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Monday, March 22, 2019

Rush Limbaugh observed today that yesterday's vote proved there was no such thing as a moderate Democrat. All Democrats are Liberal Democrats regardless of what they say or even of what they believe, because all of them can be bribed or coerced into voting for the Liberal Cause, to wit, the remaking of America into a European style socialist state.

I don't like that conclusion much, because I don't want to believe it; but it's hard to quarrel with it. I don't find any evidence that it isn't true. The health care bill was ideological, transformational, unpopular, and not well understood -- indeed we still don't know the details. It is almost certainly the beginning of the end for the private health insurance industry (although something called that may survive as a highly regulated, highly subsidized, public utility). Any "insurance" policy that requires the insurer to accept anyone regardless of their pre-conditions at the same premium it charges those without the conditions is not insurance, it is an entitlement; and no company can afford to do that. First they will have to raise premiums for everyone since the healthy will have to pay for the unhealthy. As those premiums rise fewer and fewer can afford them. Over time more and more will go to the "exchanges" and subsidies. Over time the system becomes the single payer system you see in other countries.

That may be all to the good, but the majority of the American people don't think so, and the majority of taxpayers decisively don't think so. The bill suggests that it will save money by entitling more and more people to more and more health services: as an example, one self-employed (writers) childless couple we know have catastrophic health care insurance with a very large deductible. Their policy is no longer satisfactory under the government minimum. It doesn't include all the benefits that the new health care bill requires as a minimum.

It will take time, but this bill nationalizes health care. Last night Pelosi made history. She grins a lot about it.

And proved that she can coerce any Democrat into being a Nut. The only remedy to having the Nuts in charge is to  never allow the Democrats a majority again. Some Democrats have safe seats -- Pelosi, most likely -- and they will always be in control.

But that means that the Republicans, known to be unsafe with all that power, get to stay in office forever. That will lead to the control of the party by the Creeps, as it did after Gingrich left the post of Speaker. This is as dangerous -- and distasteful -- as having the Nuts in charge. We all understand this. The remedy is to begin the restructure of the Republican party into libertarian and conservative wings. That will take time. It will not be easy.

November is likely to be a Republican year. It will bring in new Members of Congress, some of whom will be there a long time. That make the upcoming primaries extremely important. It is time for a maximum effort. Understand that the contest in November will be crucial, but the upcoming primaries are at least as important for this year, and more important for the future. It is time for Maximum Effort.


According to Speaker Pelosi you are now free to pursue your dreams. I guess she means that you don't have to have a job to get health care. Someone else will now pay for it. I wonder if they will pay for the acting schools and art supplies?


Microsoft Removes Hardware Virtualization Barrier to Running XP Mode




: How did this happen? Frum talking sense???!!

Well, I do not know what got into him, not if you agree with him, but I think he is talking sense - unbelievable.

If the Republican leadership talked like this every right leaning Democrat in the country would vote Republican. As well as those who have felt forced to vote for Democrats because they feel betrayed by the Republican part.

It is simple too much for hope for! -Paul


Well, now, I wouldn't say that...  The egregious Frum has some parts right, but his observations on the reasons for Limbaugh's popularity don't square with the fact the Limbaugh came to fame in the Reagan ear, and he has remained popular during the Clinton era, the Clinton-Gingrich period, post-Gingrich Bush, etc.

I will agree that the Republicans should long ago have changed the employer-based health care system. Gingrich tried to get a change to health savings accounts. There has to be a way to couple payment with the recipient of the care so that it's not a "free good".


From the Economist, which defends climate science as essentially correct:



ABSORB AND REFLECT The most relevant part of that universal what-else is the requirement laid down by thermodynamics that, for a planet at a constant temperature, the amount of energy absorbed as sunlight and the amount emitted back to space in the longer wavelengths of the infra-red must be the same. In the case of the Earth, the amount of sunlight absorbed is 239 watts per square metre. According to the laws of thermodynamics, a simple body emitting energy at that rate should have a temperature of about -18ºC. You do not need a comprehensive set of surface-temperature data to notice that this is not the average temperature at which humanity goes about its business. The discrepancy is due to greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, which absorb and re-emit infra-red radiation, and thus keep the lower atmosphere, and the surface, warm (see the diagram below). The radiation that gets out to the cosmos comes mostly from above the bulk of the greenhouse gases, where the air temperature is indeed around -18ºC.

