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Monday  March 28, 2011

This day was devoured by locusts. To wit, the plumbers and all associated with them. Plus I got some other work done. Apologies




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Tuesday,  March 29, 2011

Jerry - the below is from "Mel" El Sayed. Mel was my American Interpreter in Egypt. He is from Alexandria, where his father (a prominent businessman) still lives, but is now a US Citizen residing in Atlanta. Though I have trusted him with my life, Mel can get overly excited, and he's obviously an El Baradie supporter for what it's worth.

s/f Couv


From: David Couvillon
Subject: Egypt

This from a friend:

"The word from my Egyptian contact is that the Muslim Brotherhood won the referendum and is in a position to take over. They're still having curfews there, but it's currently quiet. Gangsters have a new game in Cairo, where they stop your car, force you out and then force you to sign a contract turning your car over to them.

I do not think the Egyptian Army will tolerate this for long, but it may take time to put together a decision making structure. At the moment the Mamelukes are holding on and reorganizing. A new leader -- or Council -- will emerge, but that may take some time. I suspect one major question is the policy toward Israel and the Peace Process. We know there are factions that want to renew the war against Israel. Unrest in Jordan and Syrian will have an effect on that decision. We don't know what the rebel factions want. If they are all Moslem Brotherhood, times may get interesting."

What do you hear?

Cheap energy = prosperity!

Drill here, DRILL NOW!

David Couvillon Colonel, U.S. Marine Corps Reserve, Retired.; Former Governor of Wasit Province, Iraq; Righter of Wrongs; Wrong most of the time; Distinguished Expert, TV remote control; Chef de Hot Dog Excellance; Avoider of Yard Work


From: Maher 

Absolutely wrong news ,who told you this???!!! gangsters were organized by the former regime , after they opened persons in 6 difference cities, about 23,000 prisoners were escaped back on 02/25/11. a new Sheff of police was started in with the new temporary government by Mr Asa'am Sharf . they succeed to rearrest about 18,000 from the escaped prisoners. The Muslims Brothers group plus the other fanatics Muslims can't be more than %12 to %15 from the total of 85 millions. A new life is starting in Egypt, a few good men showing up and they are starting to prepared for a new Election will take place around month of September this year such as DR M. Elbaradaie , Mr Amr Mosha and more. Mubarak in Sharm city in house arrest, and his family too. Some from Mubarak's regime and helper are free still, the police department have just started to get back in the streets by last week, I believed the situation will get better in a few months max, do you have an easement for me over there, a news reporter, writing more details . you know. by the way it was a survey to change some from the old Constitution and it went good just to decrees the power of the president and to cancel the demands which Mubarak add it to keep it for his son. A new Constitution will be ready soon, so by the time a new president will be elected it will take a place. please ask me I will tell you because I am so involved plus I am a member of Egyptian Association for Change by DR. MOHAMED ELBARADIE.

I do not have direct sources of information among the Mamelukes, but I do know many who have worked with them, and few think they will be more than tolerant of the Muslim Brotherhood. I note that there seems to be no move to repudiate the treaty with Israel.


President speech

Dr. Pournelle,

It seems that the rationale you posted is exactly as the President reasoned. We went to war because we had a U.N. mandate, the request from the Arab League, and because it isn't really a war if those other things happen and no boots hit the ground. Congress doesn't really have a say as a body -- just individuals whom he can convince. He is willing and empowered to act unilaterally when it suits him.

It can't be comfortable to be right on this one.

Still no invasion: a no-fly-zone is apparently a strategy when it is monitored (not paid for) by a foreign government.

I was only surprised to hear the admission that the frozen Libyan assets weren't his ... I mean ours -- must be the first cash he's ever thought of as not belonging to him...er us.



Libya Thoughts 


There's not much to add to what you and others have been saying lately. If in fact our country has a well thought-out plan for Libya (for the Middle east upheavals in general) we're doing a world-class job of disguising it behind a smokescreen of seeming cluelessness. I'd *really* like to believe it's just a smokescreen... A few quick observations:

There are reports out of Syria of Farsi-speaking (IE, almost certainly Iranian) rooftop snipers being collared by enraged Syrians. This may say a couple of interesting things - that the Syrian demonstrators are less cowed than the Iranian ones who were similarly sniped a while back, and that Syria may, repeat may, be short of local forces willing to shoot demonstrators. (SecDef Gates has openly called for the Syrian Army to refuse to do so, FWIW.) If the Syrian Baathists are in fact anywhere near crumbling, the size of the opportunity hardly needs elaboration. Our current ability to effectively capitalize, on the other hand, well...

Back in Libya, the US getting stuck with doing the ground strikes even after NATO officially takes over is probably because we're the only NATO country equipped and experienced to do so without also immediately producing massive civilian casualties. Same reason we started out in overall command of the operation: We were the only nation with a ship nearby with the specialized theater command capability ready to do the job. Massively ironic, given our government's apparent desire to use this crisis to move the US toward being just one country among many, no longer the essential one.

And going back a few days to reports that Putin wanted Russia to veto the UN Libya resolution, but Medvedev defied him and allowed the resolution to pass, it occurs to me that it would be a mistake to assume Medvedev meant us well. He may simply have a subtler appreciation than Putin of how best to erode the US's international position.


Tar babies come to mind


Good thing for us 

Dear Doctor Pournelle,

Boy, were we lucky!

imagine if this conversation had happened in London ca. 1864-

"Gentlemen, it is a Humanitarian Catastrophe that we face. This madman has unleashed his army upon his own people. Even now, as we deliberate, our agents report that a rampaging legion of his blue clad devils, under command of a man once certified insane, descends upon the largest city of the rebel held region. Tens of thousands of innocent civilians, huddled within the ramparts of Atlanta, know that their doom swiftly approaches, Their brave but ill equipped rag tag defenders have no hope of stopping, of even slowing, the inevitable doom that is only days from their doorsteps.

