumers, noting that the concentrated interests have more influence. Sounds evil, doesn't it? Buyers of "influence" and "influence "pedlars sound so corrupt, don't they?

His "big guy [manufacturer] versus little guy [consumer]" rhetorical device sounds scary until you realize that "consumers" of necessity work for "producers" and thus are not really independent of each other and adversarial.

This whole "Evil Corp versus Good Citizen" rhetorical device has been practiced for ages by the Left. It is particularly effective on college kids who haven't yet put two and two together that the Evil Big Corp will be their employer in a couple years. Something tells me that Friedman is a cultural heir to that leftist tradition and finds the device effective on those that are susceptible to it, such as college kids.

Of course, one could just as easily say that the sellers of imported goods (pretty much every large corporation now) were "concentrated interests" and Americans (as in American workers, not consumers) were a "diffuse interest".

As a libertarian, he believes that shutting down US manufacturing in favor of Chinese manufacturing is a good thing as long as China is cheaper. And if the yuan is cheap the Chinese can not only sell us goods, but buy up our factories, oil fields, mountains, technology, farmlands, cities, office building and everything else we own.

And this conversion of America, as a culture, a people, a nation into a forelock tugging colonial outpost of China is fine as far as Mr. Friedman is concerned. His tribe and nation have the remarkable capability of surviving and thriving under any rule, whether Asian, European, African, or Middle Eastern so why should he care one way or another who dominates in America?

But is he serious? If it is his own nation or family would he similarly preach dependence and lack of self-sufficiency?

Do you think he tells his daughters to stay cute and look for a man to take care of them and be dependent on, since it is more efficient that way? They can live a fun casual life as a "consumer" and let their hard-working husbands make the money.

Or does he tell them that they can never know what the future holds and they must go to college, get a degree and be prepared to work hard and take care of themselves and not just "consume".

M. Patton

I grew up in a society in which in general women ran the city and men made the money, but that's probably not what you mean.

I do not think you can convince me that David Friedman is enamoured of any "evil corporation" views. I am more likely to be sympathetic to that sometimes. After all I am the one who keeps saying that unrestricted capitalism may be the most economically efficient system but it will inevitably result in the sale of human flesh in the market place.

Sometimes economic self sufficiency is more important than economic efficiency. That was the view of Technocracy, which had good evidence that North America could be independent, self sufficient, and wealthy. Of course their other views were not so well validated by evidence.


Money and Trade


"And I continue to remember Lincoln on tariff: If I buy a shirt from England I have the shirt, but the money goes to England. If I buy it from New England the money stays in the United States. "

This is the result of a near-universal misunderstanding about money.

Any absolute amount of money in an economy is just as good as any other absolute amount (assuming enough to be money in the first place).

The problems occur with changes in the amount (inflation/deflation). A higher absolute supply of money leads to higher money prices of goods, and vice versa.

But what counts are the relative prices of goods and services, which will be ratio metrically the same for economies that have equilibrated to

their respective supplies of money.

If John exchanges a shoeshine for a haircut from George, it doesn't matter if the money price of the exchange is $1 or $100, if the differences for those prices, and

all other prices, are the result of differences in the supply of money.

If you buy a shirt from England, presumably it is either of higher perceived quality or suitability, or it has a lower price. If it has a lower price, then you have money

left over to make a domestic purchase, if you desire.

To the extent that you export money to England for a shirt, the remaining quantity of money in the US is incrementally smaller and its unit purchasing power is

incrementally larger, which is no problem at all for practical amounts.

The standard of living in an economy is the result of consumption, not how many pieces of the medium of exchange (money) exist in the economy.

If England is willing to accept little green pieces of paper for shirts, why should we say no?

Thanks, Don

Don Lloyd

And if China uses those little green pieces of paper to buy the wheat fields of Kansas and ships the grain back to China? I too have taken elementary economics. I am sure it is all true, and Lincoln just didn't understand. And yet I worry a bit when we export jobs while making it more expensive to hire people.


Why am I not surprised? Michel Foucault spoke of the coming surveillance state, and he died in 1984, and 9/11 gave rise to Big Safe.