Adding to those greenhouse gases in the atmosphere makes it harder still for the energy to get out. As a result, the surface and the lower atmosphere warm up. This changes the average temperature, the way energy moves from the planet's surface to the atmosphere above it and the way that energy flows from equator to poles, thus changing the patterns of the weather.

No one doubts that carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas, good at absorbing infra-red radiation. It is also well established that human activity is putting more of it into the atmosphere than natural processes can currently remove. Measurements made since the 1950s show the level of carbon dioxide rising year on year, from 316 parts per million (ppm) in 1959 to 387ppm in 2009. Less direct records show that the rise began about 1750, and that the level was stable at around 280ppm for about 10,000 years before that. This fits with human history: in the middle of the 18th century people started to burn fossil fuels in order to power industrial machinery. Analysis of carbon isotopes, among other things, shows that the carbon dioxide from industry accounts for most of the build-up in the atmosphere.

The serious disagreements start when discussion turns to the level of warming associated with that rise in carbon dioxide. For various reasons, scientists would not expect temperatures simply to rise in step with the carbon dioxide (and other greenhouse gases). The climate is a noisy thing, with ups and downs of its own that can make trends hard to detect. What's more, the oceans can absorb a great deal of heat--and there is evidence that they have done so--and in storing heat away, they add inertia to the system. This means that the atmosphere will warm more slowly than a given level of greenhouse gas would lead you to expect. <snip>

There follows a reasonable discussion of measurement. When it is finished it sounds as if global warming is certain, and it must be caused by CO2. It does not, however, look into why there was warming after the last Ice Age, or why we are justified in assuming tenth of a degree accuracies from processes that have half degree error bars; nor does it examine why there have been major trends like the Roman Warm, the Medieval Warm, the Little Ice Age, and such.

Once again: it is certain that the Earth has been warming since 1776, and everyone who took American history in grade school ought to know it; it was cold in 1776, and it got warmer and warmer from then to now. How much of that was CO2 in those times is doubtful. It is very likely that it was warmer during several historical periods. It is certainly warmer now than it was during the last Ice Age.

No one argues that we ought not study climate,  and I certainly do not argue that we ought not look at ways to reduce the CO2 levels; but carbon taxes are not anywhere near the optimum method for doing this unless you are already rich and can afford the enormous economic costs. If that's what we have to do, well and good, but surely we can look at other means? And if I need to reduce carbon emissions, I'd say the best way is nuclear power, not solar cells that take 30 years to produce as much energy as it took to make them -- and which have a life span of about 30 years.

Paint your roof white and plant trees. Bubble more atmosphere through the seas. Raise the albedo if need be with high altitude particulates -- but beware that the real trend may be cooling as we feared in the 1970's. I'd rather have longer growing seasons in Saskatchewan than a hundred feet of ice over Winnipeg.






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Tuesday, March 23, 2010   

Begin with some good news:

Gates finally starts to get it.


--- Roland Dobbins

Nuclear power is clearly the proper way out of the energy crisis, and that is independent of the Gore AGW climate theory. If CO2 driven global warming is a real danger -- and the evidence is at best inconclusive -- then nuclear power produces sustainable energy at economic rates. Ground based solar does not: that is, ground based solar cells take about 30 years to produce as much energy as it takes to make them, and about the same amount of time to earn back the investment required to install them. Wind power ceases to be a good investment only when subsidized. Nuclear power is the only economical ground based sustainable energy source we can develop. (Hydraulic certainly works, but the environmental effects can be quite large; moreover there aren't many streams left to dam now that China has completed the Three Rivers project. The payoff to Egypt of damming the Nile -- the Mother of Egypt -- was nowhere near what its planners expected.

Nuclear power works. It's safe. We had the most expensive destructive test imaginable in the Three Mile Island accident: Everything went wrong that could go wrong, the operators made all the mistakes operators can make, and the result was no serious radiation injury inside the plant, and outside the fenced perimeter the largest dose of radiation you could get even if you tried amounted to about what you'd get from two x-rays. The nuclear waste "problem" has long been solved by the French who get not quite 80% of their electricity from nuclear power. We can learn a lot about routine nuclear energy operations from the French experience.

