The Star Road takes its toll.

View 848 Friday, October 31, 2014

“I have observed over the years that the unintended consequences of social action are always more important, and usually less agreeable, than the intended consequences.”

Irving Kristol

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

President Barack Obama, January 31, 2009



It has not been a good week for space development. The Wallops Island explosion destroyed not only a 60 year old Russian-made rocket, but some 48 experiments being sent up by NanoRacks. My son Richard is Senior Vice President at NanoRacks.)


I am now hearing radio announcements that Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShip Two has crashed in the Mojave desert.

The star road takes its toll.  (Click on the map; this was posted after the Columbia disaster.)


Good views from space:


I suppose there is no surprise here:

Maine Says Nurse Hickox’s Roommate Had Ebola

Obama Leaves Maine Without Meeting Defiant Quarantine Nurse




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




Importing Ebola; World Policeman or World Quarantines Incubation Site? Election fraud?

View 848 Wednesday, October 29, 2014

“I have observed over the years that the unintended consequences of social action are always more important, and usually less agreeable, than the intended consequences.”

Irving Kristol

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

President Barack Obama, January 31, 2009


It has not been a great week. Monday starts well, but it was late before I got to anything like work. I did manage to do the Five Tibetan Rites, and hoped I’d be able to repeat that daily this week, but so far I have not. Tuesday was consumed with doctors and examinations and then shopping, and it was dinner time before I got home. Today was consumed by locusts mostly.

The eye people have decided that I will get at least one more iteration of new tri-focals before cataract surgery. That’s a bit expensive – even at Kaiser my glare free photo grey tri-focal glasses run to several hundred dollars – but it does put off the cataract surgery for a while. I am told by people I trust that modern cataract corrections are nothing like what I recall from the days when Bob Bloch get the procedure and then needed to be driven everywhere at night. I don’t know precisely when that was, but I do know that I drove him to the grand opening of Star Wars at Fox, so it would be possible to find the date that way. At least he could see the movies (and I made some money on it: after I saw it I bought Fox stock, although alas I couldn’t afford a lot). Now, I am told, the procedure is simple, over with quickly, and you’re better off. But I’m still glad to put it off for a bit.

I was also examined for skin problems, and got spritzed with liquid nitrogen in many places, all of which are now uncomfortable as they decay then heal. Frostbite is a good treatment for pre-cancerous conditions…

But I appear to be in pretty good shape for an 80 year old brain cancer survivor, even if I do tire more easily than I like. They tell me I’m good for another decade.


Importing Ebola

Hello Jerry,

Seems like Ebola is not becoming epidemic in the US rapidly enough to suit the Obamunists, so they are planning to import it in wholesale quantity:

Sounds like a plan—if the plan is national suicide. Or, more precisely, national murder.

A more striking example of ‘benign incompetence’ would be hard to imagine. Apparently a backup to the previous plan of sending the 101st Airborne from Fort Bragg to the center of infection in Africa to ‘fight Ebola’. After all, if you need a ‘quick reaction force’ to ‘fight’ something, isn’t the 101st the first outfit that would come to YOUR mind?

Bob Ludwick=

The Obama Administration says that we cannot quarantine against Ebola.

Obama warns against strict quarantines for Ebola workers

By Lesley Clark, Nancy Youssef and Tony Pugh

McClatchy Washington Bureau October 29, 2014

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama called for health care workers returning from treating Ebola patients in West Africa to be treated as “the heroes that they are,” amid continuing confusion and public anxiety over state health measures that call for some to be confined to their homes.

Obama warned there may be future cases of Ebola in the United States and that the only way to bring the risk to zero is to contain the outbreak at its source, in West Africa.

“If we’re not dealing with this problem there, it will come here,” he said at the White House, joined by his Ebola response coordinator, Ron Klain, and sharing a stage with doctors and nurses who have been to West Africa. “What we need right now is these shock troops who are out there leading globally. We can’t discourage that. We’ve got to encourage it and applaud it.”

Without naming any states, Obama warned against overly restrictive monitoring measures, saying, “If we’re discouraging our health care workers . . . from traveling to these places in need, then we’re not doing our job in terms of looking after our own public health and safety.”

Obama’s remarks came as Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel on Wednesday ordered that all U.S. troops who travel to Liberia to help build Ebola treatment centers be quarantined for 21 days afterward, even though the service members will not come into direct contact with Ebola patients. The measure exceeds the recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

But Hagel noted that the troops are not volunteers and described the measure as a “safety valve.”

And in Maine, nurse Kaci Hickox, who was quarantined without her consent in New Jersey after returning from treating Ebola patients in Sierra Leone, said Wednesday that she won’t comply with health officials in Maine who want her to remain in her home and avoid public contact. Hickox went home to Maine after New Jersey officials released her on Monday.

Read more here:

Of course these heroes will cooperate with the health authorities and would never risk transmitting Ebola to anyone in the United States.

Ebola doctor ‘lied’ about NYC travels

By Jamie Schram and Bruce Golding

October 29, 2014 | 3:21am

The city’s first Ebola patient initially lied to authorities about his travels around the city following his return from treating disease victims in Africa, law-enforcement sources said.

Dr. Craig Spencer at first told officials that he isolated himself in his Harlem apartment — and didn’t admit he rode the subways, dined out and went bowling until cops looked at his MetroCard the sources said.

“He told the authorities that he self-quarantined. Detectives then reviewed his credit-card statement and MetroCard and found that he went over here, over there, up and down and all around,” a source said.

Spencer finally ’fessed up when a cop “got on the phone and had to relay questions to him through the Health Department,” a source said.

