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Mail 456 March 5 - 11, 2007
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March 5, 2007
You will want to look at the weekend mail, on Education and IQ, why I do not DIGG, and how to find 10,000 formulae.
Russell Seitz is an old friend who does a lot of thinking. He's not political. He has been concerned about the Global Warming debates: that the science is being lost in the rhetoric. Some of you may recall that the global warming debates have taken up considerable attention here. We even have a special page (which, alas, I have not been keeping up; I will attend to that when I get caught up with some other stuff). One of Russell's earlier attempts to inject some scientific skepticism in the debates can be found there. Herewith more of Seitz on Global Warming and other subjects:
Subject: Seitz UNBLOCKED - Armed cant in the climate wars , etc.
These new Adamant posts may interest or infuriate your readers:
Armed Cant in the Climate Wars <http://adamant.typepad.com/seitz/2007/02/is_a_conservati.html>
asks if a Conservative consensus on climate change is possible
Some dare call it Reason <http://adamant.typepad.com/seitz/2007/03/about_twenty_ye.html>
examines Ron Bailey's change of heart on the subject
Swiss Army Knifes Into Liechtenstein <http://adamant.typepad.com/seitz/2007/03/swiss_army_knif.html>
reports on an invasion that nobody noticed, including the invaders
There is also a colossal squid recipe for the seriously hungry .
Russell Seitz <http://adamant.typepad.com/seitz/2007/03/swiss_army_knif.html>
I will warn readers that Russell's vocabulary and sense of humor are acquired tastes.
Subject: Global warming - on Mars...
Mars Melt Hints at Solar, Not Human, Cause for Warming, Scientist Says Kate Ravilious for National Geographic News February 28, 2007
Simultaneous warming on Earth and Mars suggests that our planet's recent climate changes have a natural*and not a human- induced*cause, according to one scientist's controversial theory.
Earth is currently experiencing rapid warming, which the vast majority of climate scientists says is due to humans pumping huge amounts of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. (Get an overview: "Global Warming Fast Facts".)
Mars, too, appears to be enjoying more mild and balmy temperatures.
In 2005 data from NASA's Mars Global Surveyor and Odyssey missions revealed that the carbon dioxide "ice caps" near Mars's south pole had been diminishing for three summers in a row.
Habibullo Abdussamatov, head of the St. Petersburg's Pulkovo Astronomical Observatory in Russia, says the Mars data is evidence that the current global warming on Earth is being caused by changes in the sun.
"The long-term increase in solar irradiance is heating both Earth and Mars," he said.
Abdussamatov believes that changes in the sun's heat output can account for almost all the climate changes we see on both planets.
Mars and Earth, for instance, have experienced periodic ice ages throughout their histories.
"Man-made greenhouse warming has made a small contribution to the warming seen on Earth in recent years, but it cannot compete with the increase in solar irradiance," Abdussamatov said.
By studying fluctuations in the warmth of the sun, Abdussamatov believes he can see a pattern that fits with the ups and downs in climate we see on Earth and Mars.
Abdussamatov's work, however, has not been well received by other climate scientists.
There is also evidence of global warming on Pluto. Of course since Pluto has been demoted, perhaps that doesn't count as planetary warming.
Subject: Environmentalism as the New Religion
You know, a friend made the point that environmentalism is developing many of the features of a religion. Consider this: Al Gore atones for the environmental "sin" of his $1800 of electricity usage in his ten-thousand square foot (!) Tennessee mansion by each month spending $432 on "Green Power".
It's the return of the Indulgence. Remember the saying attributed to JohannTetzel, a papal commissioner for indulgences in sixteenth-century Germany? "As soon as the coin in the coffer rings, the soul from purgatory springs".
Only now it goes: "As soon as your Carbon Credit is on the books, for global warming your off the hook!" This appaers to be the Ultramontane position of the Environmental Anti-Pope Al Gore.
Environmental reformation anyone? We need Rational Environmentalism, and for that perhaps we need a Global Climate Change version of Martin Luther. And/or an environmental Council of Trent.
The odds are getting shorter on this all ending up in a latter day Battle of Luetzen. I wonder who would be our latter day Gustavus Adolphus?
I hate to think of the Environmental Reformation's John Calvin!
Subject: Some comments on models
A short read on uses and pitfalls in complex models with a connection to global warming...jim dodd
LCDR Jim Dodd, USN (Ret.) San Diego
The last job my father had in the U.S. Army in 1967-68 was Chief of Surgery at Walter Reed Army Medical Research Institute, where he fought with his C.O. , an Internist, who didn't think there was any role for research into surgery there. Part of that job was three weeks as a Medical IG in Vietnam in November 1967. I still have a copy of his trip report and it makes for fascinating reading. One problem everywhere was a shortage of clerks. Paperwork is the connective tissue of any military unit and without enough clerks it is done badly or not at all. Especially if aforesaid clerks learn OJT rather than in an Army school.
