Global Warming again; Crisis of Self Government; more dragons to slay?

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View 751 Saturday, December 01, 2012

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There is a new round of fusillades from the Believers castigating the Deniers in the Man Made Global Warming imbroglio. The voice of reason can be heard in the discussions, but only faintly as the intellectuals who live on Global Warming Study Grants panic over the latest climate data.

So far as I can tell, there has been no rise in annual global temperature since about 1990, and other data are ambiguous. Since we are dealing with an enormous statistical aggregate – imagine if you will how you might go about getting a single number accurate to 1/10 degree of the average temperature in your attic for the past year, or for the next year, then contemplate doing the same for your neighborhood, and so on – we can’t conclude that Earth’s temperature is or is not rising, even if 2012 turns out to be the hottest year since we began measuring; which is to say that this comments more on our measurements than the earth’s temperature.

Figures released by the UN’s World Meteorological Organisation indicate that 2012 is set to be perhaps the ninth hottest globally since records began – but that planetary warming, which effectively stalled around 1998, has yet to resume at the levels seen in the 1980s and early 1990s.

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2012/11/29/wmo_global_temp_figures_2012_doha_ninth_hottest/

The 2012 figure for the year so far stands at 14.45°C. If that were the figure for the full year, it would be cooler than 1998 (14.51°C) and most of the years since then (full listing from the Met Office here).

Do we really need to comment on just how meaningful differences of a few hundredths of a degree in a measure of this complexity are likely to be? Moreover, it now appears that Roman and Viking times were warmer than the Believers supposed:

A new study measuring temperatures over the past two millennia has concluded that in fact the temperatures seen in the last decade are far from being the hottest in history.

A large team of scientists making a comprehensive study of data from tree rings say that in fact global temperatures have been on a falling trend for the past 2,000 years and they have often been noticeably higher than they are today – despite the absence of any significant amounts of human-released carbon dioxide in the atmosphere back then.

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2012/07/10/global_warming_undermined_by_study_of_climate_change/

As I have repeatedly said, we don’t really know much about temperatures to a fraction of a degree, but we are fairly safe in concluding that in Viking times it was warmer over the Earth – and certainly in the Northern Hemisphere – than it is now. In those times Greenland was in fact green (or a lot of it was) with dairy farms. There were vines in Vinland AKA Nova Scotia. There were grape harvests in Scotland and in much of England. There were peak harvests and longer growing seasons from France to China. None of this is particularly controversial: the records exist. Of course we don’t have a way to convert those facts to temperatures at a 1/10 degree accuracy, but it is a fair inference that the summers are warmer and last longer in places where grapes grow than in places where viniculture is impossible because it’s too cold too early.

Similarly we can safely conclude that it was colder in Holland, England, New England, and Europe and Asia in general in the 1700 – 1850 period. We have records. We even have some ocean temperatures taken by sailors with old mercury thermometers, probably not accurate to 1 degree much less 1/10 degree, but at least they are numbers. It was cold enough to carry cannon across the Hudson in December 1776 as we all learned in grade school from American history; those cannon saved Washington in Haarlem Heights. We know that there were markets held on the ice in the Thames well into the 19th Century. And we have all read about Hans Brinker and the Silver Skates and ice skating on brackish canals.

But we knew all that when I was in grade school. Benjamin Franklin theorized that volcanic ash could cause lower temperatures which might explain why glaciers had covered much of Europe at one time, and why the Little Ice Age was happening. In his time no one doubted that the world had been warmer in Viking times. Much warmer. And I was taught in high school that the Ice Age might come back; that we are in an “interglacial” period.

California is about to further bankrupt itself in a vain attempt to halt man made global warming. I say vain attempt, because what California does will have no affect on global warming no matter whether the Believers or the Deniers are right. California just doesn’t produce enough CO2 to have that much effect. If you want to stop CO2, use the Strategic Air Force to bomb China and India into the Stone Age. Be careful to use neutron weapons detonated at optimum burst height. If you’re a real earth saver fanatic, save some of the weapons to use on the United States. Short of returning to the Stone Age (Bronze won’t do, still too much mining and burning of trees), we will need wealth and lots of it to deal with global warming; bankrupting industrial economies is not likely to help.

Whatever is happening with climate, if we don’t like the trends and want to change them, we are going to need a lot of money.

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I don’t like rising CO2 levels either. Or perhaps I do. What I don’t like is open ended experiments with no immediate way to reverse them. I’d feel a lot better about the CO2 levels if we were working hard on ways to bring the CO2 level down at need. Temperature is easier to control – as Franklin observed, there are ways to lower the Earth’s temperature by changing the albedo. Believers can begin by going out and painting their roof white. We can also use lighter colored streets – next sunny day go out and put your hand on the black asphalt, then on the lighter colored concrete of the sidewalk. You may be surprised. It’s a lot more than any 0.1 degree temperature difference.

Of course I don’t know that rising CO2 levels do more harm than good. That seems to be a matter of both scientific and ideological debate. What I do know is that one ought to be wary of irreversible changes. Sometimes they can be all good – I think of no compelling argument for abandoning polio vaccination – but I prefer to have a way to go back if we’ve taken a wrong road.

