The Spotless Sun and Climate Change Models; What was Russia Thinking?; Peer Review; and a mixed bag of other interesting comments

Mail 834 Saturday, July 19, 2014


The Spotless Sun

Spotless Days

I notice they’re not going back 200 years to the last extended minimum in their comparisons…nobody is, to speak of. Nobody wants to go there.

As far as "solar physicists really don’t know what is happening," well, maybe the "solar physicists" don’t (which I seriously doubt — they just don’t want to admit it out loud, especially in the current scientific viewpoints — ESPECIALLY given the party line on climate), but us variable star astronomers sure get it.

Three years ago the Sun was still ramping up from a very deep and prolonged minimum, also — so you can’t really compare the current zero to that zero.

The guy may work for NASA but that don’t impress me none.

Stephanie Osborn

Interstellar Woman of Mystery <>


Source real time solar constant three-month trailing


The minimum on July 14 is almost a full wt/m^2 below the (by eye) three month average. Note Source calibration accuracy/average relative to other in-space experiments at

Total Solar Irradiance 

Jerry, presents the history of total solar irradiance measurements in space.


The wide variation in values between experiments is the consequence of the different accuracies of the different devices. Within each data set, however, both the variation across the solar cycle (with a steady minimum energy corresponding to solar minimum and significant daily variations during solar maximum is evident, and in the Cycle 23 data set the long minimum and the relative weakness of the current cycle is evident.

The bottom line is that we don’t really know the solar constant with an accuracy of more than half a percent, and it varies over the solar cycle by about 0.2 percent (which corresponds to about half a degree Celsius in the absence of terrestrial factors which impact heat retention and re-radiation.

Another reason not to trust the models.


Differential Equations….

There’s a weekly public radio show called "Ted Radio Hour." It’s little tidbits of Ted Talks.

*This* week includes a recommendation from someone who wants to put microscopic droplets of sulfuric acid in the upper atmosphere to increase reflectivity thus cooling the planet.

Which started me thinking about several postings on your site several years ago talking about problems caused by decreased light reaching the surface.

The researcher does admit that the ‘unintended consequences could be dire’ although he doesn’t mention light reaching sea-level.


Yours Aye,

Rod McFadden

More reasons to be sure that you cannot trust the models despite the billions spent on developing them and paying the people who maintain them. Until the models can account for the Viking Warm (which extended from Nova Scotia to Eastern China: longer growing seasons, increased crop yields, mild climate in England, France, Germany…); the Roman Warm period prior to the collapse of the Empire during the volkvanderung; the Dark Ages Cool before the Viking Warm; and the various meanderings we had during the Twentieth Century, you are not justified in betting the future on a computer model’s predictions of the climactic future. Simple Bayesian analysis would tell us that in the face of this much uncertainty the least risky course of action is reducing the uncertainties, not in preparing for an undetermined future.


What Was Russia Thinking?


To make any sense at all of the airliner shoot-down, you have to look at what Russia was (apparently) trying to accomplish in the region.

In brief, in recent weeks they seemed to be trying to impose a deniable "no-fly zone" over eastern Ukraine.

"No-fly zone", because Ukrainian government forces in eastern Ukraine recently had started systematically rolling up the Russian-supported ethnic-Russian separatists. Taking away Ukrainian air-support, air transport, and air reconnaissance would put the separatists back in the game without Russia having to blatantly raise their military presence on the ground.

Deniable, because Russia’s economy is already hurting from sanctions, and Russia very much needs to avoid forcing Western Europe to stop turning a blind eye and hanging back in the matter. Overt Russian attacks on Ukrainian aircraft over Ukrainian territory, just like formations of Russian troops inside Ukraine, would be hard even for the Western Europeans to ignore.

Of course, the separatists have had shoulder-fired AA missiles for a while now, and Ukraine has been losing occasional helicopters and transports at low altitude for weeks. This hasn’t been enough to stop their offensive.

This week though, things changed. A Ukrainian An-26 twin-turboprop transport was shot down at 21,000 feet (above practical shoulder-fired missile range) Monday. At the time, Ukraine said they thought the SAM may have came from Russian territory.

A Ukrainian SU-25 ground-attack jet was shot down Wednesday, Ukraine says by an air-to-air missile fired from Russian airspace. The pilot survived, and there also would have been radar coverage; they may well actually have known where the missile came from.

And then there are the recent-days press reports I sent you yesterday of the separatists having at least one mobile SA-11 "BUK" launcher, and of that launcher being spotted on the ground by an AP reporter in separatist hands. (Much more social-media and eyewitness evidence of this – and of the launcher minus-two-missiles being hastily moved back into Russia – is surfacing, now that there’s no choice but to pay


The clincher as far as I’m concerned is one early Russian reaction to the airliner shootdown: Indignation that the Ukraine ATC center had failed to realize that high-altitude aircraft were now at risk, and thus to route civilian airliners around the area.

This is an implicit admission that the Russians thought it was already obvious that high-altitude heavy aircraft were now at risk over eastern Ukraine. And who but the ones delivering the message would assume so, after only two under-reported and somewhat ambiguous high-altitude incidents, both recent enough that details hadn’t yet really circulated?

My assumption, based on this: The SA-11 battery ended up in separatist hands with Russian support, with the intent of providing the visible fig-leaf for a Russian shutdown of Ukrainian air assets in the region.

This fits the circumstances far better than any other theory I’ve heard.

But the Russians apparently miscalculated on two counts: They wrongly assumed their message would get across to the rest of the world quickly and unambiguously (which may indicate far too high an opinion of western civil aviation bureaucrats.)

And they may have left the separatist SA-11 battery too loosely supervised. (It’s also possible the local Russian "advisors" either assumed or were told that three days after their first shootdown, anything coming over would have to be Ukrainian military.)

The only good news in the whole murderous mess is that the Russians now would have to be barking mad to continue their "no-fly zone" attempt. I wouldn’t totally rule out their doubling down, though, as they were pretty damn crazy to try it in the first place.

But their obvious play now is to push for a cease-fire in place, which would also have the original desired effect of stopping the Ukrainian push to reassert control over the region. All the while denying and obfuscating furiously as only guilty Russians can.


A good analysis, and about the conclusion I have reached. Thank You.

Downed airliner


It seems to me that given the manner in which Ukraine disintegrated, it was almost inevitable that the Russian separatists would have acquired BUK missiles and launchers from captured Ukrainian military bases.

Even if the rebels did not capture the missiles, Russia had an obvious and arguably legitimate national interest in preventing Ukraine from using high altitude aircraft to wipe out the Russian separatists. I seem recall the US setting the precedent of supplying SAMs to rebels in a place called Afghanistan. The US is currently supplying SAMs to rebel forces in Syria who just happen to be the same rebels who now control much of Iraq.

The salient point is that Eastern Ukraine is a war zone. There have been quite a few aircraft shot down including several in recent weeks. Any airline with a brain would fly around a war zone.

James Crawford=

Which is about all you can say about it. It’s a war, and we don’t need to be in it. And as Putin says, if he cannot make friends with the West, there are potential friends for Russia in the East…

MH17 and the Ukraine crisis.

The way Russia is behaving, is a step back into the great power politics leading up to the 1. and 2. world war, and continued into the cold war.

One might have hoped for a different kind of politics in this day, and the fall of the Soviet Union did give a hope of a world where international law and civilized behavior between nations, would be the norm.

Should we all recognize that is was an error, an unobtainable goal?

In that case we will need well armed alliances again, willing to use or threaten with war again. Or a steep further along the distribution of ultimate force, where more and more nations will build a nuclear arsenal.

Or try to make an example of out of Russia, of what happens when a "great power" tries to bully its neighbors, effectively isolating and impoverishing it?

One thing is quite certain: Russia under Putin is no use as an ally.


Bo Andersen


I would not agree, but it is rapidly coming to that point. Russia and the US have many common interests, but given the anti-Slavic attitude – and bombings – in the Balkan during Albright foreign policy, the continued encirclement of Russia – some of it botched – and Mr. Obama’s mood swings, President Putin may have concluded that the US is no use as an ally or even a friend.

But you are correct: it is a new era of Great Powers, and requires a realistic approach to foreign policy. And I continue to believe:

John Quincy Adams on American Policy:

Whenever the standard of freedom and Independence has been or shall be unfurled, there will her heart, her benedictions and her prayers be. But she goes not abroad, in search of monsters to destroy. She is the well-wisher to the freedom and independence of all. She is the champion and vindicator only of her own.

She well knows that by once enlisting under other banners than her own, were they even the banners of foreign independence, she would involve herself beyond the power of extrication, in all the wars of interest and intrigue, of individual avarice, envy, and ambition, which assume the colors and usurp the standard of freedom.

Fourth of July, 1821


That’s an interesting point about the Alabama Claims. A class-action suit against Russia by the families of the dead passengers? Russia may have more reasons than they realize for hastily hiding any evidence they supported the separatists.

I am not a lawyer, but there already looks to be enough evidence for lawsuit purposes that the separatists did it. Russia meanwhile has deep pockets, and was all over the scene of the crime. They could conceivably lose such a lawsuit on a mix of circumstantial evidence they supported the separatists plus evidence of trying to cover up that support.

