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Monday, March 5, 2007

This is going to be a busy day. I still have tomorrow's installment of Chaos Manor Reviews to get done. It's Monday meaning I have to roll over View and Mail. There's a lot of news that should get comments; and Niven has taken a short pass through Inferno meaning I need to merge his version and mine. And I managed to get some fiction done Saturday, I am eager to get at it today, but I have an appointment this afternoon right in the middle of my prime writing time.

I don't think I will get it all done.

I did manage to do a bit more work on the short comment I had about The Jesus Tomb; rather than start over, I added a bit to what I wrote yesterday. I hope that will count.

There's a lot more gas about Global Warming, but none of it causes me to change my view: yes, the Earth is warming, as apparently is the rest of the Solar System. The warming trend is hardly alarming: we have had warmer periods in historical times including the Medieval Warm Period. Yes, CO2 levels are rising, and since warm water holds less dissolved gas than cold water, any trend that warms the seas will accelerate that. The levels are high, but we don't really know the effect -- CO2 isn't a very efficient greenhouse gas. Water vapor is.

As the seas rise the surface areas become larger; this increases evaporation, which increases water vapor. Water vapor is a rather efficient greenhouse gas. Higher water vapor content usually means more clouds. Clouds are bright and tend to reflect received sunlight, reducing the insolation reaching the Earth. Models reflecting (no pun intended) this are in a very primitive stage and are not incorporated into the computer models that predict doom (doom now being 17 inches of sea level rise rather than Al Gore's 17 feet).

Enough clouds can produce cooling trends.

Ice ages are far more destructive than periods like the Medieval Warm (many say we should be so lucky as to get something like the Medieval Warm). The polar bears seem to have survived the Medieval Warm (proof: there are polar bears).

We really don't know enough about all this, and we really ought to be doing more studies: but the allocation of study funding should NOT be in the hands of the "consensus" mob who tend to act like thugs. There needs to be as least some funding of those who question the "consensus".

For more, see mail.

=======

On the Walter Reed Mess

One thing concerns me about the Walter Reed mess:

If conditions were so awful, where were the Inspector Generals? Where was the Congress? True, the Republicans tend to be team players, but I guarantee that if McCain's people had got constituent mail complaining about conditions at Walter Reed or Bethesda Naval, there would have been a staffer over there within minutes. For that matter, Mr. Waxman and other senior Democrats have staff and presumably read constituent mail.

Every radio commentator who can claim veteran status has waxed eloquent and angry over all this -- but I am wondering just what is the situation here? It is not as if these hospitals are closed; it is not as if there are no channels of communication to the Congress. It is not as if there were no Inspector Generals. 

I do not know what is going on there.  I do point out that long ago before we invaded Iraq I pointed out that one consequence of this would be many more invalids, many more pensioned veterans; that the costs of war are larger than they used to be precisely because our medical care is so much better. Soldiers live through wounds that would have killed any during WW II or Korea, or even Viet Nam; and those invalided soldiers add enormously to the long term costs of modern war. It is always something to take into account before going to war.

Of course no one listened.

It was entirely predictable that the requirements for  long term invalid care would greatly increase as a result of war in the desert. Anyone with half a brain could have predicted it, and many of us did; I take no great credit for seeing that one coming. But it does appear that although this was predictable, there wasn't much done about it.

And that, I think, is the real lesson to be learned here.

==

As I listen to the reports on Walter Reed and the VA, I have become convinced of something we all know: this is bureaucracy in action, and the Iron Law prevails. The reason military bureaucracies are less subject to the Iron Law is War. A military that goes a long time without war will be as clogged with Peter Principle incompetents as any other. War tends to clean them out. It takes longer in the non-combat parts of the military system, but eventually it reaches them too. Bureaucracies generally react in the same way: it's the "reverse Yak" response. When there is danger to a herd of Yaks, the older Yaks stand in a circle with their horns out, with the young and females inside the circle. In decaying bureaucracies, the reaction to danger is the opposite: the older Yaks gore the younger ones, then run off to leave the wounded, the inexperienced, and the females to the mercy of the wolf pack.

The military bureaucracy was unable to cope with the -- predictable -- heavy load of new wounded. When the cases began to flow in, the system was overwhelmed, and the bureaucracy reacted predictably: the older ones cut and run hoping to reach retirement before anything happened. Sticking your neck out is a good way to get it cut off. Don't make waves.

