The Political Report


Mail 854 Thursday, December 11, 2014

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

Glenn T. Seaborg, National Commission on Education, 1983


It’s late and I have been working for a couple of days on getting some anthologies up as eBooks.  THERE WILL BE WAR, at least the first two volumes, will be available next spring or earlier, in print and as eBooks.  I am also getting 2020 Vision (Anderson, Spinrad, Ellison, Niven, Bova, and others) up as well.  Meanwhile the CIA is being flogged.  I found this mail essential:




More on the Senate report

Dear Dr. Pournelle,

It appears that former Senator Kerrey [D-Nebraska] is taking his own party to task over the ‘politicized’ torture report.

"I do not need to read the report to know that the Democratic staff alone wrote it. The Republicans checked out early when they determined that their counterparts started out with the premise that the CIA was guilty and then worked to prove it.

When Congress created <> the intelligence committees in the 1970’s, the purpose was for people’s representatives to stand above the fray and render balanced judgments about this most sensitive aspect of national security. This committee departed from that high road and slipped into the same partisan mode that marks most of what happens on Capitol Hill these days.

The worse consequence of a partisan report can be seen in this disturbing fact: It contains no recommendations. This is perhaps the most significant missed opportunity, because no one would claim the program was perfect or without its problems. But equally, no one with real experience would claim it was the completely ineffective and superfluous effort this report alleges.

Our intelligence personnel – who are once again on the front lines fighting the Islamic State – need recommended guidance from their board of governors: The U.S. Congress. Remarkably this report contains none. I hope – for the sake of our security and our values – Congress will follow the leadership of Senator McCain and give them this guidance."

In other words, the report exaggerated the problems of the CIA while minimizing any benefit, carefully absolved congress of any misdeeds, yet neither carried any call for indictment nor any recommendations to be followed in the future.

A hit job, then.

So far as I am concerned the report is discredited on this basis; I cannot believe a Democratic senator would so call out his own party if it was not a partisan hack job, a disservice to the country.


Brian P.

Thanks for sending me this. 



Another take on the Senate Intelligence report

Of course, this whole thing will devolve into a he-said/she-said fiasco. However, I think this is a must-read for anyone wanting at least to hear the other side.

Richard White

Austin, Texas

Fascinating.  Very.





After spending more than a week trying to locate and read the putative presidential Executive Order on Immigration I am now sure that no such E.O. exists!

After failing to get responses from my various Congresscritters, the public library, and the New York Times….I finally put in a call to the Cato Institute where I was immediately connected to Mr. Alex Nowrasteh, the senior immigration policy analyst.

He explained that the Obamagration reform was not being implemented or even directed by Executive Order but rather through "Executive Action", with implementation accomplished by memoranda from Jeh Johnson, Homeland Security. Mr. Nowrasteh was kind enough to send me links to the memos implementing President Obama’s extralegal decrees.

My interpretation is that an E.O. is too transparent, to easily reversed though legislation, and too directly associable to President Obama so that an even less transparent means was used.

The links sent to me are quoted from the email sent by Mr. Nowrasteh and are quite terrifying.

"Strengthen border security

Revise removal priorities

Priorities enforcement program

Ice pay reforms

Expand Daca

Expand provisional waiver program

Revising Parole rules




Increased access to citizenship

Supporting high skilled businesses and workers

Alex Nowrasteh

Immigration Policy Analyst, Cato Institute"


Lawrence Cunningham




Russian buyer returns Watson’s Nobel:




I thought this was a satire site at first, but it isn’t…




“We can hope that the country club establishment Republicans have learned their lesson. It is not entirely clear that they have.”

Loved your recent piece on this topic, as usual, but here is another angle. I think that part of the problem with the United States is not just that the elites no longer feel any sense of duty towards the nation as a whole (although that is surely a lethal problem for any nation), but that they have been so isolated from the negative consequences of their mistakes, that they have lost the ability to think critically. Indeed, they have lost the ability to even realize that thinking critically is important!

So you can start a pointless war, mismanage it, and you don’t get fired. You are not treated as an object of scorn, rather, you are feted as an elder statesman, put on the board of directors of major corporations, etc. So of course we keep botching it all over again! You can lose a fortune in the financial markets and all your losses are made whole. You can totally mismanage the healthcare exchanges, and nobody important gets fired, nobody really tries to fix it – besides, your family has real health insurance so why worry?