I have had discussions with representatives of other powers, including the French, who are Supremely Anxious to act in a Humanitarian Fashion to prevent this looming massacre. They lack only the leadership which we alone might provide to such a disparate coalition, and the conveying powers of our Great Royal Navy, able to sweep aside all opposition on the High seas.

The question before this House, is whether we shall dither until Sherman razes Atlanta to the ground, to then descend upon further innocent civilians in the hinterland of Georgia, or shall we, in concert with the other Great Powers, in cognizance of our Responsibility to Mankind and our Christian Faith, shall not act swiftly to put a stop to this crime?!"

Good thing Disraeli and Gladstone weren't as Progressed as we are!

Just another amusing thought.

I'm full of 'em!




Death of a Cosmonaut

I followed the link to the NPR blog post about the cosmonaut's death, and it was quite affecting. But there is a supplement post linked from that page in which the author responds to factual criticism from various readers.


Please understand, everybody, that while I was shocked by Doran and Bizony's account, and wondered out loud if the details were right, I didn't know of Siddiqi's book or Colin Burgess' book; that's the way these blogs operate. I didn't spend a month reading through all the books on this subject, I just wanted to share the version that shocked me. But now that I know about the others, I will definitely see what they have to say.)

So the story now seems to fall into the category of "prewriting" from which a fully researched account might sometime be developed.


I will say without further comment that no one I know who has any knowledge of this believes that matters are settled regarding the death of Gagarin.


Letter from England

I heard from my Egyptian contact. It's quiet there, although the curfew is still in effect. She's worried that the Muslim Brotherhood is now in a position to take over and feels that the leadership is handling the transition poorly. There are also problems with law enforcement and the legal system.

 The faculty union went on strike here. I had a long private argument with the shop steward over aims and means. I find striking over pensions and salaries is particularly selfish when there are immediate and more important issues of justice we're ignoring. At least I made him uncomfortable.

 Now for the Trades Union Congress protest march: <http://tinyurl.com/679ougw> <http://tinyurl.com/6dmwr6z>. This could get nasty.

 I purchased a new Kindle and am trying it out. Ideally, it will mean a reduction in the books in our luggage when we visit Crete during Easter.

 UK Budget report released: <http://tinyurl.com/5veehoj>

 Osborne: "Oil tax will not hit most motorists." Then most petrol stations raised their prices: <http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-12844157>

 Osborne now faces a credit rating crisis: <http://tinyurl.com/63mcsot>

 How to grow a mind: <http://www.sciencemag.org/content/331/6022/1279.abstract> We've used some of these ideas in our research.

 Countries without first world militaries are not first world countries: <http://www.theregister.co.uk/2011/03/25/libya_analysis/>

 Privacy in the UK: <http://tinyurl.com/6xjefqc>

 NHS rationing: <http://tinyurl.com/5r2vrhf> <http://tinyurl.com/6c2su86>

 They decided to charge for attendance this year... <http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-12860259>

 Stagflation in the UK: <http://tinyurl.com/62x3ug3>

 Explain this image: <http://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap110323.html>

 If they arrived so early, how did they bypass the glaciers? <http://tinyurl.com/4nzqrag>

 Curious result: <http://tinyurl.com/4u3a86v> The suspicion is now that male mice who lack serotonin will hump anything.


Beware Outside Context Problems--

Harry Erwin, PhD


Sunday Follow-Up 

There was violence as predicted in London at the TUC march. <http://tinyurl.com/6e8yjln>  <http://tinyurl.com/4z83n7t>  <>

Syria now killing protesters. <http://tinyurl.com/5wr652f>  <http://tinyurl.com/4jt764n

The $14,400 (plus living expenses) per year university fees keep coming. <http://tinyurl.com/4g64ny6

If UK academics want research funding, they must now research what the Government wants researched and in the way the Government wants it researched. <http://tinyurl.com/4tylg4h>  (See quote from Lord Russell.)

-- "an academic who listens to pleas of convenience before publishing his research risks calling into doubt the whole of his determination to find the truth." (Russell 1993)
Harry Erwin


An important book.



The Kindle edition is grossly overpriced, but this is a valuable corrective to the prevailing myth about the War Between the States, IMHO.

--- Roland Dobbins


Losing our way

I wouldn't generally call my views sympatico with those of Bob Herbert at the NYT but he posted his last column there today called "Losing our way <http://www.sowal.com/bb/redirect-to/?redirect=
3D1301130773-kkf9uZlWG0HGgrFW2A0d3A>  " and I have to say that a lot of it resonates with me.

So here we are pouring shiploads of cash into yet another war, this time in Libya, while simultaneously demolishing school budgets, closing libraries, laying off teachers and police officers, and generally letting the bottom fall out of the quality of life here at home.

Welcome to America in the second decade of the 21st century. An army of long-term unemployed workers is spread across the land, the human fallout from the Great Recession and long years of misguided economic policies. Optimism is in short supply. The few jobs now being created too often pay a pittance, not nearly enough to pry open the doors to a middle-class standard of living. I don't disagree with any of that.

The U.S. has not just misplaced its priorities. When the most powerful country ever to inhabit the earth finds it so easy to plunge into the horror of warfare but almost impossible to find adequate work for its people or to properly educate its young, it has lost its way entirely.

Nearly 14 million Americans are jobless and the outlook for many of them is grim. It certainly doesn't seem to me that anyone in charge really cares about where the country is headed. Our leaders have the same mindset that Wall Street has forced business into. All that business leaders seem to care about these days is the current quarter's results. Someone else can fix the future, just give us our bonuses now. We are seeing the government equivalent.

The column continues with some discussion about inequalities; companies like GE not paying taxes, etc...and ends with this summary containing the subtle message that our politicians are serving their owners instead of the rest of us. (The bold emphasis is mine.)

Overwhelming imbalances in wealth and income inevitably result in enormous imbalances of political power. So the corporations and the very wealthy continue to do well. The employment crisis never gets addressed. The wars never end. And nation-building never gets a foothold here at home.