And over time it gets worse, until the newspapers discover wounded being kept in disgusting conditions in overcrowded facilities. Now it has hit the fan.

Many of us tried to point out that overcrowding of the long term care facilities would be an inevitable consequence of the invasion of Iraq. Apparently no one wanted to listen.

See also Francis Hamit in mail

===========

For those interested in getting in on my racket, Writers of the Future can be important. Galaxy Press, which publishes the WOTF books, will tell you about it:

http://www.writersofthefuture.com/cat/wofcatn.htm

should be interesting. And for course there's always http://www.jerrypournelle.com/slowchange/myjob.html

 

 

 

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Tuesday, March 6, 2007   

  I'm almost caught up.

I hope.

Tip for the day: never speak to any FBI official or other Federal investigator unless subpoenaed and under oath. Don't even tell them the time of day or where you were five minutes ago. Ask Martha Stewart for details.

It used to be we thought of "our police" and "our FBI." These are different times. They like to play gotcha now.

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

Buckley: My friend, the Watergate conspirator.

http://www.latimes.com/news/printedition/
opinion/la-op-buckley4mar04,1,1820453.story

- Roland Dobbins

There is a very great deal more to this than appears. Fortunately, I don't know much of it.

My "Washington Career" was cut short (actually it never quite began) when Nixon's advisors decided that I wasn't a team player. This turned out to be a good thing: I suppose we would have sold this house and moved to DC had they not intervened. And it certainly would not have worked out in Washington.

As I said, I was fortunate that "the Germans" did not trust me to be a "team player".

I certainly would not have been a "team player" regarding idiocies like trying to bug the Democratic National Committee headquarters. Leave ethics aside: it was stupid. In the first place, I can't understand what they expected to learn. I have managed political campaigns, and I never for one moment assumed that my offices were not bugged -- indeed I had an old Company friend go over one office we had been loaned, and they found 11 devices including an old carbon microphone. The office was kept by a real estate office to be loaned to campaigns they approved of (as a donation) and apparently had been the target of bugs for twenty years and more. My friend warned me, and I agreed, that I shouldn't assume they'd got all of them, and I told my staff that nothing was to be said in those offices that we would regret seeing in the LA Times the next day...

And I cannot conceive of being a "team player" involved in the assassination of a journalist. Assassination as a weapon in the Cold War I could understand; Eisenhower ordered the assassination of Russian officers in the captive nations (but not in the USSR itself) as retaliation for the Russian downing of the RB-47, and special teams took out such people as the commandant of the Red Army garrison in Sofia. The purpose was to make the Soviets understand that some moves were off limits and would not be tolerated, and the general consensus is that Eisenhower put that message across. This is, I would say, a legitimate use of assassination by a Republic.

A domestic conspiracy to assassinate a journalist -- this comment of Buckley's is the first I have heard of it -- is way beyond the limits. Roosevelt allowed the Brits to assassinate US political leaders in the run-up to World War II (read A Man Called Intrepid for a tiny look behind the curtain), and turned a blind eye to the murder of Carlo Tresca. Lincoln imprisoned a number of Copperheads without trial and allowed the military to execute some of them out of hand, but that was during a real shooting Civil War.  Conspiracy to knock off a prominent journalist is far beyond all that.

I only met Nixon a couple of times. I knew people who worked with him. Every one of those I knew well vanished from his administration, some of them very quickly. As one of my friends who did go to the Executive Office of the President told me, "This isn't the way it was supposed to be at all."

I will say that E. Howard Hunt has always had a reputation for being fanciful and embellishing his reports with speculation and opinion. On the other hand, I think I met him precisely once for five minutes. Buckley knew him well; and of course there is a fairly strong bond between an operative and his case officer.  I have considerable confidence in Bill Buckley. What I can't understand is why he would put such a shocking detail in the introduction to a book.

===

In fooling around (mostly to avoid work) I came across a short disquisition I wrote in 1999 about The Strategy of Technology and Stefan T. Possony, one of the great men of the last century. It's not much out of date except that we now have a pdf copy of the book for sale. I will repeat this on the Ides of March, which is Steve's birthday. It may be worth your attention.

