Nuts, Fruits and Flakes: Objective Analysis of a Granola Congress

I confess that I am a bad American. Yes, I pay little attention to Congress. why? Because it seems to me little more than a storefront operation for the powers that count in America:  Big Pharma, military industry, Wall Street and so on. They make policy.  Congress just announces it. Nor do I much read the Constitution, a document in tatters that has little obvious connection to American life.

Recently however I found Senator Marco Rubio, a pseudo-Cuban from Miami, inveighing without detectable comprehension against RISC V and how we need to forbid American firms to collaborate with the Chinese in its development. Marco inveighs against Washington’s budgetary-pretextual  enemies du jour with the predictability of gravitation.

Anyway, here a unavoidable bit of tedhnoglop: RISC V is a sort of language, more correctly an Instruction Set Architecture, necessary to “write” semiconductor chips, just as English is a language for writing books.

The two overwhelmingly dominant ISAs are ARM and .x86, both controlled by America or by countries controlled by America. China, worried that Washington might ban their use, has turned to RISC V, which is open-source, like English. Anybody can use it. China does nothing underhanded by using it.  Rubio, not burdened with an unbearable weight of comprehension, or capacity for it, confuses the chips with the language used to design them. He thinks he is protecting American intellectual property. And so he promotes a policy he doesn’t understand, with effects he cannot foresee. Oh good.

Curious, I looked him up in the Wikipedia to see just what qualifications he might have for trying to talk about semiconductors. None. He is a lawyer. No mention of technical training.

How could this happen? Shouldn’t people influencing policy know what they are talking about?

Becoming more curious, I looked up the House Select Committee on China, with discouraging  results.

A bit of preamble.  China is a country of immense importance to the US. It has four times the American population and many more engineers. They are good engineers. China is an enormous market, the world’s foremost manufacturing power, and advances rapidly in technology.  For all of these reasons, Washington appears to be  preparing to start a shooting war. This being so, one would expect the committee to consist of…what?

If I were forming such a committee, I would want at least a half dozen members who could speak and read Chinese. I would raid elite universities for people with advanced degrees in Asian studies, Chinese history, and Chinese government and politics. I would find economists specializing in Asia. And I would have several people from the semiconductor industry.

In the Wikipedia I went through the entire committee, one by one, paying special attention to the section Early Life and Education. Some members were more impressive than I had expected, a couple of former Marines with real combat experience, a woman who went through the Naval Academy and served as a helicopter pilot. A few were complete duds. But one word never appeared:


The committee is a Sino-Asian wasteland, comprehensively unfit to be in the same building with a China policy. Check for yourself.

Why do we have such blank slates in a crucial committee? For many reasons. One is that representative democracy is a poor way to govern a modern country. An authoritarian government can appoint committees competent to do whatever they are supposed to do. It can inaugurate a policy in the expectation that it won’t change with the next election. Think China and high-speed rail. Our approximation of democracy cannot do this.

In practice we are ruled by provincial lawyers chosen in popularity contests. People selected  with no regard for ability will be of little use in governing a fantastically complex techno-industrial society.  Elections select  people who are good at getting elected. Often they are good at nothing else, or not good at the assignments they are given. Where in Congress do you find people who speak Mandarin?

Perhaps as bad, anyone who has known Congressmen can confirm that they are faintly unpleasant, always calculating the spin, estimating press coverage, looking over your shoulder for the next name tag. They are manipulative, resembling Amway salesmen, always thinking in terms of the next election.

Further, American democracy isn’t one. To be elected a candidate needs support of one party or the other. These choose predictable candidates who will perform the primary political  functions, namely to protect Wall Street, Israel, the big corporations, and the military budget. You and I get to choose only the candidates the parties allow us to choose. The real reason for the bipartisan loathing for Trump is that he wasn’t vetted in the usual manner and isn’t beholden to the system. He might do anything, such as ending the wars.

Consequently American government just doesn’t work. Can anyone believe that Joe and Kamala, second-rate lawyers both, should govern a nuclear-armed country of 330 million? Joe was elected because he wasn’t Trump, Kamala for being black, Trump for not being part of the reigning elites. Joe and Kamala aren’t bright enough for the job. Trump and Joe are under investigation for corruption. This our system produces.


