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Mail 453 February 5 - 11, 2007







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Monday February 5, 2007

Harry Erwin's Letter from England

The News:

Bird flu outbreak: <http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/6328889.stm>  <http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/6328921.stm

Global warming report: <http://www.ipcc.ch/SPM2feb07.pdf>  (if you want your own copy) <http://www.nature.com/news/2007/070129/full/070129-15.html>  (Nature analysis will be published on-line Tuesday, 6 Feb) "This is only the first section of the IPCC's fourth assessment: a report on impacts, adaptation and vulnerability should be finalized in April, and one on ways to reduce emissions or their impacts in May. A final synthesis will be released in late 2007." (Published online: 2 February 2007; | doi:10.1038/news070129-15) <http://sciencenow.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/full/2007/202/1>  <http://ipcc-wg1.ucar.edu/

Othello too mature for 14-year-olds because it involves racism. <http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2007/02/03/nmoor03.xml

Not everyone trusts the UK Government or its agencies:

Blair problems with honours for cash investigation: <http://observer.guardian.co.uk/politics/story/0,,2005566,00.html

Internet shopping can be more dangerous than people realise: <http://observer.guardian.co.uk/cash/story/0,,2005234,00.html

Gordon Brown's plans for education: <http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/education/6325849.stm


Since everyone else is commenting on the global warming report, I probably should, too.

1. All models should be taken with a grain of salt, especially non-linear ones, and the weather and climate systems are highly non-linear. Accurate measurement of parameters describing these systems is difficult, and the model input data resulting from such measurements are likely to be in error. An understanding of when noisy data can invali­date model results is critical to the successful use of non-linear models. A valid model is one that provides useful insight, desirably but not neces­sarily as numerical predictions or statistical distributions. This pragmatic definition avoids argu­ments over the validity and equivalence of abstract models, since a formal or more rigorous definition of model va­lidity can re­sult in a situation where the only valid model of a system (particularly one with continu­ous dynam­ics) is the system itself! (There are even cases known where the system cannot be used to model itself!)

2. "Prediction is very difficult, especially about the future (attributed to Niels Bohr)." An important problem that decision-makers should be aware of is that not all non-linear systems can be modelled; some have behavior that cannot be predicted by any model. Unless there is some way of showing that the model behavior matches that of the real sys­tem, such models cannot be safely used. The underlying problem is that the evolution of two nearby system trajectories (representing slightly different initial conditions) can diverge in state space, growing apart exponentially, and eventually becoming uncorrelated. When that happens, it may be impossible to calibrate a system model to provide adequate predictions. This phenomenon, termed sensitive dependence on initial condi­tions, is a key idea in non-lin­ear systems theory, and is particularly important in weather and climate modelling. The implication is that enough data on the weather/climate system has to be collected to give us confidence in the dynamic limits of the system. That data collection takes time, particularly if one is worried about possibilities outside the 5-95% confidence range discussed in the latest report.

3. John Baez points out the ecological problem with global warming is the rate of increase, not the direction, since glacial (cold) periods apparently experienced climatic fluctuations large enough to make agriculture impossible. Since we don't want to go back to glacial conditions, some global warming is desirable, but we must manage it carefully and slowly. Glacial periods were also characterised by high aridity, suggesting the increased aridity from global warming to be more of a local, rather than a global phenomenon--if we can figure out some way of returning the climate to the post-Pleistocene optimum (about 4000-6000 years ago), we would actually end up ahead in the bargain.

4. Coal is a rather dirty source of power. Not only does it produce carbon dioxide, it releases significant amounts of sulfuric acid (acid rain) and radioactivity into the environment. Generally speaking, a coal-fired plant releases much more radioactivity in its operation than a nuclear plant of the same capacity, even when accidents and disposal of waste products is factored in. This report makes the argument for clean energy much clearer.

5. Wind turbines and wave power are not significant alternatives to nuclear power. The literature on wind turbines indicates that they do significant damage to beneficial bat and bird populations. (I am currently participating in a bat survey programme to collect data on this.) Wave power is not proven and likely to have damaging effects on littoral environments.

6. Solar power may be an alternative to nuclear, but it has a large fixed cost.

7. Petroleum remains useful as an efficient and relatively safe way of storing energy and as a feedstock for chemical production.

So my recommendations are as follows:

1. Continue to improve the model. Even if it can't be used predictively, it will provide insight into the dynamic range of the climate/weather system.

2. Collect lots more data. This means more satellites and supporting systems, since the necessary measurements are hard to collect efficiently from the ground.

3. Replace coal burning with energy sources that do not produce large amounts of carbon dioxide as a by-product. Do this now, since a high rate of temperature change will do most of the ecological damage.

4. Explore carbon-dioxide-neutral processes for producing and utilising petroleum-based fuels.

-- Harry Erwin, PhD "If you can't be a good example, then you'll just have to be a horrible warning." (Catherine Aird)

We will have quite a few items about global warming. The fact remains that no one is sure whether it's getting hotter or the Ice Is Coming. Given the temperatures from Minnesota to the Atlantic, ice is nice and will suffice...


Subject: Climate change, statistics, and gambling

Jerry :

Reading the press reports on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, I do wonder just how many people understand the term "very likely" which is used throughout the report. If one takes a moment to read the report (available at http://www.ipcc.ch/SPM2feb07.pdf) , and look at footnotes 6 and 7 on page 3, they find out the terms are,

"6 In this Summary for Policymakers, the following terms have been used to indicate the assessed likelihood, using expert judgment, of an outcome or a result: Virtually certain > 99% probability of occurrence, Extremely likely > 95%, Very likely > 90%, Likely > 66%, More likely than not > 50%, Unlikely < 33%, Very unlikely < 10%, Extremely unlikely < 5%.

7 In this Summary for Policymakers the following levels of confidence have been used to express expert judgments on the correctness of the underlying science: very high confidence at least a 9 out of 10 chance of being correct; high confidence about an 8 out of 10 chance of being correct."

Hmmm... Back when I did graduate work that included much more than the soupçon of mathematics that passes for erudition in the popular press, a 90% confidence interval was only used by researchers who just couldn't muster really solid data for their hypothesis. It certainly did not stand up for even a master's thesis in most science or engineering disciplines, let alone a doctorate. Try submitting a medical trial that _at best_ hits a 90% confidence interval, and your new pharmokinetic agent will be bounced like a superball by the regulators.

And I'm puzzling over a statement in Footnote 5, "Best estimates are given where available. Assessed uncertainty intervals are not always symmetric about the corresponding best estimate. Note that a number of uncertainty ranges in the Working Group I TAR corresponded to 2-sigma (95%), often using expert judgment." And how does "expert judgment" correspond to the claimed 2-sigma interval ? What statistical basis was used to determine that uncertainty intervals are not symmetric, and where was the best estimate placed in the interval - one of the "tails" that corresponds to a 90% confidence interval ?

These are non-trivial questions for scientists bandying about hypotheses on obscure points in almost any field, and become enormous issues when applied to science that has immediate effects on the people of the world. I might have a touch less credulity if such critical items were not buried as footnotes, and made to read as though they proved the case, rather than provided, at best, lukewarm and vague support for the central hypothesis.

Reading the summary, this reads like "voodoo statistics", making the so-called "trickledown economics" of the Reagan era look as reproducible as tests for the boiling properties of pure water at sea level. It might well suffice for the uneducated or illiterate to feel that the issues of climate prediction are well-founded and concrete, but it doesn't pass the "redface test" by a rational scientist with this kind of slipshod discussion.

And yet, we're about to engage in the largest gamble on a scientific best guess that's ever been attempted. By comparison, the Apollo moon shots were a sure thing, money in the bank, and no risk. Note that some comments in the report are "likely" which is a great flim-flam where the odds are one-in-three that hypothesis is invalid. I can't speak for you, Jerry, but I wouldn't take my life's savings and bet on an outcome with a one-in-three chance of losing most of the money, and damn' little likelihood of seeing any gain.

But in today's risk averse society, it's more avant-garde to make decisions that play to the popular press than stand on truly solid principles.

Wager quite literally trillions of dollars, the potential for a worldwide depression that would make the Great Depression look like a lovetap, and squander the opportunities of two or more generations on some scientific folderol, close to ineffable twaddle, on something between one-in-three to one-in-ten likely to be the wrong causal reason for temperature change ? Feh.

I very strongly commend reading the report to you, Jerry. There are some pure and simple whoppers strewn throughout the work that beg a calm rational assessment outside the political arena. Every page raises more questions than it answers, but then, the one clear part of the report is that it plays to a well-defined agenda, instead of science.

