Errands, hearing aids, trying to connect a Kindle Fire HD to a PC; Governing an Iraq Province

View 834 Tuesday, July 22, 2014

“Transparency and the rule of law will be the touchstones of this presidency.”

President Barack Obama, January 31, 2009


It has been a long day, utterly devoured by locusts. I have mislaid the controller for my Costco Hearing Aids, and I need one; after fruitless searching of everything I can remember wearing since I got back from Hilton Head Island – I know I have had and used it here since then, but I don’t remember just when – I decided I’d better buy a second one, even if it only becomes a spare.

Alas they have to order it, and it costs $150 plus $13.50 in various taxes; it’s not a medical item, so it’s taxable as any consumer product. That seems unfair, but then the laws are designed to extract as much out of people who can afford things like this as they can squeeze us – squeeze those rich people until the pips squeak, the poor will get them free – and perhaps I am being overly bitter about $13.50. Anyway I’ll get it in a week or two, and have to go back out to have it coupled to my hearing aids.

For those who don’t know, I have COSTCO Kirkland Hearing aids. They have changed my life. I wrote about them not long after I got them .

They were great for a month then I had Sudden Hearing Loss in my left ear. That got drastic treatment and it worked sort of, and over time my left hear continues to improve. I noticed that when I pushed the ear bud in harder I could hear better with the ear I did that with, told Kelly the cheerful technician at Burbank Costco, and she did things to the ear pieces today that have improved things about 10%. But all that took some time. I wandered through Costco, wishing I had brought either a log book or Precious, my new Surface Pro 3, so I could take notes. There’s a lot of new stuff out there. My old internal telephone system is obsolete, and I note there are some wireless systems that might work: what I need is a wireless system with about 5 extensions that I can use as an internal intercom so Roberta can call me from downstairs without having to use a cell phone to call me on the house phone. My old system did that but was wired, and it’s pretty well dead (after 25 years), and I see 5 station portable phone systems that will allow you to connect to cell phones all wireless but I wasn’t able to determine if I could use one of those as an intercom. Something to investigate.

Anyway I wandered around Costco, then stopped at Fry’s on the way home. I bought a USB Cable, standard plug on one end, microplug on the other; Micro is what fits into the Kindle Fire HD. But when I connected the Kindle Fire HD to my Windows 7 desktop the computer reported that the driver installation failed. It’s late and I’ll worry about that in the morning. I remember connecting my first Kindle to my PC without trouble; surely the Kindle Fire can interface with a PC? But not tonight it won’t.

I still don’t have a lot of experience with Precious, but what little I have remains pleasant. She isn’t getting a lot of use from me yet, but the flirtation continues. I made some notes about Fry’s and how a lot has changed out there. The computer section is smaller and there are far fewer sections on programs and games, and lots of signs saying “We meet Internet Prices” — and a lot of sales people with nothing to do. That latter situation can’t last.

Then to PETCO, the one at Burbank and Hollywood Way where the old Orbach’s – a quality outlet that was once one of my favorite stores – used to be. It’s much bigger than the Studio City PETCO, but it has a much smaller staff: there was only one cashier in operation and while she was nice she wasn’t very experienced, and buying my bird seeds took about half an hour. I needed bird seed because I was running out, and I particularly needed unsalted peanuts because that’s what my Blue Jays demand. I’ve had the same family of Blue Jays come to my house since I bought it in 1968. This must be ten generations of Jays that come here demanding peanuts and fighting the squirrels for cracked corn. But eventually I got songbird seed, sunflower seeds, and peanuts, enough to last a couple of months, and off to – well other errands. Lots of errands. Got home and decided to cook dinner because I wasn’t much use for anything else by then. And now it’s bed time.


Now it appears that the BUK Surface to Air Missile we saw going to Russia with a missing missile or two was not a Russian missile but a Ukrainian SAM captured by Russia’s allies in the Ukraine.

Is this the BUK missile system back home in Russia after shooting down flight MH17?

A driver followed this military truck on a main road for two kilometres in a ‘border area’ of Russia before uploading the footage, filmed with a dashboard camera, on the internet.

The cargo had no escort and Ukrainian sources have seized on it, captioning the footage: ‘A Russian blogger filmed the BUK M1 in Russia, the one that shot the Boeing.’

Read more:

One has to follow breaking news, but if you do, you have to be prepared for the facts to change like dreams. The speculation by the US seems to have been that the Russians provided their separatists friends with lethal SAM BUK model missiles, and that must mean that they trained the separatists to use them, and thus the Russians are directly responsible for downing the plane and killing all those Dutch citizens, and –

And now no one’s so sure. If this missile system was captured by the separatist rebels from the Ukrainian regulars, it’s quite possible that it was operated by defectors from the Ukrainian regulars, and where’ the Russian responsibility in that? But of course nothing in this is certain. One thing I have noticed is that the pundits are certain these birds are difficult to operate. I doubt that. I would imagine that any high school graduate fluent in the language in which the field manuals for the missiles is written could figure out how to use it to shoot down an airplane – and yet mistake a scheduled airliner for a Ukrainian military aircraft. Which makes a certain amount of sense. Certainly Russia has no interest in shooting down Malaysian passenger planes, nor do the separatists. Of course there remain a few other hypotheses. Don’t forget the Cossacks.


Millions of Americans installing ‘perfect spying device’ in their own living rooms: Amazon Fire TV monitors and records your conversations

Learn more:

by Mike Adams, the Health Ranger
Tags: Amazon Fire TV, audio surveillance, perfect spying device

(NaturalNews) is building the CIA’s new $600 million data center, reports the Financial Times. (1) At the same time is building this massive cloud computing infrastructure for the CIA, the company is also shipping millions of Fire TV set-top devices to customers who are placing them in their private homes. I have one myself, and it’s a terrific piece of hardware for delivering Prime video content. In fact, in terms of its usability and specs, it’s far superior to Roku or Netflix-capable devices. Fire TV is, hands down, the best set-top video delivery device on the market today.
But there’s something about it that always struck me as odd: it has no power button. There’s no power button on the remote, and there’s no power button on the box. It turns out there’s no way to power the device off except for unplugging it.
This is highly unusual and apparently done by design. "It is not necessary to turn off Amazon Fire TV when you are finished using it," says the website. (2) "Your Amazon Fire TV is designed to go into sleep mode after 30 minutes, while continuing to automatically receive important software updates."
Note carefully that this does not say your Fire TV device WILL go into sleep mode after 30 minutes; only that it is "designed" to go into sleep mode after 30 minutes. As lawyers well know, this is a huge difference.

