Kinder Egg Inspectors, conscription, robots, and other matters


Mail 759 Sunday, January 20, 2013


Subj: Federal Agencies we can do without: the Raisin Administrative Committee

>>Did you know that if you grow raisins in the United States, you are

>>sharecropping for the government? …<<


Hardly needs comment… And we borrow the money to pay for this. Should we?


Dear Dr. Pournelle:

I share your concerns about the political dangers of a standing army; yet I also agree that SAC’s power to destroy civilization should not be in the hands of recruits. How, then, do we reconcile citizen armies with nuclear technology?

Jonathan Schell offers a partial solution in his book, "The Abolition", which proposes that the USA become a "latent" nuclear power; that is, that it dismantle all actual nuclear bombs, but retain(and indeed strengthen) its ability to swiftly build those bombs. We keep the know-how and the infrastruction and the fissile materials, but hold off on building the accursed things unless we need them right away. You could call it just-in-time civicide; like taking the bullet out of the rifle over the fireplace. Nuclear latency is purified deterrence; a way for America to say to the world that we don’t feel like killing a million people today, so don’t make us want to.

I like Schell’s idea, but I think it’s incomplete. It’s too rational, it lacks the aura of apocalyptic histrionics so natural to all things nuclear.

I therefore offer the following modest proposal: Nuclear Blatancy Day. It’ll work like this:

Every Presidential election year, college and high school students across the country submit their bomb designs. The winning entries are cast into metal and chips (but no explosives and fissile materials, of course) and sent to the Nevada Test Range. There the bombs are loaded with plutonium from the armory, and lowered deep underground.

The contestants arrive, and their families, and technicians, and generals, and reporters, and Presidential candidates, and foreign dignitaries. Also on hand are marching bands (pro-bomb) and satirical giant-puppet troupes (anti-bomb). Both groups are welcomed as essential components of the inherently mixed message being sent that day. The Presidential candidates speak blandly of the People’s Bomb; the grandmother from Hiroshima pleads passionately for peace.

The countdown starts. Five, four, three, two, one, zero! Suddenly new craters collapse in the Nevada desert. The marching bands cheer, the puppeteers boo, and the foreign dignitaries look at each other nervously. Technicians announce yields; the winning contestants get scholarships and job offers; and the dignitary from Japan quietly tells the other dignitaries that these Americans are indeed as crazy as they look, so don’t mess with them!

I trust you understand, Dr. Pournelle, that the preceding three paragraphs are satire; but they are a satire that would work. It’s absurd, but slightly less absurd than what already exists. I offer it to you as my fulsome praise, and also my excoriating critique, of America and civilization and the entire human race.


Nathaniel Hellerstein

Schell wasn’t being satirical so far as I know. For myself I would not care to try to assemble the nuclear weapons after a nuclear first strike took out the plant and much of the infrastructure around it.

I have never been a great fan of MAD, but I was never able to find a way to do away with it. And I continue in my admiration of those young men and women who sat there in the silos day after day including Christmas  with the keys on chains around their necks as they waited for that damned klaxon. EWO EWO Emergency War Orders, Emergency War Orders, I have a message in five parts, message begins Tango Xray …


Conscription and service a’ la RAH and more on ITHAKA

Dr. Pournelle,

Heinlein’s discourse on conscription have been mentioned, but I thought we should also mention the kind of service he proposed in _Starship Troopers_. If I remember right, service was voluntary, but the "government" was required to give work to anyone who applied. Military service, in many different corps, was only one option. Citizenship was granted to anyone who successfully completed a single service term.

It sounds as if the recent proposal you cited was similar in some ways to the story. However, it sounds more like a way to grab VA-like benefits for any GS or WG job, rather than a way to self-identify individuals who place society at a high level of importance. It sounds as if we want to expand pensions and not limit the franchise.

