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.




Democracy, Republic, Vladimir I, Ebola, and other topics of interest: Mail

Mail 842 Tuesday, September 09, 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


Much of my week has been devoured by locusts, and there is much interesting mail on many topics.


Monopoly on violence

Dr. Pournelle,

Our government does not have a monopoly on the legal use of violence. Individuals have the right to use violence in self-defense or in defense of others, to varying degrees depending on state law. Although specific tools of deadly force are limited, no one has to receive prior permission to use violence in self-defense, any more than we need prior permission to walk down the street. In many jurisdictions, the only real difference between a police officer’s de jure right to use deadly force and that of any other citizen is that the police are legally required to inject themselves into situations in ways which would be trespassing if a citizen did so. (Practically speaking, no matter how liberal the local laws are on self-defense, the police are generally going to get somewhat less scrutiny on their use of deadly force because it’s their job to get into messy situations.)

I think the oft-repeated (and usually unqualified) assertion of a state monopoly on violence has done a great deal of mischief. Such a monopoly is neither universal nor axiomatic.


“Monopoly on violence” is a shorthand, and possibly confusing. The government certainly does not have any monopoly on use of violence in self defense. It does exercise a monopoly on violence in nearly all other situations. When I was young there was much talk about “the unwritten law” which was often invoked in defense of a man accused of murdering his wife’s lover, or sometime his unfaithful wife. As feminist rights began to be asserted, there were cases in which accused wives were similarly defended. Of course the defense was an appeal for jury nullification, which always had a strong appeal in some parts of the country. Judges try valiantly to prevent attorneys from using jury nullification – several episodes of Law and Order had that theme, and the Federal government in particular has been against allowing juries or prospective jurors even to hear of the term and practice, but it remains a fairly strong tradition in some places. The jury system developed in England after the Norman occupation. I recall when I was young that “a fair fight is no murder” was still a tactic used in trials of the survivor of what was in effect a dual. These were not the formal affairs from the days of Jim Bowie on the sandbar, but ice pick fights in bars. I suspect the concept remains in places to this day.

Obviously the concept of state monopoly on violence applies here.

Many societies have held that enforcement of many judgments are the responsibility of the winner of that judgment: you win the right to evict someone from property that you own, but it’s up to you to get them out of there. You may use force. That doesn’t happen any longer but it was common in some places in the US well into the Twentieth Century. Roman courts didn’t in general enforce property awards: it was up to the winner to do that. And in some countries to this day it’s still the only effective enforcement.

A remnant of self-enforcement survives in the Bail Enforcement Officer or Bounty Hunter, who isn’t a sworn officer of the state, and who can use tactics not allowed to peace officers. All of this is more of a concern for the States than the Federal Government, but as we federalize more and more state crimes – Kennedy’s assassin would have been tried in a Texas State Court for murder until the law was changed under Lynden Johnson – it becomes a concern for the feds as well.

We also have the militarization of the Federal Police which is now trickling down to the state and local authorities.

Monopoly on violence to government should apply to situations where the government has the consent of the governed; which is increasingly not the case. But that is because we have converted the Republic of 1787 (Recall Franklin: “A republic, if you can keep it”) into a democracy, a form of government despised by nearly every one of the Framers who attended the Convention of 1787, and denounced by most statesmen until the modern era, when suddenly the notion of ‘democracy’ became a Good thing.

Plebiscitary democracy— rule by counting all noses, all present allowed and even encouraged to vote, and all matters subject to a vote, the will of the people – was rejected by nearly everyone until the Progressive era, but used with great effect by the big city political machines. It is now applauded, as if it makes sense to weigh the vote of an illiterate pauper existing off welfare with that of a home owning mill hand who pays taxes and serves on his local part time city council, or the local school teacher. At the same time the schools have become more and more worthless as a mechanism for preparing citizens to assume the role of voters.

The result is that more and more of our population, particularly including the teachers, become tenured and entitled to frequent raises, not because they are more productive, but because they haven’t died or committed a visible and notorious heinous crime. There is no “democratic” remedy to this.



The other day you mentioned needing to write about the difference between a Democracy and a Republic, which reminds me of a loose collection of related thoughts I’ve had percolating for a while. Bear with me for a moderately long and rambling screed…

The original Greek democracies notoriously suffered from poor impulse control, choosing all sorts of famously destructive policies by show of hands in public assemblies of whatever eligible voters chose to show up.

Athens deciding to invade Sicily in the heat of the moment is the classic example. (The campaign was both largely pointless and a badly-led overextended cluster-foxtrot disaster, of course.)

Republics, governments run by representatives rather than directly by the citizens, designed to filter, delay, and damp down popular enthusiasms were of course the answer arrived at by subsequent generations (not least of these the post-kingdom pre-empire Romans.)

And democratic republics, like the one our Founders designed in 1787, of course choose those representatives by popular vote – though it’s often overlooked that ours did this at first via an electorate sharply limited in one interesting way (I’ll get back to this.) They also voted indirectly, in the case of the President via state-selected electors, and for Senators via their state legislatures. Our original republic further used an innovative system of internal checks and balances to prevent abuses and excess concentrations of power. It all worked quite well too, for as long as we resisted the impatient power-hungry tinkerers.

A vastly oversimplified description, of course, but I think that’s the gist of the difference you were alluding to?

I believe there are some interesting additional points to be made in the modern context, however, relevant both to fixing our disastrous foreign policies of recent decades, and to fixing what’s happening to our original republic now.

Early Greek democracy’s problem was not only a structure that allowed impulsive decisions. This was, I think, compounded by narrow and easily manipulable information channels. It was far too easy for demagogues to feed those electorates a slanted picture of some given situation, with little or no option for timely reality checks. (This is not something I’ve seen discussed much – though perhaps, hence our Founders’ emphasis on a free press?)

The Roman Republic did quite well for a while, but by the time of Marius it had gotten into a bind – a combination of expansion of military commitments, and shrinkage in the militarily-eligible portion of the population (military and political eligibility were determined by a minimum-property qualification) was causing a shortage of soldiers.

Marius solved this by opening up recruitment to landless wage-workers, while at the same time setting things up so that the troops’ hopes of land grants at the end of a military campaign depended directly on their field commander. This combination, as you’ve pointed out, led in fairly short order to the end of the Roman Republic. Rome itself survived and even prospered for some centuries after, but the Roman Empire had a chronic problem with soldiers selecting governments rather than vice-versa.

That grave policy error aside, I suspect that the Roman Republic’s failure to foster its essential middle-classes, "those with the goods of fortune in moderation", was also a major element of that Republic’s fall. I’ll get back to this.

Meanwhile, though, fast-forward two millennia.

"Liberty" was a standard trope in US political rhetoric from the start.

"Freedom" seems to have largely replaced it sometime in the last century, but without so far doing excessive harm to clarity of public policy discussion.

"Democracy", on the other hand, has progressed from the Founders’ clear understanding that "there never was a democracy that did not commit suicide", to currently in US public rhetoric being up there with motherhood and apple pie. Enough of the voting public no longer have a clue about the distinction between "democracy" and the democratic republic this country was for much of its first two centuries that public figures who even hint that pure one-man-one-vote "democracy"

might not be an unalloyed good might as well also admit they molest children.