Learn more:

I have this from a number of readers, including long time friend JoAnne Dow.  I have no conclusions. On the other hand I don’t have one of those devices.



: Blowing my own horn…

David Couvillon

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


8 Things I Learned as an American Governor in Occupied Iraq

By Robert Evans, David Couvillon

Imagine you were suddenly dragged out of your day job and told you had to travel to another country and rule over it for an indeterminate amount of time. Most folks would curl up in a little ball and try to cry out the responsibility; others would cackle maniacally and buy a white cat to stroke during monologues. Lt. Col. David Couvillon did neither of those things. He was a Reserve Marine officer, activated for Operation Iraqi Freedom and eventually tasked with governing the Wasit Province of Iraq immediately after that country’s government retired to a spider hole at the behest of a whole bunch of men with real big guns. Thrown straight into the deep end while holding an anvil, Couvillon quickly discovered …

Read more:

Read more:


Confucius say Man who does not blow own horn, same will not be tooted….

Well done.





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




California Reader is up; musings on strategy of technology; Reviving Chaos Manor Reviews

View 834 Monday, July 21, 2014

“Transparency and the rule of law will be the touchstones of this presidency.”

President Barack Obama, January 31, 2009


Many developments at Chaos Manor. I am bringing back Chaos Manor Reviews. It will take a bit to get it going again, but I’ve taken steps to make it happen. One is Precious, the name I have given to my new Surface 3 Pro which Eric found for me at a big one-day sale. Precious has a Type Cover 2 with backlighting, and we’ve installed a 64 GB Sun microdisk for extra memory in case there’s ever a need, but her purpose isn’t to replace a desktop – I like working with desktops and BIG screens – but to sit on my breakfast table while I read the Wall Street Journal and make notes. And that she does nicely. At the moment she has a special OneNote program that she came with, and I haven’t mastered using it yet; and I haven’t yet installed Office 365 yet. All in due time. But she’s connected into my Wi-Fi system and is settling down nicely. I’m pretty sure I’m going to like her – she reminds me of LisaBetta, my Compaq 1100 Tablet I had back in COMDEX days, and which I more than once carried as the only computer when I was on the road.


I also got the California Sixth Grade Reader up on Amazon, thanks to Rick Hellewell and many others on my team of advisors. If you were planning on buying a copy, please let me know if what you get is all right. I found a couple of bugs when we first put it up, and there may be more – perhaps a problem with the Table of Contents – but if there are we will fix all that and I’ll see that you get a new copy when it’s all fixed. I’ll have more about that book another time, but we’re very proud of it. It took a lot of work, and it has been years in the making, largely because I got laid out with brain cancer about the time it was going up the first time, and then other things delayed it. The Reader is important: this was the Sixth Grade Reader for the state of California in 1914 and many years before and after that. The stories include Macaulay’s Horatius at the Bridge, Ruskin’s King of the Golden River, Jason and the Argonauts, and a number of other works which are part of our literary heritage. There are great poems, some of which influenced the thinking of generations of Americans.

One of the great pleasures of my life has been enjoyment of literature and poetry. I did not precisely choose to master poetry: it was required of me that I do so, and I disliked a lot of it; but eventually I learned to love it. I am reminded of Kipling commenting on his education: he wrote of his Latin teacher that he “taught me to loathe Horace for two year; to forget him for twenty; and then to love him for the rest of my days and through many sleepless nights.” Alas, my Latin teachers were not so thorough as that, but I was required to read and learn epic poems, some of which are in this book, and the effect was about the same: I resented being required to learn to love those works, but I have been thankful for fifty years that I was so required. Enough: I’ll review the Reader in Chaos Manor Reviews, and probably some of what I just said will be in there. There will be overlap between that place and this one.


I found most of the items on the editorial pages of the Wall Street Journal well worth reading today. The sum total of them reminded me that it is time to revise The Strategy of Technology, and we’ll do so. One of my former students from my professor days is now a Pentagon consultant and wants in on the process. The principle in that book haven’t changed and are still true. The technological war is stilt the decisive war. The examples are all from Cold War days, and need updating to modern conditions and modern warfare. We’ll get to it. It takes time and energy, of course. While I am on that subject I want to thank the Platinum subscribers who continue to renew: their support allows me to work on what I think is important rather than grubbing about for lucrative stuff. At my age I don’t keep quote so many balls in the air as I used to…

“Lasers Are No Longer a ‘Star Wars’ Fantasy by Eric Schechter and Dave Majumdar reminds me of the importance of a strategy of technology.

The two Iranian-designed Abadil-1 drones that Hamas flew from the Gaza Strip into Israel last week were little more than over-glorified toy planes. So why did the Israeli military shoot them down with $3 million Patriot missiles? After all, Israel has multiple Iron Dome missile-defense batteries in the south of the country.

In all likelihood, the Patriot crew were the first to detect and track the invading drones. And not knowing exactly what they were facing, the Israeli Defense Forces took no chances.

While the drones were destroyed, the episode shows the limits of conventional interceptors. If Hamas had sent a dozen drones, Israel would have had to waste missiles on them all. That’s why Rafael Advanced Defense Systems, the same government-owned company that built Iron Dome, is developing a laser system called Iron Beam.

Lasers have great potential as weapons. Laser beams travel at the speed of light, so no rocket will ever outrun them. They are also remarkably cheap to generate—a couple dollars a pop, compared to launching a five, six or even seven-figure missile. And as long as you’ve got electrical power, a laser cannon will never run out of ammunition. Lasers are also versatile. They don’t have to blow up a target to neutralize it. They can fry electronics, sensors and navigation systems.

