California Reader is up; musings on strategy of technology; Reviving Chaos Manor Reviews

View 834 Monday, July 21, 2014

“Transparency and the rule of law will be the touchstones of this presidency.”

President Barack Obama, January 31, 2009


Many developments at Chaos Manor. I am bringing back Chaos Manor Reviews. It will take a bit to get it going again, but I’ve taken steps to make it happen. One is Precious, the name I have given to my new Surface 3 Pro which Eric found for me at a big one-day sale. Precious has a Type Cover 2 with backlighting, and we’ve installed a 64 GB Sun microdisk for extra memory in case there’s ever a need, but her purpose isn’t to replace a desktop – I like working with desktops and BIG screens – but to sit on my breakfast table while I read the Wall Street Journal and make notes. And that she does nicely. At the moment she has a special OneNote program that she came with, and I haven’t mastered using it yet; and I haven’t yet installed Office 365 yet. All in due time. But she’s connected into my Wi-Fi system and is settling down nicely. I’m pretty sure I’m going to like her – she reminds me of LisaBetta, my Compaq 1100 Tablet I had back in COMDEX days, and which I more than once carried as the only computer when I was on the road.


I also got the California Sixth Grade Reader up on Amazon, thanks to Rick Hellewell and many others on my team of advisors. If you were planning on buying a copy, please let me know if what you get is all right. I found a couple of bugs when we first put it up, and there may be more – perhaps a problem with the Table of Contents – but if there are we will fix all that and I’ll see that you get a new copy when it’s all fixed. I’ll have more about that book another time, but we’re very proud of it. It took a lot of work, and it has been years in the making, largely because I got laid out with brain cancer about the time it was going up the first time, and then other things delayed it. The Reader is important: this was the Sixth Grade Reader for the state of California in 1914 and many years before and after that. The stories include Macaulay’s Horatius at the Bridge, Ruskin’s King of the Golden River, Jason and the Argonauts, and a number of other works which are part of our literary heritage. There are great poems, some of which influenced the thinking of generations of Americans.

One of the great pleasures of my life has been enjoyment of literature and poetry. I did not precisely choose to master poetry: it was required of me that I do so, and I disliked a lot of it; but eventually I learned to love it. I am reminded of Kipling commenting on his education: he wrote of his Latin teacher that he “taught me to loathe Horace for two year; to forget him for twenty; and then to love him for the rest of my days and through many sleepless nights.” Alas, my Latin teachers were not so thorough as that, but I was required to read and learn epic poems, some of which are in this book, and the effect was about the same: I resented being required to learn to love those works, but I have been thankful for fifty years that I was so required. Enough: I’ll review the Reader in Chaos Manor Reviews, and probably some of what I just said will be in there. There will be overlap between that place and this one.


I found most of the items on the editorial pages of the Wall Street Journal well worth reading today. The sum total of them reminded me that it is time to revise The Strategy of Technology, and we’ll do so. One of my former students from my professor days is now a Pentagon consultant and wants in on the process. The principle in that book haven’t changed and are still true. The technological war is stilt the decisive war. The examples are all from Cold War days, and need updating to modern conditions and modern warfare. We’ll get to it. It takes time and energy, of course. While I am on that subject I want to thank the Platinum subscribers who continue to renew: their support allows me to work on what I think is important rather than grubbing about for lucrative stuff. At my age I don’t keep quote so many balls in the air as I used to…

“Lasers Are No Longer a ‘Star Wars’ Fantasy by Eric Schechter and Dave Majumdar reminds me of the importance of a strategy of technology.

The two Iranian-designed Abadil-1 drones that Hamas flew from the Gaza Strip into Israel last week were little more than over-glorified toy planes. So why did the Israeli military shoot them down with $3 million Patriot missiles? After all, Israel has multiple Iron Dome missile-defense batteries in the south of the country.

In all likelihood, the Patriot crew were the first to detect and track the invading drones. And not knowing exactly what they were facing, the Israeli Defense Forces took no chances.

While the drones were destroyed, the episode shows the limits of conventional interceptors. If Hamas had sent a dozen drones, Israel would have had to waste missiles on them all. That’s why Rafael Advanced Defense Systems, the same government-owned company that built Iron Dome, is developing a laser system called Iron Beam.

Lasers have great potential as weapons. Laser beams travel at the speed of light, so no rocket will ever outrun them. They are also remarkably cheap to generate—a couple dollars a pop, compared to launching a five, six or even seven-figure missile. And as long as you’ve got electrical power, a laser cannon will never run out of ammunition. Lasers are also versatile. They don’t have to blow up a target to neutralize it. They can fry electronics, sensors and navigation systems.

Steve Possony and the late Duke Kane – Stefan T. Possony, PhD., and Francis X. Kane, Ph.D., Col. USAF – wrote much of Strategy of Technology in the 60’s, and I was asked to be a co-author and general editor of the work. Since Kane was an active duty Air Force officer (Director of Plans, USAF Systems Command) his name did not appear on the book. It was used as a text at West Point and the USAF Academy, and is still used as a text in some of the war colleges; and in 1980 Kane, Possony, and I (with about 50 others including Buzz Aldrin and General Graham) wrote the space and defense policy papers for the incoming Reagan administration. One of the outcomes of those papers was the Strategic Defense Initiative, which some have said was important in bringing the Cold War to a non-violent end. (Note that Possony was one of the authors of The Protracted Conflict, which detailed the Containment Strategy which was the major US Cold War policy.

A Congressman’s Drone Disobedience

Sean Maloney wanted aerial photos of his wedding. To get them he had to ignore the FAA.

July 20, 2014 5:43 p.m. ET

June 21 was a lovely day for the wedding of Sean Maloney, a Democratic member of Congress from upstate New York. The ceremony was held at the historic Church of St. Mary-in-the-Highlands, with the Hudson River in the background. The day ended with fireworks. These details are available via a video on YouTube, produced for Mr. Maloney by a company called Propellerheads Aerial Photography.