Which is to say that I’d like to see more funding for studies on how to reduce the CO2 without making ph changes in the oceans. Given the amounts we spend on relatively useless computer models of climate, surely we can afford some attention to that? And please don’t tell me that we ought to plant more kudzu.

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Tracy Walters calls my attention to this:

http://www.metoffice.gov.uk/news/releases/archive/2012/global-temperatures-2012

It seems to present the best approximations we have; but note the complexity of what is being measured. Now note that we are talking about a few tenths of a degree rise in a century; and we are not back where we were in Viking times.

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Harvey Mansfield is always worth paying attention to. I strong recommend his weekend interview in today’s Wall Street Journal http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887323751104578149292503121124.html

The title is The Crisis of American Self-Government, and he sees it as crisis indeed. As usual he says little that will strike you as new, but it is connected to other things you also knew, and shows just where we are going “if this goes on.” The picture is darker than many think.

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While you are at it, go find “How Washington DC Schools Cheat Their Students Twice by Caleb Rossiter. http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887324352004578131361948093492.html It will tell you nothing you did not suspect, but be aware that this is in Washington DC. It is hardly hidden. Apparently it’s Good Enough for the Master of the Nation. Presumably everyone in the Capitol and the White House know all this, and either do not care, or do not know what they can do about it. And they control ever increasing parts of the national public school system. This is what Washington DC does. Coming soon to a school hear you?  Be afraid.

I would suppose that Caleb Rossiter is the son of conservative political scientist Clinton Rossiter, who died in 1971, possibly from despair over the future of the republic.

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And on the same page of today’s Wall Street Journal is a reprint of a Hoover Institution blog by Charles Hill:

The Coming World Disorder

The mathematician and astronomer Johannes Kepler prophesied that "We shall not get through this time without difficulty, for all the factors are prepared." Kepler was predicting the Thirty Years’ War of 1618-1648 that would launch the modern international state system in which America and the nations of the world still operate.

What ominous factors caused Kepler to shiver? Disturbances, upheavals and conflicts. Merchants moaned about untrustworthy bankers. Diplomats strutted even as they wavered. The masses sullenly made deals they needed to survive when the gathering storm broke. Varieties of religious fervor caused many to prepare to be slain rather than submit to rule by others.

The 1648 settlement at Westphalia, though setbacks were many and vicious, enabled procedures fostering what eventually would be called "the international community," a term that curled many a lip in the midst of twentieth-century world wars. Those wars were attempts to overthrow the established world order. Those wars failed, but in recent decades have become seemingly interminable, and have required the stewards of world order to confront what George Shultz labels "asymmetrical" warfare in which professional standards have been turned into self-imposed liabilities by enemies who reject civilized international conduct.

No international order has proved immortal. Kepler today might note that the world order shaped by the war he predicted might now fail to survive to celebrate its 375th anniversary. As President Obama ponders his Second Inaugural Address, what Keplerian factors are now "prepared" for war?

The causes of war as discerned ever since Thucydides’ time are three: wars of ideology, of fear, and of gain.

The ideology of Islamism has been on the rise for generations and now aims to expropriate the Arab Spring. The ambitions of the 1979 Iranian Revolution and Sunni fanaticism are transmogrifying into the kind of major religious war that the Treaty of Westphalia sought to forestall.

Thucydides traced the war that ruined ancient Greece to Sparta’s fear that Athens’ growing power was crossing the line where it would be impossible to contain. Israel faces that threat from Iran, as today’s international structures for the maintenance of international security have failed to halt Iran’s drive, propelled by religious ideology, to possess nuclear weapons. Israel, bereft of its traditional sense of American support, is making ready to act against Iran’s menace to its existence. President Obama’s priority must [be to] repair relations with Israel by visiting the Jewish state and convincing its leaders that the U.S. understands Israel’s uniquely dangerous position.

And there now grows a deepening appetite for gain. America, perceived as eager to shed the burdens of world order in order to be "fundamentally transformed" through European-style social commitments, talks of engagement even when Iran’s "diplomacy" is a form of protracted warfare. The enemies of world order translate the American election results into the lexicon of abdication, telling themselves that their time has come: there is a world to be gained.

Only America’s return to world leadership can halt this deterioration. "Sequestration" will relegate the U.S. to a second rate power and must be reversed to enable American strength and diplomacy to be employed in tandem. Without this the prediction of a Kepler for today must be grim.

Of course the disaster he sees is one in which the United States returns to a realistic policy and ceases going about the world seeking dragons to slay. That subject is worth a lot more time and energy than I have at the moment, but I am not at all sure that our recent attempts in Iraq and Afghanistan have had beneficial effects on the world worth the costs they have levied on this republic. The Cold War ate much of our freedom. I thought at the time that it was worth the costs. Whether our experiment in world order after the collapse of the USSR has proven to be worth the costs is another story.

In any event, we will not have the means to do any of that after we go over the financial cliff this January first. Which probably means that the neo-cons will manage to get the Republicans to do whatever it takes.

