Things worth your time.

View 844 Sunday, September 21, 2014

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

President Barack Obama, January 31, 2009



And if you did not see yesterday’s Climate Science Is Not Settled, you should find it worth your while whether you are a Believer or a Denier.

The California 1914 Sixth Grade Reader continues to draw praise as new readers discover what sixth grade readers – not advanced placement, or college prep students, but sixth grade students many of whom would not go to high school – read and enjoyed 100 years ago, when the heritage of western civilization was not despised by the self-anointed intelligentsia.

I am preparing an essay on a US strategy for the Middle East that has a chance of working to give us a positive outcome. Not the impossible glorious results we held back in the days of “the End of History” when serious intellectuals believed that liberal democracy would be the inevitable replacement for all the despotisms, radical ideologies, tyrannies, kleptocracies, failed states, and other unpleasant places, and that it was our duty to march with the flywheel of history and help implement this Hegelian inevitability. Those familiar with Marxism would have noticed that this sounded much like the Communist Party line in the days when many believed that Communism was the inevitable end of history; many former Marxists understood that and cheered.

Many who sent our troops and treasure into Iraq and Afghanistan truly believed that before we left those places they would be nascent liberal democracies, and help point the way for those laggard nations like Russia that were resisting the wave of the future. We were also encouraged to meddle in many places. We took sides in the Balkan Wars without understanding what was at stake, and with no discernible American interest to be served we alienated Russia while gaining no friends.

Now Russia is reverting to strengthening its nuclear arsenal and upgrading its delivery systems as the Russian rulers see NATO troops coming closer and closer to the Russian border, and hear stern warnings about ‘interference’ in territories that have been in the Russian sphere of influence for centuries. Libya is a shambles, Egypt has barely been rescued from possible incorporation into the Caliphate by the return of the Mamelukes, Jordan holds on but feels increasing pressure, the Iraqi army arms the Caliphate with all the modern military equipment paid for by the people of the United States while the Iraqi soldiers who recently persecuted Sunni Iraqis find themselves running from the ISIL Sunni.

There is a way out of this. It is not all the way out, and it involves some losses; but it does avoid disaster. I am still writing this.





I have accumulated a number of stories that ought to be better known. Here are a few.

Looking for Angel to Save Bradbury’s Hugo

Posted on September 18, 2014


Ray Bradbury’s 2004 Retro Hugo for Fahrenheit 451.

Phil Nichols of Bradburymedia would like to see Ray Bradbury’s Retro Hugo for Fahrenheit 451 reunited with the collection at the Center for Ray Bradbury Studies at IUPUI. That Hugo is on the auction block until September 25. The current bid is $5,000.


Joshua Kaplowitz

How I Joined Teach for America—and Got Sued for $20 Million

An idealistic new Yale grad learns up close and personal just how bad inner-city schools can be—and why.


Ebola’s Warning for an Unprepared America

By Scott Gottlieb And Tevi Troy

The world is finally mobilizing to wage a muscular fight against Ebola’s catastrophic spread through West Africa. President Obama has put the Pentagon in charge of a robust, 3,000-person U.S. relief effort in the stricken areas. This is a positive step, but the world is still dangerously ill-prepared for the fight against pandemic outbreaks.

In the case of Ebola, we were late to the battle and are now focused too narrowly on places like Liberia while failing to see West Africa as one big outbreak. We also remain too dependent on outdated tools and strategies in fighting the virus, and are tethered to an effort not yet scaled to the challenge.

While Ebola may still be contained, other potentially calamitous threats are out there. MERS, SARS, avian flu and other illnesses could re-emerge at any time. In the American Midwest, for instance, a novel virus classified as Enterovirus 68 has recently sent some 300 children to the hospital in respiratory distress, with no available antiviral therapy or vaccine. We need to rethink our preparedness and adopt a more modern approach for dealing with these and other looming outbreaks.

An Obsolete Nuclear Treaty Even Before Russia Cheated

The U.S. should withdraw from the INF and upgrade our arsenal to match the nation’s global responsibilities.

