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Monday, October 4, 2010

A normal day in Philadelphia

Apropos of nothing, but I thought this was delightful.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_zmwRitYO3w 

ciao!

Tom Fagan

I love it! Turn up the volume and let 'er rip!

I posted a bunch of mail last night.

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இராசீகம் தெய்வீகம்

===============

In another conference there is a debate about "the war on science", with reference to such matters as the Kansas school board and its views on "creation science" as a theory equal to evolution. I watched this for a week and at no time did anyone bring up what I think is the most significant and successful war on science ever waged: the destruction of the US nuclear industry and nuclear energy in the United States. Jimmy Carter fired on the nuclear industry when he shut down fuel reprocessing. We have not had fuel reprocessing or recycling since. The Union of Concerned Scientists war on the nuclear industry has been highly successful. Japan, Korea, China, France, even Viet Nam have ongoing nuclear power development.  Not the United States where nuclear industry began.

The people who denounce AGW Deniers as warring on science continue their war on nuclear energy, and they are winning. Winning big. The Union of Concerned Scientists is winning a war against science. No one seems to denounce any of that.

=================

Niven came over for work on Anvil. Later.

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We got a great deal done on Anvil today. It's time for scenes.

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Tuesday, October 5, 2010   

Federal regulators have come up with a report on the May 6 "Flash Crash" in which the market fell by 600 points in moments. The report isn't all that enlightening, but the story does make interesting reading.

At 2:32 p.m., a trader at Waddell & Reed placed a huge order to sell E-mini futures contracts, which mimic movements in the S&P 500-stock index. This kind of trade wasn't unusual for Waddell, which at the time managed some $25 billion, including the popular Ivy Asset Strategy Fund. As part of the fund's strategy, the firm from time-to-time places bets that the broad stock market will fall as a hedge against its individual stock holdings.

So. A fund trader offers to sell futures on the stock market. Note that he doesn't own any stocks, and he's not selling stocks. He's selling bets on what the market will do. This is legal in all states because the Feds have pre-empted the field, unlike with horse races or bets on the outcomes of football games, which are legal in some states, illegal in others, or legal some places but not in others in yet more states. It's gambling, of course.

The discussion now is how to bend the rules of the market. Many companies had computer programs set to buy and then sell these shares. The computers hummed, they bought, then as the shares lost value, tried to sell, so now we have a downward cycle of the shares, and that drives the market down, and...

Lots of companies lost lots of money. Some were wiped out -- or would have been, except that the regulators came in and made some of the winners give their winnings back, and bailed out lots of the losing bettors. It's as if the favorite broke his leg in a horse race, and the race track decided that the people who bet on the favorite should get part of their money back so they took some of the winnings away from those who had bet on the long shot that did win.  The analogy isn't perfect, but I hope the point is made. If you go to the races, there are plenty of touts who will sell you a system for betting. Most of those systems involve increasingly larger bets if you get in trouble. Eventually you come to the point where you are risking all you have.

If the government sets up to bail you out then what discourages the purchase of systems and the crazy betting that goes with them? We have a stock market "system" in which companies have computers play with huge sums, making bets based on nothing concrete. Most of those computer algorithms are set to try to get a bit of rent out of the system -- buy on a downtick and sell an instant later. Those who play that game don't really add much to productivity of the nation (although some of the transactions seem to appear in the Gross National Product figures, despite the fact that there is no product); but they expect the market to bail them out if their algorithm induces them to bet everything they have on some lunacy because the program was badly designed, and things got out of hand, and the market spiraled down and down.

It seems to me that this needs a lot more study than it is given. Crazy computer schemes designed to whittle a little here and there from the market have the capacity to ruin the lot of us -- and the government and the markets come in to regulate the outcomes and decide who gets to keep winnings and who doesn't when the disasters happen.  I'm willing to listen to arguments in favor of this crazy system, but it looks to me as if we'd be better off without it...

==

I realize there isn't a strong point to be made here. My concern is that either you allow gambling and make the gamblers take the consequences, or you forbid it entirely; but to allow it, and then step in to relieve the gamblers of the consequences of their actions is not only a bad idea, but will inevitably lead to corruptions of all kinds. The United States went through a lot of that in the early days of the Republic when wild speculations in Louisiana Purchase land led to wild swings in the economy. One result was that Andrew Jackson was elected and abolished the Bank of the United States. We used to teach a lot about speculation and its effects in our grade schools. I don't think the word appears in most grade school history books any longer.

When we ended state control over insurance -- and that includes the crazy default credit swaps that were instrumental in the latest economic crash, where speculations ended up putting more at risk than the entire capital value of what was being speculated on -- we created a new economic environment and one that doesn't have a lot of plus side. If we don't understand a system, breaking it into parts and allowing more local control seems a saner way to go.