But it is worth discussing: do we really need an enormous standing army? The case for the Navy is more compelling, but do we really need to spend more on the military than the rest of the world together? Just how much defense do we need, and what are we defending from whom? I ask seriously.

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A Mixed Bag Late; SSPS preliminaries

Mail 751 Friday, November 30, 2012

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Current secession petitions

Citizens joining the current spat of secession petitions need only to be reminded of:

"These are the times that try men’s souls: The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like Hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives every thing its value."

Thomas Paine – The American Crisis – 1776

"The unity of Government, which constitutes you one people, is also now dear to you. It is justly so; for it is a main pillar in the edifice of your real independence, the support of your tranquility at home, your peace abroad; of your safety; of your prosperity; of that very Liberty, which you so highly prize. But as it is easy to foresee, that, from different causes and from different quarters, much pains will be taken, many artifices employed, to weaken in your minds the conviction of this truth; as this is the point in your political fortress against which the batteries of internal and external enemies will be most constantly and actively (though often covertly and insidiously) directed, it is of infinite moment, that you should properly estimate the immense value of your national Union to your collective and individual happiness; that you should cherish a cordial, habitual, and immovable attachment to it; accustoming yourselves to think and speak of it as of the Palladium of your political safety and prosperity; watching for its preservation with jealous anxiety; discountenancing whatever may suggest even a suspicion, that it can in any event be abandoned; and indignantly frowning upon the first dawning of every attempt to alienate any portion of our country from the rest, or to enfeeble the sacred ties which now link together the various parts."

George Washington – Farewell Address – 1796

In The Federalist Papers, Federalist 6, Hamilton described in detail the dangers of disunion – would lead to war, much as occurred constantly in continental Europe.

"A man must be far gone in Utopian speculations who can seriously doubt that, if these States should either be wholly disunited, or only united in partial confederacies, the subdivisions into which they might be thrown would have frequent and violent contests with each other. To presume a want of motives for such contests as an argument against their existence, would be to forget that men are ambitious, vindictive, and rapacious. To look for a continuation of harmony between a number of independent, unconnected sovereignties in the same neighborhood, would be to disregard the uniform course of human events, and to set at defiance the accumulated experience of ages."

President Andrew Jackson’s "Proclamation to the People of South Carolina" made the case for the union while contrasting differences between "secession" and "revolution".

"But each State having expressly parted with so many powers as to constitute jointly with the other States a single nation, cannot from that period possess any right to secede, because such secession does not break a league, but destroys the unity of a nation, and any injury to that unity is not only a breach which would result from the contravention of a compact, but it is an offense against the whole Union. To say that any State may at pleasure secede from the Union, is to say that the United States are not a nation because it would be a solecism to contend that any part of a nation might dissolve its connection with the other parts, to their injury or ruin, without committing any offense. Secession, like any other revolutionary act, may be morally justified by the extremity of oppression; but to call it a constitutional right, is confounding the meaning of terms, and can only be done through gross error, or to deceive those who are willing to assert a right, but would pause before they made a revolution, or incur the penalties consequent upon a failure."

President James Buchanan also reiterated the difference between "secession" and "revolution".

"In order to justify secession as a constitutional remedy, it must be on the principle that the Federal Government is a mere voluntary association of States, to be dissolved at pleasure by any one of the contracting parties. If this be so, the Confederacy is a rope of sand, to be penetrated and dissolved by the first adverse wave of public opinion in any of the States. In this manner our thirty-three States may resolve themselves into as many petty, jarring, and hostile republics, each one retiring from the Union without responsibility whenever any sudden excitement might impel them to such a course. By this process a Union might be entirely broken into fragments in a few weeks which cost our forefathers many years of toil, privation, and blood to establish."

Despair is a sin.

Bud Pritchard

I am not sure that further comment is needed. Thanks.

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Greenland’s Viking settlers gorged on seals University of Copenhagen

University of Copenhagen <http://www.ku.dk/english/> University of Copenhagen’s newssite <http://news.ku.dk/> University of

Copenhagen’s newssite <http://news.ku.dk/>

Russell Seitz

Sven, I will marry you if you take me where we can eat cows again! I weary of seals. Let’s go sack Scotland.

Jerry Pournelle

Chaos Manor

Disapproval of Seal?

Gudrun, the last time we sacked Scotland we had to eat haggis.

Just throw another flipper on the barbie and thank Thor it’s too cold to grow neeps.

Russell Seitz

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A possible arcology?

Recently re-read Oath of Fealty by you and Niven. Liked it better than the first time I read it, back when it was first published.

In that vein, here’s something that might become the basis of true arcologies. In China, they plan to build the world’s tallest (and tallest occupiable) building in just 90 days, using a new modular technology.

Given China’s billion or so souls, arcologies might become very useful.

http://gizmodo.com/5962070/china-will-build-the-tallest-building-in-the-world-in-just-90-days

Live long and prosper.

Brian Claypool

Oath of Fealty was written early in the computer revolution but it still holds up pretty well. And it’s still selling in the eBook edition. I suspect we have not seen the last of the notion of arcologies.

