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Monday  October 1, 2007

Letter from England

The parties are having their fall meetings, and the rumours are flying. Brown is likely to call a snap election, and then we will really find out if Labour is as popular as it appears to be just now.

The run on Northern Rock shows that anything can happen.

Nanny state--smoking while driving may now be an offence--




Sinking the Royal Navy--


navy130.xml> <http://tinyurl.com/3cdlgx>

Election planning--





ntax129.xml> <http://tinyurl.com/yt8h73>


article3010195.ece#2007-09-29T00:00:01-00:00> <http://tinyurl.com/






Tory proposals--


Boy expelled from school for having a nut allergy--


nnut127.xml> <http://tinyurl.com/2lkyps>

Schneier blog stories--

can smuggling: <http://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2007/09/

can_smuggling_i.html> <http://tinyurl.com/32fqpq> mathematicians against cryptographers: <http://www.schneier.com/blog/ archives/2007/09/mathematicians.html> <http://tinyurl.com/2kg6vm>

Animal diseases spreading here--







Harry Erwin, PhD, Program Leader, MSc Information Systems Security, University of Sunderland.


Weblog at: <http://scat-he-g4.sunderland.ac.uk/~harryerw/blog/index.php>





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Tuesday,  October 1, 2007

The real cost of inflation:


Many of the goods in your grocery basket – such as bread, eggs, orange juice, lettuce, tomatoes and ground chuck – have risen between 4 percent and 5 percent per year. The cost of electricity has risen 4 percent a year, while natural gas has risen 8 percent. And medical care has gone up about 5 percent a year, according to those same data.

Those rates of inflation – the kind of price rises that Americans feel on a daily basis – are often far higher than the official rate of inflation, which has increased an average of 2.6 percent per year since 2000.

Which is more important than you think. We have pumped so much money into the academic system -- where cost will ALWAYS rise to exceed income -- that all but the very rich graduate now with stunning lifetime debt loads that they will never get paid off. They owe their souls to the company store, the company store in this case being the US government and a bunch of corporate allies.

Most of the Republican party were in on this conspiracy. The horrible part is that so were the Democrats. The two parties look an awful lot like a conspiracy against the citizens.

When that happens to a nation there's usually only one remedy.


Lamm is a democrat, the 'duty to die' former governor of Colorado. He speaks good sense here. - Rod Wittler


We are One Nation, But Unity is at Risk By Richard D. Lamm The Denver Post

"The histories of bilingual and bicultural societies that do not assimilate are histories of turmoil, tension, and tragedy."

- Sociologist Seymour Martin Lipset

Americans have an almost blind faith in the melting pot. Not without reason. Our greatest national achievement is fashioning a common identity out of a wide variety of races, nationalities and ethnic groups.

The melting pot melted and we became (with a few lumps) one nation and one people. We did not create a perfect world, but we became a unified nation with a common identity, common language and common allegiances. E Pluribus Unum (From Many, One) is both a promise and a challenge.

Today, that unity is at risk. Immigrants make up more than 10 percent of our population, which has only happened once before in our history, and they are disproportionately Spanish-speakers who can (and do) maintain contact with the old country. We have never taken so disproportionate an amount of immigrants from one linguistic group.

Meanwhile, our own assimilative demands have also been dramatically reduced. Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr., one of the great liberals of my lifetime, warned: "Ethnic ideologues ... have set themselves against the old American ideal of assimilation. They call on this republic to think in terms not of individual but group identity and to move the policy from individual to group rights. They have made a certain progress in transforming the United States into a more segregated society. They have filled the air with recrimination and rancor and have remarkably advanced the fragmentation of America." <snip>

But the Democrats are the ones who created this situation. Now the Republicans are for open  borders -- they can't even build a fence when it is funded, and are proud of 40 miles of new fence and 100 miles of repaired useless fence in a year -- and it goes on and on. The melting pot worked. The Democrats broke it with the Watergate Congress and its immigration acts.

We have sown the wind.



Now You Can Confess Your Eco-Sins In A Recycled Confessional

Glastonbury, famed resting place of Arthur, first biodegradable King of the Britons, witnessed the greatest liturgical innovation since sliced hosts, as Dom Anthony Sutch, a Benedictine Monk from Suffolk set up a confessional offering Greenpeace festival goers a place to confess their Eco-sins.

"The Eco-fessional , made from recycled materials, featured Sutch bedecked in specially designed vestiments made from recycled curtains..."


Russell Seitz


Blackwater and the Phenomenon of Private Military Companies


"The advantages are not limited to lower cost. Well-trained mercenaries are often much more professional and respectful of civilians than a poorly trained rabble. Kent's Imperative <http://kentsimperative.blogspot.com/search?q=PSDs>  correctly identifies the one factor that is often ignored in the recent coverage of abuses attributed to Blackwater and other PMCs: how many abuses there might be if they were not used. "In comparison the corrupt and ineffective third country national forces which typically make up the bulk of peacekeeping deployments, PMCs are provable more effective and – despite all of the IO activity aimed at discrediting their activities – far more respectable in most cases." The BBC <http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/4034487.stm>  for example, notes that using UN peacekeepers and similar forces is not without its downside. It reports that the UN itself has photographic and video evidence of "paedophilia, rape and prostitution" engaged in by UN peacekeepers in the Congo, among the several countries in which they have misbehaved."

If I were tasked to plan a peacekeeping operation somewhere in the world, and was told I couldn't get sufficient Western military forces to conduct the mission, I'd far rather hire private contractors than rely on UN forces or regional forces. I've been around those types, and don't want to do it again. This is one of the many reasons I've always told people who call for multinational forces that they clearly haven't ever worked in them.

A Serving Officer


Surprise! Genes influence behavior.

Louis Andrews Stalking the Wild Taboo


Study shows genes exert behavioural influence

By Roger Highfield, Science Editor Last Updated: 12:01am BST 02/10/2007

Evidence that some people are born to play fair, while others can't help being cads, has come from a study of twins.

For the first time it has been shown that genes exert influence on people's behaviour in the idealised setting of a game, revealing that identical twins are more likely to behave the same way, whether fairly or unfairly, as non-identical siblings.

Traditionally, social scientists have been hesitant to acknowledge a role for genes in explaining economic behaviour. But a study indicates that there is a genetic component to people's perception of what is fair and what is unfair.

The paper, published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, looked at the ultimatum game, in which a proposer makes an offer to another person on how to divide a sum of money. The researchers found that twins were more likely to behave in the same way as each other when deciding whether to accept an offer.

"This raises the intriguing possibility that many of our preferences and personal economic choices are subject to substantial genetic influence," said the study's lead author, Bjorn Wallace of the Stockholm School of Economics.