Which agenda, by the by, includes our fine friends in France threatening the United States with carbon taxes (i.e., punitive tariffs) if the United States doesn't abide by the Kyoto accords (http://www.nytimes.com/2007/02/01/world/europe/01climate.html) , while France itself can't meet the European Union's requirements. But then, this is of a whole with France's general "Do as I say, not as I do"; or, more on point for France, "Plus c'est la meme chose, plus ça change."

Lastly, of course, one might note that the Kyoto accords, which are inapplicable to China, will be rendered wholly ineffectual by the coal fired power plants soon to be in place in China. There seems to be no problem with China in this regard, since they can't be affected by the Kyoto accords in a meaningful way, nor are they being threatened by France with carbon taxes. I haven't noted that President Jacques Chirac's qualifications include any science whatsoever (the official bio for M. Chirac notes his qualifications as, "Paris Institut d'Etudes Politiques (Institute of Political Science), and of the Harvard University Summer School" ( Heh, summer school as a qualification to lead a major nation ?); and, in my considered opinion, less statesmanship.

But saying that wouldn't be politically correct, eh ?

John P.


Subject: Butterfly Effect Does Not Help Global Warming Supporters -

Hi Dr. Pournelle,

This is probably obvious to most of your readers but sometimes it is useful to restate things that seem rather obvious.

The "Butterfly Effect" is described in Wikipedia as "a phrase that encapsulates the more technical notion of sensitive dependence on initial conditions in chaos theory"

Sometimes this is simply a reflection of well-understood physics. An example from orbital mechanics is the effect on the orbit of a small body of a single close approach to a planet. The trajectory change to the small body is not 10 times as great if the miss distance is 100,000 miles instead of 1,000,000 miles, it is far larger because gravitational force declines at an inverse-squared rate (and the planet's gravitational attraction is significant at both distances). This is, therefore, a real-world effect.

Other times, the effect is an artifact of the computer hardware used to perform the calculations. This is particularly true in computationally intensive computer models. Indeed, the first time the effect was observed was when a minor data input error (roughly the sixth digit in a single number) caused a weather prediction program to produce a wildly different result the second time the same calculations were performed. In the whimsical example of the flapping or non-flapping of a remote butterfly significantly affecting the occurrence or non-occurrence of a massive weather system like a hurricane, clearly there is no sensible linkage. Such cases represent a computational anomaly rather than a real physical reality.

How does this affect global warming? GCM's (Global Climate Models) are enormous number-crunching programs that must perform trillions of calculations for each year of climate being modeled. They are therefore extremely sensitive to the initial conditions fed into them but such sensitivity will generally be an artifact of the floating- point hardware and the software that runs on it. I have not seen any discussions of how computational anomalies are mitigated in GCM's. It is an extraordinary claim, therefore, to assert that the climate predicted by a GCM for a century in the future has any significant predictive value at all.

Bill Hembree


Subject: global warming

Jerry: Contrarian views:

"The upshot of the Earth not being unduly sensitive to greenhouse gases is that neither increases nor cutbacks in future C02 emissions will matter much in terms of the climate."

"Even doubling the amount of CO2 by 2100, for example, "will not dramatically increase the global temperature," Dr. Shaviv states. Put another way: "Even if we halved the CO2 output, and the CO2 increase by 2100 would be, say, a 50% increase relative to today instead of a doubled amount, the expected reduction in the rise of global temperature would be less than 0.5C. This is not significant.""





-- Right now the Republicans and Democrats in Washington seem, from the outside, to be an elite colluding against the voter. Peggy Noonan


Subject: Global warming as a pretext for social engineering

Dr Pournelle

Now that the prophets of doom have chosen to win the debate by silencing the opposing view (Edward Toulouse [said], "It is not possible to argue anymore" http://www.voanews.com/english/Science/2007-02-05-voa9.cfm), has anyone given any thought to the idea that the global warming scare is an unconscious movement by liberals to accomplish by pseudoscience what they failed to do by politics?

It seems to me that that the doommongers answer to global warming is that the industrialized countries should tax their constituents without stint and give to the "Arc of the Sun" countries for some unspecified purpose. I don't see any proposal that "We should do B to combat A." All I see from the doommongers is "We should do less C and stop doing D entirely, but that may not be enough."

The best proposal I have read for dealing with CO2 is to seed the Southern Ocean with a ton of iron dust each year. And that did not come from a doommonger.

Respectfully h lynn keith


Subject: Global Warming, cooling or what?


It is interesting to read the discussions of global warming on your web site and in the press. After all is said and done, there is only one conclusion that I can reach. We essentially are clueless about what the long term future weather patterns might be.

There is evidence of ice melt and possible lengthening of the growing season in Greenland. However, the historical record indicates that the growing season in Greenland was a good bit longer several hundred years ago. Does this indicate the the current observations are merely a return to "normal"?

The Earth's oceans cover about 2/3 of the surface of the Earth, roughly 130,000,000 square miles. If the average depth of the ocean in 2 miles then there are 260,000,000 cubic miles of water in the Earth's Oceans. There are about 147,000,000,000 cubic feet of water in a cubic mile. This translate to about 4.3 quadrillion pounds of water per cubic mile. It takes one BTU of energy to raise the temperature of water 1 degree Fahrenheit or 4.3 quads of energy. It would require over 1,000,000 quads of energy to to raise the temperature of the ocean 1 degree F.

If we were to assume some baseline for the amount of solar energy absorbed by the earth each year, how much would this absorption have to be increased for n years to increase the average temperature of the Earth's Oceans by 1 degree F?

Assuming n as 50 years it would take an 20,000 quads per year above the baseline to accomplish the 1 degree F increase.

To provide some perspective total World energy consumption is less than 500 quads annually.

Once again, I don't claim to know what any of this means. It merely seems to show that it might be quite possible that man's ability to influence global climate is not as great as some predict. After all it is only human to believe that our abilities are much greater than they really are.

(The numbers presented above with respect to total energy required to change the ocean's temperature are intentionally underestimated. The amount of World energy consumption is intentionally overestimated. I didn't bother to look up estimates of the total solar energy absorbed by the Earth and leave that as a exercise for the reader since any estimate would be subject to adjustment to some hypothetical baseline prior to increases in atmospheric CO2 and Methane.)

Bob Holmes

It all depends on what you call "warming" and what you average to calculate the temperature of the Earth.


Subject: More on Global Warming


If we want to maintain our current progress in technology and improve the living standards of all the peoples of the Earth we must provide an increasing supply of energy. If we want to try and reduce mankind's influence on global climate we must reduce or eliminate our use of carbon based fuels. The only way to do this, with currently available technology is with Nuclear Power.

I would prefer to refer to the Global Warming debate as a debate about the burning of carbon based fuels. Elimination of the burning of carbon based fuels has two benefits. The larger of the two is the saving of hydrocarbons as petrochemical feed stocks. The lesser is the reduction of the emissions of CO2 and CO into the air.

The Global Warming pundits are probably more correct than they may realized when they say that it is too late for us to mend our ways and stop Global Warming. It appears to me that the natural cycles of warming and cooling are brought about by forces considerably beyond man's feeble efforts to control.

There appear to be two main contributors to these cycles, changes in the Earth's orbit and axial tilt and changes in the sun's thermal output.

My current mantra is, "Thank goodness for Global Warming." Without it I might be up to my armpits in snow running South to escape the rapidly approaching glaciers.

Looking at the geologic record, it appears that there is some basis for the story of the flood during the time of Noah. Prior to the flood the level of the Mediterranean and Black Seas was more than 50 feet below current levels. Global Warming after the last Ice Age could have caused enough glacial and polar ice cap melt to raise the level of the Atlantic Ocean sufficiently to breach a land bridge at Gibraltar and cause the flooding. It is pretty obvious that this warming was not caused by Man's activities increasing the levels of CO2 and Methane in the atmosphere.

There are many good reasons to reduce and eventually eliminate the burning of Carbon based fuels for energy and transportation. The reduction or reversal of Global Warming should be way down on the list.

Years ago I read a story in "Analog Science Fact and Fiction." It may have been long enough ago that it was "Astounding Science Fiction." In the story an entrepreneur had established artificial islands several miles off the coast. On these islands he built breeder reactors to generate electricity. Because of the large losses associated with transmitting electricity over long distances, the electricity was used to disassociated H2O into O2 and H2. The H2 was then piped ashore and to locations close to electrical demand where is was used to power generators. The only waste product of the combustion was H2O. The heated cooling water from the reactor was used for aquaculture in the Ocean surrounding the artificial islands.