The older separation of investment banking from savings banks, and measures that kept brokerage houses from speculating by making big bets of their own rather betting for clients didn't make the great profits for the investment houses -- but also kept the Black Swans at bay.

I don't claim to be an expert on financial systems. I do believe that the system we have built since 1990 is sound. I do not believe that federal regulation will fix it. I think we need to dismantle much of what we have built, and devolve much of the regulation back to the states, not because I believe in the wisdom of state governments, but because I don't trust the federal government always to be right, and a diverse system has at least a chance that some will get things right. It's the principles of transparency and subsidiarity.

I'll have more on this another time.

============

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One Nation Rally (AKA Anti-Tea Party Rally)

Dr. Pournelle,

Iím leaving the country soon for South West Asia and took the opportunity to visit the Washington Monument with my family this afternoon. By chance we arrived during the One Nation Rally (AKA the anti-Tea Party Rally). I took a photograph of the Rally at the Lincoln Memorial looking out the window of the Washington Monument at around 1:30 PM EDT. The rally was sparsely attended and quite small in comparison to the rally led by Glenn Beck. My wife and I both observed a few things such as the large pile of paper signs on the ground in a walk way right below a green party spokesman haranguing the crowd about being green. We also noticed just how overweight if not obese a lot of these people were. Most of the crowd were union members or supporters of some sort. The rest were 9-11 Truthers, communists, or socialists (well at least thatís what their signs saidÖ). There were many signs saying those in my profession are murderers.

I leave in November for a year to defend their right to say that.

Sincerely,

Serving Officer

Not a very large rally. I've seen more people there on random days. Thanks, and God bless you.

===========

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Wednesday,  October 6, 2010

 

Process Reform and the Spending Machine

I have added a note to yesterday's entry on the Flash Crash, speculation, and the economic system. Yesterday I got caught short of time and didn't have much of a conclusion. I still don't, but at least I make the questions clearer. The questions are highly relevant to the need for process reform.

Today's Wall Street Journal has an editorial "The Soul of the Spending Machine" that brings up an important question. What ought the Republicans do if they win a Congressional majority given that there is no chance that they will win a veto-proof majority. It concludes:

The GOP will have many priorities if it wins a House majority, and some Members will say that "process" reforms are a waste of political capital. We'd agree about many process changes. But Republicans won't succeed in their professed goal of cutting spending, boosting the economy, and reforming the entitlement state without disassembling Congress's tax-and-spending machine.

In my judgment, "process changes" -- rebuilding the system and restoring the checks and balances at least of the New Deal (I'd go back further than that, but the New Deal sort of worked and we got used to it) -- are the most important things the Republicans can do if they win a majority in Congress. They won't be able to repeal Obama Care (although they can refuse to fund some of it) and there's a lot of other stuff that needs doing but Obama will veto. He will certainly veto most process reforms. But as the Journal editorial says of Boehner's speech on Republican goals:

Most intriguingly, Mr. Boehner suggested that "we ought to start at square one and give serious consideration to revisiting, and perhaps rewriting, the 1974 Budget Act." Now he's getting somewhere. That law, passed over the veto of a Watergate-weakened Richard Nixon, further rigged the budget process to abet spending. It killed the President's impoundment power not to spend money, and it established the annual "budget baseline" that makes spending increases automatic. Thus even a reduction in the amount of spending increase in a program becomes a budget "cut" that special interests can attack. Mr. Boehner should consult Budget ranking Member Paul Ryan and former Member Chris Cox for reform ideas.

We have, since the New Deal, completely rebuilt the financial regulatory system, and not for the better. I am no great fan of the New Deal, but at least much of it was built after floundering through many different attempts to Do Something. It made for a number of compromises, and it had flaws, but it got us from the end of World War II well into the "Great Society" and wasn't really completely transformed until Watergate so weakened the Executive that the ravening wolves of Congress could run riot. One bad result changed allowed Barney Frank and Senator Dodd to force Fannie Mae to make unwise loans and inject huge amounts into the housing market, thus bringing us an inevitable bubble and inevitable crash.

Democrats remade the Constitution after Watergate. The Republican Creeps played with their reconstructions after Gingrich left the House. Undoing those unwise changes won't fix the country or restore the Republic, but it will head us back toward a viable position to start from; or we can hope so. The important thing, it seems to me, is that the Republicans need to consider and propose structural changes, "process" reforms, and pass those Bills. Let Obama veto them: it gives a referendum for the 2012 election. We don't want to go back to the Era of the Creeps. We don't want to keep the more recent contributions of the Nuts. It's time for the Republican to show that they know what they are doing, and that they intend to do it -- and to show us what that will be.