One of the things Gates can do is invest in nuclear power: but more importantly would be lobbying. There are no serious technical problems with nuclear power; but the legal problems are formidable. I'd estimate that up to half the costs of nuclear power are ultimately traceable to litigation and needless regulation. Once again, a study of the French and Japanese experiences will be helpful.

It's good news.


On how to read Wall Street Journal articles on line, see Mail.


There is a brief account of what I was doing in Dallas last week at



Marijuana is the largest cash crop in California (and I think in Hawaii). (Second in California is grapes.) This despite that it's illegal.

I once put it to Newt Gingrich that it required the 18th Amendment to make Prohibition constitutional -- the Volstead Act was held unconstitutional until the 18th passed. We repealed that Amendment. Where in the Constitution does the Federal Government get the power to outlaw marijuana or indeed any other drug? Why has the Federal Government any say in this? It can forbid interstate commerce in drugs, but where does the DEA get any authority over what goes on inside a state? 

This is clearly a matter for the States. If California wants to legalize marijuana (and tax it) surely that is a matter for California, not Washington. It can also legalize hemp in general, which has uses other than as a chemical source. I would go further: I think the whole matter of drug consumption is a matter for the States, and outside the jurisdiction of the Feds. Of course the Federal Civil Service believes it has the right to protect you from having the states give you any freedoms it doesn't approve of...

Note that I haven't given my opinion of the wisdom of legalizing drugs; I merely assert that it's not a Federal matter. On the wisdom of this, I do note that we long ago lost the War on Drugs, just as they lost the War on Alcohol.

Freedom is not free. Free men are not equal. Equal men are not free. Perhaps we need saving from ourselves, but surely we ought to obey the Constitution when doing so.


  Be obsequious or go to jail. Ask Peter Watts.





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Wednesday,  March 24, 2010

There is a review of Inferno and Escape from Hell at


It's pretty good, or at least I think so. If you haven't got Inferno and Escape From Hell, this might talk you into it...


Maj Gen Robert M. White, USAF (Ret.), RIP.


-- Roland Dobbins

I met Bob White as part of my work in human factors in the early days of the space program. The X-15 was a very productive X project. X projects were some of the best investments the US made. RIP indeed.


Well, now we will know what's in the bill, I suppose. Many people don't, and some have walked into hospitals requesting various kinds of health care without paying, since they were told by the President yesterday that they were now covered. I don't know how many of those there are, but it's illustrative of the principle that there is no limit to demand for free goods.

I publish the following letter largely so that I can comment on it:


"Free men are not equal. Equal men are not free. Perhaps we need saving from ourselves, but surely we ought to obey the Constitution when doing so."

Given the Equal Protection clause of the 14th Amendment, how does one reconcile your first two sentences with your last clause? (Let alone with the Declaration of Independence, but that has no legal standing.)


Unrelated to what you've written lately, but I asked this of a different audience earlier: Has the GOP completely forgotten the appeal of Reagan's optimism? Have the Democrats inherited it? Today's GOP seems just as doom and gloomish as the Democrats circa Jimmy Carter, if not more so. When has that ever really been sellable to the American voter?

-- Hal

The Equal Protection Clause does not make citizens equal; it requires that the states (and the Federal Government) treat citizens equally. That is not the same thing. Indeed, I have often said that we ought to enact a new Constitutional Amendment: "Neither the United States nor any State may deny to any Citizen of the United States the equal protection of the laws, and this time we really mean it." That doesn't mean that everyone shall be equal; it does mean that they must be treated equally by government. Among other things it would end a lot of affirmative action silliness.

However, the very fact that the Equal Protection Clause can be so misinterpreted probably means that it ought to be repealed. That won't happen, of course, but do note that when the Civil Rights Act passed Congress, Hubert Humphrey, its very liberal progressive sponsor, said that there were no quotas mandated in the act and if you could find justification for quotas in it he'd eat the entire Act. Of course a few years later the courts found all kinds of quotas in the bill, all justified by "equal protection" and we got "positive affirmative action" and much of the turmoil from school bussing.

I have just heard that the White House is excluding children who go to private or Catholic schools from the White House Easter Egg Hunt. I find that an interesting message. One wonders if Obama's children will be granted an exception.