In a way my father and his colleagues are responsible for the current high ratio of wounded to KIA soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan. Procedures developed by him and doctors like Col. Basil Pruett, the founder of the famous Army Burn Unit at Fort Sam Houston (He was one of my father's residents when he was Chief of Surgery there), are the foundation on which the current system was developed. It took decades to create these methodologies that have saved so many lives. My own feeling is that the Major General who was dismissed and the Secretary of the Army who resigned fell on their swords to save face for the Bush Administration and the Neocons who wanted to run the war like a business operation. I suspect that closer examination by Congress will reveal that these guys fought for more resources and were denied. That Major General was a West Point graduate and served five years as an infantry officer before the Army sent him to medical school. (This was part of a grand Army scheme to create career medical officers who would stay the full 30 years. It usually didn't work out that way. Civilian doctors have always made lots more money than military ones. I just don't see either of the generals involved acting with callous disregard for their patients. It goes against everything they stand for, as Army officers and as doctors.
If the civilian leadership tries to fight wars on the cheap, this kind of thing is almost always going to happen. It plays hell with planning. Improvisation and "make do" becomes the defacto standard. Yes, it was predictable, if the voices of experience were heeded, but we know that the Neocons marched, or stumbled rather, to the beat of their own illusions rather than those of well founded military doctrine.
Thank you. Interesting indeed, and I suspect you are correct. I cannot imagine a former infantry officer turned medico being indifferent to the problems that keep turning up.
It should not have been a surprise that more severely wounded would survive and require long term care. If I could predict that, and I did, then surely those whose job it was to see this coming could predict it; and I am sure many did so. When you ask for funds for a war, you must ask for all you need for that war; that includes care of the survivors, pensions, disability payments --
In the old Army I came from it was understood: if you survived and had one arm and one leg, the Army would find you a job that required one arm and one leg so long as you wanted to stay in and do the work. That tradition seems to have been lost. I regret that loss.
Subject: Long Term
"Many of us tried to point out that overcrowding of the long term care facilities would be an inevitable consequence of the invasion of Iraq. Apparently no one wanted to listen."
I wish I could say this was news, or unique. Some of us complained about the excessive attempts to get rid of excess capacity when we were doing the base closing process. The plan was clearly built around the belief that we'd never do anything other than routine operations. Military bases destroyed unused buildings to spare the costs to keep them up, and when needed moved into smaller structures. This means that when mobilization centers have to prepare reserve component units headed overseas for the war, the only facilities available are those which were used by regular units which are already deployed and tent cities. Screaming that mobilization centers might someday mobilize troops was ignored, because the budget was the budget, and we'd make do like we always do when the time came. You go to war with what you have, and if the previous batch sacrificed infrastructure or capability, it takes time to build it back. Often this time is so long between start and completion that it simply isn't worth trying to fix, because the crisis will be over before the fix is in place. This applies even to estimates of a decade long deployment.
I suspect this is all tied together with the reason why I saw handicapped parking on US bases in the MidEast, where anyone who might need a handicapped parking sticker would be evacuated to Germany.
One expects a certain amount of SNAFU. We have had institutional stupidity since the first Bush administration. But I can charge the present neocon chicken hawks with getting us into something they did not understand, then refusing to listen to anyone who tried to enlighten them about possible consequences.
If it had been left to me, I'd have kept the San Francisco Presidio and other choice base locations as living quarters for units; when they were deployed their families would have decent housing. But the neocon chickenhawks hate actual soldiers; they move little pieces of cardboard around on game boards, and imagine that they understand war.
It has all happened before. Read Fehrenbach's This Kind Of War.
Subject: I'd be interested in your thoughts on this
I've wondered about this for a long time.
Timoid of Angle
I have no special insights. Politicians have ever been thus, I think.
Subject: Global Warming Rebuttal
The British TV station Channel Four is coming out with a scientific rebuttal to Al Gore's "An Inconvenient Truth."
"The Great Global Warming Swindle" features experts in climatology, meteorology and other disciplines — from such places as MIT and NASA. The film disputes the link between carbon dioxide levels and global temperatures.
One scientist calls the recent U.N. summary report on climate change "a sham" that included the names of scientists who actually disagreed with its findings. The show also asserts that efforts to reduce carbon dioxide are killing people in Africa — who must burn fires inside their homes because their governments are being pressured to use wind and solar power — and cannot produce enough electricity for the continent. The program airs Thursday.
Link to the Channel Four site:
I wish I had a way to watch this. They have a service called 4oD that streams some of their content onto the Internet, but you have to rent the shows and I'm not sure how timely they release these documentaries. I'm looking around the Internet to see if there is an Internet station provider that carries Channel 4. I've been meaning to try one of the new streaming services anyway to see if all the hype about 3000+ channels is true and that the quality is better than satellite in some cases. It's good to see that at least some are still trying to have an informed debate on this issue.
Keep up the good fight and if you have to forget your website for a while to get Inferno and Mamalukes done, I vote a resounding yes. As a writer myself, I know that feeling you get when it's going good. Sounds like you're in the zone, so charge ahead. I need some good fiction to get me through this work load and school that I'm charging through at the moment.
Braxton S. Cook
This was both amusing and inspiring. I thought I'd pass it along.
Mike -- 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)
I get a pointer to this every now and then, more usually on Veterans Day or Memorial Day.
Subject: military medical benefits
I expect Bush Administration cost-cutting will be found to have played a role at Walter Reed as well. As retired military I pay attention to this issue for my own self interest, as well as generally watching what is going on in the country. The Military Officers Association of America (of which I am a member) is reporting that the Pentagon appointed level bureaucrats are pushing to increase retired health cost sharing for retired military because they feel they want more money for weapons programs, and now more money to field a bigger force. These fees for service are not small changes either. Already the Tricare for Life is so niggardly in reimbursement and so tedious in paperwork that retirees are reporting difficulty in finding providers who will accept it.