The Rights of Englishmen, Part XXIX.


-- Roland Dobbins


Bent Spear 

Before I retired from the military I spent 28 years as a nuclear weapons specialist and speaking from that experience the only way that could have happened is if a minimum 6 groups of people did not do their jobs.

They range from whoever put trainers in with live rounds (they are supposed to be physically separated and if they are stored in the same structure with real weapons they are supposed to be placarded as "Training Use Only".

 Next the crew who broke the missiles out of storage should have verified the load by serial number. The loaders should have verified the load and the aircrew should have as well. There are a few more groups in there that dropped the ball too.

Initially my jaw dropped to the ground when I heard what happened, then after thinking about it for a bit I got really worried. If this could happen with the level of supervision that accompanies any sort of transfer like this what is going on behind the closed doors of the maintenance facility where the crew working on the weapons are behind a blast door that is pinned shut?

name withheld


Subject: Interview with Freeman Dyson


The interview covers a wide range of topics, including comments on religion and science, global warming, and our biotech powered future: http://www.salon.com/books/feature/2007/09/29/freeman_dyson/ 

CP, Connecticut


More on the fate of the auto (and manufacturing in general) industry

“When you get outside Ohio, Michigan and Indiana, I don’t think there is any real view anymore of what is American and what isn’t."


- Roland Dobbins


Life Imitates 'Seinfeld'

* "Newman learns that bottles and cans can be refunded for 10 cents in Michigan (as opposed to 5 cents in many other states). Kramer tells him it's impossible to gain a profit from depositing the bottles in Michigan due to the total gas, tollbooth and truck rental fees that would compile during the trip, but Newman tries to find a way."--Wikipedia description of "The Bottle Deposit, Part 1 <http://mail.wnpt.net/exchweb/bin/redir.asp?URL=http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Bottle_Deposit%252C_Part_1>  ," aired May 2, 1996

* "Authorities said they arrested 10 people and seized more than $500,000 in cash after breaking up a smuggling ring that collected millions of beverage containers in other states and cashed them in for 10 cents apiece in Michigan."--WDIV-TV <http://mail.wnpt.net/exchweb/bin/redir.asp?URL=http://www.clickondetroit.com/news/14214576/detail.html> Web site (Detroit), Sept. 26, 2007

From WSJ Opinion Journal Best of the Web Today for September 28, 2007.


And so another one of my childhood money making schemes bites the dust...

Charles Brumbelow




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Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Misplaced Nukes

I have a close relative who isn't at all surprised about the mess with the incorrectly loaded warheads. He worked with nuclear Nike missiles in the (IIRC) early 60's. During a surprise inspection a NCO was asked how the enlisted men would handle someone infiltrating the base and trying to steal warheads. The reply was "knowing my men they would probably help load them up."



We have a number of letters commenting on my remarks about the education of military officers.

What do they learn?

Simply put: politics and the ability to cover one's posterior. Vitally necessary tools in the peacetime military.

Dave Hansen (ex-USAF)


Officers and today's universities

>>>>But what is it we think the officer corps will learn in our modern politically correct invariably left wing universities?

For one thing, I hope that the officer corps will learn as much about what NOT to do, and how NOT to lead. The one thing I invariably seem to end up saying to my fellow teachers and professors when leadership in the academic world comes up is this: "You are always an example. Sometimes it's a good example, sometimes a bad one. But you are always an example to your students."

Highest regards,

Professor Tim Pleasant
 Concord Law School


College degrees for Army officers

Dear Jerry:

The requirement for US Army officers to have a college degree is just one more ticket to be punched in an organization that has practiced this since the Vietnam War. It also requires generals to have advanced degrees and middle grade officers are strongly encouraged to go back to school to gain graduate degrees. Doing so doesn't assure promotion, but not doing so is likely to lead to premature separation. I think this actually started during the Korean War. I recall my father taking a Masters in Biochemistry at the University of Colorado at the same time he was doing a surgical residency at Fitzsimmons Army Hospital in Denver. This was in 1957-58.

There are other requirements as well. Airborne training is a rite of passage that few avoid. The Acting Army Surgeon General, who is also head of the Army Nurse Corps, has a parachutist's badge. Find me an Army or Marine general who doesn't. The chances of her ever using that training have always been very slim. The point is that she has proved to be willing to jump out of a perfectly good airplane in the line of duty. That bespeaks her commitment.

Having been in the Army before the college degree for officers requirement was in force, I think it a good thing. In ASA the enlisted men were generally better educated than the officers, some of whom were dumped on us under that unofficial policy you have cited so many times. (Send the screw ups to Military Intelligence.) These guys made problems for the rest of us and kept morale very low, along with the re-enlistment rate. It's hard to respect someone whose stated ambition in life is to make twenty years and retire on a pension and who is mostly interested in getting by. Especially when we were so shorthanded that our allegedly all-volunteer outfit was being sent draftees who could not type to fill clerk positions. (ASA normally filled clerk positions with people who'd washed out of various schools and trained them OJT. That's how I got the job.) So, by all means, let us have officers with college degrees who can think their way through a problem and can keep up with the enlisted ranks. The modern high tech Army needs thinkers as well as doers.

Tom Wolfe is a novelist and , being one myself, I think he may have exaggerated the facts to make better art. But the ability to "party hearty" should be no detriment to being a good officer, as long as they save it for the times when they are not in a war zone or otherwise on duty.


Francis Hamit

It may be that the modern military requires higher education for officers, but you'd have to prove that to me. In my time High School ROTC produced quite a few company grade officers. Ninety day wonders brought the US through much of World War II and Korea. True: this didn't produce career soldiers. On the other hand we had a number of mechanisms for selecting reserve junior officers and moving them to a track that led to careers, including several paths to the Service Academies.

At one time there was college ROTC; indeed most of the "land grant" universities were founded in part to be sources for military officers. The hostility toward ROTC and the military on modern college campuses, plus the dilution of the ROTC program to accommodate political correctness, affirmative action, and quotas, have made that program something less than optimum.

I would be very pleased if a college degree indicated an ability to think one's way through problems. I haven't seen many signs of that. Perhaps I see a particularly poor sample of today's college grads. That includes some of those I see coming out of the Academies.

For many years you could graduate from Harvard without taking a single history course. You could spend your time in the Voodoo Sciences. Fortunately few of those went into the military.

I am all for educated officers. But coming up through the ranks has produced some pretty good soldiers over the centuries.

He carried the sword and the buckler,
He mounted his turn on the wall,
And the Legions elected him Caesar,
And he rose to be master of all...