I think we do need a legal decision to get changes to the distribution system for all federal government-paid documents. It should require a simple contractual requirement change for all funded study grantees to publish publicly via some acceptable means. It is a wonder to me that this is not in the law already. We need a congressional sponsor with some pull to get it across.

I really thought FOIA covered this. If ITHAKA and its subscribers are in violation, that needs to be shown, probably in court. I don’t know if this circumstance is truly the case, or who could bring a suit.


Mr. Heinlein’s society in which only veterans can be voters would probably not be stable since it would require a bureaucracy to enforce it…  Why should I have to go to the trouble of FOIA actions to get access to documents reporting publicly supported research? Particularly since publication costs are generally part of every research proposal…

“His view was that standing armies became independent entities, and transmogrified into mercenaries…

And after that came the professional military, the volunteer forces, and the United States became the world superpower. So far that has not brought about the difficulties Machiavelli prophesied”


You think not? What I see is the military having to use other methods than the love of one’s country and patriotism to convince people to join. Funds are provided for benefits used for this purpose. Money to attract Soldiers? Is that not a mercenary army?

I can’t say I blame them. It used to be people honored the loyal soldier, now they do not, and the politicians consider them expendable for political purpose.



Aaron Swarz was a self-confessed Chomsky disciple, FYI.


While I deplore the routine prosecutorial tactic of gross overcharging in general, especially for nonviolent offenses; and while I’m opposed to the ITHAKA monopoly on the fruits of publicly-funded research, I don’t have that much sympathy for Aaron Swarz. He strikes me as a soi-disant ‘activist’ lacking the courage of his supposed convictions, once that it wasn’t all fun and games, anymore, and who was willfully naive of how the legal system works (there was no way he’d end up in prison for any large amount of time based upon an initial conviction, much less on appeal), and who settled upon legal representation by an attorney who has a good reputation, but who wasn’t the best selection for this particular set of circumstances, IMHO.

I will admit that this whole sorry episode, and others like it, lead one to the conclusion that the minimization or outright elimination of public prosecution and prosecutors in favor of private prosecution might well be worthy of consideration.

Roland Dobbins

I never met Mr. Swartz and I haven’t spoken to any of his intimates. I am more concerned that there was no trial. I would like to see a good reason for ITHAKA to have this monopoly.


Aaron Swartz — an opposing view

Dr. Pournelle,

I am related to someone who reported recently on Aaron Swartz in a paper for classwork. Her take on his case was somewhat different. The man reportedly was guilty of breaking and entering, wiretapping, and vandalism — the last by locking (preventing the use of) the files by their owners.

After Swartz’ activity was detected and measures were put in place to prevent access, he escalated his efforts while in full knowledge of the penalties if detected and prosecuted.

The ITHAKA service obtains exclusive use of academic documents legally and maintains an electronic library, at no small expense, for institutional subscribers who are mostly the same as the contributors.

Swartz interviews indicated he was less motivated by freedom of information than by grabbing attention for himself. He was indifferent to the cost of his activity to the the lawful users and owners of the information, and had no concern for the direct effect of his actions.

While one should not speak ill of the dead, and he may have had a point freedom of access to government-sponsored information, I’m personally convinced that the prosecution wasn’t excessive. If his legal defense was unsuccessful in reducing the sentence further, he probably should have sought more competent counsel — as you say, he would have found many willing to support that effort.

In my experience, it takes a really small effort to obtain access to government sponsored data via the freedom of information act, and in most cases taxpayers foot the bill for production of that information to the requestor. Swartz attacks were focused on an information outlet with which he had a personal gripe. He was certainly making a poor point the hard way. Perhaps he came to realize this.


Why should it take any effort at all? And I assure you that unless you are part of academia, access to many journals is quite expensive. They are behind efficient pay walls.


Subj: Is there something in Massachusetts that deranges prosecutors?

