Air Supremacy, Fermi Question, and Dangers of AI


View from Chaos Manor, Thursday, January 29, 2015



I continue to recover, and part of that is consolidating most operations onto a new fast machine. Still use Windows 7, but changing to Office 10 and various updates, It seems needlessly complex.


Bill Gates on dangers of artificial intelligence: ‘I don’t understand why some people are not concerned’ (WP)

By Peter Holley January 28 at 6:28 PM

Bill Gates is a passionate technology advocate (big surprise), but his predictions about the future of computing aren’t uniformly positive.

During a wide-ranging Reddit “Ask me Anything” session on Wednesday — one that touched upon everything from Gates’s biggest regrets to his favorite spread to lather on bread — the Microsoft co-founder and billionaire philanthropist outlined a future that is equal parts promising and ominous.

Midway through the discussion, Gates was asked what personal computing will look like in 2045. Gates responded by asserting that the next 30 years will be a time of rapid progress.

“Even in the next 10 problems like vision and speech understanding and translation will be very good,” he wrote. “Mechanical robot tasks like picking fruit or moving a hospital patient will be solved. Once computers/robots get to a level of capability where seeing and moving is easy for them then they will be used very extensively.”

He went on to highlight a Microsoft project known as the “Personal Agent,” which is being designed to help people manage their memory, attention and focus. “The idea that you have to find applications and pick them and they each are trying to tell you what is new is just not the efficient model – the agent will help solve this,” he said. “It will work across all your devices.”

The response from Reddit users was mixed, with some making light of Gates’s revelation and others sounding the alarm.

“Clippy 2.0?,” wrote one user.

“Please…more like Clippy 2020,” another replied.

“This technology you are developing sounds at its essence like the centralization of knowledge intake,” a third user wrote. “Ergo, whomever controls this will control what information people make their own. Even today, we see the daily consequences of people who live in an environment that essentially tunnel-visions their knowledge.”

Shortly after, a Reddit user asked Gates how much of an existential threat superintelligent machines pose to humans. The question has been at the forefront of several recent discussions among prominent futurists. Last month, theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking said artificial intelligence “could spell the end of the human race.”

Speaking at the MIT Aeronautics and Astronautics department’s Centennial Symposium in October, Tesla boss Elon Musk referred to artificial intelligence as “summoning the demon.”

I think we should be very careful about artificial intelligence. If I were to guess like what our biggest existential threat is, it’s probably that. So we need to be very careful with the artificial intelligence. Increasingly scientists think there should be some regulatory oversight maybe at the national and international level, just to make sure that we don’t do something very foolish. With artificial intelligence we are summoning the demon. In all those stories where there’s the guy with the pentagram and the holy water, it’s like yeah he’s sure he can control the demon. Didn’t work out.

After gushing about the immediate future of technology on Reddit, Gates aligned himself with Musk and struck a more cautious tone.

“I am in the camp that is concerned about super intelligence,” Gates wrote. “First the machines will do a lot of jobs for us and not be super intelligent. That should be positive if we manage it well. A few decades after that though the intelligence is strong enough to be a concern. I agree with Elon Musk and some others on this and don’t understand why some people are not concerned.”

Once he finished addressing the potential demise of humankind, Gates got back to more immediate questions, like revealing his favorite spread to put on bread.

“Butter? Peanut butter? Cheese spread?” he wrote. “Any of these.”


I am working with John DeChancie on a novel that has some of this trend, It is very much worth while opening a discussion on the consequences and effects of AI. Comments welcome. Should we regulate this? How?


Dr. Pournelle,
So happy to see you are recovering. Your posts and mail are always a highlight in my day.
I’d not thought you’d misquoted the SAC motto the other day, just that you’d tried to re-form it to fit your statement. Considering your CoDominium Marines had adopted it, was pretty sure you knew it.
The other day, I was able to speak with a retired A-10 pilot, and found him in agreement with many of your views on the way the system has been treated by the Air Force. In addition to the direct ground support mission, he also emphasized the utility of the aircraft in CSAR and in tactical scouting. It was his opinion that there is nothing else in any service inventory that can do these jobs as well as an A-10.
While I tend to agree with much of the criticism of the USAF, I really think we should be wary of signs of Iron Law stagnation in the Army, too. As an engineering contractor, my former employers were all involved with several U. S. Army acquisition programs that were rife with blatant waste and borderline fraud, usually driven by flag-ranked Army officers and staffed by current and former Army officers. I learned that those who most frequently stated that “the warfighter” was their prime concern were the most self-serving, cynical, resource wasters of the bunch. The other services (and several of the three-letter agencies) for which I worked on similar programs were not quite as bad.
While I agree with your correspondents who state that lack of political will, leadership, and direction is the cause of the losses of recent wars by the best-equipped fighting forces in history, from my worms-eye view much of the blame also belongs within the services. Eisenhower said it (after it was too late for him to do much about it):
” In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.
We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together. “
I’ll stand with you on the abolition of the USAF only if it comes with complete reform of the Pentagon force and acquisition structure, otherwise, for the Army, a reboot of the USAAF will be as much pearls before swine as it was for Mitchell a century ago (and for many of the same reasons), and we’d be better off to let it alone.

