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Mail 617 April 5 - 11, 2010
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April 5, 2010
I'm currently in California visiting family--particularly the new granddaughter--and checking out landing pads for when I'm forced to retire at 65. We took Air France/KLM into San Francisco. This airline currently seems to be the most civilised long-haul option, and we didn't have to go through the nude scanners in Manchester and Heathrow.
Visited researchers at UC Merced. They're creating a new research university, and that means they have to concentrate on 21st century science, not having the track record to compete in established fields. They seemed interested in what I'm doing, so I may be settling in the Sierra foothills in a couple of years.
Driving around, I find myself homesick for California. This is a good place to live.
Drivers like to speed, but not as fast as the British. However, the British drivers have better skills. This is particularly the case in the LA area, where what I saw reminded me of Chinese drivers in Shanghai.
When did restaurant portions double in size?
Israeli journalist Anat Kam under secret house arrest since December. Faces treason trial in camera <http://tinyurl.com/y8awj6r>
Robbing Peter to pay Paul <http://tinyurl.com/yaem6hy>
Independent story: Iraqi artists denied entry to Britain for their own exhibition <http://tinyurl.com/ygvgnpn>
Harry Erwin, PhD, Senior Lecturer
of Computing, University of Sunderland. Computational neuroethologist:
And They Teach,
The Governor of NJ has thrown down the gauntlet forcing school districts to make major cuts in budgets.
In my own district, one "brilliant" decision cuts the substitute teacher budget by 55%. Now, instead of placing substitutes in classrooms, students will gather for "large group instruction;" in reality, one substitute potentially upwards of 100 kids in an auditorium, filling in blanks on worksheets. I know you'd be shocked to know that one high school sport was cut-- Winter track. The athletic budget in our district is close to $2M.
But I digress . . .
And of course, when the brown stuff hits the rotating airfoils, and the governor actually tries to reign in spending, then comes the "intelligent" responses from those hired to prepare the next generation.
Talk about adolescents parading as adults.
Nuclear power too expensive even without regulatory hurdles?
John Stossel's blog says that he will have an expert on his Thursday show on Fox Business to make the case that even without regulatory hurdles, we don't have nuclear power because it is inherently too expensive. Of course the same expert says that solar and wind are even worse, so perhaps he is advocating that we wait until we have burned all of our petrochemical feedstock before we go nuclear.
-- Mike Johns
That is not my understanding. Access to Energy, which I trust, has presented figures showing that nuclear power is both reliable and cheaper than fossil fuel electricity. This certainly seems reasonable to me. I don't have the numbers handy, but certainly this was true when I did have the numbers -- the Carter through Reagan years -- and I do not believe oil and coal are cheaper now.
Coming to a place near you
'The punishment is normally handed out to violent thugs and repeat offenders.'
- Roland Dobbins
Except that on closer examination,
At least SOMEONE is serious about Space -
I will grieve if it the West turns away from exploration. But it is good that humans may still make it into space. I find it ironic that the East turned away from exploration some 500-600 years ago but seems to have learned their lesson, while the West is now turning away.
Subj: Education: American Enterprise Institute Conference: More Than Just Schools: Rethinking the Demand for Educational Entrepreneurship
Interesting parallel between education and health care: in both cases, markets, that might otherwise reward innovators who offer improved approaches, are perverted by government's decoupling the purchasing decisions from those in a position to make good ones (in education, parents) and coupling those decisions instead to politicians and bureaucrats and clueless "experts".
Or you can wait for the forthcoming book, for which the papers presented at the conference were drafts of chapters.
Subject: New Transmissions
For all you mechanical types that nod knowingly through technical lectures. Watch this video. It's short, but it is brilliant. Several years ago, Rockwell International decided to get into the heavy utility truck transmission business. We were getting ready to tape our first introduction video. As a warm up, the professional narrator began what has become a legend within the trucking industry. This man should have won an academy award for his stellar performance. Now remember this is strictly off the cuff, nothing is written down. This became the biggest talk in the industry. I think you will enjoy this once in a lifetime performance from this gentleman. Click here:
Sent to me by a friend.
Those of you who might not know, the man on the left is the Commandant of the Marine Corps, and he is proud to know the man on the right.
Maybe you'd like to hear about a real American, somebody who honored the uniform he wears
Meet Brian Chontosh Churchville-Chili Central School Class of 1991.
Proud graduate of the Rochester Institute of Technology.
Husband and about-to-be father. First lieutenant (now Captain) in the United States Marine Corps. And a genuine hero, the secretary of the Navy said so yesterday.
At 29 Palms in California Brian Chontosh was presented with the Navy Cross, the second highest award for combat bravery the United States can bestow.
That's a big deal. But you won't see it on the network news tonight
And all you'll read in Brian's hometown newspaper is two paragraphs of nothing.. The odd fact about the American media in this war is that it's not covering the American military. The most plugged-in nation in the world is receiving virtually no true information about what its warriors are doing..
Oh, sure, there's a body count. We know how many Americans have fallen. And we see those same casket pictures day in and day out..
And we're almost on a first-name basis with the jerks who abused the Iraqi prisoners. And we know all about improvised explosive devices and how we lost Fallujah and what Arab public-opinion polls say about us and how the world hates us..
We get a non-stop feed of gloom and doom but we don't hear about the heroes. The incredibly brave GIs who honorably do their duty. The ones our grandparents would have carried on their shoulders down Fifth Avenue.
The ones we completely ignore, like Brian Chontosh. It was a year ago on the march into Baghdad. Brian Chontosh was a platoon leader rolling up Highway 1 in a humvee.
When all hell broke loose. Ambush city. The young Marines were being cut to ribbons. Mortars, machine guns, rocket propelled grenades.
And the kid out of Churchville was in charge. It was do or die and it was up to him. So he moved to the side of his column, looking for a way to lead his men to safety. As he tried to poke a hole through the Iraqi line his humvee came under direct enemy machine gun fire. It was fish in a barrel and the Marines were the fish. And Brian Chontosh gave the order to attack...
He told his driver to floor the humvee directly at the machine gun emplacement that was firing at them. And he had the guy on top with the 50 cal unload on them.
Within moments there were Iraqis slumped across their machine guns and Chontosh was still advancing, ordering his driver now to take the Humvee directly into the Iraqi trench that was attacking his Marines..