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Keith Henson was at LOSCON and we discussed this. I need to do a larger article on this, but here is some discussion. The proposal is to use chemical rockets to build a Space Solar Power Satellite, then use the energy beamed down from that initial SSPS to power a laser launch system. Since most of the costs of an SSPS are launch costs, and the major launch costs will be the energy only that is being paid for by the initial SSPS, the notion is intriguing. Keith suggests that an India/China partnership might well be likely.

Of course I had some such notions in my early days stories leading to an asteroid mining civilization. Once you have laser launch systems space operations become dependent on power costs. If you build an SSPS the bootstrap operation can begin. I asked a number of questions.

Hard questions are good.

The main idea is bootstrapping by building one with chemical propulsion and using it for laser propulsion to get the parts up for hundreds of them. Unfortunately the first step costs as much as a small war, but I think it is well inside what the Chinese could spend.

Keith

Jerry, 5 years ago this was unthinkable, so I am not surprised you have old correspondence saying it won’t work. But lasers have come a

*long* way. Solid state lasers are over 50% efficient, and may go to 85%. You can buy them in 15 kW blocks and gang them to GW levels if you have the money. http://www.as.northropgrumman.com/products/vesta/

My current proposal is to stick them in GEO along with the first power sat to power them. That way avoids all the problems of clouds and distortion from shooting up through the atmosphere at the expense of hauling the lasers out to GEO. But the reduced engineering development seems to be worth it. Also, it means much of the power sat development can be tested in small stages before going into mass production where mistakes get really expensive.

The other aspect is to use Skylon or something like it for the runway to 26 km and Mach 5.5. They give twice the equivalent exhaust velocity of a SSME and also give you the wing area for the laser target/hydrogen heaters. Jordin has come around to a favorable view of this "hybrid" propulsion mode. It really helps during the acceleration at low speed when most of the laser energy is wasted on inappropriately high exhaust velocity. Incidentally, he thinks the physics is sound, though (like me) he finds the financing daunting.

The Skylon people also think the proposed physics is sound.

If you want to use this concept in an SF story, I would be delighted.

I favor Christmas Island (straight south of Hawaii) as the launch point. Phil Chapman thinks Nauru http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nauru

would be good. Other options are Brazil, Somalia and the Maldives

More story background,

http://www.themuslimtimes.org/2012/11/countries/china/china-proposes-space-solar-power-collaboration-with-india

Three years ago the Chinese said they didn’t know how to get the parts to GEO. I suspect they have figured out that laser propulsion is the right way to get the cost down and want India’s support when the US freaks out about propulsion lasers in GEO.

Best wishes,

Keith

Presume you saw the Reaction Engines announcements. Not that many years ago I would have bet against them solving the heat exchanger problem, but they did it.

Saw Jordin Kare, Seth Potter, Jerry Pournelle, David Brin and Vernor Vinge last weekend. Giving a talk in SF this weekend on the proposal.

Replied to a Forbes Article,

http://www.forbes.com/sites/patrickmichaels/2012/11/30/its-the-holiday-season-and-global-warming-hype-is-filling-the-air/

I am a bit annoyed that nobody seems to be asking the engineers how to solve the problem. It’s not like we lack for clean energy; the Earth intercepts only around 1 part in a billion of the Sun’s output.

Take solar power satellites for example. Been understood for over 40 years, the only reason they have not been built is that the cost to lift parts to GEO is too high by a factor of about 100.

So if you want to consider them, then the question to ask the engineers is how to get the cost of lifting millions of tons of parts to GEO to $100/kg instead of $10,000/kg.

It looks like one way is to bootstrapping by building one power satellite with conventional rockets and using it to power propulsion lasers. Because they give much higher exhaust velocity, rockets or rocket planes powered this way get at least 5 times as much cargo into orbit as the best chemical rockets.

At a scale large enough to be useful, 500,000 tons per year, the cost goes to well under $100/kg, the cost of power plants to $1600/kW and the cost of power to 2 cents per kWh or less. Power that inexpensive can be used to make synthetic carbon neutral fuel in any amounts for around a dollar a gallon.

If we went this way it would take less than 20 years to end the use of fossil fuel, not by high taxes or carbon credits, but just by making synthetic fuel cheaper than fossil fuel. The oil companies (Exxon for

example) already know how to do this.

But it’s more likely the Chinese will do it. About three years ago a major meeting in China concluded they didn’t know how to lift the parts to orbit at a price that made any sense. Three weeks ago they announced a deal to build power satellites with India. (Google China India power satellites.) What happened and why? Did they figure out this obvious approach? Are they trying to get support from India when the US freaks out about big lasers in orbit? (They are also weapons.)

It may be that the entire issue of climate change becomes moot before the next one of these meeting.

Keith Henson

I am now digging into modern notions of space construction and laser launch. We have little experience of on-orbit construction because we never developed proper space suits; and clearly construction outside the Van Allen Belts is an entirely different proposition from low earth orbit construction operations. My experience in the space business was that everything turns out to be a lot harder than we think it’s going to be. At least it always was for us…

Assemble it in LEO, then move it out to geosynchronous orbit, slowly.