The elites fail at every endeavor, and they call it experience.

Michelle Obama’s school lunch fiasco is one minor example of this. Perhaps school lunches should be better balanced – in Japan the school lunches are wonderful, you’d pay money to get them in a serious restaurant in this country. Instead the government creates unworkable standards and produces nearly inedible lunches at twice the price – but Michelle’s kids eat catered gourmet food at private schools, liberals treat any criticism of her plan as racist, she is still treated with respect, and so she shows no interest in fixing the system. Why should she?

FDR was once asked by an aid about some policy: ‘but what if it doesn’t work?’ – and FDR replied to the effect, then we shall have to try something else. That sounds obvious, but our current elites don’t think that way. Because why should they? If the whole nation collapses they can just take their money and move overseas – like the cruise ship captain who abandoned his post when it began to sink. And when they do they shall shake their heads in sadness that the American people were not worthy of their brilliant leadership.

The country club establishment Republicans have not learned their lesson because, to them, there is no lesson to learn.





The only issue I have with the term "aristocratic" is that, as used, it shades over into "inherited aristocracy." Which tends to be sheer nonsense: oligarchy, yes, inherited power, yes, but inherited "rule by the best" — that’s been repeatedly disproved by societies which tried it. Even the best of the Roman Emperors couldn’t make it work.

It’s a language problem, I think. Our terms don’t distinguish between a system directed by genuine excellence, and a system directed by people who declare themselves to be excellent. The first, should it occur, could be very good indeed. The second, which occurs repeatedly, is usually both oppressive and pretentious. I have yet to see any system in which inherited power (including the inheritance of great wealth) doesn’t lead to destructive results.


Allan E. Johnson

Aristocracy literally means “rule of the best”: by definition doesn’t everyone want that?  Of course “best” doesn’t describe some of the French aristocrats, particularly M de Marquis in Tale of Two Cities.  Perhaps it does describe Marquis de Lafayette…  

It takes more than one generation to make an aristocrat. And it is not likely that every member of the aristocracy should be a part of it; there need to be means to shuffle off the failures and bring in new.  It is not at all clear that elections do this: look at your local city council.  How many of those would you like to spend any time with?  And would you choose them to rule? Is your city well ruled?  But then who would want to rule a city ?  What we have is a system that rewards people for learning how to get a political job; not for being able to do it well.

Cicero long ago (among many others) thought the best rule was a republic which incorporated aristocracy, monarchy, and democratic role of the commons into a unified system of government.  The old republic had some of that, but Cicero’s Rome did not.  It was said that Caesar wanted to restore something like the old republic: certainly he spared Cicero and most of his enemies.  But Caesar was murdered, and his successors hanged Cicero’s head in the Forum where Marc Anthony’s wife pierced his dead tongue with a hat pin.



At the last meeting of the Daytona Beach City Commission, one of the public comments mentioned that the police force is under represented by blacks. During comments by the city commissioners, it was stated that the reason we’re under representative is because we are outbid whenever a qualified black applicant applies. They end up at other cities. In order to hire more black police officers, we would have to raise the pay for all officers. (Our police officers are unionized.)




Dear Dr. Pournelle,

You may find this short essay enlightening, as the author outlines all the various dodges groups use to make their advocacy ‘settled science’ with very little substantiation of the same.

It does tally well with my own experience.


Brian P.





I’m here, and you’re there, and food, fun, danger, opportunity are over there!

David Couvillon

Colonel, U.S. Marine Corps Reserve, Retired.; Former Governor of Wasit Province, Iraq; Righter of Wrongs; Wrong most of the time; Distinguished Expert, TV remote control; Chef de Hot Dog Excellance; Avoider of Yard Work



Ferguson DA Rightly Avoids Seeking Indictment

Dear Mr. Pournelle,

A recent correspondent mentioned the argument "that liberals are asking — and I think it is a reasonable one — is exactly why the DA was essentially acting as Officer Wilson’s defense attorney…."

This argument in brief says that the Ferguson DA acted improperly, probably with suspect motives if not outright bias in favor of Officer Wilson by not strongly seeking an indictment through such means as withholding evidence favorable to Wilson’s version of events and permitting him to testify and permitting the grand jury to consider self-defense as a motive. In support of this idea they draft no less an authority than Justice Scalia.