Feds: Privacy Does Not Exist in 'Public Places' http://www.wired.com/threatlevel/2010/09/public-privacy/ 

* By David Kravets Email Author * September 21, 2010

The Obama administration has urged a federal appeals court to allow the government, without a court warrant, to affix GPS devices on suspects' vehicles to track their every move.

The Justice Department is demanding a federal appeals court rehear a case in which it reversed the conviction and life sentence of a cocaine dealer whose vehicle was tracked via GPS for a month, without a court warrant. The authorities then obtained warrants to search and find drugs in the locations where defendant Antoine Jones had travelled.

The administration, in urging the full U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia to reverse a three-judge panel's August ruling from the same court, said Monday that Americans should expect no privacy while in public.

"The panel's conclusion that Jones had a reasonable expectation of privacy in the public movements of his Jeep rested on the premise that an individual has a reasonable expectation of privacy in the totality of his or her movements in public places, " Assistant U.S. Attorney Peter Smith wrote the court in a petition for rehearing.

The case is an important test of privacy rights as GPS devices have become a common tool in crime fighting, and can be affixed to moving vehicles by an officer shooting a dart. Three other circuit courts have already said the authorities do not need a warrant for GPS vehicle tracking, Smith pointed out.


Senate GOP Help Alaska Party Switcher



 Dear Jerry ,

Thank you for your continued support of The American Spectator. Occasionally, we send emails like this one to introduce our readers to like-minded advertisers and organizations.

Below you will find a message from Senator Jim DeMint (R-SC), chairman of the Senate Conservatives Fund PAC <http://email.spectator.org/
74:5D75BF7DA48DDB6CEE94A0340ADC0680>  .

– The American Spectator

A48DDB6CEE94A0340ADC0680>  Dear Friend:

You're not going to believe what happened this week. Just when I thought Republicans in Washington were beginning to get the message, they went back to business as usual.

<http://news.spectator.org/images/3p/murkowski_02.jpg>  As you know, Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski lost the Republican primary to her conservative challenger, Joe Miller, in a fair fight. But instead of graciously conceding and endorsing the Republican nominee, Murkowski announced that she will continue her campaign as an independent write-in candidate.

Senate Republicans held a closed-door meeting Wednesday afternoon to elect someone to replace Senator Murkowski as the top Republican on the Energy and Natural Resources Committee. Or so we thought.

Rather than taking away Murkowski's leadership position on the committee, Senate Republicans decided to let her keep it. One senator after another stood up to argue in favor of protecting her place on the committee — a position she will no doubt use in her campaign against Joe Miller, the conservative Republican nominee.


"After all, if they succeed, it may advance China's interests."


-- Roland Dobbins


Subject: Victor David Hanson's quote


With regard to the quote by Victor Davis Hanson, and your question:

"We are all getting poorer in the hopes that we can prevent some from getting richer."

I understand Hanson's sentiment. Making a rich person poorer by raising their taxes isn't likely to help my own financial situation that much. But, looking at income trends over the past 30 years, it is pretty hard to make the case that we are *all* getting poorer. In fact, leaving aside the economic crash (which took everyone down), the rich have done very well for the last several decades.

Conservatives often accuse liberals of waging class warfare. If so, then income trends suggest that liberals have been losing that war badly for a long, long time.

CP, Connecticut.

Used to be true. No longer, I think.


: Danish rocket Launch


Your correspondent was referencing outdated information. The Danish suborbital rocket failed to launch because of a problem with the submarine-powered hairdryer. And no, I am _not_ making this up!!




Hair Dryer Glitch Pushes Private Danish Rocket Launch to 2011 By Jeremy Hsu SPACE.com Senior Writer posted: 13 September 2010 04:45 pm ET

Edited at 3:57 pm EDT on Sept. 14

A powerless hair dryer was apparently to blame for thwarting the debut launch of a privately built Danish rocket, pushing the novel booster's first flight back to sometime in June 2011.