I suspect this change happened during the 20th century, and I suspect it was pushed deliberately by various "progressives" – Woodrow Wilson’s and FDR’s rhetoric comes to mind – as one way to legitimize direct central progressive bypass of old republican institutions via the new means of centralized mass communications propaganda. (See previous remarks about democracy’s vulnerability to narrow and easily manipulable information

channels.) But, that’s an educated guess. Proving it would be a matter for more research than I have time for now (paging Jonah Goldberg!) More on these suspicions also in a bit.

Unfortunately, our current policy makers apparently also no longer understand the distinction between pure democracy and a competent-electorate representative republic. This has led to mindless US support for undiluted majority-rule democracy in recent years, with various disastrous results. Egypt, for instance, would have become a classic case of "one man, one vote, once" with the Muslim Brotherhood (think Hamas in business suits) in charge, except the Brotherhood was too impatient and failed to neutralize the Egyptian Army first.

Turkey, on the other hand, seems now effectively run by a Muslim Brotherhood branch that was patient enough to spend the last decade completing the neutralization of the Turkish Army (with ongoing Western approval and even help.) This is the same Turkish Army which since Ataturk had a central political role in ensuring secular middle-class

(minority) rule in Turkey. This point needs emphasizing: All those decades when Turkey was gaining its (rapidly-fading) reputation as the exemplar of a modern efficient westernized Moslem nation, it was being ruled by its secular middle-class minority via its Kemalist (IE, aggressively atheist) Army.

Post "leading from behind" Libya meanwhile can’t even muster the social coherence for a new one-man-one-vote-once dictatorship and has descended into violent anarchy.

It is becoming glaringly obvious that the guide star to steer policy decisions in such cases is not "democracy". Nor, less obviously, is it necessarily "democratic republic" – any number of nations over the years have gotten terrible results despite modeling their government structures on ours – much of South America, among others.

I submit that the correct guiding goal for our policymakers is, rule by the middle class.

The middle class, "those with the goods of fortune in moderation", almost by definition consists of those with the habit and discipline of looking at the long-term in making important decisions. (Without that, they won’t long remain middle class.) On the evidence, this extends to making sound long-term political decisions.

Consider: The US was founded with voting largely restricted to property-owners – effectively, to the middle-class and up. (Yes, yes, yes, largely to white male middle-class and up. No, no, no, I’m not here supporting those other early-days franchise restrictions.) By the time property qualifications were largely dropped, the majority of the US population had reached the middle class. (The early-to-mid-period US also had a thriving and very decentralized free press, by the way.)

Germany and Japan, post-WW2, meanwhile, were both relatively easy to reform into stable majority-rule representative democracies, both because their recent examples to the contrary were so horrible and because both countries already had or were very near middle-class majorities.

South Korea provides a usefully different example. Post WW2, South Korea was largely a peasant economy; its middle and upper classes a small minority. Democratic forms were imposed by the US occupiers, but South Korea was fortunate (or more likely some involved were wise

enough) that the series of effective autocracies that resulted tended to focus on fostering and expanding South Korea’s middle class, to the point where South Korea eventually had a middle-class majority and was actually ready to transition to competent majority rule.

In Egypt, Turkey, and Libya, on the other hand, the middle classes are to varying degrees minorities, and the results of one-man-one-vote bad.

Tunisia was the exception to the "Arab Spring" turning out so badly, and that is very likely related to its middle class having apparently crossed over to majority status in recent decades.

I submit that in places where the middle class is a small minority, imposing doctrinaire democracy is a recipe for disastrous one-man-one-vote-once. If the locals are lucky they’ll merely get kleptocracy, if not, rule by murderous fanatics.

A realistic US policy in such cases would be exerting influence to foster some flavor of autocracy that will adopt a policy of growing the local middle class to the point where it’s ready to rule as a majority.

It occurs to me that the US actually did pursue something like that policy from the end of WW2 through the mid-seventies, although generally not defended as such. A case in point: The Shah’s Iran. The Shah was explicitly a secular pro-middle-class modernizer, but also explicitly anti one-man-one-vote. Iran’s majority was ill-educated peasants, like all such highly susceptible to demagoguery, and the Shah was no doubt aware what majority rule in Iran would lead to. After a prolonged western campaign successfully delegitimized the Shah as anti-democratic, well, we all know what it did in fact lead to.

A more recent example of what not to do is the 2010 US acquiescence in Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki’s refusal to hand over power despite losing his majority in Iraq’s parliament. Maliki’s by-then obvious Shia-uber-alles divisiveness aside, the US broke Iraq’s old government, and it was up to us to use our influence to keep the Iraqis from then immediately breaking their new one – to lead them (by the nose if

necessary) through a practice exercise in peaceful transfer of power.

The current Islamic State is a direct consequence of that US policy failure (along with our simultaneous over-hasty troop withdrawal.)

Iraq, for what it’s worth, looks to me already fairly close to being majority middle-class, and could probably get there with less than a generation of competent economic and political management. It won’t, alas, get the needed guidance from us, on the evidence. We seem to have neither the political-class competence nor the patience for that sort of thing anymore.

Closer to home, I would say that the relationship between US education and economic policies that have been undermining our middle classes for decades (more and more are massively mal-educated and easily demagogued, while many are falling out of the middle classes entirely) and the current extreme shakiness of what’s left of our original republic hardly needs detailed exposition.

As for the "why" of this, the proper question is "cui bono" – who benefits – and the obvious answer is, the progressives that have been working to remove small-r republican restrictions on their power for a century now. Their obvious goal is to form a permanent voting majority either bribed (by them) from the public treasury or ignorant enough to be swayed (by them) via mass propaganda. Once they succeed, prudent middle-class rule is at an end. We’re just about there now.

The keys I see for saving our future as a free self-governing people

are: To expand and decentralize information channels so centralized manipulation and mass-control becomes harder (if not impossible), and to expand rather than contract the size of the genuine middle class (IE those with middle-class virtues: Prudence and forethoughtfulness along with sufficient knowledge to apply these effectively) via sensible economic and education policies.

In other words, the progressives’ centralization and seizure of modern media and education systems would be cause for despair, save for the internet. We have hope, for as long as the internet too has not been centralized and seized.

In that regard, I find it more than a little worrying that our government and our internet moguls are in hot competition to create the tools to do exactly that. For just one example, data security and strict privacy ought to be the default in a basic smart phone, not an extra that costs thousands. Consider that if AT&T had data-mined landline calls the way Google and Apple data-mine smart phones and emails, AT&T’s management would have vacationed at Club Fed, not Fiji or Burning Man.

To sum up, the wisdom of nation-building abroad may be debatable, but when we do attempt it (or less debatable, when we encourage the locals to attempt it) we should not guarantee failure by ignoring the essential makeup of a competent electorate.

And we most especially should not attempt the very-much-needed nation-rebuilding here at home in a manner guaranteed to fail, no matter what progressive dogma we outrage in the process…

given the massive incorrectness of all this, sign me


Aristotle thought that a Republic was rule by the Middle Class – those who possess the goods of fortune in moderation. They own property and thus have some stake in the stability of the state. They tend to have a sense of property and fair play. They embody the culture of the community, This has worked in many places, but only in those places where the goals is liberty and the culture is one of assimilation, not deliberate cultivation of cultural diversity. There has never been a democracy of great cultural diversity, and Switzerland, which appears to be precisely that, is no exception: it has strong commitments to limits on cultural diversity.