First of all, this argument fails from the start IMO by attributing to the DA the low cunning necessary to twist the normal rules of grand jury proceedings to favor his preferred outcome, but then claiming his stupidity to be so boundless that he would release much of the evidence and transcripts of the proceedings to open scrutiny and thereby ensure that all would know of his perfidy and misconduct.

As to the legal merits of the case, I refer any interested to Andrew Branca, an expert in this area of the law and a lawyer himself.

I believe that Branca clearly and convincingly explains the rationale for the procedure followed in this case and resoundingly destroys this straw man.

I quote several paragraphs from his closing (but please read the whole thing):

"Indeed, to deny that the Grand Jury should consider self-defense is to embrace a legal and logical absurdity.

"As noted, in cases of self-defense,the defendant necessarily concedes the underlying criminal acts, but defends them on the grounds that he was legally justified to commit the acts as a matter of lawful self-defense.

"Were the Grand Jury be permitted to consider only the concession of the use of force, but not the claimed justification, then each and every act of self-defense would necessarily result in an indictment and be brought to trial, no matter how strongly the evidence in its totality supported the justification of that use of force.

"A Secret Service Agent cuts down an assassin moments before the killer can take the President’s life, all caught on cameras by news agencies worldwide as the President delivers a major policy speech? Sorry, Agent, here’s your indictment, we’ll see you at the trial. After all, he concedes he committed the killing, and merely claims legal justification for doing so–but the Grand Jury is not permitted to hear the justification.

"A maniac gunning down children in a school is shot and killed by the school resource officer assigned to that duty, all events testified to by scores of surviving teachers and students? Sorry, officer, here’s your indictment, we’ll see you at trial. Again, the Grand Jury is permitted to hear the concession of the use of force, but not the justification.

"A murderously abusive husband invades his wife’s place of work, killing her colleagues with shotgun blasts as he seeks her out, until a security officer takes him out with a well-placed gun shot to the head, all events caught on the company’s CCTV system? Sorry, sir, here’s your indictment, we’ll see you at trial. You get the idea.

"I suggest that no reasonable or moral person could possibly argue for such legal outcomes."

Kenton Yoder




At precisely 11:11 a.m. each Veterans Day (Nov. 11), the sun’s rays pass through the ellipses of the five Armed Services pillars to form a perfect solar spotlight over a mosaic of The Great Seal of the United States.

anthem veterans memorial Arizona by Renee palmer-jones (1)<>

The Anthem Veterans Memorial <> , located in Anthem, Arizona, is a monument dedicated to honoring the service and sacrifice of the United States armed forces. The pillar provides a place of honor and reflection for veterans, their family and friends, and those who want to show their respects to those service men and women who have and continue to courageously serve the United States.


The memorial was designed by Anthem resident Renee Palmer-Jones. The five marble pillars represent the five branches of the United States military. They are staggered in size (from 17 ft to 6 ft) and ordered in accordance with the Department of Defense prescribed precedence, ranging from the United States Army, the United States Marine Corp, the United States Navy, the United States Air Force and the United States Coast Guard.

anthem veterans memorial Arizona by Renee palmer-jones (2)<>

anthem veterans memorial Arizona by Renee palmer-jones (3)<>

anthem veterans memorial Arizona by Renee palmer-jones (4)<>

Additionally, the brick pavers within the Circle of Honor are inscribed with the names of over 750 U.S. servicemen and women, symbolizing the ‘support’ for the Armed Forces. The pavers are red, the pillars are white, and the sky is blue to represent America’s flag. The circle represents an unbreakable border. Anthem resident and chief engineer, Jim Martin was responsible for aligning the memorial accurately with the sun.

anthem veterans memorial Arizona by Renee palmer-jones (5)<>


- Arizona Historic Landmark Designation 2012 – Arizona Historical Society

– Arizona Public Works Project of the Year Award 2012 – Arizona Chapter of the American Public Works Association

– ACEC 2012 Grand Award – Best Engineering and Environmental Consulting Project

anthem veterans memorial Arizona by Renee palmer-jones (6)<>


- Anthem Community Council <>

– Arizona Tourisms: Anthem Veterans Memorial <>

– ABC Arizona: Anthem dedicates memorial to veterans <>

Anthem Veterans Memorial


Mr. Pournelle,

I re-read "Bind your sons to exile" yesterday, the first time I’ve read it since the early 1980s. You are a visionary. If the story were re-issued today, the only change necessary to update it completely would be to replace the Swiss with the Chinese.

I enjoy your work and am glad to have found your blog.