Steve Possony and the late Duke Kane – Stefan T. Possony, PhD., and Francis X. Kane, Ph.D., Col. USAF – wrote much of Strategy of Technology in the 60’s, and I was asked to be a co-author and general editor of the work. Since Kane was an active duty Air Force officer (Director of Plans, USAF Systems Command) his name did not appear on the book. It was used as a text at West Point and the USAF Academy, and is still used as a text in some of the war colleges; and in 1980 Kane, Possony, and I (with about 50 others including Buzz Aldrin and General Graham) wrote the space and defense policy papers for the incoming Reagan administration. One of the outcomes of those papers was the Strategic Defense Initiative, which some have said was important in bringing the Cold War to a non-violent end. (Note that Possony was one of the authors of The Protracted Conflict, which detailed the Containment Strategy which was the major US Cold War policy.

A Congressman’s Drone Disobedience

Sean Maloney wanted aerial photos of his wedding. To get them he had to ignore the FAA.

July 20, 2014 5:43 p.m. ET

June 21 was a lovely day for the wedding of Sean Maloney, a Democratic member of Congress from upstate New York. The ceremony was held at the historic Church of St. Mary-in-the-Highlands, with the Hudson River in the background. The day ended with fireworks. These details are available via a video on YouTube, produced for Mr. Maloney by a company called Propellerheads Aerial Photography.

But shooting the video was illegal, according to the Federal Aviation Administration, a federal agency Mr. Maloney helps oversee as a member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

The FAA has taken the position since 2007 that any commercial use of drones is unlawful. It has sent cease-and-desist orders to companies in industries that include video, agriculture, real estate and journalism.

And what happens when 4,000 drones each carrying 2 kilos of high explosive, each guided by GPS, rise out of Gaza headed for Israeli Iron Dome installations?

The technological war continues whether we like it or not; and those who refuse to participate in it, or think they can stop it with treaties and arms control agreements, will find they have chosen a losing strategy.

Tunnels Matter More Than Rockets to Hamas

The terror group wants to infiltrate Israel to grab hostages and


Michael B. Mukasey

July 20, 2014 6:13 p.m. ET

Early in the current clash between Hamas and Israel, much of the drama was in the air. The Palestinian terrorist group launched hundreds of rockets at Israel, and Israel responded by knocking down rockets in the sky with its Iron Dome defense system and by bombing the rocket-launch sites in Gaza. But the real story has been underground. Hamas’s tunnels into Israel are potentially much more dangerous than its random rocket barrages.

Israel started a ground offensive against Hamas in Gaza on Thursday, intending to destroy Hamas’s tunnel network. The challenge became obvious on Saturday when eight Palestinian fighters wearing Israeli military uniforms emerged from a tunnel 300 yards inside Israel and killed two Israeli soldiers in a firefight. One of the Palestinian fighters was killed before the others fled through the tunnel back to Gaza.

in 1529 Suleiman the Magnificent besieged Vienna. ( It had rained all spring and summer all across Europe, and the huge siege cannon that brought the Turks into Constantinople in 1453 could not be brought up to Vienna; Suleiman had to rely on mines – tunnels – to get into the city. The defenders were warned of the tunneling, and dug counter-mines. Soldiers sat deep underground with drums scattered over with dried peas, listening for disturbances indicating mining going on. Countermines intercepted Suleiman’s miners, and battles took place underground. Tons of gunpowder were taken by the Christian defenders from the Turkish miners.

One would think that the Israelis would have effective means of detecting incoming tunnels, but then I have always thought that Cal Tech ought to be called in to the border defense system: there are tunnels from Mexico into the United States. Surely there are technological means for detecting them? But so far we do not.

The daily new often reminds me of the need for a new textbook on Strategy of Technology. I would have thought someone would have written it by now, but it hasn’t happened so far. Today’s paper was an extreme example of that reminder.


Four Years of Dodd-Frank Damage

The financial law has restricted credit and let regulators create even more too-big-to-fail companies.


Peter J. Wallison

July 20, 2014 5:55 p.m. ET

When the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act took effect on July 21, 2010, it immediately caused a sharp partisan division. This staggeringly large legislation—2,300 pages—passed the House without a single Republican vote and received only three GOP votes in the Senate. Republicans saw the bill as ObamaCare for the financial system, a vast and unnecessary expansion of the regulatory state.

Four years later, Dodd-Frank’s pernicious effects have shown that the law’s critics were, if anything, too kind. Dodd-Frank has already overwhelmed the regulatory system, stifled the financial industry and impaired economic growth.

According to the law firm Davis, Polk & Wardell’s progress report, Dodd-Frank is severely taxing the regulatory agencies that are supposed to implement it. As of July 18, only 208 of the 398 regulations required by the act have been finalized, and more than 45% of congressional deadlines have been missed.

The effect on the economy has been worse. A 2013 Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas study showed that the GDP recovery from the recession that ended in 2009 has been the slowest on record, 11% below the average for recoveries since 1960.

For those interested in financial reforms, this is an important introduction into what must be done about Dodd-Frank. There are many other financial reforms needed.


Heinlein’s checklist

I guess I qualify as barely human; but, considering most human beings, that doesn’t bother me much.

I suspect Heinlein was counting his student experience at invasion planning; notice he says "plan an invasion," not "a successful invasion." I wonder what grade he got on that exercise.

On 7/20/2014 5:21 PM, Paul Anderson wrote:

"while in communist society, where nobody has one exclusive sphere of activity but each can become accomplished in any branch he wishes, society regulates the general production and thus makes it possible for me to do one thing today and another tomorrow, to hunt in the morning, to fish in the afternoon, rear cattle in the evening, criticize after dinner, just as I have in mind, without ever becoming hunter, fisherman, shepherd or critic. " – Das Kapital, part I, chapter 1; a shorter but clearly not comprehensive list.

I do wonder when he planned an invasion and of where; he retired as a Lieutenant in 1937. I’m not sure exercises at Annapolis count.