I won't hold my breath. The ruling class won't give up without a fight; but there is a chance to restore, if not the Old Republic, at least as much of it as the New Deal left, and this time without an existential war to force more deficit spending. That ain't perfect, but it would sure help.

==================

The KUSC pledge drive continues. KUSC is classical music public radio. This site operates on the "public radio" model: it's free, anyone can read without logging in, and if enough people subscribe I can keep it open. Without subscribers it will go away. Fortunately for the past several years enough have subscribed. Many have become Platinum subscribers, allowing me to work on projects of my own choosing rather than having to spend time looking for freelance work (potboilers, we used to call them). Again my thanks. For a few more days you're going to be bombarded with exhortations to subscribe or renew your subscriptions. My great thanks to those who are already currently subscribed and renewed.

 

One of the things subscribers let me do is make appearances without having to be paid. I'm scheduled for a short address next week at a political rally for an influential Congressman. I'll talk about the war on science and what Republican policy ought to be on the subject. Apparently I haven't been forgotten everywhere.

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I have great sympathy for the VfW view of the Supreme Court case on the picketing of the funeral services for a slain Marine. Were I on a jury sitting in trial of a veteran who attempted to stop the protest by church group that considers the casualties of the Iraq war divine justice on America for its toleration of homosexuals, I think I know how I'd vote. I certainly have great sympathy for the father of the dead Marine whose funeral was picketed. And having said that, I hope the Court rules that the picketers had a right to hold up their signs, and the father has no right to compensation.

I believe the states have a right to regulate that kind of act; that picketing funerals must be done with care, and the states have every right to make sure of that; but no law here seems to have been broken, and punitive lawsuits for expressions of opinion, even at funerals of Marines killed in the service of the United States, cannot be a generally accepted principle. The harm that would do is great.

The pain caused by the existence of the sentiments and signs wielded by the members of the Westboro Baptist Church to the family of the deceased is real, but they did not defame the dead: they denounce US policy. Funerals of Marines is hardly an appropriate place for expressing protest of US policies. Clearly it was chosen in the belief that this would generate a great deal of publicity for their protest. The fact is that this reached the Supreme Court of the United States and now millions in the US know of the existence of the Westboro Baptist Church and their extremely unpopular views. No one would have heard of them without the lawsuits. That would have been a better outcome to this case.

Addendum: The pastor of the Westboro Baptist Church has not been ordained by any known church, and the Westboro Baptist church is not part of any Baptist organization or group. His church membership appears largely to be his family. His flock is not large. He has been saying that the 9/11 attacks were a visitation of the Wrath of God because of US acceptance of homosexuals. He never got much in the way of national attention before.

Don't know if you heard about this particular incident but a few months back the Westboro Baptist Church tried picketing Comic-Con. Why they thought this would be a good target I cannot imagine. As you would rather expect many of the con attendees set up a parody counter protest. The result being that the Westboro Baptist Church got a response they probably didn't want. Laughter.

http://www.comicsalliance.com/2010/07/22/
super-heroes-vs-the-westboro-baptist-church/ 

Arondell Hoch

 

=============

Another WSJ article worth your attention today is Americans (Sort of) Love Fracking. It summarizes much of the natural gas development situation, and gives a reasonable prediction of outcomes -- at least as outcomes would have been in the New Deal or the Old Republic. I am not so sure of the outcome in the Brave New World we now live in.

===========

Regarding the 10:10 video of exploding school children:

Extreme environmentalism 

http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/
blog/2010/sep/30/10-10-no-pressure-film 

This link tells a more complete story. I still find the whole thing disturbing.

R, Rose

It becomes clear that this disturbing film was made by Greens who actually believed it would help their cause. I am astonished. In the link above they speak for themselves.

Mussolini's Fascist gangs used to make opponents drink castor oil. They found that hilarious.

========

 

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Thursday,  October 7, 2010

Political Mercenaries

There is ambiguous news about unemployment. The Democrat supporters in the press are spinning it as good news, in that things aren't getting worse quite so fast as had been projected. Republican press supporters say yes, but it's still getting worse, not better. It's pretty clear that good news or bad news, the job situation outlook isn't a cause for joy.