New ideas and new leadership have seldom been more urgently needed. That last line seems to sum up what we need to improve things around here.



John Harlow


'The mother told investigators she did not want to press charges against Hachero, because she had recently been accepted to several Ivy League colleges.'


--- Roland Dobbins

The discontents of civilization...


Newly Homeless Re-Establish Order Amid Chaos, 


An amazing story:


“Just two weeks after this nation’s greatest catastrophe in decades, the citizens at Takada Junior High School No. 1, this town’s largest evacuee center, have managed to fashion a microcosm of the spotlessly organized and efficient Japan they so recently knew.” <snip>

““It’s hard to gather these people to live together here,” Tsutomu Nakai, the soft-spoken 61-year-old retiree who manages the center, said on Thursday. “They all have different lifestyles and different personalities. But so far, people have volunteered to help each other, and it works very well.”

“None of this is to suggest that Takada Junior High is the Waldorf. There is immense suffering and personal misery here: grieving survivors, financial ruin, smelly bodies, no running water, frigid outdoor toilets, endless boredom and the prospect of sleeping on a hard floor with complete strangers for weeks — even months — to come.” <snip>

“The spirit is captured by the hand-drawn signs that adorn the gym: “Let’s be grateful that we are alive”; “Cheer up, Takata”; “Let’s communicate and bond our hearts.”

“The messages are lived in simple ways. One expects that 1,000 evacuees would have access to a doctor, and the Japan Red Cross has opened a well-staffed clinic on the first floor. But one might not expect the two dentists next door, who decided on March 17 to volunteer their services and opened shop the next day, treating about 15 patients daily with the help of staff members whose own homes were lost in the tsunami.

“I don’t have any other place to work, because my office washed away,” said Masanori Yoshiday, 60. “We can rebuild the office later.”

“The dentists were followed by Shoichi Yanashita, a 66-year-old barber and a fellow evacuee, who was giving free haircuts on Thursday with scissors and a razor borrowed from a friend in a nearby town. “We have to support each other,” he said, “and this is what I know how to do.” <snip>

How ironic that “Be happy in your work” seems not to have been a caricature after all.


Hair cutting and dentistry joined a long list of services, donated and otherwise: volunteer bicycle-repairing, a shuttle bus ferrying evacuees from center to center, pet cages donated by local veterinarians, free laundering of refugees’ clothes by local high-school students.

Works and days...



Actually, I think it's pretty clear that Germany won WWII in the European Theater.

Sixty-odd years on, it appears to me that Germany has achieved most of her war aims without firing a shot, all under the aegis of the EU - the establishment which, after all, was von Ribbentrop's idea, building upon the legacy of Napoleon's Continental System.

---- Roland Dobbins

Taking the long view --  alas, too late for the Hohenzollerns.


Steppenwolf and the Wet Star

Dear Jerry Pournelle:

Thank you for posting the link to the paper about the Steppenwolf, or habitable rogue planet. A sunless world can harbor an under-ice ocean if it is a bit larger than Earth, or has a thicker atmosphere; fission in the rocky core keeps the ocean liquid and out of thermodynamic equilibrium for gigayears; plenty of time to form a biosphere.

I like this, especially with its implication that you don't need stars for life. Stars are wasteful; we barely use ours; once we master fusion then stars will be obsolete. Which brings me to the topic of this letter; the Wet Star.

A Wet Star resembles a Steppenwolf, in that it is an sunless inhabited planet, powered by its own nuclear energy; but where the Steppenwolf is powered by its core's dumb fission, fading with time, the Wet Star is powered by its biosphere's smart fusion, constant over time.

The Wet Star's structure is as follows: its core is a Moon-sized sphere of magnetized iron, for gravity and for a magnetosphere; this is surrounded by a thick shell of high-pressure ices; surrounded by a deep ocean, surrounded by an atmosphere. It is mostly dirty ice and dirty water, somewhat bigger than Earth, with 1 gee surface gravity. The ocean is heated by the waste heat of billions of fusion-powered deep-sea vessels. Each vessel is a fusion-powered submarine arcology; each with up to millions of inhabitants; making a possible population of quadrillions. This is comparable to a Ringworld, but much smaller in size, because it populates volume not area.

Because distances in a wet star are less than a light-second (unlike Ringworld or Dyson Sphere) it's possible for the billions of vessels to communicate quickly, and thus form a planetary internet, or noosphere, for exchanging information about positions, currents, traffic, temperature and chemical composition. The wet star can react as a unit in the case of collision, radiation or other threat. (The vessels usually react simply by retreating to the bottom of the deep ocean; sufficient shielding against asteroid or supernova blast.) The wet star's vessels can meet to exchange materials or inhabitants. They reproduce, age, die, and are broken up for parts, inhabitants and material. They share language, math, information and inhabitants but are otherwise independent.

The Wet Star's ocean is heated from within, and cooled at the surface; therefore it convects. The water wells up at both poles, then circulates towards the frozen equatorial belt, then descends and circulates poleward. The equatorial ice-belt is the wet star's only solid surface. Taken as a whole, the wet star is fixed at the triple point of water. Its atmosphere is water vapor, CO2 and other greenhouse gases; but also some oxygen and helium; these being left over from fusing the hydrogen from ocean water. The helium is light and warm enough to escape the wet star; it outgasses helium constantly, and in consequence the wet star slowly loses mass. Quadrillions of years from now that might cause trouble; but by that time a wet star could 'refuel' by plowing into a Saturn-like world's ice ring.

The wet star's atmosphere also convects, and it has weather. Expect constant thunderstorms at the equatorial icebelt.

I give the wet star a magnetic core for it to have a magnetosphere; but perhaps that would not remain magnetized for the millions of billions of years I see possible. Perhaps the wet star's biosphere will cooperatively form a belt of superconducting cables, attached to the underside of the ice-belt, carrying sufficient current for a magnetosphere. Because the ice belt is constantly spalling, the superconducting cables must be constantly replaced; a quadrillion-year continuous maintenance chore, but necessary in a radiologically hazardous Galaxy.