The maiden launch of the Tycho Brahe space capsule, which has room for a human pilot to half-sit, half-stand in it, was to have carried a test dummy almost 19 miles (30 km) into the upper atmosphere on Sunday (Sept. 12). The capsule rested atop the Hybrid Exo Atmospheric Transporter 1X, or HEAT-1X, rocket, from a launch platform floating in the Baltic Sea.

But the suborbital rocket launch was scrubbed when a liquid oxygen valve in the rocket became stuck after a hair dryer lost electric power, near the Danish island of Bornholm, the Copenhagen Post newspaper reported after a press conference with the rocketeers.


What went wrong

In his post, Madsen referred to the faulty valve-heater component as a blow dryer. The Copenhagen Post reported that it was a commercial hair dryer. [10 Private Spaceships Becoming Reality]

Madsen's homemade submarine, called the Nautilus, had towed the floating platform to its designated launch site under an empty sky Sept. 5. The Nautilus' engine supplied power for the hair dryer used in the rocket to keep the liquid oxygen valve from freezing. But the submarine's engine was shut down for the launch - and a short launch delay may have sealed the deal.

It may have been frozen lubricant in the actuator that prevented the actuator from opening the valve, according to the Danes. Another possibility is that traces of water left from an earlier pressure test froze inside the valve.<snip>



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Saturday, September 25, 2010


FORBES: The future belongs to the ultra-high-IQ


Well, this will be true for as long as advanced nations with fast-growing ³Third World² population subgroups alongside slowly shrinking ³First World² population segments can maintain ³First World² standards of governance....



FORBES Magazine


DIGITAL RULES <http://blogs.forbes.com/richkarlgaard/

Sep. 7 2010 - 12:01 pm | 5,877 views | 2 recommendations | 21 comments

The Trillion Dollar IQ Business

At an August 6, 2010 conference in Lake Tahoe, the richest and smartest guy in the room, Bill Gates, offered his opinion <http://techcrunch.com/2010/08/06/bill-gates-latrines/>  on the next big thing.


Toilets. All kinds of toilets. Broadband biffies that email PSA counts to your doctor. Do-gooder dumpers that save water in the third world. ³[Toilets are] one of the greatest under investments,² Gates effused. ³Not much money goes into that. You end up with the low IQ guys on the toilets.²

If you know Gates ‹ I once spent 5 days on the road with him ‹ you¹ll know he uses the term, IQ, a lot. Gates has always loved IQ. He loves it like a football coach loves 40-yard-dash speed. It never seems to occur to Gates that IQ has become a politically incorrect subject for many. Some 30% of American colleges have made the SAT test ‹ a rough proxy for IQ ‹ optional in the admissions process. Where the SAT is still considered, Asian and east Indian enrollment has soared <http://www.racialicious.com/2007/01/08/
 will-uc-berkeley-become-a-um-historically-asian-college/>  .

It is foolish not to talk openly about IQ. How else can we address this vital subject? Gates is right: the modern knowledge economy requires boatloads of IQ. On the flipside, a great deal of the fear and panic in today¹s economy is about a trend that no one dares mention: The world¹s smart people are crushing the dull and average. <snip>

<snip> A new class ‹ the Scary Smart ‹ have inherited the world. The surest way to become a billionaire today is to be born with a 150-plus IQ and 800 math SAT skills. This would describe Gates, Google founders Sergey Brin and Lary Page, Facebook¹s Mark Zuckerberg and most of the whizbangs in Internet, biotechnology and algorithmic finance.<snip>

There follows a disquisition on IQ that is worth reading. It's not revealed truth: it's some things to think about.

I suspect a number of Chaos Manor readers were born with an 150 plus IQ and 800 math skills, but alas, not many are billionaires. Is this truly the day of the nerd? But the public school system is designed and operated as a mechanism for insuring the jobs of bad teachers, and often part of that process is suppressing the geniuses. That is its purpose and it accomplishes it well.

It is doubtful that the US can continue as it is going now; and one wonders about how much freedom matters.


I don't usually watch baseball, but this looks like it might be fun.


I was only about a year old at the time so obviously my memories of the original broadcast are a bit sparse.