About two thirds of the American people now believe that the Economic Stimulus that the President was so proud of was a waste of money and did little good, according to the latest polls. Many formerly safe Congressional seats are now in doubt. Pride goeth before a fall; it is quite possible for the people to become so disgusted with the political system that they simply do nothing, meaning that those with the organizing resources to get out their vote -- what political professionals call the ground game -- will have even more power. Despair is a sin. So is complacency. If we are to restore self government, we need people willing to govern themselves. If we are to take back our government there must be people willing to take it back  -- and to be part of a new government. One of the benefits of self government is that not many think of it as a full time job. They have other lives. Yes, there will always be professional politicians; what must not happen is that the professional politicians also control the party structures. Self government means that the people governed take part in the whole governing structure; some hold political office, some become major party officials, some become minor party officials, some simply work a few hours a month on party matters; and those who do none of this pay attention to what is going on.

And as Tocqueville observed, much of what might be done by government is done by "the associations": private organizations. Charities, neighborhood councils, civil defense, civic committees, etc.

Tocqueville called this "Democracy in America" but he was describing the Old Republic, not a democracy.

Machiavelli said that if Republics rely on mercenaries for their defense, they take great risks; better to have citizen soldiers. Today the danger is not from our Legions (although given the efforts being made by the existing government to make it difficult for them to vote in the elections, I suspect the Administration does in fact fear the Legions) but from our hired political class. We have opted to entrust our political lives to mercenaries: career politicians, political managers, paid operatives and organizers; what we used to call political machines. Having been a political manager -- although I did not opt for that as a career, it was simply my turn to pay some political dues to this republic -- I have some understanding of the political mercenaries. I had great respect for a few of them that I worked with. I greatly admired Lyn Nofziger, having worked with him on a couple of campaigns. I was impressed with the skills of many others, but (except for Lyn who was a 'conservative Party Organizer) they were guns for hire, not people I wanted governing us.

Leaving government to mercenaries is at least as dangerous as leaving defense in the hands of hired guns.

=====

My pledge drive continues. We've slowed down the last couple of days. My thanks to those who have renewed and subscribed. We need more. This site has a lot of readers. If you're a regular, or even an occasional reader and you haven't subscribed yet, this would be a good time to do it. If you disagree with me here, think about Chaos Manor Reviews, where I try to keep my political opinions out of the technology column. One subscription supports both this place, where I try to present rational discussion about many topics, and Chaos Manor Reviews which is a continuation of the column I did for BYTE for decades. I don't do these pledge drives very often: I time them to coincide with the KUSC pledge drive. KUSC is the classical music station in Southern California. I use their "public radio" model here: the site is free, there is no need to log in, everyone is welcome, and it will stay open as long as there are enough subscribers. My thanks to all of you.

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The Wall Street Journal recently ran a series of letters worth your time. Look for "On Getting Boys to Acquire a Love of reading Books", which is a commentary on a previous op ed article. The subject is important; certainly important to me, since I write books for boys...

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Postal Union Election Postponed after Thousands of Ballots Lost in the Mail [Story]

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Friday,  October 8, 2010

Education Systems and Foreign Trade

The education crisis continues, and the actions of the education establishment are consistent: the purpose of the education system is to protect the pay of bad teachers, and be certain that bad teachers not only continue to be paid but to accumulate ever growing pension benefits. Sure, the system will protect good teachers from arbitrary and capricious school boards, but that's never been a real problem. There probably have been a few hundred, perhaps over the years and across the country, a few thousand, cases of really effective teachers being let go by school board nut cases. Prior to our present day awareness there were probably cases of teachers who lost their jobs due to sexual harassment and unfulfilled lust from a popular school board member or school administrator. Abuses happen. No system is perfect. But the present structure goes far past that.

In today's Wall Street Journal News Corp owner Rupert Murdoch has an op ed article entitled "If Schools Were Like 'American Idol'" (article). The subtitle is "Unless we measure success by how children perform, we'll have higher standards for pop stars than public schools," which is not so much a prediction as an observation: Hasn't that happened already? Murdoch, who presumably has the data gathering resources to be sure, says:

Today, for example, the United States is home to more than 2,000 dysfunctional high schools. They represent less than 15% of American high schools yet account for about half of our dropouts. When you break this down, you find that these institutions produce 81% of all Native American dropouts, 73% of all African-American dropouts, and 66% of all Hispanic dropouts.

This is all too true. Meanwhile, in Los Angeles, where the teachers unions have the most favorable contracts I know of from a large school district, the District, forced to cut back, chose to do so by laying off teachers from the 3 worst performing schools in the district. The American Civil Liberties Union promptly went to court to upset this, saying they couldn't solve their problems on the backs of students from schools for the poor. In theory the lawsuit was to protect the students, although what they are being protected from isn't clear. Apparently they have a right to be taught by ineffective teachers? But the ACLU and the school district reached an agreement in which the District will be able to lay off teachers using complex rules that have some concession to teacher effectiveness rather than strict seniority. The LA teacher union, predictably, threatens court action. Solidarity forever. The student be damned, bad teachers have rights. Students don't. Students have no right to an effective teacher: the purpose of the student is to justify the payments to their teachers, and teacher effectiveness must never be considered in school management. So it goes.