The creation of USAF from USAAF was intended to make possible “the unification of the services,” What it has accomplished is to make our military less effective in its primary mission, which is to win wars. Gaining air supremacy is complicated, and older army types did not understand that.  You do not fight hornets by swatting them one a time, even if you are good at swatting.  The goal is to be able to fly when the other guy cannot, and to eliminate his counter air resources. Goering didn’t understand this, and thus the Battle of Britain, which was a terrible waste of the Luftwaffe in an attempt to remove the RAF long enough for the Wehrmacht to get across the Channel.  The US Army got the wrong message from that battle. 

And later the Army chose wrong missions for the ground support forces.  You can’t do close support without air supremacy, USAAF knew that; the rest of the Army did not. They never learned that once you have air supremacy you get close support.

But when USAAF replaced USAF, the hot pilots forgot that you wanted air supremacy not just to protect you own troops from enemy air power, but also so that you could use air power against the enemy; and once USAF was formed, protecting and preserving missions became of prime importance. The Army got helicopters but never P-47’s, and new aircraft were for air supremacy, but never for ground attacks.  And here we are today.The Air Force puts itself as more important than winning battles.

Gen. LeMay learned one of the nastiest lessons in warfare history in the early days of the 8th Air Force against Germany. Germany was good and we were not, we had little fighter escort, and as a result, LeMay lost a lot of good men and planes correcting that problem. He never forgot, and after WWII, we got SAC which as you’ve mentioned, was the most effective military force the world has ever seen. The whole world knew it, and the bad guys were scared silly of SAC. As LeMay used to say, “Flying fighters are fun, flying bombers are important”.

SAC’s command and control was even more impressive than it’s flying and bombing. In the movie, “A Gathering of Eagles”, Rock Hudson’s character is showing some dignitaries around the mole hole (SAC’s command and control center at Offit AFB). Within seconds, positive control is demonstrated for the entire SAC force including an airborne B52 flying 5000 miles away. All of this with 1960’s technology. No cell phones, no internet, no satellites, just SSB HF radio and hardliner’s. I’ve always thought that was a message to the Soviets, look how quickly we can be ready to kill you.

SAC was the heart of the USAF. The rest were spear carriers. If we have lost that, then you are right, it’s time for USAF to go.

In the 70’s the Army had more ships than the Navy, and more aircraft than the Air Force. The problem was the aircraft were severely limited in gross weight and many of the ships had no propellers and had to be towed.

My Dad’s best friend was a SAC radar navigator (a polite phrase for Nuclear bombardier). About the time I graduated from high school, he was the Air Force program manager for the A10. He gave me a tour of the production line. It was pretty neat. At the front of the line was the titanium bathtub that pilot set in and a small, stapled set of sheets of paper. At the other end was a completed airplane and a locked room of paper. Max did not think the A10 was anti air force, after 20 years of alert duty, ORI’s and ridding BUFF’s, he knew what an air force was for, winning wars. I have a message in 6 parts….

Phil Tharp


Does not fit the Narrative


An article from the AP. Apparently the A-10 does not fit the narrative.

Regards, Charles Adams, Bellevue, NE


“Air Force probing alleged ‘treason’ remark by general By ROBERT BURNS- AP National Security Writer

01/28/2015 5:53 PM | Updated: 01/28/2015 5:53 PM


The Air Force is investigating allegations that the No. 2 commander at its prestigious Air Combat Command told lower-ranking officers that talking to members of Congress about the capabilities of the A-10 attack aircraft is tantamount to treason.”

Given that the USN has operationally deployed a directed energy weapon, I do wonder just how much of a future airpower has in a “if you can detect it, you can kill it” environment.
Sure it is early days for the ship borne laser, but they will only get better and the quoted cost of “ammunition” is $5 (five dollars) a shot.

Kev Metcalfe

Abolish the Air Force

An aircraft so ugly it is beautiful. Like the PBY.
The Air Force attempted to abolish the A10 back in the 90s. During the budget hearings, after Gulf War I.
The Air Force spoke first. The Army followed them and proposed that the Army be given these wonderful aircraft, along with the personnel slots and funding.
The Air Force came back and removed the proposal.

Chuck Pelto



“We know that it was warmer in Viking times than now, and surely that

was not due to Medieval human activities.”

Actually, we don’t know this.

For your perusal:
“Research team suggests European Little Ice Age came about due to reforestation in New World”

Charles Mann talks about this in his book “1491.”  The idea is, Native Americans did a lot of slash and burn, and the Americas were essentially a maintained landscape — one that produced a lot of smoke.  Come the Columbian Exchange, and the subsequent reforestation after the pronounced population decline, there wasn’t as much carbon.  This had global consequences.

Hoping this finds you well,


We may not KNOW it but it’s a very reasonable hypothesis. They cut trees in the 16th Century too, and if CO2 caused the Viking Warm, where did it go when things got cool?



It must be nice to be a Monopoly and be able to change your Service Standards whenever you can not meet the existing standards.

The USPS has changed their delivery standards for First Class Mail effective January 1, 2015. There is, effectively, no such thing as next day delivery for First Class Mail. (If you are mailing to a PO box associated with a USPS Sorting Center, the letter might get put into the PO Box the next day, but don’t count on it.)

The new standard is two to four days.