No requirement exists that candidates be intelligent. Americans resent the intelligent, this being an expression of the resentment of the superior that underlies society. We want jes’ folks. No pointy-headed intellectuals need apply. We get what we want.

Many in electoral politics seem actual freaks or nut jobs. As a possible Presidential candidate we have, God save the mark, the pathologically aggressive Nikki Haley, a squalling she-ass who, apparently doubting her manhood, wants to attack some country, any country. Of the Palestinians she says, “Finish them! Finish them!” An explosively excitable President who wants to kill 2.3 million people?


Decisions urged by the equivalent of carney barkers can have serious consequences. Lindsey Graham, who sounds like an escapee from Gone With The Wind, seriously wants to bomb Iranian refineries. This sort of thinking, if so it may be called, is common in a Washington of minor minds with little in them.

Bomb Iran? What fun. Probable consequences: In short order several tankers in the Gulf would be ablaze. Thereafter no tankers would enter. Half the world gets its oil from the Gulf, for example Japan at (I think) ninety percent. In  No exist strategy, no Plan B. Business as usual.a few days countries are screaming for petroleum. Many American bases are in easy range of Iran’s many and accurate missiles. So is Israel. Other oil facilities around the Gulf get hit, aggravating the problem. Iran then hits Saudi desalination plants that produce around half of the country’s drinking water. Biden “the ruble is rubble” says confidently that the Navy will take out the antiship missiles in a few days and, six weeks later, it hasn’t.

I need a drink. The Brew House is a half mile down the lakefront. News at eleven.

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Comments 37

  • Good, as is your custom!
    Consider: Congress Critters do not write the laws they pass. Staff does that. Critters might change, but a lot of staff remains in place. Pelosi’s famous ‘pass this bill so we can read it’ is an example of this process. She was the Head Critter, with no idea what was in the bill. Read some of the bills on-line at the GOV sites. Scary stuff. A recent bill started by renaming a Post Office, then moved on the the main topic. You can’t follow many bills – they are ‘delete a period, add a comma and this sentence’ style.
    Rubio might be screaming about RISC – but someone fed him the lines. Industry? Staff? A bit of both?
    It is to weep.

  • Good article Fred!

    “representative democracy is a poor way to govern a modern country” Very true. Our government has failed, as seen in a game-theory perspective, as evidence by the complete lack of trust and cooperation among these “representatives.” Even if they cooperated, they lack the skills to govern an advanced nation. You’re prescription is dead on right, Fred.

    The Instruction Set Architecture (ISA) is the main bottleneck in semiconductor advancement. By focusing optimization solely on instruction clock rates and pipeline/architecture optimization, as semiconductor companies have been doing with RISC architectures for several decades, they inadvertently take away the ability to “determinably” model the processor, for both instruction-level simulation and for deriving an optimal ISA from a higher-level language or model, especially a mathematical auto-code generator. Presently, ISAs are derived bottoms up, following historical practice by semiconductor companies. This has changed as easy SoC tools allow easy generation of custom processors in ASICs and FPGAs, in graphical design tools that allow customizable processors . As these tools evolve away from the EE design to higher levels of abstraction, they will eventually allow derivation of optimal ISAs and processor architecturs directly from the abstracted application model or higher level language. Someday, it will evolve into a full blown science. We’re still in the horse and buggy days of processors.

  • Sometimes Fred makes sober sense. Sometimes Fred fulminates and shouts at clouds. At others, he waxes poetic and speaks to the best of our natures, moreso in the past. Lately, sadly, it is the impotent vitriol of the aging iconclast, a trait I sadly share. I think we should all just retire to the closest cantina and drink.

  • I believe RISC stands for Reduced Instruction Set Computing.
    The fewer instructions in the set of commands, the faster the processor runs.
    It does mean you need more instructions to do a specific task, so it is a trade off, with RISC usually the better choice.