By John Bolton And John Yoo

Russia’s attacks on Ukraine are consistent with its efforts to re-establish hegemony in the former Soviet Union. Strategically, however, newly revealed Russian intermediate-range nuclear weapons are just as dangerous, and may be worse. Either way, Moscow’s arms-control treaty violations give America the opportunity to discard obsolete, Cold War-era limits on its own arsenal, and upgrade its military capabilities to match its global responsibilities.

In late July, the Obama administration publicly revealed that Russia had violated the 1987 Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty, which banned ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles with ranges of 500 to 5,500 kilometers. The INF treaty enhanced European stability at the Cold War’s ending, easing concerns about a Götterdämmerung meltdown-scenario as the Warsaw Pact and the Soviet Union collapsed.

Russia has extensively tested a new ballistic missile, the RS-26 Rubezh, which violates the INF. Despite the country’s demographic and economic decline, Moscow also is overhauling its nuclear and conventional arsenal, adding new, multiple-warhead ballistic missiles, and suspending the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty. Russia claims that new threats along its southern border and the rise of China require modernizing its nuclear stockpile. "Why is it that everyone and anyone can have this class of weapons and we and the United States cannot?" Sergei Ivanov, President Vladimir Putin‘s chief of staff and former defense minister, said last year about intermediate-range missiles.



20YY: The Future of Warfare

Paul Scharre and Shawn Brimley

The U.S. military is at a critical juncture. With the end of two wars and a sharp drawdown in defense spending, investments over the next several years will set the military’s course for decades to come. The Pentagon can make smart investments now to prepare for the future, or it can continue to cling to “wasting assets,” legacy platforms and concepts that will be less and less survivable in a future of widely proliferated precision-guided weapons. Without a clear vision of what future force to build, however, bureaucratic inertia and existing programs of record will carry the day.

A new report from the Center for a New American Security (CNAS) articulates a vision of unmanned and autonomous systems as the centerpiece of an emerging warfighting regime dominated by robotics. The proliferation of anti-access and area-denial (A2/AD) technologies to both state and non-state actors is only a precursor to an even more lethal regime characterized by swarms of networked, intelligent machines. Because many of the underlying technologies behind robotics are driven by commercial sector innovation in information technology, the U.S. defense community does not have a monopoly on this technology. Unlike previous innovations like GPS, stealth technology, or advanced sensory capabilities, the robotics revolution will happen whether the U.S. moves first in this arena or not. While the United States enjoys a small lead in unmanned and robotic systems today, other actors are moving aggressively. Scores of states have unmanned vehicles, as do some non-state actors. Autonomous drones can be purchased off-the-shelf, allowing a single terrorist to field a swarm of kamikaze drones. Last month, a hacker demonstrated the ability to use a drone to hack and take control of other drones, raising the specter of a “zombie drone” air force. The robotic warfighting regime is barreling down upon us at an alarming rate, and the U.S. military will need to be more adaptive and innovative or risk falling behind.

20YY: Preparing for War in the Robotic Age is the first report in a multi-year initiative that CNAS has launched examining the impact of emerging technology on the future of warfare. Rapid changes in robotics, autonomy, networking, and computer processing have the potential to dramatically change the character and speed of armed conflict.



With genetic testing, I gave my parents the gift of divorce

Updated by George Doe on September 9, 2014, 7:50 a.m. ET

I’m a stem cell and reproductive biologist. I fell in love with biology when I was in high school. It was the realization that every cell in my body has the same genome and DNA, but each cell is different. A stomach cell is not a brain cell is not a skin cell. But they’re reading from the same book of instructions. With 23andMe, you get your personal genome book, your story. Unless you have an identical twin somewhere, that genetic makeup is unique to you.

Last year, I taught a course about the genome. For one of the lessons, I demonstrated the process of acquiring a tissue sample — in this case saliva — and sending it off to 23andMe to look at a million letters in my genome. 23andMe analyzes them, and spits out a report telling you things about yourself at the genetic level. Then you get the awesome bonus of learning about your ancestry: finding out which parts came from Europe, Africa, Asia.


You can guess what happened next.


Is Artificial Intelligence a Threat?



By Angela Chen

When the world ends, it may not be by fire or ice or an evil robot overlord. Our demise may come at the hands of a superintelligence that just wants more paper clips.


