Dr. Pournelle Health Report


From Alex Pournelle, Dr. Pournelle’s son:

“Jerry had a small stroke. He is recovering well at a local hospital. Prognosis is good, though they’re running more tests and he’s expected to stay at least another day or two.

“He felt well enough to call Mom [Mrs. Pournelle] from the hospital.

“Thank you for your thoughts and prayers. More updates when we have them.”

Note that Dr. Pournelle cannot respond to emails at this time, although he and his family are grateful for your concern and well-wishes. If you wish to express your thoughts, we are allowing comments on this post only. All comments are moderated, so will not immediately appear. (To view comments, or add your own, use the link on the right of the byline under the title. Scroll to the bottom to enter your comments.)

You may enjoy looking at some of Dr. Pournelle’s past posts by using the links in “Random Posts” shown on the right column.

UPDATE – 19 December 2014

“Update: Jerry continues to make much progress. Even in the last day the differences are marked. He has moved yet again to a long-term acute rehab assignment for speech/throat and physical therapy, where he will stay at least through the holidays.

“In a twist of fate far too strange to put into fiction, Jerry ended up in the exact same room as did Harlan Ellison a month earlier, after his own stroke. Harlan related this in a call today to get an update on Jerry. Harlan, by the way, sounds completely recovered on the phone—another good sign.

“We expect Jerry to start updates on the website presently, but they will be short at first. He’s re-learning to type, now just with one finger ‘and a claw’, so patience is appreciated.

“He called after the transfer, to say it was 17 minutes by car from the one facility to the next. Not the sign of someone out of touch with his surroundings or the passage of time.

“His cognition appears little affected. He keeps answering the many ‘do you know where you are?’ questions straight, but he’s sorely tempted to start embroidering the truth…”

Comments are still open if you wish to express your thoughts. Just click the Comment link at the top right of the byline area.

The beat goes on…

View 854 Tuesday, December 09, 2014

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

Jose Ortega y Gasset, The Revolt of the Masses

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


The release of the Intelligence Committee report has been called a great blow to the CIA’s effectiveness in protecting the American people.

Dear Dr. Pournelle,

The Senate committee has publicly released its findings.


I’ve only read the summary so far, which essentially says the enhanced interrogation procedures went out of control , beyond oversight and accountability, and did a lot of damage to our international standing [not to mention the detainees] while producing little actionable intelligence.

I’d invite comment from your other correspondents. I have to wonder if there’s more to the story than this …

At any rate, Americans seem to have only two throttle settings: "Paranoid/overdrive" and "don’t care at all." Just as, during WWII, we were in "don’t care" setting right up until the point Pearl Harbor was bombed, at which point we interned thousands of Japanese-Americans for our protection and safety.

It appears that the cycle, which goes back to the Salem witch trials, is repeating itself: Complete over-reaction of which we were afterwards ashamed. Maybe if we had rational protocols for things like torture we wouldn’t try to re-invent the wheel, with catastrophic results.


Brian P.

I am waiting for more information on the battle of the released intelligence report. I would think that the timing is obvious. It is a distraction from the unhappiness of the American people with Obamacare and the cynical way it was rammed through. We will know more soon.




While I agree with much of what Peggy Noonan said in the column you linked yesterday, there is one glaring exception that politically negates much of the rest: the immigration executive order.

Republicans have basically two choices: let it stand, or block it by whatever means necessary – which apparently means defunding the implementation, something the President will use as an excuse to shut down the government.

If the Republicans let it stand, the base is through with the party. That is a given. Particularly since its widely known that the progressive and "country club" Republicans would like to see the same action and are using the President’s lawlessness to give them cover – "we can’t do anything." This is why the conservatives in both houses are rebelling against the leadership on this issue, forcing McConnell and Boehner to reach accommodation with the Democrats to let the funding through.

(Even temporarily; once the lawless executive order is funded once, even with a three month continuing resolution, that is arguably enough legislative support to say that Congress is on board with the law and give the lawyers justification to force funding to continue.)