I have no idea when Mr. Heinlein might have been involved in planning an invasion; but remember that this is a quote from Lazarus Long, not his Author…

Heinlein said:

“A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, con a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.”

Let’s see now:

I have changed diapers, written sonnets, balanced accounts, built walls, taken orders, given orders, cooperated, acted alone, solved equations, analyzed new problems, programmed computers, and cooked tasty meals.

I have tried on occasion to comfort the dying, and to fight; but neither efficiently.

I have never planned an invasion, butchered a hog, conned a ship, designed a building, set a bone, or pitched manure. I have snuck indoors, killed mice, driven an RV, erected tents, reset passwords, and pitched leaf compost, but those don’t count. Nor have I died, gallantly or otherwise; but neither had Heinlein when he wrote this list.

So I stand at 12 to 2 to 7. The 2 and the 7 I mark down to lack of experience, and the (usually fortunate) lack of need to acquire such experience. So by Heinlein’s count, I stand as mostly human already, and trainable to full humanity if absolutely necessary.

A little birdie tells me that most people would do about as well as me. That same birdie tweets that Heinlein, when he wrote this checklist, had already passed 20 of his 21 tests. Therefore I retort to Heinlein:

A human being should be able to define humanity in self-serving terms. Objectivity is for others.


I am not entirely sure what that means, but it sure sounds good.


Several readers have told me of this:

18 Influential Voices in Literature on the Internet



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




The Spotless Sun and Climate Change Models; What was Russia Thinking?; Peer Review; and a mixed bag of other interesting comments

Mail 834 Saturday, July 19, 2014


The Spotless Sun

Spotless Days

I notice they’re not going back 200 years to the last extended minimum in their comparisons…nobody is, to speak of. Nobody wants to go there.

As far as "solar physicists really don’t know what is happening," well, maybe the "solar physicists" don’t (which I seriously doubt — they just don’t want to admit it out loud, especially in the current scientific viewpoints — ESPECIALLY given the party line on climate), but us variable star astronomers sure get it.

Three years ago the Sun was still ramping up from a very deep and prolonged minimum, also — so you can’t really compare the current zero to that zero.

The guy may work for NASA but that don’t impress me none.

Stephanie Osborn

Interstellar Woman of Mystery <>


Source real time solar constant three-month trailing


The minimum on July 14 is almost a full wt/m^2 below the (by eye) three month average. Note Source calibration accuracy/average relative to other in-space experiments at

Total Solar Irradiance 

Jerry, presents the history of total solar irradiance measurements in space.


The wide variation in values between experiments is the consequence of the different accuracies of the different devices. Within each data set, however, both the variation across the solar cycle (with a steady minimum energy corresponding to solar minimum and significant daily variations during solar maximum is evident, and in the Cycle 23 data set the long minimum and the relative weakness of the current cycle is evident.

The bottom line is that we don’t really know the solar constant with an accuracy of more than half a percent, and it varies over the solar cycle by about 0.2 percent (which corresponds to about half a degree Celsius in the absence of terrestrial factors which impact heat retention and re-radiation.

Another reason not to trust the models.


Differential Equations….

There’s a weekly public radio show called "Ted Radio Hour." It’s little tidbits of Ted Talks.

*This* week includes a recommendation from someone who wants to put microscopic droplets of sulfuric acid in the upper atmosphere to increase reflectivity thus cooling the planet.

Which started me thinking about several postings on your site several years ago talking about problems caused by decreased light reaching the surface.

The researcher does admit that the ‘unintended consequences could be dire’ although he doesn’t mention light reaching sea-level.


Yours Aye,

Rod McFadden

More reasons to be sure that you cannot trust the models despite the billions spent on developing them and paying the people who maintain them. Until the models can account for the Viking Warm (which extended from Nova Scotia to Eastern China: longer growing seasons, increased crop yields, mild climate in England, France, Germany…); the Roman Warm period prior to the collapse of the Empire during the volkvanderung; the Dark Ages Cool before the Viking Warm; and the various meanderings we had during the Twentieth Century, you are not justified in betting the future on a computer model’s predictions of the climactic future. Simple Bayesian analysis would tell us that in the face of this much uncertainty the least risky course of action is reducing the uncertainties, not in preparing for an undetermined future.


What Was Russia Thinking?


To make any sense at all of the airliner shoot-down, you have to look at what Russia was (apparently) trying to accomplish in the region.

In brief, in recent weeks they seemed to be trying to impose a deniable "no-fly zone" over eastern Ukraine.

"No-fly zone", because Ukrainian government forces in eastern Ukraine recently had started systematically rolling up the Russian-supported ethnic-Russian separatists. Taking away Ukrainian air-support, air transport, and air reconnaissance would put the separatists back in the game without Russia having to blatantly raise their military presence on the ground.

Deniable, because Russia’s economy is already hurting from sanctions, and Russia very much needs to avoid forcing Western Europe to stop turning a blind eye and hanging back in the matter. Overt Russian attacks on Ukrainian aircraft over Ukrainian territory, just like formations of Russian troops inside Ukraine, would be hard even for the Western Europeans to ignore.

Of course, the separatists have had shoulder-fired AA missiles for a while now, and Ukraine has been losing occasional helicopters and transports at low altitude for weeks. This hasn’t been enough to stop their offensive.

This week though, things changed. A Ukrainian An-26 twin-turboprop transport was shot down at 21,000 feet (above practical shoulder-fired missile range) Monday. At the time, Ukraine said they thought the SAM may have came from Russian territory.

A Ukrainian SU-25 ground-attack jet was shot down Wednesday, Ukraine says by an air-to-air missile fired from Russian airspace. The pilot survived, and there also would have been radar coverage; they may well actually have known where the missile came from.

And then there are the recent-days press reports I sent you yesterday of the separatists having at least one mobile SA-11 "BUK" launcher, and of that launcher being spotted on the ground by an AP reporter in separatist hands. (Much more social-media and eyewitness evidence of this – and of the launcher minus-two-missiles being hastily moved back into Russia – is surfacing, now that there’s no choice but to pay


The clincher as far as I’m concerned is one early Russian reaction to the airliner shootdown: Indignation that the Ukraine ATC center had failed to realize that high-altitude aircraft were now at risk, and thus to route civilian airliners around the area.