LCDR Jim Dodd, USN (Ret.)
Subject: Saudi rape victim, sentenced to 90 lashses -
Saudi rape victim, sentenced to 90 lashes
And this is the culture we must be tolerant of? The one that we're fighting and bleeding for?
I just read an estimate that the total cost of the war is likely to total more than $1 Trillion. That buys a lot of energy independence.
And I bloody well told them so before they let the neocon chicken hawks talk them into starting this. We also told them to expect a lot of long term disability casualties. Of course the neocon chicken hawks never listened. They don't listen to anyone. But National Review let the egregious Frum read us out of the Conservative movement for saying these things.
March 7, 2007
As you may have surmised from the subject line I am reading an anthology which includes "Spirals". The thing drove me bonkers 20 years ago, and it still does. How you and Niven could produce such a colossally, dismally stupid piece of......Oops. Just a moment. There. I'm OK, I'm OK. I think it's the hens. The chickens who mysteriously experience a change in gravity at various heights. And you 2 brilliant guys batted this idea around for God knows how long. It just boggles the mind. Jerry, babe, I'm gleeful to have this opportunity to explain to you that spinning the habitat around does not generate gravity. There is no field of gravity. No field of gravity to change at various heights. It is true that many of gravity's effects are simulated, but it takes some careful thinking to avoid the trap the you and Niven fell into: Describing events that could only have occurred in a gravity field. Where that chickenpoop would acually have gone is a question tantalizingly beyond my perceptual skills, but I can tell you what would happen to a man who stepped out of a door, say, 2/3 of the way up to the axis, into open air, with no floor under his feet: He would immediately fly off on a straight tangent perpendicular to the radius (a line from the axis to the circumference as viewed from either pole). As he flew sideways the floor far "below" would move to meet him and he would land (I think) on the spot that was "below" him when he jumped. And here's one way he would know he was not in a gravity field- he'd land on his side! So nyah!nyah!
Jerry Neagle [email@example.com]
I first wrote a reply in the same tone as your letter, but that was rude.
You have not sufficiently analyzed the situation; you confuse what would be seen by a stationary observer outside the rotating cylinder with what is seen by a rotating observer inside the system. Inside the system, if you drop a ball from, say, eye-height, it will appear to fall down towards your feet. It won't hit at your feet, for the obvious reason that your feet are traveling faster than your eyes. Thus although the ball travels in a straight line perpendicular to the axis of the ship (you are certainly correct there) it appears to fall in a slightly curved trajectory since the floor runs away from the ball. Playing baseball on an O'Neill Colony would be interesting for pitcher, batter, and fielders.
Incidentally, if you throw the ball in the direction of rotation it will have a different apparent trajectory than if you throw it perpendicular to the rotation; I leave that to you to work out. The question is, what makes for the most interesting orientation for the baseball diamond?
Clearly, the larger the Colony, the slower the rotation, and the smaller the apparent effects of all this when you are close to the outer shell. Equally clearly, things get stranger as you get closer to the center (Joe-Jim's kingdom of no-weight in Universe).
There is a very great deal about centrifugal gravity here:
including a number of quotes from different sources. One of those quotes is:
From A STEP FARTHER OUT by Jerry Pournelle, 1979. This is science fact, not science fiction.
And prior to (the) Mercury (program) we hadn't any real experience at all. We flewtransport planes in parabolic courses that might give as much as 30 seconds of almost-zero-g, and that was all we knew. I will not soon forget some of our early low-g experiments. Some genius wanted to know how a cat oriented: visual cues, or a gravity sensor? The obvious way to find out was to take a cat up in an airplane, fly the plane in a parabolic orbit, and observe the cat during the short period of zero-g.
It made sense. Maybe. It didn't make enough that anyone would authorize a large airplane for the experiment, so a camera was mounted in a small fighter (perhaps a T-bird; I forget), and the cat was carried along in the pilot's lap. A movie was made of the whole run.
The film, I fear, doesn't tell us how a cat orients. It shows the pilot frantically trying to tear the cat off his arm, and the cat just as violently resisting. Eventually the cat was broken free and let go in mid-air, where it seemed magically (teleportation? or not really zero gravity in the plane? no one knows) to move, rapidly, straight back to the pilot, claws outstretched. This time there was no tearing it loose at all. The only thing I learned from the film is that cats (or this one anyway) don't like zero gravity, and think human beings are the obvious point of stability to cling to...
We actually ran that experiment at least twice. Once was at Randolph AFB using the Officer's club cat as the subject during a T-bird proficiency flight. I guess it is long enough ago to release a couple of details...
(While you are at it, you might look at http://www.projectrho.com/SSC/index.html )
I haven't dealt with centrifugal gravity in a while, but I used to work those problems in some detail. We got it pretty well right in Spirals. Whether you like the story or not is another story: there's a story that goes with the writing of that story. It involves a Houston restaurant, a very expensive mink coat, and dinner in the wrong part of town; one of these days I may tell the story.
But in any event, I'm pretty sure I got it right in the story; your problem is you confuse a stationary and a rotating frame of reference. In the rotating frame of reference, there is "gravity" mitigated by the "Coriolis Force" (there is no such "force"; it's a result of the rotating frame of reference.