The use of a breeder reactor also addresses the problem of the finite amount of fissionable material in the Earth's crust. I have seen estimates that if all of the World's demand for electricity were to be produced using slow neutron reactors that the fissionable material would run out in about 80 years or so.

Around the same time I read another story in the same magazine. The gist of the story was the generation of electricity in relatively small amounts near a site where coal was available. The conclusion reached in the story was that due to the problems of pollution, the coal would have to be burned in a closed containment vessel so that all of the combustion by products could be processed into "harmless" compounds before being placed into the environment.


If you believe that Global Warming is harmful and that Mankind should be doing everything possible to reduce or eliminate Mankind's effects on Global Warming you should be doing everything possible to eliminate the burning of carbon based fuels. Substituting Ethanol for Gasoline just won't cut it as far as the above goal is concerned. Using electric cars, given how most of the electricity is produced also won't cut it.

Given our current state of technology, moving to the nuclear generation of power seems to be the safest and fastest way to reach the above goal. Citing the Chernobyl disaster as an argument against the use of Nuclear power demonstrates a lack of understanding of the safety measures built into the nuclear power facilities in the West versus the Soviet nuclear plants with little or no safety facilities, the major difference being containment vessels.

The one impediment to implementing a move to more Nuclear Power generation in this country is the lack of an adequate licensed storage facility for spent radioactive material. This impediment could be easily removed with the licensing of the Yucca Mountain facility in Nevada.

To achieve the goals of the premise of this exposition we must either overcome the irrational fears of Nuclear Power and radioactive materials held by many or stop listening them.

Bob Holmes

Good of you to remember that story. I wrote it. It was published as I recall under the name Wade Curtis because this was just after Mr. Campbell died, and Miss Tarrant was making up the magazine from stories John Campbell had bought; I had a serial, a cover story under my name, and that story as Wade Curtis as I recall. I think the islands weren't artificial, but were coral reefs; I really ought to dig that story out again. It was part of a series that included bringing icebergs from Antarctica for fresh water.


Subject: Why Johnny Can't Think
You have probably already seen this site, Dr. Pournelle, given your
ongoing interests in education and its 1985 date.  But just in case you
"The darkness enveloping America's public schools is truly extraordinary
considering that 38.9 million students attend them, that we spend nearly
$134 billion a year on them, and that foundations ladle out generous
sums for the study of everything about schooling--except what really
occurs in the schools. John I. Goodlad's eight-year investigation of a
mere thirty-eight of America's 80,000 public schools--the result of
which, A Place Called School, was published last year[1984?]--is the
most comprehensive such study ever undertaken. Hailed as a "landmark in
American educational research," it was financed with great difficulty.
The darkness, it seems, has its guardians."
Charles Brumbelow


Subject: re: Viet Nam History

Dear Dr Pournelle,

I am shocked, shocked do you hear to find someone who agrees with my view on Vietnamese history. While Viet Nam today is, from personal observation, definitely a 20th (first half) nation, during the war I saw Viet Nam as a geographic expression.

While I traveled enough during the war to realize that the war being fought a few miles away from my location was a very different war from my war. Now North bank of the Mekong River near the Cambodian River, was very much a part of the 12th century. You could have switched the lady who became my wife with her counterpart from a thousand years ago and neither one would have seen that much difference. At least it looked that way to me and my wife agrees.

To me Viet Nam was then a collection of Feudal Loardlings in the process of consolidating into a Nation State. It was not simple, cut or dried.

One minor quibble, the excellent piece seems to imply that when the Communist took over, 100,000 people were rounded up and immediately and formally executed. Not even my brother-in-law who was deeply involved in Phoenix and spent over ten years in and out of "re-education" camps would agree with that.

What happened, as best I can figure from family sources and being in and out of the country over the last twelve years, is that roughly two million people, perhaps more, were "re-educated. Re-education ranged from Camp Douglas/Andersonville of the American Civil War mixed with WW II Japanese POW Camps, to a few days at Vung Tau, a beach resort.

Now while I believe that very few people were formally executed after the fall of Sai Gon, I also feel that the real number of deaths is much larger than the 100,000 mentioned. Out of, I would guess, two million or so who, I would also guess spent a year or more in re-education, I feel that it is likely that 10% or more died in the process.

Now all this is from anecdotal evidence. I don't have a shred of real documentation. Don't take it to the bank. Still I think it is fairly close to the truth.


"The state which separates its scholars from its warriors will have its thinking done by cowards and its fighting done by fools," Thucydides.







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TuesdayFebruary 6, 2007

Subject: Fire or Ice 


I seem to recall that the historical answer to the "Fire or Ice" question has been Ice, and I've never seen the global warming advocates claim anything like "fire" in their prognostications. I've always figured that the "fire" would follow from a multilateral nuclear exchange -- but I suspect nothing will provoke that kind of delta-Ts, whereas ice has been the typical fate of the planet over the past several millions of years.

On the other hand, it is worth noting that the blackbody temperature of Venus is 64 degrees C, whereas the surface temperature 464 C. For whatever that datum is worth.

I think that... as long as weather forecasters routinely miss tomorrow's high by amounts equal to the claimed error on their 100-year climate forecast, I won't worry that much. All of your other correspondents have already made many of the points I would have.

But in the meantime, the following articles are my main contribution to the debate (nods: Drudge)


Global Warming is not due to human contribution of Carbon Dioxide

Global Warming: The Cold, Hard Facts?

By Timothy Ball Monday, February 5, 2007 Global Warming, as we think we know it, doesn't exist. And I am not the only one trying to make people open up their eyes and see the truth. But few listen, despite the fact that I was the first Canadian Ph.D. in Climatology and I have an extensive background in climatology, especially the reconstruction of past climates and the impact of climate change on human history and the human condition.“Few listen, even though I have a Ph.D, (Doctor of Science) from the University of London, England and was a climatology professor at the University of Winnipeg.” . For some reason (actually for many), the World is not listening.


Neal Boortz from Friday also has a few good points:



A 21-page report from something called the "Intergovernmental Panel On Climate Change" has been released today...in Paris, no less...and as expected, it's predictions are dire. According to the report: "Warming of the climate system is unequivocal, as is now evident from observations of increases in global average air and ocean temperatures, widespread melting of snow and ice, and rising global mean sea level." Yeah right...we've heard all this before. <snip>

Sorry .. I'm still a skeptic. In no particular order here are just a few of the reasons why I'm not buying this man-made global warming scare:

Follows: 24 bullet points, the most telling of which notes that global warming advocates have to suppress the Medieval Warming Period in order to make their point. "In 2001 the IPCC issued another 1000 year graph in which the Medieval warming period was missing. "


The 1000 top UN scientists do not seem to have read about Lief the Lucky and his Greenland farms, or the almanacs for the Medieval times showing growing seasons. We have traditionally ascribed the end of the Dark Ages to the knowledge stored in monasteries, and there is some truth to that; but the fact is that there was a great Warming about the time of Charlemagne and the founding of the Holy Roman Empire. Longer growing seasons, meaning more agricultural surpluses; all these were significant in history. But the "consensus" modelers have to suppress all this history, and don't seem to remember the Maunder Minimum and the Little Ice Age.

The Earth may be warming, and CO2 may be contributing, but how much the CO2 contributes isn't at all established, and the actual climate trend isn't anything like 90% settled. We may still be on track for Ice.

Fire and Ice
Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what I've tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To say that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.

     -- Robert Frost


And Sue had found this gem

Subject: Global Warming/The New York Times,

circa 1932



Note that in 1970 the consensus was that The Ice Is Coming.


Subject: Yucca Mountain

Dr. Pournelle,

Quote: <<The one impediment to implementing a move to more Nuclear Power generation in this country is the lack of an adequate licensed storage facility for spent radioactive material. This impediment could be easily removed with the licensing of the Yucca Mountain facility in Nevada.>>

Last Thursday I attended a presentation on "The Nuclear Renaissance" by one James F. Jackson, a former deputy director of Los Alamos and one of the NRA's big guns (Nuclear Regulatory Agency, not the Charleton Heston one). He stated that by the time Yucca Mountain's 70,000 tons of storage space are available (2015), we will already have enough waste to fill that space. A solution he proposed was to separate out the actinides from the plutonium and recycle the plutonium, reducing the waste material to 3500 tons.