There is one bright spot. Your mail might be delivered earlier in the day.

I guess it is time for a name change to US Post Office since there is precious little Service left.

Bob Holmes



Fermi’s Paradox solved?



Roland Dobbins

We need to come back and discuss this.  Interesting.


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




Moving to a New Machine; Patience Wins; More on Air War

View from Chaos Manor, Wednesday, January 28, 2015

I have spent much of the day getting onto a new machine with Outlook and Word 10, and trying to install Live Writer so I can post here. It turns out that Google sends you to a Microsoft site that gives you an early copy of Live Writer that seems very difficult to use. After searching and driving my advisors nuts with my whining I find I have been using Live writer 2012 and what I got from was a slightly later build that works. Hurrah,

Much of the day was spent in this, and Niven and Barnes were over and we went to lunch with Roberta at Hugo’s, where we had a delightful lunch.

I spent the rest of the afternoon telling myself that despair is a sin, but I eventually found password in an ancient log, and recovered some memories and checked for typos … so if this goes up, rejoice.

It is a stub with more interesting stuff later.

And hurrah, all is well. It posted.  This an updated build of Live Writer.  It works splendidly.  More later.


Abolish the Air Force — The Wild Weasel Pilot’s View

I wrote the following in Winds of Change blog post in 2003 based, on a mid-1990’s e-mail conversation with a Wild Weasel Pilot.
This is the key section related to your thoughts about the problem of the dysfunctional fighter pilot culture supporting ground troops and the issue of Drones being the new Air Superiority –

TRENT: I am particularly taken with the charges in the book THE ICARUS SYNDROME, by Carl Builder of the RAND corp. His evaluation of the “Fighter Pilot Mafia” seem spot on. That is, you ask an ex-Air Force officer what he was and he says he “was a F-16C pilot” while an ex-Army officer says “I was an Army officer.” In other words, the USAF officer corps takes more pride in which piece of heavy equipment they operated than in the institution as a whole.
SOURCE: I believe you and Carl Builder have interpreted the organizational loyalty climate in the Air Force correctly — we don’t seem to have any broad-service identity like the Marines do. We are very isolated and tribal. Especially fighter, bomber, controller, intell, and maintenance types — the fighter guys divide into air-to-air and air-to- mud mentalities. The same family atmosphere and loyalty a bunch of sharks have.

TRENT: I am very tempted to say that “Air Superiority is to important to be left to Fighter Pilots.”

SOURCE: Air Superiority is becoming less and less an air combat (fighter to fighter) type activity. More and more of our potential enemies are investing heavily in surface-to-air defenses — primarily Third World countries who don’t have the technological culture to invest heavily and train intensely in independent fighter maneuvering flying. SAMs are there 24 hours a day, and in the case of radar SAMs, in any weather. Much easier to train a primitive in operating a SAM radar system than flying a supersonic jet fighter. New SAMs like the SA-15 are essentially like the Patriot — they do all the work for you and you simply consent to fire. More systems are refining their radars and missile kinematics to target cruise missiles (low radar cross section).

If we have nothing but “System operator versus system operator, off platform, at a remote distance, and may the best Sysop win” as the air superiority paradigm. 
There really is no need for a separate military service to do the role.
Full blog post below, and you have my permission to post it in it’s entirety.

Interview with a Weasel Jock – A Retrospective

By Trent Telenko on January 16, 2003 7:42 AM | No Comments | 3 TrackBacks

A few years ago, at roughly the time Scott O’Grady’s F-16 was shot down in 1995 over Bosnia, I had a long correspondence with a now likely ex-USAF Wild Weasel pilot.
The original e-mails have been lost in a hard disk crash, but I pulled the following from my floppy files, edited it for clarity, and removed a number of professional references to my correspondent. I originally sent this to a mailing list that included Austin Bay, James Dunnigan, Steven Cole and several others from my old Genie Military Round Table community.
While this is dated, I think it useful for two reasons. First, it nails down some of the institutional problems of the USAF�s Fighter Pilot leadership is causing. Second, it lays a stick in the ground against which to judge what has happened in the USAF since then.
I have my own postscript after the interview.

TRENT: I am particularly taken with the charges in the book THE ICARUS SYNDROME, by Carl Builder of the RAND corp. His evaluation of the “Fighter Pilot Mafia” seem spot on. That is, you ask an ex-Air Force officer what he was and he says he “was a F-16C pilot” while an ex-Army officer says “I was an Army officer.” In other words, the USAF officer corps takes more pride in which piece of heavy equipment they operated than in the institution as a whole.
SOURCE: I believe you and Carl Builder have interpreted the organizational loyalty climate in the Air Force correctly — we don’t seem to have any broad-service identity like the Marines do. We are very isolated and tribal. Especially fighter, bomber, controller, intell, and maintenance types — the fighter guys divide into air-to-air and air-to- mud mentalities. The same family atmosphere and loyalty a bunch of sharks have.

TRENT: I am very tempted to say that “Air Superiority is to important to be left to Fighter Pilots.”