But shooting the video was illegal, according to the Federal Aviation Administration, a federal agency Mr. Maloney helps oversee as a member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

The FAA has taken the position since 2007 that any commercial use of drones is unlawful. It has sent cease-and-desist orders to companies in industries that include video, agriculture, real estate and journalism.

And what happens when 4,000 drones each carrying 2 kilos of high explosive, each guided by GPS, rise out of Gaza headed for Israeli Iron Dome installations?

The technological war continues whether we like it or not; and those who refuse to participate in it, or think they can stop it with treaties and arms control agreements, will find they have chosen a losing strategy.

Tunnels Matter More Than Rockets to Hamas

The terror group wants to infiltrate Israel to grab hostages and


Michael B. Mukasey

July 20, 2014 6:13 p.m. ET

Early in the current clash between Hamas and Israel, much of the drama was in the air. The Palestinian terrorist group launched hundreds of rockets at Israel, and Israel responded by knocking down rockets in the sky with its Iron Dome defense system and by bombing the rocket-launch sites in Gaza. But the real story has been underground. Hamas’s tunnels into Israel are potentially much more dangerous than its random rocket barrages.

Israel started a ground offensive against Hamas in Gaza on Thursday, intending to destroy Hamas’s tunnel network. The challenge became obvious on Saturday when eight Palestinian fighters wearing Israeli military uniforms emerged from a tunnel 300 yards inside Israel and killed two Israeli soldiers in a firefight. One of the Palestinian fighters was killed before the others fled through the tunnel back to Gaza.

in 1529 Suleiman the Magnificent besieged Vienna. ( It had rained all spring and summer all across Europe, and the huge siege cannon that brought the Turks into Constantinople in 1453 could not be brought up to Vienna; Suleiman had to rely on mines – tunnels – to get into the city. The defenders were warned of the tunneling, and dug counter-mines. Soldiers sat deep underground with drums scattered over with dried peas, listening for disturbances indicating mining going on. Countermines intercepted Suleiman’s miners, and battles took place underground. Tons of gunpowder were taken by the Christian defenders from the Turkish miners.

One would think that the Israelis would have effective means of detecting incoming tunnels, but then I have always thought that Cal Tech ought to be called in to the border defense system: there are tunnels from Mexico into the United States. Surely there are technological means for detecting them? But so far we do not.

The daily new often reminds me of the need for a new textbook on Strategy of Technology. I would have thought someone would have written it by now, but it hasn’t happened so far. Today’s paper was an extreme example of that reminder.


Four Years of Dodd-Frank Damage

The financial law has restricted credit and let regulators create even more too-big-to-fail companies.


Peter J. Wallison

July 20, 2014 5:55 p.m. ET

When the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act took effect on July 21, 2010, it immediately caused a sharp partisan division. This staggeringly large legislation—2,300 pages—passed the House without a single Republican vote and received only three GOP votes in the Senate. Republicans saw the bill as ObamaCare for the financial system, a vast and unnecessary expansion of the regulatory state.

Four years later, Dodd-Frank’s pernicious effects have shown that the law’s critics were, if anything, too kind. Dodd-Frank has already overwhelmed the regulatory system, stifled the financial industry and impaired economic growth.

According to the law firm Davis, Polk & Wardell’s progress report, Dodd-Frank is severely taxing the regulatory agencies that are supposed to implement it. As of July 18, only 208 of the 398 regulations required by the act have been finalized, and more than 45% of congressional deadlines have been missed.

The effect on the economy has been worse. A 2013 Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas study showed that the GDP recovery from the recession that ended in 2009 has been the slowest on record, 11% below the average for recoveries since 1960.

For those interested in financial reforms, this is an important introduction into what must be done about Dodd-Frank. There are many other financial reforms needed.


Heinlein’s checklist

I guess I qualify as barely human; but, considering most human beings, that doesn’t bother me much.

I suspect Heinlein was counting his student experience at invasion planning; notice he says "plan an invasion," not "a successful invasion." I wonder what grade he got on that exercise.

On 7/20/2014 5:21 PM, Paul Anderson wrote:

"while in communist society, where nobody has one exclusive sphere of activity but each can become accomplished in any branch he wishes, society regulates the general production and thus makes it possible for me to do one thing today and another tomorrow, to hunt in the morning, to fish in the afternoon, rear cattle in the evening, criticize after dinner, just as I have in mind, without ever becoming hunter, fisherman, shepherd or critic. " – Das Kapital, part I, chapter 1; a shorter but clearly not comprehensive list.

I do wonder when he planned an invasion and of where; he retired as a Lieutenant in 1937. I’m not sure exercises at Annapolis count.

I have no idea when Mr. Heinlein might have been involved in planning an invasion; but remember that this is a quote from Lazarus Long, not his Author…

Heinlein said:

“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.”

Let’s see now:

I have changed diapers, written sonnets, balanced accounts, built walls, taken orders, given orders, cooperated, acted alone, solved equations, analyzed new problems, programmed computers, and cooked tasty meals.

I have tried on occasion to comfort the dying, and to fight; but neither efficiently.

I have never planned an invasion, butchered a hog, conned a ship, designed a building, set a bone, or pitched manure. I have snuck indoors, killed mice, driven an RV, erected tents, reset passwords, and pitched leaf compost, but those don’t count. Nor have I died, gallantly or otherwise; but neither had Heinlein when he wrote this list.

So I stand at 12 to 2 to 7. The 2 and the 7 I mark down to lack of experience, and the (usually fortunate) lack of need to acquire such experience. So by Heinlein’s count, I stand as mostly human already, and trainable to full humanity if absolutely necessary.

A little birdie tells me that most people would do about as well as me. That same birdie tweets that Heinlein, when he wrote this checklist, had already passed 20 of his 21 tests. Therefore I retort to Heinlein:

A human being should be able to define humanity in self-serving terms. Objectivity is for others.


I am not entirely sure what that means, but it sure sounds good.


Several readers have told me of this:

18 Influential Voices in Literature on the Internet



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




Don’t fly through war zones… The Spotless Sun

View 833 Friday, July 18, 2014

“Transparency and the rule of law will be the touchstones of this presidency.”