Another interesting tidbit is that there are currently plans for 30 new reactors in the United States, although only 20 plants are under construction worldwide so I suppose most of the U.S. reactors are still very early in the process. Moreover, the licensing process has been changed so that construction and operation licenses can be acquired simultaneously. You would know better than I, but Dr. Jackson seemed to think this would speed construction up significantly (from as much as 12 years down to 4, or so I gathered). If so, that's the kind of Congressional action I'm pleased to hear about.

He also seemed to think that capital costs have come down far enough for new plants to be economical. "Now all we have to do is build some and prove it to people." Interesting times ahead.

~Max Wilson

Nuclear waste is a triply solved problem. If we don't ever want to recover the stuff, form it into glass blocks and drop it into the Mindinao Deep where it will be subducted. If we want to recover it, build a Superdome in the Sonora Desert, stack it in there behind chain links and barbed wire, and use lethal force to protect it if need be. The only thing that stays radioactive after 600 years is the actinides, and they are less radioactive than the ores they came from.

The "nuclear waste problem" is a creature of the anti-technology Luddites. If ever there were a CONSENSUS among scientists and technologists it's that nuclear waste it a solved problem. Not that the Global Warming Scientists give a rat's nether regions.





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Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Subject: Eighty Acres of Hell - History Channel Wednesday, February 07 02:00 PM

This is a must see - record it if you can. See what happened the last time an American president decided that he could suspend habeas corpus while the civil courts were functioning.

Harry Schneider

History Channel Wednesday, February 07 02:00 PM - 04:00 PM


 Eighty Acres of Hell "To the Victor, Belongs the Silence." Hidden until now, we uncover an important and shocking chapter of the American Civil War. Although our nation is well-versed about the atrocities committed against Union POWs at Andersonville, Georgia, few have heard of the wholesale annihilation of Confederate prisoners at Camp Douglas in Chicago, Illinois (12,000 inmates were incarcerated, 6,000 never left). Unlike Andersonville, Camp Douglas had the resources necessary to house and care for its prisoners, but calculated cruelty, torture, and neglect by the US military conspired to exterminate Southern soldiers who entered this "80 Acres of Hell". But, Southern prisoners were not the only victims. Under martial law, prominent Chicago citizens were unjustly tried and imprisoned by a ruthless military tribunal. From 1862 to 1866, more than 6,000 Rebel prisoners and 14 civilians died at the hands of a corrupt and murderous system with tentacles to the White House.

Rating: TVPG

Running Time: 120 minutes

Genre:Military & War


You speak of making desolations. Well, everyone knows, but does not really understand, just how terrible and deadly a power some Western Nations, but particularly America, hold in their hands. No-one really understands, that is, except the dwindling band who have seen it and all the inhabitants of two Japanese cities.

I propose a partial solution to this. America has a few dozen high-megaton range, rather inaccurate and militarily useless nukes left in its arsenal, or so I believe; if I am wrong I’m sure the plans still exist somewhere.

Make this a regular part of the Presidential inauguration ceremonies, to be invoked only when a new President takes office; thus this will happen at least every eight years: Invite all world leaders to a remote island, probably in the Pacific, to witness the detonation of a high-yield thermonuclear device – obviously from a safe distance. The President also to attend, of course.

This would have two effects; give some of the more unstable leaders a timely reminder of the possible results of an attack on America, and remind the new President of just how much power he wields, and what might happen if he or anyone else screws up badly enough.

Maybe a vision of Hell would be enough to take their feet off the road to it. In my humble opinion, the alternative is for far too many people to see this for real.


Ian Campbell


Subject: Vatican plans punk version of Divine Comedy - World news - News - Belfast Telegraph


www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk <http://www.independent.ie>

 Vatican plans punk version of Divine Comedy

[Published: Wednesday 3, January 2007 - 09:38]

By John Phillips in Rome

The Vatican has challenged purist Roman Catholics by disclosing plans for a daring rock, punk and jazz opera version of Dante's Divine Comedy with a soundtrack written by an avant-garde priest.

Monsignor Marco Frisina uses rock music as background for the Inferno, Gregorian chants for Purgatory and lyrical and symphonic classical and modern music for the advent of Paradise in the musical set to be staged in the autumn.

After a premier in a leading Rome theatre sponsored jointly by the Vatican and Italy's two houses of parliament, the extravaganza will tour other major Italian and European cities "to bring back the attention of the widest public to Dante's immortal poem", Riccardo Rossi, director general of Nova Ars, the company producing the opera, told La Repubblica newspaper.

The director, Elisabetta Marchetti, is recruiting a cast of 20 singer-actors, 30 ballet dancers led by the choreographer Anna Cuocolo, a 100-piece orchestra and 50 extras while as many as 250 costumes will be designed by Alberto Spiazzi. The screenplay for the ambitious production, which is officially entitled The Divine Comedy, the Opera, and subtitled "The man who seeks love," is being written by Gianmario Pagano, with the sets being designed by Paolo Micciche.

The story will be represented by 150 images, projected by six advanced technical systems, which will give the audience the impression of sitting next to the actors and dancers.<snip>

Will this help sales of Inferno 2?


The Age of the Autocrat?

Even the libertarians are starting to get it; although if any of them had bothered to read and absorb something other than Ayn Rand and David Ricardo, they'd realize that the 'universalist vision of freedom and democracy' was a chimera, in the first place. Throughout human history, autocracy has been the norm, not the exception:


But if they'd done so, they wouldn't be libertarians in the first place, would they?


- Roland Dobbins


Subject: Homeschool regulation: The revenge of the failures


And yet another example of your Iron Rule of Bureaucracies in action.


Homeschool regulation: The revenge of the failures


Posted: January 4, 2007 1:00 a.m. Eastern

By Bruce N. Shortt, Ph.D.

In their never-ending effort to "help" homeschoolers, public school bureaucrats periodically try to increase homeschooling regulations. This makes K-12 education perhaps a unique endeavor: it's a field in which the failures regularly, and astonishingly, insist that they should be able to regulate the successful.

Never mind that homeschoolers consistently outperform children institutionalized in government schools or that the longer a child is institutionalized in a government school the worse he does in relation to homeschooled children. Never mind, also, that international surveys of academic performance show that in the course of 12 years government schools manage to turn perfectly capable children into world-class dullards. No, the same education bureaucrats who consume an annual cash flow of roughly $600 billion to achieve previously unknown levels of semi-literacy and illiteracy among otherwise normal American children feel compelled from time to time to abandon their diligent pursuit of intellectual mediocrity to offer proposals for regulating homeschool parents.

The latest outbreak of education bureaucrat compassion comes from Mississippi. There the Grand Panjandrum, indeed, the very Mikado of Mississippi education, Superintendent Hank Bounds <http://www.mde.k12.ms.us/MDEDirectory/Superin.htm>  , is working at creating a panel of Quisling <http://www.mnc.net/norway/quisling.htm>  homeschool  parents to determine whether homeschool families should be further regulated.

Why does the estimable Superintendent Bounds think that homeschooled children would benefit from more attention from Mississippi's crack team of government educators? Well, because he worries that some parents might take their children out of government schools and then fail to educate them. As Bounds inarticulately put it in a November news conference <http://www.clarionledger.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=200661117030>  :

"… [Y]ou must realize we all have this moral and ethical responsibility to deal with those situations where clearly it's nothing more than a child abuse situation when parents pull their children out of school, say they're being homeschooled just because parents ... don't want to be involved in the education of their children. ..."

Subsequently, the editorial staff of Jackson''s Clarion-Ledger came to Bounds' aid by translating this gibberish into English
article?AID=/20061216/OPINION01/612160304/1008/OPINION>  .

 Evidently, Bounds and his Clarion-Ledger cheerleaders think that Mississippi parents are removing their children from Mississippi's government schools just so that they can deny them an education at home.

Interestingly, neither Bounds nor the Clarion-Ledger point to any evidence that this is a significant problem in Mississippi or anywhere else. In fact, a little reflection would indicate that this expression of "concern" is more than a little disingenuous. After all, if you really don't want your children to be educated, the most effective strategy is to institutionalize them in one of Superintendent Bounds' government schools. That obviously requires much less effort than keeping them at home.