The recent Aaron Swartz case is not the first time a prosecutor in Massachusetts has run amok. Remember the Amirault case:

>>[S]o much testimony, so madly preposterous, and so solemnly put forth

>>by the state. The testimony had been extracted from children, cajoled

>>and led by tireless interrogators.<<



This may be the first time since the President took office that I agreed with a quote I saw from his press secretary —

“Most Americans agree that a president’s children should not be used as pawns in a political fight,” press secretary Jay Carney said. “But to go so far as to make the safety of the president’s children the subject of an attack ad is repugnant and cowardly.”

The President’s children ought to have security because they are exposed to greater risks than the average school child and the consequences to the country are greater if something happens to them that takes away his (and of course everyone else’s) attention from keeping the country running.



It’s about time people learned to turn the politicians’ own bullshit back on them; when people learn to use courts and laws in this way I suspect we’ll see some changes in how government does business:


A petition calling for the elimination of armed guards “for the President, Vice-President, and their families” has met and exceeded the previous threshold set by the White House on their We The People petition submission site. 

The petition states: “Gun Free Zones are supposed to protect our children and some politicians wish to strip us of our right to keep and bear arms. Those same politicians and their families are currently under the protection of armed Secret Service agents. If Gun Free Zones are sufficient protection for our children, then Gun Free Zones should be good enough for politicians.”

Although it will likely receive only a glib response, the petition reaches its quota just as fervor over a National Rifle Association (NRA) ad pointing out this very same hypocrisy has erupted.


I’m Joshua Jordan and I support this message!  I don’t know about you, but my life is worth more than all the politicians in the world; they think I don’t need guns?  Well, I disagree and so does the Constitution; but, since they want to take away guns, let’s take away the guns around them and make them happy. 

I’m sure that assassination attempts will no longer occur and politician will be completely safe if nobody has guns around politicians.  After all, we can just pass a law and that’s what will happen.


Most Respectfully,

Joshua Jordan, KSC

Percussa Resurgo


Solar Prominence


The Solar Dynamics Observatory spies a beautiful prominence in UV. The time lapse video covers four hours


Regards, Charles Adams


Impossibilities in the world.

1. You can’t count your hair.

2. You can’t wash your eyes with soap.

3. You can’t breathe when your tongue is out.

Put your tongue back in your mouth, you silly person.

Ten (10) things I know about you.

1. You are reading this.

2. You are human.

3. You can’t say the letter ”P” without separating your lips.

4. You just attempted to do it.

6. You are laughing at yourself.

7. You have a smile on your face and you skipped No. 5.

8. You just checked to see if there is a No. 5.

9. You laugh at this because you are a fun loving person and everyone does it too.

10. You are probably going to send this to see who else falls for it.

You have received this e-mail because I didn’t want to be alone in the idiot category.

Have a great day. Laugh, and then Laugh and sing "It’s a Beautiful Morning " even when it’s not.

"Do not regret growing older. It is a privilege denied to many."



Robots doing work

Every year seems to get us closer to the reality of needing much fewer people to do work than we have. We’ve seen it in agriculture already where 1% now do several times the work that was done in the 1900s and with vastly increased production. On the other extreme, I’ve seen it in IT where one person can manage hundreds of servers that a couple decade ago would have employed dozens of people. I still can’t get my head around where this is heading in the short term. The collapse of the idea of majority employment?

Matt Murphy

This was once a fairly popular theme among science fiction writers. If we went from a majority of mankind working in food production and service to a very small percentage of them so employed in under a century, how long will it take Moore’s Law to reduce the number of highly paid workers needed for manufacturing to a very small number? The golden age of blue collar middle class has passed and it does not look as if it will come again. A $22,000 robot can do the work that three highly skilled auto workers once did – and do it two shifts a day for nothing like twice as much as it cost to do one shift. That’s on today’s market.

Over time more and more skilled jobs will be done by smart robots. And we do not much speculate on the logic of one man one vote in a nation in which most of the population contribute nothing whatever to the national productivity… Yes, I know, I must be exaggerating. Surely.