Strategy of Technology in pdf format:

  =========

Education, Training, and degrees

Jerry - MIT has opened up their courseware for anyone who wants to learn what you learn there (minus what you learn from the interaction, labs, etc) - http://ocw.mit.edu/index.html 

Also note that the project is funded by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation -

No degree - but then again, which is more important: the piece of paper or the knowledge? Of course, you miss the interaction with the professors, the lab work (a key part of MIT education), the collaboration with fellow students, etc. But, you get the basis of the material.

Some words from MIT (their Engineering E-newsletter) on OCW (note a) the non-traditional (10 year olds! & building better canopies) education uses, and b) the possibility of a secondary education version of OCW):

OpenCourseWare

OCW (http://ocw.mit.edu/index.html)  provides the MIT faculty's teaching materials for almost all of MIT's undergraduate and graduate courses on the Web, free of charge, to any user anywhere in the world. Five years after MIT announced OCW, 1,550 MIT courses, nearly a third in engineering alone, are now available online. Those materials, including those on translation sites, currently attract more than 1.2 million monthly visits and have received over one billion hits.

With plans to offer materials from 1,800 MIT courses by 2008, OCW has contributed to higher education in remarkable ways. [See impact statistics cited in our last e-newsletter (http://web.mit.edu/engineering/enews/vol3no6-feature.html) .] We had expected that OCW would be a valuable resource for university educators including our own faculty at MIT. However, the use has far exceeded our wildest imagination, and the facts and figures only begin to tell the story. As examples, the chairman of a high school science department in Toms River, New Jersey, now utilizes OCW materials and the video lectures of MIT Professor Walter Lewin about electricity and magnetism to excite his students about physics. Kenn Magnum, a high school computer science teacher in Chandler, Arizona, has utilized materials from several OCW computer science courses to educate himself and his students. With more than 100 course offerings from the MIT Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, Magnum uses MIT OCW as an invaluable professional development tool for his after-school Artificial Intelligence Club. In Colorado, a father is using the lectures and course materials of noted MIT mathematics professor Gilbert Strang to teach his 10- and 12-year-old daughters. Captain Kevin Gannon, a Leadership Trainer at the U.S. Navy's Southwest Regional Maintenance Center at the San Diego Naval Station, has used OCW materials to train the 3,000 sailors and civilians under his command; and VR Bill Humes, a U.S. Navy Aerospace Engineer and Researcher at Patuxent River Naval Air Station in Maryland, has made fighter canopies stronger and safer using information from the site.

We have hundreds of stories from around the U.S. (and the world) about the impact OCW is having. The staggering outpouring of positive responses indicates that technology can make a difference, a big difference. At MIT, we have demonstrated that the OpenCourseWare model is an affordable and accessible way to transform education, and our global audiences of users hold MIT accountable to create and share high-quality materials. Judging by our experience working with and talking to users from around the world, we believe there are tremendous positive implications to open sharing of educational materials. Some of us at MIT are now considering the possibility of creating a version of OCW for secondary education that would help close the achievement gap in science and engineering education in the United States that concerns us all.

------- jeff

So long as we have Affirmative Action Laws I fear that the credentials are FAR MORE IMPORTANT than the knowledge. That does not detract from the importance of this announcement. Moreover, other degree granting institutions can make use of the materials too.

What's needed is some way to certify credentials that doesn't involve the expense of going to a modern university. We need a system that will do that: that will allow people to learn something, get certification that they know it, and have that count when the racial profilers count up the quotas in employment.

Imagine a company that hired someone who can show he has done all the work of an MIT degree, but does not have the paper, in preference to a minority graduate of Podunk Junior College who has a certificate. The company would be sued into bankruptcy.

I ought to work this into a novel about the near future. And see mail

 

 

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Wednesday,  March 7, 2007

Peter Glaskowsky tells me

Subject: Howard Hunt and Jack Anderson

The plan for the assassination of Jack Anderson was described many years ago by G. Gordon Liddy in his book _Will_, so Hunt and Buckley probably thought nothing of bringing it up again.

_Will_ was a very interesting book, and all true as far as I know. It's worth a read if you haven't read it yet, and can still find a copy. Probably Alibris has it.

. png

I confess I never read that book. I read few books about Watergate, being involved in other things at the time. (At least I wasn't part of the National Security Council when it happened!) The few I did read never mentioned this. I am a bit astonished that there wasn't a lot more furor over a plot to assassinate a journalist. I suppose this does go a way to explain the enormous contempt for Nixon, although it is not clear to me from any of this that Nixon was aware of such a plot; I can see "the Germans" and some of the others coming up with some such scheme out of misguided loyalty. It's even more stupid than trying to bug Larry O'Brien's office: there's little upside and big downside.