Moreover, if Bounds really wants to characterize a failure to educate as "child abuse," then what is to be said of him and his bureaucrats who are responsible for a school system in which a catastrophic failure to educate is the norm? According to the U.S. Department of Education's National Assessment of Educational Progress, or NAEP, often known as "The Nation's Report Card," Bounds' bureaucrats have failed Mississippi's children and taxpayers as follows <http://nces.ed.gov/nationsreportcard/states/profile.asp>  :

1. Reading: 82 percent of Mississippi's fourth-graders cannot read at grade level, with 52 percent not being able to read at even a basic level. By eight grade, 82 percent of Mississippi's children still cannot read at grade level, with 40 percent being unable to read at even a basic level. 2. Mathematics: 81 percent of fourth-graders are below grade level in math, with 31 percent lacking even a basic grasp of mathematics. By eighth grade, math illiteracy is burgeoning in Mississippi: 86 percent of students are below grade level in math, with 48 percent lacking even a basic understanding of mathematics. 3. Science: 88 percent of fourth-graders are below grade level, with 55 percent lacking even a basic knowledge of science. By eighth grade, 86 percent of Mississippi's children are below grade level, with an amazing 60 percent lacking a basic grasp of the subject.

Lest anyone be under the impression that the NAEP has unusually high academic standards, testimony before the Board of Governors for the NAEP indicates, for example, that the "advanced" mathematics questions for the eighth-grade NAEP are at best comparable to fifth grade questions in Singapore's math curriculum <http://www.edreform.com/index.cfm?
fuseAction=document&documentID=196&sectionID=55>  . So, while the NAEP may not require high levels of academic competence, it does highlight Mississippi schools' systematic failure to educate.

And just where does the performance of Superintendent Bounds' Mississippi education bureaucracy put Mississippi's children nationally? Dead last in fourth-grade reading and eighth-grade math (tied with Alabama), and third from last in fourth-grade math and eighth-grade reading <http://www.ppinys.org/reports/jtf/naepscores.html>  . Note that Bounds' schools manage to produce these prodigious levels of academic failure by spending roughly $7,000 per student per year, an amount that would pay tuition at many, many excellent private schools. One shudders to think what Bounds' "educators" might accomplish with even more money.

Apart from worrying about the possibility that a homeschooling parent somewhere might be lying in bed eating bon bons instead of teaching junior, Bounds and his editorial friends also fret about homeschooling parents who have not finished high school. With a little research, however, anyone, even including editorial writers, can discover that there is evidence indicating that children homeschooled by parents without a high school diploma are at no disadvantage at all compared to public school students. <snip>


Subject: Bussard Fusion talk at Google

Hi Jerry,

I spent a couple hours this afternoon searching both your sites, but didn't find any mention of this:


Dr. Robert Bussard (yes, the ram-jet fusion guy) has spent the last 11 or so years studying electrostatic confinement fusion, and claims to be $200M away from a demonstration, if he can only find the funding. His US Navy funding ran out and he turned over some of the lab equipment to Spacedev, who also hired some of his people, though it remains to be seen whether they can continue the research. He wants to end dependence on oil, end poverty, and all that good stuff, of course, but mainly wants to make space travel practical. Near the end of the program, he claims an engine based on this could take people to Titan in 76 days.

This was listed on a Top-N (10? 100?) list of Google Research videos in 2006.

-- Phil Rand philrand@pobox.com


Not quite news, but I thought Dr Bussards talk on Nuclear Fusion might be of interest.

The talk runs to about 90 minutes, but it is interesting.


The below article gives a brief summary of what it's all about.


There is a definite "wow" factor to this. I hope he can continue his research and engineer a useful generator design.



Subject: A Winnable War - The argument against the orthodox history of Vietnam.

A Winnable War The argument against the orthodox history of Vietnam. by Mackubin Thomas Owens 01/15/2007, Volume 012, Issue 17


Triumph Forsaken The Vietnam War, 1954-1965 by Mark Moyar Cambridge, 542 pp., $32

In the late summer of 1963, President John Kennedy dispatched two observers to South Vietnam. Their mission was to provide the president an assessment of the regime of Ngo Dinh Diem, the president of the Republic of Vietnam. The first, Major General Victor Krulak, USMC, the special assistant for counterinsurgency for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, visited some ten locations in all four Corps areas of Vietnam. Based on extensive interviews with U.S. advisers to the South Vietnamese army, Krulak concluded that the war was going well.

The second observer was Joseph Mendenhall of the State Department, who had been recommended to the president by Averell Harriman and Roger Hilsman. Mendenhall, like Harriman and Hilsman a longtime advocate of replacing Diem, visited three South Vietnamese cities where he spoke primarily to opponents of the South Vietnamese president. Unsurprisingly, he concluded in his report that if Diem and his brother Ngo Dinh Nhu remained in power, the Diem government was certain to fall to the Viet Cong, or the country would descend into religious civil war.

Both Krulak and Mendenhall briefed Kennedy on September 10. So diametrically opposed were their conclusions that the president quipped, "The two of you did visit the same country, didn't you?"

After reading Mark Moyar's remarkable new book, Triumph Forsaken, readers accustomed to the "orthodox" view of the Vietnam war--entrenched in the academy and the press for decades--will no doubt have the same sort of "Kennedy moment." Could Moyar possibly be writing about the same war that is described (in the orthodox view) as, at best, a strategic error and, at worst, a brutal imperialist war of aggression--in any case, a tragic mistake?

The axioms of the orthodox view concerning the Vietnam war are well known: that Southeast Asia in general, and South Vietnam in particular, were not vital strategic U.S. interests; that the "domino theory"--the belief that the fall of South Vietnam to the Communists would lead to the collapse of other non-Communist regimes in Southeast Asia--was false; that the South Vietnamese government was hopelessly corrupt and did not command the allegiance of the South Vietnamese people; that among the most corrupt was the regime of Diem, who was good at repressing Buddhists (Diem was Catholic) but was losing to the Viet Cong Communists; that Ho Chi Minh was not a true Communist but a nationalist; and that the rejection of certain military options--the mining of Haiphong Harbor, the use of ground troops to interdict the Ho Chi Minh Trail--was proper given the fear of Chinese intervention.

According to the orthodox view, Vietnam was indeed a "quagmire," a war the United States was destined to lose.

Moyar's history takes issue with all of these contentions. A brilliant young scholar with a Cambridge doctorate who is currently teaching at the Marine Corps University in Quantico, Moyar is representative of a small but increasingly influential revisionist school that rejects the fundamental orthodox premise that America's involvement in Vietnam was wrongheaded and unjust.

The primary weakness of the orthodox school, Moyar demonstrates, is its constricted historical horizon. For the most part, orthodox historians have covered the war as if the only important decisions were made in Washington and Saigon. This is an example of what has been called "national narcissism," the idea that history is just about us. Of course, important decisions were also made in Hanoi, Beijing, Moscow, and many other places. Moyar has exhaustively consulted the relevant archives and uses them to demonstrate the very real limitations of the orthodox view. He not only places Vietnam in its proper geopolitical context, but demonstrates the Clausewitzian principle that war is a struggle between two active wills. An action by one side elicits a response from the other that may be unexpected.

Orthodox historians often act as if Hanoi pursued a course of action with little regard for what the United States did. But Moyar demonstrates that the North Vietnamese strategy was greatly affected by U.S. actions.

This point was driven home to me in 1983 when the late Douglas Pike, the foremost American expert on Vietnamese communism and an early proponent of Vietnam revisionism, delivered a paper at a Wilson Center symposium on the war. Pike observed that "the initial reaction of Hanoi's leaders to the strategic bombings and air strikes that began in February 1965--documented later by defectors and other witnesses--was enormous dismay and apprehension. They feared the North was to be visited by intolerable destruction which it simply could not endure." But the air campaign was severely constrained, a fact that became increasingly apparent to Hanoi. As a result, North Vietnamese leaders concluded that the United States lacked the will to bear the cost of the war.

Pike then made an extraordinary claim by comparing the effects of the constrained air campaign in 1965 and the "Christmas bombing" of 1972. Officially known as Linebacker II, this massive, around-the-clock air campaign far exceeded in intensity anything that had gone before. Hanoi was stunned.

"While conditions had changed vastly in seven years," Pike continued, "the dismaying conclusion to suggest itself from the 1972 Christmas bombing was that had this kind of air assault been launched in February 1965, the Vietnam war as we know it might have been over within a matter of months, even weeks."

Triumph Forsaken is one of the most important books ever written on the Vietnam war. The first of two projected volumes, it focuses on the period from the defeat of the French by the Viet Minh in 1954 to the eve of Lyndon Johnson's commitment of major ground forces in 1965. Moyar's thesis is that the American defeat was not inevitable: The United States had ample opportunities to ensure the survival of South Vietnam, but it failed to develop the proper strategy to do so. And by far our greatest mistake was to acquiesce in the November 1963 coup that deposed and killed Diem, a decision that "forfeited the tremendous gains of the preceding nine years and plunged the country into an extended period of instability and weakness."