Conversely, if they block it leading to a partial government shutdown, the President and the MSM will paint the Republicans as the villains. Whether that will shift the moderates any more is debatable under these circumstances – but the "country club" leadership will certainly act as if it will, and will cave, which returns them full circle to losing the base, this time permanently.

What we’re seeing is not the Democrats self destructing, but the progressive movement in both parties self-destructing. The end result will range from not pretty to catastrophically ugly. Particularly while there are too many voters who vote party label without regard for actions or ideology, as avidly and mindlessly supportive as the fans of rival football teams. Unfortunately, the Democrats seem to have a monopoly on "useful idiots," probably because they’ve been buying them through wealth transfer, and making them through use of the educational establishment for indoctrination rather than instruction, for over eighty years. The Republicans you cite who leave out the hard parts of Adam Smith don’t help.

Mr. Heinlein still seems to have been right in putting the next crisis of American democracy during the term of the person elected president in 2012. And if this fully shakes out before the next couple of presidential terms, the consequences will likely be as catastrophic as in Mr. Heinlein’s future history; the pendulum will break. Probably with the country "stuck on stupid," but with the wolves waiting in the wings (something that Mr. Heinlein’s future history avoided was China, Russia, and resurgent Caliphate Islam).


I would hope that the American people are smarter than that. At the moment there is a clear majority in favor of rejecting what the Democrats have done. There is no majority consensus on immigration, nor even on what is possible. We can attempt to close the borders, but if the President does not want to act, there is little that can be done. What the Republican leadership must show is that they are willing and able to govern, and that they will not be obstructive for the sake of obstructiveness.

Of course the Democrats will provoke them, as they have with the release of the CIA report.

Thanks for the link to the Peggy Noonan article. I wonder if you think, though, that one major change should be made by the Republican Senate straight away: getting rid of the weird "pocket filibuster" rules. Others can explain the abstruse details, but if I understand correctly the Senate today works under a set of rules that pretty much guarantees a deadlock on any partisan issue. Maybe it’s time to go back to the real tradition, where a Senator could do a Mr. Smith Goes to Washington filibuster if he was willing to speak for hours and days, but no one would unless he cared so much about the issue that he would put everything on the line for it. –And otherwise things proceeded by majority rule. The Senate was supposed to be a brake, but wasn’t intended to be hopelessly deadlocked on anything important.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that it wouldn’t be a good idea to seek bipartisan support for things, and that means passing bills that are somewhat less conservative than they would be otherwise. If you want any chance of overriding vetoes that’s a necessity anyhow. This is all part of responsible government.

Best wishes,



Garry Kasparov on Chess, the Cold War, and the West’s Shameful Appeasement of Putin


Although chess is featured in the title, the video interview with Garry Kasparov is all about Putin, Russia, and the West. His comments are quite interesting. Almost 30 minutes long, maybe worth a watch while you are snacking or relaxing?

Garry Kasparov on Chess, the Cold War, and the West’s Shameful Appeasement of Putin

(Article has transcript as well as video.)




I had dinner with Kasparov in Moscow. He will be part of the opposition to whatever government Russia has; as such he is a valuable asset to Russia, but I doubt that they understand that. I do know that the situation there is a very great deal more complex than any analyst here seems to understand.

Rohrabacher: ‘Moreover, reasonable observers the world over can see it as tantamount to a declaration that Russia is America’s enemy.’



Roland Dobbins

Dana is an old friend, a good :Libertarian conservative, and an intelligent analyst with a competent staff. His views are always worth paying attention to.





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




Advice to the GOP Majority; Justice in the Fort Hood matter? A lot of wonderful new technology.

View 853 Saturday, December 06, 2014

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

Jose Ortega y Gasset, The Revolt of the Masses

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


Peggy Noonan’s recent column in the Wall Street Journal ought to be required reading for every Republican Member of Congress and Senator. Her political analysis is very much on target, and her view is is correct: she was, after all, one of Reagan’s best speech writers. And Reagan paid a very great deal of attention to his speeches: he was a better speech writer than any of his staff, but he had a country to run so some of it had to be farmed out. But he insisted that all his speeches be from his view, that of a what might be called “populist conservatism”. He wasn’t one of the country club establishment Republicans who don’t seem to have read the parts of Adam Smith that deal with fair play to workers while you establish a free market society. He well understood that a system has to be fair to the middle class as well as the top earners.