We still need real spacesuits and usable manned spacecraft to accomplish that task, however.

-

Roland Dobbins

Clearly the only possible way now, since we have no way to stay alive outside the Van Allen Belts during a solar flare (one reason we don’t know how to do a manned mission to Mars). Another possibility is to build them on the Moon where three meters of regolith are sufficient shielding for just about anything; one can retreat from Lunar orbit to Lunar surface fairly rapidly and at a lot less cost once you have a working Lunar colony. Then you “lower” the assembled structure either in whole or in parts (with robot final assembly). But moving a huge structure from either LEO or a Lunar orbit to GEO is an operational nightmare. The structure has to be designed for it, and there have to be multiple propulsion points, and even if you are using ion engines with “free” power collected by the SPS itself you will need reaction mass, and –  The point being that it is not impossible, but it is not simple either. As I said, it was my experience in the space business that everything takes longer, costs more, and is a great deal more complicated than we thought when we came up with the concepts.

I do wish we had used Apollo to learn more about good working space suits and or orbit assembly techniques.

 

 

Wow!

http://www.kurzweilai.net/is-this-the-biggest-breakthrough-in-propulsion-since-the-jet-engine

Bob Clark

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Makers and takers

You may find this book interesting (if you don’t already have it).

_Systems of Survival_ by Jane Jacobs.

Her basic theme is that humans have found two fundamental ways of "getting a living"

very roughly "taker" and "trader", and that there is a very different set of ethics appropriate to each.

Dan Evens

Her book has already been noted in a previous mail, but it does no harm to remind readers that Jacobs thought and wrote clearly. You may not agree with her conclusions but her arguments can be followed rationally. A rare gift.

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Locus poll for best speculative fiction novels & short stories of the 20th and 21st (to date) centuries.

<http://www.locusmag.com/temp/2012AllCenturyPollsBallot.html>

Roland Dobbins

Readers are encouraged to participate…

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Yet another piece of evidence on the Pournelle "It takes a dog to raise a village" theory.

The spirit of Lassie is alive and well in a dog named Ashapoo. The trusty canine was always at the side of his owner’s two-year-old grandson, Peyton.

And that was a good thing when Peyton’s grandfather turned his back for a minute as he was planning to take the boy on a trip on the family land in Clover, South Carolina, to find a Christmas tree.

When he turned around, the energetic kid was gone. But so was Ashapoo.

By the time Peyton’s parents showed up to join the hunt for their missing son on the 300 acres of woods, they took solace knowing the boy was with his faithful friend.

Said dad Rich Myrick to local station WBTV, "In the back of your mind, you know the dog is going to be with him."

Still, four and a half hours of a missing child takes a lot of faith. It was getting dark and cold. Mom Carmen Myrick noted to WCNC that she took in the hundreds of volunteers, ambulances, the media, and police cars. She says she remembers thinking, "’This is not going to end good.’"

When rescuers made their way to a barn, Ashapoo suddenly appeared, then ran away barking, leading searchers to a sleeping Peyton on the ground. He was fine.

The two-year-old told his family he was scared, he was going to get hurt, and he was cold. Dad Rich said, "I think he got scared and just lay down and took a nap, and Ashapoo stayed right with him." He added, "I guess he felt that was his job to protect him and be with him." And he also said, "I believe the dog was his guardian angel in fur."

The parents said that the dog was their hero. They plan to get him a well earned steak, and they are also looking into a GPS tracker for Peyton.

http://news.yahoo.com/blogs/sideshow/dog-stays-missing-boy-side-231002134.html

John from Waterford

Indeed.

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A comment from the Strategypage website.

"The Chinese Air Force now has a training unit that will accurately (as possible) portray enemy (especially American and Indian) aircraft and combat tactics."

Remember that when buying a product with "Made in China" on the label.

John from Waterford

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Post-US world born in Phnom Penh

http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Global_Economy/NK27Dj02.html

"President Barack Obama attended the summit to sell a US-based Trans-Pacific Partnership excluding China. He didn’t. The American led-partnership became a party to which no-one came.

Instead, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, plus China, India, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand, will form a club and leave out the United States"

The core to the new international policy of the US is the pivot to Asia, which worked as well as the pivot to job creation. Even Australia is making moves to distance themselves from the US and seek local allies. Opposition to Japanese militarism is weakening as the nations around the PRC increasingly see Japan as the only reasonable source of strength to oppose the Chinese. What does it mean when nations no longer find betting on the US to be a smart move?

Honestly, I can’t blame them. If I were a nation in search of friends, I’d not seek the friendship of the US. It’d last only until the other party managed to get into power, where it would punish me for my temerity in befriending their bitterest foes. This is no way to run a foreign policy, but I don’t think it is within the abilities of those in DC to do otherwise.

