Mail 708 Sunday, January 15, 2012
Thanks to all who have recently subscribed or renewed subscriptions. http://www.jerrypournelle.com/paying.html
I was rummaging through other stuff and found the page that points to two of my illustrated walking trip reports, one in Rome and the other in Paris. http://jerrypournelle.com/jerrypournelle.c/reports/trips/ They actually make for quite pleasant reading.
Lengthy review of Charles Murray’s latest: Coming Apart: The State of White America 1960-2010:
“At 416 pages, Coming Apart is Charles Murray’s most substantial offering since 2003’s Human Accomplishment. It continues a theme familiar to readers of The Bell Curve: increasing American social stratification. Murray focuses on whites because otherwise the social trends he describes might lazily be explained away as effects of demographic change; he demonstrates that the trends are almost wholly unaffected by race or immigration. As he notes, a constant focus on how racial minorities ‘lag’ whites serves to distract attention from important changes in the benchmark population itself.”
And then he covers those changes in “the bookmark population.”
I do not have a high regard for Sociology as a discipline, and indeed my C P Snow Memorial Lecture in Ithaca New York was on The Voodoo Sciences http://www.jerrypournelle.com/science/voodoo.html ; but I have always made an exception for Charles Murray. His books are always worth reading, and he pay meticulous attention to the data. The Bell Curve didn’t tell the world anything that the scientists who actually study IQ and mental ability and its measurement didn’t know, but it did bring a lot of the discussion out in the open – to the militant disgust of most of the Voodoo Sciences. I was personally at a session of the American Association for the Advancement of Science at which the session chairman, a prominent Professor of Sociology, proudly announced that he had not read the book he would now discuss – and promptly proved it, to great applause from an audience most of which had not read it either. Such is Sociology. But Murray has always shown that there is a basis for a science in there if you actually look at the data.
I have my own ideas on what the computer revolution has done to the intelligent class. I have ordered his book and I look forward to seeing what Murray has done, and what data he finds significant. One of my heroes, he is.
Subject: The Rise of the Praetorian Class
Long, but worth reading, IMHO:
Worth reading, but it requires a longer comment than I have time or inclination to give. Do understand that the Iron Law of Bureaucracy applies to military and policy organizations, particularly in peace time; it’s not quite so visible or severe because the standards for admission to the organization can and often are kept high, and the Mamelukes and Janissaries and Praetorians do not admit fools and cowards to their brotherhood; but of course that may change in peace time.
We live in a Republic founded by political leaders who were very much aware of Roman history, who had read their Plutarch, who seriously debated the working of the Venetian Republic – in 1787 the longest surviving Republic in the history of mankind, not yet ended by Napoleon and the bayonets of the French Army – and who were quite familiar with the careers of Julius Caesar, Mark Anthony, Octavian, Marius, and Sulla, the Gracchi – most of whom are known to modern Americans from movies. (Incidentally, if you want a good picture of the character of Julius Caesar, Claude Rains in my judgment does that well in the movie Caesar and Cleopatra, which faithfully puts on screen the George Bernard Shaw play of the same name. Shaw was a complex man but he got that part of history right.
Now I suspect that if you ask the average member of Congress who the Gracchi were you would get stammers or a blank look; and I doubt many of them have read more than a quoted paragraph of Gibbons or Macaulay, or know much about the career of Septimius Severus, who succeeded the last Roman to become Roman Emperor. For a walk through Rome with some comments on Severus who had discovered the dread secret, that Emperors could be made in places other than Rome, see http://www.jerrypournelle.com/reports/trips/rome1.html
scale of the universe
You’ll like this.
Sometimes, Ann Coulter …
…reminds me of why I added that Lady to my blogroll in the first place.
(I mean besides that picture of her on her page.
From her latest …
Earlier this week, Mitt Romney got into trouble for saying, "I like being able to fire people who provide services to me." To comprehend why the political class reacted as if Romney had just praised Hitler, you must understand that his critics live in a world in which no one can ever be fired — a world known as "the government."
Precisely. I do wish that Schumpeter’s Capitalism, Socialism, and Democracy were required reading in journalism school (and indeed in any civilized university education curriculum).
While I agree the federal government does not need to be in the bunny inspection business (except perhaps ensuring health checks on any imported bunnies to keep from importing any new diseases), I do find it a bit of a stretch to say we are borrowing from China to pay for the bunny inspections or any federal programs.