--Gary Pavek


Rich getting richer

Regarding a comment that income trends show that the wealthiest fraction of the population is garnering a larger share of the gross national income, two points:

1. The IRS tracks income by =household= not individual. The higher income households are disproportionately those consisting of married couples where both partners work. Each may have a solidly middle class job, but when they are added together they move into a higher quintile. Meanwhile, a disproportionate share of low income households consist of singles with one income. So: one household with high income becomes upon divorce two households with lower income. The former "possesses" a higher "share" of the gross income because it earns two incomes. What has thinned out in this process is the old model of married parents with one income. This gives the impression that the working middle class is depleting; but it is only that if they stay married we call them upper middle, and if they don't they both fall to lower middle.

Say what you will about the Industrial Age -- it was dirty and dangerous hard work. Two of my ancestors were killed on the job -- but the productivity was high enough that a steelworker or a railroader could support a family and own a home on his income alone. I doubt that service jobs -- though cleaner and safer -- can ever be productive enough to allow this to happen.

2. Income is not wealth. The truly wealthy don't show up on such metrics. Income is more akin to cash flow than to retained earnings.

Mike Flynn

What concerns people, perhaps rightly, is the huge ratios between the bottom and the top. Capital gains income is one thing; enormous bonuses and salaries are another.


How to Raise Boys Who Read

In the wsj.

Lord of the Flies, anyone?



Subject: The world’s first man-powered ornithopter


Tracy Walters, CISSP    

 Information Technology Consultant

And see http://www.ornithopter.org/


Eternal Vigilance 

I've been reading your comments on the "conservative civil war" and your opinions of the grass roots conservative candidates and the "Country Club" Republicans with much interest. I don't always agree with the use of a clean dichotomy in these conversations, but your comments are very reasonable and its nice to read reasonable comments without a furious comments section feeding a flame war on the topic. Some of my political views would fall into your "Country Club" categorization, but as someone who's parents were poor and who's mother died of heroin addiction I don't match the imagery one would associate with a CC.

I am also one who believes strongly in the primary process and its value in getting candidates that match the desires of constituents -- especially in competitive primaries. So, I am now an ardent supporter of those who won the primaries and don't like the "sore loser" activities of many of the candidates -- though more enthusiastically for some than others.

To be even more clear. If I lived in Delaware, I would have voted for Castle, but I would have voted for Miller were I an Alaskan. Now that the primaries are over, I would vote for O'Donnell and Miller if I were in their states. I think that we support our candidates once they are determined and use primaries as our "griping periods."

So much for the background. Now on to the real reason for the email. I agree that Hanson's comment in your recent post needs even more extrapolation.

One significant quote from Victor Davis Hanson: "We are all getting poorer in the hopes that we can prevent some from getting richer." This is worth reflecting on. Would we prefer to be poorer but equal if that is the price of equality?

Getting poorer in the hopes of preventing someone from getting richer Aristotle believed this to be one of the foremost risks of Democracy. To quote The Politics of Aristotle (Jowett Translation) -- "For sometimes the demagogues, in order to curry favor with the people, wrong the notables and so force them to combine; either they make a division of their property, or diminish their incomes by the imposition of public services, and sometimes they bring accusations against the rich that they may have their wealth to confiscate." (Emphasis mine).

Every time we attack the "haves" in order to take from them and "give" to the have-nots, we weaken our regime and undermine freedom. It is tempting to believe that all those who are successful are so through nefarious means, but it isn't true. Most successful people are successful because of hard work and proper application of their abilities. We need to create the circumstances that maximize the potential for excellence of the individual and not stifle the efforts of some in order to "improve" the circumstances of others. Such efforts never truly improve anyone's circumstance.




Sino-Indian Rivalry Heating Up http://atlanticsentinel.com/2010/09/sino-indian-rivalry-heating-up/  By Balaji Chandramohan Published: September 18, 2010

The two Asian giants are gearing up for a showdown almost similar to that of the Cold War. China and India are growing at an incredible pace and with Western influence fading, both are increasingly gaining footholds in distant corners of the world through bilateral trade, investment and security relations.