This is an implicit admission that the Russians thought it was already obvious that high-altitude heavy aircraft were now at risk over eastern Ukraine. And who but the ones delivering the message would assume so, after only two under-reported and somewhat ambiguous high-altitude incidents, both recent enough that details hadn’t yet really circulated?

My assumption, based on this: The SA-11 battery ended up in separatist hands with Russian support, with the intent of providing the visible fig-leaf for a Russian shutdown of Ukrainian air assets in the region.

This fits the circumstances far better than any other theory I’ve heard.

But the Russians apparently miscalculated on two counts: They wrongly assumed their message would get across to the rest of the world quickly and unambiguously (which may indicate far too high an opinion of western civil aviation bureaucrats.)

And they may have left the separatist SA-11 battery too loosely supervised. (It’s also possible the local Russian "advisors" either assumed or were told that three days after their first shootdown, anything coming over would have to be Ukrainian military.)

The only good news in the whole murderous mess is that the Russians now would have to be barking mad to continue their "no-fly zone" attempt. I wouldn’t totally rule out their doubling down, though, as they were pretty damn crazy to try it in the first place.

But their obvious play now is to push for a cease-fire in place, which would also have the original desired effect of stopping the Ukrainian push to reassert control over the region. All the while denying and obfuscating furiously as only guilty Russians can.


A good analysis, and about the conclusion I have reached. Thank You.

Downed airliner


It seems to me that given the manner in which Ukraine disintegrated, it was almost inevitable that the Russian separatists would have acquired BUK missiles and launchers from captured Ukrainian military bases.

Even if the rebels did not capture the missiles, Russia had an obvious and arguably legitimate national interest in preventing Ukraine from using high altitude aircraft to wipe out the Russian separatists. I seem recall the US setting the precedent of supplying SAMs to rebels in a place called Afghanistan. The US is currently supplying SAMs to rebel forces in Syria who just happen to be the same rebels who now control much of Iraq.

The salient point is that Eastern Ukraine is a war zone. There have been quite a few aircraft shot down including several in recent weeks. Any airline with a brain would fly around a war zone.

James Crawford=

Which is about all you can say about it. It’s a war, and we don’t need to be in it. And as Putin says, if he cannot make friends with the West, there are potential friends for Russia in the East…

MH17 and the Ukraine crisis.

The way Russia is behaving, is a step back into the great power politics leading up to the 1. and 2. world war, and continued into the cold war.

One might have hoped for a different kind of politics in this day, and the fall of the Soviet Union did give a hope of a world where international law and civilized behavior between nations, would be the norm.

Should we all recognize that is was an error, an unobtainable goal?

In that case we will need well armed alliances again, willing to use or threaten with war again. Or a steep further along the distribution of ultimate force, where more and more nations will build a nuclear arsenal.

Or try to make an example of out of Russia, of what happens when a "great power" tries to bully its neighbors, effectively isolating and impoverishing it?

One thing is quite certain: Russia under Putin is no use as an ally.


Bo Andersen


I would not agree, but it is rapidly coming to that point. Russia and the US have many common interests, but given the anti-Slavic attitude – and bombings – in the Balkan during Albright foreign policy, the continued encirclement of Russia – some of it botched – and Mr. Obama’s mood swings, President Putin may have concluded that the US is no use as an ally or even a friend.

But you are correct: it is a new era of Great Powers, and requires a realistic approach to foreign policy. And I continue to believe:

John Quincy Adams on American Policy:

Whenever the standard of freedom and Independence has been or shall be unfurled, there will her heart, her benedictions and her prayers be. But she goes not abroad, in search of monsters to destroy. She is the well-wisher to the freedom and independence of all. She is the champion and vindicator only of her own.

She well knows that by once enlisting under other banners than her own, were they even the banners of foreign independence, she would involve herself beyond the power of extrication, in all the wars of interest and intrigue, of individual avarice, envy, and ambition, which assume the colors and usurp the standard of freedom.

Fourth of July, 1821


That’s an interesting point about the Alabama Claims. A class-action suit against Russia by the families of the dead passengers? Russia may have more reasons than they realize for hastily hiding any evidence they supported the separatists.

I am not a lawyer, but there already looks to be enough evidence for lawsuit purposes that the separatists did it. Russia meanwhile has deep pockets, and was all over the scene of the crime. They could conceivably lose such a lawsuit on a mix of circumstantial evidence they supported the separatists plus evidence of trying to cover up that support.

I might want to get this in front of a Dutch judge, were I a lawyer. Or Australian… 298 dead people times some substantial number of millions each? I’d be surprised if the lawyers aren’t already circling.



SDI – Star wars

Roger Miller


The illegal ‘children’ coming over the border

A little while back you said that Obama could not stop the flood of third-world ‘children’ (17-year old MS13 gang members) coming over the border because of ‘the law’.

With respect, as intelligent as you are, this is profoundly stupid. ‘The Law’? What law?

Until around 1970, the United States enforced the laws against illegal immigration. The result was that illegal immigration was negligible. Since 1970 the cheap-labor-uber-alles rich have demanded that the government stop enforcing the laws against illegal immigration – and that is the entire story.

Most of the current illegal immigrant surge consists of adults, and adults with minor children. ‘The Law’ does NOT demand that they be given asylum – that is entirely at Obama’s discretion.

And for those few unaccompanied illegal immigrant minors – no, Obama is not forced to let them in because of ‘the law’. He’s doing it because his cheap-labor patrons want it. He could stop it tomorrow if he cared, ‘the law’ be damned.

