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Mail 476 July 23 - 29, 2007
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July 23, 2007
There was worthwhile mail over the weekend.
- Roland Dobbins
Historical changes in the UK university system
Social housing plans
British Army running out of troops
Policing terrorism and security
Second thoughts on a dumb idea
Increase in temperature produces torrential rains (and related stories)
Pope Alexander VI
Train fares in the UK
The Chinese Olympics
Rough Guide to the brain
Subject: Officer Classification System
I think you're assuming too high an IQ level for military officers. (See <http://www.sq.4mg.com/IQ-jobs.htm> .) In the German Army, character is seen as more important than intelligence in officer selection, with character being described as initiative and a sense of responsibility. (A certain amount of rebelliousness in school is viewed as an indicator of character, by the way.) A combination of both is needed in the senior leadership, of course, which is where the UK government and military tend to have problems.
On a not-unrelated-subject: what UK employers seek in university graduates is not skills, but the ability to think outside the box (and to do the necessary research to come up with effective solutions when thinking outside the box). The top-rank UK universities select entering students based on this, assuming their test scores are competitive. So the 'public' schools train for this, while the publicly-funded comprehensive and grammar schools concentrate on high test scores.
-- 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>
I am finishing a new book by Fred Pearce, "With Speed and Violence: Why Scientists Fear Tipping Points in Climate Change" Beacon Press ISBN-13: 978-0-8070-8576-9 (c) 2007 which might be of interest.
I don't pretend to be a scientist or especially knowledgeable in this area (although I have stayed in a Holiday Inn Express) and therefore much of the information which is new to me may be old hat to those who are knowledgeable about climate change. The author does appear to cover many points of view and not just the current conventional wisdom that global warming (aka climate change) is all the fault of the industrialized west. For examples, he discusses the sun's radiation, changing shape of the earth's orbit, planetary tilt and its precession, rotational wobble, and rural cooking fires in India as contributors. He also points out that Kyoto may well do more harm than good if its "carbon credits" lead to tree planting in arctic areas. While he mentions the buildup of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere due to burning of fossil fuels as a concern, he does not appear to single that out as THE cause of climate change.
To me, the book has been enlightening and informative...and an interesting read.
Learning more about the subject is always good. Learning that we don't know enough to start DOING SOMETHING is something else again.
We are just beginning to understand the value of icebergs in the CO2 cycle.
Seeding the ocean as a carbon sink
Looks like Mother Nature is already doing the feasibility study:
Makes for a nice little negative feedback loop.
: Consistency in data/DARPA's crystal ball
1. Consistency in data. Allan Smalley gave an example of the inconsistency of the historical temperature records for Houston, to which you wrote "How anyone thinks we can establish trends when there is a consistent bias in the primary input data is beyond me."
I don't think the problem is that the data are biased. I think the problem is that the historical data are inconsistent. Furthermore, I think the data are being used for a purpose for which they were never intended.
Kenny expressed his exasperation with the temperature reporting from DFW. The DFW airport opened in 1974. Before that, temperature for Dallas was reported from Love Field; temperature for Fort Worth was reported from Meacham Field. Now one station reports for both. Officially. But there is no justifiable basis for comparing data from DFW post-1974 to data for Love Field pre-1974. Saying that both come from the Dallas reporting station is like saying that both grapes and avocados come from California, so they must be comparable.
Even the data for Love Field are noncomparable over the life of the station. This is due to the creeping urbanization that turned prairie into pavement. At its beginning, Love Field lay miles from the city proper and was surrounding by open fields. By 1974, the city of Dallas surrounded Love Field. What effect this had on temperatures at Love Field I cannot say, but it seems impossible that it had none.
Urban creep now affects temperatures at DFW in the same way. Constructed many, many miles from city centers, DFW is now surrounded by suburbs, and new construction paves prairie every day.
Further, the problem lies in using data for purposes for which they are not intended. Despite what the TV weather reporters would have us believe, the purpose of the weather station at the airport is not to tell Joe Public what clothing he should wear for comfort but to give pilots a datapoint to use to compute pressure altitude. I flew military jets, and it was vital for me to know the pressure altitude so I could compute my refusal point at which I made the go-no-go decision in my take-off roll. The fact that the data were also beneficial to the public was serendipitous but not essential.
Elsewhere, Michael Crichton has posted his outstanding
[T]he intermixing of science and politics is a bad combination, with a bad history.
I found it well worth my time. The link is
2. DARPA's crystal ball. Wired reports that DARPA is developing "software . . . that predicts the future for battlefield commanders." Either the reporter did not understand what he was hearing or he chose to indulge in hyperbole. It is apparent that the tool uses game theory software to propagate alternate tactics in real-time.
"Darpa believes these kind of clairvoyant tools are needed, because some well-worn martial concepts have been proven obsolete by the fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. Specifically, the "venerable Observe Orient Decide Act (OODA <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/OODA_Loop> ) loop is no longer viable for an information-age military." To fight a fast-moving foe, these four tasks have to now happen all at once."
If we ignore the 'clairvoyant tools' nonsense, it is clear that unstructured combat forces (terrorists and Taliban fighters) operate with a short decision loop. The purpose of this software is to get American combat forces inside that loop.
I bring this up because I recall reading a story of yours that you cut from the beginning of A Mote in God's Eye and later published in a volume of There Will Be War. The name of the piece escapes me ("Reflex Action"?). In it, you had the captain of the ship choosing alternatives from a display that gamed the combat in real-time, projecting probabilities of success for each action.
I thought you might be interested to know that DARPA is working on your idea. But I'll bet you already knew that, didn't you?
Respectfully h lynn keith
Subject: Weather stations at airports.