Note also that the atmosphere inside a large space settlement as described in Spirals is also rotating, while your acrobat who stepped off the ladder is no longer subject to that. I leave the resulting wind resistance as an exercise for the readers.
There is more discussion of this at http://www.phy6.org/stargaze/Lrotfram.htm which is a high school level lesson on centrifugal gravity.
Physiologically, the one thing you need to know is that centrifugal gravity requires a reasonably large radius ship. Trying to get a significant centrifugal gravity by rotating a small cylinder fast will not work, and as you get a smaller radius and a higher rotation speed, you end up in conditions in which Coriolis forces induce a water hammer effect that will give you a stroke from bending over.
Googling "centrifugal gravity" gives a fair number of sites of some interest to those who want to know more.
Subject: Inuit people are using air conditioners. Give me the Nobel Peace Prize!
Dear Dr. Pournelle,
Did you see this?
"How hot is it? So hot that Inuit people around the Arctic Circle are using air conditioners for the first time. And running out of the hard-packed snow they need to build igloos. And falling through melting ice when they hunt.
These circumstances are the current results of global climate change, according to Nobel Peace Prize nominee Sheila Watt-Cloutier, an Inuit born inside the Canadian Arctic, who maintains this constitutes a violation of human rights for indigenous people in low-lying areas throughout the world.
Watt-Cloutier and Martin Wagner, an attorney with the environmental law firm Earthjustice, argued this case on Thursday before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights of the Organization of American States in Washington."
I am not sure I understand this.
Subject: "They were murderers like any other murderers."
"They were murderers like any other murderers."
-- Roland Dobbins
My daughter was in Army Intelligence in those days.
Subject: CBS and the Hallucinations,
"For those stricken with [CBS], the world is occasionally adorned with vivid yet unreal images."
This would explain things.
Why not imagine a company that hires both candidates in an entry-level position, and lets them fight it out according the classic survival principles of Darwin? Are you absolutely SURE that the one who understands the MIT material is going to do a better job for the company? In the meantime, the Podunk Junior College grad on the payroll is solid proof that the company does not engage in discriminatory hiring policies.
Betty Strohm firstname.lastname@example.org
You may print this if you wish.
I cannot imagine a company doing that; what I can imagine is lawyers getting rich, only I don't have to imagine it because I have seen it happen. Of course I am not absolutely sure of which one would be better at the job. I don't know any personnel selection systems that would assure that result. What I can be certain of is that this is not what the Framers would understand as freedom or liberty.
Subject: Letter from England (no image version)
I spent the weekend at a church retreat in Scarborough, so this letter is a bit delayed. Scarborough is a traditional seaside spa in Yorkshire, with a castle on the cliff over the town and various parts of the resort for various classes.
School issues <http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/education/6413811.stm>
Cash for honours <http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/6416657.stm> <http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2007/03/03/ nhon103.xml> <http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2007/03/04/ nhons04.xml> <http://news.independent.co.uk/uk/politics/article2326228.ece> <http://news.independent.co.uk/uk/legal/article2323479.ece>
NHS problems <http://www.guardian.co.uk/Observer/uk_news/story/0,,2026239,00.html>
<http://news.independent.co.uk/uk/health_medical/article2326233.ece> <http://news.independent.co.uk/uk/health_medical/article2326232.ece> <http://news.independent.co.uk/uk/health_medical/article2326231.ece> <http://news.independent.co.uk/uk/health_medical/article2318737.ece>
Contaminated petrol <http://www.guardian.co.uk/Observer/uk_news/story/0,,2026304,00.html> <http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2007/03/02/ nsilicon102.xml> <http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2007/03/01/ nfuel301.xml> <http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2007/03/01/ nfuel201.xml> <http://news.independent.co.uk/uk/transport/article2323460.ece> <http://news.independent.co.uk/uk/transport/article2326237.ece>
Eliminating the Privy Council
MI5 trains supermarket staff to detect terrorists <http://news.independent.co.uk/uk/crime/article2326211.ece>
Walter Reed story in the UK <http://observer.guardian.co.uk/world/story/0,,2026080,00.html>
Research funding slashed in the UK
Not much to comment on this eek--perhaps the situation is best described as desperate but hardly serious. The budget is a serious problem, but that reflects more of a political unwillingness to face reality than a lack of resources or management options. If people of faith could figure out a viable programme to deal with social alienation, it might be a serious challenge to business and politics as usual, but in the interim, nothing is changing.
-- Harry Erwin, PhD, Program Leader, MSc Information Systems Security, University of Sunderland. <http://scat-he-g4.sunderland.ac.uk/~harryerw> Weblog at: <http://scat-he-g4.sunderland.ac.uk/~harryerw/blog/index.php>
Subject: Such a certification program exists...
"What's needed is some way to certify credentials that doesn't involve the expense of going to a modern university. We need a system that will do that: that will allow people to learn something, get certification that they know it, and have that count when the racial profilers count up the quotas in employment."
At least in part such a system already exists:
Not precisely, but you can use clep credit to count towards getting such a degree. You can't escape the credential system entirely, but you can, in part, leverage your experience to get such a credential.
It is ironic that I work as a consultant doing work I am good at and can charge a good rate for (because I'm good at it) when I would be manifestly unqualified for doing the same work as an employee because I lack the proper credentials. It works out well enough for me. I get to charge consulting rates and work from home....