We now require a college degree for military officers 

Dr. Pournelle

Not only our officers but the senior enlisted corps as well. In the corporate Air Force first and second lieutenants are already hard at work on their Master's just to get that "definitely promote" on their efficiency reports. The subject is not important, working toward that graduate degree is.

Senior enlisted feel the same type of pressure. If I recall correctly when I retired the percentage of senior enlisted that had a degree was approaching 50% and the pressure to get a degree just keeps increasing. There has to be something to differentiate the noncoms who are doing a good job from one another and it is actually easier to use a discriminator like going to college than it is to know each and every persons ability to do their job and how good they are at getting results. Now the person that does okay at work but goes to college at night has a better chance of getting promoted than someone who knows every little detail about what their actual AF specialty is. This is becoming more prevalent since the enlisted troops that have the degrees are the ones that get promoted and in turn encourage the next generation of NCOs to go get a degree.

Please realize that I am not against an education, learning new things is one of the most pleasurable and rewarding things I do. The priority just should be on doing the job that the military hired these folks for, not on getting a college education.


Given what the universities are teaching, do we want the Legions exposed to that? But perhaps I am unduly gloomy today.

Understand: the old Land Grant University system was intended to train reserve officers who would be primarily citizens, and be called into service when required. In the Old Republic, the career officers -- ring knockers, graduates of West Point (the Navy not being considered a standing army in the usual sense of the world) -- were appointed by the Congress. While that has become, for most, an academic contest by competitive examination, the purpose was to assure that the officer corps had real ties to the community, and didn't all originate in one place or come from one class. There would never be enough career officers to staff a large expanded standing army. When the US needed a lot of troops, they were raised by volunteers for the duration, or by conscription.

We have a different situation today. We maintain a large standing army of career officers and soldiers, and "in time of peace" has taken on a rather hollow ring.

We also have such corrupt politicians and political parties that there is no institution in the nation more trusted than the military. It is ironic that the Congress, which isn't trusted by the nation, tried to call General Patreus, who is, a liar and worse --and this before he said one word to the Congress. The Speaker and the Senate Leader have much to answer for, but fortunately -- for them at least -- nothing is likely to come of it.



I know you were asking about the Education of Officers. In the special case of the US Military, the ranks also carry a lot of Formal Education around.

Personally, this very civilian, very retired Seismic Surveyor, wants to see all Military Folk educated in as many Fields as we can afford the time for them to learn. After all, the multi-skilled Norse hammered the Armored, a-horsed Knights, of the French, so hard that 'Normandy' was the result. I see the claim, that Lars the Walker, who picked up the French King's foot, to kiss it, and dropped ye King on ye Crown, with the points stuck in the ground, as causing the cession of any French arguments about the ownership of Normandy, as being a mite excessive. The Crown's metal was probably too soft to stick into the sod. Grin.

So, by analogy to mine own experiences in the Field, where chance-got know proved most handy, an Officer, and his Troops, with as much outside know as they can get, without hampering the continuous practice and upgrading of Warlike Skills, be a _most_ good idea.

Since Legend has it, that a New-Minted Officer must be militarized by the Senior Sergeant, or the Chief Petty Officer, the too-Liberal University cannot harm, unless it fails to make sure the larval Officer learns how to _think_.


Neil Frandsen
 who, as a Senior Surveyor, had to train newhire Chainmen and Rodmen, and apply final Polish to young Surveyors. Once in a while, I even got stuck with a New-minted Crew Manager to train from below....



Fit of vapors

Dr. Pournelle --

Much to my shame, I must admit that the vaporish professor was none other than Dr. Nancy Hopkins of my alma mater MIT.

However, she did obtain her doctorate from Harvard after her undergraduate studies at the Institute.


JJ Brannon
 Newark, Delaware


Phil Chapman on NASA and science

From another conference, in discussing NASA practices:

I was in the astronaut office during Apollo, but I don’t remember any discussion of differences in the effects on the CMP and lunar landing crew. Note however that the guys on the surface were working very hard, which might have a bearing on the data Bill presented. In fact, after the last EVA on Apollo 15, Jim Irwin had what would have been called a heart attack if he had been on Earth.

Bill is right, at least about science in the human spaceflight program, when he writes “NASA, as an organization, is only interested in experiments that get their hardware built and flying. NASA, or more precisely, JSC is not really hot to spend money reducing data when they are already busy selling the next project to Congress ... always citing, e.g., all the medical break-throughs that will result if only they can build that latest piece of hardware."

This attitude is one of the reasons that the research results from the shuttle and ISS have been pathetic, especially when compared to the achievements of unmanned observatories and planetary probes.

Given the fact that the NASA budget is three times that of the NSF, we should at the very least expect a bushel of Nobel prizes from the investment in human spaceflight, but the experiments have generally been perfunctory, of a kind that might win prizes at a high school science fair, and as far as I know they have not prompted a single patentable idea by any astronaut.

My favorite story on this subject is about a speech in February, 2000, by Marguerite Broadwell, who was then ISS Commercial Development Manager at NASA HQ. She was trying to reassure commercial interests who might sponsor experiments aboard the ISS but were worried about protection of their intellectual property. She acknowledged that there was a problem because there would be no confidentiality agreement with the astronaut doing the experiment and, in any case, everybody aboard would know about it. Non-US astronauts might have no restriction on telling the details to anybody. Not to worry, said Ms Broadwell: in the history of the shuttle, “no astronaut has become an inventor as a result of performing these experiments.” She also recommended “fully scripting the experiment” (i.e., giving the astronaut a checklist to follow that obviates any thought about what he or she is doing), or using “a self-contained unit” (i.e., an automated experiment in which the astronaut’s only function is to switch it on).

By any reasonable standard, the failure to obtain any value from human capabilities in science in space is a shameful disgrace, not an achievement.



perhaps we're arrived... heh




"To protect and defend the Constitution of the United States"

Hello, Jerry,

A "serving officer" says:

"If I were tasked to plan a peacekeeping operation somewhere in the world, and was told I couldn't get sufficient Western military forces to conduct the mission, I'd far rather hire private contractors than rely on UN forces or regional forces. I've been around those types, and don't want to do it again. This is one of the many reasons I've always told people who call for multinational forces that they clearly haven't ever worked in them. "

IF, If. Iraq is not a UN peacekeeping mission. The commotion concerns Iraq.

Why should the USA hire private contractors to guard US DoD and State Department officials? This Blackwater mess began with Bremer, who worked for Defense, and it continues with a battle around State officials.

Don't we have a military that is sworn to protect and defend the Constitution? And to follow the orders of the President and of those officers duly appointed by the President? What's wrong with that?