Over into the battlement the humvee went and out the door Brian Chontosh bailed, carrying an M16 and a Beretta
and 228 years of Marine Corps pride.
And he ran along the trench, with its mortars and riflemen, machine guns and grenadiers. And he killed them all. He fought with the M16 until it was out of ammo. Then he fought with the Beretta until it was out of ammo. Then he picked up a dead man's AK4 and fought with that until it was out of ammo.
Then he picked up another dead man's AK47 and fought with that until it was out of ammo.
At one point he even fired a discarded Iraqi RPG into an enemy cluster, sending attackers flying with its grenade explosion.
When he was done Brian Chontosh had cleared 200 yards of entrenched Iraqis from his platoon's flank. He had killed more than 20 and wounded at least as many more..
But that's probably not how he would tell it. He would probably merely say that his Marines were in trouble, and he got them out of trouble. Ooh-rah, and drive on.
"By his outstanding display of decisive leadership, unlimited courage in the face of heavy enemy fire, and utmost devotion to duty, 1st Lt. Chontosh reflected great credit upon himself and upheld the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and the United States Naval Service."
That's what the citation says. And that's what nobody will hear. That's what doesn't seem to be making the evening news..
Accounts of American valor are dismissed by the press as propaganda, yet accounts of American difficulties are heralded as objectivity. It makes you wonder if the role of the media is to inform or to depress - to report or to deride. To tell the truth, or to feed us lies.
But I guess it doesn't matter. We're going to turn out all right as long as men like Brian Chontosh
wear our uniform.
If you are as proud of this Marine as I am, then send this to EVERYONE YOU KNOW
WHY WASN'T THIS BE REPORTED ON CNN, ABC, CBS, NBC? INSTEAD WE GOT 24-7 COVERAGE OF TIGER WOODS INFIDELITY CONSEQUENCES. WHICH IS MORE IMPORTANT?
Life isn't about how to survive the storm, but how to dance in the rain.
April 6, 2010
Solar power, where appropriate
Finally, a place where solar power pays for itself:
Indeed. There are two major problems with ground based solar power. First is storage; that is usually more expensive than the solar power panels. Second is costs, both financial and energy costs: the energy required to make the solar panels and transformers and such is large enough that it takes more than twenty years for the panels to generate enough to pay that back; or so I am told, and it seems to be true. I have to say I had thought it would be less. It also takes about 20 to 30 years for the solar power installation to generate enough power to pay for itself. We don't have many of those establishments that have in fact been running for thirty years. The experimental stations Southern California Edison built out in the desert were not engineered to last that long; the contracts didn't call for it.
But in some times and places solar is more than appropriate. I have nothing against ground based solar, and I keep hoping that it will get a lot cheaper. Cheap ground based solar won't solve America's energy problems but could mitigate some of them. It is marvelously local and confers some independence on its owner. I cheer for it, but I am not deluded as to its cost effectiveness. In California given the tax credits it makes sense for many people, but that is gaming the system.
PICS OF CROWD AT SEARCHLIGHT, NEVADA TEA PARTY (More)
Global Warming Realists are now getting threats from Greenpeace. The Greenpeace Board is backpedaling, but it's still up on their web site. They have not disavowed or removed the threats of violence, after our blast of truth blew Copenhagen apart. GRAB A SCREEN IMAGE WHILE YOU CAN.
"We know where you live..."
I saw pictures of the hired SEIU goons trying to get the TEA Partiers to react violently to their egg-throwing. They also purposely gave wrong directions to the event. Isn't it great we have alternative media outlets and the Internet? those tricks worked well for Vietnam but not anymore. But the Lame Stream Media hasn't figured out that we can now find out the real truth rather their truth.
John D. Trudel
I presume that readers here are aware that the Left employs agents provocateur and that the media generally deceived by them. Good tactics require such awareness.
Re your comments on HCUA and McCarthy I think you missed an important distinction between the two.
McCarthy investigated only government employees, including military, who possibly posed security risks. That is, they were handling classified information. There may have been some exceptions but as I recall his only mandate was govt employees.
HCUA investigated mainly (exclusively?) private citizens. Most of them for expressing unpopular political views. Under the McCarran(?) Act, some of these views were illegal, though I do not think they should have been. If Pete Seeger wants to go out and sing songs about the glories of communism, more power to him. (I am a fan and have some of his old Folkways disks from the 40's where he did just that) If some movie writers want to write scripts praising the glories of communism, fine by me. The problem there is more the studios who paid them to do it. I am not supporting them, I think their politics were terribly wrongheaded. But I am more concerned with censoring them than their politics.
In some cases, such as some unions, there may have been justification for HCUA. Seldom for individuals.
I used to have a rather thick, probably 600+ pages, book called "Thirty Years of Treason". It had capsule stories (3-5 pages) on a number of people and organizations who got hauled before the committee. Pretty interesting. Pretty scary too. It did not pretend to be objective but still...
One other difference between McCarthy and HCUA. McCarthy was a Republican. The committee for much of its existence was Democrat. Might that have anything to do with hearing about "McCarthyism" virtually every day and seldom hearing about the HCUA?
John R Henry CPP
Not so much missed the distinction as didn't want to write that much about the subject; but of course you are right. HCUA was concerned with things like loyalty oaths for university professors. There is also the problem of truth in advertising: it's one thing to hold a view, it's another to profess to hold one view while in fact subverting it. As you say, the United States does not and should not dictate beliefs; but when agents of a foreign power are in the State Department -- as Whittaker Chambers told State after he defected from the Party -- it is a matter of importance. Or should be.
It is a complex question and nowhere near as simple as it is being taught now. It isn't something that needs a lot of time spent on it now -- perhaps. I thought I made the intended point, but your addenda are worth noting.
Pete Seeger and Paul Robeson had every right to their views. Julius Rosenberg who called himself Stalin's Soldier is another case entirely. McCarthy was a drunk and had boorish ways, and his methods were questionable (and Cohn's were despicable); but the target was real. Today we are not afraid of the USSR; in those days we were and with good reason. Had Europe gone behind the Iron Curtain -- and it certainly looked as if it could have -- it would have been a very dangerous world.
Frum matches wits over GOP Healthcare strategy on Colbert Report
There is a pretty entertaining 8 minute segment of the Colbert Report where David Frum is matched against the host for Frum's criticism that the 'just say no' strategy of Republicans on the Health Care Law. He also makes the point that the repeal and replace strategy is a phony sophomoric canard that hides the truth about Republicans effecting change in the law.