Can the GOP Find Unity and Purpose?

The Democrats are divided. The Republicans need to resist Obama’s provocations.


Peggy Noonan

Updated Dec. 5, 2014 6:27 p.m. ET

Take no bait. Act independently and in accord with national priorities. Cause no pointless trouble. If there’s trouble, it should have a clear, understandable, defendable purpose.

That is general advice for the new Republican congressional majority. They will be proving every day they’re a serious governing alternative to the Democratic-dominated establishment that has run Washington for six years.

The Republicans are being told they are a deeply divided party. True enough. But another way to look at it may prove more pertinent: “My father’s house has many mansions.” The GOP is showing early signs of actually gathering together again a functioning coalition. The white working class, according to the last election, has joined, at least for now. Coalitions are messy; they have many, often opposing, pieces. FDR ’s included New York socialists, Southern segregationists, Dust Bowl Okies and West Virginia coal miners. But politics is a game of addition and Republicans are adding. They may owe it only to President Obama, but still: His leadership has been an emanation of progressive thought. And a coalition formed by reaction and rejection is still a coalition.


I am enheartened to see that the neo-conservatives have an editorial in their Weekly Standard to the same effect. It is not signed by one of the major figures in the Weekly Standard hierarchy, but it is in the editorial section following a William Kristol editorial, which gives is gravitas.

Crêpes Suzette or Pie?

Dec 8, 2014, Vol. 20, No. 13 • By IRWIN M. STELZER

So we’ve done it: wrested control of the Senate from the do-nothing Democrats. But who are “we”? Are we the corporatist conservatives who fret that high marginal tax rates are stifling the risk-taking of wealthy investors, that business taxes are too high, that the entitlement state is unsustainable? Or are “we” the populist conservatives who worry about bank bailouts, dislike bonuses set by buddy-buddy boards, and believe with Adam Smith that workers are entitled to a decent wage and that free trade is fine so long as its beneficiaries, the winners, concede some of their gains to the losers? As Frank Sinatra might have put it: Are we crêpes suzette or pie? Wall Street or pawn shop? Country club or ballpark?

In practical terms, do “we” care more about businesses’ desire for lower taxes, free trade regardless of its effect on income distribution, asset-bloating monetary policy, and wage-shrinking immigration policy, or are “we” to have as our first priority the improvement of the living standard of disaffected middle-class voters, many of whom stayed home in the recent elections in despair of casting a vote that might improve their lot? If “we” are to be populist conservatives, what ought “we” be doing?


The entire article is very much worth reading.

We can hope that these sentiments prevail. George H. W. Bush entered the White House in triumph. The first thing he did was rid himself of the Reaganites, who were too populist for his tastes. He conducted foreign policy in a triumphalist manner – we won The Cold War! “Read my lips, no new taxes!”  Oops.  Well maybe some new taxes “Read my hips ha ha ha.” The result was that he lost the next election. Two years after that Newt Gingrich put together a new coalition which took control of Congress. The Republican Establishment proceeded to run Bob Dole, WW II hero and very much accepted establishment Republican.  He lost to Clinton, although the Republicans retained the House. Then Newt self-destructed and the establishment was back. They went mad as if they had some kind of heroic mandate.  We invaded Iraq. Mission Accomplished! Only, somehow, it wasn’t. No Child Left Behind! Centralize control of education! Oops.

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



Fort Hood victims set to receive Purple Hearts, combat status | Fox News

Looks like some people in Government know what the attack was


John T Smith

Fort Hood victims set to receive Purple Hearts, combat status

By Susan Crabtree

Published December 04, 2014

Washington Examiner

Congress is set to make victims of the 2009 Fort Hood shootings eligible for Purple Hearts and combat injury benefits after the Obama administration has denied them the status for the past five years.

House Republicans, working with the Democratic-controlled Senate Armed Services Committee, added a provision to the defense authorization bill that would give battlefield recognition for the victims of the deadliest attack on a domestic military installation in U.S. history. It passed on a voice vote with strong bipartisan support.