And you have certainly seen other variants of the “grey goo” scenario. But just because someone has thought of the danger does not mean that someone else will not implement it. Bureaucracies are capable of many horrors.

Rotherham Child-sex Victim Confronts Muslim Abuser, Gets Arrested for Racism

September 15, 2014 by Daniel Greenfield

Nothing has changed. The police covered up the Muslim sexual abuse of 1,400 British girls, in some cases arresting the girls and their fathers, but not the Muslim perpetrators.

Now it’s more of the same. (via Instapundit)

A victim of Rotherham’s child sex abuse scandal confronted a man she says groomed her – but was left shocked when she was the one arrested.

The woman was shocked when she saw the man walking through the town’s centre on Friday and decided to challenge him over the allegations.

But she was tackled by two police officers and pushed up against a wall during her ‘thuggish’ arrest, a witness has said.

‘A police van came and six male officers piled out. ‘Two of them dragged her away, handcuffed her, put her against a wall and then shoved her into the back of the van.’

A spokesman said: ‘The woman was arrested on suspicion of racially aggravated public order offences.’

I highly doubt that a police van with six officers is dispatched everyone time someone in South Yorkshire is suspected of being drunk. The key there is “Racially”. A Muslim complained and the hounds were released.

The same police who wouldn’t step in when young girls were being raped, are on the go whenever a Muslim’s feelings are hurt.




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




Climate Science Is Not Settled

View 843 Saturday, September 20, 2014

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

President Barack Obama, January 31, 2009


Chaos Manor Review returns.


Climate Change

Steven Koonin, former Undersecretary for Science in the Department of Energy during President Obama’s first term, has an article in today’s Wall Street Journal that well states and summarizes the rational scientific view of the Great Climate Science Debate.

Climate Science Is Not Settled

We are very far from the knowledge needed to make good climate policy, writes leading scientist Steven E. Koonin

The idea that "Climate science is settled" runs through today’s popular and policy discussions. Unfortunately, that claim is misguided. It has not only distorted our public and policy debates on issues related to energy, greenhouse-gas emissions and the environment. But it also has inhibited the scientific and policy discussions that we need to have about our climate future.

My training as a computational physicist—together with a 40-year career of scientific research, advising and management in academia, government and the private sector—has afforded me an extended, up-close perspective on climate science. Detailed technical discussions during the past year with leading climate scientists have given me an even better sense of what we know, and don’t know, about climate. I have come to appreciate the daunting scientific challenge of answering the questions that policy makers and the public are asking.

The crucial scientific question for policy isn’t whether the climate is changing. That is a settled matter: The climate has always changed and always will. Geological and historical records show the occurrence of major climate shifts, sometimes over only a few decades. We know, for instance, that during the 20th century the Earth’s global average surface temperature rose 1.4 degrees Fahrenheit.

Nor is the crucial question whether humans are influencing the climate. That is no hoax: There is little doubt in the scientific community that continually growing amounts of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, due largely to carbon-dioxide emissions from the conventional use of fossil fuels, are influencing the climate. There is also little doubt that the carbon dioxide will persist in the atmosphere for several centuries. The impact today of human activity appears to be comparable to the intrinsic, natural variability of the climate system itself.

Rather, the crucial, unsettled scientific question for policy is, "How will the climate change over the next century under both natural and human influences?" Answers to that question at the global and regional levels, as well as to equally complex questions of how ecosystems and human activities will be affected, should inform our choices about energy and infrastructure.

But—here’s the catch—those questions are the hardest ones to answer. They challenge, in a fundamental way, what science can tell us about future climates.

Dr. Koonin has different emphasis than I have, but nothing said in that opening summary is untrue. He is being a bit more conciliatory to the Believers than I would be, and I hope that works. I doubt that it will, and I look for denunciations of him as a traitor to mankind as one of the less severe charges to be brought against him, but the statements are true, and the analysis that follows will be at least in part familiar to long readers of this daybook.