    • Correct! RISC is a feature of a microprocessor’s design that facilitates processing speed at the expense of making programming somewhat more tedious. Processors featuring non-RISC instruction sets have more fully featured operation codes, but these more powerful features require more CPU cycles to operate, and thus cause the overall processor to run a bit slower depending on the actual program. It’s like the difference between having one command being able to calculate a percentage vs. having to manually calculate that percentage by doing the division first and then running a separate instruction to multiply the result by 100. The RISC approach requires the manual type of calculation, the non-RISC approach implements the more sophisticated one-shot command, but under the hood it’s doing more work. Doubtless Marco Rubio has no freaking clue how any of that works and shouldn’t be regulating it based on a dumbed down explanation like the one I just gave. That sort of thing should go to actual computer scientists and software engineers, who should be unfettered by the need to make it understandable to a lawyer in making their recommendations. Good f*ing luck with that, though.

      • Thanks! I was hoping someone set Fred straight on what RISC actually is. Obviously, Fred should not be ruminating on computer system architecture either.

    • That’s not RISC-V which is a different term. Please inform yourself before posting something unrelated to topic. Btw. Fred as an astonishing comprehension of terms related to semiconductor IP.

  • Representative Democracy is actually a good thing. Authoritarian government are not. Red China is something of an Anomaly. They embrace free market principles, but as a matter of policy, not law, which means it can be changed in no time at all. Look at prior authoritarian governments and you will see what they turn into.

  • “An authoritarian government can appoint committees competent to do whatever they are supposed to do” sounds nice until you get a nutjob in the hot seat or, less spectacular but just as effective, the politics and the economy get tied into knots by central planning gone awry.

    Arguably this is the case in China today. Every year the Chinese set a GDP target and reach it (or close), but at the cost of extensive and growing malinvestment, particularly in real estate. Right now builders are going bankrupt and putting the financial system at risk because a lot of people’s savings is tied up in real estate. The CCP is also busy steering bank credit to where it likes best (a system similar to the one that soured in Japan) and smacking down entrepreneurs who might grow too big for their britches.

    Undoing this continental-sized mess will be politically tricky, especially in an authoritatian system with shaky succession rules. An overly abrupt slowdown may cost Xi Jinping his head–literally. But the economic losses are irreversible and will have to be absorbed, or things will come crashing down. It wouldn’t be the first time that Chinese society exploded.

    In contrast the American system is more resilient. Entrepreneurship and risk-taking are encouraged and bankruptcies circumscribe losses. All things considered, what happens in Palo Alto or Boca Chica matters way more than the fumblings in Washington.

    Mencken wrote wonderfully about the sheer ugliness of American democracy, with its panoply of demagogues, opportunists and outright psychopaths, but this system is, as they say, the worst except for all the others. Even this heap of crassness and sheer stupidity beats pogroms, gulags, long marches and suchlike horrors.

    • ‘In contrast the American system is more resilient. Entrepreneurship and risk-taking are encouraged and bankruptcies circumscribe losses.’

      Well, it is supposed to be this way…

    • The last sentence sums it up beautifully.
      Agree about your assessment. Up to a point, an authoritarian system has the advantage that it can do what it wants. The problem is, it may not know whether what it wants is the best thing. And a chiliastic government that thinks it is the world’s best will not take kindly to mistakes or failures. China appears yo be heading for rocky times, what with financial problems, a real estate bubble, and a heavy dependence on exports. Funny, but Japan went the same way, and seems to be in a more or less permanent semi-recession now.

  • There is another side of the China-is-wonderful coin. The litany of faults is long, as is ours.
    Congress? Great daggers! Not quite into the heart of the beast, but close. A ceremonial remnant of democracy that doesn’t even give token recognition to the document that created them. Its members’ energy is consumed raising money for themselves, repeating approved talking points, doing bidding of lobbyists and finding people to blame and reason for not doing their job. I am just getting started, but even if I did go on, any other citizen could add to my list.

  • It appears to me that the federal state has become a fully corrupted and criminal enterprise.
    Rather than attempting to reform it, a better solution might be to abandon the federal system and return to a decentralized confederation of sovereign, independent states (as was originally envisaged and formed). Each state would appoint member(s) to a common governing body, whose purpose would be coordination and regulation of interstate interactions and relations. Such powers might include implementation and regulation of a common currency, common defense, commercial law, trade, and transportation – plus any other activity agreed to and mutually beneficial to the several states.