* * *

No review can do full justice to this critically important book. Triumph Forsaken is meticulously documented and bold in its interpretation of the record. Even orthodox historians will be forced to acknowledge the magnitude of Moyar's scholarly achievement. It should, at the least, reopen the debate about America's Vietnam enterprise, reminding us that countries are not destined to win or lose wars. Victory or defeat depends on decisions actually made and strategies actually implemented.

Mackubin Thomas Owens is professor of national security at the Naval War College.


Subject: . . . but some are more equal than others

Dr Pournelle

At this moment what is demanded by the prevailing orthodoxy is an uncritical admiration of the IPCC. Everyone knows this, nearly everyone acts on it. Any serious criticism of the bases of global warming, any disclosure of facts which the IPCC would prefer to keep hidden, is next door to unprintable. For though you are not allowed to criticise the IPCC's views, at least you are reasonably free to criticise our own.

The servility with which the greater part of the scientific intelligentsia have swallowed and repeated global warming propaganda would be quite astounding if it were not that they have behaved similarly on several earlier occasions. On one controversial issue after another the IPCC viewpoint has been accepted without examination and then publicised with complete disregard to historical truth or intellectual decency. The press has in almost all cases sided with the faction favoured by the IPCC and libelled the opposing faction, sometimes suppressing material evidence in order to do so. It is important to distinguish between the kind of censorship that the scientific intelligentsia voluntarily impose upon themselves, and the censorship that can sometimes be enforced by pressure groups.

The issue involved here is quite a simple one: Is every opinion, however unpopular -- however foolish, even -- entitled to a hearing? Put it in that form and nearly any intellectual will fell that he ought to say 'Yes'. But give it a concrete shape, and ask, 'How about an attack on the hockey-stick graphic? Is that entitled to a hearing?', and the answer more often than not will be 'No'. In that case the current orthodoxy happens to be challenged, and so the principle of free speech lapses. ----- The words above I took from George Orwell's proposed preface to Animal Farm. I substituted IPCC for the Soviet Russia and Soviet regime and made a few other substitutions in keeping with the contemporary debate -- or lack of debate. I did so because Orwell states the case better than I, and as the author of Ecclesiastes stated "There is nothing new under the sun".

In the controversy over global warming, the principle of free enquiry has lapsed. We are falling back to the point when the Inquisitors could show Galileo Galilei the instruments of torture "as if they were to be used" to persuade him to renounce an idea.

This frightens me, because it means the dark age will come not from ignorance but from arrogance.

Respectfully h lynn keith


Subject: Border Agents Jailed

The other side of the story. http://www.kvia.com/global/story.asp?s=5356653&ClientType=Printable 

Leeland Krueger

Indeed. Only it turns out that the US Attorney and the Homeland Security IG seem to have mislead the Congress. It now appears that most of this is a fabrication. The IG report referred to does not exist. No reports are filed in shooting cases until they are investigated by the IG. And more.

Congress is the Grand Inquest of the nation, and apparently is now looking into this, and is not amused at being "misled".

government-admits-lying-about-jailed-border-agents/ is not a source I usually pay attention to but it comes up on Google.


This story continues. The question becomes, why? Why has the US Attorney spent so much money, and given immunity to a smuggler who brought in a ton of drugs to the US, in order to get long jail sentences for Border Patrol agents? And why was it then arranged to send them to places that hold illegal aliens? None of this makes sense. Mr. Rohrabacher can't figure out the motives. Neither can I.


Subject: New York may ban iPods while crossing street


"Government has an obligation to protect its citizenry," Kruger said in a telephone interview from Albany, the state capital.


From themselves?

This reminds me of the quote Robert Heinlein attributed to his character Lazurus Long: The most dangerous person in the world is someone out to do something for your own good.

It's also similar to the Mississippi homeschooling piece you ran today. Can't have people taking responsibility for their own lives.

Drake Christensen

"If I knew that coming to my house was a man with the fixed intention of doing me good, I would run for my life."  Henry David Thoreau


Subject: re: pete McG's letter


I don’t know whether to laugh or cry, but Pete forgot one other thing. As an illegal alien I can qualify for full Social Security retirement with just as little as 18 months worked!

See here: http://www.wnd.com/news/article.asp?ARTICLE_ID=53613 

Michael Scoggins


Re: End Of The World? Not So Fast


The Boston Globe is not known for being even remotely conservative, but it does point out that the UN document released on Feb 2 was written primarily by government bureaucrats.


Quote: “Oddly enough, most of the news coverage neglected to mention that the document released on Feb. 2 by the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change was not the latest multiyear assessment report, which will run to something like 1,500 pages when it is released in May. It was only the 21-page "Summary for Policymakers <http://www.ipcc.ch/SPM2feb07.pdf>  ," a document written chiefly by government bureaucrats -- not scientists -- and intended to shape public opinion. Perhaps the summary will turn out to be a faithful reflection of the scientists' conclusions, but it wouldn't be the first time if it doesn't.”

We need to at least wait until May to read the actual report.

Mike Cheek


Russell Seitz has views on that. UN "summary reports" of science documents rarely reflect the actual science in the documents. Surprise.

Russell Seitz : The IPCC Executive Summary's place in the world of information

The Global Warming document the media are roaring about is not the real McCoy. The difference in their contents is so gross that it earned a pair of entrys in my Richter Scale for the Information Age--





CURRENT VIEW    Wednesday


This week:


read book now


Thursday, February 8, 2007

Subject: Re: Bussard's fusion

Dr. Pournelle,

Looking for more information on Dr. Bussard's proposed fusion device, I found what appears to be a note from him explaining some of the development:


Of particular note is this paragraph: "As to our funding -- our USN contract still exists, and still has about $ 2M authorized in it. However, year-by-year funding was NOT provide for FY 2006, so that we knew we had to close down early in 2006.. What saved us was Adm Cohen (CNR) who put another 900 K into the program to try to get us down the road to where we DID go, and then we had to quit. It was not a cutoff of OUR funding, but the entire Navy Energy Program was cut to zero in FY 2006, and we were a part of this cut. The funds were clearly needed for the more important War in Iraq."

Brett Olsen

Another casualty of the Iraq War.


Subject: "Captain" Lisa Nowak

Dear Jerry,

I have read through the charging affidavits here: http://news.findlaw.com/hdocs/docs/nasa/flnowak20507aff.html 

If the Chief of Naval Operations has any stones, and any concern for good order and discipline in the fleet, then he will issue "Captain" Nowak and "Cmdr" Oefelein orders ending their NASA detail and transferring them to Navy control. "Captain" Nowak can be detailed to Orlando until her criminal proceedings are concluded. The Orlando police affidavits and other statements attributed to Oefelein's ex mother-in-law provide sufficient grounds to begin Article 32 proceedings on these two. The possible charges include Adultery and Conduct Unbecoming An Officer.

Instead the present media carnival is once again casting the perp as victim. It fits in with foreign drug dealers paid by the US Government and U.S. Border Patrol agents thrown into federal prison and beaten by convicts. And if this is all the "USA" can deliver, then people should consider other arrangements.

Best Wishes,


p.s. NASA's knee jerk institutional response shows once again why that organization's federal funding should be zeroed out starting with next year's budget. These people clearly think the rules don't apply to them.


Subject: Eternal embrace? Couple still hugging 5,000 years on 

But of course romantic love between a man and a woman s a product of modern capitalism, a recent fabricaton meant only to enslave half the human race in false bonds of affection, all in furtherance of the patriarchal impulse.


Oh, wait. Wasn't It invented by twelfth-century French troubadors who traded tales of courtly love for a slice of that roasting boar and a coup of that wine.



Archaeologists in Italy have discovered a couple buried 5,000 to 6,000 years ago, hugging each other.

http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20070206/sc_nm/italy_embrace_dc  <http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20070206/sc_nm/italy_embrace_dc

My anthropology professor was wrong?

My lefty, weepy English professor was mistaken?!

I'm shocked!



Subject: Adaptation as important  as mitigation

Jerry, Here is an article that I believe is worth adding to the climate discussion.



Sarewitz and his colleagues argue that the time to elevate adaptation to the same level of attention and effort as the more popular mitigation of greenhouse gases is now, and that the future of the planet demands realistic actions to help the survival of humans.

"The obsession with researching and reducing the human effects on climate has obscured the more important problems of how to build more resilient and sustainable societies, especially in poor regions and countries," Sarewitz said.