Spengler notes some very important information:

t is symptomatic of the national condition of the United States that the worst humiliation ever suffered by it as a nation, and by a US president personally, passed almost without comment last week. I refer to the November 20 announcement at a summit meeting in Phnom Penh that 15 Asian nations, comprising half the world’s population, would form a Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership excluding the United States.

http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Global_Economy/NK27Dj02.html

I won’t summarize, but Spengler did: “Asia Shuts Obama Out of New Trade Bloc: What You Really Should Worry About.” And I do worry.

Ed

It is very much something to worry about.

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Concerning injustice and categorization

Dear Dr. Pournelle:

In your blog you recently said that "One of the definitions of injustice is treating unequal things equally." That is a nonstandard definition. A more standard definition is treating equal things unequally. You then comment "The ability to discriminate – to see inequalities – is one of the major requirements of correct analysis, rational debate, intelligent behavior." Equally necessary is the ability to categorize; to see equalities. Discrimination is the ability to see hidden differences despite surface identities; for instance gold and fool’s gold are both yellow, but only the latter has sulfur in it.

Categorization is the ability to see hidden identities despite surface differences; for instance a mouse and a whale are both mammals.

I defer comment

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petrol from air

Jerry,

Regarding the uncommented link http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/exclusive-pioneering-scientists-turn-fresh-air-into-petrol-in-massive-boost-in-fight-against-energy-crisis-8217382.html

I have done a little bit of back of the envelop work on a process for extracting CO2 from air to reform hydrocarbon fuels, but hadn’t pursued it.

The problem is that the process is very energy intensive. At least as I envisioned the process, first it is necessary to separate the CO2 and water vapor from the air. If I recall correctly, the CO2 reduction runs at about 1100 Celsius and somewhat elevated pressure. At 33% net energy efficiency of the reduction, the breakeven marginal price of CO2-generated fuel would be around $12/gallon, and the amortized capital costs including non-fossil-fuel energy generation about $20/gallon, by any energy generation technology which is of equivalent cost with hydrocarbon fuel. To become competitive with current energy generation, the equivalent costs of alternate technologies would have to be reduced by at least 80-85%. Even to compete with ethanol as an additive (which would at least save corn for food instead of fuel), alternate energy costs would have to come down by 50-60% (though one could envision efficiencies of using the waste heat of solar technology to provide the heat fot the process).

Bottom line, the process is long-term essential, not for fuel purposes, but for feedstock for the chemicals industry as an alternative to petroleum, but it is unlikely to be economical for any energy generation technology other than nuclear.

Jim

Given cheap enough electricity, the fuel problem becomes simple.

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I’m reading "War against the weak" by Edwin Black.

It is a fascinating book.

The first thing I’m taking away from this is a skepticism of politicized science. The early proponents of Eugenics gained funding from large foundations such as Carnegie and Rockefeller to continue their work. Over time, skepticism began to occur and scientists questioned these finding. But their publications were pushed to the back pages of journals or simply ignored.

Page 85: "By the time some scientists saw the folly of their fiction, the politicians, legislators, educators, and social workers who had adopted eugenic intelligence notions as firm science had enacted laws, procedures, systems, and policies to enforce their tenets. Quiet apologies came too late for thousands of Americans who would be chased down by the quotients, scales and derisive labels eugenics had branded upon them."

So it’s a cautionary note to those who say "the science is settled". It used to be "settled science" that 60% of Jewish immigrants were morons (<70 IQ) (page 78) and that there is a "criminal gene" (page 24) just as some now contend there is a "gay gene".

And now, eighty years later, these scientific follies are all swept under the rug while we pursue yet another generation of politicized ignorance cloaked under the name of "science".

It is a sore spot for me, because the system both labeled me highly intelligent and mentally ill. It took several years of arguing by my parents (thanks, guys!) to get that second label struck off.

http://www.amazon.com/War-Against-Weak-Eugenics-Americas/dp/0914153293/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1353522541&sr=8-1&keywords=war+against+the+weak <http://www.amazon.com/War-Against-Weak-Eugenics-Americas/dp/0914153293/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1353522541&sr=8-1&keywords=war+against+the+weak>

Respectfully,

Brian P.

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A “Buffet Tax” Resolution

Jerry,

This is too choice. A gimmick, a new "Buffett Rule!"

<http://www.volokh.com/2012/11/19/a-buffet-tax-resolution/>

A “Buffett Tax” Resolution

David Bernstein

(1) Whereas, the U.S. government is in desperate need of revenue.

(2) Whereas, Warren Buffett is worth tens of billions of dollars, almost all of which is destined for private foundations and thus will completely escape federal tax.

(3) Whereas, Warren Buffett has publicly proclaimed that he is undertaxed.

(4) Resolved, the U.S. government should pass legislation that gifts to foundations in excess of a $20 billion lifetime exemption will hereinafter be taxed at 55%, the normal inheritance tax rate.

But then President Obama has said of his "Buffett Rule" on 4/11/2012:

<http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2012/04/11/remarks-president-buffett-rule>

"…. There are others who are saying, well, this is just a gimmick. Just taxing millionaires and billionaires, just imposing the Buffett Rule won’t do enough to close the deficit. Well, I agree. That’s not all we have to do to close the deficit. But the notion that it doesn’t solve the entire problem doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t do it at all…."