SOURCE: Air Superiority is becoming less and less an air combat (fighter to fighter) type activity. More and more of our potential enemies are investing heavily in surface-to-air defenses — primarily Third World countries who don’t have the technological culture to invest heavily and train intensely in independent fighter maneuvering flying. SAMs are there 24 hours a day, and in the case of radar SAMs, in any weather. Much easier to train a primitive in operating a SAM radar system than flying a supersonic jet fighter. New SAMs like the SA-15 are essentially like the Patriot — they do all the work for you and you simply consent to fire. More systems are refining their radars and missile kinematics to target cruise missiles (low radar cross section).

TRENT: The Fighter Pilot Mafia also seemed to have curious delusions of “Beyond Visual Range Godhood.” They think Sparrow and AMRAAM radar guided missiles are far longer ranged than those of the Russians, when the opposite was true, and absolutely ignored the possibility of air-to-air ARMs when the Russians have large numbers of them both for anti-fighter and anti-AWACS work.

SOURCE: BVR radar air-to-air missiles will be like our M1A1 tanks and Apache helicopters were in Iraq — we had the thermal sensors and the weapons to kill enemy tanks, who didn’t even know we were there. The AA-10 has some long-range motor models that shoot quite a long way, and some variants have an ARM seeker (good to use on US fighters who ALWAYS use their radars). We’ll get a nasty surprise some day like Israel did in 1973.

TRENT: The contractor electronic warfare community, in its periodicals, seemed much happier with the “SAC Generals” than the “TAC/ACC Generals.”

The SAC Generals are shown to always appreciate ECM while the TAC Generals seemed to think all you needed to be was a “Sh*t Hot” pilot in a high performance plane to dodge the SAM’s. The “TAC boys” seem to change their minds on ECM when the shooting started and forget as soon as it is over. The recent downing of an F-16 over Bosnia seems a good case in point.
SOURCE: SAC knew the threat its bombers were facing during the Cold War, but relied on nuclear exchange for suppressing much of the radar threats — it had a great track record for equitably caring for its navigators (especially radar navigators/bombardiers and EWOs). When TAC and SAC merged into ACC, TAC had to grudgingly accept many “promotable” navigators and EWOs into ranks of Colonel and even higher — this was unheard of in TAC. TAC fighter pilots were notoriously ignorant of threats and countermeasures/countertactics. They seldom knew much threat knowledge.
There have been two “privileged classes” of fighter pilots — those hand-picked and groomed “Golden Boys”: McPeak’s F-15A air-to-air “Manly Men” fighter pilots exclusively selected in the late 70s who have all gone on to become TAC/ACC’s generals, and the pilots selected to fly the F-117 in the 80s while it was still a black program (most are passing through Colonel now to stardom). McPeak was notorious for making any plan or mission highlight the F-117 since that was key to our buy of the F-22 and B-2. Many generations of navigators, EWOs, intell officers, and maintenance officers were sacrificed to promote these characters below-the-zone and to create for them an atmosphere not unlike Napoleon’s Grenadiers a Cheval of the Imperial Guard Cavalry enjoyed. Much of the McPeak rottenness seems to have abated but I’m (Deleted References)
In any case it did its damage over the past 5 years since the end of the War. We rewrote history to show that the F-4G and EF-111 really didn’t do much in Desert Storm — the war was won by the F-117. The Wild Weasel blitz of the Iraqi IADS the first week of the war is essentially covered up — Gen Profitt who was recently killed in an airplane crash, was a big proponent of the EF-111 and discounted the contribution of the F-4G. There are very few Weasels still left in uniform to defend it.

TRENT: Who is the other “privileged class?” Are they any good as flyers?