Officials then retraced Spencer’s steps, which included dining at The Meatball Shop in Greenwich Village and bowling at The Gutter in Brooklyn.

The military will quarantine the soldiers sent to the plague zone, preferably in another country; but the military is held responsible for its actions. That does not seem to be true for non-military heroes.

I think I would rather be the world’s policeman than the world’s incubation site for Ebola survivors,


And of course we understand how Ebola propagates.

Questions remain about how Dallas nurse got Ebola

By Ashley Fantz and Holly Yan, CNN

The nurse wore a mask, gown, shield and gloves as she helped care for a dying Ebola patient in Texas.

And a day after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said she tested positive for Ebola, health officials are still trying to figure out how exactly she caught it.

"Something went wrong, and we need to find out why and what," said Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.



Mad intelligence

Dr Pournelle

"Public thinkers such as politicians and members of the media who comment on them are the first generation of our society to have been badly schooled without being aware of the fact."

Rev. George W. Rutler, Mad Intelligence: The Secularist Response to Islam

Live long and prosper

h lynn keith

The definition of a Dark Age is not one in which we have forgotten things; it is a time when we no longer know we ever knew them.  We appear to be entering a Dark Age for a fairly large part of our population.  Of course that makes self-government nearly impossible, but the smart one in charge have a remedy for that.

War Has Been Declared against Us

Dr Pournelle


Geert Wilders: War has been declared against us.

Islam delendum est?

Live long and prosper

h lynn keith




Don’t you wish you got all the government you pay for?


Royals panties confiscated from Kansas City lingerie shop by Homeland Security

Copyright infringement is the reason feds pop up at lingerie shop, which was trying to find a way to support Royals during World Series against Giants.

Ladies, don’t put on those panties without the expressed written consent of Major League Baseball!

In an underwear-related manner that is apparently a matter of national importance, the Department of Homeland Security descended upon a women’s lingerie shop in Kansas City, Mo., according to The Wichita Eagle. The federal officers were there to stop the business – Birdies Panties – from making undies with the Royals logo during the team’s Cinderella run to the World Series.


2014 Margin Of Fraud


The midterm elections are a week away, and many of our hopes to reduce further damage to the nation are tied up with the Republicans taking the Senate. Right now, they nominally look like doing so, barely –’s "no tossups" average of recent polls shows a

52-48 R result. (I’m counting Orman, barely leading in Kansas, as a D.)

However, it’s way too soon to relax. RCP has ten of these races listed as "tossups", IE the average-of-polls margin is less than 5%. RCP’s split with tossups is 45 R, 45 D, and 10 too close to call.

Those ten tossups are of extreme interest right now. They break down as


AR R+5%

LA R+4.5 (in the likely runoff)

KY R+4.4

CO R+3.2 (universal mail-in ballots with minimal verification) AK R+2.2 IA R+1.7 GA R+0.5 (Libertarian 3.7%, runoff if less than 50%) KS D+0.6 (stealth D) NC D+1.0 (Libertarian 5.0%, no runoff) NH D+2.2

On the face of it, a 7-3 R split. But, read,

and worry. Of 27 statewide races decided by less than 1% since 1998, the D’s have won 20. That’s a 74% D win rate in close races over the last 16 years.

My working hypothesis is that in states where they control one or more major urban centers, the D’s are able to at need manufacture (dead voters, illegal voters, invented voters, non-voters voted-for) on the rough order of 2% more votes than would otherwise exist, and in close recounts they can then (unless actively and knowledgeably prevented) manufacture the additional votes needed to win.

My conclusion is that we may well see "surprise" D wins in any or all of Iowa, Georgia, Alaska, and Colorado (all possibly involving recount-till-D’s-win), with Colorado possibly unusually blatantly fraudulent due to the now universally mailed-out ballots being bought and sold.

So, a word to the wise. Absent a significantly higher than predicted R turnout in close states, next week’s result is like to be a "miraculous"

narrow D hold of the Senate. (I wouldn’t hold out much hope for Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker either, currently tied in the polls but with all those dead voters in Milwaukee and Madison polling solidly against him.)

(Oh, and while I’m at it, a Libertarian vote in North Carolina this election looks to me pretty much a vote for two more years of Harry Reid as Majority Leader. NC D 43.6, R 42.6, L 5.0.)

So, assuming I’m right, what then? The D’s won’t likely have been overly subtle about it, given what’s at stake.

Interesting times.


But it is racist to suggest that voters identify themselves. Or so I am told. Vote fraud is imaginary anyway, even if Cook County did once deliver more votes to a presidential candidate than were there were registered voters in the county…

We’re illegal – and We Vote!



Charles Murray interview 

Hi Dr. Pournelle,

My takeaway from the Charles Murray interview that you linked (the emphasis is mine):

“…we need to live in a civil society that naturally creates valued places for people with many different kinds and levels of ability. In my experience, communities that are left alone to solve their own problems tend to produce those valued places. Bureaucracies destroy them.”

My experience is that Mr. Murray is correct.


My experience has been that for most of his life Dr. Murray has been correct.  I am no admirer of the Social Sciences, which I usually call The Voodoo Sciences, and I generally pay little attention to Sociologists and their natterings, but Charles Murray actually deals with facts and scientific method.  He also writers well. 

The Trouble Isn’t Liberals. It’s Progressives.

Not everyone on the left wants to quash dissent or indulge President Obama’s abuses of executive power.


Charles Murray

Social conservatives. Libertarians. Country-club conservatives. Tea party conservatives. Everybody in politics knows that those sets of people who usually vote Republican cannot be arrayed in a continuum from moderately conservative to extremely conservative. They are on different political planes. They usually have just enough in common to vote for the same candidate.