In this classic greater power rivalry, China intends to keep India's ambitions at bay by denying permission, for instance, to a lieutenant general posted in Jammu and Kashmir to visit China. The officer was planning to travel abroad in August of this year to attend a high level defense exchange between the countries.

Policy makers in New Delhi meanwhile are fretting about reports that 7,000 to 11,000 Chinese troops may be present in or near the city of Gilgit in Pakistani occupied Kashmir. The Government of India is attempting to verify these rumors which Pakistan's envoy to Beijing has persistently denied.

Supposedly, the Chinese soldiers in Gilgit-Baltistan are to work on the construction of railroads as well as the extension of the Karakoram Highway. Such infrastructure projects could connect China more directly with Afghanistan and beyond; parts of the world which the resource hungry Chinese economy is anxious to reach.<snip>


NS 2778: 2000-year-old pills found in Greek shipwreck http://www.newscientist.com/
full=true&print=true  * 15 September 2010 by Shanta Barley

In 130 BC, a ship fashioned from the wood of walnut trees and bulging with medicines and Syrian glassware sank off the coast of Tuscany, Italy. Archaeologists found its precious load 20 years ago and now, for the first time, archaeobotanists have been able to examine and analyse pills that were prepared by the physicians of ancient Greece.

DNA analyses show that each millennia-old tablet is a mixture of more than 10 different plant extracts, from hibiscus to celery.

"For the first time, we have physical evidence of what we have in writing from the ancient Greek physicians Dioscorides and Galen," says Alain Touwaide of the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of Natural History in Washington DC.<snip>



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CURRENT VIEW     Saturday

This week:


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Sunday,  September 26, 2010     

: Relative Wealth

Dear Jerry, I seem to recall reading recently that some studies of both Humans and other Primates seem to show an innate willingness to have less as long as others do not get what is perceived as an unfair bigger share of what ever on offer, be it money or bananas. This willingness to have less so long as others do not get more then you have appears to be hard wired and does go a way in explaining a lot of behavior. I guess depending on how this is viewed it is either a built in sense of envy or fair play.

Stay Well,
Jim Hickey

Dogs tend to act that way, too. If I can't have as much as him then don't give anything to either of us...

But as Herman Kahn observed, the chauffeurs in Hyde Park do not resent the wealth of their masters. They do get concerned if the chauffer next door has a higher salary or more perks. Such is life.

It used to be that we all read Matthew 20 in school. I do not think it was a great idea to discontinue that.


Subject: I thought this might interest you


On the off-chance that you didn't already know about it.

Be well, Tim Scott


'I offer a final piece of evidence that is perhaps unanswerable: There is no literacy gap between home-schooled boys and girls.'


- Roland Dobbins


The fight goes on?

I don’t know if this site is serious or not:




First I have heard of this. I have no idea what their arguments are, because I don't have any intention of paying money to buy their documents. I suspect their evidence is the Michelson Morely experiment, but that is a mere guess.

Obviously under the relativity principle you could choose the Earth as a rest object, but then the relative motions of distant objects far exceeds the speed of light, and you have other problems. Mach worried about such things.


About that "Galileo was Wrong" site --

A bit of caution is in order when looking at that "Galileo was Wrong" site.

The store for the Galileo Was Wrong site catholicintl.co.cc. The CO.CC site has a service that lets people set up their own subdomains for free under the CO.CC domain. Apparently many phishing sites use the free service to set up scam sites, and there are reports of lots of infected servers running those subdomains.

I use Comodo's personal firewall. When I looked at the Galileo was Wrong site and then clicked on a link to the PDF products in their store (to see if they charge for those), Comodo intercepted my request and warned me that several of their users had reported the CO.CC site as a possible phishing site. They were blocking on the strength of it being in the CO.CC domain, not because of the specific subdomain, so these could be innocents who have fallen into the company of wolves. On the other hand, making outrageous claims is not a bad form of social engineering, because if you can get an emotional reaction out of the target, the target shifts from rational thought to emotional reaction and might be more amenable to cooperating with some form of malware.