A correspondent asks why we take the official temperature recordings at airports. The reason is quite simple. Historically we have taken the temperature at airports because knowing the temperature at the airport is "seriously" important. Hot air means thinner air. (Physics 101) Thinner air means a longer take off roll for aircraft. As an extreme example, on certain days in summer it is hot enough in Phoenix that a fully loaded 747 cannot safely take off from Phoenix Sky Harbor (PHX)*. The same is true for the shuttle carrier aircraft out at Edwards, which is why (in summer) they generally have to take off before 10 am. Thus airports (and Air Force Bases) have historically had some of the best meteorological equipment available.
Long term trend data was never a design criterion. Trying to determine historical trends from such data is hopeless.
* Note: I recall that a few years ago they had to shut down the airport for the entire afternoon due to "weather". The problem was that it was hot enough that the temperature was above the performance charts for most passenger aircraft.
Mark E. Horning, Physicist, L-3 Communications Night Operations Center of Excellence Air Force Research Lab
i recall being in a T-bird at Denver. We had fully fueled. We were on the taxi run, when the tower gave the wind conditions and the rest and added "And the temperature is 109 degrees." Since we had flown out of Edwards where it was 112 that didn't register until as we got closer to the runway, it came to both of us. Fully fuelled. A mile high. One hundred and nine degrees. Runway is --- Holy Cow! We are not going to make it!" So we got out of the pattern, dumped some fuel, and flew to Nellis for refueling to get hack to Edwards....
Re: Petronius' comment on Grumman acquiring Scaled Composites.
My question is: Does this now mean Burt Rutan works for Northrop/Grumman, or does he have yet another innovative start-up up his sleeve? I guess then, that would be the 2 sides of the "very good/very bad" coin.
-Kevin M. Vernon
July 24, 2007
NEO News (07/24/07) The Economist on NEOs
THE THREAT FROM OUTER SPACE: THE ULTIMATE ENVIRONMENTAL CATASTROPHE
Jul 23rd 2007 From Economist.com
ONE of the main weaknesses of the environmental movement has been its unfortunate predilection for using doom-laden language and catastrophic superlatives to describe problems that are serious but not immediately disastrous. But one calamity that truly deserves such a description is almost never talked about. There are tens of millions of asteroids in the solar system, and several thousand move in orbits that take them close to Earth. Sooner or later, one of them is going to hit it.
Several have done so in the past. Earth's active surface and enthusiastic weather conspire to scrub the tell-tale impact craters from the planet's surface relatively quickly, but the pockmarked surface of the moon-where such scars endure for much longer-testifies to the amount of rubble floating in the solar system. Earth's thick atmosphere makes it better protected than the moon: asteroids smaller than about 35 metres (115 feet) across will burn up before hitting its surface. Nevertheless, plenty of craters exist. The Earth Impact Database in Canada lists more than 170.
Fortunately, such impacts are relatively rare, at least on human timescales. Statisticians calculate that the risk to lives and property posed by meteorite strikes are roughly comparable with those posed by earthquakes.
Although the chance of an impact may be small in any given year, the consequences could be enormous. The effect of an impact depends on an object's size and speed. A meteorite a few metres wide could level a city. The largest (a kilometre or more in diameter) could wreak ecological havoc across the entire globe. David Morrison, a NASA scientist, argued at a recent conference that a large meteorite strike is the only known disaster (except perhaps global nuclear war) that could put civilisation at risk.
Examples give a more visceral illustration than statistics. The Chicxulub crater, buried beneath modern Mexico, is 65m years old and 180km (112 miles) across. Some think that the ten-kilometre meteorite that created it threw so much dust into the atmosphere that it blotted out the sun and led to the extinction of the dinosaurs. In 1908 a comparatively tiny piece of space-borne rock, 30-50 metres across, exploded above Tunguska, a remote part of Siberia. The blast-hundreds of times more powerful than the atom bomb dropped on Hiroshima 37 years later-felled 80m trees over 2,150 square kilometres. Only blind luck ensured that it took place in a relatively unpopulated part of the world. Astronomers are currently trying to work out whether a 270-metre asteroid named 99942 Apophis will hit Earth in 2036 (probably not, but it would be nice to be sure).
Happily for humanity, technology has advanced to the point where it is possible, in principle, to avoid such a collision. In 1998 NASA agreed to try to find and catalogue, by 2008, 90% of those asteroids bigger than 1km in diameter that might pose a threat to Earth. Any deemed dangerous would have to be pushed into a safer orbit. One obvious way to do this is with nuclear weapons, a method that has the pleasing symmetry of using one potential catastrophe to avert another. But scientists counsel caution. A nuclear blast could simply split one large asteroid into several smaller ones, some of which could still be on a collision course.
Other plans have been suggested. One is to use a high-speed spaceship simply to ram the asteroid out of the way; another is to land a craft on the rock's surface and use its engines to manoeuvre the asteroid to safety. A subtler method is to park a spaceship nearby and use its tiny gravity to pull the asteroid gradually off course. For now, all such suggestions are theoretical, although the European Space Agency is planning a mission, named Don Quijote, to test the ramming tactic in 2011.
These schemes offer consolation, but any effort to deflect an asteroid requires plenty of advance warning, and that may not always be available. NASA has so far catalogued only the very largest, "civilisation-killing" asteroids. Plenty of smaller ones remain undiscovered, and they could inflict considerable damage. In 2002 a mid-sized asteroid (50-120 metres across) missed Earth by 121,000km-one-third of the distance to the moon. Astronomers discovered it three days after the event. Comets, which originate from the outer reaches of the solar system, are faster moving and harder to track than asteroids, but carry just as much potential for catastrophe.