While China does hold about a 1 trillion dollars of debt, that is only about 7.8% of the total public debt. The amount of debt that China holds was relatively steady ( 0.3% decrease) from September 2010 to September 2011 while the total public debt grew. Even on a margin basis – if the government would either borrow an extra dollar, or cut expenses by a dollar – it would be unlikely to be reflected by a dollar increase or decrease in debt held by China.
I think the fact that the US has a large trade imbalance with China probably has more to do with the amount of debt Cina holds, then federal borrowing does. After all China has to invest all those extra dollars somewhere.
China does hold 24.6% of the public debt in foreign hands, and 11.3% of the debt in private hands. It only holds 7.8% of the total public debt.
Foreign holders account for less then half (46.0%) of the debt held by the public, and 26.1% of the total public debt.
Of the increase in 1.238 trillon in public debt between 9/30/2010 and 9/30/2011, 336.1 bilion (27.1%) was due to an increase in foreign held debt. The total amount China held actually fell by 3.6 billion over that year.
With almost 75% of the total debt and new debt in domestic hands, I have to say the federal government is mainly using domestic borrowing. The Federal Reserve after the stimulus plan purchases now holds more debt then China does. Of course, the Social Security trust fund holds a large amount of the public debt.
It will be interesting to see how the makeup of the debt will change now that Social Security has began paying out more in benefits then it is taking in in payroll taxes, and has had to use some of the interest on the debt it holds to pay benefits.
Figures come from two US treasury websites
Well, so long as some money is borrowed from China, does it matter? That is, we have bunny inspectors and we borrow money from China. Eliminate enough needless government spending and put off other stuff that might be a good thing if we could afford it; get the debt down so that we don’t have to borrow money from China – and then continue to reduce the needless spending. But thank you . You are correct. We don’t borrow all the needlessly spent money from China. We borrow most of it from someone else. But it’s still needless.
Two of Final Four Army Brigades to be Withdrawn From Europe
This is something we should have done a decade ago.
Actually I have been saying this for two decades. The French want us to sit on Fritz. The Germans like having Americans spend money in Germany, and not having to have a large Wehrmacht. The troops like it in Europe. The taxpayers have never read George Washington’s advice on entangling alliances and not being involved in overseas territorial disputes. So it goes.
Subject: The Thin Red Line.
January 13, 2012: Britain is reducing the size of its army to 82,000, the lowest it has been in over 200 http://www.strategypage.com/htmw/htpara/20120113.aspx years. It was hoped, by the politicians doing the cutting, that the Territorial Army, similar to the U.S. National Guard and Reserves, could be reorganized and retrained in order to make them able to quickly join the regulars for overseas assignments. Unfortunately, this may not make much of a difference unless the Army can do something about a severe manpower shortage in the reserves. The army is also unsure if the part-time Territorial soldiers can be made ready for rapid deployment to overseas hot sport.
Most of the problems Britain’s ground forces suffer from are related to years of defense budget slashes and poor pay, which have resulted in a lack of spare parts, equipment, and disgruntled and poorly paid personnel. Currently the Territorial Army numbers around 29,000, which is 7,000 short of what it is supposed to be. But the issue of manpower has always been Britain’s major problem, regardless of whether the military was well-funded or not. During World War II, the constant and unceasing demands for manpower in the European Theatre caused growing personnel shortages in the army. In the old days, this wasn’t so much of a problem since Britain could call upon hundreds of thousands of Empire troops to make up for their own shortage of bodies to fill the ranks. The majority of these soldiers came from South Africa, India, and the ANZAC (Australia and New Zealand). Unfortunately, this is no longer possible since the Indians are no longer associated with the Commonwealth. As for the Australians and New Zealanders, they are unlikely to mobilize thousands of troops unless there is a direct threat to Britain.
Currently, the active army consists of about 82,000 officers, NCOs, and enlisted men. The 29,000 Territorial Army troops have several different degrees of obligation. The Regular Reserve is composed of two different classes (A and D). The A class reservists are required to answer compulsory calls for training and deployment whereas Class D troops report for service on a purely voluntary basis. Furthermore, Territorial Units are broken up into Regional and National formations. The Regional formations are composed of soldiers recruited locally from specific areas in Britain. Their commitment is a minimum of 27 days training a year. For National formations, who typically fulfill specialized roles such as logistics and medical services, the commitment is even less at 19 days per year.
Despite the limbo in which the Territorials find themselves regarding their personnel shortages, the government is smart enough to realize they’re going to need the reserves. Currently, the Territorial Forces have no fixed timetable for training their units up to full combat-ready standards. This has caused some in the regular army to question whether, in their current state, the Territorials could provide any added value to the offensives in Afghanistan.