I might want to get this in front of a Dutch judge, were I a lawyer. Or Australian… 298 dead people times some substantial number of millions each? I’d be surprised if the lawyers aren’t already circling.



SDI – Star wars

Roger Miller


The illegal ‘children’ coming over the border

A little while back you said that Obama could not stop the flood of third-world ‘children’ (17-year old MS13 gang members) coming over the border because of ‘the law’.

With respect, as intelligent as you are, this is profoundly stupid. ‘The Law’? What law?

Until around 1970, the United States enforced the laws against illegal immigration. The result was that illegal immigration was negligible. Since 1970 the cheap-labor-uber-alles rich have demanded that the government stop enforcing the laws against illegal immigration – and that is the entire story.

Most of the current illegal immigrant surge consists of adults, and adults with minor children. ‘The Law’ does NOT demand that they be given asylum – that is entirely at Obama’s discretion.

And for those few unaccompanied illegal immigrant minors – no, Obama is not forced to let them in because of ‘the law’. He’s doing it because his cheap-labor patrons want it. He could stop it tomorrow if he cared, ‘the law’ be damned.

Wasn’t it a Nazi jurist who said ‘he is sovereign who makes the exceptions’? Obama can do any damn thing that he wants. He could just deny that anyone without papers is really a minor. He could have the military put up a fence, and just refuse to let anyone pass. He could claim national security and throw them all back , and classify the whole thing which means that no lawsuits could be filed because nobody could legally prove that anything had happened. He could cut off aid to Mexico until they stopped letting central Americans have free passage – and confiscate the bank accounts of senior Mexican government officials etc. – and stop letting Mexicans come to the USA without passports. And if the illegals filed lawsuits, well, Obama could just ignore them , delay them, claim national security, drag it out, etc.

And if in the final analysis stopping the border flood really required new laws, AND THE RICH WANTED THIS, we would have new laws in about two weeks. Remember how quickly congress passed a multi-trillion dollar bank bailout? So no, Mr., Pournelle, Obama is not refusing to enforce the laws against illegal immigration because of the law (but isn’t that a contradiction?). He’s doing it because he’s been paid to.

It’s like Joseph Heller’s catch22B – Obama can do anything that you can’t stop him from doing. He could machine-gun children at the border and Congress can’t stop him – unless they impeach him, and if the rich like what he’s doing, that’s not going to happen. Period.

I did not say that. I said that there is a law requiring a hearing before we can deport children originating in non-contiguous countries; it may not be a wisely chosen law, but it is the law.

I have been a vocal proponent of building better fences since 1980. I note that money was appropriated to build fences, but it has not all been spent. The President has said that fences don’t stop people, but I note that he has them around the White House.

‘Government data show that since 2000 all of the net gain in the number of working-age (16 to 65) people holding a job has gone to immigrants (legal and illegal). . .

. . . the long-term decline in the employment for natives across age and education levels is a clear indication that there is no general labor shortage, which is a primary justification for the large increases in immigration (skilled and unskilled) in the Schumer-Rubio bill and similar House proposals . . . ‘



Roland Dobbins

The economy is still in a Depression although we don’t admit that. Unemployment is enormous, since so many have abandoned all hope of finding a job. About half the citizens no longer pay any income tax. This is not economic recovery.

A simple economic recovery could be had at any time: simply double the exemption numbers in the existing laws. It could be done in hours. That is, for any business exempt from various regulation because it has 10 or fewer employees, that number is now 20; for those exempt from various laws and regulations because they have under 50, the exemption number is now 100. And so forth. This for a period of at least ten years. The effect on the economy would be instant and highly desirable.

Of course no one seems to be considering that move.


Separatists and missiles


I would point out that A), the separatists have captured a LOT of Ukrainian materiel and ordnance, and B), they’ve already been shooting down aircraft with it.

Dunno if they have anything with 33,000 feet of reach, but remember that the Russkis had 60,000-foot reach in 1960 (when they shot down Powers’

U-2 and one of their own pilots who was trying to shadow Powers). I wouldn’t be surprised if Ukraine had (and lost) systems that can down jetliners.

Pix of the crash site show that the plane was relatively intact and in a steep but NOT VERTICAL descent when it hit the ground, which is consistent with damage caused by hits from fragments of what was almost a near-miss, pointing to the possibility of missiles launched by semi-skilled operators. Control systems or surfaces don’t take much damage before being rendered ineffective.

I have no explanation for a lack of distress calls from the plane. It would have taken as long as a couple of minutes to go from cruise altitude to the ground, more than long enough to have let someone know there was a problem.


Gary Powers died believing he was shot down, but Possony and I concluded long ago that he was downed by a bomb planted in his U2 in Pakistan. The Soviets had no surface to air missile capable of reaching that altitude anywhere near the site of the supposed interception, and it is doubtful that they had anything capable of that at all.


Could the Soviet Union have won the cold war?

Interesting speculative piece. But missed the main event.

Yes – if Lenin had lived. Lenin started out an orthodox communist – but when he saw that it wasn’t’ working, he was flexible and adapted to a "New Economic Policy" (NEP), which was a lot like modern China.

As Churchill said, the greatest tragedy of Russia was that Lenin had been born, the second greatest was that he died when he did. That let Stalin take over, and not just kill all the smart Soviets, but also cancel the NEP and move back to the dead hand of completely centralized economic planning.

If Lenin had lived ten more years and been healthy? One never knows…


Americans Too Stupid for GMO Labels


I am very torn on this one. I, too, believe in truth in advertising and hold it to be an important job for the government to unsure complete and accurate advertising of any product or service. Fraud cannot be tolerated in any marketplace and this is one area of market regulation that I am troubled by only when it fails.

All of that said, the GMO issue in the market place has to rest right along side the vaccines-cause-autism issue. GMO crops must pass strict safety testing and even the European Union has decided that it cannot exclude GMO products from its markets on a safety basis, despite trying hard to find anything possible dangerous about them (Are GM crops safe for human and animal health and the environment? ( Given that this is the case, labeling a product as GMO does feed into the hands of the fear mongers, and the fear mongers have killed more than enough people with the false vaccine scare. Dr. Andrew Wakefield deserves an uncomfortable place in the eighth circle of Hell for his hand in this (from January 5, 2011: Retracted autism study an ‘elaborate fraud,’ British journal finds (

Required labeling should address issues that are known to widely impact health, such as sugar, caffeine, and trans-fat levels. Adding pesticide residuals and antibiotic residuals may be warranted, but the jury is still out on these. It should not warn of things that are not issues.

It wouldn’t hurt if people knew who they could trust, but that has been thrown away by nearly every group; actually sold, not thrown away. Ah well.

Child Migration & The Rule of Law


You wrote on the child migration issue: "But the law at the moment says they are entitled to a hearing, and it is not likely the President would sign a Bill removing that restriction even if the Senate would allow it to come to a vote." We have a President with little respect for the rule of law. When this crisis he has created does not get him what he wants and begins to turn into an embarrassment to his Administration, I suspect he will ‘reinterpret’ the law to mean that it does not apply to minors. They will then be on the planes and gone.


The Peer Review Scandal, Part II


You are right, that as written, it does not look so ‘quick and easy.’ However, if you consider that this attitude adjustment can be enforced by policy changes in a few key places — the funding agencies and the major journals, it becomes a whole lot easier and quicker to carry out.

As for the voodoo sciences and the subpar science, I believe that most of that would go away automatically as the need to fund replication along with the original research would help ensure that the funding was more carefully placed. We do have to be very cautious, though, as the craziest ideas sometimes turn out to be the most important, like quantum physics. Ninety years ago when it was born, it had no use at all. Now it keeps about a third of the world economy running.


EE, and is the new colossus old now?,

Dr. Pournelle,

Heartily agree with your advice to your young neighbor on pursuing electrical engineering, and with the advice on statistics offered subsequently from a reader. In addition to selecting a good school, which you also mentioned, I would also encourage him to seek working internships early and as often as is practical. Various relatives and acquaintances who have completed degree programs are finding it difficult to get a position without practical experience, and few universities seem to require the apprenticeship work for an engineering degree any more. Those who do get internship work seem to be easy to place in a good job after graduation.

At one time, I would have recommended one of the military academies, which once would have provided both education and practice, with employment guaranteed. I’m sure that is not the right option for everyone.

On immigration and the illegal minors now being held near me, I am a little confused on my own position. I was canalized by my teachers to _believe_ in the principles voiced in the Emma Lazarus poem:

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame, With conquering limbs astride from land to land; Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.

"Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.

Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

However, I see this flood of minor illegals as a Dickensian attack designed to overwhelm the resources dedicated to stop it, apparently successfully. Certainly any nation must be able to guard its borders, but I truly believe that these people represent a great resource that shouldn’t be discarded off hand. Definitely a dilemma that I’ve no idea how to resolve.


We can’t educate our own children; how can we educate those who come without parents? Of course we could, in the sense of having the military do it – think of them as apprentice Legionnaires – but we are not likely to do that either.