But perhaps the biggest problem is humanity's indifference. Currently only America is spending any money on detection, and even there, politicians have other priorities. Much of the work is done by Cornell University's Arecibo radar in Puerto Rico, which is facing federal funding cuts. The telescope costs roughly $1m a year to operate. As an insurance policy for civilisation, the price looks cheap.
NEO News (now in its thirteenth year of distribution) is an informal compilation of news and opinion dealing with Near Earth Objects (NEOs) and their impacts. These opinions are the responsibility of the individual authors and do not represent the positions of NASA, the International Astronomical Union, or any other organization. To subscribe (or unsubscribe) contact email@example.com. For additional information, please see the website http://impact.arc.nasa.gov. If anyone wishes to copy or redistribute original material from these notes, fully or in part, please include this disclaimer.
National Security and Environmental Impact
Do read Becker & Posner's latest posting on the relationship between national security and controlling pollution:
For the record, I don't believe that a market-based "cap and trade" system of carbon credits would be all that damaging to the economy, provided it were done well. (In this case, "done well" includes insuring that our scheme interoperates with the ones being run by a significant number of our major international trading partners. In other words, as long as the playing field isn't tilted too much in the wrong direction.)
A carbon credit system creates effectively a new kind of property, and (counterintuitive as it may seem) opportunities for new kinds of wealth, or so I believe. This is because real wealth isn't about how much energy we actually consume, but how much we can accomplish with it. Letting clever people profit by figuring out how to do "more with less" increases the effective wealth of everyone by making what they already have more valuable.
This is independent of any argument about the causes of global warming (natural or artificial), which is an argument that I won't get into (and which frankly isn't all that important).
Thanks. We don't hear from you often enough. So today I have two letters.
Why digital book piracy isn't a problem
So there was a discussion on the talk radio last night about book piracy (specifically, someone scanning in all of Harry Potter on the first day). The commentator claimed that book piracy wasn't quite a serious problem yet because (a) it's much harder to optically scan a book than to rip a CD, and (b) the experience of reading a book on a computer screen is inferior to reading a paper book. He claimed, however, that as the technology got better it would start to become a problem in the future.
I disagree, because what he failed to mention was the fact that the economic incentives for book piracy are much lower than for music CDs. Books have a higher entertainment value to price ratio than CDs. A CD costs you 20 bucks and typically plays for less than an hour; A paperback costs 8 bucks and gives (depending on your reading speed) between 8 hours and 40 hours worth of entertainment. Of course, CDs have a greater replay value (most people don't re-read books), but I don't think that affects the perceived value of the CD as much as you might think.
So in other words, books are so cheap, compared to the entertainment value that they provide, that there isn't nearly as much incentive to pirate them.
Added to this is the fact that most book buyers don't think of book publishers as overpriced cartels, whereas it seems that many people feel that record companies are rip-off artists that "deserve" to be ripped off themselves.
The one exception to this rule is college textbooks, where the publishers have milked their captive audience in a way that is likely to incite a customer revolt. Which is why I would expect that piracy of textbooks would be much more prevalent than, say, science fiction novels.
As a triangulation point, note that there is relatively little amateur piracy of DVDs -- what piracy there is is almost entirely professional pirates selling duplicated discs. Yes, there are some sites where you can download commercially-released movies, but comparatively few people use them.
I don't entirely agree. I hope you are right, but as more and more computers that allow book reading get distributed, we'll have to see. The mass market paperback as a printed book is probably doomed -- yes I know that at the moment more than ever are being sold -- and we'll have to see what happens to electronic marketing.
Seitz Our Man In Pakistan
ITS GETTING HOT IN SWAT
An Upper Indus Valley acquaintance made on my last visit writes in The Peshawar Frontier Post that folks in Swat , Dir and the Northwest Frontier may take none too kindly to SWAT teams arriving in force :
-- Russell Seitz
Obsidian Wings: Lessons Learned
Not pleasant to read, but makes some good points. I didn't want the U.S. to go in (to Iraq), but we're in bigger trouble now if we leave a mess behind.
What's Going On?
"Bill Roggio <http://www.weeklystandard.com/weblogs/
Now suppose one were inclined to be skeptical that things were getting better and dismiss these reports as wishful thinking. What kinds of things would you need to see before you were willing to grant that "progress" might actually be happening? And would such indicators, if present, be sufficient to alter an inclination to withdraw from Iraq?
The question is more than hypothetical because if things were getting better the most important thing to ask is why they are getting better, if indeed they are. Then it would be possible to rationally assess whether a withdrawal or a drawdown or even an augmentation would have any effect, positive or otherwise. Some hypothesis of the machinery at work would go a long way towards weighing whether Option A or Option B were best. Of course, the pitfall is that because the situation is dynamic, it may be the case that the key factors for success will change in the future."
I've often commented that the metrics presented to the public aren't sufficient to tell me anything substantive, and that this might be intentional as it allows maximum spin.
Meanwhile the Iraqi legislature is on summer vacation. Have a nice day in Baghdad.
I'm looking for Macaulay's History of England at my local library, but have found quite a number of English history books written by various Macaulays. Is the author you were referring to E. M. Macaulay, or Thomas Babington Macaulay, or another author entirely?
I've been an avid reader of Chaos Manor for the past year, finding the discussions of intelligence and schooling especially interesting. Regarding the Officer Classification System, is it used only on officers, or is there something similar used for non-commissioned men?
Thank you, Jasmine Stairs
Thomas Babington Mccaulay's History of England in Five Volumes (sometimes published in ten, and there are monster one-volume editions) is one of the best known works in the English language. Or was, until recently. I am appalled that libraries no longer have copies and don't know how to find them.