Bill Gates has financed studies that strongly indicate that we could double the effectiveness of our school system simply by firing the worst 10% of the teachers. Just fire them. You needn't replace them. Send the students to other classes. Yes, that would raise class sizes: but our cups overflow with evidence that class size is a far smaller influence on education success than teacher effectiveness. That has been known since the Chapman report. (Good luck on finding the report; I probably don't know how to look, but I can't. It was done prior to 1972, and is hardly the only data, as for instance Debunking the Class Size Myth: How to Really Improve Teacher Effectiveness. It's easy to find more. I bring up Chapman to indicate that we have known all this for a long time.) The point is that almost everyone who has studied the problem understands that the first and most cost effective move we can make would be to fire bad teachers, and that we have known this for forty years, and that it is harder to fire bad teachers now than it was in the days of "Why Johnny Can't Read". One might suppose that children have a right to be taught effectively, but that is not the case: what they have a right to is the teacher with the most seniority without regard to that teacher's abilities. The entire system exists to assure bad teachers that they will always be paid.

Most intelligent Americans have responded by working with their own children: home schooling, Catholic schools, private schools, charter schools, in some cases local public schools, and of course this is right. One's first obligation is to one's own children. Alas, that's not enough: in today's competitive world competition is global. The products of our bad schools must compete with the products of China's bad but improving schools; with the products of Japan's already good schools; with the products of Singapore's already good schools; with the products of education systems all over the world that are more concerned with student education than with protecting bad teachers.

Just below Rupert Murdoch's op ed in today's Wall Street Journal is another article, "The US Will Lose a China Trade War," by Dee Woo. (Article) I am not an economist, but the article makes sense to me. It also says:

It's little wonder manufacturing is dying in the U.S. while Wall Street is prospering. And it's no coincidence that Germany produces robust machinery, while the U.S. produces dazzling financial derivatives. Many items in Wal-Mart are made in China, but the trade deficit is made in the USA.

The reasons Professor Woo gives are economic, and perhaps he is right: but what stands out to me is that it ought to be a great wonder why the United States sees endless misery in Detroit and other manufacturing towns. There are many answers to that, but I am pretty certain that the conversion of our school system to the goal of protecting bad teachers rather than educating students has something to do with it.

Our education system needs to be tuned to reality. Reality says that we can't afford to waste talent. We can't afford bad schools for bright students. We also can't afford bad schools for average students. Half of the students are below average. We can either teach them skills they can use to earn a living, or we can support them when the graduate and can't find a way to make a living. There aren't really any other choices.

If we don't teach our bright students, we will crumble. Nations that waste talent don't thrive. We have to make certain that bright students are prepared for world class higher education. But if we insist that all our students are prepared for a world class higher education, we will prepare no one for that: all our efforts will be spent on the futile task of teaching the below average to excel. It can't work. Yet half our students are below average, and they must be taught skills relevant to their abilities. Not everything can or should be done by nerds...  This is the dilemma of education, and we can debate a lot about how best to accomplish these obvious tasks. We can discuss what ought to be the goals of education and how to accomplish them.

Once that is understood we can address the subject of public schools; but so long as the goal of public education is to protect and pay bad teachers, the discussion is pointless.

==============

The is the last day of the pledge drive. This site operates on the Public Radio principle: it is open to all, no login required, but it is supported by subscribers and without subscribers it cannot stay open. We're not in real danger of folding. We have a smaller subscription rate than I would like (based on readership) but a very high renewal rate. My thanks to all the loyal subscribers who have supported this site and its companion Chaos Manor Reviews over the years, year after year. For those who read this place frequently, you might think of subscribing. It doesn't take long or cost much. You may want to be a patron. That doesn't cost much, and you can feel good about supporting what I hope is rational discussion spiced up with some interesting things like public flash opera and other unexpected delights. For those who pop in once in a while and want to argue with me, I don't guarantee a private discussion, I always read subscriber mail. When I get way behind on other matters I may not read all the incoming mail. So if you like any part of what we do, this would be a good time to subscribe. This pledge drive ends shortly.

I have a doctor's appointment, after which I will spend the rest of the day working on a new scene in Anvil. I have it pretty well in mind. Progress is being made. 

=================

This is the official end of the Fall Pledge Drive. It was quite successful, and I thank all of those who renewed, and I welcome all the new subscribers. I don't promise not to mention subscriptions from time to time, and I'll leave the subscription buttons active, but I won't be bugging you all about money until the next time that KUSC opens a new pledge drive.  I will, once I get all the renewals and new subscriptions recorded and the system has had time to build new indices, try to get one of my gentle reminders out to those who didn't manage to renew, but I won't be bombarding you with exhortations.