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

(Incidentally, no one seems to have noted that the Kansas City School System, which is in crisis and much of it is being shut down, was largely built up by a Federal Judge who raised education taxes by judicial mandate in order to build up those schools to promote equality. The result was one of the most expensive school buildings in the United States. There was also forced bussing. The result was more segregation than ever. The expensive experiment had other lessons.)

As to optimism,  I do remember that after Reagan's tax cuts, federal revenues doubled, inflation fell from 10% -- 10% a year -- to under 4%; we had an economic boom; we began SDI; and the Soviet Union began its collapse. This after the Carter Era of Limits, the Club of Rome and it's models of doom, and Erlich's predictions of massive famines and death world wide. I don't see any such prospects now.

But I do look forward to the November elections.


You might want to look at:

Your Medical Records Aren't Secure

The president says electronic systems will reduce costs and improve quality, but they could undermine good care if people are afraid to confide in their doctors.


The Bill requires that everyone have a mandated level of health insurance.

Writers are self-employed, meaning that we do not get health care insurance from an employer. For a long time we got ours through Roberta as a teacher, eventually gaining access to the Kaiser system when she went to the Los Angeles County Education system (Not the LA Unified School District). When she retired we continued Kaiser through COBRA, and during that time we were able to enroll as regular members. I paid my Kaiser -- dues, premiums, payments? -- for decades. Eventually we were told we had to shift to Medicare, the good news being that Medicare would now pay our dues. There was another Advantage program requiring us to pay a fairly nominal fee monthly, and we opted for that as well. All of which worked out well for us, and my cancer treatments cost us essentially nothing when that developed.

Many writers did not have that option. Kaiser wasn't on open enrollment in those times, and getting into a good medical plan wasn't easy and could be expensive -- and the premiums were not deductible for a lot of that time (even though those who got medical insurance through employers did not pay income tax on those benefits). The law pretty well explicitly discriminated against the self-employed. Many writers therefore opted for medical insurance policies that covered catastrophic costs and had high deductibles. (They might have preferred medical insurance accounts, but the tax laws made that difficult.) That's the kind of medical insurance that most free-lance writers have today.

That kind of insurance is apparently not satisfactory under the new law. This means that they have to cancel their policy and buy something else, presuming that the something else is available, or pay a fine. I don't know if the fine automatically enrolls them in some kind of public exchange program, but I suspect it is not: it's just a fine, a tax on not having the kind of insurance product that the Government approves of. What this does to the insurance industry I don't know, but I would guess that the results are going to be catastrophic. I suspect that the catastrophic insurance with high deductible will no longer be available, and that most writers won't be able to afford the minimum payments for the minimum acceptable insurance packages. That may well apply to a lot of self-employed.

I don't know what happens next, and I don't have numbers.

I do understand that many people think that free-lance writers make a lot more money than they do. I have done better than most, but Niven and I had five best-sellers, and Hammer was fourteen weeks as number two on the best-seller list. I've done well -- but of course I had no pension plan other than prudential saving, and the 2008 crash came just as I was developing brain cancer and wasn't able to make decisive moves (I knew in early 2008 I ought to restructure everything and get a lot of money into gold, but I didn't do it because I didn't trust my judgment very much. Cancer will do that for you.) My point isn't to cry poor mouth; my point is that most free lance writers have decided to trade financial security for a way of life. Part of that means living frugally, particularly if you don't write fast. Some of my friends do a novel every couple of years. They sell well, but assuming $100,000 advances (and that's a lot in this market) that's only $50,000 a year. Hardly fabulous wealth. A 2% fine for not having adequate health insurance will hurt -- and we don't know what the minimum acceptable policies will cost.

I am also worried about what the new law will do to Kaiser. I am told that Kaiser outside Southern California is not as pleasant and efficient as the Kaiser Permanente that I belong to, but I have no evidence on that; what I do know is that the government isn't likely to be able to create organizations that work as well as our local Kaiser does. And I am afraid to find out what it will do.

I do want to thank all of you who have subscribed or renewed your subscriptions. And now I have to get back to work on Mamelukes.


Now, Can We Have Health-Care Reform?

WSJ opinion piece on health care


Very well said. Several of the publicly employed doc's I know think we need health care because of the evil insurance industry. These are smart people, but notice I said publicly employed as in county, state, and federal.


Jenkins' point is well made. We do not have health care reform, and we have not set things up for cost reduction. Costs will not be reduced until there is a strong coupling between recipient and payer. The demand for a free good increases without limit. Always, and the new law doesn't change the relationship between payer and recipient.