The measure, which is expected to pass Congress next week, also would end a five-year effort by Texas GOP Reps. John Carter, Michael Conaway and Roger Williams to give the victims the status, the Military Times first reported.


And of course it’s about time: but it does show that the Republicans can work with the Democrats on matters of national interest and fair play.



Saudi Arabia’s Power Play

Well, this is interesting:


Saudi Arabia’s influential royal Prince Turki al-Faisal al-Saud has said the kingdom would only consider cutting oil production if Iran, Russia and the US agreed to match those cuts because it wants to protect its market share.

Speaking in London, the Prince who is a senior Saudi royal and the former head of the country’s spy agency, said that the kingdom would not repeat previous mistakes of surrendering its share of the global market for crude to its rivals. His remarks come just days after a controversial meeting of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), when the group appeared split over a decision to keep producing at current levels.

"The kingdom is not going to give up market share at this time to anybody and allow – whether it is Russia, Nigeria, or Iran or other places – to sell oil to Saudi customer," said Prince Turki, who has also held Saudi Arabia top overseas diplomatic post as the kingdom’s ambassador to the US.


He add that Saudi has "accumulated a lot of reserves over the last few years that will go someway to meet our requirements" and that is "big oil producers like Russia and Iran that need a certain price level to maintain their (economic) equanimity."



I have some remarks:

First, our oil companies have larger business in areas other than shale; so these companies can wait for Saud.

Second, the American people want cheap oil and we get that with shale or with Saud’s games.

Third, this squeezes Russia and U.S. policy makers will like that.

Fourth, this squeezes Iran and U.S. policy makers will like that.

Fifth, this squeezes — may endangers — Venezuela and U.S. policy makers will like that.

And, finally, Saudi Arabia seems to be losing control and I think almost everyone but the House of Saud likes that.

◊ ◊ ◊ ◊ ◊

Most Respectfully,

Joshua Jordan, KSC

Percussa Resurgo




Technology just keeps moving forward….some recent examples are shown

Feeling old? Don’t. Here are some examples that might make you feel even older. Or maybe we’re remembering things we read in science fiction – that makes these look like old ideas. The waste basket was in an L. Ron Hubbard story. ;-)



Here are 17 examples of evidence that we are already living in a futuristic world.

The world’s first virtual shopping center opened in Korea. All the products are just LCD screens that allow you to order the items by touching the screen. When you get to the counter, your items are already bagged and ready to go.

futuristic things<http://data.ba-bamail.com/Images/2014/6/3/804de7ad-1724-4c1d-b327-d599b696f194.jpg>

A cellphone you can bend as much as you like and it will still do everything a smart phone does.

futuristic things<http://data.ba-bamail.com/Images/2014/6/3/efdb80e8-5dc7-4b46-bfc8-7adaddc32524.jpg>

Your personal computer ring can play music, check your email, give you alerts and even allows you to browse or chat with others.

http://imgur.com/ZQwtMCf <http://imgur.com/ZQwtMCf>

This man is demonstrating the ability of his prosthetic eye, which has a camera installed in it.

futuristic things<http://data.ba-bamail.com/Images/2014/6/3/4829edd8-ceb8-41ad-b9e7-be84f9dd6ab0.jpg>

No longer using the camping stove just for cooking, a new line of camping stoves use the heat energy to power up lights and charge your phones or anything else you can charge by USB cable.

futuristic things<http://data.ba-bamail.com/Images/2014/6/3/e82be301-873e-4a86-b369-8601adef680c.jpg>

This trash can follows you around and calculates where to stand to catch your thrown garbage!

http://imgur.com/5Qnzl8D <http://imgur.com/5Qnzl8D>

This motion tracking table morphs its surface to mimic your movements, allowing you to control objects from the other side of the planet if you so choose.

http://imgur.com/Il8qIAP <http://imgur.com/Il8qIAP>

This windowed door turns opaque whenever you lock it.

http://imgur.com/L3F2wRc <http://imgur.com/L3F2wRc>

This incredible app translates signs from video and in real time!