Why then do we still talk about the left in terms of a continuum from moderately liberal to extremely liberal? Divisions have been occurring on the left that mirror the divisions on the right. Different segments of the left are now on different planes.

A few weeks ago, I was thrown into a situation where I shared drinks and dinner with two men who have held high positions in Democratic administrations. Both men are lifelong liberals. There’s nothing "moderate" about their liberalism. But as the pleasant evening wore on (we knew that there was no point in trying to change anyone’s opinion on anything), I was struck by how little their politics have to do with other elements of the left.

The rest of this essay is worth reading.  And Losing Ground is still very much worth attention.


And to change the subject considerably:


Woot woot woot

Yes! Got it right!

and the paper:

Stephanie Osborn

Interstellar Woman of Mystery <>

You may now stretch your mind….




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




Mail Bag

Mail 848 Sunday, October 26, 2014

If a foreign government had imposed this system of education on the United States, we would rightfully consider it an act of war.

Glenn T. Seaborg, National Commission on Education, 1983


We haven’t had a mail column in a while. I have been inserting mail relevant to the View. This is a mixed bag.


Terms and conditions – and consequences

I can’t add anything to this picture.



‘Say goodbye to the unmediated world of RSS, email and manual Web surfing. It was nice while it lasted. But there’s just no money in it.’



Roland Dobbins


“We’re asked to create a reality that fits their New York image of what they believe.”



Roland Dobbins


: Bell Curve and "grouping" of intelligent folks


I disagree with any theory about massing smart people together, at least as a general rule.

While it is certainly true that smart SPECIALISTS will group together for special projects, smart people who are not within those specialties have little reason to be in proximity to each other.

There is little doubt that Robert Heinlein and Isaac Asimov were both well above the intellectual average, yet RAH was born in Missouri and moved to the West and Libertarianism, while Asimov stayed in the Northeast and the "Progressive" morass. Until his last years, Heinlein was in motion, sparking chain reactions among the most intelligent people on the planet, while Asimov sat in Boston and drew them in toward himself (and his university). Yet both were masters of the same craft, each gained a strong and faithful following which remains, decades after they left this world, and modern fiction would be radically different if either of them had chosen not to write the things they were imagining.

Consider that the smarter a person is, the more likely to choose where to live. The independent sort (such as Heinlein) want some room find ways to support themselves without having to be in populous areas.

Those who need a massive social-support structure (such as Asimov) will stay with their "herd," even if it requires extensive re-education to stay useful enough that the group keeps them.

To put this in hardware terms, some people are comfortable going to the Moon as Command Module, others will only go if they can drag the whole rocket, Saturn V and all!

I’ve known some very intelligent people who lived out in the middle of nowhere. Some were farmers and ranchers, who grew up in rural areas and refused to leave. Others had left the cities, academia, the aerospace industry, etc., and never looked back.

Telecommuting and teleconferencing can only increase this exodus. When someone can live in Hawai’i and still get a paycheck from their company’s offices in Irvine, they are likely to opt out of the daily snail chase on the 405 freeway.



"War Has Been Declared against Us" – A Speech in the Netherlands Parliament

Nothing that many of us have not known; he is among those not heard.

Geert Wilders: "War Has Been Declared against Us"

A Speech in the Netherlands Parliament

by Geert Wilders <>

September 4, 2014 at 12:30 pm

During the past ten years and two days, the ostrich cabinets did nothing. Every warning was ignored. They lied to the people.

Do not prevent jihadists from leaving our country. Let them leave. I am prepared to go to Schiphol [airport] to wave them goodbye. But let them never come back.

Madam Speaker, war has been declared against us.

Madam Speaker, actually I was expecting flowers from you. I am celebrating an anniversary these days. Exactly ten years and two days ago, I left a party whose name I cannot immediately remember. During these ten years and two days. I have been much criticized. Most importantly for always saying the same thing.

My critics are right. Indeed, my message had been the same during all these years. And today, I will repeat the same message about Islam again. For the umpteenth time. As I have been doing for ten years and two days.

I have been vilified for my film Fitna. And not just vilified, but even prosecuted. Madam Speaker, while not so many years ago, everyone refused to broadcast my film Fitna, we can today watch Fitna 2, 3, 4 and 5 daily on our television screens. It is not a clash of civilizations that is going on, but a clash between barbarism and civilization.

The Netherlands has become the victim of Islam because the political elite looked away. Here, in these room, they are all present, here and also in the Cabinet, all these people who looked away. Every warning was ignored.

As a result, also in our country today, Christians are being told: "We want to murder you all." Jews receive death threats. Swastika flags at demonstrations, stones go through windows, Molotov cocktails, Hitler salutes are being made, macabre black ISIS flags wave in the wind, we hear cries, such as "F-ck the Talmud," on the central square in Amsterdam.

Indeed, Madam Speaker, this summer, Islam came to us.

In all naivety, Deputy Prime Minister Asscher states that there is an "urgent demand" from Muslims to "crack down" on this phenomenon. Last Friday, in its letter to Parliament, the Cabinet wrote that jihadists are hardly significant. They are called a "sect", and a "small" group.

This is what those who look away wish, these deniers of the painful truth for ten years and two days, the ostrich brigade Rutte 2.

But the reality is different. According to a study, 73% of all Moroccans and Turks in the Netherlands are of the opinion that those who go to Syria to fight in the jihad are "heroes." People whom they admire.