Of you didn't quite get your subscription in, it's not really too late. You can subscribe now. Or renew. Or upgrade. Or --

 

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Saturday,  October 9, 2010

In another conference I was once again asking questions about AGW and why Believers seem so adamant when there are so many unanswered questions. Among my questions in this conference of a very select group that includes many Believers are the ones I have asked here, such as how one infers accuracies of a tenth of a degree in charting the temperature of the Earth when the primary data are not accurate to anything like that, and most aren't really accurate to a degree. You saw part of that in previous columns and mail.

 I was told to "do your homework." In particular, to read the IPCC report, which purportedly explains it all. I pointed out that the IPCC report was so flawed that many of its authors asked to have their names off the authorship list. I was told not to bother with the report itself, nor with the executive summary, nor with the policy recommendations, but the actual physics report. Only after I have read that will I be qualified to comment on the science behind policy recommendations that will affect trillions of dollars in national economies. Until I have done my homework, I am not qualified to ask questions, and the scientific establishment has no obligati0n to explain to the rest of us. It's all in an IPCC physics report, and we must look there, and if we still have questions, then perhaps someone will take time off to answer them; but it's our obligation to do our homework.

After consideration I don't accept that. There are a number of issues here, one I first thought about when John W. Campbell, Jr., then editor of Analog Science Fiction (actually I think this may have been when the magazine was still Astounding Science Fiction; Campbell changed the name to Analog Science Fact/Fiction to emphasize that it was concerned with science as well as science fiction) was still writing thought provoking editorials every month. Campbell's thought piece editorial speculated that one reason for the great progress of Western Civilization over Eastern is that in the West the tradition was that the responsibility for being understood lay with the teacher. In the West, teachers had to teach; in the East it was the student's task to learn. Of course this was a simplification, but like many of Campbell's editorials it raised issues worth thinking about, and in fact I have thought about this one for much of my life. I would say the question is also fundamental in many other ways, encompassing among other things the relationship between the governors and the governed. The Declaration of Independence establishes that the basis of government is this:

to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed

It is the duty of the government to secure the consent of the governed; it has no other justification for exercising power over others. In the United States, government is not justified by the assent of a monarch or a ruling class; it secures its rights from the consent of the governed.  Who are the governed, and how they shall consent is the subject of a great deal of debate, and leads me to the conclusion that government jurisdictions ought to be broken up into as small a piece as is practical, thus reducing the number of people coerced into compliance. That's a matter for another discussion at another time. My point is the obvious one.

Another issue is the reliability of the publishing organization. I am told that the IPCC report as a whole is not reliable. I need pay no attention to the Executive Summary or the Policy Recommendations or a whole slew of other stuff, but the Physics Report is required reading and if I don't read that then I have no right to ask questions about the science: yet that is part of an otherwise unreliable report, and was edited and published by the same people who published the rest of it. That doesn't seem to me a self evident conclusion.

As to whether science organizations can take actions that are more advocacy than science, I call to evidence

Hal Lewis: My Resignation From The American Physical Society  (URL)

It is of course, the global warming scam, with the (literally) trillions of dollars driving it, that has corrupted so many scientists, and has carried APS before it like a rogue wave. It is the greatest and most successful pseudoscientific fraud I have seen in my long life as a physicist. Anyone who has the faintest doubt that this is so should force himself to read the ClimateGate documents, which lay it bare. (Montford's book organizes the facts very well.) I don't believe that any real physicist, nay scientist, can read that stuff without revulsion. I would almost make that revulsion a definition of the word scientist.

So what has the APS, as an organization, done in the face of this challenge? It has accepted the corruption as the norm, and gone along with it.

Professor Lewis then gives examples from his own history. For those concerned with the integrity of the sciences now that they have been federalized and internationalized and become part of the complex that President Eisenhower warned us about, the entire letter is worth your attention. I believe this is directly relevant to the whole AGW climate debate.

=================

Peggy Noonan's column "Revolt of the Accountants" in today's Wall Street Journal (link)  has a good bit of meat in it. There are two themes, one on the breakdown of public confidence, the other on the increasing burdens on the productive class. The other theme

Government not only can change the national character, it can bizarrely channel national energy. And this is another theme in my mailbox, the rebellion against what government increasingly forces us to become: a nation of accountants.