For the latest IPCC report (September 2013), its Working Group I, which focuses on physical science, uses an ensemble of some 55 different models. Although most of these models are tuned to reproduce the gross features of the Earth’s climate, the marked differences in their details and projections reflect all of the limitations that I have described. For example:

• The models differ in their descriptions of the past century’s global average surface temperature by more than three times the entire warming recorded during that time. Such mismatches are also present in many other basic climate factors, including rainfall, which is fundamental to the atmosphere’s energy balance. As a result, the models give widely varying descriptions of the climate’s inner workings. Since they disagree so markedly, no more than one of them can be right.

• Although the Earth’s average surface temperature rose sharply by 0.9 degree Fahrenheit during the last quarter of the 20th century, it has increased much more slowly for the past 16 years, even as the human contribution to atmospheric carbon dioxide has risen by some 25%. This surprising fact demonstrates directly that natural influences and variability are powerful enough to counteract the present warming influence exerted by human activity.

Yet the models famously fail to capture this slowing in the temperature rise. Several dozen different explanations for this failure have been offered, with ocean variability most likely playing a major role. But the whole episode continues to highlight the limits of our modeling.

• The models roughly describe the shrinking extent of Arctic sea ice observed over the past two decades, but they fail to describe the comparable growth of Antarctic sea ice, which is now at a record high.

• The models predict that the lower atmosphere in the tropics will absorb much of the heat of the warming atmosphere. But that "hot spot" has not been confidently observed, casting doubt on our understanding of the crucial feedback of water vapor on temperature.

• Even though the human influence on climate was much smaller in the past, the models do not account for the fact that the rate of global sea-level rise 70 years ago was as large as what we observe today—about one foot per century.

• A crucial measure of our knowledge of feedbacks is climate sensitivity—that is, the warming induced by a hypothetical doubling of carbon-dioxide concentration. Today’s best estimate of the sensitivity (between 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit and 8.1 degrees Fahrenheit) is no different, and no more certain, than it was 30 years ago. And this is despite an heroic research effort costing billions of dollars.

These and many other open questions are in fact described in the IPCC research reports, although a detailed and knowledgeable reading is sometimes required to discern them. They are not "minor" issues to be "cleaned up" by further research. Rather, they are deficiencies that erode confidence in the computer projections. Work to resolve these shortcomings in climate models should be among the top priorities for climate research.

There is considerably more including one idea you have seen here:

A transparent rigor would also be a welcome development, especially given the momentous political and policy decisions at stake. That could be supported by regular, independent, "red team" reviews to stress-test and challenge the projections by focusing on their deficiencies and uncertainties; that would certainly be the best practice of the scientific method. But because the natural climate changes over decades, it will take many years to get the data needed to confidently isolate and quantify the effects of human influences.

I recommend that anyone, Denier or Believer, interested in the Climate Change phenomenon read this article in its entirety, then start over and read it again. It says a great deal that needs to be understood. The Climate Change phenomenon is real and has been for a very long time. How much mankind contributes to climate change is not known; we have more data than Arrhenius had at the turn of the 20th Century, but our predictions are not much better than his back of the envelope projections. The matter is important (if for no other reason than to help decide where major investments ought to be), and we are developing the instruments needed. We should continue to develop means of measuring new data and recording it, and as Moore’s Law makes our computes more powerful, we will have computers capable of using that new data. What we must not do is start with the answers before we begin seriously to study the problem.


Dr. Pournelle,

I very much enjoyed the new Chaos Manor reboot. Looking forward to more.

As predicted, the wages of nuclear diplomacy are nuclear escalation. Ukraine is not worth cold war II, but in response to largely empty U.S. threats made early in the current crisis, Russia is upping the ante:

So much for that Nobel prize for contributions to anti proliferation.

You’ve written about your early participation in operational research and space suit development, and described skin tight suits in your fiction on several occasions; everything old IS new again:


And the implications of that are far more serious than the Iraq Wars.  I lived in a time of full nuclear threat, and I don’t want to see those times again. but President Clinton chose the Muslim side in the Balkans against the Christian pan-Slavic Russians, President George Bush continued to encourage the encirclement of Russia, and President Obama despite his stated intent to ‘reset’ never understood the Russian view.  Estonia ought to be an armed neutrality like Sweden, but there is a move to turn it into a NATO fortress/base – 200 miles from St. Petersburg. Russia has always feared encirclement, and has a population crisis which means that Russia must rely on technology, not large armies and militias.