Net Neutrality and the Sherman Anti-Trust Act

I thought your comments on "This Week in Tech 463: All the Pretty Things" was perfect. I’m sure this is a more complicated issue than I realize, but I think you’re right. More U.S. citizens need to realize that this is more likely an FTC than an FCC one.




Robert Heinlein


This will be familiar to many of your readers but it bears repeating.


“A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, con a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.”

John Edwards




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




Mailbag: Iraq, race and racism, soccer rules, and voodoo sciences

Mail 830 Friday June 27, 2014


TWIT 463

Hi Jerry,

As I was listening to the show I couldn’t help but notice you sounded much better than last year: clear voice, faster speech and better precision. You sound like you lost 20 years! Well done, I am glad the effect of all those rads seems to have faded, and I always appreciate your ability to see the big picture, conciseness and objectivity in debates and opinions.

Best regards,

Francis Gingras

Longtime reader

Well, thank you. I feel better also.


View on Iraq

I think I told you about the Bechtel manager I met at an RV park up the coast. He and some undercover SOCOM types were in Iraq before the invasion. They were spotting bridges to be hit by our planes. They expected enough precision that only part of the bridge would be taken out. They were building replacement parts in Kuwait so that after the invasion the infrastructure could be rapidly re-built. He was in the palace with commanding general when Bremer came in like a bull in a china shop. He fired the general, tossed the plans to use the Iraq army, and generally pissed everyone off. It’s ironic to me that if we were more like the Iraqis, someone would have shot Bremer in the head and the report would have gone back to HQ that Bremer had an unfortunate accident or some such and that they would have to send someone else.

Phil Tharp

It is probably as well that the Legions had not learned, but they are not stupid.

You talk o’ better food for us, an’ schools, an’ fires, an’ all:

We’ll wait for extry rations if you treat us rational.

Don’t mess about the cook-room slops, but prove it to our face

The Widow’s Uniform is not the soldier-man’s disgrace.

For it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ "Chuck him out, the brute!"

But it’s "Saviour of ‘is country" when the guns begin to shoot;

An’ it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ anything you please;

An’ Tommy ain’t a bloomin’ fool — you bet that Tommy sees!

                        Rudyard Kipling


The Voodoo Sciences


All sciences mature through a series of phases, first is identification, then classification, followed by experimentation. You have to know what is out there (e.g. find all the different rocks, stars, plants, elements, and so on), then develop an understanding of relationships among what’s out there (e.g. these rocks all look alike and these other rocks all look like each other, but the two groups are different…), and finally begin to develop testable hypotheses about what made each classification what it is and made them differ from each other.

Each step is necessary and will happen at different rates for different areas of investigation based upon the breadth of things to catalog, the complexities of measuring them for classification, and the difficulty of developing experiments that can be carried out. Biology has only recently entered the stage of experimentation.

The social "sciences", on the other hand, are still firmly rooted in the identification and early classification stages. Additionally, most of the participants in the social "sciences" have waved off the need to move to experimentation and are willing to posit "theories" that they will happily hold as untestable. It is at that point that the social "sciences" stepped off the scientific maturation process and became "sciences" only in quotes.

The sad thing is that psychology and sociology may finally have the tools needed to carry out meaningful experiments in human cognitive response. Brain imaging, electronic monitoring, and non-destructive interference with brain function through trans-cranial magnetic induction (TMI) are beginning to provide the needed observation and objective measurement methods needed for experimentation.

Kevin L Keegan


You wrote on June 23, 2014

"But the result is cynicism about all science. The American people are not well educated and as time goes on that condition will only get worse."

Cynicism about science is not confined to the lesser educated.

Cynicism about science exists with good reason among our most highly educated people.

In previous posts I mentioned conflicts of interest influencing the claims of those designated as scientists.

The corruption of peer review was documented at

Outright fabrication of results in promoting an agenda was discussed at

At times, in fact almost daily, articles in the peer-reviewed scientific literature are retracted as a result of fraud by scientists.

A 2005 article in PLOS Medicine concludes that most published research findings are false.

I am reminded that science was invented by and nurtured in the Roman

Catholic church in Medieval times by individuals motivated by the

idea that studying nature could provide insights into the mind of the

loving God who had created a universe of order and reason.

For popular, readable expositions of this fact, see Rodney Stark’s

"The Victory of Reason" and "For the Glory of God."

Of course, once the methods of science were invented and shown to

work, it was not necessary for practitioners to believe in a holy,

righteous, and reasonable God. The techniques were now available to all.

However, technique without a transcendent foundation transforms the

practice of science from a search for truth to a quest for power over

others in the service of some social or political agenda. Scientific

integrity must be optional. See, for instance, C. S. Lewis’s "That

Hideous Strength" for a novelization of the concept.

Those interested in the implications of basing societal norms on the

shifting foundation of human will might also be interested in Arthur

Leff’s "Unspeakable Ethics, Unnatural Law". (Duke Law Journal, vol.

1979, no. 6, pp. 1229-1249, December 1979)

Today when it comes to the practice of science under the new

Lysenkoism we might paraphrase John Adams:

Science was made for a moral and religious people. It is wholly

inadequate to the life of any other.

Best regards,

–Harry M.


Race vs racism

Hello Jerry,

"Race Has a Biological Basis. Racism Does Not”

Mr. Wade puts his toe into the ‘anti-political correctness’ pool, but just can’t make himself dive in.

I think it is Fred who has pointed out, many times, the fact that there are NO examples of societies in which races are represented in roughly equal percentages in which they co-exist peaceably, without ‘racism’.

There are countless examples of societies in which there are multiple races, with one dominant and small percentages of another race or other races where everyone gets along relatively well, but as the percentages begin to equalize, racism inevitably happens. I don’t know the percentages, and it undoubtedly varies from case to case, but my guess would be somewhere between 10 and 20%.

The phenomenon is not confined to race, either. It works with religion, too. Muslims, for example, get along just fine with other religions—until they reach somewhere between 10-20 percent. Then they start killing their way into power. Catholics and protestants: see Ireland. Ad infinitum.

All this would indicate to me that racism (or maybe ‘groupism’), as well as race, is as much biological as race itself. It is ubiquitous, and it is not, as the progressives would have us believe, confined to red-neck white conservative Christians. I could easily be wrong, but there is a good deal of evidence that I am not.

Bob Ludwick


Dr Pournelle

Once upon a time, I was a pro soccer referee. While I have no direct experience myself reffing a World Cup match, I know several who did have such experience.

FIFA <> run the World Cup referee assignment committee. Brazil does not provide all the referees to all the games. In international matches — and all the World Cup matches are international matches — the referees must be impartial. In practice that means the referees may not come from either country competing in the match.

For the USA-Portugal match, the best info I have is that the center referee was Nestor Pitana, an Argentine. Because Argentina is a Spanish-speaking country, I suppose Sr Pitana speaks Spanish. He may also speak Portuguese as well. I don’t know. If he does, then likely he speaks a dialect of Brazilian Portuguese. I know from personal experience that there are many dialects of Portuguese in Brazil. Continental Portuguese is different. To my ear, it sounds more like Castilian Spanish than any of the Brazilian dialects.

I do not know, but based on the fact that Sr Pitana is a high-rated and highly-respected international referee, I would wager a large sum that he speaks English.

The idea that an Argentine referee prefers Portugal to the USA is possible, but I find it not probable. I think Sr Pitana prefers his own reputation as an impartial international referee. I also found his concern for the players’ health to be commendable: He was the first World Cup referee to call a hydration break.

I watched the match, and I saw nothing that would indicate that Sr Pitana favored Portugal.

As for the added time, many of the matches — too many, in my view — have had 5 minutes added at the end of regulation. Not only USA-Portugal but many others. Perhaps this is due to the heat in Brazil and the injuries that result from it. I don’t know. I do know that I have become aware of the long added times.

Live long and prosper

h lynn keith


Dr Pournelle

At this World Cup, the scores are up and the number of ties is down. Why? The ball <> .

image <>

How the Brazuca may be changing soccer at this World Cup <>

The number and quality of goals in this year’s World Cup is remarkable bordering on incredible, and there have been plenty of theories as to why. The simplest may b…

View on <>

Preview by Yahoo

Live long and prosper

h lynn keith

Who is to blame for Portugal’s late goal?

Dr Pournelle

If you must blame someone for Portugal’s late goal (90′+5′) <> , blame Michael Bradley <> . Bradley mishandled a trap in the last minute and tried to salvage his error and take the ball upfield. He lost the ball to Eder <> . Eder passed to Ronaldo <> . Ronaldo crossed to Varela <> for the header to tie.

Bradley showed signs of fatigue. I do not excuse his errors for fatigue. He muffed the trap, and his ego led him to try to salvage his error. Swallow your ego. Win the game.

The correct play for Bradley was to clear the ball out of bounds. Had he done that, the seconds would have ticked away and the final would have been USA 2 – 1 Portugal.

Were ifs and buts candy and nuts, what a merry Christmas we would have.

Live long and prosper

h lynn keith

PS Based solely on the facts that the USMNT manager (a position most Americans call ‘coach’) Jurgen Klinsmann <> played for the 1990 World-Cup-winning West German national team and was once the German national team manager, I believe that in the final match in Group G Germany and USA will tie.