Though of course a Wet Star doesn't need a Galaxy any more than it needs a star. So it could just up and leave... given motility. But how to mount an effective engine on an inhabited water-drop bigger than Earth? Perhaps... give each of those billions of vessels a neutrino beam, which they all fire continuously in unison? Or maybe hook a cable to geosynch at the ice belt, and fire an ion drive from geosynch? It may take a while to change course, but what's time to a wet star?

It seems to me that the wet star's biggest problems are; motility, magnetosphere, and biospheric coordination, especially in heat regulation. How to get a billion independent city-states to burn just enough hydrogen to keep the ocean liquid, but not boil it off? That's where the internet comes in.

The above are my speculations to date. Pehaps you could mention this to Niven? And of course this is just a rough sketch; numbers and feasibility need checking.

- Nathaniel Hellerstein


Cum grano salis

Dear Jerry

Physicist and science writer Jeremy Bernstein has replied to my comments on his insightful New York Review of Books coverage of Japan:


Elsewhere on the political spectrum. George Monbiot of the Manchester Guardian has announced that the minimal body count from the worser-than-worst case crack-up of this wheezy six-pack of plutonium burning Edsels have turned him into a true believer in the future of nuclear power! -


* <http://disqus.com/Mnestheus/ >  Mnestheus 8 hours ago <http://www.nybooks.com/blogs/
good-news-and-bad/#comment-173137856>  I fear I must take Jeremy's observations with , quite literally, a very large grain of salt, and there is a lot more to sel du mer than sodium chloride.

At last account more than 50 tons of it were incrusting the innards of several of the damaged reactors , in consequence of the boil off of the thousands of tons of sea water so far used to cool them.

Unless fresh water is soon found to flush these briny deposits away, the formerly infrared transparent salt will turn black as an unwelcome swan as irradiation creates a profusion color centers in the solid halides . The fluid will grow more corrosive too, as ionization creates hydrogen peroxide and liberates corrosive halogens like bromine and electrolysis promotes acid forming reactions. Seawater contains half the periodic chart, and boiling it down in a metal bucket in proximity to still hot reactor fuel may void what's left of the warranty on this quality product of GE Ecoimagination. <http://www.nybooks.com/blogs/nyrblog/
scare-good-news-and-bad/#>  Edit Reply * <http://disqus.com/guest/c6f9138e
cb68caef8d9444ad92c5fff2/>  Jbernste 1 hour ago <http://www.nybooks.com/blogs

  in reply to Mnestheus <http://www.nybooks.com/blogs/nyrblog/
#comment-173137856>  I thank Russell Seitz for this. I agree with what he says about sea water and note that attempts are now being made to flush this out with ordinary water. Reports from Japan continue to be ambiguous. This morning it was claimed that iodine 134 had been observed. This is a very short-lived isotope whose presence would have meant that fission was still going on. This report was retracted a short while later.

-- Russell Seitz
Fellow of the Department of Physics Harvard University


Clinton: No military action in Syria for now - Face The Nation - CBS News


More idiocy. Has Hillary read no history of how Assad's daddy exterminated 20,000 in a rebellious city or incited a civil war in Lebanon? How about how Assad more recently murdered the PM of Lebanon and reignited the civil war. Assad is no doubt working feverishly on nukes as is Iran and North Korea. In fact North Korea might sell nukes to Syria and Iran so that they can detonate them to prove their nuclear status. Even locomotive mass, subkiloton yield nukes fueled with reactor waste grade Plutonium would suffice to establish deterrence.


Jim Crawford

I am sure that Syria will seek modern sovereignty.


Defense Secretary: Libya Did Not Pose Threat to U.S., Was Not 'Vital National Interest' to Intervene - Political Punch


Gates admits that Libya not a threat to US!


Justification was that Libyan conflict would endanger revolutions in Egypt and Tunisia. Tunisia does not matter. The alleged concern about Egypt certainly raises doubts about the wisdom of supporting a destabilizing revolution rather than allow the Mamaluks to have a coup if that was their choice. A stable Egypt would have been able to contain Libya or perhaps intervene if ther was any rational need.

Jim Crawford

A vital interest? Or not?  It depends on our goals, doesn't it? But I have no idea what those goals are under this President.  I do not mean that as an insult: I simply do not know what he believes the national interests to be. Perhaps I have not understood him.

Without knowing the goals it is difficult to evaluate the strategy.


Not Teddy Bears, but same tactic


Could be true, but it is idiotic to presume that dropping bombs will not kill civilians. It can be justified only in per suit of a rational goal.


I'm following Al Jazerra to see when the Arab League will rescind it's approval. Also waiting for riots in Britain and France to protest the war.

Jim Crawford



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Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Would some countries work better without a government? 


"Analysis: Should the world be more like Belgium?"

"Would some countries work better without a government? Could the world learn something from Belgium's experience?"

While I don't see this happening in the US, it is an interesting and amusing idea.



Well, we used to say that Roosevelt proved you could be President forever, Truman proved that anyone could be President, Kennedy proved you could buy the office, and Carter proved we'd be better off without one...


Dr. Pournelle,

This came to me with the subject "A global warming thought". I have no idea whether his figures are accurate or not. He is clearly controversial. Snopes has nothing on this, which may indicate that no one has better information (or it may indicate nothing at all). A quick google search on "urban legend" "ian plimer" yielded this gem at the top:


The posts there reveal more about the posters than their victim. Muso's accounting of the forcing figures is an entirely uncritical parroting of true believers' data and, apart from his absolute confidence in accuracy to fractions of a degree, has an obvious and glaring flaw: "Those 'other' feedbacks include albedo, clouds . . ." It is my understanding that clouds are ignored because no one has a clue what their net effect is.