Which was my point. You can kick against the pricks, but the fact is that the credential people own the system, and any company that tried to buck that will be punished. The remedy is to move the jobs out of the United States, and we are rapidly doing that. The costs of political correctness are far greater than most suppose.
Subject: Horrors of Global Warming... The article at http://www.alertnet.org/thenews/newsdesk/N02270269.htm shows many horrors.
The Inuit hunter/gatherers are described as "living sustainably". Remember this next time some evangelical environmentalist says "sustainable". They mean "reduce to crushing poverty".
The shelter the Inuit constructed to keep the cold out are rendered unnecessary because now warmer summers mean that less intense construction methods will do.
Ice is thin enough to penetrate without heavy equipment.
Change is occurring, and some people are having a hard time adapting.
Will Albenzi PS, at this end of the Hockey stick, we just had a wonderful quote ""This is the coldest weather we've seen on Mount Washington since January 25, 2004,"
Subj: Victor Davis Hanson on _300_
=[I]in an eerie way, the film captures the spirit of Greek fictive arts themselves. Snyder and Johnstad and Miller are Hellenic in this sense: red-figure vase painting especially idealized Greek hoplites through "heroic nudity". Such iconographic stylization meant sometimes that armor was not included in order to emphasize the male physique.=
=[W]hat was not conventionalized was the martial spirit of Sparta that comes through the film. Many of the most famous lines in the film come directly either from Herodotus or Plutarch's Moralia, and they capture well, in the historical sense, the collective Spartan martial ethic, honor, glory, and ancestor reverence (I say that as an admirer of democratic Thebes and its destruction of Sparta's system of Messenian helotage in 369 BC).=
=Ultimately the film takes a moral stance, Herodotean in nature: there is a difference, an unapologetic difference between free citizens who fight for eleutheria and imperial subjects who give obeisance. We are not left with the usual postmodern quandary 'who are the good guys' in a battle in which the lust for violence plagues both sides. In the end, the defending Spartans are better, not perfect, just better than the invading Persians, and that proves good enough in the end. And to suggest that ambiguously these days has perhaps become a revolutionary thing in itself.=
A long time ago on a research trip through Greece I visited Thermopylae. It's different now. A superhighway runs through it now.
March 8, 2007
SUBJECT 10,000 Formulas
I grant that this may be cheating, and besides, it's sooo 20th century, BUT
have you considered www.alibris.com ?
When I checked they had 18 copies, priced from 5 to 50 dollars.
Which is probably less than the cost of paper and toner to print out the electronic version.
I have no idea why that is cheating. I have my copy, so I'm not looking for another; I posted other people's suggestions as a favor to readers.
March 9, 2007
The syndicated Newt Gingrich clip on the radio this morning mentioned Pournelle's Law, and my wife, who heard only part of the clip, came in and asked what that law was. I did not know, so I Googled it, and from context think it must be the Iron Law of Bureaucracy, which I read for the first time.
I think it is not quite complete. From my standpoint of 32 years in civil service, before I took early retirement because of the commute, 28 of them in the US Treasury, I think there are quite a number of people, concentrated in supervisory positions, who are irrelevant either to the goals of the organization or to protect the organization. Instead they are there to attend meetings and to delay decisions.
The last eleven years I modified programs to produce reports, and I would have up to six programs sitting on my desk waiting for someone to clarify what results were actually desired. Clarification was often gotten only when the requests went back up at least two levels on both sides, and achieved by the person contacted for clarification finally passed it down to the person requesting the change, who explained what he or she actually said.
I have stated the Iron Law in many places. Here's one:
Pournelle's Iron Law of Bureaucracy is that in any bureaucracy, the people devoted to the benefit of the bureaucracy itself always get in control, so that those dedicated to the goals the bureaucracy is supposed to accomplish have less and less influence, and sometimes are eliminated entirely.
It's certainly true enough that there are plenty of people as you describe: indeed they are essential. Without them there wouldn't be an organization to protect. One way to keep the organization strong is to have rules that require a lot of monkey motion: that way everyone can demonstrate that he is overworked, and needs to hire more members of the bureaucracy.
The best illustration I know happened when Administrator Dan Goldin fired hundreds from NASA Headquarters. A week later no one could remember what they did: they weren't missed at all. On the other hand, when bureaucrats get in charge of reductions in force, they always try to get rid of key people who actually do the work: that way they'll have no choice but to hire more.
Al Gore & renewable energy credits
More info on Al Gore's energy use (courtesy Minneapolis Star Tribune)
But what really got the phlegm flying on talk radio was the "gotcha" from a conservative group that outed the former vice president as a Limousine Electricity user. Zap. Last year, Gore's mansion used almost 20 times as much electricity as the average American home. Take that, you Hollywood types. <snip>
Gore, by the way, offsets his fossil-fuel use by paying extra for renewable energy credits. This was ignored by the talk-radio goobers, but the idea is simple: For a small extra charge, pennies per kilowatt hour, you can "buy" renewable energy credits from your energy company, which uses the money (it is carefully audited) to buy that amount of nonpolluting power (such as wind energy) for its system rather than building more power plants.
Result: Your power lines may still deliver fossil power to your house, but you are making the power company buy additional, nonpolluting green energy for its grid.