President Barack Obama, January 31, 2009


Spotless Sun: see below


One reason I do not like to comment on breaking news is that it’s generally impossible to know what is really going on. Despite all the new technology, news reporters still can’t find out what’s happening without a lot of work which will include investigative techniques that are increasingly rare in the modern press corps – and this at a time when means of deception are increasingly available to governments and various organizations who want everyone to believe their own version of the story.

Yesterday Bryan Suits said that he was inclined to believe the Russian separatist rebels in the Ukraine who said they did not have the capability to shoot down an airliner at 33,000 feet. Suits has the advantage of having served in combat missions as both an enlisted man – medic – and an officer – infantry platoon leader – in both the Balkan Expedition and in Iraq after the US invasion following 911. He’s about the only news reporter/commentator with such experience, and if I have to form an opinion on breaking military matters, I’m inclined to give more weight to his views than others. In this case he – and I – were wrong.

The Ukrainian separatists do have such capabilities, having acquired Surface to Air Missiles either from overrunning Ukrainian positions (as they claim) or as a gift from the Russian forces on the border (denied by the Russians). Either way it’s the same equipment. Moreover, in days previous to the Malaysian airliner incident, the separatists claimed to have downed a Ukrainian national forces transport aircraft at high altitude. And then there’s this story from the Daily Mail (not an unimpeachable source):

Is this the smoking gun? Footage emerges of BUK missile launcher being smuggled back to Russia and missing TWO rockets

  • Expert believes that MH17 was downed by a missile fired from rebel-held Torez in eastern Ukraine
  • BUK launcher has been pictured rumbling into the town just two hours before the crash
  • Ukraine’s security agency, the SBU, has released recordings of intercepted phone calls
  • Claim they prove Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 was shot down by a group of Russian-backed Cossack militants
  • Neither recording — which allegedly includes a Russian military intelligence officer — could be independently verified
  • Laughing rebels filmed the plane as it crashed, gleefully bragging ‘that was a blast – look at the smoke!’

There is still the possibility, now more remote, that the Cossacks have dealt themselves a hand in this mess. Unlikely, but don’t forget that they are there, and will have their own agenda.

When considering this event keep in mind that there was a war we were not part of going on between Iran and Iraq when the Vincennes shot down an Iranian airliner in the Persian Gulf. It’s a war zone over there.

And now it appears Malaysia Airlines were trying to save money on fuel costs by ignoring a NOTAM.


Either that, or just sheer incompetence.


Roland Dobbins

The event is likely to change the situation, but hardly for the better for the US. Like it or not, we have common interests with the Russians – more than we had with Saddam before his invasion of Kuwait ended the era when Iran and Iraq cancelled each other out and provided stability in much of the Middle East except, of course, for their border areas. But Putin will not forget his need for more Russians in Russia, and the Don Cossacks will not forget that they are Cossacks; and Eastern Ukrainians will remain between a rock and a hard place.



My guess is that the Russians gave their paramilitary proxies an SA11 or SA17 for reasons of face, without experienced advisers, and are now regretting it.

Of course, the alternate theory is that Ukraine decided they’d give Putin a lesson by shooting down a Russian cargo plane, with unexpected results.

Altitude and apparent size are always difficult for trainee SAM operators to get right. The USS Vincennes shot down IR655 due to this sort of confusion in 1988.

It appears that inexperienced missileers believed they were firing on an AN26 cargo aircraft. My guess is that the Russians gave their paramilitary proxies an SA11 or SA17 for reasons of face, without experienced advisers, and are now regretting it. MH17 was flying in a well-known commercial air corridor, and it should’ve been obvious that positive confirmation was required before launching.

Either that, or the operator was drunk – which is always a possibility.


Roland Dobbins

These were unlikely to be even trainees: just militia, given the missiles with the keys and a field manual. Good luck Comrade. Or perhaps it’s Gospodin now? I haven’t been to Russia since the end of the USSR.



You wrote "..the separatists… ..wouldn’t have missiles with that capability unless the Russians gave them and the Russians would have to send some technical advisors too; it’s just not likely."

I agree that it’d be incredibly stupid of the Russians to give such high-altitude missiles to the ethnic Russian separatists. Alas, it’s looking very much like they were that stupid.

The rebels are currently denying any high-altitude AA missile capability. But it’s looking near certain they’re lying.

From three days ago:,

"The 9k37 Buk is a weapon with a range of up to 14000 meters, but has never been seen in the hands of separatists. The Russian network TV Zvezda, the news network for the Russian military, did report that a Buk fell to separatist hands on June 29th. However, is it possible that TV Zvezda was "seeding" the story, planting an explanation for why the separatists would have such an advanced weapons system? After all, they are the only source reporting this story to our knowledge, there are no pictures or videos of the separatists possessing this missile system, nor have we been able to tie the claims made by TV Zvezda back to a specific incident that may have resulted in the loss of such a weapon."

The TV Zvezda story referenced, in Russian, is at

From Google translation of the content: "Militias in Donetsk captured military unit defense. On point defense, which is a division of missile troops, have self-propelled anti-aircraft missile systems "Buk". Now this weapon, according to the militia to defend the skies at Donetsk."

And from this morning, before the airliner shootdown:,

"An Associated Press reporter on Thursday saw seven rebel-owned tanks parked at a gas station outside the eastern Ukrainian town of Snizhne.

In the town, he also observed a Buk missile system, which can fire missiles up to an altitude of 22,000 meters (72,000 feet)." (Snizhne is about ten miles south of where the airliner came down.)

The SA-11 "Buk" is described elsewhere as very effective, but very technically complicated to run. Whether the separatists actually captured the missile battery or were given it by the Russians, it would have been extremely difficult to operate without Russian technical advice.

Meanwhile, the Ukrainian security chief says he has phone intercepts proving two Russian military intelligence officers were involved in the shootdown.

And just now I heard a TV news report that US intelligence sources are saying that we have phone intercepts proving the Russian separatists were involved. One was supposed to have been from a separatist sent to the crash site, reporting back that it wasn’t a Ukrainian military transport they’d shot down after all. There are also news reports of hastily-deleted tweets by separatists boasting of having shot down a Ukrainian transport right after the airliner went down.