Why should the US need to hire Blackwater, Inc, to protect people in Iraq, a country that we conquered and occupied? Why couldn't the US Army protect Paul Bremer? Why can't the US Marines protect US embassy personnel? Isn't that how we have always done it?

Are we trying to return to medieval mercenary bands? Is this still the US? Yes, several founders feared a "standing army", but this is far worse.


John Welch

I'd call it hiring auxiliaries, myself.

We hire things done because we don't have the troops to do it, and we haven't created an actual second-tier Auxiliary force to supplement the Legions.



CURRENT VIEW    Wednesday


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Thursday, October 4, 2007

Continuing the discussion of military education:

College degrees for Army officers

Dear Jerry:

The requirement for US Army officers to have a college degree is just one more ticket to be punched in an organization that has practiced this since the Vietnam War. It also requires generals to have advanced degrees and middle grade officers are strongly encouraged to go back to school to gain graduate degrees. Doing so doesn't assure promotion, but not doing so is likely to lead to premature separation. I think this actually started during the Korean War. I recall my father taking a Masters in Biochemistry at the University of Colorado at the same time he was doing a surgical residency at Fitzsimmons Army Hospital in Denver. This was in 1957-58.

There are other requirements as well. Airborne training is a rite of passage that few avoid. The Acting Army Surgeon General, who is also head of the Army Nurse Corps, has a parachutist's badge. Find me an Army or Marine general who doesn't. The chances of her ever using that training have always been very slim. The point is that she has proved to be willing to jump out of a perfectly good airplane in the line of duty. That bespeaks her commitment.

Having been in the Army before the college degree for officers requirement was in force, I think it a good thing. In ASA the enlisted men were generally better educated than the officers, some of whom were dumped on us under that unofficial policy you have cited so many times. (Send the screw ups to Military Intelligence.) These guys made problems for the rest of us and kept morale very low, along with the re-enlistment rate. It's hard to respect someone whose stated ambition in life is to make twenty years and retire on a pension and who is mostly interested in getting by. Especially when we were so shorthanded that our allegedly all-volunteer outfit was being sent draftees who could not type to fill clerk positions. (ASA normally filled clerk positions with people who'd washed out of various schools and trained them OJT. That's how I got the job.) So, by all means,let us have officers with college degrees who can think their way through a problem and can keep up with the enlisted ranks. The modern high tech Army needs thinkers as well as doers.

Tom Wolfe is a novelist and , being one myself, I think he may have exaggerated the facts to make better art. But the ability to "party hearty" should be no detriment to being a good officer, as long as they save it for the times when they are not in a war zone or otherwise on duty.


Francis Hamit


Coming up through the ranks and military education

Dear Jerry:

In Vietnam one of my jobs was Education and Training NCO for my company. At that time, even in a combat zone, soldiers could sign up for college level correspondence courses by mail for the United States Armed Forces Institute (USAFI). Most of the ASA guys did, although most of us found the war a distraction and it was hard to maintain the effort, but you got the textbook and the tests and other assignments could be done on a typewriter (remember those?). This was free. When I went to Germany, there were courses offered "on post" by the University of Maryland, at night. Again, the Army paid tuition and textbooks. I acquired 18 hours of college credit in the two years I was in Frankfurt, taking courses in everything from Russian History to Criminology. The Navy has a similar program that puts college instructors aboard ships as part of the recreation program. The selection of courses is basic and limited, but you can get most of your required courses this way, and even a bachelor's degree. My roommate Leigh got her degree while in the Army in Germany from the Regents Program of the State University of New York.

While no one specifies what you must take, the military does serve its own purposes with all of this. By eliminating the economic barrier, those who want a college education are enabled and this creates incentives to re-enlist. General Tommie Franks may be a good example of how far someone can go with such a program. He was a college drop out, who was encouraged to finish his degree on the Army's dime, and then given advanced education which not only included the usual Command and Staff and War College path, but a PhD in International Relations as well.

The military trains and educates its people constantly. TRADOC (Training and Doctrine Command) is the largest distance education institution in the world. These days they got direct to the laptop instead of by mail, but knowledge is the basis of our military superiority and the ideal soldier is also a constant scholar. This has real world applications. After my father got that degree in biochemistry, he spent a year at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, doing advanced work on enzymes. He was also flying out to Nevada to implant sensors in pigs during the last of the above-ground nuclear weapons tests. His next assignment was as a contract officer for the Army Surgeon General. One of the projects he supervised developed "surgical glue", which you know as "crazy glue". (You can use the stuff to stop a wound from bleeding, This is what it was originally designed for.) Another project he authorized led to the development of CPR. I think the Army got its tuition money back for that degree and then some.

The US military is very family oriented these days and the latest proposal for retaining people is to extend these programs to military dependents. Given the nature of military service, where everyone is pretty much retired by age 55, there has to be something else beyond that career. Hence the "Troops to teachers" program. I had one high school teacher who was retired military. Admiral Hawkins, who is remembered with favor by all of my classmates. A great guy, whose second career was as great as his first. He'd been in Naval Intelligence and once taught me how to crack a locked file cabinet while demonstrating a principle of mechanics.

One of the traditional roles of the military in our society is as a salvager of human capital; taking people who have not been successful in traditional academic settings and getting them up to speed. Former military officers are prime targets for corporate recruiters because, until the dot.com era, very few people in their 20s outside the military would be given responsibility for the management of hundreds of other employees and millions of dollars in assets. Very few had the opportunity to develop true leadership skills. Okay, the system is far from perfect and screw-ups abound, but military service tests someone in ways not available in any other venue.

When you are dealing with hundreds of thousands of people, you have to use benchmarks. Admittedly requiring a degree for officers does nothing to guarantee that every officer will be up to the mark, but it's a place to start. People can rise from the enlisted ranks if they also acquire one, and the Army will pay for it. So, why not make this a requirement?


Francis Hamit

Where we differ is in timing. I could easily accept a program in which junior officers are brought in from high school ROTC and ninety day wonder school, but promotion to captain requires a college degree; with pipelines from the services to the Academies as an alternative. I have never been a fan of the "up or out" school (otherwise known as the military Peter Principle). I have known 45 year old buck sergeants who should never be promoted but who were damned good where they were. I have known career privates and career corporals. The same can apply to junior officers in a regimental system; career captains, in particular, who never intend to reach field grade but stay in their companies can get a lot of loyalty from their troops. Making them move on to jobs they don't do well in order to make room for ticket punchers doesn't always make for strong military outfits.