This is about the worst that anyone has to say about this, here or elsewhere, apart from blanket ad hominems directed against all us ignernt deniers. Perhaps there is someone among your correspondents who can shed some light on this.

Upon reflection, I think it is interesting and revealing that True Believers are quick to point out flaws in others' data -- whether real or imagined -- when 'Climategate' and other independent investigators have revealed so many in theirs.

Richard White


The best explanation I've seen on what to tell global warming freaks

The scientist Professor Ian Plimer could not have said it better!

If you've read his book on Global warming you will agree, this is a good summary.

Are you sitting down?

Okay, here's the bombshell. The volcanic eruption in Iceland, since its first spewing of volcanic ash has, in just FOUR DAYS, NEGATED EVERY SINGLE EFFORT you have made in the past five years to control CO2 emissions on our planet - ALL of you.

Of course you know about this evil carbon dioxide that we are trying to suppress - it's that vital chemical compound that every plant requires to live and grow, and to synthesize into oxygen for us humans, and all animal life.

I know, it's very disheartening to realize that all of the carbon emission savings you have accomplished while suffering the inconvenience and expense of: driving Prius hybrids, buying fabric grocery bags, sitting up till midnight to finish your kid's "The Green Revolution" science project, throwing out all of your non-green cleaning supplies, using only two squares of toilet paper, putting a brick in your toilet tank reservoir, selling your SUV and speedboat, vacationing at home instead of abroad, nearly getting hit every day on your bicycle, replacing all of your 50 cents light bulbs with $10.00 light bulbs...well, all of those things you have done have all gone down the tubes in just four days.

The volcanic ash emitted into the Earth's atmosphere in just four days - yes - FOUR DAYS ONLY by that volcano in Iceland, has totally erased every single effort you have made to reduce the evil beast, carbon. And there are around 200 active volcanoes on the planet spewing out this crud any one time - EVERY DAY.

I don't really want to rain on your parade too much, but I should mention that when the volcano Mt Pinatubo erupted in the Philippines in 1991, it spewed out more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere than the entire human race had emitted in its entire YEARS on earth. Yes folks, Mt Pinatubo was active for over one year - think about it.

Of course I shouldn't spoil this touchy-feely tree-hugging moment and mention the effect of solar and cosmic activity and the well-recognized 800-year global heating and cooling cycle, which keep happening, despite our completely insignificant efforts to affect climate change.

And I do wish I had a silver lining to this volcanic ash cloud but the fact of the matter is that the bush fire season across the western USA and Australia this year alone will negate your efforts to reduce carbon in our world for the next two to three years. And it happens every year.

Just remember that your government just tried to impose a whopping carbon tax on you on the basis of the bogus "human-caused" climate change scenario.

Hey, isn't it interesting how they don't mention "Global Warming" any more, but just "Climate Change" - you know why? It's because the planet has COOLED by 0.7 degrees in the past century and these global warming bull artists got caught with their pants down.

And just keep in mind that you might yet have an Emissions Trading Scheme - that whopping new tax - imposed on you, that will achieve absolutely nothing except make you poorer. It won't stop any volcanoes from erupting, that's for sure.

But hey, relax, give the world a hug and have a nice day!

Robert Farr

Well, the figures for the Iceland Volcano are probably right -- http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/breakingnews/
-tons-of-CO2-dailyexperts and the relationship between that and the various efforts to limit CO2 production seem at least in the right order of magnitude. Civilization without CO2 is not easily accomplished. It will take blood and armies, because the Legions will have to enforce the foldback to low tech economies in China and India. If we impose poverty on everyone can we hold out for a high tech American civilization on the grounds that only we can prevent CO2 destruction of the earth.

We can work on methods to use up CO2 in the sea, with algae blooms and the like, but we don't seem to be putting much research into the effort.

And of course we don't know how much CO2 goes into the sea from underwater volcanoes. Underwater volcanoes seem to have a minimum role in the expensive climate models. Perhaps rightly so, but the evidence seems to be piling up that they have been unduly neglected.

I don't like acid seas a lot: I do think we ought to be working on ways to control that, We don't have to USE the remedies but research into such controls is cheap compared to, say, the California laws making CO2 a "pollutant" like smog.


Old Space Movies For Guys


Also includes links to related lists, such as "10 Best Action Sci Fi Movies".

Charles Brumbelow


Mote in God's Eye 

A large number of your books are available in Kindle compatible format from Baen. I prefer to buy my books from when I can.



They are indeed, and it explains how they can be set up to be readable by Kindle devices and Kindle apps on iPads; but the process isn't automatic like clicking on a book and having it appear on your Kindle, and the result is far far fewer sales. Amazon sales are huge; all the rest added together are still pretty small. Baen ought to market through Kindle, but they don't.


Gods of the Copybook Headings

I'm currently reading Pigliucci's Nonsense on Stilts. He mentions a colleague of his who teaches introductory philosophy and tries to get across the consequences of inequality of resources. Her students are convinced that 'environmental determinism' is a bogus idea--almost regardless of circumstances they will be able to succeed if they are willing and industrious. She then divides her class into small groups and gives them bags of materials and tools to build a mobile for an infant crib. Some groups get a full array of tools and materials, others get minimal sets of one and/or the other. As soon as they realise this, they complain of unfairness--and the lecturer explains that resources shouldn't matter if they really want something. That's what they had been telling her--so what's the problem?

Resources matter. Constraints matter. Investment matters. Justice matters.

-- Harry Erwin



Dr. Pournelle,

I point you to today's NYT, which essentially says the US air role is continuing to expand in the intervention.


Did the President, or did he not, imply that we had essentially finished our military commitment to this operation and are winding down?

And does this story not demonstrate that the opposite is occurring?

Is there any other explanation than that we, the American people, are being lied to? Or am I being uncharitable?