All in all, it very much looks like the Russians really were just exactly that stupid.

23 Americans were on the manifest. All who actually got on board are now dead, along with everyone else of the 295 people from a dozen different countries on board the airliner.

The Russians will do everything they can to obscure responsibility, but the area in question is under heavy surveillance and Russian fingerprints are all over this.

So, now what?


Now what?  I wish I could predict a rational response in the national interest, but what is likely is bluster and threats and red lines and – and not much else, with the hope that it will all peter out.  Russia cannot control the separatists, nor can Putin allow them to be defeated and sent off to reeducation camps or executed as terrorists; he certainly cannot and will not turn over Russian nationalists to some international court.  This is not the old USSR, but it is still a Great Power in the old sense of the word.  We are in the world of Grotius again…

On reflection, perhaps The Alabama Claims apply?  England sold the commerce raider CSS Alabama (and other commerce raiders) to the Confederacy; after the Civil War ended, the United States sued Britain for damages,  which were in fact paid.  It is an international law precedent that might apply here….




President Obama is reacting strongly, but in my judgment weirdly: “Russia, Ukrainian Separatists, and Ukraine  must adhere to an immediate cease fire.  Evidence must not be tampered with.”

And demands that the FBI be admitted to a war zone.  And –    Well I can think of other international situations in which we could wish for strong words from the President, but none came forth.

What Putin can say:  “Look up the Vincennes affair.  I do not recall that you allowed Egyptian and Iranian investigators aboard your warship.”  Mr. Obama is speaking more severely to the President of Russia than ever he has to Dear Leader despite North Korea’s various incursions and bombardments in South Korea. Treating the President of Russia as an international terrorist that one can speak down to is not, in my judgment, an optimum foreign policy.


Meanwhile the Israelis have invaded the Gaza Strip, stating as one objective the final and permanent closure of tunnels and other illegal entry points to Gaza: to stem the flow of missiles into Gaza (and out of Gaza into Israel). There is precious little news on that today:   Breaking: the President is speaking now.  “We are hopeful that “ the Israelis will work to reduce civilian casualties, and…      Anyway I heard nothing significant.  The Israelis at considerable cost abandoned Gaza and stripped out Israeli settlers – even as some of the Army refused to take part in that effort –but the result was that Hamas took control, and missiles began to fly out of Gaza toward Tel Aviv, Ben-Gurion Airport, and points north and east.  This has gone on since not long after the Israelis abandoned Gaza.   I confess that at the time my view was that stopping the Settlers and establishing a stable border was the only way to a two-state solution to the Palestine situation. Most of my Israeli friends agreed although some very reluctantly.  The result was not successful.  The West Bank territories are governed by – well, you read the papers.  And Gaza has become a warehouse for missiles to be launched in the general direction of Israel, and with about that accuracy.  Because they have so far been ineffective there seems to be no call for prosecution of Gaza Palestinians as international terrorists.


I am now hearing that the missileers must have had sophisticated training from Russia.  This is nonsense.  They were not designed to be operated by long experienced technically trained troops.  Maintenance and be more complex, but operation is easy: here’s the screen, here’s the arming switch, this mouse selects the target…  Operations are no more difficult than a modern computer game.  And as noted above, it is easy to be mistaken about altitude and size of the target.  Had the operators of that missile been better trained it probably would not have been launched at a civilian aircraft.  On the other hand, the crew of the Vincennes were quite well trained…


The President says there will have to be an international investigation.  So far I have heard no comment from the Russians.  I expect a full press conference sometime but possibly not until next week.



Spotless Sun

The sun has been officially spotless for 24 hours, and the last visible spot decayed just after the start of the previous 24 hour period.

Two spots may be forming this morning.

Maunder Minimum anyone?




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




War in Europe;

View 833 Thursday, July 17, 2014

“Transparency and the rule of law will be the touchstones of this presidency.”

President Barack Obama, January 31, 2009

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

Glenn T. Seaborg, National Commission on Education, 1983

Today is our wedding anniversary. Our 50th was a few years ago, during the time I was still recovering from the radiation sickness I got from the 50,000 rads of hard x-rays that did in fact cure my brain cancer.


There’s a war going on…

A Malaysian Air jet was shot down over eastern Ukraine killing all 295 people on board, with the government in Kiev blaming pro-Russian rebels. The separatists denied the accusation.

The Boeing 777 flight from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur was hit by a missile and went down near the eastern town of Torez, about 30 kilometers (18 miles) from the Russian border, Ukraine’s Interior Ministry said.

The plane crashed in the main battleground of Ukraine’s civil war and is one of a number to have been downed in the region in the past month. Russian President Vladimir Putin, who’s returning to Moscow from a visit to South America, has repeatedly denied his nation is involved in the insurgency. The U.S. said this week that the rebels are getting weapons from Russia and tightened sanctions against it yesterday.

As of Noon today, Russia says it didn’t happen over Russian territory, and Russia had nothing to do with it. Ukraine says they didn’t do it. The Ukrainian separatists say “We don’t have the capability to shoot things down at 33,000 feet. It fell in our territory and we have the black boxes. We have not opened them and we are turning them over to the Russians.”

I don’t usually get involved in breaking news, but this is intriguing. I believe the separatists: they wouldn’t have missiles with that capability unless the Russians gave them and the Russians would have to send some technical advisors too; it’s just not likely. Russia almost certainly did not order the intercept as a matter of policy, but a Russian air defense officer might have seen the aircraft coming and ordered an intercept. Time is short in these situations. I don’t know the level of alert Russian Air Defense is on now, but I’d have thought scrambling an intercept would be more likely than firing a missile. And I can’t think of a good motive for the Ukrainians to have shot down a Malaysian airliner.

The area is on the international warning system as a war zone to be avoided.

One of the passengers on the flight send a message just before departure: it was a picture of the airplane and a tag saying this is what the plane looks like just in case it goes missing…


While we are thinking about that part of the world:

The article should be required reading everywhere.