You can find used copies on Amazon and at used book stores at reasonable prices. For those who buy more expensive books, the Folio Society's ten-volume edition is one of the nicest I have ever seen, good paper, good typeface, and will last forever. It is often available as a sign-up bonus.
Reading Macaulay is a long term project; you won't just sit down and read it over a weekend. The experience is highly educational, for many reasons.
While we are recommending books:
David Friedman's _Harald _ as a series of podcasts.
-- Roland Dobbins
Harald is an odd book: it's a fantasy without magic. That is, it is set in a land that never existed and has interactions of societies that never met (and one of which never really existed) but there is little to no magic and the other elements of fantasy. It's a good read.
you were looking for a source of Filk on the web. I have used this company but not recently. Check out Cold Iron , Kipling set to music. or Debasement Tapes by Tom Smith.
Nuclear Power, It's not rocket science it's PLUMBING !
July 25, 2007
So much for renewable "clean" energy...
"Work began with a boom Tuesday to remove the Marmot Dam, from which Portland General Electric has been generating power for nearly a century."
"Portland General Electric, the utility that serves much of the Mid-Valley, is decommissioning its Bull Run hydroelectric project about 40 miles east of Portland. The PGE project should not be confused with the system of reservoirs on the Bull Run River that supply drinking water to the city of Portland. None of those dams is being removed."
"PGE announced in May 1999 it would decommission the project, rather than make costly modifications to the dams. As hydroelectric-power licenses come up for renewal by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, new requirements apply to ease fish passage."
"PGE generates 22 megawatts from the project, far less power than it will acquire from wind farms or a gas-fired generating plant."
Nowhere in the article is the effect on climate change due to burning gas rather than generating the power from falling water discussed. And one might wonder if the water reservoirs on Bull Run River are fish friendly, as that is not mentioned either.
July 26, 2007
This refers to my comments about Ron Paul, Iraq, and the Legions If you have not read that, read it first.
Jerry, on Wednesday's View, you said, "Before I would adopt an Iraq policy, I would want to know a great deal more about what the Legions believe we must do."
But the soldiers in Iraq are not the Legions of Rome; indeed they are not even the citizen-soldiers of the Republic of the US. What they are is nothing more than employees of the federal government, with as little - or as much - political pull as any other federal bureaucracy. Which is the reason why the army can be, and is, misused by Mad George. IOW, no politician cares what the soldiers think. For the soldiers, it's "shut up and soldier", and very unlikely that their commanders would try to seize power.
Let's get out of Iraq now. I can see no tactic today which will allow us to get out without massive Iraqi bloodshed, either now or later. As far as I can tell there are already three civil wars raging there, with the army suffering the death of a thousand cuts by being in the middle of the various factions. That alone will ensure the "fury of the Legions" you so often refer to.
We have already destroyed the honor of the United States by these so-called preemptive wars. Continuing such wars only makes the situation worse and gives our leaders an excuse to take us from a Republic, not into an Empire, but instead into an outright tyranny.
One last thought. You have considerable influence with your readers and your political contacts. If you should back Congressman Paul this early, you may well help him to buy the time he needs to pull together a coalition of conservatives from all the parties. H. Ross Perot scared the bejeebers out of the Dems and Repubs by doing this - but they quickly forgot the lesson. Congressman Paul is the only candidate today who might have a chance of slowing the US's headlong march into tyranny. Or who even wants to try.
Cheers, Brian Claypool
Begin here: if the war in Iraq is truly lost and the troops know it, then of course we ought to be looking at how to extract the army from that theater. If we must cut our losses and run, then we should do that. Apparently Ron Paul believes that. I don't doubt his sincerity. I presume Harry Reid and most Democrats believe it too; they say so often enough.
But is that the situation? Is it inevitable? There seem to be signs that we are in fact winning, that the Iraqis of all factions are beginning to believe that there is hope for stability and the rule of law. This is a matter of projections: what can we accomplish in Iraq if we are determined to stay? One thing is certain if we cut and run now, everyone will be convinced that the result will be Made in America. Our troops will believe their comrades bled and died in vain, not because we were defeated, but because they were betrayed by the politicians.
It is not at all clear to me that the Army believes that we are defeated. There's considerable evidence that the Legions believe we can win. I would never have sent them to Iraq, but now that this is done, do we not owe them the chance to put things back together? I understand that this won't be easy.
Regarding the nature of the Legions: you're wrong. Dead wrong.
These are not hirelings, civil servants with the typical bureaucratic mentality. These are warriors, mostly citizen volunteers, others citizen candidates. They are not stupid cannon fodder, nor are they timeservers.
What we have in Iraq is the best trained and best equipped military force on the planet. Your assessment is wrong.
As to Mr. Paul, I doubt my endorsement is all that important to his future. I agree that a candidate determined to restore the Old Republic will terrify the country club Republicans and the fever swamp Democrats. Had not Mr. Paul committed himself to an instant retreat from Iraq I would be an enthusiastic supporter.
I have hated our Middle East entanglements since before the First Gulf War. No one wants us out of there more than me. But I want to bring our soldiers home with their heads high.
From a serving officer no longer in theater:
"Caption: U.S. Marine Lance Cpl. Sona Babani, 20, an Iraqi native -- with Jim Nicholson, secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs, center, and Gregory Christian, Washington director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services -- is congratulated on becoming a citizen. (By Nikki Kahn -- The Washington Post)
"I am an American. I am a citizen of a country I am fighting for," Babani said, explaining her desire to become a citizen. "It's kind of personal. I have loved America since I was little."
Marine, you have more integrity and courage than many of your fellow citizens who haven't seen one percentage of the horrors you've seen. Welcome aboard!