I am pleased to see that the Space Activity Suit is back in consideration, but apparently the authors of that piece are unaware that there was a lot of research into Space Activity Suit a long time ago: I have worn one in a Litton Industry test chamber at 90,000 feet altitude equivalence. This would be about 1960.




NASA’s new private man space contracts

Notice Boeing got twice what Space X did. Old habits die hard. But at least we are making progress. Perhaps Elon will just build a new space station and lease it to NASA.

Phil Tharp

Okay, this is just weird

Stephanie Osborn

Interstellar Woman of Mystery <>


There will always be an England



There will always be a large island off the coast of France…

but there is no longer an England.


I have been holding this until I could comment, but I found this story so horrifying that I have been unable to comment.


Fighting ISI

"Four squadrons of Warthogs and a regiment of Green Berets would eliminate the Caliphate in short order, …"

Would you mind terribly if we substituted a mercenary regiment? If the thugs of ISIS want to cut people’s heads off, I suspect there can still be found Gurkhas that would gladly return the favor…


Ayo Gurkhali!

Gurkhas probably could be persuaded to work for the United States (provided the Brits would agree), but Foreign Legions and other essentially mercenary armies are more suited to empires than to Republics.  They are a permanent force that can be used to intervene in other people’s affairs at low political cost; note that the original charter of the Foreign Legion was that it should never set foot in France, but then came World War I, and the incorporation of Algeria into Metropolitan France, and other such necessities.



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




Chaos Manor Reviews returns.

View 843 Friday, September 19, 2014

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

President Barack Obama, January 31, 2009


Chaos Manor Reviews is back.

After 36 months I have restarted the column. My managing editor is posting it in parts, one part a week, but with luck I’ll get well ahead of him. The entire September column is done, and I intend to have the October column done in the first two weeks of October.

You may also comment at Chaos Manor Reviews. I’ll read the comments, but I am not the editor of that section. I may have comments of my own. The intent is to have rational discussions, which sometimes happens on the Internet, but all too often they degenerate into something else; we intend to prevent that. The policy on letters here at View continues unchanged: send me mail. I post some of it.

You will note that we try to keep politics out of Chaos Manor Reviews, which is mostly about using technology although we do have discussions of its effects.


Looking for Angel to Save Bradbury’s Hugo



A Strategy for Defeating the Caliphate

Now that the column is done, edited, rewritten, and generally fussed with, I’ve time for the strategy theme.

I have been opposed to US involvements in the territorial disputes of Europe and the Middle East. There were US interests involved in the defeat of the Taliban, and that was done in a matter of weeks once the US committed to that goal. After that came the fantasy of nation building and constructing a liberal democracy in a country that needs a Charlemagne or an Akbar. See Chapter One of John Stuart Mill’s essay On Liberty.

Despotism is a legitimate mode of government in dealing with barbarians, provided the end be their improvement, and the means justified by actually effecting that end. Liberty, as a principle, has no application to any state of things anterior to the time when mankind have become capable of being improved by free and equal discussion. Until then, there is nothing for them but implicit obedience to an Akbar or a Charlemagne, if they are so fortunate as to find one.

J.S. Mill On Liberty

The one thing that unites the Afghan people is the sight of foreign armies in their land. Anyone with any familiarity of the history of that land, from the time of Alexander the Great to the present, would know that.

We were equally foolish in taking sides in the Balkans, where two factions sought to eliminate the presence of the other. When we stopped the ethnic cleansing practiced by one faction, we gave the other its shot at the same practices. At no point was there a US interest.

And the failure of America in Iraq needs no discussion.

The Caliphate does form a threat to the Unites States, and must be dealt with. Fortunately we have the means to do that, so long as we set rational war aims.

More on this next week.


I’ve just come back from almost 20 days in Israel including the first two days of this (so called) truce, I say so called because in the last three days well over 60 missiles have been launched against the border towns in Israel and the IDF has mostly responded.