"Adaptation has been portrayed as a sort of selling out because it accepts that the future will be different from the present," Sarewitz added. "Our point is the future will be different from the present no matter what, so to not adapt is to consign millions to death and disruption." <snip>

Gordon Foreman

Planning is a necessary evil. It is a response to risk: the more dangerous an undertaking, the more important it is to plan ahead. - Paul Graham

I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable. - Dwight D. Eisenhower (1890-1969)



Dear Jerry :

I fear some in the space program have forgotten one of the cardinal rules of astronautics: In space, no one can hear your pepper spray--


Russell Seitz




CURRENT VIEW    Thursday


This week:


read book now



A small step towards reining in anarcho-tyranny.


-- Roland Dobbins

Alas a very small step that may not lead far.


Subject: FYI on BP shooting 

This posting http://www.warriortalk.com/showpost.php?p=249477&postcount=4 

is from a BP agent that is pretty reliable with his data. The posting is his (included below) so take that into consideration if you publish it. I would guess that anything you hear about the case will be heavily biased as there appear to be multiple levels of games being played. From what I can tell the real question is if the agents screwed up, they did. The question is why hammer them? Note that this was posted on 1/18/2007


Yes the smuggler was breaking out laws, but he (or she as the case may be) is still entitled certain treatment according to the Constitution we swore to uphold and defend. The supposed basis of the case was 'civil rights violations' stemming from the shooting. If the guy didn't actually present the threat claimed, he shouldn't have been shot. Ok, he is a dirtball and SHOULD be shot, but legally it wouldn't have been justified.

All anyone outside of that station heard was that the BG turned around with something in his had that resembled a weapon. The agents fired but didn't know they'd hit him. The big problem (though not 10 years in the pen worth of big!) comes in when they allegedly cleaned up any evidence and failed to report the shooting. As was talked about today at work, murders don't get 10-12 years, rapists don't get 10-12 years, a law enforcement agent shooting a smuggler in the ass gets 10-12 years in solitary (we can't have former LEOs in general population!). It doesn't reinforce out confidence in the agency, but they should have reported it anyway.

We have another case pending against an agent on a similar legal basis (civil rights violation) which would have been dropped a year ago except the Mexican Consulate is pushing it through. In El Paso County, the Mexican Consulate is GOD. We joke about them being our true bosses here. They hate us and love to use every means possible to display it. We get along better with the Mexican cops than we do with the Mex. Consulate. In this second case I mention, the 'witnesses' can't keep their stories straight and they all conflict each other regularly. If the Mx. Consulate wasn't involved, the charges would have been dropped and the agent would be back at work.

I've heard nothing about another agent helping the accuser. It sounds to me like rumor, but I've seen some really strange things happen before so I wouldn't be horribly surprised if it was true. I'd like to think it's NOT true, but one never knows.

As usual, the MSM has little true data. Unfortunately we, as fellow agents, are not told anything either. I have to filter the rumors and try to find the grain of possible truth contained there in. Only three people know what exactly happened, and two of them are going to prison while the other is going to continue being a drug smuggler with U.S. government knowledge.

Recently I've had a lot of people tell me about how they support us. I wish it didn't take a case like this to bring us into public awareness, but all of us do REALLY appreciate your comments. Especially in this region, we hear very little positive feedback from the community. If you come across a Border Patrol Agent in passing, please briefly let them know you support us. It helps a lot with the morale. The agent may try to act like he doesn't care about community support (it's a machismo thing), but it does make a big difference to us.

End Quote.


-- --- Al Lipscomb

This is pretty close to what I have always believed about this case. The agents merited disciplinary action. They did not merit criminal prosecution and ten years imprisonment. The US Attorney in the case is not on the side of the American people. He deserves to be put into private practice, instantly, with much of his staff.

A nation that does not control its borders is not a sovereign nation, and has not assum[d] among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them.

I have considerable confidence in Dana Rohrabacher, who seems determined to get to the bottom of this case. If he drops it abruptly you may be confident that he has found that he has been deceived. So far he has not, and his people are pretty good. We'll see. The notion that the Mexican Consulate is the actual boss of the Border Patrol ought to be disturbing.


Subject: How to know you have won the global warming debate


A pompous and self-satisfied jackass mocks the opinion that Global Warming may not be occurring. If this is the best argument he knows, then he knows far too little

Will Albenzi

-- Here's to cheating, stealing, fighting and drinking. If you cheat, may it be a death; if you steal, may it be a heart; if you fight, may it be for your Brother; and if you drink, may it be with me.


Well, every good cause has bad defenders. The Global Warming Industry has its share of fuggheads. (Niven's Law: there is no cause so noble that it will not attract fuggheads. Corollary: in any news conference, the fuggheads will get most of the attention.)

The interesting part is that the Global Warming Industry never seems to rebuke fugghead defenders.

I suppose I should say it again:

1. We are not certain whether the Earth is warming or cooling; it requires sophisticated computer models to determine how to combine the data in order to fabricate (I think of no better word) a single figure of merit to be called the Earth's temperature for any given year. Given what you do with those models, you can obtain a fairly wide spread of figures.

2. We do know that in historical times the Earth has been much colder and much warmer than now. It was considerably warmer during the Medieval Warm period (roughly 800 - 1325) and considerably colder during the Little Ice Age (roughly 1400 - 1800). We have a great deal of historical data, including freezing of the brackish water canals of Holland, the freezing over of the Hudson River and Great Lakes during the French and Indian and Revolutionary Wars, crop data and growing seasons, Almanacs, etc. We have less detailed but equally convincing data for the Medieval Warm period, the most dramatic being the Greenland dairy farms started by Lief "The Lucky" Ericson and his father Eric  the Red. Note that the Gulf Stream doesn't have much influence over western Greenland.

3. The current warming trend began about 1800 and peaked about 1900, and by 1970 the "consensus" was that the warming trend over and a cooling trend had begun; and we might be heading for a new Little Ice Age.

4. Arrhenius back about 1900 calculated that increased CO2 could cause a greenhouse effect that might have the effect of warming the Earth by about 1 degree Centigrade. Since then we have had much more sophisticated computer models. Most of them give about the same answer and range of effects as Arrhenius got on the back of an old envelope.

5. If I had to choose between 2 degree warmer and 2 degrees cooler I'd take warmer. If I had to choose between higher sea levels and 5 degrees warmer and forty feet of ice over much of Canada and the northern US, I'd take warmer. It's easier to prepare for warmer than warmer than colder.

6. Longer growing seasons are better (more food available) than shorter. The longer growing seasons certainly had an effect in ending the Dark Ages.

7. I don't know what the climate changes were between the high times of the Roman Empire and the long fall and collapse, but I'd wager reasonable sums that it was getting colder, the growing seasons were getting shorter, food was getting scarcer, people had to work harder, etc., and this trend continued until the Medieval Warm began. This paragraphs is pure speculation and is not integral to any of my conclusions (although if it were shown to be true it would be an indicator).

8. If the US signed the Kyoto Treaty the effect on Global Warming would be lost in the noise of the economic consequences and political backlash.

9. If we are really concerned with CO2, we have technical means (such as seeding the oceans with nutrients) to cause increased absorption of CO2. These are much more effective than limiting energy consumption in the United States, particularly when China and India and "developing" countries are allowed to burn all the carbon they want.

10. There are good reasons for developing more nuclear power without regard to reducing CO2 production; interestingly the advocates of CO2 reduction from Global Warming are not fervent supporters of nuclear power.


420,000 years of Temperature Data Graphed...

Dear Jerry,

This fellow graphed out 420,000 years of Antarctic ice core data (By way of Kate MacMillan at www.smalldeadanimals.com  ):

01/one-more-time-for-stupid-people.html :

Here's the full-sized graph:


Apparently the y-axis label has the wrong units; it is the temperature difference from the present, rather than temperature change per year. The raw data are here:


From the readme file for the data:

"...Deuterium - data : file « deutnat.txt » Column 1 -Depth (m) Column 2 -Ice Age (GT4) Column 3 –Deuterium content in ‰ SMOW (Standard Mean Ocean Sea Water). Deuterium measurements have been performed on three adjacent cores 3G, 4G and 5G (see Figure 1 of Jouzel et al., 1996). It combines results successively published in Jouzel et al. (1987, 1993 and 1996).