(PS: And kudos to WaPo for a good article.)"
Having recently discussed foreigners in the service.
Now go seehttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xyUX6wV1lBQ
This is quite well done and I recommend it to your attention.
Bird's Eye View
"The idea is to get the Iraqis to run their own cities but most of the old leaders are gone, and the new ones are like throwing babies to cow udders. Many just don't know what to do, and in any case, most of them have no natural instinct for it. So our soldiers are mentoring Iraqi civil leaders, which is a huge education for me because I get to sit in on the meetings. The American leaders tell me what they are up to, which amounts for free Ph.D. level instruction in situ: just have to be willing to be shot at. (The education a writer can get here is unbelievable.) Meeting after meeting—after embeds in Nineveh, Anbar, Baghdad and Diyala—I have seen how American officers tend to have a hidden skill-set. Collectively, American military leaders seem to somehow intuitively know how to run the mechanics of a city. ...
I have wondered now for two years why is it that American military leaders somehow seem to naturally know what it takes to run a city, while many of the local leaders seem clueless. Over time, a possible answer occurred, and that nudge might be due to how the person who runs each American base is referred to as the "Mayor." A commander's first job is to take care of his or her forces. Our military is, in a sense its own little country, with city-states spread out all around the world. Each base is like a little city-state. The military commander must understand how the water, electricity, sewerage, food distribution, police, courts, prisons, hospitals, fire, schools, airports, ports, trash control, vector control, communications, fuel, fiscal budgeting, fire, for his "city" all work. They have "embassies" all over the world and must deal diplomatically with local officials in Korea, Germany, Japan and many dozens of other nations. The U.S. military even has its own space program, which few countries have. In short, our military is a reasonable microcosm of the United States – sans the very important business aspect which actually produces the wealth the military depends on. The requisite skill-set to run a serious war campaign involves a subset of skills that include diplomacy and civil administration."
Thought you'd find this interesting.
Subject: What do the Legions think?
Dr. Pournelle The concept of asking the people who are actually paying the piper what should be done in Iraq certainly hits the mark. Too bad there is no process to limit a plebiscite just to people who are directly involved. The answer might be startling. Not only as regards Iraq but in any number of things. My son, currently in Iraq, thinks that we should stay. Not just for the Iraqis but to ensure we are not held to be a laughing stock in the world and have to battle again far sooner than we would normally need to.
As far as causing more death and destruction than
Saddam ever did I would point you to the recent Michelle Malkin article for
additional data. Even before I read this article in my mind the number of
fatalities is at least a question still to be resolved. >
Thank you very much for both hosting and contributing to a site where people can disagree or agree but they will certainly LEARN!
That is certainly my goal. Thanks for the kind words.
There are many consequences of defeat. One is the need to demonstrate that even wounded lions are dangerous. Make no mistake: if we cut and run in Iraq, that is defeat. It is my major disagreement with Ron Paul. I do not want to bring a defeated army home. I do not want the American Legion to become the Stahlhut.
Subject: I beg to differ
Actually, we clearly don't believe in any of the ideals we want to export to other nations. Instead, we disarm the citizens, express horror at the notion that people can assist in protecting themselves, and we allow conspirators to set up the citizens and then sue hell out of them. It is as if we are determined to progress from republic to empire.
I don't disagree with any of your summary arguments, or that we are determined to move away from the Republic in some direction.
However, I'm not at all sure that the current chaotic meandering could be referred to as progress, and I regretfully submit that "satrapy of the Caliphate" may be a more likely terminal point of our journey than "Empire," though perhaps if we're lucky a more benign plutocracy may be in the offing.
Oddly enough, I think the Legions will prevent that. Perhaps not. But imperial actions and policies generate Empire. Even in a democracy like Athens.
Pentagon looks to the Internet for Space Solar Power Study
Thought you might be interested in this.
Politically Correct Apes
Bonobos are celebrated as peace-loving, matriarchal, and sexually liberated. Are they?
Following link leads to graphic depiction related to above article. Some may find it salacious.http://www.scienzz.de/magazin/upload/forschung6/Sexanthr-Bonobos.jpg
Is there anything now that isn't?
I came across this tribute to Heinlein in this morning's Wall Street Journal:
In my mind I was taken back 35 years (to the 6th grade), when I first read Between Planets.
Indeed. I missed Between Planets when it was published, being out of high school and otherwise engaged; but it is one of my favorite Heinlein stories.
Jerry, I think a lot of us had already figured out that burning food to run our cars is not a good idea, but this analysis puts numbers to the insanity.
Subject: Priests of Environmentalism openly accuse another of heretical teachings
Renewables are "boutique fuels" says Ausubel, of Rockefeller University in New York, US. "They look attractive when they are quite small. But if we start producing renewable energy on a large scale, the fallout is going to be horrible."
Instead, Ausubel argues for renewed development of nuclear. "If we want to minimise the rape of nature, the best energy solution is increased efficiency, natural gas with carbon capture, and nuclear power."
later in the article
"To have a debate on the various issues is good, but setting himself up as a demagogue with this heretical stuff, takes away from the focus and value of the debate," says John Turner of the US government's National Renewable Energy Laboratory.
Then again, it might just be an instance of the Iron Law, since Renewable Energy would lose funding if an effective non-renewable resource is found.
Clearly I have always agreed. Lord, we miss Petr Beckmann.
THE VIEW FROM THE BRIDGE
Forget What You've Seen On Star Trek
There's more to deep space than starbows.