Wasn’t it a Nazi jurist who said ‘he is sovereign who makes the exceptions’? Obama can do any damn thing that he wants. He could just deny that anyone without papers is really a minor. He could have the military put up a fence, and just refuse to let anyone pass. He could claim national security and throw them all back , and classify the whole thing which means that no lawsuits could be filed because nobody could legally prove that anything had happened. He could cut off aid to Mexico until they stopped letting central Americans have free passage – and confiscate the bank accounts of senior Mexican government officials etc. – and stop letting Mexicans come to the USA without passports. And if the illegals filed lawsuits, well, Obama could just ignore them , delay them, claim national security, drag it out, etc.

And if in the final analysis stopping the border flood really required new laws, AND THE RICH WANTED THIS, we would have new laws in about two weeks. Remember how quickly congress passed a multi-trillion dollar bank bailout? So no, Mr., Pournelle, Obama is not refusing to enforce the laws against illegal immigration because of the law (but isn’t that a contradiction?). He’s doing it because he’s been paid to.

It’s like Joseph Heller’s catch22B – Obama can do anything that you can’t stop him from doing. He could machine-gun children at the border and Congress can’t stop him – unless they impeach him, and if the rich like what he’s doing, that’s not going to happen. Period.

I did not say that. I said that there is a law requiring a hearing before we can deport children originating in non-contiguous countries; it may not be a wisely chosen law, but it is the law.

I have been a vocal proponent of building better fences since 1980. I note that money was appropriated to build fences, but it has not all been spent. The President has said that fences don’t stop people, but I note that he has them around the White House.

‘Government data show that since 2000 all of the net gain in the number of working-age (16 to 65) people holding a job has gone to immigrants (legal and illegal). . .

. . . the long-term decline in the employment for natives across age and education levels is a clear indication that there is no general labor shortage, which is a primary justification for the large increases in immigration (skilled and unskilled) in the Schumer-Rubio bill and similar House proposals . . . ‘



Roland Dobbins

The economy is still in a Depression although we don’t admit that. Unemployment is enormous, since so many have abandoned all hope of finding a job. About half the citizens no longer pay any income tax. This is not economic recovery.

A simple economic recovery could be had at any time: simply double the exemption numbers in the existing laws. It could be done in hours. That is, for any business exempt from various regulation because it has 10 or fewer employees, that number is now 20; for those exempt from various laws and regulations because they have under 50, the exemption number is now 100. And so forth. This for a period of at least ten years. The effect on the economy would be instant and highly desirable.

Of course no one seems to be considering that move.


Separatists and missiles


I would point out that A), the separatists have captured a LOT of Ukrainian materiel and ordnance, and B), they’ve already been shooting down aircraft with it.

Dunno if they have anything with 33,000 feet of reach, but remember that the Russkis had 60,000-foot reach in 1960 (when they shot down Powers’

U-2 and one of their own pilots who was trying to shadow Powers). I wouldn’t be surprised if Ukraine had (and lost) systems that can down jetliners.

Pix of the crash site show that the plane was relatively intact and in a steep but NOT VERTICAL descent when it hit the ground, which is consistent with damage caused by hits from fragments of what was almost a near-miss, pointing to the possibility of missiles launched by semi-skilled operators. Control systems or surfaces don’t take much damage before being rendered ineffective.

I have no explanation for a lack of distress calls from the plane. It would have taken as long as a couple of minutes to go from cruise altitude to the ground, more than long enough to have let someone know there was a problem.


Gary Powers died believing he was shot down, but Possony and I concluded long ago that he was downed by a bomb planted in his U2 in Pakistan. The Soviets had no surface to air missile capable of reaching that altitude anywhere near the site of the supposed interception, and it is doubtful that they had anything capable of that at all.


Could the Soviet Union have won the cold war?

Interesting speculative piece. But missed the main event.

Yes – if Lenin had lived. Lenin started out an orthodox communist – but when he saw that it wasn’t’ working, he was flexible and adapted to a "New Economic Policy" (NEP), which was a lot like modern China.

As Churchill said, the greatest tragedy of Russia was that Lenin had been born, the second greatest was that he died when he did. That let Stalin take over, and not just kill all the smart Soviets, but also cancel the NEP and move back to the dead hand of completely centralized economic planning.

If Lenin had lived ten more years and been healthy? One never knows…


Americans Too Stupid for GMO Labels


I am very torn on this one. I, too, believe in truth in advertising and hold it to be an important job for the government to unsure complete and accurate advertising of any product or service. Fraud cannot be tolerated in any marketplace and this is one area of market regulation that I am troubled by only when it fails.

All of that said, the GMO issue in the market place has to rest right along side the vaccines-cause-autism issue. GMO crops must pass strict safety testing and even the European Union has decided that it cannot exclude GMO products from its markets on a safety basis, despite trying hard to find anything possible dangerous about them (Are GM crops safe for human and animal health and the environment? ( Given that this is the case, labeling a product as GMO does feed into the hands of the fear mongers, and the fear mongers have killed more than enough people with the false vaccine scare. Dr. Andrew Wakefield deserves an uncomfortable place in the eighth circle of Hell for his hand in this (from January 5, 2011: Retracted autism study an ‘elaborate fraud,’ British journal finds (

Required labeling should address issues that are known to widely impact health, such as sugar, caffeine, and trans-fat levels. Adding pesticide residuals and antibiotic residuals may be warranted, but the jury is still out on these. It should not warn of things that are not issues.

It wouldn’t hurt if people knew who they could trust, but that has been thrown away by nearly every group; actually sold, not thrown away. Ah well.

Child Migration & The Rule of Law


You wrote on the child migration issue: "But the law at the moment says they are entitled to a hearing, and it is not likely the President would sign a Bill removing that restriction even if the Senate would allow it to come to a vote." We have a President with little respect for the rule of law. When this crisis he has created does not get him what he wants and begins to turn into an embarrassment to his Administration, I suspect he will ‘reinterpret’ the law to mean that it does not apply to minors. They will then be on the planes and gone.


The Peer Review Scandal, Part II


You are right, that as written, it does not look so ‘quick and easy.’ However, if you consider that this attitude adjustment can be enforced by policy changes in a few key places — the funding agencies and the major journals, it becomes a whole lot easier and quicker to carry out.