Kindest regards,

Some guy



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




Civilization, Where was the Guard, and many interesting subjects as I catch up a bit on MAIL

Mail 853 Monday, December 01, 2014

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

Glenn T. Seaborg, National Commission on Education, 1983

I have never said that human society ought to be aristocratic, but a great deal more than that. What I have said, and still believe with ever-increasing conviction, is that human society is always, whether it will or no, aristocratic by its very essence, to the extreme that it is a society in the measure that it is aristocratic, and ceases to be such when it ceases to be aristocratic. Of course I am speaking now of society and not of the State.

Jose Ortega y Gasset, The Revolt of the JMasses


A definition of "civilization" —

Definitions are important — ask any lawyer — and the discussion once again has turned to the difference between civilized and uncivilized people. I am just arrogant enough to have coined my own definition.

That person is civilized who, having the means and opportunity to compel another against his will, and profit thereby, refuses to do it because he believes it is wrong.

Richard White

Austin, Texas

And how does he learn this?


Two Nobel Prize winners, Watson and Shockley, have put forth theories of racial intelligence levels. Both were, essentially, shouted down and few, if any, comprehensive studies have been performed. It seems as if the Liberal Shouters are afraid that Watson and Shockley are right.

My non-scientific observations lead me to believe that they are wrong. My brother, who spent a good deal of time at California Horse Race Tracks, observed that anyone who thought Blacks were deficient in math skills had never observed how quickly they could calculate the payoff of a multi-race parley without the use of pencil, paper or calculator.

I believe that any observed racial differences in native intelligence are due to cultural factors rather than race. Consequently, any study needs to develop methodology to account for these Cultural differences. Standard IQ test will not yield valid results.

Bob Holmes

Hundreds of psychologists have attempted to remove the cultural influences in IQ tests.  They claim to have done so.  When I breed Border Collies or Huskies, I expect to get smart dogs. Other breeds are selected if you want other traits.  It works in dogs and horses, and it seems reasonable to assume that smart people produce smart kids: this has nothing to do with race, but the tests continue to show racial differences.  If it’s true that there are racial differences in IQ, then it behooves us to rescue the smart kids.



James Watson

Hi Jerry

Just a brief comment about James Watson and his quote in 2007. He apparently said that he was pessimistic about prospects in Africa, because "all our social policies are based on the fact that their intelligence is the same as ours, whereas all the testing says not really."

This has been the elephant in the room for a long, long time.

Something has prevented – and continues to prevent – much of Africa from joining the economic and technological upswing evident throughout most of the rest of the world. If cognitive differences are a contributing factor, then we need to know this so that we can do something about it. Denying reality is just not helpful.

If the cognitive differences are present, then the next question is why. Such differences could be genetic, in which case we need to change our approach to helping Africa. Alternatively, they could result from nutrition or disease, in which case, the problem is eminently fixable. However, researchers are never going to investigate the cause as long as admitting the problem itself is equivalent to career suicide.

If even a Nobel Laureate is not allowed such a gentle criticism of the social policies directed at Africa, what hope do ordinary mortals have?





Punishment by percentages

It is with great sadness to see punishment being dealt out according to the color of one’s skin rather than having it be a corrective action.

There is no education in that but it looks good on paper.



Your post on civilizing barbarians

Long time reader via Instapundit since 2002.

I remember some Republican politician being crushed for suggesting that US students clean their schools like they do in Japan.

I lived in Japan and I respect that country very much, but I’m not a pop-culture Japanophile (sushi, anime, etc…) When I found out that students in Japanese public schools have rotational cleaning duties in their school that only US janitors would do, I was embarrassed for my culture. When I saw students and teachers picking weeds out on a terraced flowered facade of a school while I was driving to work (military), I was embarrassed for my culture.

The other day, I was in the DMV which is a terrible experience in and of itself. There was an Asian women two people in front of me and a US-born person of color who was rather large, directly in front of me. The staff called for "next" and English being her second language, she did not immediately react. The person of color waited until the second call of "next" and just walked right up to the counter. The Asian women then realized he cut her in line and was visibly livid (sort of shaking but trying to repress her anger – very Asian) and I recognized what that was and knew she would end up just letting it go. So I spoke up. I told the man that she was next and he said "Too late, I’m here." What ran through my head was "And that’s why you are where you are at in life."