Three letters that sum up more than I know about soccer, referees, and rules. Thanks.


Racism and Sports


Please be careful with statements like "Anyone watching a basketball game will understand that races exist and skill sets relevant to basketball are not distributed equally among the races; and that’s hardly cultural." If we look at the demographics of basketball we find that in 1949 there were no African-Americans playing professional basketball, but by 2005, 76% of the players were African-American. A striking evolutionary gain! What is even more puzzling about these gains in basketball is that Division 1 college basketball only had a 63% African-American demographic compared to 33% white in 2005. Those evolutionary traits must not kick in until after college. Similarly in baseball, we can conclude that non-white races had not evolved any talent for the sport before 1946. But by 2012, some 7.2% of the players were African-American and 26.9% were Hispanic — a tremendous evolutionary gain in under a century!

My point is that economic opportunities are meted out on the basis of racial bias — racism — not on the basis of evolutionary abilities. Economics IS cultural and how we run our economy is culturally biased.

Kevin L Keegan

Prior to Jackie Robinson there were no Blacks playing professional baseball. There are many now. What has that to do with the ability to play? You have made no point I can recognize.


The Bugs in Darwin


You said, "official position that heredity is unimportant compared to culture"; which is true for a few things such as race, but by and large most things are now taught as a product of heredity – alcoholism, drug addictions, promiscuity, homosexuality, etc. – rather than a product of heredity and culture. While most of these things may have some basis in our genetic makeup – being more inclined to alcoholism because of a particular body chemistry does make sense – it doesn’t excuse the personal choice to indulge in the first place, especially if your parents and grandparents were alcoholics. The sad part is, we are now using these genetic excuses for why it is acceptable to be an alcoholic, a drug addict, cheating on your spouse, etc. When everything can be blamed on our genes how can we be held accountable for the choices we make?

Braxton S. Cook

I may have a defect of understanding, but I am not sure I follow your argument.

I have said and I think it is easy to demonstrate that the official “scientific” position in the voodoo sciences deliberately ignores easily repeatable observations. The usual Darwinian evolution comes to a halt when civilization makes it easy for the “less fit” to survive to have children. Of course that leads to the question of what do we mean by fit and less fit? The Spartans had their views on the subject, and all children born to Spartan Equals were inspected by the Ephors to determine whether they were to be permitted to live; this defined ‘fitness’ in one way, discernible by adult males examining infants of both sexes. Some of the founders of the Eugenics movements thought that the ‘unfit’ certainly included the mentally retarded, and advocated compulsory sterilization. (“Three generations of morons is enough.”) Various racists have defined various other races as manifestly ‘unfit’ to breed and bear children.

None of this has much to do with science, but fear of what science might discover dictates certain axioms of the voodoo sciences that must not be questioned. That mean in effect that it is no longer science.

As I long ago concluded, there are levels of rationality. Novelists are story tellers; we are required only to be plausible. Politicians fit into the category. They seek plausibility and persuasiveness, but they seek not truth.

Advocates are required to present all the evidence favorable to their case or their clients case, but are under no obligation to present evidence unfavorable to their arguments.

Scientists have the obligation to come up with falsifiable propositions, and to present and explain or admit inability to explain all the evidence of the truth or falsity of their propositions. All the evidence. The voodoo sciences openly suppress any evidence that might falsity their well mean axioms about equality and the irrelevance (or even non-existence) of race; and denounce as racists any who present any evidence for the existence of races of man, or of different trait distributions among those races. This can be ludicrous when it comes to athletic prowess, and it is quietly agreed that we can allow that certain races are more likely to produce athletes best at certain sports – but never say that aloud. After all, white men can jump…

There are undoubtedly some syndromes of effects. Alcohol tolerance is not equally distributed among humans nor among the races of humans; neither is resistance to fetal alcohol damage. We are beginning to understand some of those combinatory factors. And it has always been hoped that something like Head Start will erase intellectual differences among the races wherever it is applied. Everyone eagerly searches for evidence that it has worked. It seems extraordinarily difficult to find.

The climate sciences apparently are moving in the same direction, so that the Roman and Viking Warm periods known to us from history tend to vanish when climate models are constructed. There are similar tendencies in other sciences, so that supposed scientists become advocates, and often are required to be by custom if not by law.

And so it goes.


"spy" glasses

Despite the rhetoric and fear mongering (check the comments!), this is less a ‘spy’ tool and more akin the ‘heads-up’ display for fighter pilots. This will be tremendously useful to Marines on the ground (if portable power and uninterrupted connectivity can be assured).



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






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




Incompetent Empire; Politicizing IRS; freedom and religion; high frequency trading; and other matters of interest and importance.

Mail 829 Saturday, June 21, 2014


SUBJ: An amusing experimental cartoon

Science in the age of _USA Today_ and _People_ magazine.



I have bookmarked that site. Thank you.



You wrote:

"I do not believe anyone can put Iraq back together again. Saddam did so for a while, and we had an opportunity to continue that policy without its brutality (and without Saddam’s sons acting like the sons of Septimius Severus). It was possible to continue Western rule of Iraq through the tried and proven practices of client rulers. Saddam’s generals had control of the army; the army knew it could not defeat the United States, but it could control the populace; the elements of client rulers were in place. Were, until Bremer disbanded the armies that could control the population."

Jerry, I would submit that the US had employed the old imperial system of maintaining a network of client rulers in the Middle East for half a century. The first Persian Gulf War was essentially an example of the legions having to discipline a client ruler that had rebelled. Unfortunately; the first gulf war provoked extreme animosity which escalated to the 9-11 attacks. The fact that the hijackers were Saudi Arabian or Kuwaiti citizens rather than Iraqis only confirmed how dangerous the old imperial system was becoming. The near nuclear effects of the weaponized airliners that were used in those attacks combined with the prospect that Middle East client states would obtain nuclear weapons (Pakistan already had nuclear weapons and we later learned was marketing nuclear technology) inspired Bush to seek an alternative strategy. The idea of spreading democracy at the point of a bayonet was essentially liberal ideology dating back to the time of Woodrow Wilson or perhaps it dates back to Napoleon or ancient Athens. However; the only real alternatives were either a campaign of extermination against Muslims or surrender to Islam. Your preferred policy of energy independence is of course only common sense but when combined with isolationism it only delays the decision to either surrender or kill hundreds of millions of people.

I myself now favor a combination of energy independence and extreme isolationism. Thanks to President Obama’s eagerness to not only discredit Bush by abandoning Iraq (Iraq was stable after Bush’s surge) but alienate the Pakistanis whom Bush had persuaded to liberalize their economy, and promote the Arab Spring which was essentially a policy of surrendering the entire Muslim world to jihadists, the world has become far to dangerous for any policy except isolationism. Our European allies have been compelled by their demographic implosion to pursue a policy of appeasement that will lead to their surrender to the Caliphate. Obama has surrendered Africa to the tender mercies of the jihadists. I am clinging to the forlorn hope that observing the brutalities that the Muslims will inflict on native Europeans might inspire a renascence of faith and militaristic patriotism in the US that will be needed to wage a genocidal war against Islam. Vladimir Putin’s seizure of Crimea and the resurgent birth rates that he has inspired are obviously an effort to strengthen Russia in the hopes of surviving the coming storm. Although Russia’s prospects for survival are dubious, Russia rather than Europe should be our ally. China and India, as well as perhaps Japan if they can avoid demographic oblivion, are also our natural allies. Australia, New Zealand and Canada as well as Latin America are irrelevant because they are surrendering to Islam and the demographic implosion.

In the final analysis the US will need to heed the wisdom of Captain Roderick Blaine.

"Conquest is expensive. Extermination is cheap."

James Crawford

I cannot agree that we were practicing anything like competent imperialism at any time in the Middle East. The first Bush War was needless, and would not have happened had there been competent agents in Baghdad to tell Saddam Hussein that Kuwait was off limits at that time: not that we disputed his claim to Kuwait, but we simply could not allow a Baathist regime that close to Saudi Arabia and the other Arab sheikdoms. Why Bus I did not make that clear is not known to me: he had after all been Director of the CIA and had plenty of experience in those matters. Why he relied on April Glaspie, a career Foreign Service Officer, to deliver a message that had to come from the President is not at all clear to me. She should have made it clear that Kuwait was off limits at the time, and that taking Kuwait would be a very serious step. She did not.

For whatever reason, allowing relations with Saddam to get to the point of our having to send in the troops is inexcusable incompetence.

The Second invasion of Iraq was an example of military competence, but then we sent in Bremer, a career Foreign Service Officer, to be proconsul, with utterly disastrous results. Without the Baathist regime and army Iraq could not be governed and anyone with any sense would have known that; but Bremer disbanded the army and the Baathist ruling structure, and the result was both predictable and predicted.

I cannot agree that Iraq was stable at any time after Bremer did that. The US cannot directly rule Iraq, and the surge was needed just to keep enough order to make it easy to get out. We never did rebuild any kind of stability into Iraq, nor could we given that there is no such place as Iraq. We did well with the Kurds, and had the troops been given the proper orders we could have built Shiite and Sunni regimes, all dependent on us for their existence; but we did not do that either. Imperial rule is a long term affair and the American people are not very good at it. The Philippine experience showed that well. We do not really want to train our military to rule without the consent of the governed; there are few places worth the long term costs of doing that.