It sounds like you need a Israeli style pilot training system — a “Commissioned Warrant Officer Pilot” track and a separate command track.
This system of “Highlands Clan cronyism” will destroy itself. I can see signs of it now in the hits the USAF is taking in the budget wars with the Army and Navy.
SOURCE: The two privileged classes of pilots were: F-15A (late 70s) drivers and F-117 (early 80s) drivers. Since the dates I mentioned, both jets have been opened up to a wider array of pilots but the early days of both mentioned were an incestuous interest-filled activity. Hand-picked favorites and golden boys (some general’s pet boy).
The Israeli AF, like many others like the RAF, has two tracks — one for a simple jock who just wants to fly with essentially no other responsibility (can be a warrant or more likely stay a company grader forever), and the other for a professional career military officer who has the capability and desire for more responsibility and demonstrates command potential. You are right — we are f*****g ourselves in the air force and I’m not sure even Fogleman can turn it around soon enough — he’s making a valiant effort though. (Deleted references)
Often, the handpicked Golden Boys of privilege and interest aren’t very good in the jet. They are usually specialists in f*****io and s*d*my for some senior officer. (Deleted References)
The USAF institution is rotten to the core with its promotion and personnel system. They recently “reexamined” it but they never considered changing or ridding itself of the Below-The-Zone promotion concept which is the primal source of its rottenness. You wind up with someone getting a command billet who has never gotten his hands dirty working in the trade — inexperienced and immature, and also someone who is such a careerist they don’t have the guts to stand up for their people or make a decision (they might be WRONG!). The Highland Clans may have had a cronyistic system but at least they all could FIGHT when necessary. Look at the candy asses of the 1st Fighter Wing in Desert Storm compared to the regular bubbas in the 33rd FW. The 33rd got 16 MiG kills and the 1st “Golden Boys” got 0 (but don’t think they weren’t trying, and CENTCOM was stacking the deck on CAP/Escort missions to put them in position to get some).
TRENT: It is my belief that the draw down in USAF Electronic Combat capability started when the Tacit Rainbow ARM UAV came out of the “Black World,” and the ASPJ, both went “tango uniform” [JK Note: milspeak for T.U., or “Tits Up,” i.e. dead] in the late 1980’s – early 1990’s. It accelerated after the Gulf War with the cancellation of the MAWS, the cancellation of the EF-111 SIP upgrade, and the vetoing of a F-15E based Wild Weasel armed with a laser blinder by McPeak.
Your thoughts?
SOURCE: The real draw down of USAF EC capability began in around 1982 when the F-117 was fielded at Nellis — single-seat “fighter” capability that didn’t need no dang confounded gadgetry and pencil-neck geek four-eyed EWOs (Chuck Yeager accent added for authenticity). Flaccid Rambo [Note2 from Trent: a slightly pornographic reference to the cancelled Tacit Rainbow anti-radar cruise missile] and ASPJ (a Navy program so it can’t be good for us) were stillborn by the late 1980s — nonstarters. Corder had a pet black project that was probably also killed when he was fired but I don’t know its status. [Note3 from Trent: Gen. Corder was the USAF’s foremost expert on electronic warfare and developed the USAF’s 1980’s anti-SAM doctrine.] Col Jock Patterson at TAWC/EC and _GENERAL RALSTON_ at TAC/DR basically stopped advocating any new EC systems because the senior leadership had essentially bought off on stealth, hook line and sinker.
Our F-111s are gone and our A-10s are essentially gone — those and the F4s were the three jets (Gen.) Russ had on his “hit list” when Desert Shield kicked off. Schwarzkopf’s replacement at CENTCOM had to call McPeak and ly order him to turn around some F-4Gs that were on their way to the boneyard after the end of the war — they were still needed to enforce the peace over Iraq. (Gen.) Corder was fired for advocating that we keep squadrons of F-4Gs in the active AF when McPeak was trying to find a way to keep all the F-15C squadrons at a time when the AF was shrinking by at least 1/3.
We stopped buying new ECM pods, missile approach warning systems, new RWRs, improved flares, etc.
We’ve almost stopped testing threat weapon systems.
Our entire countermeasures industrial base and experienced engineers in the program offices dried up, probably never to rebuild until we lose half an air force in the next war and go back to the days of the late 60s again (Quick Reaction programs because we were too myopic to anticipate the threat). All the things we learned from Vietnam and used so well in the Gulf are now gone.
The electronic warfare community has essentially been “purged” — most EWOs were passed over for promotion and SERBed while they and the EC pilots (who didn’t get F-15/F-16 assignments) have gotten good jobs as contractors and consultants. EC/EW has now evolved into “Information Warfare”, which generally doesn’t include SEAD or ECM and seems to rely on deception. Our offensive and defensive domination of the electromagnetic spectrum has all but disappeared and the generals have totally bought off on stealth as the panacea to every threat. If the Bosnian Serbs had deployed a few SA-10 systems we would have been up a creek — they would have been able to dominate the skies and keep us away.
— Trent’s Postscript —
The USA has yet to face a SA-10 or SA-15 surface to air missile system in combat. The Bosnian Serbs couldn’t afford either system and it seems few other state can. So the real test of US post-Gulf War SEAD capability has yet to happen.
The heart of the USAF’s institutional culture was Strategic Air Command (SAC). It was where the pilots that learned how to do teamwork, logistics and (nuclear) strategy. That was where officers were groomed for senior flag rank command slots.
When SAC was stood down, Tactical Air Command (TAC) took over in the form of the renamed Air Combat Command (ACC). We are talking fighter jocks, the prima donna’s, the cowboys. The anti-intellectuals who are scared to death of people smarter than they are. Look what happened after the Gulf War when ACC was in charge.
Col. John A. Warden, the architect of the Gulf War air campaign was black balled by Gen. Horner. He retired a thrice passed over Col. at the Air Command and Staff School.
Gen. Corder — the man who put together the 1980’s USAF SEAD doctrine used so well in the Gulf War — was effectively sacked by the USAF chief of Staff (CoS) for disobeying a “strong suggestion” to lie to Congress about the need to retain the F-4G Wild Weasels. (The then CoS was trying to retain more F-15C’s in the force structure.) His efforts to deploy a missile warning system** to protect USAF planes was cancelled partially in retaliation.
When Corder’s allies in Congress started making noise in 1993 about the draw down of F-4G Wild Weasel and EF-111’s, the USAF put the recently retired Corder on a special six month SEAD study to satisfy them.
Then the Air Staff sat on the results for close to three years. Corder, under the legal restrictions of the Reagan era secrecy laws, was thus effectively silenced while the deed was done. The downing of Capt. O’ Grady in Bosnia was a direct result of the purging of F-4G Wild Weasel and EF-111 Spark ‘Vark’s from the USAF force structure and senior ACC staff’s willing EW incompetence.
USAF CoS Fogleman, for all his faults, recognized the lack of institutional professionalism. His support of the Air Command and Staff College, Maxwell AFB, Alb. and attempts to create a USAF doctrine codifying entity like the U.S. Army’s Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) were what was needed.
Unfortunately, Fogleman could not delegate and his reforms died with his military career. The inability to delegate is a defining fault of USAF fighter pilot culture. Fogleman’s successors haven’t tried to address these core institutional issues since then. The F-22 budget wars and the real wars since 1997 have left the USAF CoS no time for anything else, assuming they were interested.
bq.. ** = I think I have identified the secret missile warning and defense electronic warfare program of USAF General Corder’s that CoS McPeak cancelled. The predecessor of the current ALE-50 towed decoy/radar jammer was started as a black program by Sanders, according to a Sept. 1996 AvWeek article titled “Aircraft Defense Shifts To Towed Decoy, Ir Beams,” pgs. 46-47.
It was flight tested in the late 1980’s, roughly the same time Gen. Corder and other senior Brass opted the USAF out of the ALQ-165 Advanced Self-Protection Jammer (ASPJ) for the F-16. It would have been ready for production & deployment just after the Gulf War when McPeak killed the MAWS program and Corder retired in disgust.