One key to lowering cost is to increase supply, which means rethinking the medical profession and its entry requirements. We need to study the supply system. Should we subsidize the training of triage medical assistants? Is it required that all physicians go through the same kind of medical school, or is it possible to have a lower cost training program for primary care physicians? Should we expand the military medical school cadet programs? None of this seems to have been debated in the design of the Health Care Act.

Perhaps we have some need for reform; we certainly need to understand what adding free care to millions will cost, and perhaps it would be well to debate just what minimum we as a society owe to all those who live here. Is everyone entitled to a liver transplant? To lasik? To a nose job? Just what is the minimum to which you are entitled? Or is there no limit?

My friend Frank Herbert, when he found he had pancreatic cancer, went to the Mayo Clinic. Thanks to Dune he could afford that. Not everyone can afford it. I certainly can't. Should the Mayo Clinic be allowed to exist, since all can't go to it? Should it be shut down, or required to accept patients according to a lottery? Should its staff be paid no more than the staff of the West Misery County Hospital staff?

None of this was debated. Perhaps it is high time.




 Dark Ages

A dark age is defined not as when we have forgotten how to do something, but have forgotten that we ever could do it. A 6th Century French farmer getting 3 bushels to the acre never for a moment dreamed that on the same land a Roman farmer had, not 300 years before, got yields of 12 bushels. A first grade teacher in the United States in 2009 congratulating herself that 80% of the children in her class are able to read "at first grade level" never dreams that in 1930 to 1940 96% of all children who got through 4th grade were able to read at any level you choose and the concept of "grade level" didn't apply anyway: 90% of all first graders left first grade with their reading vocabulary better than their speaking vocabulary and able to read "big words" like polymorphic that they might not understand but could certainly read and ask the meaning of.

I.E. we already live in an educational Dark Age, and it's getting worse, as we forget that we once could do things in schools that we now believe are impossible.

A really large solar flare would have a significant chance of bringing about a much more widespread Dark Age. What would serve as the equivalent of the monasteries that kept records of crop yields, and the libraries that kept copies of the Classics? If electronics became unavailable, what might revive civilization? Or would electronics make a quick comeback?

I wrote that some time ago, and was reminded of it today when it came up again in another conference. A solar flare could produce a dark age -- but we are already creating dark ages, this in the era when information is freely available.

We have an educational dark age, and I suspect others.






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Thursday,  March 25, 2010

I have found some amusing comments about Inferno and Carpentier's observations of the writer with the very large tomb in the Mausoleum ("He's got vases bigger than the bottle they put me in!").

Niven observed long ago, "We in science fiction have a technical term for people who believe that writers share all the views of their characters. We call them 'idiots.'"

Now I don't necessarily say things that harshly, but it has a point. Allan Carpentier was in Hell. He was there for a reason, and he nearly succumbed to despair precisely in the Mausoleum. Readers may make as much of that as they wish, but you do notice that Carpentier's companions were not very sympathetic to his views. I see no evidence that Niven and I thought Carpentier's views -- at that point in the story -- were correct or admirable. It is a scene in the middle of a novel, and one characteristic of a novel is that it follows character development; but then I wouldn't suppose I would have to say that, at least to this readership, and perhaps I should not.

My own views of Kurt Vonnegut are recorded in published reviews, and I once assigned Cat's Cradle as one of about twelve works on a required reading list for a senior seminar in political theory. I have probably recommended Harrison Bergeron fifty times over the years. Allan Carpentier, one should recall, was sent to Hell.


John Deere and Caterpillar are reporting that the new Health Care Act will cost them huge sums making them less competitive in these economic times. Obama is going to Iowa to explain his ObamaCare package today, although it's not clear why he's doing that -- the Bill is and Act now, after all. Iowa is John Deere and Caterpillar country.

"The world’s largest construction equipment manufacturer by sales [Caterpillar] warned last week that provisions in the legislation would subject it to federal income taxes on the subsidies it receives for providing prescription drug benefits for its retirees and their spouses."

That's a $100 Million cost. This year. The Government giveth, and Obama taketh away. An actual health care reform would have considered just why there were subsidies in the first place.