In Re Victory

Dr. Pournelle,

Had to look up the article quoted by Col Couvillon (forgive my possible mis-spelling). Found the editorial at

I think your and the Colonel’s observations are correct, but I think the author was taken out of context. While Bacevich may indeed be a U.S. apologist, I think that he was trying to state that faulty strategy — which did not include a military victory — was at least partly at fault for the failure to achieve any particular goals. He unfortunately uses language that appears to place the blame on the troops. I don’t think that is the author’s intent.

Perhaps the language is poorly considered, however, I don’t think that his position is too far distant from your own, or the Colonel’s, on this matter.



This is interesting:


The U.S. Marine Corps, known for turning out some of the military’s toughest warriors, is studying how to make its troops even tougher through meditative practices, yoga-type stretching and exercises based on mindfulness. Marine Corps officials say they will build a curriculum that would integrate mindfulness-based techniques into their training if they see positive results from a pilot project. Mindfulness is a Buddhist-inspired concept that emphasizes active attention on the moment to keep the mind in the present.


Alan Watts put it best when he described Buddhism and added "and when this gets mixed up in the context of Western ideas, Western science and so on it will do things the Asian people never dreamed of and might not even approve of".  I think this article outlines one of those "things" that Alan Watts mentioned in his lecture on the transformation of consciousness.  While some might consider it an irony, I am not surprised and this is not the first time someone tried this concept. 

In the Heian period of Japan the Sohei lit. "monk warriors"; "fighting monks" raised armies.  Interestingly enough, the Sohei were similar to the yamabushi lit "mountain warriors" in origins.  Yamabushi are often associated with ninja — and for good reason.  Ninja, however, did not raise armies; they undertook intelligence work and covert action.  The Sohei had much power, partly because it was considered bad to kill monks.  The Shohei were often influencial in Japanese politics and military affairs until just before the Edo period.  The closest thing we’ve had in the West to the Shohei are the Teutonic Knights or the Knights Templar.  As an aside, Himmler tried to make the SS into something like the Teutonic Knights.  Unfortunately for  him, the Nazis jailed and/or killed off any esotericist that might have helped them accomplish this as they were afraid of anyone who might have some power they could not control.  Most of Himmler’s scholars were deluded and the Third Reich never lasted long enough to create the SS Himmler would have wanted.  But, enough of history, let us speak of 2013.

I am most interested to see how this process would unfold with our military.  I might have advocated something this when I was younger, but realizing the quality of people available I am concerned at how this will be applied and what the results will be.  Also, if the Shohei, Templars, and Teutonic Knights provide a lesson for us, we could see a — if you will — spirit warrior caste of great power and influence.  I realize that this "goes too far" because I’m looking beyond the short-term and most people don’t think that you can look beyond the short-term with any degree of accuracy, but I proved such platitudes wrong many times over the years and I did not say this was a certainty — only a possibility and something we might take care to consider and monitor. 

Of course, if the Marines apply this concept on a mass scale we would find out if G.I. Gurdjieff’s hypothesis was correct.  Gurdjieff postulated that war — he often used WWI as an example — demonstrated an instance of mass psychosis.  Gurdjieff asserted that if the soldiers became aware — or "woke up" as he would often put it — they would lay down their weapons and return home to their wives and families. 

If Gurdjieff is correct then only certain war fighters would enhance their killing efficiency with this training; such war fighters would constitute the small percentage of humans with no inherent resistance to killing one’s own.  This inherent resistance is the major obstacle that prevents war fighters from killing.  LTC Grossman’s work on the matter indicates that killing occurs by overcoming this resistance, primarily, through group absolution, demands of authority, social distance, psychological distance, mechanical distance, cultural distance, physical distance, classical conditioning, and operant conditioning.  Grossman proved that group dynamics, symbols of authority, distance, and conditioning allow soldiers to deny the humanity of the enemy and kill them.  Grossman indicated — through quantitative and qualitative methods — severe increases in kill rates from the Civil War through the Vietnam conflict in a book, aptly titled, On Killing. 