But we are not in fundamental disagreement, and I certainly encourage education within the services. On the other hand, much of what is taught in our system of "higher education" is either worthless or should have been taught in high school. A degree in one of the Voodoo Sciences is not going to make a better officer; indeed, I'd say it was a good reason not to commission that one in the first place.

Having company grade officers spend more time with the troops rather than ticket punching and moving along -- who wants to fight for a leader who can't wait to get out of the outfit and go elsewhere -- allows us to delegate much more of the promotion of combat non-coms to company officers. But that's another story.


College degrees for officers


Yet another observation.

Once upon a time, I was a Naval officer. The requirement for the college degree seemed to be based on two things.

1. The degree means you are capable of achieving a (fairly) difficult goal you have set for yourself, rather than one set by others (high school diploma).

2. The degree means you're trainable. The type of degree didn't matter. My roommate at OCS was a history major who became a successful nuclear power officer.



I understand. A PhD shows only one thing, that one is willing to endure the obstacle course and has both the stamina and focus to get past it. I can think of better obstacle courses for our Legion officers than spending four years enduring liberal cant. Just as I can think of much better ways to select teachers than requiring them to put up with the idiocy taught in education departments. Now imagine the Department of Education as the place for a junior infantry officer's endurance test.


Doctor Pournelle,

Now my experience is a couple three decades removed from current reality, but then again the Army does not change radically or swiftly (for very good reasons). With that caveat: When I enlisted for Military Intelligence, the recruiter was quite excited that I had college credits I had attended the local community college 'part-time" for three years, having accumulated about a years worth of transferable coursework.

So I arrive at my first duty station fifteen months later, after a stay at Intell school and nine months at language school. The Company Clerk checks me in, looks over my personnel record, and says something along the lines of "You're the best educated E M in the company.."

I looked closely at my papers and for the first time discovered that my "three years" at community college had been recorded as three years of full-time college credits! I suppose the recruiter wanted to pump up his stats.

Long story short: In three years of service I went from a slick sleeve E-1 Private to E-5 Specialist commanding a section of the company, in large part because of my "education". When in doubt, it was "promote the college man! Every time I tried to explain that I really didn't have three years of college, I was told "shut up and soldier, and take the promotion."

One hopes today they actually check the records, now and then?



On Auxiliaries and War

The Lesser of Two Weevils

The fundamental problem with Blackwater is that the US government is bidding against itself for skills that only it can legitimately employ, since the state is _supposed_ have a monopoly of violence. More than that, the Feds don't have firm control of these private security operations, for some reason haven't imposed rules of engagement: this disunity of command would work against our strategic objectives in Iraq, if we had any.

The situation is reminiscent of privateering, where private individuals and organizations could, by license, participate in naval wars. In those days ship capture was practical and such ventures could make serious money. But the system had problems we're seeing today: privateers( or " letters of marque", as they preferred to be called) competed with official navies for skilled sailors, and since they weren't under the direct control of the state, their efforts lacked strategic focus - they concentrated on commerce raiding instead of decisive battles aimed at Mahan-style sea control. Worse yet, they often violated what rules of war existed, and indeed had a tendency to become mere pirates - Captain Kidd, for example.

However the authorities in England had legal powers that redressed this recruitment problem - they could _impress_ privateer crews into the Royal Navy, and often did so. This suggests the solution for our current difficulties: impress every member of a private security force currently working in Iraq. Just as the Royal Navy was allowed to impress "eligible men of seafaring habits between the ages of 18 and 55 years", recognized by characteristics such as tattoos, the US government should draft any American in Iraq who wears skintight "Under Armor" T-shirts, has USMC tattoos, is using steroids, carries a Glock, or likes to drive the wrong way on Baghdad freeways. For the duration.

Gregory Cochran



I thought I mentioned this before, but apparently it didn't take. Mr Welch apparently didn't read the rest of the discussion.

State isn't going to rely on the US Army to guard it. Not going to happen. They believe it would limit their ability to get things done by tying them, in the minds of others, to the military. This would be a Bad Thing, and in their minds, they wouldn't be able to do the diplomat thing they like so much.

The CIA isn't going to rely on the US Army to guard it. Not going to happen. They believe civilian contractors guarding people in civilian clothes are less conspicuous than military convoys. Since being inconspicious is important to them, they'll go to great lengths to acheive it. I bet you could think of other government organizations with similar views.

The ICRC isn't going to rely on the US Army to guard it. Not going to happen. They don't exactly like the US, and our military even less. This isn't exactly an unusual point of view amongst NGOs.

That following lawful orders bit does mean that our civilian branches of government can't be made to do what we military types want. Sorry, we can't dictate to State how to do things, no matter how screwed up they are.

The USMC is responsible for guarding embassies. They typically have a pretty small force present, and it isn't unusual in many parts of the world to hire civilian security firms to provide guards outside of the wire, since sending our embassy guards outside is technically an invasion. Not having ever been a marine, I would not be surprised to learn that the embassy SOP would preclude sending the marine detachment out on armed missions. Note that this is a relatively recent thing, and most of the times we landed marines in Latin America was because we didn't guard our embassies, and the landing was an admission of a state of anarchy.

Many of these private security organizations are routinely hired to perform exactly the same services in unsafe parts of the world by the US Government, international aid organizations and others as in Iraq. Should we forbid them to do the same in Iraq? How do you propose to do that?

Tell me, how is it a threat to the Republic to hire what are essentially land based privateers? We have used civilian auxiliaries in the past after all.

The point in saying I'd rather have contractors than third world armies isn't to showcase the difference between UN and US led actions, though the sex slave scandals endimic to the UN should be a point of concern, but instead pointing out that there would be other sources if the private military companies weren't present, and those are very likely worse than what is in place. A former Brit army Gurkha, ex-US SF, or other contractor is a much better bet than hiring some random gunmen from the third world for much less.

It isn't like we can simply say, I want to increase the end strength of the Army by 100,000 men and have it done the next day, or the next year. What alternative would you suggest?

The real question is, what kind of army do we want? For what policy goals? Republics need different armies than empires do. If we intend to spread democracy across the world we will need both legions and auxiliaries. A Republic can exist with  fewer Legions, many more reserves and Guard, and a cadre of auxiliaries that can be expanded at need, and maintained through a reserve system.

Are we likely to be a Republic again?


) Regarding the Legions


Although I would rather cheer you up, it seems important for everybody to remember (or for some perhaps to realize) just where a potential next administration might be headed. My understanding is that a great deal of the military had a fairly deep disgust - and worse - for the first administration of the same name. The prime actors are bad enough, but the entourage whose shoulders they ride upon are even worse (who the hell would sabotage offices in the White House on turning over the next administration???). Below is an incident Colin Powell mentioned in his autobiography. To be fair, I've typed the entire paragraph, including President Bill Clinton's personal damage control.