One has to be careful how one says things like this. We are going toward a time when criticizing ObamaCare is hate speech. It will be a while before criticism becomes an actual criminal act, but watch out for civil law suits. The suits may not be won, but defending can be ruinous. Of course that could never happen here. They say. But given the mood of the country, we may look for more and more frantic accusations. Liberals are now saying that unity against Democrats is a "threat". Any claim of a coming "victory" is a threat. Such accusations will escalate as the year wears on.

November will be crucial. The Health Care Act changes the character of the nation as we move closer to the entitlement state of Harrison Bergeron.

The FDA, for example, is now creating monopolies and further restricting freedom (When it becomes available see "Shackled by a Risk-averse FDA" by Miller in today's LA Times.

Another unwelcome development is an increase in the kinds and amounts of "user fees" that companies must pay just to get the FDA to review their applications. They are nothing more than a discriminatory tax on pharmaceutical companies which will ultimately be passed along to patients. It's akin to having to tip the DMV staffer to get him to renew your car registration. Seven-figure user fees are inconsequential to big drug companies but can be debilitating to drug start-ups and device companies, many of which are small and cash-poor.

The FDA policies make it very difficult for small companies to the benefit of the large ones. So was it ever: Adam Smith wrote about the tendency of capitalists to enlist government in restricting entry. Competitive disadvantages are now being dispensed by the US government. But be of good cheer, you have ObamaCare.

Despair is a sin. And there is good reason for hope.

November will be crucial.


The Viagra Game

I have quotes from two stories. The first was in 2005:

Sex offenders get Medicaid-paid Viagra

N.Y. comptroller asks HHS for ‘immediate action’

updated 7:12 p.m. PT, Sun., May 22, 2005

ALBANY, N.Y. - Scores of convicted rapists and other high-risk sex offenders in New York have been getting Viagra paid by Medicaid for the last five years, the state’s comptroller said Sunday.

Audits by Comptroller Alan Hevesi’s office showed that between January 2000 and March 2005, 198 sex offenders in New York received Medicaid-reimbursed Viagra after their convictions. Those included crimes against children as young as 2 years old, he said.

Hevesi asked Michael Leavitt, secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, in a letter Sunday to “take immediate action to ensure that sex offenders do not receive erectile dysfunction medication paid for by taxpayers.”

A call to Leavitt’s office was not immediately returned Sunday.

According to Hevesi, the problem is an unintended consequence of a 1998 directive from federal officials telling states that Medicaid prescription programs must include Viagra. His office discovered that the state was helping sex offenders pay for Viagra by checking Medicaid pharmacy expenditures against the state’s sex offender registry.

New York’s two senators said Sunday the problem should be corrected.


The second story was today:

 March 25, 2010

Dems reject amendment to ban Viagra for sex offenders

Democrats killed an amendment by Republican Sen. Tom Coburn to prevent the newly created insurance exchanges from using federal money to cover Viagra and other erectile dysfunction drugs for rapists, pedophiles and other sex offenders. The amendment failed 57-42

"The vast majority of Americans don't want their taxpayer dollars paying for this kind of drug for those kind of people," Coburn said.

Democratic Sen. Max Baucus urged his colleagues to defeat the amendment.


The Democrats say they defeated the sex offender Viagra amendment because they were defeating all amendments, to avoid having to send the Bill back to the House. As it happens, it has to go back to the House anyway because there were financial items in it that were improperly inserted.

Note that under current law the government pays for Viagra for those who can't afford it (as will ObamaCare). Apparently this is a fundamental right which one doesn't have to pay for. If you can't afford Viagra, it will be supplied to you. Leaving out the sex offender ploys, isn't there a more fundamental question here? Just what obligations do we have to our citizens/residents/metics/guests/etc.? If it includes Viagra, why not a dry martini?


Boring from within (New York Times edition)


"Solomon B. Watson IV was the top legal officer of the New York Times back in 2005 and 2006 when, notoriously, it published two stories compromising top-secret counterterrorism programs. I wrote about what the Times had done at the time in "Exposure," as Gabriel Schoenfeld did in "Has the New York Times violated the Espionage Act?" Indeed, Schoenfeld's forthcoming book Necessary Secrets was inspired by the recurring issues raised by the Times's -- oh, let's say it --- violations of the Espionage Act.

The Obama administration has now nominated Watson to be general counsel of the Army."

The very best of hands, we know because they tell us so.