It's an accusation I do not make lightly, given the utterly ridiculous 'Bush Lied, people died' , being thrown around in the last term. But when you have the President of the United States giving a nationwide address on TV and stating the facts on the ground are the exact opposite of what they are, I can't reach any other conclusion than 'intentional falsehood'. Not lying by omission. Not spin. Outright lie.

Am I wrong?


Brian P.


Obama's Humanitarian Speech

Obama has a Sally Struthers moment. Only 70 cents a day...per (American) person. Only $7,000 a day...per (saved or created) Libyan rebel. See Sally’s Humanitarian Speech @: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ePENcrE_xcQ  ...which eventually morphs into... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=muQVyDJUBZU&NR=1  And what will Obama's Humanitarian Speech morph into?



The new "transparancy" in government -


"President Obama says a shutdown of the government would have dire consequences for the American people - but his White House is telling agencies not to talk about what those consequenes are."

I keep typing and erasing my comments. I guess I will offer the article without comment as I am appalled at the arrogance.


Brer Rabbit and Potassium Iodide

Dr. Pournelle,

I understood your reference to the tar baby, but I'm finding people even just a couple years younger than me have never heard of Brer Fox and Brer Rabbit, or even Disney's "Song of the South." It is no longer PC to show or view that movie or to tell those stories. They are being censored. We're losing our metaphors.

Sanity from New York and Canada, and something less from NJ and Mass, when it comes to taking potasium iodide at the drop of a hat:





It will be useful to do a study in about 15 years to find the relationship between voluntary, unnecessary, self administered potassium iodide, thyroid disease rates, and their relationship to the degree of exposure. These neighboring areas will provide great statistical source material.



Buffett cautions social-networking investors

It seems to me that these guys are picking from the bones of a dead business. I mean really you're gonna base your financial decisions on where people hang out and trade gossip? That makes some sense but it is a perishable situation.

Without getting into details, such investment makes less sense been investment in service. Eventually, people grow bored with it and they will move on. This is already happening on myspace facebook and all the other social networking sites. The novelty will wear off, and wall street's late entry into the game should raise a few eyebrows.


---- Best Regards,

Joshua Jordan, KSC


Journey planned to the center of the Earth


---- Best Regards,

Joshua Jordan, KSC


No food for gas! -


It looks like a few others are getting fed up with their automobile performance.


Thanks for all your hard work!

-- E.C. "Stan" Field
Reality is the Illusion!

Alas there are none in California.

Ethanol is expensive fuel, and accelerates engine deterioration. But the Greens love it.



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CURRENT VIEW    Wednesday


This week:


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Thursday, March 31, 2011

Reflections on the Revolution in France

Dr Pournelle:

While the Wikipedia article on Edmund Burke's, "Reflections on the Revolution in France <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reflections_on_the_Revolution_in_France>  " makes a nice synopsis; the full publication can be found on Project Gutenberg at


I'd love to see all literature where the original copyright has expired get stored at Project Gutenberg, available for the world to read; both in its original form, and translated into the language of choice of the reader. I consider that site to be a real resource for the entire human race.

Mike Houst



I have intently followed the Libyan situation from the beginning, in fact the whole situation in the Middle East.

I see no way this can end good for us or in fact for them. I do not believe the lessons of history argue for a good finale outcome. When free elections have happened the people have put in power leadership that is hostile to us and Israel and that support sharia law.

Now there is a very disturbing report from debka.com (I must say I have on occasion found their reports questionable) stating “Libyan rebels sold Hizballah and Hamas chemical shells”


In the end we will see much higher oil prices and as a result food prices will also rise.

Ken Pitts


Libya and Americans

Dear Dr. Pournelle,

Seen on Daily Kos:


Key paragraphs that disturb me:

"Here's hoping it's resolved well, for a change, but ultimately, if we really want any real hope for substantial real change, we're going to have to seize the power in the US, with a progressive/moderate Democratic super-majority in the House and Senate."

Um ... what?

Has the author failed to notice that it was Mr. Hope-and-Change, Mr. Antiwar, who got us into this mess WITHOUT consulting congress?

The logic failure is astounding.

"The right must be purged and suppressed, democratically, electorally, to the greatest extent possible."

It seems to me that some have forgotten who our enemies are. And they are people in robes who want us dead, not our fellow Americans.

Nor is the right side innocent: Last Monday I heard Rush Limbaugh saying (12:30 PM or so) on his radio show that if HE led the Republican party , he'd meet with Gaddafi and tell him to hang on and never leave, just so the right can fight Obama better. That is aid and comfort to the enemy in time of war, and that is treason.

I am concerned that we are becoming our own worst enemies. Literally.


Brian P.

PS. Some claim that SR 85 (http://www.opencongress.org/bill/112-sr85/show) "authorizes" these actions, but I think this is mistaken. A) It is a resolution, of the same sort that declare National Pie Day and B) It was unasked for, and was not done at the request of or consultation with the white house. -- BDP.

Limbaugh was obviously in satiric mode. Everyone I know would rejoice at the fall of Khadafhi. The question is, should an American President call for his ouster; or given that he has called for Qadafi's fall, should we then insure that it happens lest America be shamed? And how should we go about these matters? I do not prefer Libya as a political battle ground in the United States. We have made the stakes too high. I would not have made those stakes so high, but it has happened. But we cannot afford years more of a billion a week poured into desert sands. Libya is a hostile environment for our sailors and airmen. It is not a good place for a war of attrition. If we are at war, we should state war aims and get on with it. If we are not at war we should get out.


At least 40 civilians dead in Tripoli strikes: Vatican official - Yahoo!7


Finally, the Teddy Bears. Probably not faked.


I can't wait for reports of atrocities by the rebels to be reported.

Jim Crawford

You can start with Lara Logan in Cairo, where the respectable Egyptian rebels showed something of their sentiments. Is there any reason to believe the Libyans are different? In Egypt the Mamelukes -- after a delay, and led by Egyptian women -- rescued Miss Logan.


Ian Plimer

Hi Jerry

Richard White wrote "I have no idea whether his figures are accurate or not. He is clearly controversial."