"My American Journey", Colin Powell, Page 581:

"Over the past months, the president had become quite active in his role as commander in chief. He had visited the carrier U.S.S. Theodore Roosevelt. He had welcomed troops coming home from duty in Somalia. He was still, however, surrounded by young civilians without a shred of military experience or understanding. One day, my assistant, Lieutenant General Barry McCaffrey, went to the White House for a meeting. Walking through the West Wing, McCaffrey passed a young White House staffer and said "Hello, there," to which she replied with upturned nose, "We don't talk to soldiers around here." McCaffrey was the winner of three Silver Stars and still bore disfiguring arm wounds suffered in Vietnam. He had commanded one of the crack divisions in Desert Storm. The young woman's comment rocketed back to the Pentagon and whipped through the place like a free electron. Bill Clinton was sufficiently sensitive to the gaffe so that McCaffrey was next seen at the Seattle economic summit jogging alongside the President."

I had the clear impression when I read the book, and from the quotation above, that this incident was merely one example he chose to write about. Over the last 14 to 15 years since then, it seems to me that those 'young civilians' are now the senior folks, and from what I've seen their attitudes toward the military - and the rest of us, for that matter - are even worse. You will recall that sabotage of the White House offices took place more than 7 years after this episode.


There once was a lady from Niger,
Who smiled as she rode on a tiger,


Bent Spear Hysteria


Your anonymous Bent Spear guy must never have been told about the plain nukes that SAC dumped on a western Maryland hillside in 1962 or the fusion bomb they let fly on that little town 50 miles south of Pittsburgh in 1965. No codes entered, no harm. Just rocks falling or gliding from the sky. The UFO cover for the 1965 incident shows some bureaucratic genius was still around back then. Retrieval techniques had obviously improved in three years. It would not surprise me if the Company still has a small unit feeding intermittent reinforcement to the saucer cult.

Life was simpler in the 50s. After our ROTC physicals were done at Westover, our escort, the senior light colonel in the US Army (a fascinating story but too long for the nonce) asked: "Do you boys want to see some nukes?"

At the chain link fence by the flightline he waved over a sergeant without a big German shepard in tow: "Boys want to see some nukes, sergeant." The sergeant opened a gate and we all, Armor and Air Force, sauntered over to a hangar for a 15 minute show and tell. I was most impressed that Dial-A-Yield was a feature. Only in America.

Val Augstkalns



What do televised climate science and Biblical archaeology have in common ?

Entirely too much .


Russell Seitz


Subject: Ornithopter

Here it is, Dr. Pournelle. The world's first working ornithopter.





CURRENT VIEW    Thursday


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Friday, October 5, 2007

I spent the day at Winston's event. Then we went to the movies.






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Saturday, October 6, 2007

Subject: A demographic theory of war


There is an interesting discussion here of demographics as it relates to war: http://www.weeklystandard.com/Content/

Some will see it as another reason to call for action - boost the birth rate now to prepare for future war. Only I doubt that such a call could be effective:

1. The appeal couldn't be direct, it would have to be disguised as something else (religious revival, return to traditional values, etc.). In the Western world, the notion of having more offspring to be cannon fodder for the aspiring empire would be a very tough sell.

2. It might be difficult to achieve high growth rates economically. Lester Thurow explains it this way:

"If one looks at wealthy countries, one sees that they have all had a century or more where population growth rates did not average much more than 1 percent per year. The reasons are simple. Before per capita incomes can go up, the new individuals added to any society have to be provided with those items necessary to generate the society's already existing per capita GDP. Newborn citizens must be fed, housed, and given medical attention until they enter the labor market and can support themselves. Entering the labor force on average at age 20, they need $8,000 per year in living expenses for 20 years if they are to have the average American childhood. To get an average job they must be given the average amount of education. American elementary and secondary education costs $7,200 per year, and higher education $14,700 per year. A little multiplication will tell you what must be invested in education if everyone is to have twelve years of education, and 34% of the population is to have some college education. To create an American average job requires $122,700 in capital equipment. About two-thirds of the adult population works. Social infrastructure, such as roads and airports, requires another $21,000 per person. Adding it all up, total investments of a little less than $400,000 per person are needed to make each new American into an average adult American.

Human populations can at their maximum grow at about 4 percent per year. Not country has ever had a 4 percent population growth but some, like Mexico, have come close for a while. Suppose American's population were growing at 4 percent per year. This would mean 11.3 million new Americans every year and require an investment of $4.4 trillion. But the American GDP is only $11 trillion. Forty percent of the American GDP would have to be devoted to making new Americans into average Americans. This would require a big reduction in the standard of living of existing Americans. They simply would not accept it. The necessary investments would not be made, and the average per capita American GDP would start to fall.

In poor countries, the investment numbers in each category are different, but when one divides by the local GDP the percentages come out about the same---somewhere near 40 percent. As a result, with population growth rates much above 1 percent, it is essentially impossible to catch up. This is one of the main reasons to be optimistic about China's economic prospects and pessimistic about India's economic prospects. One country has its population under control and the other does not." [Fortune Favors the Bold, Lester Thurow, 2003]

So if Thurow is right, you can either be a rich country with population growth at or below 1%, or you can be a poor country that is well stocked with cannon fodder. Doesn't seem like all that much of a choice to me.

But what of those teeming hordes of foreign young men ready to do battle with our precious youth? Well, it is a problem if we expect to embark on daring foreign adventures, imposing our will and way of life on unreceptive native populations by military force. Then we will have wars of attrition that we can't win. But it does not follow that those teaming hordes would necessarily pose a real and severe threat to our national sovereignty. Modern war is as much about logistics as it is manpower and technology. It is hard to imagine any of these relative poor, rapidly growing countries creating and maintaining the supply lines needed to sustain a direct attack on the US. And we already have more than enough nukes to deter any nuclear armed enemy. Terrorism is, of course, something to be concerned about. But I think there are better ways of dealing with those threats than sending an army to execute a regime change with every one of our potential enemies.

All this considered, I'll vote for a wealthy, population stable, energy independent republic!

CP, Connecticut

Lester Thurow is always interesting. I didn't say always right; but it's worth thinking about his theories. He's also a fascinating lecturer in person.

It was shown in 1900 that war between industrial nations was impossible because it would be so economically devastating and expensive. Conclusively proved. No question about it. No more big wars after 1900.