Afghanistan is another example: We could have gone in, thrown out the Taliban, accepted the thanks of the Afghans, and got out quickly, leaving behind the memory: if you harbor our enemies we are coming, and you will not like the experience. Keep out enemies out of your country.

Conquest is expensive. Extermination is cheap; but not for the United States. An as imperial policy it may be needed; but it is not necessary. The United States has not the stamina or desire for a long term policy of competent empire; and we cannot afford to continue to try incompetent empire.


I read, and agreed, with COL Couvillon’s letter. I wanted to add something to this line:


That leaves Jordan vulnerable, which in turn threatens Israel.


A recent article from the Guardian caught my attention; it quotes other sources, including the Associated Press:


A fighter using a loudspeaker urged the people to join the militant group "to liberate Baghdad and Jerusalem." The Islamic State’s black banners adorned many of the captured vehicles. Some in the crowd shouted "God is with you" to the fighters.


Not only would Israel be vulnerable in the scenario the colonel outlined, it seems ISIS has every intention of attacking Israel. I suspect the promise of attacking Israel would motivate many disenfranchised young men from several nations in the region to sign up and so we could argue this is only a talking point.

But, I do not think it is a stretch of the imagination to say that we’re — likely — not dealing with rational actors. So, let’s say it’s only talking point to recruit people and they have no intention of attacking Israel. What happens when the chips are down? Could they go for it as one last hoorah? Also, let’s consider that ISIS now, allegedly, has access to chemical weapons. Even if ISIS cannot, militarily, attack and "liberate" Israel they might commit atrocities.

Most Respectfully,

Joshua Jordan, KSC

Percussa Resurgo



Will: ‘Serious as are the policy disagreements roiling Washington, none is as important as the structural distortion threatening constitutional equilibrium.’


I’m unsure about the wisdom of the lawsuit Will proposes. It seems to me that the Constitution already provides a mechanism for dealing with a rogue President – impeachment – and that trying to utilize the judiciary in the way Will suggests will only lead to further problems down the road.


Roland Dobbins


Lerner Emails 2 + 2


A classic way of finding "lost" emails is in the archives at the other end. The question of the year of course is, were Lois Lerner and the gang of six coordinating with the White House.

I saw a clip of Jay Carney the other day, very smugly asserting that the White House had found no Lerner emails on their end.

Then I just now saw that the White House was made aware six weeks before the Congress that the IRS had definitively lost all its copies of a critical two years’ worth of Lerner+6 emails.

And 2 + 2 added up.

There’s probably not much point in looking at White House (or DOJ) archives for Lerner+6 emails now; they’ve had six weeks to scrub.

But looking for traces of the scrub might prove fruitful. Can’t get them for the crime? Then go after the cover-up. This one, possibly done in some haste, may have left tracks if someone skilled enough gets in and looks, hard, soon.

There may also be tracks on the IRS end, if only circumstantial, in the timing and disposition of the Lerner+6 "disk crashes".

I have trouble remaining calm in the face of the evidence in this matter. Politicizing the IRS is a nuclear weapon. It should never have been used. Now that it has been, the world of US politics has changed.


Dear Dr. Pournelle,

Why "modus vivendum"?

I thought vivendum would be in the genitive: vivendi That’s what I remember Miss Benson teaching me, but that was back in ’53 so I may be a bit foggy.


Latin[edit <> ]

Participle[edit <> ]


1. nominative neuter singular of vīvendus <>

2. accusative masculine singular of vīvendus <>

3. accusative neuter singular of vīvendus <>

4. vocative neuter singular of vīvendus <>

On another note:

re "…but it’s not for sissies…"

My mother used to say, "I now know why they call ‘em ‘The Golden Years’; you need a lotta gold to get through ‘em."

Gary D. Gross, DDS

I have not seriously read Latin since high school, and I was in error. It should have been Vivendi.


Cruz calls on conservatives to defend religious freedom — at home and abroad <>

image <>

Cruz calls on conservatives to defend religious freedom … <>

Two of the Republican Party’s rising stars opened the Faith & Freedom Coalition’s annual conference in Washington, D.C., on Thursday by calling on social …

View on <>

It will require a great deal more time and length than I have tonight to comment properly. The United States has always had a common religious base, which for lack of a better term we can call Judeo-Christian principles, the most important of which is submission to a higher power, generally summarized in the Ten Commandments. Without some such agreement our laws can be based only on practical applications as if we understood what we are doing.

Religious freedom does not mean freedom from restraints on actions and behaviors, and even thoughts and lusts. Utterly libertine societies have seldom lasted.


Now, convert light into matter


Thunderstorms do indeed create matter from gamma rays. This was discovered about three years ago. What is special about the experiment described is that we now have a way of accomplishing the feat in a controlled environment. If we can raise the coupling of the gamma rays with the EM field, we can raise the efficiency of the process, creating more matter. If we can raise the energy of the gamma rays, we can create proton-antiproton pairs. If we can capture the positrons and antiprotons, which should not be difficult, and slow them down (which we have already done), we can produce anti-hydrogen.

If we can use the Sun to directly supply the energy and source matter stream for the production of the gamma rays and the creation of the high density EM field, we suddenly have a worthwhile anti-matter production facility. This has direct implications for space exploration.

Kevin L. Keegan

That is pretty much how I see it, but I am not really familiar with the operational requirements.


“This is not a Federal issue, yet the legal reasoning rests upon the specious ‘disparate impact’ penumbra of the (unconstitutional, in my view) ‘equal protection’ clause of the (again, unconstitutional, in my view) Fourteenth Amendment.”

Did we just agree that the constitution is unconstitutional? If so, what underlying principle validates the various parts of the constitution?


What I have agreed to is that we ought not seek fresh new rights based on emanations and penumbras. The law ought to have a consistent base.


Does the United States even have a democracy anymore?

Use of photo IDs as a condition of voting is being resisted tooth and toenail by some members of the political class – successfully in many instances. If memory serves, one member of that group bragged that she had voted several times during the 2012 election.

A significant and growing percentage of the voting in the United States is now done using electronic voting machines which don’t even pretend to leave a paper trail.

The increasing sprawl of the voting period from a single day to a period of weeks also increases opportunities for manipulation.

Stalin, I believe it was, said it didn’t matter who voted. What mattered was who counted the ballots.

I would like to see the nation return to physical boxes and paper ballots, with the boxes chained together and to a masonry wall or floor in each polling place, enough polling places to handle the crowds, a single day for voting, and long lasting purple thumb die. Ideally the voting day would be a national holiday as well. Photo IDs showing eligibility to vote would be a necessity.

Those steps might not totally eliminate cheating, but would make it more challenging.

If the integrity of the voting process – eligibility to positive identification to single vote assurance to removal of electronic cheating possibilities – cannot be assured, the United States is an autocracy rather than a democracy or a republic.

Charles Brumbelow

Were it left to me I would try to limit the scope and jurisdiction of laws, so that it takes a different machine in each county; we will not escape political machinations but we can make them much more difficult.

But in the old days the political machines delivered: they filled the pot holes and distributed the sacks of coal. Not they do not. Not they flaunt the spoils which they get by becoming the ruling class.


aging gracefully


Just some idle musings.

I am only 64 (that’s just 40 in HEX!!!! ).

But I can relate your experiences in such matters. I worked at university Chemistry Dept. (retired now) and was perpetually surrounded by 20 year olds. I should have felt young, but for some reason they (the students) stayed perpetually 20 year olds,and I just got older.

While most things still work, some (physical condition & bodily functions) are not what they used to be when I was 20 something.

I shudder to think of the historical cultural Inuit version of ObamaCare. When you got too old to keep up or contribute, you got left behind on an ice floe as the nomadic group moved on.

Are we old fogies, curmudgeons, and luddites just excess baggage in our current society now? Think of limited health care resources, and rationed benefits.

In times past, age & wisdom were thought culturally to be related, probably because not many lived to old age.

C’est la vie


High Frequency trading

I’ve just finished the book Flash Boys by Michael Lewis, which goes into the high-frequency trading issue in some depth, and the founding of IEX, (which as I recall got a 60 Minutes item a few months back), as a potential remedy.

The problem is that the brokers are basically front-running orders by virtue of algorithmic trading and fast/short links into the exchanges’ datacenters, which artificially manipulates the stock price. The protagonist of the book, Brad Katsuyama, ends up creating a new exchange with a deliberate propagation delay wired into the process to try and avoid the larger houses’ shenanigans. They literally have 38 miles of optical fiber rolled onto spools in front of the trading engine ( to force a 700 us delay into the process which apparently is enough to foul up the HFT computers. The new exchange is now trading roughly 60 million shares daily at this point.

Bob Halloran

There have to be technological solutions, but I do not know which ones are best. And it does not seem to be in the interest of anyone important to find them.


APOD: 2014 June 17 – V838 Light Echo: The Movie


Don’t miss the light echo:

Video of an expanding supernova.