Ian Plimer is a well known and quite reputable Australian scientist -- well he was until he spoke up against AGW. He has been widely demonised in the popular press for his AGW positions.

Prof. Plimer is a geologist by trade and his book on AGW argues largely from geological evidence.

Personally, I've never been a fan due to his aggressively anti-religious beliefs, but he is certainly a competent scientist.

Michael J Smith

Pilmer is worth reading for those interested: his views on underwater volcanoes are certainly worth study. I am slowly gathering more data on the Earth's interior temperature and its interaction with the biosphere, but I have nothing definitive yet. It is becoming more and more clear that our climate models are seriously defective. We don't even know the solar constant as well as we thought it was. (see below)


BBC News - Space tourism closer as Virgin Galactic nears lift off


Tim Harness



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Friday,  April 1, 2011

Plimer the un-plumbable 


I wince to read you write: "Pilmer is worth reading for those interested: his views on underwater volcanoes are certainly worth study."

As an economic geologist, Pilmer has endeared himself to Australia's coal industry by knee jerk rejection of any and all evidence for radiative forcing from fossil fuel burning. He is entitled to his opinions , but it is precisely because he acquired a respectable media profile by savaging young earth creationists that his faux climate skepticism and bizarre take on submarine geology have made him a geophysical laughingstock.

His earlier work makes it plain that he knows better than to assert that volcanoes are responsible for rising ocean temperatures.

The dimensional analysis says otherwise- the heat content of lava has been empirically measured, and current rates of eruption and continental drift put ocean heating by lava on a par with trying to boil a bathtub by flicking in one cigarette's worth of ash a day

NOAA and the USGS painstakingly did the math years ago and concluded that the heat flux from all underwater eruptions accounts for ( a lot) less than 1% of the observed rise in the heat content of the oceans.

Russell Seitz

I have seen the dimensional analysis and perhaps so: but I have not seen much discussion of the data sources. Probably my naive view that a hot planet is hot. Perhaps it is all so, but I retain the view that the models don't have much explanation for currents and phenomena like el Nino. I don't make a big point of it. I don't  think anyone has a very good model of climate. Our weather models are better and they aren't all that accurate. We can't know the temperature to ten degrees for next Wednesday, but we know to a tenth of a degree for next decade, and you can believe as much of that as you want to.


The Computer History Museum: The First 2000 Years of Computing.


- Roland Dobbins


'Two in mismatched military uniforms took time out in Ajdabiya to sneak into a blown-out police post and smoke hashish.'


-- Roland Dobbins


Subj: The Marx Brothers do Libya?


>>We bombed Qaddafi’s forces because they were killing civilians. So Qaddafi’s forces began dressing like civilians. So the rebels began killing civilians. So NATO is warning the rebels not to kill civilians, otherwise NATO will bomb the rebels. But the rebels are dressed like civilians.So NATO may end up killing civilians. ...<<

See also http://www.nytimes.com/

Maybe we could do like the Romans: make a desert, and call it peace?

Wait: Libya is *already* a desert!!

My head hurts.

Rod Montgomery==monty@starfief.com


Glenn beck


I don't consider Glenn Beck an authority, but his show today presents some fascinating information and speculation on the Egypt and Libyan uprisings. Beck theorizes that the major goal is to establish the legitimacy of international intervention in internal uprisings. This would enable the UN to draft NATO to intervene in Israeli attempts to suppress a future uprising in the territories. If this can be confirmed, it is very alarming even if you aren't a fan of Israel. I can not imagine a scenario in which an Israeli defeat doesn't result in genocide. Israel then would use it's nukes to enforce it's sovereignty. The Biblical parallels are fascinating.

Jim Crawford

I don't watch Beck, but I do note today in View that Lieberman and McCain are calling for more vigorous US intervention in Libya and by implication elsewhere.


Lara Logan in Cairo

I still think there is more to this than meets the eye.

Political move, whatever.

With other journalists experiencing nothing worth than being shot dead this stinks. ( dead journalists really make her misshap appear minor. )

But the instance contains "Cultural Adrenaline Rush" potential to not leverage it.

What differentiates Ms Logan from other ( especially female ) journalists?

Thus it is either faked or majorly overblown. ( Compare to our discourse about German "Arbeitsamt" forcing a girl to work as a prostitute: a fake too )


I do not think there is any question of the assault being a fake. I certainly have heard none from any creditable source, nor for that matter much question of it.


nuclear home

No one notices when things go right:

> The nuclear plant in Onagawa was built to withstand 30-ft. tsunami waves. (Fukushima, in contrast, was only designed for 18-ft. waves.) After the tsunami destroyed much of the city, some of the people who survived made their way to the power plant, looking for shelter. Weeks later, 240 of them are still living there, according to the Associated Press.


If we had more /modern/ nuclear plants (i.e., built with-in the last ~25 years) I think things would be a lot safer. Ideally we'd be dumping money into liquid fluoride thorium reactor (LFTR) research:






Here's a twist on organlegging in China. Instead of kidnapping the victim and rendering him down to his component parts, the organleggers abducted the victim after he decides not to go through with donating his kidney, removed the kidney, and then deposited $4000 in his bank account instead of the original $6000 he was supposed to receive.

Ye Gods and little fishes!!! At least he is still alive...


Rodger Morris


nice AREVA powerpoint describing Fukushima-Daiichi

Hi Jerry,

A nice AREVA powerpoint describing the Fukushima reactor timeline with graphics is posted by Kirk Sorenson over at Energy from Thorium: http://energyfromthorium.com/pps/FukushimaDaiichiAREVA.pps  I thought you or some readers would be interested. It falls in the "easy to understand" category, especially for those hard pressed for time or do not wish to get too mired in the technical details.

Sincerely, Jim L.


Good news, Doc!

Barack Obama has announced that he has decided NOT to arm the Al-Qaeda-backed rebels in Libya, and that he will be making up his own mind from now on, and acting like a President instead of a sock puppet for the Democratic National Committee.