Column 4 -Temperature difference wrt the mean recent time value (i.e. corresponding departure from –438 ‰ mean deuterium value) Deuterium data is from core 3G between 138 and 2083 meters below surface (mbs) (with one long missing section between 312 and 320 mbs), from core 4G between 8 and 138 mbs and between 1920 and 2546 mbs and from core 5G between 2504 and 2757 mbs. Ash layers help to make link between cores. No correction was applied for 3G and 4G core taken as reference depth. For 5G samples, a value of 3.41 m have been added to the depth measured in the field below depth of 2500 m. Deuterium values (column 3) have been measured on ice samples of length comprised between 0.5 and 2 m (down to 2080 m) then every 1 m. Data was re-interpolated on 1m intervals afterwards. The ice recovery is 85% or higher. Measurement accuracy is of ± 0.5‰ SMOW (1 s). From the surface down to 7 m a constant value (derived from surface and pits samples) of -438.0 ‰ is reported. The temperature change indicated in column 4 (temperature above the inversion). This temperature is calculated using a deuterium/temperature gradient of 9‰/°C after accounting for the isotopic change of sea-water. No correction for the influence of the geographical position of the ice was applied..."


Nice cyclical behavior. Based on past trends, it looks like we might be due for some cooling.

Cheers, Rod Schaffter

-- "If you fine people for speeding they tend to drive slower, or buy radar detectors. If you fine people for making money they tend to make less, hire lawyers and accountants to protect it, or move somewhere else. Fining people for making money is not a great way to raise revenue, just as subsidizing people for not working is not a great way to get them out finding jobs." --Dr. J.E. Pournelle


I got this after I wrote the above:

Subject: Serious CO2 reduction initative 

Dr. Jerry E. Pournelle once wrote:

"If we won't stop producing CO2 (and we won't), and there are alarming levels of CO2 in the atmosphere (many think there are, and certainly they are unusual and high), then the obvious answer is to start taking the stuff out of the atmosphere."

I believe you also stated (forgive the paraphrase, I was unable to easily find the original quote) that you would not take advocates of global warming reversal seriously until they began contemplating such active measures.

It should not surprise you that it took private initative to do so: http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20070209/ts_nm/climate_prize_dc 

"Airline tycoon Richard Branson announced on Friday a $25 million prize for the first person to come up with a way of scrubbing greenhouse gases out of the atmosphere in the battle to beat global warming.... The winner will have to come up with a way of removing one billion tonnes of carbon gases a year from the atmosphere for 10 years."

In addition to Sir Richard, the judges will include Mr. Albert Gore, Sir Crispin Tickell, Dr. James Hansen, Dr. James Lovelock, and Dr. Thomas Flannery.

Whether we are headed for Ice, as you suggest, or Fire, as the prevailing belief runs, it can't hurt to expand the toolset...

--Catfish N. Cod

Hurrah! Indeed, a good start.

Hurrah for Sir Richard, who may be doing more for mankind than anyone else of this generation: with this prize, and his support for private space development, Sir Richard deserves the thanks of the world.

Subject:  The X-Prize approach to global warming

Dr Pournelle,

I haven't jumped in on the IPCC report debate because frankly it's all been said already. However, the following is worth mentioning:


"Branson launches climate prize

Millions of pounds are on offer for the person who comes up with the best way of removing significant amounts of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Virgin boss Sir Richard Branson launched the competition today in London alongside former US vice-president Al Gore. A panel of judges will oversee the prize, including James Lovelock and Nasa scientist James Hansen. .." <snip>

This is an interesting approach. The X-Prize produced the seed for a suborbital spacecraft. The DARPA Grand Challenge, after a false start, produced a viable autonomous vehicle. Branson's initiative might produce something useful.

My local Green Party has already dismissed the idea. This is no surprise since they also rule out any use of nuclear power as a solution to fossil fuel shortages and greenhouse gas emissions.

Now, how about a prize for a working solar power satellite?

Cheers, Simon Woodworth.



Dr Pournelle, One of your correspondents expresses a regret that the IPCC full report won't be available until May. By that time, it may have been edited to support the Summary which is already out. The full draft report in its pre-edited form may already be found at www.junkscience.com.  I advise anyone interested to download it now, as this is an embargo-breaking release, and it may not be there forever. This will enable anyone with the scientific wherewithal to tell the rest of us just how the editing process works.

You don't need to post this mail, but I think the info will be useful to post.



Dear Jerry:

I heard from some source yesterday two allegations: The Medieval Warm Period never happened (I'm sure the Norse farmers in Greenland would have been surprised by that), and that if the oceans rise in temperature "Several degrees," the thermal expansion of the ocean volume will lead to an rise in sea level that will presage TEOTWAWKI, of course.

This was attributed to "expert climatologists."

To be fair, I want to consider this carefully. So I've gathered some initial data to be crunched. Any help and debate appreciated:


http://www.windows.ucar.edu/tour/link=/earth/Water/temp.html  The average temperature of the ocean surface waters is about 17 degrees Celsius 90 % of the total volume of ocean is found below the thermocline in the deep ocean. The deep ocean is not well mixed. The deep ocean is made up of horizontal layers of equal density. Much of this deep ocean water is between 0-3 degrees Celsius (32-37.5 degrees Fahrenheit)!

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ocean  its volume is over 1340 million cubic kilometers

A Calorie or kilocalorie is the amount of heat required to raise the temperature of one kilogram of water one Celsius degree. Although the metric unit of energy is the joule, heat is commonly also measured in units called calories (there are about 4.19 joules in a calorie)

http://www.newton.dep.anl.gov/askasci/chem03/chem03335.htm  The total expansion, from freezing to boiling, is 4.3%

is less than 0.1% near freezing, rising to almost 0.8% near boiling. (for 20 degree increase)

(There is a graph for this but I can't find it)

Average Depth: 12200 feet (3720 m). www.mos.org/oceans/planet/features.html 

http://worldatlas.com/aatlas/infopage/oceans.htm  Ocean Area (335,258,000 sq km) photic zone 200 meters

book.nc.chalmers.se/EXERCISE/EX04-08.PDF   solar influx 3.2*10^24 joule yr


That's what I have to start with. I also ran into this:



The Sun's output is not entirely constant. Nor is the amount of sunspot activity. There was a period of very low sunspot activity in the latter half of the 17th century called the Maunder Minimum. It coincides with an abnormally cold period in northern Europe sometimes known as the Little Ice Age. Since the formation of the solar system the Sun's output has increased by about 40%.

Yet we're told the Earth has been "cooling" for several millenia: http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/paleo/pubs/mann_99.html 


-- Recent novels by Michael Z. Williamson available in bookstores worldwide:

TARGETS OF OPPORTUNITY, March 2005 from Avon THE WEAPON, August 2005 from Baen Books CONFIRMED KILL, September 2005 from Avon THE HERO with John Ringo, October 2005 from Baen Books (mass market edition)

http://www.MichaelZWilliamson.com  http://www.SharpPointyThings.com  Custom blades and historical costumes


And we have one more comment on the border patrol case:

"The main lesson from this debacle is that we've clearly identified the need for remedial marksmanship training for all Border Patrol agents. I'm sure the National Rifle Association would be happy to assist the Border Patrol in this regard."







This week:


read book now


Saturday, February 10, 2007

Subject: GROSS!

I suppose that was the point of the exercise. And people wonder why I homeschool?



Students Get Lesson to Chew On Gum Sharing Disgusts Montgomery Parents, Officials

By Daniel de Vise Washington Post Staff Writer Saturday, February 10, 2007; A01

It was a novel class exercise: Ask a room full of Montgomery County high school students to take turns chewing the same piece of gum.

To demonstrate how sexually transmitted diseases are spread, a visiting speaker invited students to share gum in health classes at four county high schools in December and last month. School officials said a total of about 100 students participated in the lessons, although some declined to chew the gum.

Education and health officials say the gum exercise was unsanitary and should not have happened. The speaker and the clinic, a pregnancy counseling center with a religious orientation, are no longer welcome in Montgomery schools, school officials said.

"It was fine for me, because my best friend and me did it first," said Julia Bellefleur, 15, a Damascus High School sophomore who participated in the exercise. "But it was kind of gross for everyone else. I was just glad I did it first."

At Damascus, about 15 students shared a stick of gum, students said.

Julia said the speaker also asked for volunteers to sample squares of chocolate, one of which, they were told, was actually a laxative. The point was to illustrate the uncertainty of knowing whether one has contracted an STD after a sexual encounter. Four boys volunteered, she said.<snip>


India the Superpower? Think again.


--- Roland Dobbins








CURRENT VIEW     Saturday

This week:


read book now


Sunday, February 11, 2007      

It's global warming, you see.


-- Roland Dobbins












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