--Gary Pavek


I certainly don't intend to buy anything from them. Thank you.


Dam! A correction... 

From a mailing list.

Begin forwarded message:

From: Malcolm 

Date: 24 September 2010 19:12:58 GMT+01:00

Subject: Dam! A correction...

These are Italian Ibex, and the dam is at Lago Baitone in Brescia, Italy.







-- Harry Erwin


Gold and Silver at New Highs


As the dollar index continues to tank, Gold and Silver hit new highs this morning:


I use this page daily to get a feel for the market indicators: http://www.kitco.com/market/ 

My analysis predicts that most Western FIAT currencies will continue to tank. Gold and silver will explode. Silver is preferred. When I was a kid I watched Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer. This miner was looking for "silver and gold" and sang about it. Later in the film, he came to his senses and was only looking for silver -- forget about the gold. The Wizard of Oz is about the Federal Reserve Bank. In the book Dorothy wears silver slippers to travel on the dangerous gold road -- the yellow brick road -- that leads to New York -- the Emerald City. By changing the main symbol of the film from silver to ruby, they effectively castrated the story. In other words they made it completely ineffective, so that it would not teach anyone anything. It became symbolic of false authority and nonsense, not of the evils posed by central banks.

I will close with a quotation from Thomas Jefferson and an observation I share with Robert Steel -- a former Chief Analyst at CIA.

"If the American People ever allow the banks to control the issuance of their currency, first by inflation and then by deflation, the banks and corporations that will grow up around them will deprive the people of all property until their children wake up homeless on the continent their fathers occupied. The issuing power of money should be taken from the bankers and restored to Congress and the people to whom it belongs. I sincerely believe the banking institutions having the issuing power of money are more dangerous to liberty than standing armies.

We are completely saddled and bridled, and the bank is so firmly mounted on us that we must go where they ill guide.

The dominion which the banking institutions have obtained over the minds of our citizens...must be broken, or it will break us."

(Thomas Jefferson: Letter to James Monroe, January 1, 1815).

Now for the observation: Abraham Lincoln was about to abolish the central bank of the day and replace that currency with one truly made by the people and for the people, and a conspiracy to take his life manifested and Lincoln died. Kennedy signed Executive Order 11110, which would have abolished the Federal Reserve -- EO 11110 still stands on the books, but has not been enforced. Of course, a lone gunman got Kennedy. I find it interesting that both men were about to do the same thing just before they got shot. As Robert Steel said, "I cannot connect those two dots, but I can tell you that they are side to side." I am not advocating a bankster conspiracy to neutralize U.S. Presidents, I am simply noticing two strange attractors that seem very similar to me. I am also open to the possibility of said conspiracy, but my belief in the same would require much more than circumstantial and/or anecdotal evidence. In 2010, I lack the evidence to conclusively prove anything and all the film makers who claim otherwise have yet to deliver the goods on this point. If they had the goods, I would think they would find a lawyer and get some cases rolling, don't you?

Of course, Italy seized a lot of the Vatican's money. http://www.startribune.com/business/103430569.html  So matters are a far cry from the impunity the Vatican enjoyed in the 80's with that operation in Florida. On the heels of this, it was revealed the Queen of England attempted to use money from a poverty fund to heat her palace. http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/
heat-buckingham-palace-2088179.html  Then, the front page of Drudge today reads: 6TH AVENUE BLOODBATH: NBC, CNN CHIEFS OUT, AILES, FOXNEWS, THE MAN LEFT STANDING... So it seems an erosion of antiquated power structures and social institutions is in order. Maybe some of that will spread to central banks and Congress will start printing its own money again? It could the beginning of the comeback of the Old Republic.


Joshua Jordan, KSC Percussa Resurgo

Andy Jackson of Tennessee abolished the Bank of the United States. In the 19th Century the Gold and the Silver Democrats battled for control of the party, but mankind was crucified on the cross of gold according to Bryant, who then joined the Wilson Administration.

I am no expert on monetization. I did advise readers to buy gold back when it was $400.