And this is not a new phenomenon. Thirteen years ago, 3,000 people died in the attacks of 9/11. We remember the images of burning people jumping from the twin towers. Then, also, three-quarters of the Muslims in the Netherlands condoned this atrocity. That is not a few Muslims, but hundreds of thousands of Muslims in the Netherlands condoning terrorism and saying jihadists are heroes. I do not make this up. It has been investigated. It is a ticking time bomb.

Madam Speaker, is it a coincidence that for centuries Muslims were involved in all these atrocities? No, it is not a coincidence. They simply act according to their ideology. According to Islam, Allah dictated the truth to Muhammad, "the perfect man." Hence, whoever denies the Koran, denies Allah. And Allah leaves no ambiguity about what he wants. Here are a few quotes from the Quran:

Surah 8 verse 60: "Prepare to strike terror into the hearts of the enemies of Allah."

Surah 47 verse 4: "Therefore, when ye meet the unbelievers, smite at their necks". We see it every day in the news.

Another quote from Allah is Surah 4 verse 89: "So take not friends from the ranks of the unbelievers, seize them and kill them wherever ye find them."

Madam Speaker, the Koran on the table before you is a handbook for terrorists. Blood drips from its pages. It calls for perpetual war against non-believers. That Koran before you is the hunting permit for millions of Muslims. A license to kill. That book is the Constitution of the Islamic State. What ISIS does is what Allah commands.

This bloodthirsty ideology was able to nestle in the Netherlands because our elites looked away. Neighborhoods such as Schilderswijk, Transvaal, Crooswijk, Slotervaart, Kanaleneiland, Huizen, you name it. There, the caliphate is under construction; there, the Islamic State is in preparation.

During the past ten years and two days , the ostrich Cabinets did nothing. It has nothing to do with Islam, they lied to the people. Imagine them having to tell the truth.

But the people have noticed. Two thirds of all Dutch say that the Islamic culture does not belong in the Netherlands. Including the majority of the electorate of the Labour Party, the majority of the voters of the VVD, the majority of the voters of the CDA, and all the voters of the PVV.

The voters demand that, after ten years and two days of slumber, measures are finally taken. The voters demand that something effective happen. No semi-soft palliatives. Allow me to make a few suggestions to the away-with-us mafia. Here are a few things which should happen starting today:

Recognize that Islam is the problem. Start the de-Islamization of the Netherlands. Less Islam.

Close our borders to immigrants from Islamic countries. Immediate border controls. Stop this "cultural enrichment".

Close every Salafist mosque which receives even a penny from the Gulf countries. Deprive all jihadists of their passports, even if they only have a Dutch passport. Let them take an ISIS passport.

Do not prevent jihadists from leaving our country. Let them leave, with as many friends as possible. If it helps, I am even prepared to go to Schiphol [airport] to wave them goodbye. But let them never come back. That is the condition. Good riddance.

And, as far as I am concerned, anyone who expresses support for terror as a means to overthrow our constitutional democracy has to leave the country at once. If you are waving an ISIS flag you are waving an exit ticket. Leave! Get out of our country!

Madam Speaker, war has been declared against us. We have to strike back hard. Away with these people! Enough is enough!

Click for a video of this speech <> .

The problem, of course, is that our experience with war has been with nations who have citizens. War consists of breaking things and killing people until the enemy stops the activities that caused us to go to war. Sometimes that involves reducing the enemy to helplessness. It generally involves massive destruction with many civilian casualties, even among those who oppose the enemy: think Jews in hiding in Germany during WW II.


September Snow in Seven States over Seven Days < Roy Spencer, PhD,


Climate is what the experts expect. Weather is what we get. Human Caused Warming Believers smooth the cycles out and show monotonic rising temperatures with a spoke, and this is the warmest year in history. Some observers have different opinions.


This is quite long, but worth your time if you are interested in the subject.

The Dying Russians

Masha Gessen <> <> Gueorgui Pinkhassov/Magnum Photos

Aprelevka train station, Russia, 1997

Sometime in 1993, after several trips to Russia, I noticed something bizarre and disturbing: people kept dying. I was used to losing friends to AIDS in the United States, but this was different. People in Russia were dying suddenly and violently, and their own friends and colleagues did not find these deaths shocking. Upon arriving in Moscow I called a friend with whom I had become close over the course of a year. “Vadim is no more,” said his father, who picked up the phone. “He drowned.” I showed up for a meeting with a newspaper reporter to have the receptionist say, “But he is dead, don’t you know?” I didn’t. I’d seen the man a week earlier; he was thirty and apparently healthy. The receptionist seemed to think I was being dense. “A helicopter accident,” she finally said, in a tone that seemed to indicate I had no business being surprised.

The deaths kept piling up. People — ­men and women — ­were falling, or perhaps jumping, off trains and out of windows; asphyxiating in country houses with faulty wood stoves or in apartments with jammed front-door locks; getting hit by cars that sped through quiet courtyards or plowed down groups of people on a sidewalk; drowning as a result of diving drunk into a lake or ignoring sea-storm warnings or for no apparent reason; poisoning themselves with too much alcohol, counterfeit alcohol, alcohol substitutes, or drugs; and, finally, dropping dead at absurdly early ages from heart attacks and strokes.

Back in the United States after a trip to Russia, I cried on a friend’s shoulder. I was finding all this death not simply painful but impossible to process. “It’s not like there is a war on,” I said.

“But there is,” said my friend, a somewhat older and much wiser reporter than I. “This is what civil war actually looks like. “It’s not when everybody starts running around with guns. It’s when everybody starts dying.”