As for the voodoo sciences and the subpar science, I believe that most of that would go away automatically as the need to fund replication along with the original research would help ensure that the funding was more carefully placed. We do have to be very cautious, though, as the craziest ideas sometimes turn out to be the most important, like quantum physics. Ninety years ago when it was born, it had no use at all. Now it keeps about a third of the world economy running.


EE, and is the new colossus old now?,

Dr. Pournelle,

Heartily agree with your advice to your young neighbor on pursuing electrical engineering, and with the advice on statistics offered subsequently from a reader. In addition to selecting a good school, which you also mentioned, I would also encourage him to seek working internships early and as often as is practical. Various relatives and acquaintances who have completed degree programs are finding it difficult to get a position without practical experience, and few universities seem to require the apprenticeship work for an engineering degree any more. Those who do get internship work seem to be easy to place in a good job after graduation.

At one time, I would have recommended one of the military academies, which once would have provided both education and practice, with employment guaranteed. I’m sure that is not the right option for everyone.

On immigration and the illegal minors now being held near me, I am a little confused on my own position. I was canalized by my teachers to _believe_ in the principles voiced in the Emma Lazarus poem:

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame, With conquering limbs astride from land to land; Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.

"Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.

Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

However, I see this flood of minor illegals as a Dickensian attack designed to overwhelm the resources dedicated to stop it, apparently successfully. Certainly any nation must be able to guard its borders, but I truly believe that these people represent a great resource that shouldn’t be discarded off hand. Definitely a dilemma that I’ve no idea how to resolve.


We can’t educate our own children; how can we educate those who come without parents? Of course we could, in the sense of having the military do it – think of them as apprentice Legionnaires – but we are not likely to do that either.


Net Neutrality and the Sherman Anti-Trust Act

I thought your comments on "This Week in Tech 463: All the Pretty Things" was perfect. I’m sure this is a more complicated issue than I realize, but I think you’re right. More U.S. citizens need to realize that this is more likely an FTC than an FCC one.




Robert Heinlein


This will be familiar to many of your readers but it bears repeating.


“A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, con a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.”

John Edwards




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




Don’t fly through war zones… The Spotless Sun

View 833 Friday, July 18, 2014

“Transparency and the rule of law will be the touchstones of this presidency.”

President Barack Obama, January 31, 2009


Spotless Sun: see below


One reason I do not like to comment on breaking news is that it’s generally impossible to know what is really going on. Despite all the new technology, news reporters still can’t find out what’s happening without a lot of work which will include investigative techniques that are increasingly rare in the modern press corps – and this at a time when means of deception are increasingly available to governments and various organizations who want everyone to believe their own version of the story.

Yesterday Bryan Suits said that he was inclined to believe the Russian separatist rebels in the Ukraine who said they did not have the capability to shoot down an airliner at 33,000 feet. Suits has the advantage of having served in combat missions as both an enlisted man – medic – and an officer – infantry platoon leader – in both the Balkan Expedition and in Iraq after the US invasion following 911. He’s about the only news reporter/commentator with such experience, and if I have to form an opinion on breaking military matters, I’m inclined to give more weight to his views than others. In this case he – and I – were wrong.

The Ukrainian separatists do have such capabilities, having acquired Surface to Air Missiles either from overrunning Ukrainian positions (as they claim) or as a gift from the Russian forces on the border (denied by the Russians). Either way it’s the same equipment. Moreover, in days previous to the Malaysian airliner incident, the separatists claimed to have downed a Ukrainian national forces transport aircraft at high altitude. And then there’s this story from the Daily Mail (not an unimpeachable source):

Is this the smoking gun? Footage emerges of BUK missile launcher being smuggled back to Russia and missing TWO rockets

  • Expert believes that MH17 was downed by a missile fired from rebel-held Torez in eastern Ukraine
  • BUK launcher has been pictured rumbling into the town just two hours before the crash
  • Ukraine’s security agency, the SBU, has released recordings of intercepted phone calls
  • Claim they prove Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 was shot down by a group of Russian-backed Cossack militants
  • Neither recording — which allegedly includes a Russian military intelligence officer — could be independently verified
  • Laughing rebels filmed the plane as it crashed, gleefully bragging ‘that was a blast – look at the smoke!’

There is still the possibility, now more remote, that the Cossacks have dealt themselves a hand in this mess. Unlikely, but don’t forget that they are there, and will have their own agenda.

When considering this event keep in mind that there was a war we were not part of going on between Iran and Iraq when the Vincennes shot down an Iranian airliner in the Persian Gulf. It’s a war zone over there.

And now it appears Malaysia Airlines were trying to save money on fuel costs by ignoring a NOTAM.


Either that, or just sheer incompetence.


Roland Dobbins

The event is likely to change the situation, but hardly for the better for the US. Like it or not, we have common interests with the Russians – more than we had with Saddam before his invasion of Kuwait ended the era when Iran and Iraq cancelled each other out and provided stability in much of the Middle East except, of course, for their border areas. But Putin will not forget his need for more Russians in Russia, and the Don Cossacks will not forget that they are Cossacks; and Eastern Ukrainians will remain between a rock and a hard place.



My guess is that the Russians gave their paramilitary proxies an SA11 or SA17 for reasons of face, without experienced advisers, and are now regretting it.

Of course, the alternate theory is that Ukraine decided they’d give Putin a lesson by shooting down a Russian cargo plane, with unexpected results.

Altitude and apparent size are always difficult for trainee SAM operators to get right. The USS Vincennes shot down IR655 due to this sort of confusion in 1988.

It appears that inexperienced missileers believed they were firing on an AN26 cargo aircraft. My guess is that the Russians gave their paramilitary proxies an SA11 or SA17 for reasons of face, without experienced advisers, and are now regretting it. MH17 was flying in a well-known commercial air corridor, and it should’ve been obvious that positive confirmation was required before launching.

Either that, or the operator was drunk – which is always a possibility.


Roland Dobbins

These were unlikely to be even trainees: just militia, given the missiles with the keys and a field manual. Good luck Comrade. Or perhaps it’s Gospodin now? I haven’t been to Russia since the end of the USSR.