A solid indicator of the Administration's preferences.






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Friday,  March 26, 2010

Anger Management and the New Aristocracy

I had noted this at breakfast, and when I got upstairs I saw that a number of readers had seen it too:

The Government Pay Boom:  America's most privileged class are public union workers.


 Nothing more needs saying.


From that Wall Street Journal editorial

This means that for every $1 in pay and benefits a private employee earned, a state or local government worker received $1.45.

The BLS study breaks down where that 45% premium comes from. It turns out that public employees earn salaries that are about one-third higher on average than what is provided to private workers per hour worked. But the real windfall for government workers is in benefits. Those are 70% higher than what standard private employers offer, as shown in the nearby table. Government health benefits are twice as generous as what workers employed by private employees earn. By the way, nearly this entire benefits gap is accounted for by unionized public employees. Nonunion public employees are paid roughly what private workers receive.

What if government workers earned the average of what private workers earn? States and localities would save $339 billion a year from their more than $2.1 trillion budgets. These savings are larger than the combined estimated deficits for 2010 and 2011 of every state in America.

The combination of civil service and unionization of public employees has created a new aristocracy entitled to rule and the perquisites of rule; and we cannot afford it; worse; the tendency is toward less actual public work -- such as fixing streets -- because that is expensive (for materials and fuels) so the increase in public service tends not to be rebuilding infra-structure, but in enforcement of regulations, as well as in piling up more paper work.

This is India after the British Raj when the "Permit Raj" ruled (as to some extent it still does); when the goal of most of the middle class was to get a job in the civil service.

But as Phil Gramm tells us today,

Resistance is not Futile


Republicans have a job to do. They must make it clear to the American people that this is only the beginning of the debate. There will be two congressional elections and a presidential election before the government takeover is implemented in 2014.

I believe that Republicans should take the unequivocal position that if they are given a majority in Congress in November, they will stop the implementation of the government takeover. And if a Republican is elected president in 2012, they will do with Mr. Obama's health-care bill what the American voters will have done to the Democrats: throw it out. If the voters demand change in November, even the Democrats who remain in Congress will help give it to them.

If Republicans don't want America to follow Britain and Canada down the road to socialized medicine, they must change the system so that families have more power to control their own health-care costs. This will entail real changes like tax deductions for health insurance, not for prepaid medicine; refundable tax credits for families to buy their own insurance; freedom to negotiate with insurance companies; rewarding healthy lifestyles; tort reform; and reforming Medicare and Medicaid so every consumer has deductibles and copayments based on their income. This system will require Americans to make choices in health care—just as they do in every other area of their lives.

Since the Health Care Act contains provisions for taxing the medical devices of wounded veterans, taxing Pacemakers, and providing Viagra for convicted sex offenders -- all voted for by the Democrats but not Republicans -- it's legitimate to point that out in coming elections. The Democrats said they could not vote for the Amendments that would have stripped the Bill of those unpopular provisions because they had to oppose all amendments so that the Bill wouldn't have to go back to the House. It turns out they might as well have voted for all those Amendments since the Bill had to be sent back to the House anyway, only it went back to the House will all those provisions intact when it became and Act.

That's a lot of ammunition for the next election. Democrats will try to say it's silly: we need only point out that the provisions are still in the Act, and the Democrats voted for them: they were so desperate to get their Health Care Bill rammed through that they were willing to "give" it to us complete with the Louisiana Purchase, the Corn Husker Kickback, and taxes on wounded veterans. This was a key part of their agenda, and it was worth any price.

We have seen Hope and Change and what it can do. Now it's time to exact that price at the polls.

Of course the Administration strategists will try to make the coming election sound something like a revolution, and accuse those opposing our new Hope and Change Act as violent rebels. It is important that we don't give them more ammunition.

Peggy Noonan addresses that this week in her essay. I doubt that anyone reading her needs that advice, but it does no harm to hear again that it is not time to take to the streets, and rhetoric suggesting that it is gives comfort to the enemy without any significant benefit.

There's an election coming in November. It's important that we turn these rascals out. At the ballot box. We got rid of the Creeps in November 2008. It is now time to get rid of the Nuts, which means every Democrat who can possibly be turned out. That done, we can start rebuilding from the center. That won't be easy given how deeply in debt we are, but at least we are an intact nation. We haven't been bombed or burned out. Many of the factories are there, if idle. The work force is here, if idle. The coal mines are still there. The proven oil is still there. We only need energy and freedom to give American exceptionalism a new start. We need a New Deal, and that begins next November.