The link (as of April 3d) can be found here:
Ed & Sue Kelly aboard USSV Angel Louise Currently anchored & floating happily in the lagoon at St Martin, French West Indies
WH tacitly accepts missile-defense limits of Russians on START?
"Every nation reserves the right to pull out of a treaty, but why sign it if the nation announces at the beginning that pursuing a defensive missile shield means the end to the treaty? The White House insisted that they didn’t agree to any such language, but their tacit acceptance — or at least shoulder shrug — of this announcement implies acceptance of those terms. After all, if the Obama administration objected to them, they could simply refuse to sign the treaty — which even the AP recognizes as much more beneficial to Russia than the US. At the least, this latest reaction from the White House is considerably weaker than the denials of last week, which strongly suggests passive acceptance of Russia’s publicly-stated terms."
I am not a diplomat, but aren't we supposed to be trying to get advantages for OUR country?
: DC Circuit decides FCC cannot regulate network management
Dear Dr. Pournelle,
I know you are interested in net neutrality. The DC Circuit in Comcast Corp v. FCC decided just yesterday that the FCC lacks authority to regulate an ISP's network management practices. That decision only pertains to the order issued, and the regulations it tried to implement, not necessarily touching whether the FCC has the authority to regulate network management in any broaders sense or through a different mechanism. Obviously, I am summarizing a detailed opinion. The opinion will be available for free for at least a few weeks:
Personally, I think the Court got this one right where the FCC used a fairly unusual adjudicative proceeding to make rules and tried to double down on its attempts to force ISP's to commit to some very hazy "network neutrality principles" rather than setting forth actual specific regulations through the usual rulemaking process. At the same time, I am fairly certain that, for good or ill, if the FCC used a more common procedure and crafted their regulations to their grant of authority, new rules implementing the same ideas would likely stand up to judicial challenge. Regardless, I thought you would find the decision interesting.
My best wishes to you and your family, and please keep up the excellent work on your website. Sincerely,
I do find it interesting, as I also find your view that they can change the way they operate and prevail. I need to think on that one. Thanks
Harry Reid sure was condescending when we organized the massive "Showdown in Searchlight" mega tea party rally which drew more than 10,000 people to the tiny Nevada desert town that once was Harry Reid's hometown.
And now Harry Reid has been completely humiliated when
only 100 people turned out for his own campaign rally in Searchlight, NV
that kicked off a statewide campaign swing for his re-election campaign.
We're not making this up, you can see the Las Vegas Review Journal article
for yourself - <http://paracom.paramountcomm
* John D. Trudel
The article says that 1000 people showed up, I think...
For a PDF copy of A Step Farther Out:
April 7, 2010
Marine Brian Chontosh
Your April 5th mail had an item lamenting that we will not see coverage of Brian Chontosh's bravery in Iraq. It was interesting. It said we will not see it in the news, and states little or no coverage of this is in the press but instead we are reading about Tiger Woods.
(It was interesting that the mail item had 22 web references embedded.) It ended saying:
"If you are as proud of this Marine as I am, then send this to EVERYONE YOU KNOW"
"WHY WASN'T THIS BE (sic) REPORTED ON CNN,
ABC, CBS, NBC? INSTEAD WE GOT 24-7
COVERAGE OF TIGER WOODS INFIDELITY
CONSEQUENCES. WHICH IS MORE IMPORTANT? "
I was curious and thought this sounded like an internet round- robin of too old of a story especially in view of a reference therein that said it occurred a "year ago". In about 2 minutes of web research I learned that though the facts are true, they are more than a wee bit stale. Its even in Snopes now.
This event happened on May 11, 2004. Though its all over the web today, mostly in the breathless mode of a current story, we will be celebrating the 6th Anniversary of Chontosh's bravery in just a little more than one month. I wonder if this really should be in news stories today? How many of us, if we were editor would think it timely to cover something so old. It apparently was the subject of media coverage back when it was current (despite assertions to the contrary) and even was the subject of a 2006 New York Times Editorial (as quoted at Snopes.com where a search of Chontosh's name brings up facts from the last five years).
I think sometimes a lot of folks reach too far to make a point, and forward stuff via the web that never dies. My experience is that most times anyone writes, "SEND THIS TO EVERYONE YOU KNOW" it will be recirculated forever, and contributes to 'propaganda like' material that is not worth the electrons used to keep it going.
Ed Kelly Cruising fulltime on USSV Angel Louise, now in the French West Indies on the Island of St Martin.
My apologies. I should have checked that one out. And I should have edited that better. I do not usually include "Send this to everyone you know" in that mail.
The thrust of the mail is correct: the media generally do not feature such stories, while they do feature things like Tiger Woods. If I had time I'd dig out what was being featured instead of Chontosh's story.
My thanks for finding that and I'll try to be a bit more careful in future. At least no harm was done. The story isn't made up. It's all true, just not current.
I think I deserve free health care for life.
As retired military I have been looking for Congress to actually do what they promised career people: as a young sailor I was promised free medical care for life if I would make the Navy a career. I did so, but my military medical care was terminated when I turned 65, and I was instructed to sign up for Medicare and a program named TRICARE for Life (TFL). Medicare costs money, now about $1,200 a year. TFL itself is free, but I am told I will need supplemental insurance to bring the level of care up to what I was promised by the military. That supplemental insurance adds thousands a year to my cost.
Military retirement is niggardly compared to what public employees receive in California, and free health care was an important benefit.
I am still using Kaiser courtesy of my wife's school district employment, but she will be retiring in a year or two and I will have to have something in place then.
LCDR Jim Dodd, USN (Ret.) San Diego
I have always supported the obligations of the nation to its veterans.
It is not veteran benefits that will bankrupt the system. I would have thought that you could have got your own membership in Kaiser under Medicare Advantage, which is what I have. I wasn't given a choice on turning 65: my Kaiser dues went up by a factor of 5 if I wanted to remain a private member, but went down to very little if I chose Medicare on my 65th birthday. I did opt for a program that I pay into to extend benefits, and I do make co-payments (as I should). If you can get into that you should. I strongly recommend it.