Roland Dobbins

Those were serious times. Tyrants often cut off the heads of the tallest poppies; it’s one of the side effects of tyranny. Augustus was secure enough that he could give commands and missions to highly competent officers and not fear that they would march on Rome to replace him. Claudius worked to try to regularize the Imperial civil service and not be so dependent on the Army. He was followed by Nero…


The Peer Review Scandal


A quick and easy fix to the peer review scandal could be a simple attitude adjustment in the scientific community. Science must be published or it is useless to all. Science is also going to vary in quality and accuracy even if all parties to the process are being as careful and honest as is possible — it is a human enterprise after all and Nature can be subtle, providing false positive and false negative results under the best of conditions and efforts.

Replication of experiments is therefore highly important to the process, and this is where the attitude adjustment comes into play: publish your results, perish if not enough of them are replicated. On the funding side, fund the principle research, but automatically budget the money for replication research. Additional funding for a researcher will depend upon the quality of the researcher’s work judged by a high replication rate.

Further, a ‘major’ result cannot be declared until the result is replicated. Until then, it is an ‘important’ or ‘interesting’ result of no merit beyond being moved to the head of the replication priority list. Accolades and awards will need to be re-thought as well in order to recognize the importance of replication and reward the efforts of the replication researchers.

Some of the problems with this approach are that it will take a while to make the change, as funding for replication has been light and most work does not get replicated for failure to even try. Also, many results may take years to replicate as the original research may take years to carry out. This can be dealt with the way high-energy physics research is done: build replication into the original experimental setup. Such work deserves two independent teams working simultaneously using different but complimentary methods and results are claimed only if both teams reach the same conclusions. Additionally, some results are important enough to deserve multiple replications.

Science is a large and complex enterprise of immense import to humanity. It is import that it work and work properly and we must be careful not to break science in our efforts to fix it. Changing attitudes to put an appropriate emphasis on replication may well be a simple and effective fix, enhancing science without breaking it.

That might work but I wouldn’t call implementing it quick and easy. One problem is that there is a lot of useless ‘research’ funding: the topic might be useful or interesting, but there the people the money goes to aren’t talented. They might be capable of duplicating someone else’s work – confirming results – but that doesn’t get you on tenure track. And of course the voodoo sciences have to be ‘equal’ with the real sciences, and get lots of money for studies of hermeneutic convergences in James Joyce and e e cummings.

It’s the attitude changes that are tough. There was a time when academics weren’t paid huge salaries and benefits; they wore leather patches on the elbows of their tweed jackets, and lived quite modestly. But that was long ago. Now there’s all that money flowing from the student loans and it has to go somewhere…



Congress says: Americans Too Stupid for GMO Labels

I like to keep an eye on the leftist news; sometimes it’s worth my time. The Huffington Post seems to report more on Kim Kardashian’s butt than it does on anything else. Would you believe, I’d never even heard of Kim Kardashian until she kept popping up in the "Huff Post"

twitter feed? But, every so often, they produce a real story:


It’s pretty rare that members of Congress and all the witnesses they’ve called will declare out loud that Americans are just too ignorant to be given a piece of information, but that was a key conclusion of a session of the House Agriculture Committee this week.

The issue was genetically modified organisms, or GMOs as they’re often known in the food industry. And members of the subcommittee on Horticulture, Research, Biotechnology, and Foreign Agriculture, as well as their four experts, agreed that the genetic engineering of food crops has been a thorough success responsible for feeding the hungry, improving nutrition and reducing the use of pesticides.

People who oppose GMOs or want them labeled so that consumers can know what they’re eating are alarmists who thrive on fear and ignorance, the panel agreed. Labeling GMO foods would only stoke those fears, and harm a beneficial thing, so it should not be allowed, the lawmakers and witnesses agreed.


And, as if saying that Americans are too stupid to handle GMO labels wasn’t enough, matters take an Orwellian twist:


The issue may soon gain fresh relevance on Capitol Hill, where a measure backed by Reps. Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.) and G.K. Butterfield

(D-N.C.) to stop states from requiring GMO labeling could get marked up as early as September. The bill also would allow genetically engineered food to be labeled "100 percent natural."


Yes, it’s all making sense to me now.. Labeling the food as "100 percent natural" will let those who know avoid GMO while those who do not know will consume it. In fact, people might avoid non-GMO foods thinking those are not natural. It’s a bit of a sick joke, but it’s publicly invisible and privately recognizable while subject to the pact of law.


Most Respectfully,

Joshua Jordan, KSC

Percussa Resurgo

An interesting interpretation. My own view is that the one thing the government ought to be doing is enforcing truth in advertising. I don’t care if you buy snake oil, but it is fraud if I sell you Wesson Oil and tell you I squeezed it out of a snake…


Another reason I don’t Facebook: I’d never do anything else.  My wife follows Facebook including my daughter’s page, on which was posted today something fascinating:  a Great Blue Heron, on what looks like a golf fairway: a large well mowed level grass field, no body of water in sight, nothing around but this big bird walking slowly across the lawn, clearly stalking something.  Slowly he advances. Then stops.  Assumes the pose they take when fishing, absolutely still, neck cocked back, beak aimed a foot or so in front of his feet.  Stands that way for about half a minute.  Then strikes. Out of a previously unseen hole in the ground comes beak and struggling gopher. Bird shakes gopher, finally bangs is on the ground several times.  Gopher is still.  Bird tosses gopher and catches it by the head, aims beak at the sky, and swallows gopher whole.


Of course he’d have to swallow the gopher whole, just as he does fish. He hasn’t got any teeth.  But this was no accidental find.  That bird knew precisely where he was going and watched that hole until he saw the gopher, and grabbed it.  I once saw Sasha, the Siberian Husky we had previous to our last dog Sable, do that with a gopher up on the hill above us, but one expects wolf dogs to do that sort of thing, and Huskies can be very still, alert, and patient when they want to be; and of course you expect herons to be alert and patient when fishing, but I never saw one hunt a gopher before.  Anyway, it was fascinating, and another reason I think I have to avoid Facebook…



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




Border dilemmas, US and Israel; the peer review scandal. Update on ISIS

View 833 Wednesday, July 16, 2014

“Transparency and the rule of law will be the touchstones of this presidency.”