I told my Japanese wife this story and she had the thought that maybe the one hour a day of ethics she had to take at school from first grade to high school may be the reason Japanese don’t act rude and cut people in line.

I was like "Wait. Ethics in public school?"

That is one of the many reasons that we both feel a move back to Japan, even if our income is cut in half (and I’m not making alot now) would be the best for our family.

Robert F





Ferguson and the national guard

Dear Dr. Pournelle,

I wonder if you or your correspondents would be able to provide insight into a small mystery.

As you can see, the Ferguson police chief is quite puzzled. He had expected to have national guard assistance on Monday when the grand jury decision was announced. Yet "the mission" was changed . The Guard was not sent, and his tiny police department was left to fend for itself. Guard units were not deployed until Tuesday.

Who made this decision, and why?

As you can see, the police chief himself is asking those questions, and is not getting answers.

I confess, as a citizen, to being curious about this myself. Someone high up had to make that decision, and it had to be political. The kind spin is perhaps they were afraid that deploying military forces would provoke just the kind of riot they were afraid of. They cynical spin is that they knew darn well what would happen and WANTED a day of rage.

I make it a rule never to attribute to malice what can be explained by incompetence; 14 years as a government contractor showed me ‘incompetence’ at any level was a very safe bet. Nonetheless, circumstances are such that I find that I cannot wholly dismiss the more sinister scenario.

Also on the topic of Ferguson, here is a link to many of the grand jury materials.

I have not thoroughly examined them yet. A prima facie read suggests that an overwhelming number of eyewitnesses state that officer Wilson pursued and fired on Mr. Brown when Mr. Brown was not resisting. However, the physical evidence does not bear our their accounts; only one of the bullets which struck Mr. Brown may have been fired from behind him, and since that is in the arm, that evidence is disputable at best.

Another question that liberals are asking — and I think it is a reasonable one — is exactly why the DA was essentially acting as Officer Wilson’s defense attorney, quoting Justice Scalia, of all people, in the role of the modern grand jury.

"It is the grand jury’s function not ‘to enquire … upon what foundation [the charge may be] denied,’ or otherwise to try the suspect’s defenses, but only to examine ‘upon what foundation [the charge] is made’ by the prosecutor. Respublica v. Shaffer, 1 Dall. 236 (O. T. Phila. 1788); see also F. Wharton, Criminal Pleading and Practice § 360, pp. 248-249 (8th ed. 1880). As a consequence,neither in this country nor in England has the suspect under investigation by the grand jury ever been thought to have a right to testify or to have exculpatory evidence presented."

So why did the prosecutor call Darren Wilson to testify in his defense, when this would be more appropriate to a petit jury after indictment?

It’s difficult to avoid the conclusion that the prosecutor was not exactly pursuing this case with wholehearted vigor, and so difficult for the community in Ferguson to avoid the conclusion that ‘the fix was in’. Which provokes anger.

Which is, of course, an excuse for peaceful marching and civil disobedience in the streets, NOT for plundering, murder, and rioting . This man was killed during the riots; yet none of the rioters seem to be demanding that HIS killers be brought to justice.


Brian P.

I have been told that the Attorney General of the United States told the Governor to keep the guard away from the crowd but I cannot say this is from a reliable source. I do not know why the Governor did not either order the Guard in, or turn it over to the Lieutenant Governor (A Republican) or simply go give a speech in another state…



When the incompetent are led by the malicious

Dear Jerry:

I shared your thoughts about barbarianism with a homeschooler of my acquaintance. She believes that the schools do indeed indoctrinate and that they are getting exactly what they set out to get. That’s why they continue to do what they are doing. They are not sowing the wind. Their plan is calculated. They just happen to have goals that are different from yours and mine.

I will remind her that we should not impute maliciousness when incompetence is an adequate explanation.

In support of that view, I have another acquaintance who happens to be a teacher of school teachers and administrators. She is appalled at the intellectual inadequacy of those being entrusted with the education of our youngsters.

Perhaps it is the incompetent being led by the malicious that most fully accounts for the destruction of America’s educational system.

Best regards,

–Harry M.



IQ and Automation

"half the jobs people are doing now can likely be done by a robot which can be purchased for about the annual cost of the person now doing that job."

Combining that with this: "Automation Makes Us Dumb" (WSJ)

and you get a nicely vicious circle. Perhaps those whose jobs were automated earlier and who consequently had no jobs in which to develop skills — perhaps were even barred from such jobs — would wind up with a lower group-average IQ. As automation reaches into other categories of work — doctors, airline pilots, as discussed in the article — we will see a decline among them, as well.