But I do not quarrel with veteran benefits, and my restructure of Medicare would simply raise co-payments on both visits and pharmaceuticals; I think it ought to cost something to make use of medical resources. For those who are truly indigent the cost can be kept to a minimum, and of course waived for emergencies, but it ought never to be simply free. There is no limit to demand for free goods, and that racks up the costs for everyone.
And of course I have always supported appropriations for VA, which operates pretty well (with the inevitable disastrous exceptions).
Dear Dr. Pournelle,
I read your discussion of the potential abandonment of deterrence with interest. But I am afraid I must disagree with some of your conclusions.
1) From my reading, we are saying that we will not use nuclear weapons against any non-nuclear threat. While unpalatable, it has the singular advantage of being intellectually honest. It seems to me that the will to use nuclear weapons for any purpose whatsoever is minimal in both parties. Why make idle threats? As a bluff, perhaps, but I don't believe PT Barnum himself could make that bluff credible from the current administration.
2) I'm concerned the nuclear deterrent is over-extended in any case. I'm sure we're all thankful that Georgia is not in NATO today, yes? Our government continues to make ever-wider alliances which are ever-more meaningless. I can understand why we would nuke Russia to save Germany. It's less apparent that we want to nuke Russia to save Estonia, or Ukraine, or Georgia, or ...
3) You're the one in this conversation who prefers Republic to Empire, yes? But I would think that the abandonment of deterrence would be the first step to abandoning Empire. Empires require military might. Absent nuclear guarantees, we would need a massive increase in conventional force to continue to meet our global commitments. Do you see that forthcoming from this administration?
Absent nuclear or conventional force, the only alternative is to gradually withdraw from the world and leave it to its own devices. A nice way to put it would be to say that we are once again becoming 'the friends of liberty everywhere but the guardians only of our own'. A nastier way to put it would be to say we are turning inward to eat our lotuses in a continent-sized Sweden.
If I understand correctly, you would prefer an America with minimal government at home and minimal foreign commitments abroad. The Democrats are giving you the second -- they are the new Isolationists. Regrettably, the only people offering the first are the Tea Party, and they don't seem to have a majority ... yet. Maybe someday ...
Deterrence is a complex thing. We used to distinguish between "tactical" and "strategic" nuclear weapons, and we talked about "limited" as opposed to "central" nuclear war. Most of us defined a tactical nuke as one that went off in Germany. Germany had no deterrent power.
For most of the Cold War, the only way the US could stop an all-out Russian/East German march to the Rhine was with tactical nuclear weapons, and we had deployed such weapons west of the Fulda Gap. Some of their locations were well known (and of course those would not have survived a first strike) but others were kept in less obvious locations, and of course some were in SAC bases throughout the world. A deterrent has to be believable in many ways including that you have a believable way to launch it. That is one reason why some of the details of SAC's command and control system were leaked. And we had the Triad: Air, Missiles, and Submarines to make the ultimate deterrent credible.
I am not in favor of entangling alliances. The only way the US could honor some of its NATO commitments remains a nuclear strike. The nuclear umbrella is required by a number of treaties. I would withdraw from NATO but until we do, the umbrella is needed.
As to withdrawing from the world and eating lotuses in a continent sized Sweden, I might prefer Empire, but only because you see no place for liberty in that scenario. I'd be glad to trade liberty for Empire. What we have now is something else. What I really dislike is Incompetent Empire in which we have all the costs of Empire and no advantages. I opposed the Iraq interventions, but I assumed that when Bush II went in, they'd secure the oil fields and pump holy Hell out of oil. We didn't need the oil, but the revenue from it would finance restructuring Iraq including both silver and golden bullets to solve lots of the civil problems and possible partition. Instead we got the fabulously incompetent Bremer and a disaster costly in blood and treasure despite the valor of the Legions.
Incompetent Empire is a terrible policy.
I do not equate abandoning hegemony with isolationism. It is possible to have a free Republic and look out for our overseas interests without sending the Legions all over the world.
Your last paragraph is an obvious and unfortunate truth, but perhaps the Tea Party people understand there are limits to the overseas obligations a Republic can assume.
Is Michelle Obama a "birther"?
One presumes not...
Los Angeles Superior Court Jury Duty
Just finished my one day of Jury Duty in Pasadena today. My first since December, 2006. I was in at 9:30 AM and out before noon. 50 Citizens were not so fortunate. At about 10:30 all jurors who had not driven were asked to raise their hands and then asked to come to the counter. Shortly thereafter 50 names were called and the lucky 50 were told to report to the Alhambra Court House by 1:30 PM.
This is just another example of our Imperial Government at work. One of the items that can be addressed through a phone call is a change of Jury Service location it the designated location proves difficult. These 50 Jurors were not given that option. Admittedly, it is only about 6 miles away, but it is certainly not treating citizens with respect to ask them to report to one location and then force them to go to another.
Is it any wonder that many people try to shirk their civic duty when treated like so many cattle?
Outsourced Grading, With Supporters and Critics, Comes to College - Teaching - The Chronicle of Higher Education
Regarding California and its financial woes
Is it technically possible for a State (or a City) to declare bankruptcy? When that happens with a company, pensions are typically wiped out. In most cases, the Pension Guarantee Corporation steps in and provides a minimal replacement pension as a safety net. But the maximum payout is fairly low, so people with large pensions usually get quite a large haircut.
Such a step would, of course, provoke a lot of political outrage. But so will any of the other alternatives.
At least one city -- Vallejo -- has gone bankrupt. There are still lawsuits going on over that. Political outrage is fine but if there is no money...
Africa's Forever Wars
Why the continent's conflicts never end
Why Genes Still Matter
A review of Gregory Cochran and Henry Harpending, The 10,000 Year Explosion
I have often recommended this book.
April 8, 2010
I was extremely fortunate in the outcome of my brain tumor. May it be so with you.
For what they're worth (add $2 to get a cafe at Starbucks), my responses to the e-mail "Deterrence and Defense" by "Brian P" and your comments thereto.