AI could become a real danger…

Stephen Hawking: AI could be a ‘real danger’ – CNET

So… Would that be more properly attributed to random evolution or intelligent design?

Charles Brumbelow

All of which boils down to , “Do you believe in ‘strong’ or ‘weak’ AI, as Penrose and Hawking once debated.

I certainly do not want to build self-replicating robots capable of Lamarckian evolution…


I read this article and decided Nazi officials and Hitler’s own cognitive bias are probably the only reason D-Day went the way it did.

It seems we won by a thread:

“Of the many messages we received,” said Adolf Hitler on June 6th, “there was one that predicted precisely the landing site, with precise day and time. It was this that made me sure it couldn’t be the actual invasion.”

It is certainly an interesting story.


Retaliation for dead soldiers

Dear Jerry:

The killing of prisoner of war has always had a simple solution. Retaliation. During our Civil War Col. Sir Percy Wyndham hung two of Col. John Mosby’s men for being irregulars without uniforms, calling them bandits. Mosby hung six of his and that was the end of that. Brutal, direct and in the current context, most appropriate.


Francis Hamit


"We’re going to thoroughly vet the public’s opinion on the use of the aerial surveillance platforms."



Roland Dobbins

Luck is the residue of opportunity and design.

– John Milton


On Iraq

You wrote:


It’s hard to say what policy the US should have now. Since this civil war was predictable and predicted, one hopes that President Obama (or VP Biden) have been thinking about this and have a policy ready to implement.

I have seen no evidence that this is more than a hope.

And now we wait and see. Al-Qaida will kill Shiites. The Iranian Revolutionary Guard will kill Sunni. The Kurds will consolidate and continue their policy of tolerance. At least the Kurds are better off than they were under Saddam.


Perhaps, doing nothing and letting them kill one another is the policy. Shakespeare flows in iambic pentameter; every so often || we see a caesura. After all, wasn’t it American policy makers of the period who armed Iran and Iraq, fostering the more than seven years war between them?

It’s possible, but as you say, it seems more like a hope — perhaps a desperate one — that someone has a cool hand and a competent mind at the till.

I’ll share what I think is possible and I doubt it will surprise anyone we communicate with or rouse any serious disagreements. The Kurds will almost certainly get stronger; Turkey will not like that and it will add to the Turkish impetus to restore influence in the Middle East and North Africa. With Libya, Egypt, and other nations restructured and their respective situations normalized, a pan-Arab order seems most unlikely. Egypt was the keystone to that project; now Mubarak is gone and Sisi has more pressing matters to attend.

R.D. Kaplan would, likely, argue that Iranian influence would flow East if Turkey reasserts itself; where else could it flow? This Persian expansion would pressure Pakistan and throw cold water on ISI’s vision for a Greater Pakistan. It might force Sino-Pakistani cooperation, which could push India closer to Japan and, ultimately, the United States. This could also be a time to build the consensus in the Pacific, which is best done by allowing our allies to put in their own work for a while.

Matt, at, hypothesizes that China would pull back and consider a pre-emptive nuclear strike if conditions in the Pacific continue to escalate because of American policies. I believe that’s possible and we just saw four Russian bombers, capable of carrying nuclear cruise missiles with a range of 1,500 miles, fly within 50 miles of the California coast last week. We would do well to consider a Russian strike in our calculations as well. As an side, our nuclear force is passing through some interesting times as is England’s in 2014.

Another major problem, as you pointed out, is the late unpleasantness in Kosovo and the Russian perception of that campaign with all that entails. Securing Russian cooperation would seem better than not securing it; that basic argument would seem effective with almost anyone.

As Kaplan, MacKinder, and Spykman all argue, what happens in the heartland will have profound geopolitical consequences. Let’s hope it’s not amateur night on our side of the pond because the stakes are much higher than I believe most of the general public would suspect and I’m not sure that my vision goes much further than theirs. And the fallout of these events, likely, extends beyond any reasonable span of time where one would hazard an estimate of the future.

To use a billiards metaphor for the geopolitical context; someone racked the balls in the triangle and that noise we just heard is the balls breaking.

Most Respectfully,

Joshua Jordan, KSC

Percussa Resurgo

Who rules to the East controls the heartland. Who rules the heartland controls the world island. Who rules the world island controls the world.  Mackinder may not be much read any more, and technology is changing many principles, but it is still something to think about.



The Answer to Seattle’s Minimum Wage

Dr. Pournelle,

After a bit of a hiatus, I found your site again. It’s amazing what one will forget after parking a Subaru in his short term memory.

As you most likely know, Seattle has set the minimum wage within its confines to $15.00 an hour. One company has come up with a solution for fast food restaurants. An automated hamburger making machine.

I thought you’d enjoy the irony:

Exitus acta probat,

Douglas Knapp

Raise minimum wages enough and every job that can be automated will be automated, and many of those that cannot be automated simply will not be done. That includes the entry level jobs which are apprenticeships for developing work habits.

But then we all know that.



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




NSA and Industrial espionage; overclocking; BUFF and GLOM; computers and education; consensus; and many other interesting letters.

Mail 825 Friday, May 23, 2014


NSA and commercial espionage

They claim they don’t do it – I have my doubts.

The Chinese government does, and they’re not going to stop. Can we

live with a situation where the Chinese get to steal from Toyota and we can’t ? Obviously that’s not going to fly.

So the NSA will get into the business of industrial espionage, not so much because they’re incredibly talented, more because they have huge resources and get to break the law without fear of consequences..

Politics/contributions will dictate which corporations get access.

Of course no future Administration would ever use these powers for blackmail, because that would be wrong. On the other hand, the subjects for blackmail are getting pretty thin – at this point, only saying something politically incorrect could shame an American.

Gregory Cochran

And the political correctness smear is the worst of all. It is only necessary to accuse someone of the Thoughtcrime of racism – without regard to what they have done, and often paying no attention to what they have said, just what they have thought. And of course a joke told in a bar ten years ago can now haunt someone the rest of her life.

And the NSA becomes industrial espionage team as part of our national defense. Alas, what is the alternative? But it sounds like the Cold War all over again. With War grows government and bureaucracy.

Those not familiar with Dr. Cochrane might find this page interesting:

His views on overclocking the human brain are both original and compelling.


The BUFF gets new avionics

All glory to the BUFF!

Phil Tharp

My first job in the aerospace business was assignment to the Bomber Weapons Unit, Human Factors and Reliability Unit. Our immediate task was redesign of the control of the Electronic Counterweapons system, and completing the task of bringing the tail gunner in from his isolated past in the back of the airplane to the main cabin. That was in 1955, as the B-52 was going operational.

In the original design and the first operational models of the B-52, the tail gunner was in his own compartment in the back of the airplane. In order to bail out he had to in effect blow the back end out of the airplane, and the sequence then drive his chair on a rail out through the hole in the back of the plane. The rest of the ejection sequence was essentially the same as the regular ejection sequence, with the lap and shoulder belts opening, the airman falling away from the seat, and automatic opening of the parachute. Pilots were reluctant to order a bailout, because while it was theoretically possible to fly the plane in and land with the cabin ejection seats – navigates, bombardier, electronic countermeasures operator, and even the co-pilot – having been activated, control of the airplane was thought to be extremely difficult if the rear seat ejection happened. There hadn’t been much actual experience with this for obvious reasons. The general consensus among Stratofortress (B-52 was successor to the Boeing Flying Fortress, and the Boeing passenger airliner was the Stratoliner; the common service name for the B-52 was the BUFF, standing for Big Ugly Flat Fu****) was that the tail gunner station was a death trap, and he’d do better to ride it in cause he was never going to get out.

The tail gun was the only defensive firepower the Stratofortress had. It relied on other countermeasures for more sophisticated attacks, but those were not effective against the idiot attack – get on her tail, hang back there, and chew her up with guns. The Russians had a lot of day fighters in their inventory, and while they were no threat to the B-52 in high altitude night attacks, they would be against mid and low level daytime attacks. The tail gun was intended to stop the idiot attack by killing the idiot. (Later, long after I left the project, two different B-52 tail gunners brought down MiGs over North Viet Nam, the first tail gunners to kill an enemy aircraft since the Korean War.

It was decided to bring the tail gunner into the main cabin, where he sat in a rear facing seat with an electronic console and a video screen connected to a targeting camera in the rear of the aircraft. The ejection seat was essentially the same as that of the pilot and co-pilot and needed no redesign. Our job was to maximize the video control system. We also got to play with some alternate tail gun weapons. This was, after all, the Human Factors and Reliability Group. It was more an operations research job than one for an aviation psychologist.

I soon moved on from that assignment to testing space suits and human capabilities under high temperature conditions, but I grew rather fond of the BUFF. I’ll have to see if I can arrange to get in on a test flight of the new systems just to see what she looks like with colored flat careens rather than the old green bottle screens. I expect many of the instruments will change as well. By now the BUFF is very likely to be much older than any crewman who flies her, with the possible exception of some of the teach sergeant ECM operators. Tail gunners were generally expected to be promoted out of that assignment.