We do live in Heinlein’s "Crazy Years." Perhaps the only sane person today is Brian Lamb of C-SPAN.

Despair is a sin. So I have to laugh

Regards, Charles Adams, Bellevue, NE

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Jerry

Super-Earths’ magnetic FORCE FIELDS could harbour ALIEN LIFE:

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2012/11/23/life_protecting_magnetic_field_super_earths/print.html

Christopher Anvil would have loved this.

Ed

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War is the Answer / by Daniel Greenfield

For those with the ability to read and understand this is a long, but thought provoking, article.

Daniel Greenfield article: War is the Answer <http://sultanknish.blogspot.com/>

http://fusion.google.com/add?source=atgs&feedurl=http://feeds.feedburner.com/FromNyToIsraelSultanRevealsTheStoriesBehindTheNews <http://fusion.google.com/add?source=atgs&feedurl=http://feeds.feedburner.com/FromNyToIsraelSultanRevealsTheStoriesBehindTheNews>

http://sultanknish.blogspot.com/ <http://sultanknish.blogspot.com/>

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Posted: 21 Nov 2012 08:26 PM PST

For the last hundred years the best and brightest of the civilized world have been engaged in the business of peace. In the days before the Nobel Peace Prize became a joke, it was expected that scientific progress would lead to moral progress. Nations would accept international laws and everyone would get together to replace wars with international conferences.

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Instead technological progress just gave us better ways to kill each other. There have been few innovations in the moral technology of global harmony since Immanuel Kant’s "Perpetual Peace" laid out a plan to grant world citizenship to all refugees and outlaw all armies, invasions and atrocities with the whole shebang would be overseen by a League of Nations.

That was in 1795 and Kant’s plan was at least more reasonable than anything we have two-hundred years later today because it at least set out to limit membership in this body to free republics. If we had done that with the United Nations, it could conceivably have become something resembling a humane organization. Instead it’s a place where the dictators of the world stop by to give speeches about human rights for a show that’s funnier than anything you could find eight blocks away at the Broadway Comedy Club.

Since the League of Nations folded, the warring peoples of the world have added the atom bomb, the suicide bomber, the jet plane, the remotely guided missile, the rape squad, the IED, the child soldier and the stealth fighter to their arsenals. And the humanitarians have murdered a few billion trees printing out more useless treaties, conventions and condemnations; more dead trees than accounted for by every piece of human literature written until the 19th Century.

There is no moral technology to prevent war. Or rather war is the moral technology, that when properly applied, ensures peace.

The humanitarians had gone down a dead end by trying to create perpetual peace by outlawing war, but the peace-shouters who wear their inverted Mercedes Logo don’t really want peace, some of them reflexively hate war for sentimental reasons, but their leaders and most committed activists don’t hate war, they hate the people who win the wars.

The plan for perpetual peace is really a plan for perpetual war. It necessitates that the civilized nations who heed its call amass overwhelming quantities of firepower as deterrents against war, which they will pledge to never use because if the threat of destroying the world isn’t enough, their bluff will be called and they will fold. And if they don’t fold, then the world will be destroyed because the humanitarians said that peace was better than war.

It also necessitates that the actual wars that they fight be as limited as possible by applying precision technology to kill only actual armed enemy combatants while minimizing collateral damage. And that humanitarian objective also necessitates that the other side reply with a counter-objective of making it as hard as possible to kill them without also killing civilians.

The humanitarian impulse makes the anti-humanitarian impulse inevitable. The more precisely we try to kill terrorists, the more ingeniously the terrorists blend into the civilian population and employ human shields. The more we try not to kill civilians, the more civilians we are forced to kill. That is the equal and opposite reaction of the humanitarian formula.

In Afghanistan, the Rules of Engagement were overhauled to minimize Afghan civilian casualties. This was so successful that not only did the casualty rate for American soldiers dramatically increase because they were not allowed to fire unless they were being fired at, but the number of Afghan civilian casualties killed by American forces also fell dramatically. It was a great triumph. But sadly the number of Afghan civilians killed by the Taliban increased dramatically and more than made up for the shortfall.

When the Taliban have won the war, the number of civilian casualties will be tremendous once Obama pulls the troops out and the cheerful bearded boys march into Kabul and start killing every woman who can read. But it was still a better thing than the unacceptable levels of civilian casualties under Bush. It was a better thing that the Taliban have free reign to kill as many Afghans as they want than that American soldiers should have been able to fight the Taliban without the humanitarian handcuffs.

Because sometimes you have to destroy the village to save the village, and that is true whether it’s American planes bombing a terrorist hideout or humanitarians letting the Taliban take the village and kill every tenth woman in it.

And yet for all this monumental effort, for all the soldiers dead because they weren’t sure if the man planting an IED in the road was a terrorist or just a decent upstanding poppy farmer checking the soil composition, for all the Afghan civilians killed by the moral technology of inaction, your unfriendly neighborhood peace-shouter is about as satisfied as a cannibal at a vegan banquet. Give him, her or it five valuable minutes of your time and it will begin shrieking about drone strikes, kill lists and the murderous rampage of a technology that is as far from Shock and Awe as you could possibly imagine without going completely Gandhi. If anything it hates drone strikes more than it hates Hiroshima. Mass killing justifies its smug contempt for the machinery of war, but anything that smacks of an attempt to moralize warfare challenges its principles and urges it on to greater displays of outrage.