Maybe we ought to write a story about such a world…




Reprieve for Warthog – they are listening to you

The Times 28/11/14

Reprieve for Warthog as US sends thunder from the sky down on Isis Michael Evans Last updated at 12:01AM, November 28 2014 An American ground-attack aircraft that the Pentagon wanted to scrap to save money has been reprieved to combat Islamic State militants in Iraq.

The A-10 “Warthog”, known as the flying tank and one of the most feared aircraft during the Iraq war, has been sent to a base in the Gulf region to join the airstrikes against Isis.

A squadron of about ten A-10s, with 300 US Air Force personnel from the US Air National Guard’s 122nd Fighter Wing, arrived ten days ago. The group, usually based at Fort Wayne, Indiana, is believed to be based near Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates.

The A-10 is known officially as Thunderbolt and its seven-barrel Gatling cannon can fire 4,200 rounds a minute. Their presence on the battlefield indicates a determination by the Pentagon to take a more aggressive approach towards Isis.

The sacking of Chuck Hagel as US defence secretary, because he was considered too passive by the White House, was another sign that President Obama wants a tougher attacking stance to back his public pledge to “disrupt and destroy” the Islamic militants.

It is an extraordinary reprieve for an aircraft that the Pentagon was planning to axe to save $4 billion. Bipartisan support in Congress to save the Warthogs temporarily halted Pentagon plans, but with the US Air Force insisting that other aircraft can perform the same role, its future remains in doubt.

With the deployment of A-10s, the US has built up an array of aircraft to take on Isis. Apache helicopters were used for the first time in Iraq last month. Carrier-borne F/A-18s as well as US Air Force F-16s, F-15Es, B-1 bombers and armed Predator drones have been involved since airstrikes began in August.

The Warthog’scapability to launch massive bursts of firepower from a low altitude proved devastating in the Gulf war of 1991 and the Iraq war from 2003.

Two A-10s were involved in a friendly-fire incident in the Gulf war when nine British soldiers were killed.

Andy Gibbs

With a brigade from the 101st and the Warthogs any competent brigadier could put paid to the Caliphate, while establishing a base in Kurdish Iraq. This would have a salutory effect on Baghdad, and tellthe world that it’s good to have the United States as your friend.


Your efforts have been noticed

Dr. Pournelle:

Your republishing of the sixth-grade reader has gained some notice. Bill Whittle, a conservitarian commentator has a piece on YouTube citing you, the edited reader, and the stupidification of the education system. It’s at

Pete Nofel


Footfall without the Fithp- Directed Deep Impact


Another example of Science catching up with the Science Fiction of 30 years ago–

Best regards,

Doug Ely



Re: Mike Lieman’s note

"As a Jewish-American, I can remember another person who characterized people as ‘barbarians’, consequently, I don’t think that framing is useful.

To counter the ‘Old White Man’s Echo Chamber’, you should read this piece by the author Kiese Laymon, "My Vassar College Faculty ID Makes Everything OK < > ", which provides a counterpoint to the dehumanizing stereotypes you’re so casually invoking."


It seems to me Mike’s criticism was pretty far off base. Hitler’s characterization of Jews (and other ethnic groups) was based solely on their ethnicity. Your characterization of a subset of African Americans (and I assume you would also include a subset of white Americans, Hispanics, etc.) as "barbarians" is based on their words, behavior and actions, not on their ethnicity. I didn’t see any stereotyping in your essay.

Best regards,

Doug Ely



Dear Jerry;

Since with the advent of the Mann v. Steyn case, Scientia est omnis divisa in partes tres….

It’s high time someone authored a book entitled :

De Bello Climatico

Too bad the Aldine Press folded:

Russell Seitz

Fellow of the Department of Physics Harvard University



"Ukraine is historically part of Russia, not merely an imperial acquisition."

That is what the Russians would have you believe. It is not necessarily so.

The current Ukraine was assembled by Stalin. Before him, Ukraine was basically the basin of the Dnieper river. Stalin attached the basin of the Donetsk river east of the Dnieper to the Ukraine SSR. Later, in the aftermath of WWII, Stalin attached the southeastern provinces of Poland to Ukraine, and moved the Poles out of what is now Ukraine into Poland. He then set the western border of Poland as the Oder River. And expelled all ethnic Germans who had lived east of there into Germany.