I believe that it may be possible to create a hybrid training program that would bypass the "awakening" Gurdjieff might have expected, but I believe it would take more than what I’ve read here combined with what we have in 2013.  I believe Grossman’s factors are compelling and that one can use a more sophisticated approach than employed in 2013 to increase killing efficiency and lessen suicide rates through better selection and preparation of war fighters.  Still, I think this would work with war fighters that have the constitution for their work.  The Marine Corps seems to think — judging by the article — that more self awareness will afford that constitution for all trainees.  I don’t believe that, but I do believe that more self awareness will — through weeding out candidates without the constitution for killing — create a more efficient killing force and that is what martial science is all about. 

Another interesting part of this development is in elitism.  Per capita, very few Americans are or were members of the military.  These people already represent a small — one might be forgiven for using the term "elite" — section of society.  Military people tend to in better physical and mental condition than civilians and add a superior spiritual condition to this and you’re looking at a very interesting and powerful group of individuals.  How will that square with a society that seems more degenerate with each passing day?  I think we might do well to encourage — but not require — soldiers and veterans to work with civilians and the community to develop some of the traits and principles learned in the conditions the military imposed on them.  I think that would do a lot for our national power as it would help restore a sense of national pride, individual competence, and self confidence.  The rising influence of military and former military citizens might alarm some, but it could be a positive and helpful influence on our people from 2013 and on.  This could be incorporated in the awareness training discussed in the article.  After all, anyone who is aware realizes that they’ve never seen an organism without an environment or an organism that did not have others that looked similar.  As Marcus Aurelius put it, "We are made for co-operation, like feet, like hands, like eyelids, like the rows of the upper and lower teeth. To act against one another then is contrary to Nature, and it is acting against one another to be vexed and turn away."


Most Respectfully,

Joshua Jordan, KSC

Percussa Resurgo



On a lighter side of contemporary computer Security Issues check this URL site out:

Seriously? Google Wants to Go Green Lantern on Us to Replace Passwords <>

Good heavens. Are we to boot our PCs with a ring and an oath aka Green Lantern?:

In brightest day, in darkest night,

I hope my PC starts tonight.

Let those viri trojans try as they might, Beware Google. Green Lantern’s light!

For those who weren’t DC Comic fans here are the full words for Green Lantern’s oath from Wikipedia:

Green Lantern is famous for the oath he recites when he charges his ring. Originally, the oath was simple:

…and I shall shed my light over dark evil.

For the dark things cannot stand the light,

The light of the Green Lantern!

—Alan Scott

This oath is also used by Lanterns Tomar-Re <> of sector 2813, and Chief Administrator Salaak <> .[21] <>

In the mid-1940s, this was revised into the form that became famous during the Hal Jordan era:

In brightest day, in blackest night,

No evil shall escape my sight.

Let those who worship evil’s might,

Beware my power, Green Lantern’s light!!!

—Hal Jordan/Many Current Lanterns

I read Green Lantern when he first appeared, but he was never one of my great favorites. In those days his nemesis was wood, not yellow. I read lots of comics in the late 30’s and up to the end of WW II, but after that I shifted to science fiction and lost track. My favorite was Captain Marvel, and I was in love with Mary Marvel…


Kinder Egg inspectors

Just caught this article by Mark Stein from The Corner:

Choc and Awe

By Mark Steyn

April 24, 2011 8:55 A.M.

I am looking this bright Easter morn at a Department of Homeland Security “Custody Receipt for Seized Property and Evidence.” Late last night, crossing the Quebec/Vermont border, my children had two boxes of “Kinder Eggs” (“Est. Dom. Value $7.50″) confiscated by Customs & Border Protection.

Don’t worry, it’s for their own safety. I had no idea that the United States is the only nation on the planet (well, okay, excepting North Korea and Saudi Arabia and one or two others) to ban Kinder Eggs. According to the CBP:





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