No matter what level of life in which you operate, you are likely overwhelmed by forms, by a blizzard of regulations, rules, new laws. This is not new, it's just always getting worse. Priests are forced to be accountants now, and army officers, and dentists. The single most onerous part of ObamaCare is the tax change whereby spending $600 on goods or services will require a 1099 form. Economists will tell you of the financial cost of this, but I would argue that Paperwork Nation is utterly at odds with the American character.

When I was a lad most of us knew nothing about what went on in Washington. It didn't really affect our lives. The Federal Government had a County Agent who was a great source of information on farming techniques and methods -- my mother learned about contour plowing from a book the County Agent gave us, and we got a surveyors instrument to lay out crop rows in ways that prevented gullying, back when plows were pulled by teams of mules -- but otherwise the Federal Government was a long way off and had nothing to do with us. Now it's different; and the question is whether this can change national character. Government actions certainly seem to have changed the national character of Greece. Anyway I recommend her column.

If you run into a pay wall at the link I gave, you can search on the column title.

=============

The pledge drive is over. It was quite successful. I'll be recording the new subscriptions for a few days, so I'll have to ask for patience. There are also renewals, and I'll get to them just after the new subscriptions. It won't take that long. And you don't have to listen to me nattering about subscriptions and renewals until the next time. Thanks to all.

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Sunday,  October 10, 2010

10/10/10

 

 

The Dialog Continues, but Without Much Profit

I expect most readers here are weary of the extended discussion of the evidence for human caused Global Warming between me and a Believer in another conference. You may find some of it at http://www.jerrypournelle.com/
mail/2010/Q3/mail640.html#dialog and following.

The discussion revived in that conference, although I don't find it very profitable: I learn little. Still, I have learned a bit more about the mind set of the AGW Believers.  I had said that no, I had not read the Physics Section of the IPCC Repor. because I was not convinced of its reliability. I had previously been told that unless I read that report I had no right to ask questions of those who believe. I figured that was the end of the matter, until I saw:

saying "I won't read it, because some people criticize it" is not useful behavior for learning.

I replied at length, again intending to end the discussion:

I have not said I will not read it because some criticize it. I have said that I see no point in reading it since it is not trustworthy, and that has been said by some of its purported authors. You are probably familiar enough with the subject to be able to pick propaganda from science, but I am not, and it seems pointless to waste skull sweat on a paper whose very authors say it may be unreliable.

If that is the entire basis for betting a few trillion dollars on preparing for AGW, then perhaps there needs to be another opinion.

I don't want to prolong this but I do point out that being told to do my homework is a rather odd answer to the specific question of how one justifies tenth of a degree accuracies in charting global warming -- it is after all about one degree rise from 1880 to 2000 that is shown on a chart with error bars larger than a degree for each year -- when the primary measurements cannot possibly be accurate to better than a degree, and it requires credulity to give them a degree accuracy. I've seen sailors read thermometers, and I have seen the Santa Monica airport weather station and pictures of the same location when it was first established in a bean field. I do not believe those numbers are comparable. I do not know how one confidently acts on one tenth of a degree changes when there doesn't seem to be any justified measurements to a tenth of a degree. I also ask about heat transfer from the interior of the Earth to the biosphere and I seem to be given assumptions but few measurements. I do not know why I am supposed to read the physics report, which appears to mix theory and observation in ways that are fairly complex. It seems to me that those who want us to consent to trillions of dollars investment in combating AGW deserve explanations. Real ones, not the stuff of "An Inconvenient Truth" which does not seem to be so thoroughly based on science as it claims to be, and which was not denounced by the Believers when it first came out; the flaws were admitted only when found by others. That does not give me great confidence.

I believe that the burden of proof should be on those who assert this prophecy of -- of what? Of sea levels in many feet per century, or merely the continuation of a thousand year trend? That seems to change with the times and the spokespeople. Of temperatures? I saw as much enthusiasm from Margaret Meade and Stephen Schneider for preparing for cooling and the possible coming Ice Age for a while there. That concensus didn't last as long as AGW has but it was certainly there.

I would have said that science requires that those who question AGW be given some funding, not automatically rejected by "peer review" and then denounced because the took funding from oil companies, as if there were other sources.

And that's enough. I had not intended to extend this discussion; but I do not accept the assertion that I am that stupid.

The result was the following:

> I have not said I will not read it because some criticize it. I have
> said that I see no point in reading it since it is not trustworthy,

No, what you said was that you would not read it because (one of) its authors claimed that the executive summary did not accurately reflect the content. So SKIP THE EXECUTIVE SUMMARY. This is not an excuse for not doing your homework.

This wouldn't bother me so much, except it is EXACTLY what I see with all the various forms of deniers-- 911 deniers, relativity deniers, global warming deniers, even Maxwell's equation deniers. When you point them to actual references, they will always find some excuse or another to not actually learn anything about the science.