Rule by the middle class has never been a formula for skilled foreign policy, and during the strong republic era of the United States, the foreign policy tended to be ignoring the rest of the world. When we did go forth to spread democracy in the Philippines we got our noses bloodied and the experience was not pleasant. The conquest of the West and of Hawaii went better because it was not a foreign policy at all: it was a “manifest destiny.”

Ignoring the world after World War I left us with no foreign policy at a time when one was needed, but we then turned to what we always did: we converted the economy into arsenals, and built the most formidable war machine the world had ever seen, flooding the earth with tanks, ships, airplanes, trucks, cannon, rifles, field hospitals, more and more trucks – there were no horse drawn units in the US Army. We built a war machine and our aircraft obliterated the enemy lands. This was the American Way of War.

But we are now enamored of democracy, and we reap its fruits.

When Disraeli spoke to Parliament about political reform he said:

If you establish a democracy, you must in due time reap the fruits of a democracy. You will in due season have great impatience of the public burdens, combined in due season with great increase of the public expenditure. You will in due season have wars entered into from passion and not from reason; and you will in due season submit to peace ignominiously sought and ignominiously obtained, which will diminish your authority and perhaps endanger your independence. You will in due season find your property is less valuable, and your freedom less complete.

Benjamin Disraeli

I published that quote with this remark:

Government by public opinion poll is about the same as plebiscitary democracy. America was established as a Republic. The States could have democracy if they so chose. The Federal government had not that power and for good reasons, the Framers in 1787 having already known what Disraeli tried to tell Parliament some fifty years later, On Memorial Day, 2012.

We have since moved far toward Federal imposition of democracy on the States. The result will be rule by civil servants at first; but the system is not stable.

More of Disraeli’s speech can be found at and it is well worth your time.


Putin, and best choices

Dr. Pournelle,

It strikes me that a large number of Mr. Putin’s (or, as I prefer, Czar Vlad 1’s) friends, supporters and former coworkers are and have been at least nominally Ukrainian, and essentially prevented Ukraine from joining NATO. We saw no moves in this game until the pro-Putin factor apparently lost the majority in Ukraine. It would seem that the Baltics might be a little more secure, at least until local referendum can be made to appear to withdraw from NATO and request Russian integration/intervention/annexation. With smaller, more unified countries, each with a strong identity, and a slightly lower proportion of ex-KGB organized crime presence, the Baltics might be able to hold out a little longer.

As for television viewing, you made the right call. I’ve seen nothing in the "reality" show genre from the U.S. or BBC that interested me past the first couple minutes. The George Gently series on PBS is much superior to many other dramatic series, and I see that BBC has had the show for 6 seasons, so I’ve much yet to watch. While the point of the "Breathless" Masterpiece Mystery just concluded totally escaped me, I preferred it to the alternatives. I am looking forward to upcoming Miss Marple and Inspector Lewis on Masterpiece PBS.


BBC mysteries.

I generally like the writing and substitution of violence however the preponderance of Christians as the villains has put me off. Since the PC in Britain has reached a level where the raping of British middle class teens is ignored in favor or the PaKi’s that do the crime. I think of it as an early symptom of a dying culture not just liberal fuzzy thinking.

Thomas Jefferson had the correct policy towards the Islamic barbarism.


We Have No Strategy, but ISIS Does

This president says we have no strategy; ISIS has one:


The first phase is “attrition (strategic defense),” the time for carrying out attacks, “spectacular operations, which will create a positive impact.” The terrorists use the attacks as a recruitment tool and a morale boost for potential jihadis.

Phase two is the time of “relative strategic balance,” when the jihadis build an army to hold territory that has been wrested from the incumbent regime. “There themujahidin will set up base camps, hospitals, sharia courts, and broadcasting stations, as well as a jumping-off point for military and political actions,” al-Muqrin writes.

The third phase, a time of internal discord and political upheaval for the “collaborationist” regime, is “decisive.” The terrorists use their conventional army to launch dramatic assaults.

“By means of these mujahadin conventional forces, the mujahidin will begin to attack smaller cities and exploit in the media their successes and victories in order to raise the morale of the mujahidin and the people in general and to demoralize the enemy,” al-Muqrin writes in a passage that brings to mind the Islamic State’s rampage across northern Iraq. “The reason for the mujahidin’s treating of smaller cities is that when the enemy’s forces see the fall of cities into the mujahidin’s hands with such ease their morale will collapse and they will become convinced that they are incapable of dealing with the mujahidin.”

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel told reporters that the Islamic State “is beyond anything that we’ve seen.” That’s true insofar as al-Qaeda did not build a conventional army or declare itself a state. He shouldn’t be so surprised, though. The U.S. national-security apparatus has been following this jihadist ambition for years.


The Saudi king just warned that jihad will come to Europe in a month and America in two if ISIS is not stopped now. But, our policy makers are busy at golf courses and fundraisers so they can stay in office without forming any strategies to deal with the challenges of life while hobbling our nation for generations and setting up a paranoid police state to spy on everyone and roll materiel onto U.S. streets from time to time; witness Ferguson.

I have nothing constructive to say; I’ve been hammering on these points for years and the things I didn’t want to happen are happening and I’m not sure what more can be done about it. Nothing was done when something could be done and now it gets harder to act with each passing day. I’m not sure what path will take us out of this malaise, but I think people need to start getting savvy and taking some responsibility for the body politic, quickly. But, how is that different from anything any of us have been saying? You’ve been saying this longer than I’ve been alive and you were doing it at one point.

◊ ◊ ◊ ◊ ◊

Most Respectfully,

Joshua Jordan, KSC

Percussa Resurgo


Mixed news on Ebola…

The spread of Ebola in Africa is called exponential, but officials are becoming cautiously optimistic that Western standards of care can result is a significant reduction in mortality rates.

(Of course, there are obvious corollaries of that, starting with the contrast between exponential growth and the linear availability of hospital beds in Western treatment centers…)




Bright Clumps in Saturn Ring Now Mysteriously Scarce

Chris Christopher


The Dying Russians

Hi Jerry. You have mentioned several times that Putin Wants/needs Russians, ethnic Russians.

This article The Dying Russians by Masha Gessen ( ) Adds to that.



Girl Genius

Dear Dr. Pournelle,

I saw the response from your correspondent Tim Harness. I am also a fan of Girl Genius, and I thought a permanent link to the strip in question might be more useful for readers who did not want to have to hunt through the archives for the joke.

In sum, it’s a bad idea to throw rocks at bears. Or stand next to someone throwing rocks at bears.

Also on the topic of webcomics, I highly recommend the science fiction comic Quantum Vibe (, both because of his libertarian tendencies (lamentably absent in much modern media), his hard SF, and his once-a-day update schedule.


Brian P.



I’ll add a hearty recommendation for Malwarebytes. I purchased the full program for an ancient Sony Vaio running Win XP later replaced by a Dell running Windows 7. Malwarebytes support told me that it was fine to transfer the license, and gave some assistance in doing so. It’s nice to have a program that you pay for once…

Their support forum is good, and the updates are compatible with the dialup link I’m still using. I’m getting satellite broadband (close to our only choice in the countryside) in a few months, but dialup is still barely doable, though not for the faint of heart… The program is friendly to the bandwidth-limited, with a compact size and incremental updates whenever possible.