Life in Israel does go on, people go to work, school is out so there’s the problem of what to do with the kids, where is it safe for them to go, nevertheless you noticed much lower traffic levels and people sticking to doing exactly what they needed to do. In a large country like the US it may be difficult to understand the moral impact of the deaths of those 63 men had. To gauge it properly one would have to have a kid in the army or to be stand at the central station in Beersheba (when the weekend ends and busses and trains arrive bringing the soldiers in) everyone of those soldiers is someone’s son, and while this may seem trite it is a powerful truth at the most basic levels in Israeli society. This in turn, together with a keen acknowledgement of the suffering experienced by southern communities (which have been showered with mortars and missiles for years, but out of sight etc.) have led to a new position among many Israelis. There has to be a solution, but there is strong resistance to any kind of proposal that will leave Hamas armed and able to replenish its stores. Meanwhile the fact that the Jewish state did not roll over and play dead does not sit well with many governments, not only Erdogan in Turkey said that Jews should condemn Israel, many Latin American governments, supposedly democratic ones, have followed Brazil’s lead in attacking Israel. And that in turn when taken with the very public declarations made by officials all over the place is driving anti-Semitism to levels unseen in 50 years (since the Eichmann trials). Please note, this is not impromptu anti-Semitism, when someone takes all night to pay anti Jewish signs along 3 miles of highway it speaks of an organization with a lot of people willing to do such work. And history teaches, clearly, what follows. Latin American governments see nothing wrong in Iran, ISIS, the slaughter of Nazarene Christians in the Middle East and the extinction of ancient communities, but they will solidly stand with the political and ideological blood brothers (and I mean blood in the literal sense as Hamas has hounded and persecuted Christians in Gaza for quite some time) of such barbarians. Evidently the left leaning governments of the region believed there is no risk in promoting these anti-western parties. It may well be that they will find out they were wrong, but by then it’ll be way too late.

I’m no authority on sin, but despair is not an option, my grandparents survived the Zar’s (and his Cossack’s) pogroms, we need, as a civilization, to find a way to stand up to this new crop of culture killers. Upon reading about their cruelty and ruthlessness I’m inclined to believe the story about the burning of the Alexandria library authorized by an Arab chieftain who said "the Koran is enough".


The ISIS jihadists believe they are doing God’s will.  As did the Crusaders who shouted God wills it!  And the language of the Koran is plain and clear (of course I have comprehended only translations, and the Koran explicitly states that it cannot be translated, but bilingual frie3nds tell me.)


‘What he and later modern historians of early science found is that the Enlightenment myths of the Middle Ages as a scientific dark age suppressed by the dead hand of an oppressive Church were nonsense.’



Roland Dobbins


The constitutional issue was resolved in Hiibel v. Sixth Judicial District Court of Nevada, 542 U.S. 177 (2004). If a police officer has reasonable suspicion (note–this is not the same as probable cause) to believe a criminal offense has been committed, he’s entitled to demand identification and arrest someone who refuses that demand. A complaint, even an anonymous one, is probably sufficient for reasonable suspicion. The demand for identification is part of a policeman’s investigation of a possible offense, and refusal to provide it is (or may be, at least) obstruction of a police officer in the performance of his duty. The Nevada case was founded in part on a Nevada statute that authorized stop-and-identify but only upon upon reasonable suspicion. Absent such a statute (does CA have such?), it would appear that the officer has no such right.

It is more a question of what is law. There was once a view that took law more seriously, and legislation was more a matter of discovery than of creation. We have lost that view. Note that the Caliphate does not have that problem. For them there is no bad law, because bad law is no law at all, but mankind usurping the role of God.

One need not go that far to question whether rules and procedures created by politicians necessarily deserve the respect and reverence that Americans once had for The Law (Lincoln’s famous speech on that was once a highlight of a visit to Disneyland; this was intentional on Walter Knott’s part.)

We will discuss this again in future: but I do point out that rule of law is a key concept in American history and is usually credited with American success; and there has long been a strong American intellectual defense of the notion that Law is more than the mutterings of a legislature. Does one have a moral obligation to obey and defend bad law made by politicians in their own interest? Do the police and army?

For another time.


And for those who didn’t see it:

For one thought about the implications of 3D printing, see the short-short story by Mary Lowd at It takes almost no time to read, and it has a point.


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