Subject: Mr. Will
I know that you don't care for Mr. Will, and today's essay is particularly bad for seeming to start off along one path and meandering until he gets to a wholly different destination, but he reaches an interesting conclusion when he finally gets there (after circling from an almost irrelevant baseball anecdote through the Clinton-Obama-Geffin controversy back to the 1968 election):
<snip> "...the initial aim of campaign ``reforms'' was less the proclaimed purpose of combating corruption or ``the appearance'' thereof than it was to impede the entry of inconvenient candidates into presidential campaigns. In that sense, campaign reform is a government program that has actually worked, unfortunately."
Subject: Army Organization
It's best described as insane. Or a fraud. The victims are PFC Snuffy and the American people. The bureaucratic structures in place are recognizably the same ones that emerged from WWII. Two minor changes occurred in 1973. "Continental Army Command" was split into "TRADOC" and "FORSCOM", thus creating another four star command with more staff slots. And USAREC was substituted for Selective Service. Otherwise the bureaucracy has steamed on, acccumulating barnacles as it goes.
This has produced a 625,000 soldier Army (have to count ehavy Guard and Reserve call ups) that can't sustain half of the oversea deployment the 770,000 soldier Army sustained throughout the post Vietnam period until Desert Storm. If we fairly include the USMC then we have a *larger* Army sustaining a *smaller* deployment.
We have too many logistics units and too few combat maneuver units. This has also run on autopilot since WWII. Back when U-boats prowled the seas, shipping was short and transit times were months it made sense to have several echelons of maintenance units in theatre. Transit times now are hours by air and days by 30 knot fast sealift, much of which deadheads home. But we still have large deployed logistics echelons, while simultaneously accumulating huge junkyards of broken vehicles at stateside depots awaiting unfunded repairs.
And 800,000 soldiers and Marines mobilized in an 'organization' that demonstrably can't keep 18 combat brigades ( under 54,000 troops) sustainably deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan and cared for properly at home when they're wounded.
The Democratic Congress could usefully occupy itself by discovering what has produced this state of affairs and how to rectify it.
Well, I can't agree that we have too many logistics units, etc.
At some point I have to write at length on this. Meanwhile ponder these facts. Armies have to be able to fight. They also have to exist when they are not fighting. It takes a lot of support troops to do both. Sergeant Bilko and his minions are needed by peacetime armies. A good military base has to run like a small town with decent government, efficient police, real justice, and a way to get the pot holes fixes. Using combat soldiers to fill pot holes may work, but in today's high tech armies there's not a lot of free time for them to do that: training eats their time.
I could go on but it's time for my morning walk.
Of course military is inefficient. But you have to have them doing in peace time what they will have to do in war -- because you do not want them learning logistics and supply while people are shooting at them.
Subject: Army Organization
First, it is, after all, a Bureaucracy. There is a constant struggle between those who are interested in getting ahead and those who are interested in accomplishing the mission. Moving on from there...
We have a far greater percentage of our force deployed away from home station than we did prior to Desert Storm, and this was true even in the period between Desert Storm and the invasion of Afghanistan. The difference is that overseas deployments prior to Desert Storm were Home Station, in Germany and Korea. Those are a shadow of their former selves. While we've drawn down Bosnia and Kosovo, we still have US troops there, as well as a zillion other places around the world. With the end of the Cold War, our reaction has been to go out and do the things we neglected in favor of WWIII in Germany, and this is true of the leadership of both political parties. The US Army page says that in 1997 "Soldiers in operational units are deployed away from home station and family for 138 days a year, on average."
Now, what else can we tell that is different? In the Cold War Era, we knew where the war was going to be. In the current era, we know it will be someplace inconvenient. This dramatically increases the logistical difficulty, and the quanitity of support forces needed to sustain the mission. How many water purification units do you need for WWIII in Germany? How many if we are sent to intervene in genocide in Africa?
Now we do have changes in force structure taking place. Air Defense and Field Artillery units are turning into infantry and military police. This isn't a new thing. After WWII, during the "Autopilot" period, we had the Pentomic Divison, we had the Air Assault division created, we had the TriCap division and experiments of various types with integrating Reserve Components into a Regular division. We had the High Technology Test Bed Division and we currently have Stryker Brigades. Oh yeah, we essentially turned all of the leg infantry units of the Regular Army into Mechanized units, and then found a need to create Light Infantry Divisions. I am willing to go out on a limb and say that changes were and are occurring, making it appear to me that there is an ongoing process of determining needs and balancing against capabilities. Did I mention that our med units are reorganized, and we are out of the MASH business? Log units aren't as sexy, and changes are only interesting to a tiny minority, even within the Army.
Then lets look at logistical needs. Take a quick look at http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/library/report/1992/MLA.htm and you will find a paragraph showing "At the present time, there are eight fast sealift ships maintained by private contractors. Together, these eight ships provide adequate lift for the unit equipment of an Army mechanized division and can make a trans-Atlantic crossing from CONUS to Europe in four days. In terms of relative response time and carrying capacity, these ships are much more beneficial than aircraft."