The egregious Frum has left AEI. He has his story. Charles Murray, whom I know and trust, has another:







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Saturday,  March 27, 2010

Somewhere, Jean-Baptiste Lamarck and David Stove are laughing . . . .


-- Roland Dobbins

Why everything you've been told about evolution is wrong

What if Darwin's theory of natural selection is inaccurate? What if the way you live now affects the life expectancy of your descendants? Evolutionary thinking is having a revolution . .


Chevalier Lamarck was an early (his first lecture on the subject was in 1800) advocate of a theory of evolution to explain speciation. His theory was in part based on his theory of the inheritance of acquired characteristics. Lamarckian inheritance was accepted as science and had "consensus" status among many, because it seemed reasonable at the time. It is now almost universally rejected as has his adaptive evolution in favor of Mendelian inheritance and natural selection.

Sometimes the consensus acceptance of Mendelian genetics and consequent rejection of Lamarckian inheritance became so severe as to overlook some obvious factors, such as the influence of environmental factors on inherited traits. In a culture of drunks the probability of alcohol induced effects on inheritance is high, as an obvious example. There are many less obvious effects.

And, of course, Kurzweil and other posit the coming "singularity" when robots begin to self-replicate with each generation including improvements -- true Lamarckian evolution and purposeful at that.

New evidence in genetics suggests that environmental conditions can have other subtle effects on inheritance, as outlined in the referenced article above.

. . . Jean-Baptiste Lamarck, whose own version of evolution held, most famously, that giraffes have long necks because their ancestors were "obliged to browse on the leaves of trees and to make constant efforts to reach them". As a matter of natural history, he probably wasn't right about how giraffes' necks came to be so long. But Lamarck was scorned for a much more general apparent mistake: the idea that lifestyle might be able to influence heredity. "Today," notes David Shenk, "any high school student knows that genes are passed on unchanged from parent to child, and to the next generation and the next. Lifestyle cannot alter heredity. Except now it turns out that it can . . ."

Epigenetics is the most vivid reason why the popular understanding of evolution might need revising, but it's not the only one. We've learned that huge proportions of the human genome consist of viruses, or virus-like materials, raising the notion that they got there through infection – meaning that natural selection acts not just on random mutations, but on new stuff that's introduced from elsewhere. Relatedly, there is growing evidence, at the level of microbes, of genes being transferred not just vertically, from ancestors to parents to offspring, but also horizontally, between organisms. The researchers Carl Woese and Nigel Goldenfield conclude that, on average, a bacterium may have obtained 10% of its genes from other organisms in its environment.

Perhaps it is time to go back and read Sir Fred Hoyle's Evolution from Space. The general consensus has been that Sir Fred was off his head, but perhaps that is not so generally agreed now.

We thought we understood these matters.


AT&T reports a $1 billion writedown as a result of increased costs from ObamaCare. Other companies such as John Deere and Caterpillar have similar reports.

 Meanwhile, Henry Waxman and House Democrats announced yesterday that they will haul these companies in for an April 21 hearing because their judgment "appears to conflict with independent analyses, which show that the new law will expand coverage and bring down costs." link

Elsewhere the Democrats are taking victory laps, but other flaws in the Act appear hourly as people finally get to read it. The costs continue to mount. New envious confiscation measures appear.

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Sunday,  March 28, 2010

Nancy Kress is the widow of my friend and collaborator the late Dr. Charles Sheffield. She discovered that a pirate site was offering her works, and wrote to the pirate. That led to a short dialogue: http://nancykress.blogspot.com/2010/03/dialgue-with-pirate.html

The result was some insight into the pirate mentality -- at least for a pirate who lives in Moscow and has an account on a server in Malaysia.


Query: I keep reading that this winter was one of the warmest ever recorded. Most of those living in North America don't have that view.

On what data is this conclusion based, and does anyone have a pointer to where is the data? How much difference is there between a "very warm" winter which we supposedly just had, and one less so? Is this a fraction of a degree or something perceptible? Again, on what data is this based?

I am skeptical but without data I have no way to question the claims.

(and see tomorrow's View)






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