My friend’s framing stood me in good stead for years. I realized the magazine stories I was writing then were the stories of destruction, casualties, survival, restoration, and the longing for peace. But useful as that way of thinking might be for a journalist, it cannot be employed by social scientists, who are still struggling to answer the question, Why are Russians dying in numbers, and at ages, and of causes never seen in any other country that is not, by any standard definition, at war?

In the seventeen years between 1992 and 2009, the Russian population declined by almost seven million people, or nearly 5 percent­ a rate of loss unheard of in Europe since World War II. Moreover, much of this appears to be caused by rising mortality. By the mid-1990s, the average St. Petersburg man lived for seven fewer years than he did at the end of the Communist period; in Moscow, the dip was even greater, with death coming nearly eight years sooner.

In 2006 and 2007, Michelle Parsons, an anthropologist who teaches at Emory University and had lived in Russia during the height of the population decline in the early 1990s, set out to explore what she calls “the cultural context of the Russian mortality crisis.” Her method was a series of long unstructured interviews with average Muscovites ­what amounted to immersing herself in a months-long conversation about what made life, for so many, no longer worth living. The explanation that Parsons believes she has found is in the title of her new book, Dying Unneeded <> .

Parsons chose as her subjects people who were middle-aged in the early 1990s. Since she conducted her interviews in Moscow over a decade later, the study has an obvious structural handicap: her subjects are the survivors, not the victims, of the mortality crisis­ they didn’t die ­and their memories have been transformed by the intervening years of social and economic upheaval. Still, what emerges is a story that is surely representative of the experience of a fair number of Russians.

People of the generation Parsons describes were born in the desolate, hungry years following WWII. They grew up in communal apartments, with two or three generations of a single family occupying one or two rooms and sharing a hallway, bathroom, and kitchen with three or seven or even a dozen other families. But then, in the early 1960s, Nikita Khrushchev organized a construction boom: cheaply constructed apartment buildings went up all around the periphery of Moscow, and Russians­ first and foremost, Muscovites ­moved out of communal apartments en masse. By the Brezhnev years, in the late 1960s and 1970s, there were also Soviet-made cars and tiny country houses ­such at least was the Soviet consumer dream, and it was within reach for a significant number of Russians.

In addition, three important things made life not only less harsh, relative to earlier years, but even worth living. One was the general perception of social and economic stability. Jobs were unquestionably secure and, starting in the 1960s, followed by a retirement guaranteed by the state. A second was the general sense of progress, both of the sort Soviet propaganda promised (the country was going to build the first communist society, in which money would be abolished and everyone would share in the plenty); and the personal material improvement this generation experienced itself moving toward. A third source of comfort of Soviet life was its apparent equality. A good number of people with connections enjoyed extraordinary perquisites compared to the vast majority of the population, but the wealth-and-privilege gap was concealed by the tall fences around the nomenklatura summer houses, the textbook and newspaper depictions of Soviet egalitarianism, and the glacial pace of mobility into one of the favored groups at the top.

Parsons and her subjects, whom she quotes at length, seem to have an acute understanding of the first two forces shaping Soviet society but are almost completely blind to the last: the hidden nature of Soviet social inequality. One woman says that the difference between current poverty and poverty in the postwar era is that “now there are rich folks.”

But by the early 1980s, the Soviet economy was stagnant and the Soviet political system moribund. Finally, a younger leader, Mikhail Gorbachev, emerged, but the decrepit structure proved incapable of change and, in short order, collapsed, taking with it the predictable life as hundreds of millions of people had known it. Russia rushed into a new capitalist future, which most of the population expected to bring prosperity and variety. Boris Yeltsin and his team of young, inexperienced reformers instituted economic shock therapy. As far as we know today, this series of radical measures jerked Russia back from the edge of famine but also plunged millions of people into poverty. Over the next decade, most Russian families­ like their counterparts elsewhere in the former Soviet Union ­actually experienced an improvement in their living conditions, but few who had spent many adult years in the old system regained the sense of solid ground under their feet.

“To Lyudmila, economic shock therapy looked a lot like war-ravaged Russia,” Parsons writes of one of her respondents. “In a terrible sense it was as if the poverty of her youth and the poverty of the early 1990s had merged together. Thirty-five years of her life, from age nineteen when she started work in the mechanics factory to age fifty-five when the Soviet Union fell, fell out of view.” Parsons devotes an entire chapter to comparisons between the collapse and chaos of the 1990s and the devastation that followed World War II. “Margarita told me with some disgust, ‘It is just like after the war.’ And then she would add­ half angry, half baffled­’ But there was no war.’ …The fifty-seven-year-old taxi driver I interviewed said, of those older than himself, ‘They will never understand what happened. No war, nothing. And everything fell apart.’” <>

Workers in a tractor factory, Vladimir, Russia, 1972

Not only had the retirement system collapsed, but neither the job market nor their own families­ those grown children who had once been entirely dependent on their parents ­had any use for these people. Gone, too, was the radiant future: communist slogans were replaced with capitalist advertising that didn’t speak to the masses, who were in no position to over-consume. For those over forty, the message of the new era was that no one­ not even the builders of an imaginary future ­needed them anymore. Above all, the veil that had hidden the wealth of the few from the incredulous and envious gaze of the many had been ruthlessly removed: for the 1990s and much of the 2000s, Moscow would become the world capital of conspicuous consumption. No longer contributing to or enjoying the benefits of the system, members of the older generations, Parsons suggests, were particularly susceptible to early death.

Parsons’ argument is provocative but not entirely convincing. She describes Russia as though it were a new country that replaced the USSR, and it was this new country that suffered a mortality crisis, which can and should be explained entirely by social forces specific to itself. This is a standard way to approach the problem, and it is not a bad description of what many Russians actually experienced. But, by attempting to identify a single turning point, she overlooks more gradual changes that may have been underway well before 1991. For example, Parsons largely skips over the 1980s, with the broad social movements and the severe economic crises that marked the Gorbachev period.