Before the 20th Century, Ukraine was ruled numerous powers. Russia did not control Ukraine until the 18th Century. From the time of the Mongols Ukraine was ruled by Lithuania, later Poland-Lithuania.

Russians like to tell a story that Russia began in Kiev in the 10th Century. Indeed, the Slavic orthodox church was established in Kiev at that time. However, the is no real political, cultural, or institutional connection between that era and Muscovy of the 14th Century, which is the core of modern Russia.

If the foregoing is not a story of imperial acquisition, I don’t know what would fit the bill.

Robert Schwartz

I would have said that ownership since the 1700’s would be a pretty good title: it is longer than we have owned most of the United States. It is certainly longer than Russia has controlled East Prussia.

As to the history of Ukraine and its legitimate ownership I can only say that I know many Ukrainian dwellers who have many different views, and Cossacks who have yet another. The 20th Century was not kind to Eastern Europe; Germans, Poles, Kievans, Ukrainians were forcibly moved. Ukraine was the location of the Harvest of Sorrow where a third of the population was deliberately starved by Stalin. Crimea was given to Ukraine by Khrushchev. The very boundaries changed several time in the 20th Century as well as in the 19th. The Cossacks, Tatars, Kievan State Vikings, Polish refugees, Diaspora Jews, were stirred about, encouraged, then displaced, and all that before Stalin’s Harvest of Sorrow.

The Polish border was settled after World War II by giving part of Germany to Poland and part of Poland to Russia. The inhabitants were not consulted, but were told to migrate to their new homes according to their ethnicity and language.

Whether wisely or not, we have admitted the Baltic Republics to NATO, and thus have an obligation to defend them although it is questionable whether they can contribute much to the defense of the United States. I have a strong sentimental interest in the freedom of the Balts, having many friends from all three of them; but I am ot sure I would have made an entangling alliance with them. I certainly know of nothing good that could come from having Ukraine as a NATO ally.

There comes a point at which the United States needs to mind its own business, at least until that business is running properly. If we can remain a free society and not become the welfare state with permit raj that we seem headed to be, I suspect that would be enough.

Russia cannot absorb all of Ukrainian speaking Ukraine. The Tsars perhaps could, but for the Bolsheviks it required human caused famine to control the land. I do not believe Russia has enough ethnic Russians to control Ukraine, and Putin appears to know that. He does want the Eastern Ukraine, where he probably has the required Russian speakers, and may be able to make a deal with the Cossacks.

What is certain is that we do not know.

We chose sides in the Balkan wars out of sentiment, only to see “our side” practice the same ethnic cleansing that had won the support of Madeleine Albright. There are no Slavs left in Kosovo, as the Russians told us would be the outcome of this. This did not endear us to the Panslavic Russian.

I don’t know what is the best possible solution to the territorial and boundary disputes of Europe. I do not believe they are our business.


What Should a Bayesian Infer from the Antikythera Mechanism?



Roland Dobbins

Thank you for finding that.  It’s a fascinating lecture.  I have been intrigued by that machine since I first learned of it in high school



Sony’s New Movies Leak Online

I think that may be bad reporting. At least it needs more clarity. Are they implying that multiple distinct digital copies of each film have been downloaded and leaked, or are the using the word "copies" in the sense of "one copy of each film." If the former, it is still possible that multiple drafts were hacked by a single source, some of which were from before the addition of digital watermarks, and still does not preclude efforts by the hackers to remove the digital watermarks prior to re-release.

In a message dated 11/30/2014 9:01:56 A.M. Central Standard Time, —– writes:

"Many of the leaked copies are watermarked." Many? That indicates multiple sources.

"Life is tough, but it’s tougher if you’re stupid."

"Sands of Iwo Jima" (1949), John Wayne’s character, Sergeant Stryker




An alternative to civilizing barbarians is to simply prevent or discourage their procreation.

Building and operating abortion clinics in the neighborhoods that are inhabited predominantly by barbarians is a good start.

Welfare reform that ceases to pay barbarian mothers to keep birthing more barbarian babies as Gingrich forced Clinton to do is another effective tactic. President Obama has largely reversed this policy by eliminating time limits on unemployment. However; given Obama’s avowed aversion to procreation it might be possible to persuade Obama to tie continuing wealth transfer payments to some type of contraception such as Norplant or better yet, permanent surgical sterilization.