President Barack Obama, January 31, 2009


Israel is caught in a dilemma. Of course Hamas will launch missiles from areas teeming with civilians, knowing that if Israel uses automatic counterfire against the launch point there will be casualties; you may be sure that some PR people are carrying teddy bears to be placed just before the foreign press photographers get to the strike zone.

Today Israeli forces – it is not clear whether an air strike or naval bombardment – killed four Palestinian children and wounded several others. Israeli authorities say the target was Hamas terrorists, and blames Hamas, but it isn’t clear what the target really was: was there a missile launched form this area? And was this naval bombardment or an air strike? It was fairly close to an international hotel where foreign journalists stay.

The rocket attacks from Gaza have no military purpose, since the accuracy of the best of them will have a CEP of several hundred feet, and in most cases they are simply launched in the general direction of a city – or a nuclear depository – in the hopes that they’ll kill someone – or that the counterfire will kill Palestinians and provide good video for foreign journalists. Palestinian sympathizers say that’s the only weapon the Palestinians have.

One of Niven’s Laws is “Do not throw excrement at an armed man. Do not stand next to someone who is throwing excrement at an armed man.” He formed that forty years ago, and it seems reasonable to me. I would expand it to say do not be near someone launching a rocket in the general direction of Tel Aviv, but of course many Palestinians have no choice: a pickup truck pulls up at a crossroad, men unload a launch platform and missile, the truck drives away and the missile is launched, often by a cell phone call. Your best bet would be to run: counter battery retaliation could be pretty quick even in my day, and doubtless it is faster now.

Israel at some point will have to invade, not the northern part of Gaza where the missiles are launched, but the part of Gaza that borders Egypt. That border teems with tunnels, some quite sophisticated with rails, some running a mile into Gaza, and the missiles are smuggled in through those tunnels. Others come by sea. Gaza can’t make missiles but they can assemble them; if no missiles are imported then none can be launched at Tel Aviv . But taking a strip a mile wide along the Gaza-Egyptian border would let them eliminate the existing tunnels, but unless it is occupied, there will soon be more. Occupation will immediately invite settlers; indeed who else would want to occupy southern Gaza.

Probably better to go in, stomp all the tunnels, raze everything along the border, and be prepared to come back another time. I confess I was one of those who advised the Israelis to abandon Gaza and end that occupation; it was not good advice. There may be no good advice….


Israel is not the only country with a dilemma.

The flood of children without visas into the United States continues.

Allowing illegal immigrant children to go home

On Monday you mentioned that the immigrant children can’t be deported without a hearing.

Could we not simply first ask them if they want to go home, and help them get there if they do? Surely some of the children are homesick? Is it deportation, if they want to return to their family, and we help?


That might take care of what, 5% of them? Not many of those who went through what they did just to get here are going to volunteer to go back.

Children on the border…

If a bunch of poor American children and their mothers and fathers ‘in search of a better life’ try to trespass on the grounds of a rich person’s gated mansion, or private country club or nature preserve, they will not be allowed in. Large unsmiling men will efficiently and, if necessary, brutally, kick them out. And that will be that.

If a poor American tries to send her kids to a rich school district because they have a dream, they will not be allowed to – and likely the parents will be thrown in jail and the families separated.

The rich have neither moral nor practical difficulties defending what they have from those less fortunate than they are. ‘Sacrifice in the name of compassion’ is so only for little people. Indeed, what is going on with the ‘children’ flooding in over our southern border has nothing to do with morality at all – it is a vicious and cynical attempt to create a population explosion, to drive American wages down to third-world levels, so that the rich can become even richer. Period. (That’s why the poorest countries have so many billionaires).

I also note that, at last report, most of the illegals coming in are adults – and while a 17-year old male MS13 drug gang member is legally a minor, the world ‘child’ seems inappropriate. No, it’s not about ‘the children’ except as a marketing tool.

I have a simple solution to the problem. Let the rich practice what they preach. Let’s settle 10,000 impoverished children in some swanky suburb and see their school district handle it. Let’s stop enforcing the rules against trespassing on country clubs and ski resorts, and make the rich swim in a sea of poverty and chaos like the rest of us. Let open borders with the third-world threaten the profits and comforts of the rich, and the border would be sealed by the end of August at the latest, and there would be no angst about ‘the children’ on the news. Count on that.

What we really need is not a revolution, but elites like FDR and Bismarck, who will forgo short-term profit in the interest of long-term stability. Unfortunately our current elites feel no such long-term stake in the country, and care only about squeezing as much profit out of the nation as they can before it all falls apart, and then they can hop on their yachts and sail away.

Cheap Labor Uber Alles.

Globus Pallidus XI

If the Air Force were ordered to fly them all home, it could do so. It’s not the Normandy Invasion. If need be take some ships out of mothballs for the operation. 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.

Another item in the dark side of the child immigration crisis

And this one is scary, particularly for those with school-age children.

Richard White

Austin, Texas

Scary indeed, and the fear is justified.



Important courses for EE

Hi Dr. Pournelle,

Could I suggest that your young friend very much consider taking a statistics course or two? Since he’s good at math, he’d probably find it profitable to commit himself to taking one math course every semester, and I mean EVERY semester, until graduation. It looks to me as though heat transfer, electromagnetic fields, and other subjects requiring finite element analysis are going to be a very big deal going forward, so I think there’s a definite market for people who understand vector calculus and can “roll their own” for some of the trickier problems.


Actually I have already discussed that with him. He thinks he’d like to be a designer, and I tried to explain – remember he’s an incoming senior in high school – that statistical inference and experimental design require some mathematical sophistications he isn’t likely to know he needs; and most soft science courses in statistics are worthless, being just cookbook stuff. Of course this isn’t the last talk we’ll have; and I completely neglected history and literature, both necessary if you are to be an educated man. But I completely agree: it is necessary to understand something of statistics and the models used for inference if you’re going to be a designer.