Malwarebytes is also quite compatible with Microsoft Security Essentials. I run a full scan with each every few days, though I’ll let one program finish before starting a full scan with the other. I’ve not had any problems with quick scans for one program while the other is doing a full scan.

If you are still considering cataract surgery, I’ll add my encouragement. I’ve been on new lenses for a couple of years, and performance has been quite good. I’ve never been fond of driving at night, but it’s better with the surgery.


Pete Brooks


Cultural literacy is shaped by history

Dr Pournelle

Thought you might find this interesting: ‘I’ve Been a Pariah for So Long’ – POLITICO 50 <>

image <>

‘I’ve Been a Pariah for So Long’ – POLITICO 50 <>

At age 86, educational theorist E.D. Hirsch is finally being rehabilitated. For nearly 30 years, he has been labeled a blue-blood elitist and arch-defender of the D…

View on <>

Preview by Yahoo

Hirsch "observed that the largely African-American low-income students could read short works of narrative fiction but could barely wring meaning from a piece about Gen. Robert E. Lee’s surrender to Gen. Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox because they lacked basic knowledge about the Civil War."

Hirsch "expanded on this idea until his central observation ran like this: Children can be taught to read—to decode words—but teaching them to comprehend all but the simplest text requires a shared body of knowledge between writer and reader."

Where else have I read that a literate society requires a shared body of knowledge between writer and reader? Oh, yeah. The California Sixth Grade Reader: "[A]ttention is called to the definite provision for securing for all the work a background of common literary knowledge. Literature is filled with references and allusions that must be understood to appreciate the thought."

There is nothing new under the sun.

Live long and prosper

h lynn keith

Which is precisely why I have published the California Sixth Grade Reader and hope it will be widely used by those who are concerned with cultural literacy…




A few things about the iCloud security breach.

First, the TV talking heads who don’t know what 4chan is should never work another day in the TV or computer industry. All day, the tv and radio talking heads are discussing the question of "who is this 4chan guy?", and pretending to know what they’re talking about when they suggest that 4chan just might be a whole group of hackers. Ignorant idiots. For anyone who doesn’t know, 4chan is the name of an internet BBS forum that bases much of its appeal around anonymous usage policies. It’s the electronic version of a bulletin board hung on a wall in a public space. Attempting to apprehend some guy named 4chan is a bit like trying to arrest a janitor who hung 6 sq ft of corkboard in a college hallway, because some random guy pinned up a nudie pic.

I’m admittedly an "old school" hacker, having been introduced to *real* computer science back in the early/mid 1980s, and having gotten a comp sci degree from an institution (USAF Academy) that insisted that a comp sci graduate know more than just how to code. We needed to know and understand the underlying nuts and bolts behind everything computing related. That included networking, basic and advanced EE topics including analog and digital circuit design, cpu design philosophy, and coding at every level including down to "bare metal" by twiddling physical switches and manipulating cpu registers. After that education, I came to the very firm opinion that anyone guaranteeing data security in any sort of remote access model is lying, ignorant, or trying to sell you something. From introducing a firmware hack at the supplier level into apple’s networking hardware (expensive but totally possible for a reasonably well funded organization) to a simple social hack (calling up everyone on Apple’s internal phone list and simply asking for username/password pairs), the opportunities to exploit ANY cloud storage architecture are literally endless. I’m not even truly an "old" hacker type since I started when phreaking was already on its way out, but I learned a LOT in the good old days when arpanet and .edu were small but rapidly transforming into something larger. I gave up most types of hacking the instant my job no longer required it, and I’ve avoided it ever since in order to remain out of jail. But that doesn’t mean I don’t completely understand how it could be done any number of ways, and therefore I trust nothing of any importance or consequence to "the cloud".

One easy method that could quickly produce a partial or even a full breach- scan every Apple-owned ip address for signs that they’re using a router with known compromised security or outdated firmware. Break into the router and forward every packet that comes through and filter later for username/password pairs. Or set up access permissions to hang your own computer on the network inside the firewall. Or even upload a compromised firmware that selectively forwards packets of interest using the router itself to sort and decide which packets to forward outside the private network. Another – spoof a cellphone tower and sniff data going to/from celebrities phones for username/password pairs, preferably at a large celebrity event such as the oscars. The tech to do this has already been demonstrated (and operationally tested using a sub-$1000 micro UAV) at hacker conventions. Right there, 2 completely different avenues of approach that anyone with a little time on their hands and some compute resources (to crack encryption or brute-force break passwords) could start with. Neither of those two approaches requires knowledge of vulnerable points down to the bare metal, such as detailed knowledge of how the entire network stack has been implemented from the hardware level up to the programmer interface that may expose even more ways to crack a cloud system. And those approaches don’t require actually cracking iCloud storage encryption or brute-force username/password attacks, another couple avenues for attack that have nothing to do with promises of "government level data encryption" by the salesmen.

The only way to avoid the risk of "cloud" data compromise is to limit exposure to the risk, plain and simple. Again, anyone telling you that their cloud architecture is truly secure and safe is lying, ignorant, or trying to sell you something. Just ask Lockheed and its F-35 sub-contractors what they think of the history behind the latest two Chinese stealth aircraft designs, and their current approach to off-site "cloud" access to their information.

You’ve said it yourself using different words… Anything that goes on the internet or is transferred across the internet in ANY form, encrypted or otherwise, must be assumed to be both public and compromised through unauthorized distribution the instant the data leaves the confines of your individual computing environment. Anyone to says otherwise is lying, ignorant, or trying to sell you something. Even completely isolated military secure networks have been compromised recently by disgruntled employees walking out the door with a CD in their pocket. I tell you three times.









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




Dean Drive and many other matters: A mixed Mail Bag

Mail 837 Sunday, August 03, 2014


It began with

Nasa validates ‘impossible’ space drive


31 July 14 by David Hambling

Nasa is a major player in space science, so when a team from the agency this week presents evidence that "impossible" microwave thrusters seem to work, something strange is definitely going on. Either the results are completely wrong, or Nasa has confirmed a major breakthrough in space propulsion.

British scientist Roger Shawyer has been trying to interest people in his EmDrive for some years through his company SPR Ltd. Shawyer claims the EmDrive converts electric power into thrust, without the need for any propellant by bouncing microwaves around in a closed container. He has built a number of demonstration systems, but critics reject his relativity-based theory and insist that, according to the law of conservation of momentum, it cannot work.

According to good scientific practice, an independent third party needed to replicate Shawyer’s results. As reported, this happened last year when a Chinese team built its own EmDrive and confirmed that it produced 720 mN (about 72 grams) of thrust, enough for a practical satellite thruster. Such a thruster could be powered by solar electricity, eliminating the need for the supply of propellant that occupies up to half the launch mass of many satellites. The Chinese work attracted little attention; it seems that nobody in the West believed in it.

However, a US scientist, Guido Fetta, has built his own propellant-less microwave thruster, and managed to persuade Nasa to test it out. The test results were presented on July 30 at the 50th Joint Propulsion Conference in Cleveland, Ohio. Astonishingly enough, they are positive.