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Israel, in the name of peace, turned over the lives of millions of people to the control of a terrorist organization which taught their children to believe that their highest purpose in life was to die while killing Israelis.

The Oslo Accords turned stone-throwers into shooters and suicide bombers. It allowed the kind of people that most of Israel’s Muslim neighbors had locked up and thrown away the key to, inside the country and gave them charge of the economy and the youth. Every peace dove, every peace song, every peace agreement, made the rivers of blood that followed not only inevitable, but mandatory.

For decades, every time that Israel was on the verge of finishing off the terrorists, there came a call for a ceasefire or a peace agreement. The call was heeded and the violence continued because all the peace agreements and ceasefires were just prolonged unfinished wars. They were a game of baseball that never ended because no home run was ever scored. Instead the New York Yankees were being forced to play the Martyrs of Muslimtown for thirty years with the umpire stepping in every time the hometown team was on the verge of winning the game. Each peace agreement did not mean peace, it meant that the Muslimtown Martyrs would have another few years to go on killing and being killed.

Peace meant that the war would never end. Instead of perpetual peace, it made for perpetual war.

In 1992 Israel deported 400 Hamas terrorists. It didn’t kill them, lock them up or bake them into a pie. All it did was kick them out of a country they didn’t recognize and closed the door behind them. That deportation became the leading human rights cause of the day <http://sultanknish.blogspot.com/2010/07/how-media-un-and-diplomats-saved-hamas.html> . The UN issued a unanimous resolution condemning the deportation. The Red Cross brought them blankets. Newsweek accused Israel of "Deporting the Hope for Peace."

And so Israel took the 400 Hamas terrorists, the hope for peace, back. Over the next 20 years they shed rivers of blood and rivers of blood were shed because of them. There was never any peace with them and they made peace impossible.

But the humanitarians had gotten their way, as they always got their way, and their way was the blown up bus and the shattered cafeteria, the burning building and the suicide bomber making his way through a crowded mall, the child’s mother lovingly tying on his martyr costume complete with Alfred Nobel’s great invention, the jet plane releasing its cargo of bombs and the television screaming for war. But all these were far better than that 400 Hamas terrorists should sniffle into their Red Cross supplied cups of dark coffee on the hills of Lebanon.

To those who croon to that old Lennon song, peace is always better than war, and good intentions lead to good results. The only way forward is to keep extending your hand to the enemy and doing it over and over again no matter how much effort the doctors have to put into stitching it back together again after the last handshake.

Peace is still better than war. It is better that Israel and Hamas fight escalating mini-wars every 3 years than that Israel finish off Hamas once and for all. That price wasn’t worth paying 20 years ago when all it meant was that 400 terrorists would have been forced to get jobs slinging Halal hash in Lebanese Hashish joints. It certainly isn’t worth it today.

A flock of peace doves wings to Israel with proposals for engaging Hamas. But it’s Israel that is supposed to figure out a way to live with its explosive bride. All the proposals call for some gradual process by which Hamas will be courted, engaged and weaned off terror to become an upstanding member of the international community. And that’s all well and good if you have soy for brains.

http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-iz0rY1WpbZU/UK2ok9RMwsI/AAAAAAAAKOE/8SRHui48d8Y/s1600/israel-war1.jpg <http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-iz0rY1WpbZU/UK2ok9RMwsI/AAAAAAAAKOE/8SRHui48d8Y/s1600/israel-war1.jpg>

Hamas is not interested in being engaged. Its goal is the destruction of Israel. This isn’t posturing, it’s not sullen resentment over being blockaded by Israel or outrage over the latest round of fighting. This is the essential ideology of Hamas, derived from the core Islamic principles over the proper role of non-Muslims in the Muslim world. It is not interested in a two-state solution, job creation programs or any of the meaningless shiny toys that diplomats wave when they arrive in the region. Its goal is to make Islam supreme over all other systems by destroying a non-Muslim state in what it considers to be Muslim territory.

Perpetual peace was not made for such conflicts. Peace was made for reasonable people who are willing to give and take. It was not made for those who only take.

Peacemaking is not a policy, it is a religion that we are all obligated to believe in. It is an immoral moral principle that ends in war. Peacemaking in the World War II cost more lives than Hitler could have ever taken on his own. Peacemaking in the War on Terror has cost a hundred times more lives than the terrorists could have ever taken on their own.

The business of peace is the industry of death. Behind the peace sign is a field of flowers with a grave for every one. Behind the peace agreement and the ceasefire is another war that will be worse than the last.

Daniel Greenfield is a New York City based writer and blogger and a Shillman Journalism Fellow of the David Horowitz Freedom Center.

If you would have peace, be prepared for war. Appius Claudius from the third century BC. Herman Kahn added If you would have peace, you must understand war.

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