We’re still looking at EE because of the engineering specialties, EE is the closest to scientific method: Maxwell’s Equations really do describe phenomena in the real world, and imply insights not expected when they were formulated. The next step up from that is physics, and a lot of Operations Research people, and strategists, and heavy duty thinkers like Herman Kahn were physicists to begin with, just as I sort of had to study a lot of physics to get some of my assignments accomplished. The important thing about an education is that you master something. It’s like learning to be a writer: you have to learn to finish your work, complete what you are doing.

I was never a specialist, but I did learn a lot about how to tool up and learn something new well enough to be able to use it to get a task done.


Government Funded Research and Published paper retraction.


The current scandal regarding the HiJacking of the Peer Review Process and the retraction of papers based on Government Funded "Research," cries out for some system of formal penalties for those who subvert the Scientific Method.

For Government Funded a Research, My suggestion would be a two strike process on the retraction side. First Retraction the penalty is the amount of Government Funding provided. Second retraction, the amount of Government Funding plus a life time ban on receiving any Government Research Funding. In Addition a failure to provide the data or process used so that others can attempt to replicate the results would have a penalty of the amount of Government Funding received plus the Lifetime ban on receiving any Government Research Funding.

The Scientific Method is much too important to Mankind to allow it to be subverted by those with Political and Social agendas.

Bob Holmes


I have long been critical of the peer review process, and I believe that it misallocates public funds for research: I think that a percentage of public funding ought to go into unpopular scientific notions, even some wild ideas; into crucial experiments to test generally accepted hypotheses.  It won’t pay off often, but when it does it will pay off big.  But so long as publish or perish rules academia, the peer review process will be subverted, and science will become more bureaucratized. Depend on it.



A bit long but an interesting read.

By: David P. Goldman

A one-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is upon us. It won’t arrive by Naftali Bennett’s proposal <> to annex the West Bank’s Area C, or through the efforts of BDS campaigners and Jewish Voice for Peace <> to alter the Jewish state. But it will happen, sooner rather than later, as the states on Israel’s borders disintegrate and other regional players annex whatever they can. As that happens, Israeli sovereignty in Judea and Samaria is becoming inevitable.

Last week’s rocket attacks from Gaza failed to inflict many casualties in Israel—but they administered a mortal wound to Palestinian self-governance. Hamas launched its deepest strikes ever into Israel after the IDF cracked down on its West Bank operations following the murder last month of three Israeli boys, arresting nearly 900 members of Hamas <> and other terrorist groups. Humiliated in the territories, and unable to pay its 44,000 Gaza employees <> , Hamas acted from weakness, gambling that missile attacks would elicit a new Intifada on the West Bank. Although Fatah militias joined in the rocket attacks from Gaza, for now the Palestinian organizations are in their worst disarray in 20 years.

The settlers of Judea and Samaria have stood in the cross-hairs of Western diplomacy for two decades, during which the word “settler” has become a term of the highest international opprobrium. Yet the past decade of spiraling conflicts in the Middle East have revealed that what is settled in the region is far less significant than what is unsettled. Iran’s intervention into the Syrian civil conflict has drawn the Sunni powers into a war of attrition that already has displaced more than 10 million people, mostly Sunnis, and put many more at risk. The settled, traditional, tribal life of the Levant has been shattered. Never before in the history of the region have so many young men had so little hope, so few communal ties, and so many reasons to take up arms.


Source: U.N. World Population Prospects <>

As a result, the central premise of Western diplomacy in the region has been pulled inside-out, namely that a resolution of the Palestinian refugee issue was the key to long-term stability in the Middle East. Now the whole of the surrounding region has become one big refugee crisis. Yet the seemingly spontaneous emergence of irregular armies like the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) now rampaging through northern Mesopotamia should be no surprise. The misnamed Arab Spring of 2011 began with an incipient food crisis in Egypt <> and a water crisis in Syria <> . Subsidies from the Gulf States keep Egypt on life support. In Syria and Iraq, though, displaced populations become foraging armies that loot available resources, particularly oil, and divert the proceeds into armaments that allow the irregulars to keep foraging. ISIS is selling $800 million a year of Syrian oil to Turkey, according to one estimate <> , as well as selling electricity from captured power plants back to the Assad government. On June 11 it seized the Bajii power plant oil refinery <> in northern Iraq, the country’s largest.

The region has seen nothing like it since the Mongol invasion of the 13th century. Perpetual war has turned into a snowball that accumulates people and resources as it rolls downhill and strips the ground bare of sustenance. Those who are left shiver in tents in refugee camps, and their young men go off to the war. There is nothing new about this way of waging war; it was invented in the West during the Thirty Years War by the imperial general Albrecht von Wallenstein, and it caused the death of nearly half the population of Central Europe between 1618 and 1648.

As a result of this spiraling warfare, four Arab states—Libya, Lebanon, Syria, and Iraq—have effectively ceased to exist. Lebanon, once a Christian majority country, became a Shia country during the past two decades under the increased domination of Hezbollah. Nearly 2 million Syrian Sunnis have taken refuge in Lebanon, as Israeli analyst Pinhas Inbari <> observes, and comprise almost half of Lebanon’s total population of 4 million, shifting the demographic balance to the Sunnis—while the mass Sunni exodus tilts the balance of power in Syria toward the Alawites and other religious minorities, who are largely allied with Iran. Jordan, meanwhile, has taken in a million Syrian Sunnis, making Palestinians a minority inside Jordan for the first time in a generation. A region that struggled to find sustenance for its people before 2011 has now been flooded with millions of refugees without resources or means of support. They are living for the most part on largesse from the Gulf States, and their young men are prospective cannon fodder.