The Nasa team based at the Johnson Space Centre gave its paper the title "Anomalous Thrust Production from an RF [radio frequency] Test Device Measured on a Low-Thrust Torsion Pendulum". The five researchers spent six days setting up test equipment followed by two days of experiments with various configurations. These tests included using a "null drive" similar to the live version but modified so it would not work, and using a device which would produce the same load on the apparatus to establish whether the effect might be produced by some effect unrelated to the actual drive. They also turned the drive around the other way to check whether that had any effect.

This is big news: Science Magazine, the journal of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, is publishing stories about a new Dean Drive and that generates a lot of hope. It is the first time I know of that Big Science has published stories implying that a reactionless drive is possible. I have far more mail on this than we can publish; one dialog will have to suffice. If you don’t know what a Dean Drive is, see and

Subject: On the new ‘Dean Drive’ and similar impossible devices

Hello Jerry,

I think I have sent stuff about the EmDrive before but given your last post on the new impossible (Cannae) drive and the fact that

there are apparently developments on the EmDrive front I thought I would ‘re-submit':

First, the EmDrive website:

Second, the link to the 2012 Chinese paper (English translation) with some experimental data: The Chinese paper claims experimental verification of the Shawyer’s theoretical

thrust calculations.

Third, talk by Roger Shawyer, inventor of the EmDrive, with accompanying slides: Shawyer

actually mentions, with approval, the ‘Cannae’ device, which apparently uses a different approach to applying the idea and gives

(currently) at least an order of magnitude less thrust than the EmDrive.

Thought you may be interested because the talk heavily emphasizes the applicability of EmDrive technology to the development of

Space Solar Power satellites.

I, of course, know nothing first hand about these devices, other than they apparently do something that I have been told,

repeatedly, by very smart people, can’t be done.

On the other hand, these folks claim to have hardware which does it anyway.

Bottom line, the team at the Chinese university built a test model, tested it, confirmed to their satisfaction that the device produced thrust and no exhaust, per theory, and wrote a paper on their efforts, which was published under the auspices of the university.

I have no independent confirmation, nor do I have any idea what the Chinese are going to ‘do next’.

I know if I were the Chinese and had any faith in the test results as reported, I would keep pretty mum about it and make a serious effort to produce operational hardware based on the principle. A working system would allow them to do ‘space things’ that we can only dream about.

If you want to read their paper, it isn’t very long and here is the link:

Of course the paper itself could be a hoax; I have no way of knowing, although some enterprising reporter contacted the principle investigator and received a ‘We would prefer not to comment until we have done more work.’ for his trouble.

Shawyer also said in his talk that Boeing was given (sold?) his work on the EmDrive after going through all the hoops to obtain an official export license, but anything that Boeing is doing with it is not publicly accessible. He continues to work on advanced hardware and showed what he said was a demonstration of the device causing a 100kg test device to rotate on an air bearing. It in fact rotated, but I have no way of knowing what made it rotate.

Shawyer DOES have a long history in spacecraft engineering as a senior engineer on several programs, so he knows something about space operations.

The Wikipedia article on the subject boils down to two basic sides: The experts agree that the device is impossible because it violates the conservation of momentum, but can’t agree whether the reports of working experiments represent incompetence, fraud, or some combination of both; Shawyer and the Chinese say ’That is all well and good, but we have each, independently, built and tested devices based on the ‘EmDrive’ principle, they work as predicted, and nothing comes out the back.’.

I’m suspicious (chucking the conservation of momentum is not to be undertaken lightly), but I am darn sure rooting for Shawyer and/or the Chinese. And as Mr. Feynman says, “It doesn’t matter how beautiful your theory is. It doesn’t matter how smart you are. If it doesn’t agree with experiment, it is wrong.” The question is: Do Shawyer and the Chinese have experiments?

Bob Ludwick

I fear I have over the years seen many of these papers with charts and equations and diagrams, but until I see an actual demonstration of inexplicable thrust I will wait to celebrate – and even then I suspect it is more likely that they have discovered a flaw in the testing procedure.

Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof. By Laplace by way of Carl Sagan.

"I await demonstrations of effects, not more claims to be just about ready for public viewing."

Jerry Pournelle

Chaos Manor

Re: On the new ‘Dean Drive’ and similar impossible devices

Hello Jerry,

The Chinese said nothing about public viewing but actually (claimed to have) built and tested a working model. The paper describes the test setup and plots the measured thrust vs applied power.

The measured thrust vs microwave power deviated from the theoretical thrust vs microwave power, but the Chinese test equipment traced the deviation as due to the frequency shift of the magnetron as the power was varied. Once the curve was corrected to plot thrust vs power in the cavity bandwidth the thrust vs power tracked theory pretty well.

Here is a description of the test setup from the Chinese paper, along with measured test results. They didn’t provide make/model of the test source or measurement equipment, but presumably it was actual hardware with functionality as described. I apologize for the fact that during my ‘cut and paste’ from the paper, some of the graphs were truncated. If you want to review them, they are fine (although the annotation was not translated) in the actual paper.:

[A lot of stuff deleted by JEP]

"4 Conclusion

Indifferent equilibrium thrust measurement devices verify that, based on classical electromagnetic theory, creating a propellantless microwave propulsion system can produce a net thrust; Net thrust measurement of propellantless microwave thruster experimentation shows that the direction of net thrust produced by the propellantless microwave thruster is from the frustum microwave resonator big end to the small end. The results are consistent with theoretical calculations."

I agree with you: everything that I have been taught says that you can’t obtain thrust without throwing something out the back. On the other hand, we have a paper produced by students/faculty of a real university (in China, translated) that says that they built and tested a device that produced thrust without throwing anything out the back and that the measured thrust produced tracked their theoretical calculations within the experimental error.

I have no way of knowing the truth or falsity of Shawyer’s or the Chinese claims. Shawyer shows his hardware and (somewhere, I think) shows a demo of it working. The Chinese describe their hardware, their test setup, and their test results. Are they lying or incompetent? I have no way of knowing, but I admit that I am a ’sucker’ for these types of things (Ecat/LENR, aka cold fusion is another example) because I WANT them to be true. Maybe this time, just this once, it is. I hope.

Bob Ludwick

If they have hardware that does it, why is it not on the front page? It isn’t that hard to demonstrate actual thrust, and theories and equations are not needed. Just a demonstration.

Especially if it’s dramatically greater than what NASA was testing. A gizmo that hangs off vertical when the power is on, and comes to a vertical rest when it is off would do as a first phase and is very photogenic. I’ve got about nine invitations to come see one "when it’s ready" — one in Edinburgh has been in that state for eleven years. Real Soon Now….

Jerry Pournelle

Chaos Manor

Hello Jerry,

It is not often that I envy the ‘super rich’. I live in my world; they live in theirs. In the Venn diagram of our lives there is little to no union of theirs and mine. I have ‘enough’ to be happy, and am. I assume that if happiness is proportional to wealth they are very happy.

This however is one of the times that I wish that I, like the rich who casually purchase huge yachts and expensive cars, had a few million dollars of ‘If it goes down the rathole, I don’t care.’ money. If I did, I would be happy to pour it down the EmDrive rathole to either confirm that it works. Or that it doesn’t. I would rather have absolute confirmation that EmDrive works than any yacht or car ever made. I would even like to have absolute confirmation that the experiments run were faulty and that the conservation of momentum was in fact humming along happy as a bug in a rug. Knowing that there is NO cookie is actually ‘better’ than having a cookie in sight but just tantalizingly out of reach.