Those are our 30 knot fast sealift, and more to be built later of a different type. There are a much larger number of other ships, wihch travel much slower speeds. What do you suppose the turnaround time is from leaving the US to someplace in the Persian Gulf and back? I can also tell you that while the ships and planes weren't as packed going out as they were coming in, they were not deadheading. We put people and things into them as needed. We were always shipping gear which was shown not to be what was needed out, and people back home. True, there is a fair amount of stuff which will remain in the region forever, either because it was written off as too expensive to return to service or because the cost of shipping it back to the US is greater than the cost to replace it. Broken stuff accumulating in Conus is stuff which broke in Conus. It takes permission to ship back anything deadlined.
One of the dirty little secrets is that since the end of the Cold War, we've underfunded our spare parts and replacement vehicles, and the war is showing this as it always does. Of course there is still the obvious fact that the priority for funding is on the pointy end, even if it isn't needed. I had about zero need for body armor while I was last there, but I had it and upgraded to a type which wasn't in service when I left after I was in theater. They could have saved that money and spent it elsewhere to better serve the nation, but some who shall remain nameless were trying to make political hay at the time. It is also true that we are using some of the war funding to refurbish this old, broken stuff, and taking the opportunity to upgrade it as well. Other stuff can be left broken, due to the presence of gear purchased for a larger Army during the Cold War era. Put that into service while it is still usable and leave the rest for later.
What else is true of our logistical footprint? Its bigger than it used to be. In the 70s, how many batteries did a combat unit need? How about liquid nitrogen? Much of the gear we take for granted today has showed up over the course of my career, to the point where it is rare to find a combat infantryman without night vision gear, and the GPS is ubiquitous. The gear is more effective, and more complex. This means more specialized repair skills and gear. I know from experience that some minor issues with a truck only get reported because a belt or other part is needed. Trouble with the hydraulics on an APC ramp can still be fixed by an experienced troop with good hands. When the handstation on your Brad turret gets a short, things get interesting. What do you do when the Stryker has the blue screen of death on startup? I will note that we are flattening the maintenance pyramid, and some of that involves flying contractor technicians into the war zone instead of shipping things back to the US. Of course this means a given ordnance unit gets bigger and has more stuff, since it is expected to be able to do more. Your Apache weapons technician probably can't do much to help you with the suspension on an Abrams.
I am supposed to be doing a book on High Tech Wars. Things change faster than I can work them, and I got way behind on that.
I also don't know what our military is for now. If it's to pacify the world and leave occupation forces everywhere that's an entirely different force from something required to provide for the common defense.
Hi Dr. Pournelle,
This from the WSJ, March 3, 07:
The European Commission is now in the process of reviewing each country's plans for allocating emissions allowances for 2008, but in the first round it found that all but one national plan had set the cap too high to comply with Kyoto's 2008-2012 limits. Of course, even a stringent cap means nothing if countries don't comply, and so far Europe's commitment to Kyoto has been more hot air than action.
The reason is hardly a secret, though you rarely see climate-change activists admitting it. Despite all the talk of "alternative" fuels, some 80% of the energy that the world produces today comes from carbon-based fuels. Barring cold fusion or some other miracle technology, that ratio won't change much for decades to come. That means, in turn, that any stringent CO2 cap would inevitably have serious economic costs. We doubt voters will elect politicians who tell them the cost of reducing their "carbon footprint" is more blackouts or a lower standard of living. And in any case China is putting up a new coal-fired plant every week, raising emissions that will overwhelm whatever reductions cap-and-trade would yield in the U.S.
Institutionalized greed by corporations and their leaders will be/has been the death of us.
John Witt Senior Mechanical Engineer
March 10, 2007
Let's Not Forget the Ice Age.
- Roland Dobbins
But the Ice Age is an inconvenient truth...
The benefits of women serving in combat zones.
-- Roland Dobbins
Those benefits include having to prosecute and remove from the Army some of the best male warriors. Our modern world has forgotten what war is, and the difficulties we have. Read Dumezil on the subject: one of the triumphs of the West has been to bring the warrior back into civilized life through teaching myths of the warrior hero: strength and courage, of course, but also obedience to the King, and protecting the weak. While those traits were idealized in chivalry they have been around a long, long time (Dumezil points out that Heracles shows their importance). And of course the notion of cooling off the hero, who has been permitted to kill but now must come back to society, has been with his since prehistoric times. The Irish heroes were bathed in an iron cauldron to literally cool their blood, and such notions are common in literature.
The relations between the male heroes and the Amazons are no lonver studied, and we no longer pay attention to history, much less ancient myth. Perhaps we will learn. Perhaps we will not.
that article is a hatchet job. I'm about as un-politically correct as you can get. I'm a quiet critic of things like the different phsycial standards for women and men and how we have to violate elementary principals of leadership when dealing with women to avoid getting into trouble without a witness handy. However, I spent a year at Arifjan. During that time, I know of one incident that wasn't consentual. A male soldier took to peeking into women's shower tents. The women reacted as you would expect. They organized and set up a series of ambushes until he went looking into a shower and was nabbed by the dozen women who came running out of the tents in the are to chase him down. I did not inquire as to whether he was unmarked when the MP's showed up.
Now, there was a constant drumbeat of concern. Each night saw a pair of senior NCO's in a vehicle patrolling the post and looking for anyone walking alone, to give them a lift and find out what they were doing. It was normal for the women to be told to walk in pairs, which was a pain in the tuckus. We also had a constant barrage of suicide prevention information, hydration information, and a reminder that we couldn't send contraband home. There was a British cell in the headquarters, and we were under General Order No 1, which in this case meant no US military personnel were allowed sex, drugs, alchohol, gambling or to see nude or suggestive pictures of the opposite sex. That order was not enforced on the foreign contingents, so that British cell was very popular. It had a large poster of Kylie Minogue on the wall.