Profound... from an unusual source



The astronauts brought back that image in the famous photo, "Earthrise" -- and, with it, that feeling of longing. That iconic image did not just help spur the environmental movement. With surpassing irony, it created at the very dawn of the space age a longing not for space, but for home.

This is perhaps to be expected for a 200,000-year-old race of beings leaving its crib for the first time. We will, however, outgrow that fear. It was 115 years from Columbus to the Jamestown colony. It will take about that same span of time for a new generation -- ours is too bound to Earth -- to go out and not look back.

-- Charles Krauthammer


This is going to be fun!


"Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice ordered federal agents on Friday to ride with Blackwater USA escorts of U.S. diplomatic convoys in Baghdad to tighten oversight after a shooting in which private guards are accused of killing 13 Iraqi civilians.

"The steps will require the State Department to deploy dozens of additional in-house Diplomatic Security agents to accompany Blackwater guards and are the first in a series of moves Rice is expected to take to boost control of contractors the agency relies on to protect diplomats in Iraq."


That should fix all problems...


Promotion to Captain is automatic

Dear Jerry:

In the US Army, promotion to Captain is virtually automatic, especially when there is a war on. During the four years I was in I only saw one officer fail to make the grade, a VMI graduate who was an avowed racist, used the "N" word frequently and looked like a recruiting poster. It was his misfortune that the Army had finally decided to embrace President Truman's policy on racial integration. (This took 20 years because a whole bunch of officers had to retire first.) It takes real effort to get yourself dismissed from the service in the middle of a shooting war, but he managed it, as did a fair number of racist senior NCOs with 17 years in, who were denied reenlistment, and hence, their pensions. It was interesting to watch a major policy change in action. Normally, back then, the rank of Captain came when you had been in three years or so. Enlisted men who were promoted from the ranks started at First Lieutenant or Captain or even Major if they had enough time in enlisted service. Interestingly enough, there was no real advantage to getting your commission as a 2nd Lieutenant one place or another. West Point, R.O.T.C. or 90 day wonder was all the same, and the O.E.R. was the document that drove the decision to promote.

The most devastating O.E.R. I ever saw (and , yes, these were passed around by the clerks) said, in part "This officer can be relied upon to find the circumstances under which any given plan will not work." Making Captain was no guarantee. One company commander of my acquaintance was reduced in rank to E-5 and transferred to a post equivalent to the Island of Yap after mismanaging his company for two years. In fact, that was as we were pulling out of Vietnam and there was a big reduction in force that swept away many of those time servers previously mentioned. Many of them had attained the rank of Major. (There is no one more fearful than a field grade officer looking for his next promotion. The process is called "up or out" and is very Darwinian.)

Any large organization will go through these episodes. No system is perfect, and neither are all of the people. The wonder, on a daily basis, is that things are not even more screwed up. I've heard it said that there are four kinds of Army officers; brilliant and industrious, brilliant and lazy, stupid and industrious and stupid and lazy. The best are brilliant and lazy, the worst stupid and industrious.


Francis Hamit


Officers as college graduates, Chaos Manor, View, Tuesday, October 2, 2007; Mail, Wednesday, October 3, 2007


The basic tradition of the Anglo-Saxon military, every since Oliver Cromwell and the Major-Generals, has been that, in order to preserve the supremacy of the civil society over the military, no one shall be an officer who does not possess the requisites of status in the civil society, however these are defined at that time and place. Furthermore, inasmuch as an officer should be a person of more than usually steady and (Kirkean) conservative frame of mind, officer recruitment should stress the traditional bases of status, rather than new and emergent ones. In eighteenth century England, the main basis of status was property, especially landed property, and the logical result was the system of purchase of commissions. A mill owner who wanted his son or grandson to be an officer, and generally accepted as such, had to buy land and set up as a country gentleman, and then, buy a commission. Under the more democratic conditions of America, the militia officer was likely to be the same man who was also chosen as selectman or church vestryman.

In late nineteenth century England, the bases of status had shifted somewhat, and the basis for a commission was to have attended a certain sort of expensive secondary school, the English Public School, and to have a private income besides. The requirements were more elastic in the local auxiliary forces, such as the British Indian Army, but they operated most stringently in the Brigade of Guards, the one unit ideally located to march into the House of Parliament, and take the M.P.'s hostage, the way that Spanish colonel did back in 1981. In the United States Army, at the time, a West Point nomination was still a valuable piece of political patronage. Senators and Representatives dispensed appointments to local elites. George C. Marshall went to Virginia Military Institute because his father was of the wrong political party, and the local congressman did not owe his father a favor. The case of Joseph Stillwell is still more illustrative. After a spectacular high-school prank, Stillwell pere decided Joseph was too rambunctious for Yale, and called in a favor to get him a West Point nomination. There are certain interesting parallels to Winston S. Churchill. Dwight Eisenhower, coming from notoriously egalitarian Kansas, got his nomination through an open academic competition sponsored by his senator, in modern fashion, in which the emphasis would have been on mathematics and languages. However, Eisenhower was something of an exception. Of course, the army of Marshall, Stillwell, and Eisenhower was small. The officers were of course highly selected, and so, in the opposite direction, were the enlisted men, who were more likely to be Foreign Legion-style strays.

We now have a larger army. Both the officer corps and the enlisted ranks are less divergent from the general population. Very well, at present, the college diploma is the passport to a wide range of good jobs for people who are not extraordinarily talented: schoolteacher, state or federal bureaucrat, etc. College students do not study very much, I grant you (say, 15 hrs/wk, total, in term, or 450 hrs/yr), but they practice conspicuous leisure. The types of colleges, what one might call "collegiate colleges," which produce a lot of ROTC officers tend to be the kinds of colleges which have a lot of fraternities, and take football very seriously. They are located in college towns, where there is relatively little scope for students to work their way through college, and students cannot save money by living at home. The archetypal workingman's colleges like CUNY and, perhaps, Minnesota, geared to night school, are under-represented. In short, ROTC recruits the kind of college graduate whose parents are also college graduates. A newly commissioned ROTC second lieutenant has an economic stake in the civil society, unlike, say, a South American officer, someone like Hugo Chavez, who seems to have been born in a mud hut. Really talented warriors, such as Napoleon Bonaparte, sooner or later get the clever idea of making themselves king. The whole Anglo-Saxon military tradition is designed to insure that someone like Bonaparte or Chavez does not come within reaching distance of power.

Of course, this has a price in military efficiency. A civil society, to preserve itself, has to take steps to minimize its long-term conflict with other countries. Thomas More, in Utopia, posited that his fictional hero king had created an island of Utopia by digging something very like the English Channel. More realistically, England did, at key points, chose to become an island by writing off bits of territory on the continent. It focused its energies on consolidating the "Celtic Fringe" instead. England recruited suitable people, and moved them to places which were ultimately defensible, including, eventually, North America. That is the ultimate background of Washington's Farewell Address.