An even better tactic might be to develop a highly additive hallucinogenic or intoxicating drug that is also a potent contraceptive or sterilizing agent. I have often wondered if the Borlaie grown on Tanith in your CoDo stories might be such an agent.

Since the barbarians, particularly young adult male barbarians, commit homicide at a rate ten times higher than the general population, usually killing fellow young male adult barbarians, ensure that the barbarians have easy access to cheap, low quality, short range weapons, particularly handguns. The handguns that are marketed to the barbarians should be intentionally designed to be prone to discharge accidentally. If a smart gun is developed, it should be programed to discharge at random intervals. Given the fact that barbarians are n the habit of carrying handguns in the front of their pants, this would help to prevent the male barbarians from procreating. Handguns with no manual safety, no trigger guard and a light trigger pull would be particularly effective.

James Crawford=

A modest proposal, I presume…


Toward artificial life…

The ultimate goal of the project is to give people access to their own digital worm called WormSim to study on their computers through the OpenWorm project.

Charles Brumbelow



Maxwell’s Demon?


It may not technically be Maxwell’s, but apparently this thing cools without using any energy.

Device cools itself in the blazing-hot sun

"The team designed a structure of seven alternating layers of silicon dioxide – essentially glass – and hafnium dioxide. Both materials are transparent to visible light but emit radiation strongly at wavelengths of around 10 μm. These layers are stacked on a layer of silver to create a mirror that reflects visible light. Fan and his team used a computer simulation to choose thicknesses for the different layers that would maximize both how much sunlight the combined device reflects and how much infrared radiation it emits.

"The researchers then mounted the device, which was just under 2 μm thick, onto a 20 cm-diameter circular silicon wafer, added a plastic sheet to block convective air flows, and placed the apparatus on the rooftop of a building at Stanford. They found that on a sunny day, the device cooled to between 4 and 5 degrees below the surrounding air temperature. The device therefore appears to be the first object known to achieve such cooling under direct sunlight without consuming energy."

When the temp is 104, as it is quite often out where I live, I’m not sure getting it down to 100 would be much of an improvement, but anything would help.

Braxton Cook


IHS story on safe cities (Todos Santos?)

Hello Jerry,

Have been thinking about Todos Santos since the Ferguson riots and how such arcologies might be coming our way soon when I ran across an article about safe cities in IHS Quarterly/Technology.

An excerpt from "Why safe cities are not necessarily smart cities":

Safe cities, however, have a more concise focus, concerned only with the security, safety and operations of the city to protect its physical assets and citizens. The safe city concept revolves around multi-agency collaboration using a consolidated information technology (IT) platform that integrates public safety information obtained through sensors, such as video surveillance, physical access control, gunshot detection and CBRNE (chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, explosive).


And later ran across this website:

Just years ahead of your time (Niven too).

Blair Shorney



Subj: Gregor Mendel is spinning in his grave…

as is probably every other geneticist.



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




Mail Bag

Mail 848 Sunday, October 26, 2014

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

Glenn T. Seaborg, National Commission on Education, 1983


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


Terms and conditions – and consequences

I can’t add anything to this picture.



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



Roland Dobbins


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



Roland Dobbins


: Bell Curve and "grouping" of intelligent folks


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

Geert Wilders: "War Has Been Declared against Us"

A Speech in the Netherlands Parliament

by Geert Wilders <>

September 4, 2014 at 12:30 pm

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

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

Madam Speaker, war has been declared against us.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Click for a video of this speech <> .

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


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


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


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

The Dying Russians

Masha Gessen <> <> Gueorgui Pinkhassov/Magnum Photos

Aprelevka train station, Russia, 1997

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Workers in a tractor factory, Vladimir, Russia, 1972

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Demographics, War, and Terror

Dear Dr. Pournelle,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What do you think? Am I missing something?


Brian P.

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


Dr. Pournelle -

I saw the following in your September 10th blog:

How Should We Program Computers to Deceive?

By Kate Greene •

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for your insights!

- John Herrmann

Tempe, AZ


Differentiating republic and democracy


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

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

In a republic, we pick our wardens.


Jerry Pournelle wrote:

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

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

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



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


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

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

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

James Crawford=


ISIS Action Backfires

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

But, this Washington Post article describes the situation succinctly:


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

◊ ◊ ◊ ◊ ◊

Most Respectfully,

Joshua Jordan, KSC

Percussa Resurgo





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