Subject: Writers and their work habits

Here is a fascinating story about the work habits of an number of successful writers:

How to Write a Great Novel


CP, Connecticut


World's first pedal-powered ornithopter takes flight in Canada, 


All in a flap - World's first pedal-powered ornithopter takes flight in Canada:


I'm waiting for the day someone can take off unassisted.


I have never been an ornithopter enthusiast, nor do I much care about man-powered flight. Long ago one of the first man-powered ornithopter pilots quit his job on the grounds that he could be replaced with a small motor and he should be.


Rewriting History 101 

Dear Jerry,

In research for a new novel (The Anarchist Exposition), I delved into the early history of flying machines. This got into the never-ending controversy over just who first built a true aeroplane.

You probably thought the Wright Brothers.

Me too.

However, there is an increasing popular sentiment, with Americans as primary holdouts, that it was Alberto Santos-Dumont, the expatriate Brazilian working in France.

Admittedly, even non-Americans well versed in what the Wrights did, and Dumont failed to do, give the credit primarily to the Wrights. However, non-expert popular opinion outside the USA is turning towards Dumont, and do you know why?

I'll paraphrase- "Santos-Dumont did his early flights before commissioners of official organizations and government, who were able to certify his accomplishments. The Wrights were just a bunch of guys on a beach in North Carolina."

Yep, it ain't real until a bureaucrat SAYS it's real, and certifies it. Any resemblance to the split between AGW True Believers and Skeptics is entirely obvious, not to mention probably indicative that we both are in Dire Need of some expert to better determine Certified Reality for us.

I note in passing that this is nothing new. It is what has consistently differentiated Americans from Europeans (and their third world former colonial cultural clones), the overawed deference to the inevitable Somebody In Charge who determines Reality for the peasants, while Americans evince an attitude of "Who died and made YOU King?!" Or more pithily (and since I am a Missourian, my choice) "Show me!"

Actually, what I ought have written above was "What has consistently differentiated Europeans et. al. from Americans until NOW.", as the current project to turn these United States into an aspiring applicant for membership in the European Union seems determined to first of all eliminate this rather irritating (to aspirant Determiners of Reality) trait of Americans, root and branch.

It's what ties together the Creeps and the Nuts, and largely explains their rather foolishly consistent love for Big Brother; what I prefer to call (it never fails to irritate both camps "Bubba Gummint".



Speaking of worms and viruses

Electronic Bunker

Interesting concept…maybe a little late now that cheaper communication and cloud computing is on us.


Tracy Walters, CISSP


Marijuana and Wickard

Dr. Pournelle,

While it is true that federal power to regulate interstate commerce was used as a justification in the Gonzales v. Raich decision, it appears to me to be nonsensical even if you try to apply to logic from the Wickard decision.

In the (in)famous 1942 case, Roscoe Filburn was growing more wheat than the federal government wanted to allow at that time. To make a long and convoluted story short, the government successfully argued that this affected the interstate trading of wheat, and therefore the Feds could restrict Filburn.

In the Gonzales case, the government does not "regulate" interstate trade of marijuana. It explicitly forbids such trade. How can marijuana grown for personal use by Angel Raich affect legal interstate trade?

Steve Chu

Shays' Rebellion happened before the Convention of 1787. One result of this rising by Captain Shays formerly of the Continental Army and a Revolutionary War veteran, and his veteran followers some of whom were Revolutionary heroes, was the "impairment of contracts" clause in the Constitution

No State shall enter into any Treaty, Alliance, or Confederation; grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal; coin Money; emit Bills of Credit; make any Thing but gold and silver Coin a Tender in Payment of Debts; pass any Bill of Attainder, ex post facto Law, or Law impairing the Obligation of Contracts, or grant any Title of Nobility.

This part of the Constitution was in effect thrown out by the Supreme Court after Roosevelt's threat to pack the Court and his reelection in 1936. "A switch in time saved nine", but the cost was an important part of the Constitution. Between the negation of the contracts clause and the expansion of the interstate commerce clause, the relationship between the States and the Federal government was fundamentally changed without amendment.