Oh, and happy first of April.

Matthew Joseph Harrington



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This week:


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Saturday, April 2, 2011

: Libya Strategy 

The New Republic analyzes our strategy in Libya and concludes there is a coherent method to our madness.


"Put simply, Obama’s Libya strategy is designed to avoid the most undesirable outcomes rather than optimize the chances of a desired outcome, to do something without “owning” the conflict, to maintain maximum flexibility as the situation evolves, and to do all of this in the face of powerful constraints."

Of all the ... I could go on for paragraphs, so I'll just that little gem speak for itself.


Brian P.


'Yet, there they were in Qaddafi’s tent only a year and a half ago, amiably chatting about our new bilateral “partnership” and plans to give this terrorist sundry assistance, prominently including military aid.'


---- Roland Dobbins


Think of it as evolution in action.

Dr. Pournelle --

NATO Probing Reports of an Air Strike on Libyan Rebels http://www.foxnews.com/world/

"Rebel fighters told Reuters that at least 10 were killed at the scene. One rebel fighter said some of Qaddafi's forces sneaked into rebel lines and fired anti-aircraft guns in the air to provoke the attack. Others said some rebels fired into the air by accident."

On-Air reports say that the rebels were engaging in "celebratory fire" when the NATO plain attacked.

I took a course on the history of warfare as an undergrad and the professor, a Navy Reserve officer, was fond of saying that war was too important for a country to be left solely to the professionals. Obviously, it's also best not to leave it solely to amateurs.



NATO Probing Reports of an Airstrike on Libyan Rebels - FoxNews.com


The FOX News ticker suggests that the rebels were firing into the air in celebration of their victory. The latest news footage shown includes clips of them firing not just AKs but the ubiquitous, 23mm AA guns that have been bolted into their pickup beds. The most popular model seems to be the single mount gun that the operator straddles while firing. Are they trying to compensate for something? Perhaps a few more air strikes might be educational? Perhaps an exasperated rebel commander asked NATO to strafe his own troops to teach them a lesson? Why are the rebels deploying AA guns when the only aircraft flying are allies? Will the rebels become educated before Gadaffy kills them? Doubtful.

I keep looking at a map and thinking that doing an end run around the rebels to assault Tabruk would be the fastest way for Gadaffy to end this. A large column along the road would draw NATO air strikes. Perhaps infiltrate a few vehicles at a time? Alternatively, send units South, then East to come in from the south? Perhaps troops on camels would be ignored by NATO? Are Gadaffy's loyal tribesmen still adept with camels? I'm talking about riding them here.

Jim Crawford

I suspect they are learning that firing into the air when only your allies are flying aircraft is not such a great idea. As Pieter says, they can think of it as evolution in action. Our policy seems to be to side with rebels, even rebels who aren't so smart. And to fight on the ground for the right to riot and kill UN workers if someone in Florida burns a Koran. Now there's a goal worth dying for.



Well, look who just caught up. I think 2 years ago I realized the only part of the economy that was growing was the government. It was nice of WSJ to confirm that. Today is just a day of two year old news being presented as though it was today's news. http://online.wsj.com/article/


Most Respectfully,

Joshua Jordan, KSC


As If

As if we did not know this. Well, everyone should know this. It was on C-Span. Oh, but we don't watch C-Span do we? We watch Fox News and MSNBC and that is why we only learn about real news years after it actually matters. That's why a story like this is still news in 2011. http://www.bloomberg.com/


Most Respectfully,

Joshua Jordan, KSC



Nice quote from The Audacity of Hope

Available at Google Books http://bit.ly/gGw6wR 

The fact is, close to five years after 9/11 and fifteen years after the breakup of the Soviet Union, the United States still lacks a coherent national security policy. Instead of guiding principles, we have what appear to be a series of ad hoc decisions, with dubious results. Why invade Iraq and not North Korea or Burma? Why intervene in Bosnia and not Darfur?...Are we committed to use force wherever there's a despotic regime that's terrorizing its people—and if so, how long do we stay to ensure democracy takes root?...Perhaps someone inside the White House has clear answers to these questions. But our allies—and for that matter our enemies—certainly don't know what the answers are. More important, neither do the American people. Without a well-articulated strategy that the public supports and the world understands, America will lack the legitimacy—and ultimately the power—it needs to make the world safer than it is today.

John Harlow, President BravePoint


'This war — let us call it by its right name, for once — will be remembered to a considerable extent as a war made by intellectuals, and cheered on by intellectuals.'


-- Roland Dobbins


An interesting problem

Doubt you’d seen this, but it is a very interesting problem:




The new "Transparency" -


President Obama finally and quietly accepted his "transparency" award from the open government community this week - in a closed, undisclosed meeting at the White House on Monday.

Rose Krueger


Ivory Coast: aid workers find 1,000 bodies in Duekoue - Telegraph


Why aren't we intervening in this conflict to support tar rebels? Oh, the rebels committed the atrocity so it is okay?


Jim Crawford

There's oil there, too. I don't know how much. I know little about Ivory Coast. At one time Liberia was a nation headed for civilization, with the True Whig Party negotiating pretty good terms from the companies having interests there. In order to operate in Liberia, a company had to provide some health care and an education for all employee children; and they were doing that with fairly decent schools. All that went away when there was a rebellion in the name of equality -- the True Whigs were mostly descended from the freed slaves who founded Liberia -- and since then it has become a typical hell hole. But at one time Liberia had a future.

But see next week










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CURRENT VIEW     Saturday

This week:


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Sunday,  April  3, 2011    

This day was devoured by activities. We are trying to get A Step Farther Out and Another Step Farther Out ready and up in Kindle and Nook and other eBook formats. My thanks t0 Rick and Brian and Robert and Eric and Ron and all the others who are helping me do this. It turns out to be more complicated than it looks. Not so much difficult as a test of determination.





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