The Iron Law even in the military, dammit. The purpose of warriors is to win wars.  It takes one force to gain and keep air supremacy, another to support the ground army.  The army can win without ground support if the other guy also has none, and we used to plan Cold War battles in which neither side had supremacy.  That was tough and the obvious conclusion is that air supremacy is vital; but that does not mean that support of the ground forces is not important. If the Air Force won’t give it, take the mission away; and if USAF blocks that, abolish USAF and bring back USAAF.


SAC Slogan

It is actually
Peace Is Our Profession.
I was raised in SAC. Did the Cuban thing at Offutt AFB, where Father ”God rest his soul”was a combat crew commander in the 549th Strategic Missile Squadron.








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




Winding Down the Climate Debate; Measles; and Other Matters

View from Chaos Manor, Tuesday, January 27, 2015


I am trying to get everything to a new machine and I find myself in a complete state of confusion. I am trying to go from Word 7 to Word 10 because 7 has some incomprehensible bug that randomly kills autocomplete and sometimes spell checking. Drives me crazy.

Over time I will catch up despite the stroke.  Bear with me. I will have more comments.  Meanwhile, I will not bore you, I hope.


Perhaps we can sum up Global Warming.

1. Is the Earth getting warmer?

Yes. Of course. No one denies this. It has been warming at about a degree per century. This trend started in the early 19th Century, ending the Little Ice Age. For a while in the last Century there was a cooling trend that frightened some of those who watch such things, but after about twenty years the warming resumed. For the last twenty years the warming has been very slight, and some argue that it has stopped, but most observers believe the Earth will continue to warm at about a degree per Century for another hundred years.

2. Does human activity contribute to this warming?

Yes. Of course. We add CO2 to the atmosphere, and that contributes to warming. The disagreement is on how much effect this has: how much warmer are we now than we would be if there were no human released CO2 in the atmosphere? But we do not know this, because the warming is fairly slight, and while models tell us we had 1.4 degrees warming since 1880, we can’t know because we don’t know to any tenth of a degree how warm the Earth was in 1880. We think we know to a half degree accuracy, but that’s not even certain, and depends on how we average a great many numbers, some of which we know come from instruments influenced by urbanization any other non random factors not climate change.

We know that it was warmer in Viking times than now, and surely that was not due to Medieval human activities. It happened, and climate models do not explain it. There were other warm times in human history.

We may need to do something; but that will be expensive, and economy wrecking schemes to tax coal in the US will do little or nothing to halt the trends. We can say we tried and bankrupted ourselves in a good cause, but that isn’t true. Mostly we need to admit that we don’t know.


Climategate, the sequel: How we are STILL being tricked with flawed data on global warming – Telegraph

Although it has been emerging for seven years or more, one of the most extraordinary scandals of our time has never hit the headlines. Yet another little example of it lately caught my eye when, in the wake of those excited claims that 2014 was “the hottest year on record”, I saw the headline on a climate blog: “Massive tampering with temperatures in South America <> ”. The evidence on Notalotofpeopleknowthat, uncovered by Paul Homewood, was indeed striking.

Puzzled by those “2014 hottest ever” claims, which were led by the most quoted of all the five official global temperature records – Nasa’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (Giss) – Homewood examined a place in the world where Giss was showing temperatures to have risen faster than almost anywhere else: a large chunk of South America stretching from Brazil to Paraguay.

Noting that weather stations there were thin on the ground, he decided to focus on three rural stations covering a huge area of Paraguay. Giss showed it as having recorded, between 1950 and 2014, a particularly steep temperature rise of more than 1.5C: twice the accepted global increase for the whole of the 20th century.


For industrial and scientific instrumentation, calibration needs to be relatively frequent (usually annual, and some instruments more frequently; in the lab where I’ve sometimes worked, calibration was effectively daily).

This also gets into the rather deep subject of accuracy of a measurement (e.g., how close is the measurement to the actual value being measured) and the precision of the measurement (e.g., how closely do a series of measurements of the same quantity match). A frequent example of difference is made from target shooting. A shooter who fires ten shots, all of which hit the bullseye of the target, is both accurate and precise. A shooter who fires ten shots which are uniformly distributed within, say, the 8 ring of the target (assuming the bullseye as the 10 ring) would be accurate (the average of the shots is on the bullseye) but not precise. A shooter who is aiming at the bullseye and puts the ten shots into a bullseye-sized group to the right of the 8 ring boundary is precise (good grouping) but not accurate.