"One of the most interesting stories in the last few days, has little to do with finance and economics (at least right now), but arguably very much to do with geopolitics. A fascinating report <http://news.yahoo.com/s/csm/327178>  which cites computer security experts claims that the recent uber-cryptic malware worm Stuxnet is nothing less than a weapon designed to infiltrate industrial systems, and based on attack patterns, the ultimate object of Stuxnet may be none other than Iran's Busher nuclear reactor, which could be targetted for destruction without absolutely any military intervention. Has modern warfare just become obsolete courtesy of a computer virus?"



I do not believe that I need a computer to aim a rifle.

Gold may not get you good soldiers, but good soldiers will always be able to get you gold. This is often the case for oil, technology, and all kinds of things.


Life on Earth May Have Had an Icy Start, 


Here's something you likely never expected - Life on Earth May Have Had an Icy Start:


"I always thought that the idea of an RNA world was exciting, but that RNA was a perverse choice of primordial material because it was hard to imagine chemical conditions under which they could survive on the early earth," said biologist Philipp Holliger of MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology in the United Kingdom, who led a study in Nature Communications Sept. 21.

"What we've found is that RNA would have been much happier in the ice than in hot hydrothermal vents, where it would have lasted only a few seconds," Holliger said.

Holliger was inspired to study how RNA replicates in icy conditions by a 2004 study that found when nucleotides - the building blocks of genetic code - are frozen in ice, they spontaneously assemble into random strands of RNA.<snip>

Cool. Literally cool.



"It might alter the number of comets that come towards us over millions of years, which would have consequences for life on Earth. It also raises the question of whether we know enough about the law of gravity."


- Roland Dobbins



You quoted approvingly Peggy Noonan's column where she pointed out that the institutions that hold us together are fragile, with the implication that the establishment understands this, while the Tea Party may not.

If they understand this, they should not be behaving as they are. They seem to use this fact as a cudgel: While if the institutions that hold us together are fragile, who made it thus, if not the elites? And we out here are to tread lightly, lest it all come crashing down upon us, and let them get on with their work of beavering away at the foundations of our country. Foundations that were once strong and robust, but have been eaten away at for generations at their hands, and which, yes, now are fragile.

You've written about how over time society converts more and more into "structure," until the whole thing teeters upon itself, threatening to collapse. Some of these structures need to be cleared away, so that what is essential can be restored. We already know the current establishment we happen to be saddled with is not going to do that - the structures they are aimed most at preserving are precisely the ones that most threaten to collapse the whole. The "Iron Law" at work, as it were: they will preserve, for as long as they can, what benefits them the most, at the expense of the Republic.

After a certain point, rather than letting them dissolve the people to elect another, it becomes time to dissolve the establishment, and create another, lest the grip of their dead hand upon the institutions they have *made* fragile brings it crashing down upon us all.

This is, or so it is said by Strauss & Howe, the "Fourth Turning," a time cleansing away to make way for the new. Some of these fragile institutions do need to be broomed away, to clear for new growth. This establishment isn't holding us together, the broad national establishment has been ripping things apart at least since "Multiculturalism" became the fashion, as it is among establishment people of both the Left and the Republican Establishment (which sometimes allows it to be questioned for electoral gain, but in practice institutionalizes it just as resolutely as the other side does. Indeed, often more, because they can get away with it more easily).


-- "The past, while much studied, is little read." - M.M.

"In the first and in the final analysis, so-called multiculturalists are simply Western radicals, in the Western radical tradition, with the most imperial, dogmatic, and absolutist aspirations of all." - Alan Charles Kors

One should approach the defects of ones country as one approaches the wounds of a father. Zeal for sweeping away generally causes more harm than good. Yes the structure needs to be thinned and the overgrowth pruned, and some fundamental changes need to be made; but beware lest you relearn the lesson taught to Danton.

"I leave it all in a frightful welter. Not a man of them has an idea of government. Robespierre will follow me; he is dragged down by me. Ah, better be a poor fisherman than meddle with the government of men!" Danton at the guillotine.












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