Another reason for moving the tail gunner inside was the decision to train SAC B-52 crews to do low altitude penetration missions as part of a SIOP – Single Integrated Operational Plan – that called for the first wave of BUFFs to go in low taking out any air defenses that locked in on them. The problem was that the BUFF wasn’t designed for high speed low altitude flight, and the tail would swing from side to side in an eleven foot arc. This was stressful to the airplane, but she could take that; the problem was that the tail gunner was useless at those altitude. He was so busy hanging on for dear life that he hadn’t the ability to observe and aim his guns.

Anyway, I’ll probably never see a color flat screen in a B-52 cockpit, but perhaps there will be pictures. She’s a great old bird, even if at her age she does tend to be a huge number of parts flying in loose formation. I wonder what version of Windows she’ll get.

I note in the article that it says that in Cold War days there was at least one B-52 armed and airborne at all times. I will leave it to your imagination as to what her mission was. There was also a KC-135 full of fuel to accompany her. There was also another airplane, an KC-135 without tanks but filled with electronics in the air. This was Looking Glass, which contained a USAF Lieutenant General or higher officer, and which did not land until its successor was safely off the ground and at altitude. Looking Glass was part of the command and control system; In the event that both National Command Center and SAC Command at Offutt AFB in Nebraska were out of communications with the SAC command network to the missile and flight bases, Looking Glass was in control of the strategic nuclear weapons and could order their launch. This was to prevent a decapitation attack: kill national command authority with a sneak attack, then launch a counterforce attack against missile and air bases with hundreds to thousands of ICBM’s, confident in the knowledge that the US could not order a retaliation before the counterforce attack removed our ability to retaliate. It all seems like bad dreams now, but that is the sort of thing that we worried about in those days, when B-52 Wings waited at numbered Air Force Bases with the crews sleeping out by the airplanes, and missile officers sat deep underground waiting for orders no one wanted to hear. The missile operators never got a launch command. The B-52’s did more than once. The Emergency War Orders would come in, and crews would rush to the airplanes, and the Wing would take of on its way to the rendezvous points where they would meet the KC-135 fuel planes – and would receive final orders to complete the mission. None ever got those final orders and the Failsafe plan was that without that final order, you turned around and went home. The novel Red Alert and the movie Dr. Strangelove, and other “Failsafe” movies had it the other way: unless the BUFFs got orders to turn back, they were to complete their missions. This was not the way it worked. Had it been we would have lost a number of airplanes, since the KC-135’s would pump everything they had into the BUFFS, saving fuel for five minutes of flight time before they were dead stick over the Arctic Ocean – over the North Pole, in some cases.

Fortunately it never got that far before the recall orders. Flying a KC-135 for SAC wasn’t as glamorous as being crew on a BUFF, but every man aboard knew that if this was the big one, they wouldn’t be coming home. The chances of getting down intact weren’t all that bad, and an empty tanker can float for a long time – but who was going to pick them up? Under those circumstances the submarines had their missions, and rescuing crews from downed tankers wasn’t as important as firing their own missions or intercepting Soviet missile subs…

I see I got carried away into a ramble.


"There’s a complete lack of motivation among many of my pupils – these gadgets are really destroying their ability to learn. They’re so used to the instant buzz which you can get with these games and gadgets that they find it really hard to focus on anything which isn’t exciting."

"We’re finding that, for many children, when they begin school, it’s the first time they’ve been told what they can’t do – as opposed to simply being left to do what they like."

"Their response is to really act up and to be aggressive – because they’re not used to any controls, and because these games have given them the idea that violence is the answer to every problem."



Roland Dobbins

I think there’s more to this story. Yes, computers can be a distraction and addicting to certain personalities, and some kids find trivial computer games more important than learning. Perhaps many do. But some find them a source of information they would never otherwise have, and some will discover the Kahn Academy and learn things their own teachers are incapable of teaching. I don’t think we really know the effects of the computer revolution on education, and I would not put a lot of confidence in those who think they do.


A side effect of the computer age impacting publishing

A reduction in the number of distributors of a particular product can cause a limitation in access to products that are deemed to be "offensive" or if there is an economic incentive. Of course that can happen with anything, but the larger internet distributors magnify the effect.

This and other such matters are being discussed in dead earnest by Science Fiction Writers of America, the Authors Guild, and other writers organizations, and I presume by many others. One problem is that Amazon has done its groundwork, and has built a structure that it will take any competitor a fair amount of time and money to match before they can compete. In my case I get a reasonable income from eBook sales, but of that, 90% comes from Amazon, and only 10% from all its competitors combined. Amazon is the 800 lb. gorilla here. I have to say that Amazon has acted very fairly with authors: three months after an eBook is posted on Amazon, they begin to pay monthly royalties, and they continue to pay monthly, not just after credible threat of lawsuit.

Of course they pay it to the publisher. Now if that publisher – the one who posted it on Amazon – is me or my agent, as it is whenever our contracts allow that, the money comes directly to me. If it goes to one of the Big Five publishers, they collect the money, and collect the money, and collect the money, and after a year they send a check for the amounts collected during the period of one year to six months ago; then they wait six months to send any more. Sorry. I’m getting off the subject. But the point is that Amazon has publicly said that one of their goals in the book selling business is to keep authors happy. I do not believe that any of the Big Five publishers has that as a goal.

It would be better if Amazon had real competition, but I am not certain where that will come from. It took them a long time to build the structure they have now; and pressure on competitors from their stockholders will be for early profit and against any long term investment strategy. Of course Amazon is under much the same pressure….


Tightening consensus

The case of the San Onofre nuclear power station is relevant. 1.7 nuclear gigawatts, 100 percent from one of the two large reactors and 700 MW from the other, would mean 250 tonnes per year of uranium-mining if they were CANDUs, maybe 260 or 270 with the ordinary water coolant. That’s $26 million a year. Equivalent natural gas is $450 million a year, and at a 12.5 percent royalty rate, government’s take is 56 million dollars.

So in the USA, as in every highly fossil-fuel-taxing country, the nuclear regulator doesn’t have a good side. Not for the industry. In the USA, a regulator might think, never mind a few tens of millions for my paymaster, that much gas is quite likely to *kill* someone, so everyone’s safer if we let San Onofre run; our people *at* San Onofre assure us of that.

But that kind of thinking isn’t allowed! The regulator’s charter requires it to consider nuclear plant safety in a vacuum, and maximize it at any cost in reduced production no matter how much damage the alternatives thus promoted do. In their "Prevented Mortality" paper* Kharecha and Hansen find nuclear power to have saved 1.84 million people and, independently of that, kept 64 gigatonnes of CO2 out of the air and the ocean.

They don’t estimate the prevented fossil fuel tax revenue and divide it by the prevented mortality, but I do, and the result is a few million dollars per life.

Your belief that the consensus on fossil fuels’ effect on the planet’s heat balance and on the ocean’s pH is tightening for some other reason than being right puts you in the same camp as Helen Caldicott et al.: believers in a civil servants’ conspiracy to reduce civil service headcount.

Interesting talk, well transcribed, at .

* .

G.R.L. Cowan

I don’t believe that the Iron Law of Bureaucracy is a conspiracy. I think it is a law of nature.


VA and IHS health care 

As a veteran I abhor what is happening at the VA, as do most Americans. It is a testament to the failure of big bureaucratic organizations and their penchant for not just eschewing small and agile management process but rewarding the expansion of bureaucracy.

To further illustrate the failure of dispensing medical care this way, the media would do well to look at the ludicrous organization of the Indian Health Service (IHS). My wife, children and grandchild receive their care through this system. The wait times for appointments (a month or more for eye or dental appointments, only to have them canceled after taking a day off and driving 70 miles to the IHS facility) , long lead times for major procedures (my wife waited one year for a hip replacement), to having to wait hours for prescriptions to be filled.

As the ACA moves forward we can look forward to seeing this creep into our health care. While claims are made that our health care is not ‘government run’ apologists fail to mention the huge amount of new regulations regarding what are approved procedures and medications. Incentives for private industry are not enhances by the ACA…quite the opposite. Liberals want to move to single payer and ultimately to government run health care. One only needs to look to the VA and the IHS to see how badly the government does at delivering health care.


The VA is also subject to the Iron Law, (    ) although fortunately physicians do not easily get sucked in to the bureaucratic system. It takes too much dedicated work to become a doctor for that to look attractive. But of course the control of the VA by physicians is always threatened by the growing bureaucracy, which grows as the number of clients grows.

There have been several relevant articles in the Wall Street Journal on this and related subjects. One

The Bureaucrat Sitting on Your Doctor’s Shoulder

The bond of trust between patient and physician has always been the essential ingredient in medicine, assuring that the patient receives individual attention and the best possible medical care. Yet often lost in the seemingly endless debate over the Affordable Care Act is how the health-care bureaucracy, with its rigid procedures and regulations, undermines trust and degrades care. In my pediatric ophthalmology practice, I have experienced firsthand how government limits a doctor’s options and threatens the traditional doctor-patient bond.

is quite relevant although not addressed to the VA itself. There have been a number of articles by physicians concerned with what’s happening to VA.