For me, a confirmed, operational EmDrive would be close to the ‘ultimate cookie’. And if I had the money I would try to purchase it.

Bob Ludwick

We can agree on that. I would very much like to see a proof of principle for a reactionless drive: a way to convert angular momentum into linear momentum, angular acceleration into linear acceleration, some new cosmic principle that requires energy conservation but does not require equal and opposite reaction; and indeed I applaud NASA for doing the tests.

However, it is my understanding that the current tests have been done in air, using torsion to measure acceleration, and that is suspect to me: I’d prefer they used gravity (a swing) and a vacuum chamber. If that’s too hard to arrange, put a garbage bag around the entire apparatus.

Complex electronics produce complex force fields; it’s quite possible for a torsion spring to be affected by such a field. That’s not mysterious; but if gravity is affected I’d call it extraordinary evidence.

We can only wait for more results. But I I had to bet, so far I’d still bet that they have found a demonstration of flawed testing principles, rather than disproving Newton.


NASA Looking to EmDrive to Revolutionize Space Travel

Take care

Alan Rosenberg


Coup proof…

"In short, the problem of how to improve Iraqi military capacity without undermining civilian control won’t go away when Maliki leaves office. It will persist until norms of democratic and civilian rule become entrenched in Iraq — a process that could take decades, if not longer. "

Famously, in recent history, the US does not have the patience (despite having the wherewithal, treasure, and expertise) to carry through efforts at true change. Americans arrogantly refuse to acknowledge that our own path our current (-ly imperfect) state has taken 240 years.

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



Poverty in America"

Dear Jerry:

You mentioned you are working on an essay about income discrepancy.

Those interested in poverty in America should become familiar with census data showing just how well the poor live. The typical household classified as "poor" has a car, air conditioning, two color TVs with cable or satellite, an Xbox or PlayStation, clothes washer and dryer, and the usual middle class kitchen appliances. The typical "poor American" has more living space than the average European and lives in a three-bedroom house with garage and patio. My grandparents lacked almost all of these things, and I lacked about half of them when I was a child.

A couple of articles summarizing these facts can be found at

The relative prosperity of the "poor" has been the case for a long time.

Thomas Sowell pointed out the failure of the "war on poverty", which was aimed at reducing government dependency. Instead the opposite occurred.

Some simple steps can be taken by individuals who choose not to be

"poor." The Brookings Institution reports that three factors are

directly linked to poverty and under the control of individual

Americans: education, family composition, and work.

Commentators point out you have a very small chance of being poor if

you do just three things: 1.) Graduate from high school, 2.) wait

until you are 21 to get married and don’t have children out of

wedlock, 3.) get a full-time job.

But the facts about poverty are usually ignored in service of some

political agenda.

As I mentioned in my e-mail to you that you posted on November 20,

2013, the federal government seems to believe that men and women, far

from being volitional creatures made in the image of God and charged

with getting wisdom, are instead no more than mice, slaves to their

desires and appetites.

The government imagines that such citizens can be saved from their

bad decisions by means of bureaucratically-imposed techniques rather

than through the development of moral behavior.

Bill Cosby, Walter Williams, and more recently Dr. Ben Carson have

spoken courageously in favor of taking personal responsibility to

avoid making bad decisions. They are regularly attacked for this in

the liberal press.

Facts about income mobility are suppressed by the mainstream press

and liberal politicians.

Best regards,

–Harry M.


‘The stark reality is that, once labor costs reach a tipping point, automation becomes a practical, efficient, and economical alternative, especially for low-skilled jobs. Once implemented, there is no going back, and today automation is more accessible than ever.’



Roland Dobbins

Precisely as I have said many times over the years. With low costs of capital – artificially low interest rates imposed by the Fed – and rising labor costs – Minimum Wages raised by both federal and state governments – the incentive is to invest in robots, not in training new skilled workers. The result is predictable and has often been predicted. Lower unemployment rates because more and more people give up looking for work and thus are not part of the officially unemployed; lower numbers of people employed; higher wages for those who are employed, as for example in unionized government jobs which cannot be mechanized (or electroncized) for political reason; and rising numbers of people out of work but who are not officially unemployed.

This doesn’t appear to be a stable situation.


Diversity in academia

Hello Jerry,

I noticed this in your commentary for 30 July, which I didn’t get around to reading until this morning:

"The American melting pot worked very well, but we have abandoned it for ‘diversity’; the result was predictable and in fact was predicted by many, including me."

It reminded me of the email that I sent to my daughter (science teacher in local high school) and daughter-in-law (program director at local university) earlier this morning:

"Dr. Mike Adams, Associate Professor of Sociology and Criminology (with tenure, fortunately for him) at UNC Wilmington, comments on his university’s recent effort to recruit a new Chief Diversity Officer (CDO) to manage the campus’ five separate Diversity Offices and their administrative support staff. He provides some background, quotes from the job description, and translates those quotes into ordinary English so that it is understandable by the hoi polloi. "

Bob Ludwick


Great work, if you can get it.


And it sure beats hunting around for actual illegal immigrants at the actual border and doing something about them.


Roland Dobbins

It’s nice work if you can get it, but you can’t get it if you try…


DMV is the exception to the rule

I, too, have had pleasant and efficient experiences with the motor vehicle bureaucracy, however the opposite was true every time I had to interact with the Social Security Administration.

Each time I had to visit the SSA office, it was filled to SRO. Random alpha-numerics were assigned to those waiting so no one could get an idea of where they stood in the queue. With more than 50 people waiting, only two service windows [of the 10 available] were manned at any time. Often, someone walking in would jump the queue for a "short" question that lasted more than 10 minutes.

There was an armed guard in the waiting room [unlike my bank’s local branch].

It actually took two months for the SSA to correct their errors in my case — I needed to qualify for Medicare disability because of end-stage renal disease, yet keep some independent health insurance coverage under my working wife’s benefits. Everyone in the bureaucracy acted as if this situation had never occurred before.

From the way the bureaucracy fouled up both coverage and start dates, I fear coverage under the Affordable Care Act will be even worse. I suppose if I wanted to die quickly, I’d apply for my VA health coverage.

Most federal bureaucracies are like a toxic tar baby.

Pete Nofel

"It ain’t ‘fair?’ Hey pal, ‘fair’ is where you buy funnel cakes."

Dog bites man isn’t a story….


America’s current genteel ‘poverty’

I read your comments on America’s current genteel ‘poverty’, where ‘poor’ people have medical care and access to information etc. that until about 50 years ago not even kings could dream of. Yes indeed, that should not be forgotten.

However, we need to remember that progress is not guaranteed. God does not come down from the heavens and grant Americans prosperity. It was built up by hard work over a long period of time, and if we fail to defend it, it can and will be taken away.

Consider that in India today there are about a half billion people who are chronically malnourished (and most of the rest aren’t doing much better). Indeed, recent research has shown that in post-Black Death Europe, the standard of living was considerably higher than modern third-world countries! (see “British Economic Growth 1270-1870”, by S. Broadberry, B. Campbell, A, Klein, M. Overton, and B. van Leeuwen, 2010).

Real poverty still exists in the world. Technology, as wonderful as it is, cannot keep up with a population explosion. Consider that India, with the technological fruits of 500 years of western progress, with the fifth largest economy in the world and chemical fertilizers and computers and free trade and satellites etc., and things are WORSE than before the Western renaissance began. There is no technology so advanced that it cannot be overwhelmed by ever more people. That is an established fact.