In fact, if we zoom out from the early 1990s, where Parsons has located the Russian “mortality crisis,” we will see something astounding: it is not a crisis­ unless, of course, a crisis can last decades. “While the end of the USSR marked one [of] the most momentous political changes of the twentieth century, that transition has been attended by a gruesome continuity in adverse health trends for the Russian population,” writes Nicholas Eberstadt in Russia’s Peacetime Demographic Crisis: Dimensions, Causes, Implications <> , an exhaustive study published by the National Bureau of Asian Research in 2010. Eberstadt is an economist who has been writing about Soviet and Russian demographics for many years. In this book-length study, he has painted a picture as grim as it is mystifying­in part because he is reluctant to offer an explanation for which he lacks hard data.

Eberstadt is interested in the larger phenomenon of depopulation, including falling birth rates as well as rising death rates. He observes that this is not the first such trend in recent Russian history. There was the decline of 1917–1923­the years of the revolution and the Russian Civil War when, Eberstadt writes, “depopulation was attributable to the collapse of birth rates, the upsurge in death rates, and the exodus of émigrés that resulted from these upheavals.” There was 1933–1934, when the Soviet population fell by nearly two million as a result of murderous forced collectivization and a man-made famine that decimated rural Ukraine and, to a lesser extent, Russia. Then, from 1941 to 1946, the Soviet Union lost an estimated 27 million people in the war and suffered a two-thirds drop in birth rate. But the two-and-a-half decades since the collapse of the Soviet Union are the longest period of depopulation, and also the first to occur, on such a scale, in peacetime, anywhere in the world. “There is no obvious external application of state force to relieve, no obvious fateful and unnatural misfortune to weather, in the hopes of reversing this particular population decline,” writes Eberstadt. “Consequently, it is impossible to predict when (or even whether) Russia’s present, ongoing depopulation will finally come to an end.”

Russia has long had a low birth rate. The Soviet government fought to increase it by introducing a three-year maternity leave and other inducements, but for much of the postwar period it hovered below replacement rates. An exception was the Gorbachev era, when fertility reached 2.2. After 1989, however, it fell and still has not recovered: despite financial inducements introduced by the Putin government, the Russian fertility rate stands at 1.61, one of the lowest in the world (the US fertility rate estimate for 2014 is 2.01, which is also below replacement but still much higher than Russia’s).

And then there is the dying. In a rare moment of what may pass for levity Eberstadt allows himself the following chapter subtitle: “Pioneering New and Modern Pathways to Poor Health and Premature Death.” Russians did not start dying early and often after the collapse of the Soviet Union. “To the contrary,” writes Eberstadt, what is happening now is “merely the latest culmination of ominous trends that have been darkly evident on Russian soil for almost half a century.” With the exception of two brief periods ­when Soviet Russia was ruled by Khrushchev and again when it was run by Gorbachev ­death rates have been inexorably rising. This continued to be true even during the period of unprecedented economic growth between 1999 and 2008. In this study, published in 2010, Eberstadt accurately predicts that in the coming years the depopulation trend may be moderated but argues that it will not be reversed; in 2013 Russia’s birthrate was still lower and its death rate still higher than they had been in 1991. And 1991 had not been a good year.

Contrary to Parsons’s argument, moreover, Eberstadt shows that the current trend is not largely a problem of middle-aged Russians. While the graphs seem to indicate this, he notes, if one takes into account the fact that mortality rates normally rise with age, it is the younger generation that is staring down the most terrifying void. According to 2006 figures, he writes, “overall life expectancy at age fifteen in the Russian Federation appears in fact to be lower than for some of the countries the UN designates to be least developed (as opposed to less developed), among these, Bangladesh, Cambodia, and Yemen.” Male life expectancy at age fifteen in Russia compares unfavorably to that in Ethiopia, Gambia, and Somalia.

Eberstadt sets out to find the culprit, and before conceding he can’t, he systematically goes down the list of the usual suspects. Infectious diseases, including not only HIV and TB but also normally curable STDs and every kind of hepatitis, have the run of the land in Russia, but do not in fact seem overrepresented in its death statistics; from a demographer’s point of view, as many Russians die of infections as would be expected in a country of its income level. Cardiovascular disease is an entirely different matter:

As of 1980, the Russian population may well have been suffering the very highest incidence of mortality from diseases of the circulatory system that had ever been visited on a national population in the entire course of human history ­up to that point in time. Over the subsequent decades, unfortunately, the level of CVD mortality in the Russian Federation veered further upward…. By 2006… Russia’s mortality levels from CVD alone were some 30% higher than deaths in Western Europe from all causes combined.

And then there are the deaths from external causes­again going from bad to worse. “Deaths from injuries and poisoning had been much higher in Russia than in Western Europe in 1980 ­well over two and a half times higher, in fact.” As of 2006, he writes, it was more than five times as high.

So why do Russians have so many heart attacks, strokes, fatal injuries, and poisonings? One needs to have only a passing knowledge of Russian history and culture to tick off a list of culprits, and Eberstadt is thorough in examining each of them. True, Russians eat a fatty diet ­but not as fatty as Western Europeans do. Plus, Russians, on average, consume fewer calories than Western Europeans, indicating that overeating is not the issue. Yes, Russia has taken abominable care of its environment, but it sees only a few more deaths from respiratory diseases than does Western Europe ­and fewer deaths of diseases of the kidneys, which would be expected to result from pollution. Yes, Russians have lived through severe economic upheaval, but there is no indication that economic shock in a modern society leads quickly, or at all, to increased mortality­the Great Depression, for example, did not. Russia spends roughly as much on health care per capita as do the less-affluent European countries like Portugal. Russians smoke a lot­but not as much as Greeks and Spaniards, who live on average roughly as long as other Western Europeans.