As camera pixels grow smaller, telescopic Infrared images of the sky are growing ever more refined. A new mosaic of the whole Milky Way just released by Japan's JAXA program may inadvertently provide a futuristic glimpse of the real view from a starship bridge racing toward the galactic center
-- Russell Seitz
July 27, 2007
Probably the best weather site for technical details on the web:
This blog entry there today is well worth looking at:
The July 2007 issue of Scientific American
First off, the reader is hit with a dramatic full-page artist's depiction of the global super-hurricane of the future--a massive 5000-mile diameter Caribbean storm the size of North America. The storm's 200-mile eye is wider than the Florida Peninsula! Whoa, I said when looking at the whopper "SciAmicane". No doubt many readers perusing the magazine, trying to decide whether to buy it, had the same reaction and plunked down their $5 to read about this grim threat.
OK, lets talk reality here. The largest tropical cyclone on record, Supertyphoon Tip <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Typhoon_Tip_%281979%29> of 1979, had a diameter of 1380 miles--less than one third the size of the SciAmicane. A storm like the SciAmicane cannot physically exist on Earth unless the oceans were to super-heat to about 122° F (50° C). Only an asteroid impact or similar calamity could create such a hypercane <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hypercane>.
Even the most extreme global warming scenarios do not heat the oceans to 122°, so the SciAmicane is there to sell magazines, not to illustrate what global warming might do to hurricanes. <snip>
Vegetarianism and global warming
Meat eating causes global warming!
Jerry: This has been much in the news lately. One claim I read was that animal husbandry exceeded transportation in contributing to global warming.
I wonder what the "global warming footprint" is of Soylent Green.
At least, as the article shows, they're getting past CO2 as the most significant cause of climate change.
In the space of one hundred and seventy-six years the Mississippi has shortened itself two hundred and forty-two miles. Therefore ... in the Old Silurian Period the Mississippi River was upward of one million three hundred thousand miles long ... seven hundred and forty-two years from now the Mississippi will be only a mile and three-quarters long. ... There is something fascinating about science. One gets such wholesome returns of conjecture out of such a trifling investment of fact. -- Mark Twain
I know you were close to Heinlein, so you might want to answer Derb's question privately:
My own impression is that Heinlein was enough a gentleman that he probably *did* write "dung" rather than something coarser.
Thank you for focusing on fiction! Can hardly wait for Inferno II!
I do not ever recall Mr. Heinlein using scatological language in writing, and only very rarely in person, and this only where there were no ladies present.
It began with my observation:
The sentiment, perhaps, is noble ; but there is a terrible warning to go with it. Remember the First World War, and remember that the refusal to accept peace without victory led to the massacre of millions and the ruin of Europe. Was the intention to bring the boys back triumphant and vindicate the nation enough to justify the Second and Third Battles of the Marne, or the hunger blockade; Auschwitz, or Dresden?
(You may say that the situation is not comparable. You may be right. Nevertheless, the drain on the National resources, and the stain on the National honour, only gets worse. I am the last to deny that America has a grave responsibility to the people of Mesopotamia ; but I get tired of hearing the President and so many others say that "we can and must win" when nobody has been able to define to my satisfaction what winning would entail.
One of my cousins lost his legs "over there", and another is in theatre right now. If I think they have "loved not wisely but too well", I do not wish to see them chastised, or broken in spirit. If I would see the President and his cadre hanged for making a criminal and a fool of me [as every American] by this unlawful and ill-conducted war of aggression which they have carried on in my name, those who have well obeyed bad orders because they saw their duty there deserve only thanks. Nevertheless, if we cannot do better by them, at least we can do less ill.)
I replied: I would be interested in what your relatives say about pulling out now and unconditionally.
I don't think they would be in favour of it.
Even after years of this nonsense, very few of our servicemen seem to be willing to give up on a bad job ; and my family are known for three major traits :
(1) high intelligence (2) belligerence (3) a long memory for grudges
I would submit, however, that the fighting man in-country can have just as warped a perception as the civilian at home, and either can be addicted to throwing good money (and lives) after bad.
Personally, I am not attracted to "pulling out now and unconditionally". The United States has contracted a moral responsibility, and a good half of the problem in Mesopotamia now is the initial refusal to exercise that responsibility, resulting in a native "government" which cannot command the loyalty or even the credence of the populace (in my view the strongest parallel to the adventure in Viet Nam). What is done cannot be undone, and after another ten years of this, pulling out "now" as opposed to then will look to have been (12 points for obscure verb tense!) the smart thing.
There may be a change for the better, but my feeling is that the measures which could accomplish it either have missed their window, or will not be used. The problem as I see it is that the US political (on both sides the issue) and military leadership are still thinking and speaking of the "Iraq war", and "winning", when what is really going on is something else. War-fighting will accomplish nothing under the circumstances.
For example, the Iraqi military and police units have neither esprit de corps nor loyalty to the government ; they ought to have their units broken up, and their men integrated into American forces and assigned to patrolling the streets on foot, three Iraqis to an American and told "don't bother coming back without him". That is the traditional way of dealing with unreliable auxiliaries, going back to the Persian Wars, as I recall, but I guarantee it will not be done.
Incidentally, I think you put too much reliance on IQ as a determining factor of success in life. In the second grade, the School District was at a loss what to do with me, and decided to run the whole battery of psychological tests ; according to the psychologist, I ran through her tests straight to the high-school level, and tested something like 146 (I recall it was one or two points above the cutoff they were using for "genius" at that time). I think she quit her job after that. Most of my family members are similar -- I doubt any of us would score below 120. As a group, I would not be prepared to assert that we enjoy significantly more "success" in life, either materially or in terms of personal happiness, than the rest of the population. There are, in other words, other qualities of importance.