  • Yes, Fred, we tend to elect idiots. But what other way is there? Of course money talks and candidates either have to be rich like Michael Bloomberg or backed by deep pockets donors.

    I would not want to copy China’s government, which probably murdered more people than any in history.

  • Another great read, Fred. Or is it another great Reed, Fred? :=)

    All kidding aside, I fully expect chaos most everywhere in the USA by the middle of next summer. There are 3 or 4 separate trends, all of which “cannot go on forever”, which will have to stop going on some time. Next summer we are expected to have our quadrennial Major Political Party Nominating Conventions, followed by a 3- or 4-month long campaign. It is impossible to predict what either party will be like one year from now, except that everything will be much worse. But I feel fairly safe in predicting the rise of small, local self-appointed peace-keepers (formerly called Vigilance Committees, e.g.) in many remote places. Big, crowded inner cities could easily become 100% unlivable for everyone there.

    It is definitely time to stock up on 2nd Amendment paraphernalia.

    I do not believe everything I see in the Bible, but this verse is absolutely true in all history in all places, and its veracity has nothing to do with its being in the Bible: “Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil.” (Ecclesiastes 8:11) All human history proves this verse true. And all future human history will continue to prove it true.

  • We do seem to be at 10,000ft. on the proverbial airplane piloted by lunatics and idiots who possess not a shred of perspective, or even self-control.

  • Fred: One doesn’t have to be an engineer or a “Rocket Scientist” to know that US technology has helped Red China Leap Frog tech. Red China isn’t a friend of the West. Red China has hacked it’s way into Pentagon data bases (in particular the security applications of over a million DoD Civilians.)

    The Senator is right to want to restrict tech transfer to Red China.

  • C’mon, Fred. We aren’t ruled by that pack of fools and charlatans in Washington. We are ruled by a cesspool of immensely wealthy monsters who own those fools. It doesn’t much matter what is in those laws. They certainly aren’t written by the Bozos whose names adorn them. They are written by the best shysters money can buy, each and every one crafted to relieve taxpayers of the maximum amount. The clink of the gold and the hum of the bankers computer is what it’s ALL about. All the rest iis a charade for the schmucks.

  • A lot of what you say about the politicians in America is true, especially Dementia Joey and Cackles.

    However, I disagree with one thing you said:
    “An AUTHORITARIAN government can appoint committees competent to do whatever they are supposed to do.”

    Yeah, but you have ZERO freedom in China (N.K., Iran, etc., etc.) Oh yeah… In North Vietnam too (and for 50 years, the South too). Remember that place?!?!

  • “An authoritarian government can appoint committees competent to do whatever they are supposed to do.” An authoritarian government can also slap gadflies like you into prison, appoint morons because they’re in good political standing (competence not being nearly as important), casually murder or torture a few million of their citizens, and wreck their economy – as they ALWAYS have – through centralized control with no feedback.

    Forgot all of your past century’s history, Fred? Let me remind you: Hitler made the trains run on time.

  • RISC is the operating system for government- Repeated Ingenuity Suckering Constituents.
    The overlords promote policies they don’t understand, with effects an unintended consequences they cannot foresee. It is the name of the game.

    As far as a “representative government” goes the joke is on us. Senators “represent” between 20 million people each (CA), and 300,000 (WY). On the House side it is about 760,000 each. Oh yeah, that’s representation, we are all on a first name basis and I have their personal cell phone numbers on my friends list.
    The Constitution originally said “The Number of Representatives shall not exceed one for every thirty Thousand…”, so about 10,000 in the House of Representatives now? Still shitty representation, but my, my, what fun that would be!

    • Old Jarhead wrote ““The Number of Representatives shall not exceed one for every thirty Thousand…”, so about 10,000 in the House of Representatives now? Still shitty representation, but my, my, what fun that would be!”