Everything I find out about Nixon's White House makes me happier that I lost my appointment before it actually happened.

==========

The media goes mad. Plame was never a covert agent, there was no crime in "exposing" her as a CIA employee, and there was never need for an investigation in the first place. Wilson is a liar and the truth is not in him, and he gets rich.

I am disgusted by all this. And it reads like an episode of Rome.

The WSJ agrees with you

" "Unless your client is in a situation where not testifying will cause them to lose their livelihood, and unless you're certain of what the facts are," there's no reason people under suspicion should talk with authorities, says Marvin Pickholz, a former Securities and Exchange Commission enforcement chief, now at Akerman Senterfitt in New York. "Your best hope is to say nothing," he says. "

(practicing attorney)

It is a sad situation, and reads like an episode of Rome. I don't suppose I will live to see actual proscriptions, but perhaps you will.

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

If you haven't seen http://www.jerrypournelle.com/reviews/books.htm it's another feature of this place that's often forgotten including by me. I'll have to update it some time when I get time. To get time I need more subscriptions. If you haven't subscribed this is a good time to do it.

 

 

 

 

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Thursday,  March 8, 2007

For an interesting story:

http://www.opinionjournal.com/
editorial/feature.html?id=110009758

Novak: A Verdict on the Wilson Affair.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/
content/article/2007/03/07/AR2007030702045_pf.html

- Roland Dobbins

I doubt Bush's people have the courage to issue a pardon. I haven't seen a lot of courage from any of them. Of course their Democrat counterparts haven't been outstanding either.

We have neither Caesars nor Catos. We have no Ciceros, although Cicero did make speeches about people like those who dominate our political scene today.

The remedy is to take most of this usurped power away from Washington and return it to the states. Most of them will foul it up thoroughly, but a few may actually compete in providing liberty and minding their own business.

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

Of course States can be tyrannical too:

New Jersey Judge Orders Penal Charges Against Mom for Home-Schooling

http://www.lifesite.net/ldn/2007/mar/07030703.html 

It isnít just in Germany now.

Al Perrella

===

 

 

 

 

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FridayMarch 9, 2007

Engaging Iran

From today's Daily Diatribe:

So it's now official. Ali Resa Asgari, 63, a general in the elite Revolutionary Guards and former Deputy Defense Minister has defected to the West, specifically the United States. It was well planned. He traveled to Turkey with his family, never checked in, and found his way to the US. The Times of London has a write-up with an estimate of his intelligence value. He resigned as Deputy Defense Minister in 2005, so he can't be quite as far out of the loop as the Iranian government is trying to make out.

I don't think we can prevent Iran from getting a small number of nuclear weapons. There are just too many fissionables for sale out there, and Iran has both the money and the engineering expertise to acquire the materials and make weapons. Uranium enrichment is an expensive way to go if you want weapons grade fissionables. It can also be messy, as the inhabitants of Richland, Washington and other places can tell you.

Enrichment to high grade fuel status is not as expensive and is decidedly less messy.  Nuclear fuel enrichment as opposed to selling oil and buying nuclear fuel, or simply gearing your country to burning petroleum products as a primary source of heat is an economic decision. On purely economic grounds, a country with lots of oil wells might decide to go either way depending in part on how much of the capital costs of nuclear enrichment you have already paid. As a political decision, any country that is included in the Axis of Evil as defined by the President of the United States would find possession of at least a few nuclear weapons highly attractive; and of course any regime accused of being Evil by the Emperor should be desperate to get and demonstrate some bombs and do that fast. The lesson taught when Saddam Hussein turned out NOT to have weapons of mass destruction can hardly have been lost on either Iran or North Korea.

The world has made it very clear to dictators: get nukes and get them fast, and never let go, never retire. If you don't have nukes you can be invaded on the will of the President and his advisors. If you retire or let go of power, even if you establish a democratic regime on the way out, you will be hounded for the rest of your life and you will probably die in captivity if you are not executed. No one clever enough to become a dictator is likely to be stupid enough not to have observed all this.

As to policy regarding Iran, time is very much on our side. The West's cultural weapons of mass destruction are doing their work in Iran and doing it well. We recently heard General John Custer telling us how al Qaeda and other such outfits use the Internet to recruit suicide bombers and other members. It all sounded grim, but what that really says is that Internet access is growing: potential suicide bombers are using the Internet.