See also


Class of 2014

Dear Dr. Pournelle,

I believe you will find this column, evidently written with an acid-filled pen, by a prof at Yale to be most insightful and entertaining.

"The literary critic George Steiner, in a wonderful little book <> titled "Nostalgia for the Absolute,” long ago predicted this moment. We have an attraction, he contended, to higher truths that can sweep away complexity and nuance. We like systems that can explain everything. Intellectuals in the West are nostalgic for the tight grip religion once held on the Western imagination. They are attracted to modes of thought that are as comprehensive and authoritarian as the medieval church. You and your fellow students — and your professors as well; one mustn’t forget their role — are therefore to be congratulated for your involvement in the excellent work of bringing back the Middle Ages."


Brian P.

There is something seriously wrong with our higher education system. But we all knew that…


Disclaimers on Bolts by dolts


I was ordering some bolts online, and noted this disclaimer <> on the spec sheet:

"WARNING: This product contains chemicals known to the State of California to cause cancer and/or birth defects or other reproductive harm."

Yes, even stainless steel bolts may kill you or yours, we are warned.

Is it any wonder that people are skeptical of ingredients in vaccines when we are constantly told that everything is poison in any concentration or composition?

Perhaps the cost of proving the products are "safe" was so high that it was just easier to put the disclaimer on everything and be done.

I will err on the side of caution and not eat any of the bolts I bought, though.


Jeff D

Good advice. And never set the cat on fire…


List of all effects of Global Warming

Just in case you haven’t seen this…

is a concise list of the claims of the consequences of global warming (aka climate change, aka climate disruption).

It’s a wonder we’re still here!


John Bresnahan

Are you sure we are? Perhaps all the poisons have put us into a dream rich coma…


Study: Young Black Children Drown At Far Higher Rates


Black children ages 5 to 19 drown in swimming pools at a rate more than five times that of white children, the research found. That suggests a lot of blacks are not learning to swim, said the lead author, Dr. Julie Gilchrist of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.


The water must be racist. 


Most Respectfully,

Joshua Jordan, KSC

Percussa Resurgo

I recall when I was growing up, most of my friends could swim, but few of the tenant kids could swim. Of course there wasn’t much swimming to be done, except in the big creek that ran through our land, and it had a lot of snags. Not fast water, but opaque and muddy, and no place to learn to swim. I learned in a kid’s pool in Davis Park across the street from where I lived K-3 in Memphis, and at a couple of summer camps. There was no such opportunity for black kids in legally segregated Memphis. There was at least one black public swimming pool. I don’t know if there were any white public swimming pools; I never went to one. But there was Rainbow Lake and East End, private pools (again white only) not too far away by street car.

But legal segregation is long over, so I would suppose that the opportunity to learn to swim is much more likely among black children now. I have no idea of the importance of learning in the black community. When I was growing up I don’t think I knew anyone among my friends who couldn’t swim. Certainly no boys.


Joe McCarthy

I have mixed feelings about this guy. The press regarding him is not trustworthy IMO, either the pro’s or con’s. I DO think the Red infiltration into our government was greater than we realized at the time, but maybe not so much as the Senator did.

It is plausible to me that Senator McCarthy’s drinking and overreaching was a symptom of his frustration at not being able to get people to listen.

You were old enough at the time and were active in politics then, right? Can you reflect back on those times and give an opinion?

The McCarthy period happened while I was in the Army and after when I was an undergraduate. I had never heard of him when I was in the Army. As an undergraduate I was actively opposed to him. A number of my friends were obsessed with the hearings.

The nature of the threat that McCarthy was drawing attention to wasn’t easily discussed because everyone I knew hated him, and that was pretty well the attitude I experienced through college and mostly in graduate school. My political attitudes took a great swing during that period.

None of that is relevant. But much later I met and was befriended by William F. Buckley and Russell Kirk, as well as Stefan Possony, and I got a different picture. Kirk tended to be contemptuous of the man. Possony thought him a detriment to his own cause: the threat was real, but McCarthy was making things harder for intelligence people. And finally Bill Buckley wrote The Red Hunter, a part fiction part biography book that I think does the best job of imbedding McCarthy in his times of anything I have seen yet. It exists in Kindle format and of course there are printed copies available. If you want a picture of that time that tries to be accurate, I recommend this.


Now the Department of Agriculture wants armed agents


Yet another agency arms itself.

‘ the Dept. of Agriculture wants the guns to have an "ambidextrous safety, semiautomatic or 2 round [bursts] trigger group, Tritium night sights front and rear, rails for attachment of flashlight (front under fore group) and scope (top rear), stock collapsible or folding," and a "30 rd. capacity" magazine."’

It’s nice to know our tax dollars are being used so wisely.

Doug Ely


“Everybody’s getting paid, but Raheem still can’t read.”



Roland Dobbins

Yes. Precisely.


Spurious correlations:

I like:

Worldwide non-commercial space launches

correlates with

Sociology doctorates awarded (US)

r = 0.78915


Per capita consumption of chicken (US)

correlates with

Total US crude oil imports

r = 0.899899


Yes, it’s always amusing to find high correlations between obviously unrelated trends, and try to figure out if there really is a common basis for them. Usually there isn’t. After all, if a correlation has statistical significance at the 5% level (usually considered pretty good in the social sciences) then 5 times out of a hundred it would happen by chance. And if there are thousands of such pairings…

What ended much of the interest in J. B. Rhine’s Extra Sensory Perception experiments – often involving a deck of cards each of which had a figure like a wavy line or a start or a circle, etc.; the “sender was to look at the car and think it hard, while the receiver drew the symbol on an answer paper.. The drawn symbols were then compared to those actually “sent”. In a large number of cases it was found that the results were far too close to be chance – or so it was concluded.

But if there is one chance in a thousand of a certain result, and there are two thousand repetitions of the experiment, the chance of getting three or four of those improbable results is quite high. And in its time the Rhine experiments were being done ten times a day by a dozen students at hundreds of college campuses….


The Right To Privacy


I could feel the alarm in Mr. Maher’s op-ed piece on the right to privacy. But we have to be careful in our analysis of this situation. The right to privacy that Maher refers to is a right against unsanctioned State intrusion into our personal lives. It requires the State to obtain warrants before it can target an individual, tracking movements and statements. That right places no restrictions on what one private individual does concerning another private individual.

Individuals have been ratting out each other ever since people stopped wandering around looking for food every day, as soon as the community enlarged beyond the family and included the notion of neighbors. For most of that time, what happened to Sterling would have resulted in a ‘she-said, he-said’ splash in the local papers. Now, however, we have ubiquitous audio and video recording devices that are easily concealed and so there is absolute proof what was said and no recourse to deny the conversations.

Pointing out the long history of ratting and the impact of modern technology does not, of course, sanction the act of ratting. Is it wrong? Sure, unless what one is ratting amounts to plans for illegal activities. Then the ratting is encouraged and the ratter becomes a hero instead of a goat.

Was Sterling’s privacy violated? Yes. Were his rights violated? No. The State had nothing to do with it. It was a private affair made publicly ugly by a private individual.

Kathleen Parker’s take on the situation is extreme, but her position does point out the need for decorum. Depending upon what you have to loose, some things are best not said. To anyone. At any time. But, this has always been true, too. We all have thoughts best not shared because they endanger one’s relationship with one’s wife, or children, or best friend, or work, or society at large. Any thought shared will eventually out. Count on it. So don’t share it.

Sterling violated that precept at his peril and it cost him.

Kevin L. Keegan

Then of course you have Fred…


Belmont Club » The Day Obama’s Presidency Died

This is an absolutely stunning analysis of Benghazi and the Arab Spring.

James Crawford=


Japanese space solar power

Hi Jerry

Of possible “green” technologies space solar power always seemed interesting to me. Awhile back we looked into a project that involved sending microwave power. It didn’t work out but I did run across what the Japanese were doing. It looks like they are still at it.

I got my Costco hearing aids. I’m very happy with them. Thanks for the tip.

I was going to say something else. But it went away. Old age. ;)


Space based solar power is capital intensive but it doesn’t contend with day/night cycles or weather, and operates nearly 24 hours a day 365 days a year. It is still an economic contender for energy production.


Offshored jobs returning…

With respect, there are several alternative interpretations:

1. This is all a lie (WMD in Iraq, anyone?).

2. If offshored jobs are returning because American wages have collapsed, so what? Being ‘globally competitive’ with Bangladesh is no great accomplishment if you are paying Bangladeshi wages.

Recall: adjusting for inflation, American wages have collapsed. If in 1980 Americans with IQs of 90 could get $20/hour (adjusted for inflation) and in 2010 Americans with IQs of 110 can get $10/hour, this is effectively more than a halving of wages.

3. If a company exports 400 jobs to low-wage India, and then brings back 80 low-wage jobs to the United States, BUT THERE ARE STILL HUNDREDS OF LOW-WAGE INDIANS WORKING ON THE PRODUCT, this has nothing to do with automation.

Automation does not cause low wages. Automation is a reaction to high wages. Duh.

globus pallidus XI

Well of course automation is a reaction to high wages and restrictive union rules. But once the investment is made, a number of jobs are lost forever…



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