      Yes, that would be big fun! [lol]

  • […] Nuts, Fruits and Flakes: Objective Analysis of a Granola Congress, by Fred Reed […]

  • “We get what we want.”
    I don’t know who the “we” he refers to are, but I’m not one of them. I voted for Ron Paul in ’88, my first election, because I thought neither Bush nor Dukakis was fit for the job. I still believe I was correct. I thought Dr. Paul sounded like he agreed with Jefferson that “the government that governs best is the government that governs least”. I never wanted to be “governed” at all. I never thought any other human being had any right to rule over me. Since then, I have maintained a perfect record of voting for candidates who came in 3rd or worse. No, Fred, not all of us get anything near what we want.

  • So Mr.Shumway thinks Bush wasn’t qualified (“fit”) to be President. One can argue how good a president Bush was or wasn’t. That said, just from memory, and in no special order, Bush served as a Navy combat pilot, got an Economics degree from Yale, when Yale wasn’t the woke garbage pile it is today, worked in the oil industry, was ambassador to the UN and to China, head of the CIA, and of course, Reagan’s VP for eight years. I find it difficult to think of a more qualified person to be president. Bush was an honest, ethical man as well.

    He likely lost the presidency to Clinton, because of Perot and because of the historically mild recession caused by SH’s invasion of Kuwait. If Bush’s CV didn’t qualify him to be president, Mr. Shumway, who do you think was fit to be president?

    • Ron Paul.
      I know of the teenage George Bush’s courageous actions in WWII. Being a Navy combat pilot was a great thing, but how does that qualify a man for an executive/administrative position? Different skill set. Nobody disputed Mickey Mantle’s baseball talent, but that did not make him qualified to run a restaurant. He inadvertently proved that. Head of the CIA? A crooked, violent outfit from the beginning, engaged in illegal activities the world over, as well as more domestic illegal activity today. I agree he lost because of Perot. I agree that a second Bush term would have been preferable to the traitor/rapist/murderer Clinton. And I noticed you did not disagree with me about Dukakis. 🙂

      • ‘I know of the teenage George Bush’s courageous actions in WWII. Being a Navy combat pilot was a great thing, but how does that qualify a man for an executive/administrative position?’

        Well, since the President is CINC, someone with military experience is not a bad idea?
        As an Officer, there are leadership skills which go with it.

        ‘Nobody disputed Mickey Mantle’s baseball talent, but that did not make him qualified to run a restaurant.’

        But he might be a good baseball commissioner.

  • pseudo Cuban my ass you are pseudo American

  • As to law passed by the CONgress; no matter what the title each carries the same penultimate phrase “…and for other purposes.”

    Believe none and continue cleaning & oiling.

  • When I was in College, I had a roommate from Hong Kong. He said Red China is a country with many languages as English has dialects. Has this changed? Is the official language of Red China Mandarin, now? Not, say, Cantonese?

    • Mandarin is becoming the dominate language in China. Cantonese was the dominate language in China’s industrial and cultural center in the Pearl River Delta that encompasses old Canton (now called Guangzhou), Hong Kong, Toisan, and the many other very large cities. If you travel by car the 100 miles between Hong Kong and Guangzhou, you’ll be shocked. It is nearly all factories along the entire route. Most of those “made in China” tags on goods you buy come from these factories. 30 years ago, it was all farmland and villages. The lack of mobility kept the dialects of Cantonese so distinct, nearby villages could barely speak to one another. Today, those dialects and languages are disappearing because of the influx of workers to this industrial area. My wife’s parents speak Toisan (a variant of Cantonese) as do nearly all Chinese who came to America in the 1850s – 1950s. Yet, when they went back to China to visit, they had trouble speaking in their own village, because the old language was disappearing.

      That’ happening all across China. Easy mobility is killing off thousands of dialects and languages across China. It’s no different in Europe. English is rapidly replacing all the European languages. When I visited Denmark, Sweden, Norway, and northern Germany, shop names, billboards, signs , etc. were mostly in English. A 30 year old Danish woman to whom we spoke said her work environment is young, so everyone speaks English. Among friends, they mostly speak English but some Danish. Only when she talks to her parents or older Danes does she speak pure Danish. Europe really isn’t Europe anymore — its cities are International cities. In China, old China has largely disappeared.

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