Currently, the reserves’ time to get in shape and trained for combat operations is capped at six months. This may not be enough time to conduct basic training and teach advanced skills before shipping the troops to a combat zone. The plan also calls for more training alongside regular army units, to learn heavy weapons skills. This usually results in the reduction of training times in order to get more soldiers in combat faster. Britain has made it clear that during future overseas crises, the Territorials are going to be in combat soon and they want them trained and ready to do their jobs as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, all the training and upgrading may be for nothing if they can’t scrape up the recruits they need and implement training programs that will prepare the reservists for combat quickly enough.
But why would they need an Army? They have the Fleet. Oh. Well, we don’t have to study war no more. The US will take over the world policeman job.
The European Union might appear a military superpower, at least on paper. It has more uniformed personnel than the United States and overall EU defense spending outstrips Russia or China.
But as Washington pulls troops back from the continent, two decades after the Cold War ended, and refocuses on Asia, the cash-strapped nations of Europe face uncomfortable truths over just how paltry their real military capabilities have become.
NATO’s war in Libya last year was trumpeted as Europe starting to take responsibility for its own backyard, with Britain and France calling the shots while Washington "led from behind." In reality, the campaign was heavily dependent on U.S. military, technical, intelligence and logistical support – the Europeans could not even supply enough of their own munitions.
That’s par for the course. Europe has always been unable to fend for itself. They can’t get along and when the wars get really bad, we have to go in and sort them out….
Joshua Jordan, KSC
Europe could afford Socialism because they didn’t need to defend their territory against Russia during the Cold war. It’s a tradition.
You may have already seen this …
When presidential candidate Mitt Romney ridiculed former House Speaker Newt Gingrich for favoring a mining colony on the moon during a recent presidential debate, he undoubtedly thought he was scoring political points. But anyone watching who had ever thrilled to Stanley Kubrick’s thoughtful depiction of interplanetary travel in 2001: A Space Odyssey likely admired the Speaker’s spirited defense of his off-world agenda.
There are many ways to measure the cost of wasteful spending in the decades since the Apollo moon landings—the size of the current national budget deficit, surveys showing Americans’ growing mistrust of government, or the number of duplicative and inefficient federal programs.
Yet perhaps the most disheartening metric is the number of promising space exploration proposals that have been abandoned in the name of “more pressing social priorities.”
And considerably more. The first time I met Newt Gingrich was on the phone – he had got my phone number from my publisher and wanted to discuss A STEP FARTHER OUT, which he had just read and wanted to discuss with me. I discuss lunar and asteroid resources and how we could be back on the moon for good by 2010. Yeah , we missed some opportunities…
Crow roof tubing –
Here is a crow not only using a tool, but using it to play:
Amazing. Very smart bird. “Roof-tubing.” Who would have thought?
Smart birds. Our local crow flocks are down again. I haven’t seen more than 12 at a time for months; it used to be we had several flocks of fifty or more. I miss them. But apparently the are flourishing in other places. It’s the West Nile that’s killing them. Didn’t used to have any West Nile in Southern California when I moved here.
Saturn’s Rings and Two Moons
Another keeper from Cassini
Regards, Charles Adams
Marine Urination Video –
… assuming that the marine urination video is real and not a videoshopped piece of propaganda:
I am very surprised and appalled by your cavalier attitude toward the Marine urination on dead Taliban incident.
Respect for the dead should be instilled in all our warriors – this is what separates a marine from a savage.
It is the job of NCO’s, recruiters, and drill sergants to find, discipline, and remove such troopers from the ranks.
It’s also the job of the NCO’s to train our troops to not do stupid stuff. It hurts their mission.
That being said, in a large group of people the bell curve will apply and stupid actions will happen. What matters then is how a free, open, honest, and just society deals with those who allegedly break the rules.
I doubt it was video shopped.
I have seen troops who honored dead enemies; some enemies deserve honor. I have also known troops who went out of the way to desecrate dead enemies. Oddly enough, in Korea Chinese dead and prisoners were treated much better than North Korean dead and prisoners.
The Marines acted without thinking of the consequences and must be made to realize that; but I have always believed that far more serious acts take place in every combat action. War is Hell. A rational army would run away. Those men did not run away, and I’d far rather have troops who urinate on the enemy than troops who surrender to get their throats cut while in captivity.
And I hope they had bacon for breakfast that morning. I’m told they did.
I don’t appall as easily as many, I suppose.