(1) The other aspect of abandoning a nuclear response against adherents to the nuclear non-proliferation treaty is that, when the US gave up chemical and biological weapons, we did so by adopting the posture that strategic attacks with chemical or biological weapons would be responded with nuclear weapons. This decision leaves us with the official posture that at attack by such weapons will be met with "overwhelming conventional force," which depending on circumstances might not be practical. Much has been made by the critics of this decision that in 1991 Saddam withheld his chemical weapons from the battlefield because of the threat of nuclear retaliation; and I cannot say that a biological live agent attack on New York City, for example, with 100,000 casualties should not receive a nuclear response against the masterminds. You've already discussed the distinction between strategic and tactical nuclear weapons, to which I will add that tactical nuclear weapons would allow more nearly surgical strikes with reduced (I'll not say eliminated) collateral damage.
(2) Regarding Georgia and Russia: (a) If we had
admitted Georgia into NATO prior to the confrontation over Odessa, it is
very plausible that either NATO would have told Tbilisi, "Tease the bear at
you're own risk; don't expect help from us in advance" (in fact, we pretty
much said that anyway, and I'm not sure NATO would have done things
differently), or Russia would have had second thoughts. In retrospect, I'm
not sure that is a good counterexample. Certainly, IF Georgia had been in
NATO, AND IF NATO had given them permission to "tease the bear," AND IF
Russia had invaded anyway, then we would have been obligated to a military
response and it might have gone nuclear. In practice, I would have expected
a token response and a lot of face saving on all sides, and practical
historians might conclude that we had honored the spirit but not the letter
of the agreement to save face ... and it would have made the rest of the
former Pact members now in NATO very nervous but probably not inclined to
withdraw from NATO under the circumstances. (b) It is not obvious to me (and
I would appreciate seeing your logic) that the US has more common cause
today with a Russia, ostensibly democratic but lead by surviving
nomenklatura with previous KGB associations, than with the social
democracies of western Europe and the former Warsaw pact. The later
certainly seem to believe that they have a vested interest in alliances
which would mitigate or eliminate the risk that the Russian government would
resume some variant of Soviet expansionism. That said, the current posture
would still permit response against Russia if it is deemed to be required.
(3) In the debate regarding Republic vs. incompetent Empire: a Republic
still requires deterrence against attacks against the national corpus.
Differently dispositioned, but not necessarily weaker and very possibly
stronger, since we wouldn't have alliances to draw on. (4) I would not refer
to the current Democrats as Isolationist in the slightest. They are
certainly pulling back from our security commitments and our "friends" since
the era of Roosevelt and Kennedy -- but at the same time attempting
appeasement to sworn enemies of the United States and relying on China and
an the Gulf States to "cover our markers" for their increased social
programs (I'll concede the "lotus eaters" remark with the caveat that it
will only last until China and the Gulf States divvy the spoils and decide
that, since they own the US anyway, they can drill in our waters and
wildlife preserves with impunity...) And my personal suspicion is that the
"Tea Party" will have a working majority, most of whom will be called
Republicans, with some few Independents and Democrats, during the next
Congress. (If not, see Dr. Walter William's column at townhall.com this
There is every reason why as a Republic we should have a strong and viable nuclear deterrent. It is a legitimate guarantee against existential threats.
Indeed, there are some pretty good arguments for the nuclear deterrent, plus the Navy, being the greatest part of our entire defense establishment. The purpose of the Legions is projection of power beyond our borders; there are good arguments against doing much of that (no, I don't mean isolationism; I do mean minding our own business). It is not isolationism to say that we are the defenders of liberty everywhere but the guardians only of our own -- indeed, we have ceased to be guardians of what we used to call liberty at home. It is not isolationism to avoid entangling alliances. It is not isolationism to not become involved in the territorial disputes of Europe -- or of the Middle East for that matter. I do not know what good it did the nation to become involved in former Yugoslavia, and I continue to question the wisdom of both our Iraqi adventures.
The nuclear deterrent is required if we want to continue to project power beyond the borders; but it is also required to guarantee our existence. Wealthy Republics have ever had the dilemma of defense: large standing armies of paid soldiers have ever been a problem. Machiavelli dealt with it in his writings. So have many others. We have pride in the Legions, and their capability, but there are good reasons to believe we would be better off cutting back on the standing army and investing more in the National Guard. These are not questions easily settled, and require decisions on just what it is we want to accomplish.
Legions are expensive. We need to be clear on just what is their purpose. Shoring up an Incompetent Empire is a questionable use. Choosing between Incompetent Empire and Isolationism isn't very difficult. And in any event all our major defense strategies require a secure nuclear deterrent.
And that requires a competent Strategy of Technology -- and we are rapidly losing the capability of doing that. It's that I fear. The Legions are sound, but the technology behind them is subject to erosion. Always. The Strategy of Technology by Possony and Pournelle was a Cold War book, but the basic principles remain sound -- and seem to be unknown to many of our defense policy makers.
This discussion continues next week. View
April 9, 2010
california being broke
"Either some of these debts have to be restructured, or there will be runaway inflation."
Defaulting on debt is deflationary.
Defaulting on debt is restructuring in a particularly drastic way. Obviously any debt forgiveness takes money out of the system and is therefore deflationary, and deflation was one of the serious problems faced by Roosevelt in fighting off the Great Depression.
The quest for "sound money" is always part of an economic program.
Doing taxes. Way behind.
April 10, 2010
Books on the Netflix model?
The economics might not support the concept, but I nonetheless wonder why the concept of downloading books for which a daily rental fee is charged hasn't been developed.
The Kindle download model would work combined with a boomerang transaction returning to the lender when the "book" is "deleted" from the customer's device -- with appropriate charges.
And, of course, the royalty issue would have to be worked out -- a matter of no small import to you and some of your readers.
My two maiden aunts (long deceased now) were avid readers who paid fees to rent best sellers from private "circulating libraries" that, as I remember, operated in drug stores -- in northern NJ, at least. --
Cheers, Alan Messer
Interesting. I'd have to think on it. Of course there used to be book rental clubs, and authors got only the royalty on the original book sale. I believe in some countries they do collect a small author royalty. I may even get some through the Author's Registry, which sends me about a hundred bucks a year collected from various overseas countries. Other countries pay into an account that goes to the Author's Guild or Science Fiction Writers of America, or Mystery Writers of America, based on their membership. SFWA gets quite a good chunk of its annual budget from those. I belong to all three, but I don't know how multiple membership works; each one sends out a form about what kind of stuff I write and I fill it out every year.
"Many dyslexics have problems with 'crowding', where they're distracted by the words surrounding the word they're trying to read. When reading text on a small phone, you're reducing the crowding effect."