Yeah, somehow, there's always some really good reason that they don't want to learn anything about the science.

I'm sure that you will come up with another excuse for not reading it, though. They always do.

> I don't want to prolong this but I do point out that being told to do
> my homework is a rather odd answer to the specific question of how one
> justifies tenth of a degree accuracies in charting global warming --

Pointing to a reference that discusses your question is a "rather odd answer?" Why is that odd?

> ...I believe that the burden of proof should be on those who assert
> this

Since you categorically refuse to read any of the evidence, how is that even possible?

Now it may be a simple matter for a physicist to read a physics document -- we will have tomorrow a physicist's comment on the IPCC report -- but it is not really a simple matter for me. I have inspected the report and I saw no obvious answers to what I thought were fairly simple questions about data accuracies. The document http://www.ipcc.ch/publications_and_data/ar4/wg1/en/contents.html is very complex, very technical, and there is no obvious way to find out how measurements are taken or why weights are assigned; at least not obvious to me. I am not ignorant of mathematics  but I confess to having tried to find the parts of the document that describe the actual operations performed to get 1/10 degree accuracies in air and sea temperatures, and not being able to find them. You could make a career of reading that document; and since its authors have expressed a lack of confidence in the document's editors, it seems to me that we taxpayers, who are expected to pay for the billions that the policy recommendations would cost, are entitled to a simpler explanation.

So I suppose this is another case of "they always do" which means in effect that those who ask questions are not justified in asking for a better answer?  In any event, this is a good example of the attitudes I find among Believers. They want us to accept the theory and thus the colossal expenses involved, but the Believers have no obligation to provide any better explanation than http://www.ipcc.ch/publications_and_data/ar4/wg1/en/contents.html.

I really ought to end this: it's pretty clear that the defenders of AGW -- the Believers -- are not going to answer me other than to refer me to http://www.ipcc.ch/publications_and_data/ar4/wg1/en/contents.html, which would certainly use up more time than I have for the task.

But it would seem to me that those who demand billions have at least some obligation to give simpler and more easily read explanations. Of course they did: those were the summary and conclusions sections, which even the Believers now say are unreliable. But http://www.ipcc.ch/publications_and_data/ar4/wg1/en/contents.html is reliable and if you don't read that, then you have no choice but to pay up and be quiet.

Incidentally, the warming debate reopened over the subject of the War on Science, which supposedly is being waged by right wing extremists (the remarks of Rush Limbaugh were the precipitating event). I protested that the real war on science happens when science is misrepresented as the excuse for policies not actually supported by scientific evidence, and asked about how one gets 1/10 degree accuracies from data that is at best 1 degree accurate.  For those who want to see how all this started, see  http://www.jerrypournelle.com/
mail/2010/Q3/mail640.html#dialog and following. It will probably tell you more than you really wanted to know.

[This is a different discussion from the one a few weeks ago, although there is a lot of similarity.]

 

======================

I developed a mild infection from a blister, and no one thinks it is worth worrying about, but they did put me on some sulfa drugs that seem to be sapping energy and making me sleepy in the daytimes. It's hot in Los Angeles now and that doesn't help either. The above will have to do for today. I'll put up a bunch of mail now.

 

I do not know whether reminding people to be aware of the danger of breast cancer does a lot of good, but it might, and it certainly does no harm beyond inconveniencing some electrons.

==================

Dr Pournelle

"My point is the obvious one." http://www.jerrypournelle.com/view/2010/Q4/view643.html#Saturday

You are like Carl Friedrich Gauss. At least two doctoral dissertations were written on mathematics that Gauss passed off in his papers with ". . . from this, it is obvious that . . . follows." Obvious to Gauss but not to anyone else.

Please stop doing that. What is obvious to you -- who has a doctorate in political science and much experience in politics -- is opaque to me. Please tell me your point.

It's okay to treat me like an idiot. I've been treated worse. I lived.

Didn't mean to be obscure. The obvious point was that it is the duty of those who want hundreds of billions to be spent on their theories to convince others that their science is indeed science. I note they had no trouble producing An Inconvenient Truth, but once its flaws were pointed out they did not replace it with something convincing that used real data.

================

Correction:

Dear Jerry,

Westinghouse is owned by Toshiba, not Toyota.

Cheers,

Bob

Thorium as a power source <http://www.jerrypournelle.com/mail/
2010/Q4/mail643.html#Wednesday>  Chaos Manor Musings

China is building 25 Westinghouse design power plants. Westinghouse is now owned by Toyota. The US Nuclear regulators have not only not yet approved that design, but have yet even to consider it.

Robert

 Fixed now. Thanks.

================

 

 

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