The most obvious explanation for Russia’s high mortality­drinking­is also the most puzzling on closer examination. Russians drink heavily, but not as heavily as Czechs, Slovaks, and Hungarians ­all countries that have seen an appreciable improvement in life expectancy since breaking off from the Soviet Bloc. Yes, vodka and its relatives make an appreciable contribution to the high rates of cardiovascular, violent, and accidental deaths ­but not nearly enough to explain the demographic catastrophe. There are even studies that appear to show that Russian drinkers live longer than Russian non-drinkers. Parsons discusses these studies in some detail, and with good reason: it begins to suggest the true culprit. She theorizes that drinking is, for what its worth, an instrument of adapting to the harsh reality and sense of worthlessness that would otherwise make one want to curl up and die.

For Eberstadt, who is seeking an explanation for Russia’s half-century-long period of demographic regress rather than simply the mortality crisis of the 1990s, the issue of mental health also furnishes a kind of answer. While he suggests that more research is needed to prove the link, he finds that “a relationship does exist” between the mortality mystery and the psychological well-being of Russians:

Suffice it to say we would never expect to find premature mortality on the Russian scale in a society with Russia’s present income and educational profiles and typically Western readings on trust, happiness, radius of voluntary association, and other factors adduced to represent social capital.

Another major clue to the psychological nature of the Russian disease is the fact that the two brief breaks in the downward spiral coincided not with periods of greater prosperity but with periods, for lack of a more data-driven description, of greater hope. The Khrushchev era, with its post-Stalin political liberalization and intensive housing construction, inspired Russians to go on living. The Gorbachev period of glasnost and revival inspired them to have babies as well. The hope might have persisted after the Soviet Union collapsed­for a brief moment it seemed that this was when the truly glorious future would materialize­but the upheaval of the 1990s dashed it so quickly and so decisively that death and birth statistics appear to reflect nothing but despair during that decade.

If this is true­ if Russians are dying for lack of hope, as they seem to neglect the question that is still looking for its researcher is, Why haven’t Russians experienced hope in the last quarter century? Or, more precisely in light of the grim continuity of Russian death, What happened to Russians over the course of the Soviet century that has rendered them incapable of hope? In The Origins of Totalitarianism Hannah Arendt argues that totalitarian rule is truly possible only in countries that are large enough to be able to afford depopulation. The Soviet Union proved itself to be just such a country on at least three occasions in the twentieth century ­teaching its citizens in the process that their lives are worthless. Is it possible that this knowledge has been passed from generation to generation enough times that most Russians are now born with it and this is why they are born with a Bangladesh-level life expectancy? Is it also possible that other post-Soviet states, by breaking off from Moscow, have reclaimed some of their ability to hope, and this is why even Russia’s closest cultural and geographic cousins, such as Belarus and Ukraine, aren’t dying off as fast? If so, Russia is dying of a broken heart­also known as cardiovascular disease.

September 2, 2014, 4:45 p.m.

Demographics, War, and Terror

Dear Dr. Pournelle,

I’ve been considering the current war on terror and I am having a thought on the demographics of the matter. I thought I’d send this for criticism by you and your correspondents.

First: It’s pretty much undeniable that the US has a lot less stomach for protracted war than it did in the 1940s. I suggest that, although our overall population is larger, this is overwhelmingly caused by the fact that, per capita, the family size is smaller.

If I’m reading this right, In 1930, the average number of children in an American family was 4.11. In 2006, That number was 2.57. I suggest that includes ALL demographics — among the wealthy, the people who make national policy, I suspect that number is heavily skewed toward fewer children. The Clintons only had one daughter, as an example.

I think this greatly influences our willingness to fight wars. You remember the Sullivan brothers, of course — they had a destroyer named after them. But the reason this tragedy is remembered it is because it is rare for an entire family to perish in such a way. Normally, when a large family goes off to war, some will survive even if the entire family enlists. But when your ruling class is made up predominantly of one and two child families, this means that millions of influential Americans are facing the tragedy of the Sullivans if even one of their children dies.

This makes the country extremely casualty-averse. Not only will they be unwilling to risk their little princes at all if possible, they will also end any wars they DO start as rapidly as they can.

The situation is even more pronounced in allied countries, where the birth rate is below replacement level. They have even fewer families, and therefore mothers and fathers are even less willing to risk the lives of their children.

I contend that a country’s willingness to fight wars is directly proportional to its birth rate. In a large family, the blunt truth is that the parents don’t have the ability to support them all, so war offers an opportunity for the younger siblings to either acquire prestige and wealth, or get killed and alleviate the pressure on the family. In small families, by contrast, wars risk the total extinction of the family line.

So … just what IS the birth rate in the Arab world.

In the Gulf Arab states , the birth rate is 5.97. That’s higher than the US has ever had in recorded history, even in the 1700s, when the rate was only 4.3.

I’ll wager this is the hidden mechanism behind the war on terror: Middle Eastern states are driven to war by their large families, whose sons must find either plunder or death on foreign battlefields. Americans, by contrast, are extremely reluctant to risk their only children, and our reluctance encourages our enemies in the belief they can win, despite the disparity in military power. They correctly scent that they have more will to win then we do.