Some of your correspondents take this problematic idea and run with it, and the results verge, in my opinion (from the little I have read, in the time I can spare) on racism -- not race-hatred, not dirty-word, but the making of unusefully broad generalizations.
If they say "whites (as a group) are smarter than blacks", I say, "Which whites? Which blacks?" For example, it appears to be the case that American Blacks consistently underperform, in all criteria of success, newly-immigrated West Indian Blacks who have exactly the same ethnic heritage and history of slavery, and newly-arrived West Africans. I hear it is a big stink in some circles, because the "African-American" organizations want to exclude them for not being "disadvantaged" enough. If native intelligence is the determining factor, and if proportion of European to West African ancestry determines intelligence, other results would be expected. Of course, immigrants to the USA do constitute a self-selected group which may well not be a representative sample of their home populations, but the matter requires closer examination.
Immigrants from Mexico are derided as "stupid lazy Indios" at home and here, but they appear to work very hard indeed. No small fraction of them are Mayans, and I seem to recall the native intelligence of the Maya being considered quite high. They did invent the zero, and for centuries used the world's most complicated writing system (worse than Japanese, although they did not have Japan's high literacy rate, 70% for men and 50% for women even before the Meiji Restoration).
I don't doubt that there are those who pursue questions such as this with statistical rigour and clarity of mind, but such an attitude is by no means universal. In many cases, I submit, categories such as "Blacks" and "Whites" are misleadingly broad -- East Africans and West Africans are a far from each other as from Scandinavians, who are again unlike Sicilians -- and the generalizations involved tend to be about as valid as those comparing "people with names A through M" against "people with names N through Z". I would, personally, like there to be more women engineers, and in fact more Black engineers (I use the capital letter because the category is one of self-identification), but I am very cautious of taking the fact there are not as evidence there cannot be. I can only describe it as the logic of despair, as bad as saying that because NASA will not give us the heavens, we cannot have them. Speaking of which, I had better return to writing my Luna Project material and neglecting my University coursework...
Anyway, a false dichotomy isn't any less false because Dr. Jerry Pournelle is the one posing it. "Cut and run" and "stay the course" are not our only two options, and I expect better from you.
Addressing the points made or asserted:
First, I see nothing comparable between our situation in Iraq and the US involvement in The Great War. The United States was manipulated by Great Britain with the aid of White House advisor "Colonel" House (he was an honorary colonel of state militia but used the title freely; those interested in the matter should consult Walter Millis, The Road to War). The Great War would have been fought to a standstill and ended with a negotiated peace had Britain not been able to secure the aid of the United States. Europe, not bled of some of its best talents, would have taken a different course. Whether you agree or not, the circumstances of The Great War are entirely different from the US involvement in the Middle East in general and Mesopotamia in particular. So was World War II, and invoking Dresden and Auschwitz is an emotional debating trick of little intellecual value.
I also suspect that were you to attempt to hang the President of the United States, your own relatives, missing limbs and all, will stand in your way. Armed. With deadly intent. I find that invocation interesting. The debate about the war is apparently coupled with the disastrous tendency to criminalize policy differences. That is what brought down the Roman Republic. It got to the point that neither Optimates nor Populares dared allow the opposition to gain power, lest the new government prosecute and ruin all the leaders of the losing party. Once the stakes are that high, the Republic is utterly doomed, and one's safety depends entirely on keeping office and maintaining the loyalty of the Army.
Your remedy to Iraq is full occupation, with the Iraqi army incorporated into the American forces. This is called Imperialism, and it would probably work; but when it was done neither Iraq nor the United States would be polities that anyone objectively would call a democracy. You then say it won't be done, having asserted that this is the only way to success over there. Remember that you said this.
Your remarks on IQ and immigration are irrelevant to this discussion although they are indicative of your views. I would like to think I do in fact consider such matters quite objectively and base my conclusions on damned hard evidence. You clearly do not understand Gaussian distributions and variance, and this is not the place to present those basics. I suggest you study the actual effects of our staunch adherence to egalitarianism in education and rethink your conclusions. You need not consider IQ. Merely look at what we are accomplishing, then ask yourself if there may not be a better way to select our best and brightest and give them the education they need to sustain a First World economy. Race has nothing to do with that. Bright kids ought to be given an education appropriate to bright kids. Training in practical skills for everyone else has nothing to do with race. The objective is to make useful citizens of all, not chant the mantra about no child left behind.
Your final point is baffling. You do not tell me what the alternatives to victory or withdrawal are, and nothing in your previous correspondence tempts me to believe you know of any.
It seems to me that these are, as a practical matter, the only two viable alternatives. We could come up with some kind of Peace Accords as we did in Viet Nam, but after we failed to adhere to our part of those accords, and allowed Viet Nam to fall to an invading army, why in the world would anyone believe we will do it in Iraq? If we withdraw from Iraq, we will never go back in. That may well be desirable; it is certainly a fact. The question is, having made that mess and incurring a moral obligation, what is the cost of withdrawal? By cost I mean in morale of the Legions; in the consequences of bringing home in defeat an army that knows it was not beaten but betrayed by politicians; of the inevitable immigration flow of victims seeking asylum; of the forcible suppression of American sentiments against Muslims in general; and more, all items we have addressed here from time to time.
If an alternative is to retreat from Iraq but maintain a meddlesome presence in the Middle East -- and this is very likely what we would do -- then isn't this the worst of all choices?
We could recover from coming home, abandoning overseas adventures, and looking to our own needs; on using the Army to defend the borders while we dismantle the disastrous education system that sucks the life out of our children like an enormous vampire; on building energy independence; on exploiting our technology to maintain the Legions while enormously expanding our resource base. I don't know if we can recover from retreating from Iraq, abandoning an ally, only to continue with policies that leave us dependent on a handful of failed states and tyrannies for our energy sources while supporting an education system that is indistinguishable from an act of war against this nation.