----- Roland Dobbins
Much "dyslexia" is maestrogenic in that once it is diagnosed, efforts to teach that kid to read completely cease. It is my understanding that true neurological dyslexia is very rare, well under 5%. The other night at the Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society meeting the club's leading 'dyslexic' who has been telling us of his reading problem for a dozen years I know of announced that he has now been told he isn't dyslexic but has Attention Deficit Disorder. I don't know the details, but apparently this happens nowadays.
Our experience has been that the remedy to most 'dyslexia' -- which translates to 'illiterate' or 'can't read' -- is intensive and systematic phonics training with drills. Roberta had considerable success with her reading program with teens who were diagnosed as extremely dyslexic and hadn't learned to read.
On that score, she has determined that her reading program works fine with Windows 7; you do have to set it to Large Fonts . The program is old -- it was written for DOS and Windows 3.1 -- and looks a bit klunky, but it works very well. Very well indeed. It's the best insurance I know of that a kid will learn to read, and given the state of the public school in California and elsewhere there's no other such insurance. California had an official war on phonics instruction for many years, and while they've called it off now, the Education Professors don't now how to teach kids to read and thus don't know how to teach teachers: few of them every studied phonics instruction because the state department of education pretty well forbade it for two generations. The result was a great increase in illiteracy. Astonishing. If you have children or grandchildren of an age to learn reading 5 years old is fine -- this might be the best thing you can do for them.
via blog <http://www.excelhero.com/blog/> by Daniel Ferry on 4/6/10
Ever wonder if global warming is for real? I can tell you categorically from my own research of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies' publicly available data of surface station temperature records <http://data.giss.nasa.gov/gistemp/station_data/> that... it all depends!
Taking on the entire world was too daunting, so I limited my analysis to the State of California, where I live.
I downloaded the complete monthly data sets for all 114 surface stations in California. Here is what the mean yearly temperature for that entire dataset looks like:
Notice that the trend over the 120 year period shows an increase for the annual mean temperature by just over one degree Celsius. Also notice that the number of active surface stations has dropped dramatically since 1995.
Some of the stations have been in service for quite some time, while others are relatively new. Any real change in climate is a process taking decades or longer. If we filter NASA's data so that the chart is restricted to stations in service for 100 years or longer our data set shrinks to 50 stations, but still scattered throughout California:
Notice that the trend slope has reduced by half, producing only a half a degree Celsius rise over the entire 120 year period. Also notice that the number of stations is much more stable over the 120 years, but still has a tragic reduction in the number of stations active since 1995.
One concern is that cities themselves may be largely responsible for observed temperature increases. If you walk from a grassy park to a tarmac parking lot on a warm day, you can feel the sharp difference in temperature between the two. When applied to cities, this is called the Urban Heat Island effect <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Urban_heat_island> . Unfortunately, a large percentage of surface stations are located in cities and of those, a large percentage are located in the worst possible part of a city, i.e. black tops, roof tops, next to brick buildings, heat pumps, etc. If we limit our California list to just the stations where NASA records the surrounding population at 30,000 or less, we get a very different picture:
This reduces the number of stations included to just 26, but look what happens to the slope trend. It's actually slightly negative, which technically shows a cooling over the 120 year period for these rural surface stations. Many of the stations lost since 1995 were long term rural stations, and it is truly a travesty that they have been taken offline. It would have been nice to have a larger long-term rural data set to work with.
So is California experiencing global warming? As you can see it depends on what you look at. I'll say it's not exactly cut and dry. It's a shame that the leaders that are responsible for bankrupting our beautiful state never did their own analysis of these data before spending us into oblivion on global warming counter measures.
At a near point in the future I will be releasing the Excel based tool I developed to do this study. It is called StationLab. Reblog this post [with Zemanta] <http://reblog.zemanta.com/zemified/936f776e-56bc-4ad4-b5a5-1d58cb92cc9c/>
=Which is pretty close to my own conclusions. I am not worried about mild warming -- and if you are having problems being sure there is warming it is by definition mild -- while I am quite concerned about the possible return of the ice. Warmth means longer growing seasons in the north. Ice is ice.
We need to know more of what is going on before we spend to stop it. Incidentally, one thing that is useful whether there's warming or cooling is nuclear power, which doesn't add CO2 -- and whether it's warming or cooling we need energy. Low cost energy and freedom is the key to economic health.
Lize, Demmed lize, an' stastiticks.
Re: Alex Thurber's Olympic views on medical coverage; As a Canadian, I'm pretty familiar with government health care, and it's a definite tradeoff. Sorta quick access for many things, agonizing delays for others, and simple no-goes for yet others. Even the existence of private pay-as-you go clinics and services is mostly verboten (tho' reality is putting the screws on). Can't have "2-tier" services, you see, the theory being that all the doctors and services will migrate to the private carriage trade. That even includes no running the existing MRI machines outside official 9-5 hours, so they sit idle most of the time, with 6-month waiting lists.
If the service is "elective", especially if you're beyond your earning years, you can cross your fingers and hope. That's it. It's de facto triage, of course.
As for lifespan, I've read that, excluding gunshot and car injuries, the US has the highest on the planet. So the health care is unparallelled if you don't intersect with something too fast-moving.
Supply will appear for the demand, if private elective treatment is rationed. Already there is a range of options, from Mexico to India, and beyond. Locally, however, "No Patient Left Behind" has about the same effect as the educationist original.
It would be a great disservice to the world, which is already substantially parasitic on US medical and pharmaceutical research, to "regress to the mean". You actually won't like it there much. And all those uncovered costs will give severe sticker shock to jurisdictions now free-riding on the US cutting edge.
And you can see from Harry Erwin's postings that what happens when the full horror of admin priotities set in at The National Health Service is not a fluke.
[Emphasis added. JEP]
Holy cow! So it's more important that all be equal than that they cure the most people. Of course liberalism often produces such mean spirited results.
|This week:||Sunday, April
Some of the items on your site regarding flares and information survival got me curious. I wondered if anyone was making a civilian laptop computer that was resistant to EMPs and/or flares. So far, I haven't found any. There are ruggedized systems that are shielded against electromagnetic interference, but I haven't found any EMP-proof systems. No doubt the military has specialized ones (they damn well better), but are there computers I can buy that are equipped to survive such things?