So in the example, if the analyst compares measurements for one fixed temperature station with consistent calibration over a period of time, AND if there is nothing changing about the environment (e.g. no nearby human activity which adds heat to the environment), one can reasonably say that there has been a change in temperature (2 degrees, in the example) for that station between the measurement periods as a matter of precision.

If the same is true of every station in the ensemble of temperature stations, they again you could claim that the temperature change is true as a matter of precision.

However, where the example falls short is that you are measuring a two degree change in temperature over a one-year period with one degree precision. (This is, of course, ignoring the effects of weather, which will dominate the trend over daily to annual time frames. We will also assume in what follows, as appears to be the assumption of the example, that the ensemble of measurements which is being reported is actually being measured as deltas from the baseline temperature of each individual station; if the air temperatures are being reported and the temperature difference is later calculated from the air temperatures, then we can no longer ignore accuracy in the statement of the problem.)

The climate change "problem" is that the researchers are attempting to measure a 0.02 degree change in temperature over a one-year period ( 2 degrees Fahrenheit per century) with one degree precision. In the midst of "weather," which consists of, typically, 20-30 degree daily variations of temperature; variations of the daily average temperature by roughly 5 – 15 degrees up and down, once or twice each week, as weather systems pass; and annual variations of the weekly mean temperature ranging from near zero at the equator to (roughly) 20-40 degrees in most of the Continental US, to something in excess of 60 degrees at the poles.

So for global averaging, it is necessary to maintain consistent precision of calibration as well as consistent accuracy of calibration (that is, if the thermometer was exactly 10 degrees off for the first measurement, it has to still be exactly 10 degrees off for the final measurement, in order for precision to be maintained) for all thermometers over the ensemble time. Over decades of time. And again assuming no systematic changes in the environment of each temperature station, such as construction of a 10-story building and associated parking lot.

Again, it comes down to the same bottom line: the perceived change is temperature is significantly less than the accuracy and precision errors of the instruments over annual time frames.

As I have said before, demonstrating the claims of the global warming alarmists over 100 year time frames would require input data accuracy (and analysis precision for their models) on the order of 10 parts per billion, or 8 significant digits, as measured by the contribution to the global heat balance.



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Warning – It may raise your blood pressure. Take your pills before reading. <g>



“When I was young, everyone got measles; sometimes you might visit someone who had it so you’d get it over at a relatively convenient time, since you were going to get it. Now enough have inoculation that it’s not inevitable.”


When I was young, my parents saw two pock marks on me, and wondered if that was proof I had contracted Chicken Pox.

Fast forward decades later, I am now in my 40’s and am feeling run down. A trip to the doctor shows I have Chicken Pox and we have our answer.

Getting that as an adult, as many people will tell you, is pretty awful. I can agree from hard experience.

My mother exposed me to Mumps early in life, which is analogous to what you have stated in your narrative. That worked as expected, the Chicken Pox trick did not.

Me, I am all in favor of voluntary vaccination paid for at the state/local level with public funds.

For the police to start using the awesome power of the state to tell parents what to do with their children, ought, in my opinion, to be done only with a court order endorsed by a jury.


Dear Dr Pournelle,

You are wrong to think that measles is a relatively benign disease of childhood. There are significant complications at all ages, but particularly in those under 5 and over 20 or so.

According to the CDC, a generally reliable source – unless you are deeply paranoid – about 1 in 10 will get an ear infection, as many as 1 in 20 will get pneumonia, about 1 in 1000 will get encephalitis leading to convulsions and possible deafness and retardation. As well the mortality is about 1 or two children for every thousand cases, usually due to pneumonia.

In the longer term there is a condition called subacute sclerosing panencephalitis (SSPE) which is a progressive and fatal neurological disease seen about 10 years after measles infection in about 4 in 100000 cases. This is now almost unknown in the US, Australia, where I am, and other countries with high immunisation rates.

When compared with the risk of a serious complication (life threatening) from the MMR vaccine the balance of risk v benefit is very heavily in favour of vaccination.

Smallpox has been eradicated by vaccination. Polio was set to be eradicated till the idiotic interference of intelligence agencies in the program in Pakistan was used to try and identify Bin Laden’s DNA leading to the murder of numerous vaccination program workers and setting back the goal of elimination there and elsewhere.

Kind regards

Nick Hendel


Measles is not trivial, but the risk from vaccination is lower




With respect to these links on your blog:

Scientists say destructive solar blasts narrowly missed Earth in 2012

Near Miss: The Solar Superstorm of July 2012

I just want to point out that much is being made of this, but in point of fact the flare and resulting CME went off nearly 180 degrees AWAY from Earth. (Yes, I went back and looked at the data and video awhile back, when I became aware of it — which wasn’t until sometime in the first half of 2014 if memory serves. And since I watch solar activity quite closely, aided and abetted by Jim, and have done for many years, that in itself says something, I think.) As it takes about 25 days and some fraction for the Sun to rotate on its axis, that’s something between 12 and 13 days out from being "aimed" at Earth. So I guess it kind of depends on your definition of a "near miss."