So yes, for now Americans are still lucky. For now. But we must beware the downwards trend. Every extra dollar an hour that median wages decline is that much more in the pockets of the oligarchs – and they have no reason to stop at just driving wages down by only one dollar. What is today a modest downturn in living standards could easily continue down to feudal european levels, if we are so stupid as to assume that progress is automatic, that technology is an unlimited cornucopia, or that our leaders always have our best interests at heart – because they don’t.

Globus Polidus

We are in a race between increased productivity and disaster. It’s not entirely clear which will win. Either way there will be far more discrepancy between rich and poor. It will be interesting when more than half the citizens of the Republic simply cannot do anything that someone will pay them money to do—at least more money than they are entitled to simply by having been born.

The Gods of the Copybook Headings
by Rudyard Kipling
AS I PASS through my incarnations in every age and race,
I make my proper prostrations to the Gods of the Market Place.
Peering through reverent fingers I watch them flourish and fall,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings, I notice, outlast them all.

We were living in trees when they met us. They showed us each in turn
That Water would certainly wet us, as Fire would certainly burn:
But we found them lacking in Uplift, Vision and Breadth of Mind,
So we left them to teach the Gorillas while we followed the March of Mankind.

We moved as the Spirit listed. They never altered their pace,
Being neither cloud nor wind-borne like the Gods of the Market Place,
But they always caught up with our progress, and presently word would come
That a tribe had been wiped off its icefield, or the lights had gone out in Rome.

With the Hopes that our World is built on they were utterly out of touch,
They denied that the Moon was Stilton; they denied she was even Dutch;
They denied that Wishes were Horses; they denied that a Pig had Wings;
So we worshipped the Gods of the Market Who promised these beautiful things.
When the Cambrian measures were forming, They promised perpetual peace.
They swore, if we gave them our weapons, that the wars of the tribes would cease.
But when we disarmed They sold us and delivered us bound to our foe,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said: "Stick to the Devil you know."

On the first Feminian Sandstones we were promised the Fuller Life
(Which started by loving our neighbour and ended by loving his wife)
Till our women had no more children and the men lost reason and faith,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said: "The Wages of Sin is Death."

In the Carboniferous Epoch we were promised abundance for all,
By robbing selected Peter to pay for collective Paul;
But, though we had plenty of money, there was nothing our money could buy,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said: "If you don’t work you die."

Then the Gods of the Market tumbled, and their smooth-tongued wizards withdrew
And the hearts of the meanest were humbled and began to believe it was true
That All is not Gold that Glitters, and Two and Two make Four
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings limped up to explain it once more.

As it will be in the future, it was at the birth of Man
There are only four things certain since Social Progress began.
That the Dog returns to his Vomit and the Sow returns to her Mire,
And the burnt Fool’s bandaged finger goes wobbling back to the Fire;
And that after this is accomplished, and the brave new world begins
When all men are paid for existing and no man must pay for his sins,
As surely as Water will wet us, as surely as Fire will bum,
The Gods of the Copybook Headings with terror and slaughter return.


Muslim Accomplishemnts

"Obama’s brief statement, issued earlier this week to send best wishes to Muslims during the Eid al-Fitr celebration, said that the observance reminds him and wife Michelle "of the many achievements and contributions of Muslim Americans to building the very fabric of our nation and strengthening the core of our democracy."

I am fairly familiar with American history but find myself at a loss to come up with any such achievements. Apparently, I am not alone, since a quick search of the Internet revealed only others asking the same question. Now, it is quite possible, even likely, that I am missing something. Does anyone know of any or is this list kept in the same vault as Obama’s college transcipts and other related personal papers?

As with most of his speeches, Obama speaks in vague generalities while avoiding saying anything specific.



I was on TWIT last Sunday and at some point it was mentioned that modern technology and computer games seem to be reducing the size of kids vocabularies. It was speculated that this would do no harm, but I brought up New Caledonia where one official language is Pidgin, a trade language with a very restricted vocabulary . I have a newspaper election issue written in pijin. It’s a bit deficient in abstract terms for anything…

musings after your recent guest spot on Twit

Hi Jerry

Using less vocabulary is certainly a danger to expressing ideas and philosophies. At least the more complex ones.

Try this:

inspired by

Years ago I read about the situation in the outskirt quarters of Paris, the banlieus.

This area of Paris is mostly inhabitated by immigrants and first to third generation decendants. As the immigrants come from a diversity of former French colonies and have an even bigger diversity of native languages, the communication took place in a lingua franca of a French with only a few hundred words. The bare minimum. As far as I remember, studies showed that the mere limit of the used language limited again the exchange of ideas, the general interest of the community to strive towards improvement and a content of the individual to strive towards better living conditions, as if the idea of having a better live died with the possibility to express it in words.

I bet there is a novel in it

My best wishes to you from Munich, Germany Manuel




I ran across a condemnation of democracy on a political site that I occasionally visit, that went something like this:

"Democracy is when 200 million Americans decided that 80,000 of their native-born neighbors and their aging parents should be sent to concentration camps because of their choice of ancestors."

The reference, of course, is to Executive Order 9066, signed by FDR, the hero of democrats and Progressives, which resulted in 120,000 Japanese Americans being torn from their homes in the cities of California and shipped off to camps in desolate parts of the country. All it took was "one drop of Japanese blood" to be sent to the camps, no matter the age

– one camp even had a "Children’s Village" for young orphans, who were in some cases pried out of the arms of their (non-Japanese) foster parents. This makes the United States one of only two countries ever to have a special "children’s prison," the other being Iraq under Hussein.

The denial of their most basic rights met the approval of most of the rest of the country, including all but a small handful of ACLU members.

If not for the fact that this is a REPUBLIC, there would have been no Supreme Court to free them (and even then, it took several years).


The Framers wanted nothing to do with Democracy. They were interested in freedom and rule of law, which are usually threatened by Democracy…


No appreciable attention paid to Cyclical Analysis of Weather

you may find this interesting

University of Washington <> paper



Violating Niven’s first Law

1. Never throw organic fertilizer at an armed man. Never stand next to someone throwing organic fertilizer at an armed man.

OR… throw organic fertilizer at an armed man while standing next to your son, hoping he’ll be killed for the glory of Islam while you escape to find someone else’s son to stand next to when you throw organic fertilizer again.



Carrington Event Almost Happened in 2012


Remember all the hype about CMEs in 2012? Some of this centered around the apocalyptic prophets of doom in populist circles, but NASA’s attempts to calm the public made me suspicious that there was actually something to worry about.

If the eruption of July 23, 2012 has happened a week earlier, it would have hit us. And, the cat is out of the bag:


Analysts believe that a direct hit by an extreme CME such as the one that missed Earth in July 2012 could cause widespread power blackouts, disabling everything that plugs into a wall socket. Most people wouldn’t even be able to flush their toilet because urban water supplies largely rely on electric pumps.

A similar storm today could have a catastrophic effect. According to a study by the National Academy of Sciences, the total economic impact could exceed $2 trillion or 20 times greater than the costs of a Hurricane Katrina. Multi-ton transformers damaged by such a storm might take years to repair.