You wrote "..the separatists… ..wouldn’t have missiles with that capability unless the Russians gave them and the Russians would have to send some technical advisors too; it’s just not likely."

I agree that it’d be incredibly stupid of the Russians to give such high-altitude missiles to the ethnic Russian separatists. Alas, it’s looking very much like they were that stupid.

The rebels are currently denying any high-altitude AA missile capability. But it’s looking near certain they’re lying.

From three days ago:,

"The 9k37 Buk is a weapon with a range of up to 14000 meters, but has never been seen in the hands of separatists. The Russian network TV Zvezda, the news network for the Russian military, did report that a Buk fell to separatist hands on June 29th. However, is it possible that TV Zvezda was "seeding" the story, planting an explanation for why the separatists would have such an advanced weapons system? After all, they are the only source reporting this story to our knowledge, there are no pictures or videos of the separatists possessing this missile system, nor have we been able to tie the claims made by TV Zvezda back to a specific incident that may have resulted in the loss of such a weapon."

The TV Zvezda story referenced, in Russian, is at

From Google translation of the content: "Militias in Donetsk captured military unit defense. On point defense, which is a division of missile troops, have self-propelled anti-aircraft missile systems "Buk". Now this weapon, according to the militia to defend the skies at Donetsk."

And from this morning, before the airliner shootdown:,

"An Associated Press reporter on Thursday saw seven rebel-owned tanks parked at a gas station outside the eastern Ukrainian town of Snizhne.

In the town, he also observed a Buk missile system, which can fire missiles up to an altitude of 22,000 meters (72,000 feet)." (Snizhne is about ten miles south of where the airliner came down.)

The SA-11 "Buk" is described elsewhere as very effective, but very technically complicated to run. Whether the separatists actually captured the missile battery or were given it by the Russians, it would have been extremely difficult to operate without Russian technical advice.

Meanwhile, the Ukrainian security chief says he has phone intercepts proving two Russian military intelligence officers were involved in the shootdown.

And just now I heard a TV news report that US intelligence sources are saying that we have phone intercepts proving the Russian separatists were involved. One was supposed to have been from a separatist sent to the crash site, reporting back that it wasn’t a Ukrainian military transport they’d shot down after all. There are also news reports of hastily-deleted tweets by separatists boasting of having shot down a Ukrainian transport right after the airliner went down.

All in all, it very much looks like the Russians really were just exactly that stupid.

23 Americans were on the manifest. All who actually got on board are now dead, along with everyone else of the 295 people from a dozen different countries on board the airliner.

The Russians will do everything they can to obscure responsibility, but the area in question is under heavy surveillance and Russian fingerprints are all over this.

So, now what?


Now what?  I wish I could predict a rational response in the national interest, but what is likely is bluster and threats and red lines and – and not much else, with the hope that it will all peter out.  Russia cannot control the separatists, nor can Putin allow them to be defeated and sent off to reeducation camps or executed as terrorists; he certainly cannot and will not turn over Russian nationalists to some international court.  This is not the old USSR, but it is still a Great Power in the old sense of the word.  We are in the world of Grotius again…

On reflection, perhaps The Alabama Claims apply?  England sold the commerce raider CSS Alabama (and other commerce raiders) to the Confederacy; after the Civil War ended, the United States sued Britain for damages,  which were in fact paid.  It is an international law precedent that might apply here….




President Obama is reacting strongly, but in my judgment weirdly: “Russia, Ukrainian Separatists, and Ukraine  must adhere to an immediate cease fire.  Evidence must not be tampered with.”

And demands that the FBI be admitted to a war zone.  And –    Well I can think of other international situations in which we could wish for strong words from the President, but none came forth.

What Putin can say:  “Look up the Vincennes affair.  I do not recall that you allowed Egyptian and Iranian investigators aboard your warship.”  Mr. Obama is speaking more severely to the President of Russia than ever he has to Dear Leader despite North Korea’s various incursions and bombardments in South Korea. Treating the President of Russia as an international terrorist that one can speak down to is not, in my judgment, an optimum foreign policy.


Meanwhile the Israelis have invaded the Gaza Strip, stating as one objective the final and permanent closure of tunnels and other illegal entry points to Gaza: to stem the flow of missiles into Gaza (and out of Gaza into Israel). There is precious little news on that today:   Breaking: the President is speaking now.  “We are hopeful that “ the Israelis will work to reduce civilian casualties, and…      Anyway I heard nothing significant.  The Israelis at considerable cost abandoned Gaza and stripped out Israeli settlers – even as some of the Army refused to take part in that effort –but the result was that Hamas took control, and missiles began to fly out of Gaza toward Tel Aviv, Ben-Gurion Airport, and points north and east.  This has gone on since not long after the Israelis abandoned Gaza.   I confess that at the time my view was that stopping the Settlers and establishing a stable border was the only way to a two-state solution to the Palestine situation. Most of my Israeli friends agreed although some very reluctantly.  The result was not successful.  The West Bank territories are governed by – well, you read the papers.  And Gaza has become a warehouse for missiles to be launched in the general direction of Israel, and with about that accuracy.  Because they have so far been ineffective there seems to be no call for prosecution of Gaza Palestinians as international terrorists.


I am now hearing that the missileers must have had sophisticated training from Russia.  This is nonsense.  They were not designed to be operated by long experienced technically trained troops.  Maintenance and be more complex, but operation is easy: here’s the screen, here’s the arming switch, this mouse selects the target…  Operations are no more difficult than a modern computer game.  And as noted above, it is easy to be mistaken about altitude and size of the target.  Had the operators of that missile been better trained it probably would not have been launched at a civilian aircraft.  On the other hand, the crew of the Vincennes were quite well trained…


The President says there will have to be an international investigation.  So far I have heard no comment from the Russians.  I expect a full press conference sometime but possibly not until next week.



Spotless Sun

The sun has been officially spotless for 24 hours, and the last visible spot decayed just after the start of the previous 24 hour period.

Two spots may be forming this morning.

Maunder Minimum anyone?




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