But yes. As you and I have discussed in the recent past, there is most certainly a danger. There is one theory (or perhaps it is a hypothesis; I’m not sure how much data supports it as yet) that Carrington-level events tend to occur on either side of an extended solar minimum. As the Carrington event itself occurred on the upswing from an extended minimum, there is, I suppose, at least SOME evidence. And most definitely modern infrastructure is highly susceptible, and is ill-prepared, despite much urging of the appropriate politicians and bureaucrats.

Stephanie Osborn

Interstellar Woman of Mystery <>

Dr. Pournelle,

Just to show that Congress is not completely asleep at the switch regarding EMPs and Solar Flares (considered equivalent threats by them), H.R. 3410 was introduced and passed during the 113th congress. It died in Senate cimmitee. It took three visits to my congresscritter’s office and several emails and phone calls to find out about it. I’ve had no response to my communications from my senators regarding this issue.

I hope you might encourage your readers to reach out to their representatives to get this passed again.

H. R. 3410, Critical Infrastructure Protection Act (CIPA)

· Chairman Michael McCaul, Committee on Homeland Security

· Sponsor: Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ)

· Cosponsor: (21) 2 D’s and 19 R’s

· Summary:

o Critical Infrastructure Protection Act or CIPA – Amends the Homeland Security Act of 2002 to require the Assistant Secretary of the National Protection and Programs Directorate to: (1) include in national planning scenarios the threat of electromagnetic pulse (EMP) events; and (2) conduct a campaign to proactively educate owners and operators of critical infrastructure, emergency planners, and emergency responders at all levels of government of the threat of EMP events.

o Directs the Under Secretary for Science and Technology to conduct research and development to mitigate the consequences of EMP events, including:

(1) an objective scientific analysis of the risks to critical infrastructures from a range of EMP events;

(2) determination of the critical national security assets and vital civic utilities and infrastructures that are at risk from EMP events;

(3) an evaluation of emergency planning and response technologies that would address the findings and recommendations of experts, including those of the Commission to Assess the Threat to the United States from Electromagnetic Pulse Attack;

(4) an analysis of available technology options to improve the resiliency of critical infrastructure to EMP; and

(5) the restoration and recovery capabilities of critical infrastructure under differing levels of damage and disruption from various EMP events.

o Includes among the responsibilities of the Secretary of Homeland Security (DHS) relating to intelligence and analysis and infrastructure protection to prepare and submit to specified congressional committees:

(1) a comprehensive plan to protect and prepare the critical infrastructure of the American homeland against EMP events, including from acts of terrorism; and

(2) biennial updates of such plan.

· Background:

o Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) is an instantaneous, intense energy field that can overload or disrupt at a distance numerous electrical systems and high technology microcircuits, which are especially sensitive to power surges.

”[1] Large-scale EMP effects can be produced either through a single nuclear explosion detonated into the atmosphere, or non-nuclear devices.

[2] Congress established the EMP commission in FY2001 to assess the threat of an EMP attack on U.S. infrastructure.

[3] The EMP commission’s 2008 report determined that an EMP attack “creates the possibility of long-term catastrophic consequences for national security,” but argued that U.S. vulnerability could be reasonably reduced by coordination between the public and private sectors.

[4] U.S. critical infrastructure remains vulnerable to an EMP event despite the warnings laid out by the EMP commission. H.R. 3410 would begin to address this vulnerability by creating planning scenarios in the event of an EMP attack, and by educating first responders on how to respond to an EMP attack.

· Note: EMP interference is generally damaging to electronic equipment, and at higher energy levels a powerful EMP event such as a lightning strike can damage physical objects such as buildings and aircraft structures. The damaging effects of high-energy EMP have been used to create EMP weapons.

Sincerely, Jan Stepka



Phil Tharp is questioning computer science and computer engineering math requirements. I’ve been seeing the same thing.

I graduated from CSU in 1984 with a B.Sc. in Computer Science. At that time, if you took 3-5 more classes, you could graduate with a secondary degree in Applied Mathematics. At the very least, you had a minor in Applied Mathematics. We spent a lot more time on theory and foundational math in CS back then, less on programming.

I spend a lot of time with recent grads in CS in the software company that I work for. In some ways, they’re better prepared than I was: more in-depth knowledge of practical hands-on topics like networking and programming. Not so much math or theory, though. It hampers them when technology moves on from what they were taught, or if they’re presented with a problem for which they don’t have a cook-book recipe. At that point, they’re frantically googling for answers.

Thankfully, there are cook-book recipes for most problems that programmers run into nowadays, so this isn’t a significant restriction. About once a year, though, someone comes to me with a problem that isn’t readily solved by google and for which I have to dust off my old skills. They’re just not taught much anymore.

Now, it’s likely that other schools besides CSU or UC teach more theory and/or mathematics with computer science still. Top-tier schools like Caltech, Stanford or MIT come to mind. I don’t come into contact with grads from places like that too much. But for the state schools in the West, I’ve been noticing this trend for the last 20 years or so.

All the best on your recovery!


It is a problem.  Statistical inference is difficult and design of good experiments more so.





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