How is this to be solved? I think it unlikely the US is suddenly going to start breeding lots of children. IF I were the villain in a thriller, I would send aircraft to the entire Middle East not with bombs, but with contraceptives, pornography, feminist ideology, schools for women, and every other modern innovation which allows women to do something other than be held prisoner in a back room and endlessly churn out babies. It’s their culture, ideology, and economy that produces large families. Modify this so that their birth rate is as low as ours is, they will no longer have the stomach for war. Rather than being the opportunity it now is, it will represent an unacceptable risk.

What do you think? Am I missing something?


Brian P.

It is an important topic and needs a lot more than I can put in as a comment to his mail. Note that productivity of the society as a whole continues to rise faster than population.


Dr. Pournelle -

I saw the following in your September 10th blog:

How Should We Program Computers to Deceive?

By Kate Greene •

Placebo buttons in elevators and at crosswalks that don’t actually do anything are just the beginning. One computer scientist has collected hundreds of examples of technology designed to trick people, for better and for worse.

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

This reminded me something I saw on a tour of an elderly Air Force One at Being’s Museum of Flight several years ago.

Among the explanatory plaques around LBJ’s office was one below a small rotary control mounted on the wall. The plaque explained that LBJ was constantly calling the cockpit and asking for the temperature to be increased or decreased. Once the control was mounted, he was apparently satisfied and stopped calling.

The plaque went on to say that the control was a dummy, and not hooked up to anything.

I’ve been back to the museum recently, and the plaque has been removed. PC?

Thanks for your insights!

- John Herrmann

Tempe, AZ


Differentiating republic and democracy


Everyone is over thinking the ways to tell the difference between a republic and a democracy.

In a democracy, you are imprisoned by the tyranny of the majority.

In a republic, we pick our wardens.


Jerry Pournelle wrote:

"Bind them down with the chains of the constitution…"

Back when they still had any respect for the Constitution — or the people.

Imagine a lottery in which each ticket had the name of a public official, cost $5, and whoever got the most sales was publicly waterboarded then given 20 lashes. This would go a long way toward eliminating the deficit, as well as making our Elect Officials pay a little more attention to their jobs.



Kobani, Turkey and the Perfect Storm | Réseau International (english)


An interesting international perspective on the double game that Turkey is playing in the alleged war against ISIS.

It has been obvious since the invasion of Iraq that the Kurds are the only group in Iraq that are likely to remain reasonably reliable US ally. (They are after all, almost Muslims). It is also obvious that the Kurds are the only group aside from the Shia, who are not reliable allies, who are likely to be a credible force to stop ISIS. Given these obvious realities, one would think that Obama would be placing a high priority on providing air support for the Kurds who would then be the "boots on the ground" to defeat ISIL. The fact that Secretary of State Kerry has declared that saving Kobani which is the core of Kurdish military power is not a priority suggests that defeating ISIL is not a US priority either.

I am becoming convinced that Obama has a back room deal with Edrogen to enable Turkey to utilize ISIS as a surrogate against the Kurds and and the Shia of Iraq and Syria with the ultimate goal of reconstituting the Ottoman Empire. Syria and Iraq will obviously become part of this second, Ottoman empire. However; the Levant also includes Jordan, Lebanon, Kuwait, portions of Saudi Arabia, and Israel. It will be extremely interesting to see how Israel reacts to Turkish demands to be reabsorbed into the new, Ottoman Empire.

James Crawford=


ISIS Action Backfires

I read a lot about the so-called ISIS strategy these days. I saw more than 10 articles and none of these had anything good to say. Just when I was about to write and summarize these articles, I noted that ISIS fighters are eight miles from the airport in Baghdad, they’re making gains on the Syria-Turkey border, and the United Nations is worried about genocide in Kobani.

But, this Washington Post article describes the situation succinctly:


The U.S.-led air war in Syria has gotten off to a rocky start, with even the Syrian rebel groups closest to the United States turning against it, U.S. ally Turkey refusing to contribute and the plight of a beleaguered Kurdish town exposing the limitations of the strategy.

U.S. officials caution that the strikes are just the beginning of a broader strategy that could take years to carry out.


It seems our policy makers read the book How to Lose Friends and Alienate People to help them focus their so-called strategy. Our allies are turning away from us, and I speak of the Syrian rebels.

I’m not surprised the democratic Turkey, which rolled back the Ataturk reforms, is not a reliable ally. You spoke in some detail on this point; so I won’t mention Turkey, specifically, further.

Generally, democratic states in the Middle East are not reliable U.S.

allies and George Friedman — a former State Department employee — expressed the opinion that nothing is more condescending and imperialist than expecting our allies to share our values and our worldview.

R.D. Kaplan pointed out that Sisi’s Egypt is a dictatorship of pharaonic proportions but is more friendly to the United States than a democratic Egypt under the Muslim Brotherhood. Other examples exist, and you can watch a video of an interesting conversation where nations and their related rulers from the Maghreb, through the Levant, and into the Arabian Peninsula receive cursory consideration on these points.

The "broader strategy" — if we assume the policy makers have one — can only have three possible goals if we take matters at face value:

1. Create a situation where United States troops are necessarily involved; Iraqi policy makers now beg for this solution.

2. Create a situation where some cooperation with the Kurds is necessary to support the policy. U.S. policy makers might consider that Turkey continues to drift out of orbit and wonder "why not?"

3. Create an intergenerational war with a disenfranchised warrior class of young men, their children, their grandchildren, their great grandchildren, ad infinitum.

◊ ◊ ◊ ◊ ◊

Most Respectfully,

Joshua Jordan, KSC

Percussa Resurgo





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