http://imgur.com/e9auC4t <http://imgur.com/e9auC4t>

The new ‘Google Fiber’ has started deploying, and will offer users an internet connection that is about 100 times faster than what they are currently using.

futuristic things<http://data.ba-bamail.com/Images/2014/6/3/274f65ad-720c-440e-b9b6-7d9febea5783.jpg>

When did car panels start looking like this advanced?

futuristic things<http://data.ba-bamail.com/Images/2014/6/3/0831e92e-d3b5-42bf-bc81-0e6d0e5bb69d.jpg>

A stop sign using water to project the image http://imgur.com/CQWbK6A <http://imgur.com/CQWbK6A>

An example of the new E-Ink in action. An ink that stay flat on the page and can be printed but still moves on the printer page.

http://imgur.com/lhzHEWi <http://imgur.com/lhzHEWi>

All of the functions these items that we used 20 years ago… Are now done by a single smartphone.

futuristic things<http://data.ba-bamail.com/Images/2014/6/3/a708dd96-638c-41cc-a141-c9f290d4faaf.jpg>

New casts can be printed with a 3D printer, are lighter, more comfortable and just as strong.

futuristic things<http://data.ba-bamail.com/Images/2014/6/3/2a5623d9-c12b-42d3-b6d5-66f0d3d17aef.jpg>

Bionic hands are now so advanced they can perform even delicate and complex movements.

http://imgur.com/PCYBZe6 <http://imgur.com/PCYBZe6>

Wonderful! I am glad to see that a real five fingered hand able to use tools developed over centuries for humans is now practical. Many years ago Marvin Minsky convinced me that this was an essential for using robots in space, and I have been hopeful ever since.

All the other marvels are worth your attention as well. Technology marches on.  Moore’s Law is inexorable, and each doubling produces more new marvels as well as makes the old marvels affordable. We approach, not the singularity, but an era of plenty, provided that we are able to control all this and keep our economy – and stay strong enough to keep it.  Wealthy Republics have not done well in history.  Rome had to go Imperial, as did Greece.


Education potential predicted by proficiency

Dr. Pournelle,

I probably didn’t state it at all clearly before, but besides the apparent cultural bias, it truly seems as if those who do well on standardized IQ tests are already doing well in their academic studies. The tail seems to wag the dog, here. Applying test batteries to service recruits or aerospace employees tells you how they’ve done thus far, but we can agree that this is, as you say, a very good indicator of how they should perform in future.

My personal academic experience has been that I’ve done well in assessments, batteries, ASVAB, and IQ tests, but others who scored lower seemed to have better academic success in some (many, most) areas of study. A >120 IQ and tested high mathematical ability does not guarantee success in study (never "mastery") of calculus, but does show that the individual can comprehend the test and follow instructions.

When students will come from a wide distribution of ability ratings, it is usually most efficient to design course work around a student of "average" capabilities — although that "average" is usually somewhere to the right from center on the bell curve. As you say, such a course design isn’t satisfactory for those that rate at either end of the distribution, but in military and industrial training circles I’ve run in, the ones on extreme left can be discarded and those on the extreme right can sometimes get more advanced training — alternatives not allowed in school systems. These settings are quite different from schools in student motivation, and usually in student maturity.

I’ve nothing but admiration for Mrs. Pournelle or any teacher who can succeed in educating children in any school system.


The important point is that the predictions will not be racially proportional to the population, although the race of the subjects is not known at any point. If we are to allocate out educational resources in anything like an optimal manner, we must dedicate the necessary efforts to bring out excellence. Civilization does not advance by adding a little bit to the skill sets of the not very skilled; civilization is better off developing to their highest the skills and knowledge of the best. Resources ought to be allocated to that end. I have no objection to those who want to work at the head start level to increase the number of minorities who score at higher levels; but refusing to use the tools we have to allocate our resources because the predictions are not racially proportionate to the population is a disastrous policy; as is any policy that sends the less competent into training they cannot profit from. And the best thing Head Start could do is teach the kids to read before the education establishment gets to them, but it does not and will not. Newt Gingrich tried to make that happen, but he could not.  I don’t think anyone else has tried.


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