Me, I'd think about Faraday cages. They can be fairly cheap
Subj: Fully-Rugged Tablet PC
You call that wimpy iPad a tablet? Now *THIS* is a *tablet*! 8-)
Rugged and expensive... but then there's Moore's Law...
'What _is_ clear is that with each passing day Steve Jobs is looking less and less like Sony’s co-founder Akio Morita and more and more like CBS’s Bill Paley — the man credited with inventing network television.'
-- Roland Dobbins
Kzin cub discovered in France?
You may wish to turn down the volume so as not to have to listen to the annoying music:
- Roland Dobbins
The Children's Hour...
Nuclear Power in Viet Nam
Viet Nam expects to have it's first, of many, Nuclear Power Plants under construction in 2014. Admittedly Viet Nam is struggling to produce enough power and we do have day long rolling blackouts etc. there is also a "Wind Farm" a few miles from the house and roughly half of Viet Nam's current power is hydro-electric.
Now, I like Viet Nam. But does America really want to fall behind Viet Nam in the Nuclear Power Field?
A new Street Without Joy...
The US and Viet Nam are likely allies if reality prevails...
: Nukes vs. Jobs
I thought by now that it was self-evident that from a political perspective, the smartest place to place a new nuclear reactor was right next door to an old one.
After a town has had a nuclear plant for a while, the people come to like the nice, safe, high paying jobs the plant provides. This in contrast to a green-field plant where the town has no experience with one.
Very few people would object to doubling the number of reactors at Palo Verde (NorthEast Phoenix Metro) for example.
From an engineering standpoint, it's probably more efficient to place the plants closer to areas of peak consumption, but politically speaking, building more reactors at or adjacent to existing facilities makes a lot of sense.
Mark E. Horning, Physicist
Another Attack on Nuclear Power
I read your entry supporting nuclear power Thursday and I thought you might be interested in another way opponents of nuclear power have found to attack the plants. The plants at Oyster Creek in New Jersey and Indian Point in New York are up for relicensing in the next few years by the NRC. The water permits for cooling water for these plants has been denied by the states and the states are demanding they build cooling towers to be relicensed. Building the cooling towers would shut these plants down for years and the states have denied a rate increase to pay for building the cooling towers. In the case of the Oyster Creek, the cooling water is currently being discharged into the Atlantic Ocean. The Indian Point plant generates 30% of the electricity for New York City and Westchester county.
The states are referring to the cooling water as "polluted", because the water is warmer at the discharge end than the intake. This attack is silly, because most methods of generating electricity require cooling water and the most likely replacement for nuclear, which is coal, generates real pollution and not just warm water. Even the proposed solar plant in the Mojave is being opposed because of the cooling water it would use. I don't say the Mojave plant makes economic sense, but if you can't built a solar plant in the desert, then where can you build it? I wouldn't be surprised if similar tactics are used on the nuclear plants in California. We wouldn't want to heat up the Pacific Ocean, would we?
Environmentalists are also opposing the other pollution free way to generate electricity: hydroelectric power. There is a continuing effort to tear down the dams on the Snake River because it interferes with the Salmon spawning on the river.
I remember that in the Big Freeze of 1976 when the coal yards froze so hard they couldn't get the coal out to stoke coal fired plants, the one place that the clams survived in brackish water was at the outfalls of nuclear power plants, where the water remained warm enough...
And in California sports fishers take their charter boats to the outfalls of San Onofre because the big fish like warm water.
Subject: Swedish (silent) Navy Sub
Life isn't about how to survive the storm, but how to dance in the rain.
Impressively better than anything we have. The Swedes are an Armed Neutrality and sometimes they act as if they mean it. Up toward the end of the Cold War Sweden had the fourth largest military Air Force in the world.
That was a thoughtful article on HCUA. It's hard to have a lot of sympathy for air heads who fell over themselves to talk up or assist the Soviets. They may have been "innocent" by a certain stretch of the imagination and I grant that the full horror of the Soviet Union was not as fully laid out then as it was subsequently, thanks to Conquest, Solzhenitsyn, Koestler, and a host of others. It's still hard today for the person not absolutely transfixed by the slaughter to get a clear picture. Not for nothing does comedian Gallagher refer to the History Channel as the Hitler Channel. Virtually nothing is done to publicize the crimes of Stalin and, in fact, much energy is expended even now to keep the curtain closed tight around the real record of the last century's leftists totalitarians (of which the Nazis were but one variant).
Still, I cannot excuse the willingness with which the so-called dupes and innocents gave their allegiance to a foreign power in the 30s and 40s. Any way you slice it, those fools gave support and cover to a foreign government at best and, at worst, murderous gangsters whose true colors were discoverable with only some small effort. If the full malevolence was, arguably, not readily apparent, enough was known to give someone serious pause. Just knowing that a man has slapped his wife's face ONE TIME is enough to put one on notice that all is very much not right with such a man. The Hitler-Stalin pact was the Great Watershed for the "innocents" but, good lord, there was evidence aplenty before that all was not right in Commieland.
At the present point in our nation's history, it's doubtful that anything would be considered treason by our governing elites. I'd say throwing open the border to the invasion of 20,000,000 illegal immigrants and then working to give them citizenship is treason but the elites seem to think it's the Higher Patriotism.
Maybe it's just me.
I enjoyed your Cringlely columns in another life.
Thomas Sowell addresses some of the problems in his new Intellectuals and Society.
Treason is defined in the Constitution and does not include thought crimes. This is good. Unfortunately this has been taken to mean that you have a right to be employed at tax payer expense to promulgate your "ideas" to children, and this should probably be debated. No one wants to close private schools even if they are red diaper schools, but it does seem a bit of a handicap to have to hire and pay intellectuals to trash the country in schools. It's not a simple matter, of course.
Actually I only wrote 2 of the Cringely columns. That was back when I had an InfoWorld column, and Cringely was a house name of the "Field Editor" -- whose purpose was to be in the field, and thus not available when someone had a complaint or a commission impossible of execution. It got referred to Cringely who was of course never there. Laurie Flynn did many of them. This is before Mark Stephens had his turn as "Cringely" and later actually changed his name. Jonathan Sachs gave the name Cringely to a mummified snail on the window outside his office... After a year or so of my InfoWorld columns BYTE negotiated that I confine computer columns to BYTE in exchange for a higher rate.