I know that nobody here other than you has any reason to believe me, but I say trust me that anything citing COL Karpinski as a source is suspect unless you can verify by a trusted source. We know how many women have died in the theater, and we know the cause. Dehydration isn't one of them. Think about it, you can't die of dehydration overnight. You can drink during the day, you can travel in pairs, you can ask the senior leadership for help. If the commander was actually in on such heinous crimes, you can go to the senior NCO. If he was also in on it, you can go to the IG, the Chaplain, the Military Police and the other women in the barracks or tent with you. Think about what percentage of personnel would have to be in on a conspiracy to allow it to happen.
I know of a soldier who died under circumstances that involved dehydration. He was taking a weight loss product to get inside the height and weight standards. While you could easily be deployed while overweight, you couldn't get promoted. He was on duty at a gate when he collapsed. Medical teams were dispatched, but he died on the way to the post hospital. Wasn't a female, to my certain knowledge. I wasn't in a section dealing with that sort of thing, but as part of the intel cell, I got the crime reports since those personnel were given a notation in their records that they were not to be trusted with classified information. I saw lots of petty theft and one interesting case involving two field grade officers screaming at each other in public, but nothing that could explain this story. I knew the JAG personnel and the poor soldier who processed every dead American back into the US, and never quite managed to hear any gossip that might point towards that story.
There are real questions about having women in the military and in combat. These include hidden issues like operator level maintenance on big trucks that even women who can pass our PT test have trouble doing, like removing the tires on big trucks, and obvious matters like having to have a witness handy while chewing out a female soldier when you'd chew our a male soldier alone to avoid embarassment. However, we don't need to invent issues that aren't there. I could talke to twenty soldiers and get support for anything I wanted, including finding twenty soldiers that thought we need to be a monarchy. The whole article was full of unsupported inuenndo and things I know to be untrue, and sources I know to be untrustworthy. Worry about real problems. There are enough of those.
A Serving Officer
None of which astonishes me. I have little respect for the source (www.salon.com) of the original article.
I do have concerns with mixed sex units in direct combat, particularly infantry and armor. They're based in part on the Israeli experience. I am also old enough to be uncomfortable about sending women into peril; I come from the women and children get first shot at the lifeboats, and I have no problem understanding "To stand and be still to the Birkenhead Drill, is damned tough bullet to chew".
Having said that, it should be obvious that I understand that women can and have served in combat units. My daughter was one of them. I do have a lot of reservations about lowering physical standards, and I am afraid of the inevitable day when political correctness will insist on equal numbers of women in the elite units, but so far that hasn't happened.
I do understand that unwanted pregnancy is the single most common reason for women to be invalided from combat zones. That should come as no surprise.
|This week:||Sunday, March
I will have comments on this case in the Chaos Manor Reviews column. The judge and prosecutor are criminally incompetent.
One question and one comment concerning recent postings, Dr. Pournelle...
When you say (apparently in response to "A Serving Officer") "I have little respect for the source here." are you referring to a) A Serving Officer, b) the article linked by Roland Dobbins, or c) the source quoted in said article?
I have read somewhere that the returning home of combat troops via troop ship and troop train provided time and opportunities for mutual grieving and debriefing which are not available when Boeing 747s and their brethren provide this carriage. According to the article, this lack of quiet private time with fellow combatants has meant that issues surface in civilian life which the warriors could/would have largely resolved (or at least come to terms with and an understanding of) during their ad hoc sessions on the troop ship/train journey.
I have great confidence in both ability and integrity of "serving officer". I don't have a great deal of confidence in www.salon.com.
I haven't thought about your second point.==
Here’s to multiple universes spawning ever bright:
Subj: The problem with Bush: he's a globalist
President Bush sat down yesterday (31 Jan 2007) with the _Wall Street Journal_ editorial board. Today the Journal published some excerpts and an unsigned commentary piece.
Talking With the President: Excerpts from George W. Bush's conversation with the Journal editorial board.
Bush on the Record: The President visits with the Journal editorial board.
The thing that came through to me most clearly was that Bush thinks it's vitally important for the US to be entangled with the rest of the world, through trade, through immigration, through alliances and coalitions.
So that's the central problem: he's a globalist, even a globalizer; he doesn't see the interests of the US as distinct from, and possibly conflicting with, the interests of the rest of the world. He's afraid of protectionism and isolationism; he's not afraid of entangling alliances.
And his likely successors seem at least as bad.
This sat in the queue far too long.
Subj: ARTILLERY: Lightweight Howitzer Joins the U.S. Army
=The U.S. Army has received its first M777A1 lightweight 155mm howitzers. ... The five ton M777A1 is 40 percent lighter than the weapon it replaces, the M198. This is because the M777A1 makes extensive use of titanium, and new design techniques. ...=
Towed artillery. And tows by the barrel!
The Salon article.
If Karpinski told me it was daytime, I'd look out the window. But that's beside the point - the fact that we have women serving in these areas, despite the clear intent of the Congress to forbid same, is what makes articles like this possible in the first place. Note that the author of the Salon piece relates that the will of the Congress is being subverted without blinking.
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