"In my view the July 2012 storm was in all respects at least as strong as the 1859 Carrington event," says Baker. "The only difference is, it missed."

In February 2014, physicist Pete Riley of Predictive Science Inc.

published a paper in Space Weather entitled "On the probability of occurrence of extreme space weather events." In it, he analyzed records of solar storms going back 50+ years. By extrapolating the frequency of ordinary storms to the extreme, he calculated the odds that a Carrington-class storm would hit Earth in the next ten years.

The answer: 12%.

"Initially, I was quite surprised that the odds were so high, but the statistics appear to be correct," says Riley. "It is a sobering figure."



Most Respectfully,

Joshua Jordan, KSC

Percussa Resurgo



1) In that week’s time that we supposedly had a near-miss, the Sun rotated so far that the centroid of the CME was angled 135 degrees away from Earth in the plane of the ecliptic. This doesn’t take into account any tilt above or below the ecliptic. Video of the event indicate that it was in fact south-tilted by a substantial amount. I don’t call that a near-miss.

2) No argument whatsoever as to the effects, should one that big hit us. And it is inevitable that it shall, sooner or later. There is also some evidence that may indicate that such events are more probable during the descents into, and ascents out of, extended minima. So if we are indeed going into an extended minimum, then woe betide. (On the other hand, that 2012 event may have been the Carrington going in. The question then becomes, how many of those happen on the "walls" of the minimum? We don’t have enough data to say, since we’d not have noticed THAT one if not for the space-based solar observatories we now have.)

3) Having read the statistical analysis paper that gave that 12% figure (which was published in 2012, not 2014 as stated), the actual values range from 1.1% all the way up to 21%, depending on how he tweaks his initial conditions and what properties he assigns to Richard Carrington’s 1859 event. What the researcher is really trying to accomplish is to link together several databases in an effort to extend the known data back several centuries, to around 1500-1600AD.

The problem with this is twofold: A) it requires different methods of analysis to do so, and B) one of those databases is nitrate spikes in ice cores, and the space physicists and the ice core chemists don’t agree as to the source of the nitrate spikes.

I would, for instance, expect to see NO nitrate spikes during the period of the Maunder Minimum. How can you have flares and CMEs when the Sun’s surface is uniformly blank? But in fact there are several spikes during that time. This leads me to be somewhat skeptical of the nitrate data. There does seem to be some small reflection of the Maunder and Dalton minima in the graphs, and certainly the Carrington event seems to produce a titanic spike, but the evidence is not sufficient for me to say definitively that they match. In fact there is sufficient variance for me to say that I do not think the data can be entirely attributed to CME events. Therefore until the additional source of the nitrate spikes can be determined, I’m not sure it’s valid to use them as an extension of the database for Carrington-level events.

End result is that I am not at all certain of that 12% figure.

And if there is a triggering mechanism in the onset of an extended minimum, it may be sufficient to raise the figure to 100% in any case.

Stephanie Osborn

Interstellar Woman of Mystery <>

It may be time for survivalist movements again…


State Department Propaganda Continues

Put your beverages and snacks to the side or you’ll ruin your screen and possibly your keyboard when you start laughing. This State Department spokesperson is at it again. First let’s look at allegedly invented reports of artillery fire by Russia on Ukraine:


Apparently still laying the groundwork for their own planned military intervention [], the US government has invented a narrative of massive Russian artillery strikes against Ukrainian military bases along the border.

State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf introduced the story to the press at today’s briefing [], claiming that the US has secret evidence [] from “human intelligence information” that the attacks are taking place. The Pentagon concurred, saying such attacks have been going on “for several days.”

During the past several days, there has not been a single report out of Ukraine of an artillery strike against any of their military bases, anywhere in the country. The last such incident was two weeks ago, when rebels fired a BM-21 grad at a military base [].

And this is Ukraine we’re talking about, which comes up with its own dubious stories of Russian attacks on a near daily basis. If Russia was carried out concerted shelling against Ukrainian military targets, Ukraine would be harping on about it constantly. They aren’t even alleging anything close to that is happening.

The latest invented story appears to have been produced primarily as a replacement for Harf’s increasingly debunked allegations surrounding the MH17 shoot-down, a talking point which has gained her no small mocking in the press over the past week, as she directly contradicts the US intelligence community’s own releases on the matter [].


And, second, as you may have read, the Intelligence Community admitted a lack of evidence indicating direct Russian involvement in the MH17 tragedy. Once more 2+2=5:


Determined not to let the US intelligence community’s open admission that they have “no evidence of direct Russian involvement”

[] in the shoot-down of Malaysia Airlines MH17, the State Department has once again insisted Russian President Vladimir Putin is “directly” to blame for it [].

Puzzlingly, State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf cited the exact same intelligence community briefing as proving Putin’s guilt, even though the officials delivering that briefing said the exact opposite of it. [] Harf also claimed to be privy to even more secret evidence that had not gone public yet, which also pinned the whole thing on Putin.


I would think that, after the ongoing Iraq debacle that started with Powell’s "facts and conclusions based on solid intelligence", the people are little tired of secret evidence that contradicts open source intelligence. Of course, anytime anyone says they have "facts"

that are "based on intelligence" you should know they’re either (1) deceptive or (2) incompetent. I won’t insult your intelligence by explaining why.


Most Respectfully,

Joshua Jordan, KSC

Percussa Resurgo


Russia vs United States

This may be the Russian perception, or it may be an attempt by the kleptocracy to direct animus against the West:


The real reasons that US-Russia acrimony has been inexorably building, they say, is that Russia is at the leading edge of emerging countries that are challenging the US-run global financial and political order.

The US plan, Mr. Markov says, “is to continue tightening the screws over the long term, aiming to increase discontent among Russia’s middle class, and to turn people against Putin. The ultimate goal is regime change, and we would be fools not to see that.”

Although the Kremlin has claimed that sanctions against Russia will “boomerang” against Western economic interests, few analysts believe Russia can win against the overwhelming financial and economic firepower of the US and its allies in any extended showdown. As such, some argue that Russia has no choice but to accept a measure of isolation as its lot.


Matt, at 1913 Intel, offers this:


Russia is at a revolutionary tipping point. Not that there is going to be a revolution today, but things could easily change in the not too distant future. In a couple of years Russia might be staring at a revolution. And that will mean death to the thugs in the Kremlin.

If you are the godfather of a mafia family, and someone is out to get you, what do you do? You get them first. If Russia is given a good enough excuse, there is the potential for a great-power war with the US.

In the end I guess Russian leaders feel the US should just sit back and let Russia change the entire world order while doing nothing to stop it. Seriously, the Russian leaders are delusional. Unfortunately, the West is delusional too. The West has disarmed in the face of two thuggish regimes: Russia and China. While the Russians may be delusional, they have the means and nerve to take out the West (read US).


With our gutted nuclear arsenal, our unfundable navy (such that it is), and the budget cuts in the army, etc., his analysis seems more correct than most Americans want to admit, but — like Matt says — the West is also delusional. And it seems that I have little to say on this matter that is constructive.


Most Respectfully,

Joshua Jordan, KSC

Percussa Resurgo


Slate article on failure to replicate in the Voodoo Sciences

I thought you might like this article on Slate:

Psychologists’ Food Fight Over Replication of “Important Findings”

Alas, I do not expect much from the voodoo sciences…




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