Official: NASA a jobs program
Dear Dr. Pournelle,
You probably know more about this than I do, but this
is the first time I've actually heard a head of NASA admit that he is in
charge of a jobs program, with no plans for going to space:
Sincerely, Frank Luxem
This may be a way to disassemble the enormous NASA standing army, and that could be all to the good.
: East LA or the Congo?
I just read the article about perpetual “war” – really organized violence -- in Africa. There is nothing surprising here, of course. The tribes behave savagely, which is why they are called savages. What struck me is the precise parallel between the tribes and our own urban gangs. Both exist only to loot, pillage and terrorize; because they have no objectives, they are immune to negotiation and reason. Both are fed by an endless supply of innocent children who are easily transformed into “soldiers” utterly devoid of humanity and compassion. Like many, I’ve lamented for decades the stupidity of deliberately creating our own internal third-world with its huge financial and human suffering costs. The situation may be worse than I thought: dealing with vicious rabble, though unpleasant, is much easier than dealing with ORGANIZED vicious rabble.
Thanks for all you do.
Of course one must be careful to distinguish savage customs from a "savage race." All races can be civilized, and all can be savages, or worse, be civilized yet go a-viking and become the terror of the world (From the fury of the North Men, Good Lord deliver us) Gibbon rejoiced that civilization had finally become strong enough to keep the barbarians outside the gate, and there would not be another collapse. We now see to have found a system for generating barbarians inside the gates. From the foolishness of the Intellectuals, Good Lord deliver us.
Faint Young Sun Research
: Faint young sun paradox explained by Stanford
– greenhouse effect not involved <http://wattsupwiththat.com/2010/04/07/
(quote) Four billion years ago, our then stripling sun radiated only 70 to 75 percent as much energy as it does today. Other things on Earth being equal, with so little energy reaching the planet’s surface, all water on the planet should been have frozen. But ancient rocks hold ample evidence that the early Earth was awash in liquid water – a planetary ocean of it. So something must have compensated for the reduced solar output and kept Earth’s water wet.
To explain this apparent paradox, a popular theory holds there must have been higher concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, most likely carbon dioxide, which would have helped retain a greater proportion of the solar energy that arrived.
But a team of earth scientists including researchers from Stanford have analyzed the mineral content of 3.8-billion-year-old marine rocks from Greenland and concluded otherwise.
“There is no geologic evidence in these rocks for really high concentrations of a greenhouse gas like carbon dioxide,” said Dennis Bird, professor of geological and environmental sciences.
Instead, the team proposes that the vast global ocean of early Earth absorbed a greater percentage of the incoming solar energy than today’s oceans, enough to ward off a frozen planet. Because the first landmasses that formed on Earth were small – mere islands in the planetary sea – a far greater proportion of the surface of was covered with water than today. (end quote)
Apparently, boosting the albedo of the planet explains the data much better than boosting the CO2 levels in the early atmosphere can.
I think I learned that in high school physics; certainly in University physics.
Of course with climate it's more dynamic what with the interior of the Earth being molten rock and there are these vents called volcanoes.
Climate modelers have a hammer, so what they see is lots of nails.
An excellent summary.
SPIEGEL ONLINE, 04/06/2010
Climate Catastrophe: A Superstorm for Global Warming Research
Plagued by reports of sloppy work, falsifications and exaggerations, climate research is facing a crisis of confidence. How reliable are the predictions about global warming and its consequences? And would it really be the end of the world if temperatures rose by more than the much-quoted limit of two degrees Celsius?
By Marco Evers, Olaf Stampf and Gerald Traufetter
You can download the complete article over the Internet at the following URL:
I have been asking that question for a long time. Back when we were afraid of Global Cooling and a new Ice Age, we had something to worry about; but I don't fear longer growing seasons in Canada and opening arable sections in Siberia quite so much, and I look forward to vintage Scottish wine.
The World's Largest NaS battery
I guess this is one part of the ground solar puzzle that is proven technology:
"The town of Presidio, Texas has built the biggest NaS battery in the US, capable of storing up to four megawatts of power for up to eight hours. They even nicknamed it.
Big Old Battery (or BOB, as it's affectionately referred to by locals, to the extent that one can refer with affection to a sodium sulfur battery) began charging this week. Before BOB, Presidio's only link to the US power grid was a transmission line built in 1948, which meant fairly frequent stretches with no electricity. Now, they've got a backup plan that can power the entire town."
Daniel Hannen on the British Pound
It's well worth the 2 minutes - he makes a great couple of points against the Euro, and you can even hear the other MEP's chuckling in the background.
In theory Sound Money is a good idea; but see Coin Harvey on Sound Munney
Art of the Steal: On the Trail of World’s Most Ingenious Thief.
-- Roland Dobbins
Meet the press...
"Prints books from a growing catalog of 3.6 million books, including titles from Google digital files and public domain databases—along with previously inaccessible works.
"Creates a library-quality, perfect bound, acid-free 300-page paperback book in roughly four minutes. These books are indistinguishable from paperbacks produced by major publishing houses.
"Represents a revolution in the book world, allowing readers to get their books in a manner that is fast, local, green, and affordable.
"Can print your book and we can deliver it locally—same- or next day! We also deliver domestically and internationally.
"Provides authors with affordable, flexible printing options. There are no minimums, and you retain full rights and complete control of your work. Looks forward to printing your novel, personal cookbook, family genealogy, memoir, dissertation, personalized gift, and more."
It sure changes the playing field. Soon enough nothing will ever go out of print...
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IF YOU SEND MAIL it may be published; if you want it private SAY SO AT THE TOP of the mail. I try to respect confidences, but there is only me, and this is Chaos Manor. If you want a mail address other than the one from which you sent the mail to appear, PUT THAT AT THE END OF THE LETTER as a signature. In general, put the name you want at the end of the letter: if you put no address there none will be posted, but I do want some kind of name, or explicitly to say (name withheld).
Note that if you don't put a name in the bottom of the letter I have to get one from the header. This takes time I don't have, and may end up with a name and address you didn't want on the letter. Do us both a favor: sign your letters to me with the name and address (or no address) as you want them posted. Also, repeat the subject as the first line of the mail. That also saves me time.
I try to answer mail, but mostly I can't get to all of it. I read it all, although not always the instant it comes in. I do have books to write too... I am reminded of H. P. Lovecraft who slowly starved to death while answering fan mail.
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