The remaining states in the region—Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Iran—will alternately support and suppress the new irregular armies as their interests require. Where does ISIS get its support, apart from oil hijacking in Syria and bank robberies in Mosul <> ? There are allegations that ISIS receives support from Turkey <> , the Sunni Gulf States <> , and Iran <> . Pinhas Inbari <> claims that Shiite Iran is funding Sunni extremists “to be certain that a strong Iraqi state does not emerge again along its western border.” There are equally credible reports that each of these powers wants to stop ISIS. Saudi Arabia fears <> that Sunni extremists might overthrow the monarchy. Turkey fears that the depredations of ISIS on its border will trigger the formation of an independent Kurdish state, which it has opposed vehemently for decades. Iran views ISIS as a Sunni competitor for influence in the region.

To some extent, I believe, all these reports are true. The mess in the Middle East brings to mind the machinations around Swedish intervention in the Thirty Years War between 1627 and 1635, when France’s Cardinal Richelieu paid Sweden’s King Gustavus Adolphus to intervene on the Protestant side in order to weaken France’s Catholic rival Austria. At different times, Protestant Saxony and Catholic Bavaria allied with France, Austria, and each other, respectively. France and Sweden began as allies, briefly became enemies, and then were allies again. Looming over this snake-pit of religious, dynastic, and national rivalries was the figure of Albrecht von Wallenstein, the Austrian generalissimo who twice saved the Empire from defeat at the hands of the Protestants. Wallenstein, commanding a polyglot mercenary army with no national or religious loyalty, played both sides, and Austria had him murdered in 1634.

There is more than coincidence to the parallels between the Middle East today and 17th-century Europe. Iran’s intervention into Syria’s civil conflict inaugurated a new kind of war in the region, the sort that Richelieu practiced in the 1620s. Iran’s war objectives are not national or territorial in the usual sense; rather, the objective is the war itself, that is, the uprooting and destruction of potentially hostile populations. With a third of Syria’s population displaced and several million expelled, the Assad regime has sought to change Syria’s demographics to make the country more congenial to Shiite rule. That in turn elicits a new kind of existential desperation from the Saudis, who are fighting for not only the survival of their sclerotic and corrupt monarchy, but also for the continuation of Sunni life around them. Today Iraq’s Sunnis, including elements of Saddam Hussein’s mainly Sunni army and the 100,000 strong “Sons of Iraq” force hired by then-U.S. commander Gen. David Petraeus during the 2007-2008 surge, are making common cause with ISIS. Tomorrow they might be shooting at each other. The expectation that the waves of sectarian and tribal violence that have caused national borders to crumble across the Middle East will die down in 30 years may be both incredibly grim and wildly optimistic.


In the background of the region’s disrupted demographics, a great demographic change overshadows the actions of all the contenders. That is decline of Muslim fertility, and the unexpected rise in Jewish fertility. The fall in Muslim birth rate is most extreme in Iran and Turkey, with different but related consequences. When Ayatollah Khomeini took power in 1979, the average Iranian woman had seven children; today the total fertility rate has fallen to just 1.6 children, the sharpest drop in demographic history. Iran still has a young population, but it has no children to succeed them. By mid-century Iran will have a higher proportion of elderly dependents than Europe, an impossible and unprecedented burden for a poor country. Iran’s sudden aging will be followed by Turkey, Algeria, and Tunisia.


Source: U.N. World Population Prospects <>

Iran’s disappearing fertility is in a sense the Shah’s revenge. Iran is the most literate Muslim country, thanks in large part to an ambitious literacy campaign introduced by the Shah in the early 1970s. As I showed in my book How Civilizations Die (and Why Islam Is Dying, Too), literacy is the best predictor of fertility in the Muslim world: Muslim women who attend high school and university marry late or not at all and have fewer children. This has grave strategic implications, as Iran’s leaders unabashedly discuss.

Between 2005 and 2020, Iran’s population aged 15 to 24, that is, its pool of potential army recruits, will have fallen by nearly half. To put this in perspective, Pakistan’s military-age population will have risen by about half. In 2000, Iran had half the military-age men of its eastern Sunni neighbor; by 2020 it will have one-fourth as many. Iran’s bulge generation of youth born in the 1980s is likely to be its last, and its window for asserting Shiite power in the region will close within a decade.

The Obama Administration wants to contain Iranian aggression by accommodating Iran’s ambitions to become a regional power. As the president told <> Bloomberg’s Jeffrey Goldberg in March, “What I’ll say is that if you look at Iranian behavior, they are strategic, and they’re not impulsive. They have a worldview, and they see their interests, and they respond to costs and benefits. And that isn’t to say that they aren’t a theocracy that embraces all kinds of ideas that I find abhorrent, but they’re not North Korea. They are a large, powerful country that sees itself as an important player on the world stage, and I do not think has a suicide wish, and can respond to incentives.” Any deal with Iran is therefore a good deal from Obama’s point of view. But that is precisely wrong: Iran does not have a suicide wish, but it knows that it is dying, and has nothing to lose by rolling the dice today.

The analogy with the Thirty Years War is apt; and frightening.


This is an update about ISIS:

“Isis fighters have captured much of eastern Syria in the past few days while international attention has been focused on the Israeli bombardment of Gaza. Using tanks and artillery seized in Iraq, it has taken almost all of oil-rich Deir Ezzor province and is battling to crush the resistance of the Syrian Kurds.”

I would point out, ISIS is getting closer to Israel and now they have access to oil. So, instead of stealing money from banks, they could engage in trade to maintain a steady cash flow. ISIS also picked up some materiel that wasn’t reported when they seized those U.S. weapons we discussed:

“The latest reports say ISIS captured 52 M198 howitzers, capable of firing 155 mmshells 20 miles with precision GPS aiming mechanisms.

Though experts expressed doubts over whether ISIS could quickly figure out how to use the GPS systems, the artillery could still do massive damage to Iraqi cities near their territory.”

And the beat goes on…


Most Respectfully,
Joshua Jordan, KSC
Percussa Resurgo






For your bucket list:

Sara Wheat is the 11th woman to make a HALO jump. She goes to XXXX’s church here in Huntsville. Last week she went to Memphis to jump out of a perfectly good airplane at 30070 feet. HALO means high altitude low (parachute) opening.

Don’t plan on getting me into a $3700 HALO jump for my birthday, like she got.


I suspect there was a time when I would have enjoyed that, but no longer…



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