Andrew D. Todd


On officers and college degrees

Dr. Pournelle:

I've read Tom Wolfe's and your commentaries on requiring officers to have degrees, and was struck by a couple of things:

"According to Tom Wolfe's novel, today's college male students are attached to beer kegs at one end and a coed at the other. Is THAT what makes for a good leader?" I don't know what college Mr. Wolfe has been visiting/attending, but I suspect that his view has been distorted just a bit. I attended Virginia Commonwealth University from 1998 to 2003- I was 35 when I started, I might add- and while there were parties and sex going on, what I saw there was about on a par with what I saw when I went to college in 1981. And, from what I've been able to piece together from various sources, that was not much different from what people of my parents' (and your) generation experienced back in the '40s and '50s. My father tells of him and his fellow medical students having parties with the lab's ethanol, which back then was not denatured. I think Mr. Wolfe is the victim of wishful thinking, either on his own part or that of others. Today's universities are no more the epicenter of sexual debauchery than they were when you attended. But much more importantly: you ask what the future military leaders might learn from such overwhelmingly liberal institutions. Apparently you feel that they will become thoroughly liberal from being immersed in such an environment. And that is where I really take issue. A person going to college may be young, but their opinions have already been pretty firmly set on basic matters by their upbringing. While at VCU I saw a good many mindlessly knee-jerk liberal kids, as the stereotype runs, but I also saw that the majority of kids there were not following this trend- there were very conservative right-wing types there, as well as more moderately conservative people who looked on the flaming liberals with amusement. The sort of person who would choose a military career is, by nature and upbringing, likely to be conservative- and the neo-hippies are unlikely to sway them. Kids in their late teens and early twenties are not all easily led automatons, waiting to have their brains molded by their peers and professors- most of them have minds of their own. So what will they learn at college? They will learn how to think critically, how to communicate clearly, and how to tolerate people with opinions different from their own. They will learn how to work within an organization, and how to work with people with whom they don't necessarily agree. In short, yes, they will learn many skills valuable to a leader- whether their degree is in engineering, as mine is, or in history or literature or one of the softer fields. No matter what, they will only graduate if they learn to do as they're asked and cooperate with others. And that is well worth learning. Paul Martin


Military Education

Dr. Pournelle,

I've a little to add to Ed's comments on Air Force senior enlisted educational requirements. Now you HAVE to have an Associate's Degree from the Community College of the Air Force (CCAF) to advance beyond Master Sergeant in the USAF. You do not get a senior rater endorsement on your enlisted performance report (EPR) if you do not have this otherwise worthless piece of paper. Even if you have a bachelor's degree from another school, you'll be down rated. Not getting a senior rater endorsement on your EPR puts your promotion board score in the toilet, knocking off around 60 points. You can ace the test portion of your overall promotion score, but lack of the CCAF degree will keep you from advancing beyond Master Sergeant. I've not gotten my CCAF degree, because over the years I've either been deployed or had to work two jobs to support my wife and six kids. Last year they made the degree a requirement, and I knew then I'd never advance further. That's one reason I'm retiring next year. The other is that I'm tired of going to the desert and not seeing my kids for four months at a time. I'm writing this from the desert right now, and it's my last time over here :-). You have no idea how good that feels!

Still, I've seen people who are less capable promoted beyond folks who are hell on wheels at their jobs due to this. It makes me wonder, sometimes, what happened to the days when you were rewarded for performance of you assigned duties? It's an annoyance to many in the enlisted corps. Perhaps it would be different if the degree meant something, but 90% of the credit to get the degree is training you get in the military to do you job, then you have to take five basic courses (math, science, humanities, speech, and some form of literature). I've seen plenty of folks with college degrees who can't write decently (even without spelling and grammar check in today's word processing programs) and cannot complete even simple mathematic problems without the help of a calculator. That annoys me more than anything, I guess…


Name Withheld


Dr. Pournelle,

In my experience, there are at least three things an officer learns in college, regardless of where they go to school.

1. The ability to express themselves in writing and in their speech. The additional vocabulary alone is invaluable, and I have witnessed firsthand the dramatic differences in sentence structure, grammar, and spelling between college grads and non-grads. Not that all college grads can spell or put together a sentence, but I find that this generality holds true most of the time. I think this is one concrete reason to require that senior enlisted troops get a college degree. 2. The breadth of experience and knowledge, which provides context to everyday lives and decisions. Whether it is a book read during English lit or knowing who the 300 were and how their story relates to modern military tradition before watching the comic-book version that was so popular recently, the sometimes random exposure to additional culture and information in a structured format can make the difference between someone who makes decisions based only on what they are presented with in front of their nose, and someone who makes decisions based on the big picture in addition to the immediate situation. 3. The ability to “learn how to learn” is often gained during college. Again in my experience, this general ability makes it possible for college graduates to more quickly absorb information and put it to use even when there are time constraints or when presented with limited or incomplete information. Extrapolation and synthesis tends to be a big difference between college courses that require both memorization of facts and creative approach to problem solving, and high school courses which often are focused on fact memorization.

As an Academy graduate, I would further argue that the leadership experiences every Academy grad receives, plus the additional courses on military history, give an Academy grad a big advantage when starting a career as a military leader. Enlisted troops must learn USAF and generic military history from books as part of their professional development studies (test scores are a big factor in enlisted promotions) but their education is not guided by history professors so again this sometimes lends itself to rote memorization of facts rather than practice on how to creatively apply these facts to current and future situations.

Over time most senior NCOs in the USAF get this sort of education as they advance through their military careers, but because of the degree requirement, officers start out on day 1 with (hopefully) additional critical thinking skills that are often demanded of very junior officers.



McCaffery Story

Remember the story I once sent you about standing in a line all morning in sub-zero temperatures at the Smithsonian waiting for a Van Gogh exhibition to open on its last day? Then being told that the White House staff had been on a visit and had overstayed, so we wouldn't be able to see the exhibition. Same crew.

-- Harry Erwin, PhD, Program Leader, MSc Information Systems Security, University of Sunderland.








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Sunday, October 7, 2007      

Jerry: Distribution functions:

Estimate that 1 person in E4 has only one leg, and 1 person in E5 has lost both legs.

Then <L> = 0*E-5 + 1*E-4 + 2*(1 - E-4 - E-5) = 1.99988 <2 qed.

Interesting though about non-normal (or in this case the phrase "abnormal" applies) distribution functions.





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