If the West can't manage to win in the war of ideas: if we can't put on a better show, and demonstrate that here and now you can live in a world of blue jeans, rock and roll, rock stars, wristwatches, jewelry, pretty girls, careers for girls, pretty clothes for girls, freedom for women to drive cars and go shopping, education for everyone, birth control -- well you get the idea -- if we can't make our real world more attractive than a place where you get 71 unconsulted virgins for blowing yourself up, then we're really in bad shape. Radical Islam and the culture death shouldn't be more attractive to young people than what we can offer.

Of course we aren't trying to win that way. The West's intellectuals compete with each other to tell the world what a rotten place it it, how AmeriKKKa is dangerous and needs to be brought down, (We don't like this world of ours! Bring it down! Bring it down!) are feeding al Qaeda some of their best lines.

And if using our cultural weapons of mass destruction to seduce our enemies into a life of material plenty and somewhat over regulated liberty won't do it, we can turn loose the Gospels and the Good News. Christianity once thrived in many of the places where the Muslims get their suicide recruits, and it was only replaced by the threat of Islam or the sword; indeed in many places even that was insufficient.

But I sure don't see us fighting much on those fronts.

* * *

Related to the above I got this mail today:

Subject: States Using New Powers?

Dear Jerry,

Do you really believe that any of the states would use additional powers any more intelligently or kindly than the Feds? When they passed seat belt laws and motorcycle helmet laws that was proof positive that fascism was the rule and not the exception.

Tom Kunich

 

The point of Federalism and leaving such matters to the States is that some will go one way, some another. Some will have enormous inheritance taxes, some will have none. Some may even try self government if freed from Federal interference and "incentives". The more local such laws are, the better. This was the original scheme of the Framers, who were quite aware that government and bureaucracy tends to creep and grow and take over more and more of people's lives. The working of Pournelle's Iron Law of Bureaucracy sees to that.

The point of localism is that there will be pockets of freedom, and those tend to show by example that there are alternatives to the Nanny State and bureaucratic control of people's lives.

Incidentally, anyone who equates seat belts and motorcycle helmets and the other nuisances of the Nanny State with Fascism doesn't know much about Fascism; alas, much of our intellectual class, knowing no history that didn't come from the History Channel (if that much), seems to believe this sort of thing. Actually don't believe it: I doubt that Mr. Kunich actually equates requiring child seats in cars with concentration camps and "Everything for the State; nothing against the State" and other such Fascist ideals; but they act as if they believe it.

== ==

POSSIBLY A WARNING

Subject: Drudge Malware Priority 

Jerry,

FYI someone has apparently tried to embed a malware payload in one of the items Drudge has linked (www.drudgereport.com <http://www.drudgereport.com>  ) , and it is currently blocked from the .mil domain. This may require more general dissemination. I have no further information.

J.

========

 

 

 

 

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Saturday, March 10, 2007

Bad Rye and the Salem Witches.

http://www.damninteresting.com/?p=586

- Roland Dobbins

= = =

What I consider the definitive article on this was in SCIENCE Magazine in April 1972. It's available here http://web.utk.edu/~kstclair/221/ergotism.html and very worth reading for those interested in the subject. I read it the week it was published and I have seen nothing to challenge her hypothesis. In fact I think I used the idea in a story a long time ago.

====

All week the Internet has been crisp uploading my ftp fast; but today it is down to a crawl. Just recording it.

=====

It's even worse at 10:00 pm. Most web sites take too long to connect. Something is going on.

===

We went to see Music and Lyrics, Hugh Grant and Drew Barrymore. Good chick flick. I was impressed by a new actress, Haley Bennett, who did an excellent job in a fairly difficult role.

====

It is now impossible to do serious research on the Web. Many sites time out while trying to connect. It's pretty annoying.

It's worse. It is now nearly impossible even to get to Google.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Sunday,  March 11, 2007

I have done the column and mailbag for Chaos Manor Reviews. Now back to Inferno. There's some good stuff I am saving to open with tomorrow morning.

There is definitely something wrong with the Internet. It is bursty: for a few seconds things happen fast, then it all slows to a crawl again. It can take a long time to open Google or other pages that are usually nearly instant. It has been this way all weekend.

 

 

 

 

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