July 28, 2007
Maybe the Chaos Community could contribute by starting to define the questions and parameters relative to 'victory'. What will 'victory' look like on that landscape at this point in time? This is a serious question. From my viewpoint victory for America and Iraqis is possible even in the context of 'defeat' for the politicians who began this war. I suggest the following as some, but not all, of the outlines of 'victory':
1. The final result commands the earnest support of Turkey. I take it as a given that nothing lacking Turkish support will be durable or even obtainable. This mainly concerns the Kurdish Question and northern Iraq but it there may additional criteria.
2. Iraqi War Refugees. Domestic conditions reach such a point of stability that the millions of Iraqi refugees who have fled after we invaded voluntarily self-repatriate back home to 'Iraq'.
3. The final government(s) of that area are willing and able to deny aid or sanctuary to trans-national Islamic terrorists.
There is nothing to add to that paragraph.
Indeed. To cut and run in Iraq could be a disaster or could be the start of a recovery; it depends on what we do after that. Alas, I don't see a lot of reason to expect us to do that right.
Covering this ground again:
I think we've been over this before, but...
1. We cannot label the current President's every act as a crime and then attempt to prosecute him, even in the court of public opinion. This policy has been lead by both parties (the Republicans against Clinton, and now the Democrats against Bush II) in the past decade and it is ripping the Republic to shreds.
2. And in the current particular case, there remains a hard core that might be called loyalists (or any number of other things, some more and some perhaps less noble; and I freely admit that I lean to this view, though I do not embrace it wholeheartedly or agree unreservedly with every act of the Administration) who believe that the current world situation has been made worse by the actions of the opposition to an extent that, morally if not legally, could be called treasonous. Far beyond political differences, the heart of this "hard core of loyalists" would view an attempt at impeachment as an act of rebellion and attempted usurpation of the Constitution in allegiance with a foreign entity, and many would react accordingly.
3. To the extent that "win" and "lose" are a binary solution set (the alternative being "maintain the status quo, which is not acceptable either), we have to "win" in Iraq. And I have to view "victory" as the establishment of a stable, independent government (four years ago, this might not have had to be an elected government, but that option is clearly off the table by now) working under rules that treat Shia, Sunni, and Kurd equally and that force the foreign contributors to Iraqi instability to depart the country permanently (by personal preference, to the arms of their 72 virgins), and with a police that is ready to accept the responsibility for ending sectarian violence; and that at that point we will be able to begin a phased drawdown of forces with the understanding that if things lapse back out of control, we will return in force and clamp back down on the sectarian and foreign troublemakers. This will not be a short-term commitment, nor inexpensive in lives and treasure, but in the long term I believe that it will be less expensive in both lives (American and Iraqi) and treasure than any other alternative, and have the added benefit of once again proving to the world that the US means what it says and can sustain itself.
The fact that this alternative has been most unlikely since the day the Democrats decided that a Vietnam - era traitor was a viable candidate for the office of Commander in Chief does not change my assessment of the facts on the ground, or my belief that the long-term consequences of anything that could be called failure run a short course from disastrous to catastrophic. (And yes, I still believe that certain key facts justifying the invasion remain "above top secret" and will never be released to the public; but that doesn't excuse many of the Administration missteps since that point.)
4. Beyond those points, I agree with you that something close to Dr. Paul's platform would be the right choice for the US -- a recognition that individuals exercising their Second Amendment rights (with appropriate but minimal voluntary training) will in the long term be a more successful strategy in the prevention of future terrorist attacks than anything contemplated by the current TSA or DHS, and that energy independence through exploitation of American resources until we can establish nuclear and post-nuclear alternatives is the successful course. But unfortunately, my extreme opposition to Dr. Paul's views on points 1 - 3 preclude any ability to offer him my support.
5. I would prefer that we have some strategy for assuming continued American economic stability than defaulting on our loans to China and Saudi Arabia and saying "if you don't like it, come take it" but ... (this statement is a bit more tongue in cheek than the others....)
If there were "above top secret" reasons justifying the Iraqi invasion, it is difficult to see what they would be. In a Republic, decision factors have to be given to Congress -- and once the Congress has them the public will soon know. Venona was kept secret even from the President, I think with disastrous consequences. With both Venona and Magic the purpose of all the secrecy was to protect the sources. If we had anything that effective regarding al Qaeda in 2002-2003, one would think we would have been more effective. The fact that we sent in Bremer, thoroughly unprepared, totally naive, filled with State Department theory and completely unqualified to be a proconsul -- I do not say this to malign him; it's true and you will know if if you read his own book -- the fact that he was sent in makes me wonder if the Iraq invasion was supposed to succeed. By the time he was on an airplane to Baghdad it should have been obvious that Chalabi the Thief had given us totally false information based on the usual hopes that almost all exiles have.
Never ascribe to malice that which is adequately explained by incompetence. I believe the neo-cons just were unable to accept that their Chalabi-inspired dreams were all wrong and their hopes and plans in ruins, and went along with the original plan because they didn't know what else to do. The remedy here should be removal from ever holding a public office including professorships at a tax-supported university. Of course that won't happen. Pretty soon they'll all be elder statesmen like some of Johnson's old cronies became.
The Aliens Among Us (Maybe).
-- Roland Dobbins
There used to be an England...
Dalrymple: Delusions of Honesty.
-- Roland Dobbins
Tony Blair's legacy.
The REAL climate change is the change in the political climate, and the heat is all flame wars initiated by the Global Warming Inquisition...
|This week:||Sunday, July
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