A day devoured. The map is still not the territory

Chaos Manor View, Friday, September 04, 2015


This day was devoured by predators. I got up expecting to do a SKYPE discussion with the Britain producers who have me doing comments in their show series; the conference was all arranged for 10 AM, and I would be on line with SKYPE and my headset at that hour. I need the headset for anything that requires me to be very comprehensible. Ten AM because I do not promise to be either civil or coherent before that hour.

But at my morning ablutions before 9 AM I discovered that our downstairs bath had no hot water. The fire was out and the pilot off. I wasn’t likely to be able to do anything about that before the stroke, and I surely wasn’t more competent now, so we called the plumbers who had installed it. That turned out to have some glitches, but they were minor, and we had an appointment for between 1100 and 1400, so I went to keep my 1000 hours SKYPE appointment, only to discover that my appointment wasn’t being kept, could we do it next week? I answered as politely as I could, and of course looked at some mail, and next thing you know it was 1100. Thought I’d take a walk, but Roberta pointed out that the plumbers could come at any time, and the weekly cleaning lady was distraught without hot water, and…

So no walk. No phone conservation. Foul mood. Fortunately the plumbers came at 1115. Same chap who installed it ten years ago. Found water in the gas lines, due to a worn pressure relief valve or something. Could start paying for this and that, but the thing had given us ten years without problems, and it wasn’t expected to last a lot longer. OK, replace it. Get me a new hot water tank. How soon?

The day started getting better, since they could do it today – in fact it’s 1630 and done – so all I’m really out is a few hours of hot water and $4000, which is not a disaster so long as you keep subscribing and John DeChancie keeps working with me on Lisabetta, and Niven and Steve Barnes keep grinding on the – strictly science fiction – novel with the working title of call of Cthulhu but it’s really about the first interstellar colony and mankind’s beginnings as a starfaring people. Good stuff. And I got some more done on Janissaries-Mamelukes even though it’s still harder to type than I like, and I keep hitting multiple keys and having to look at the keyboard and then look up and see all the red and blue wavy lines and have to fix that, and I’m rambling again.

But the work is done, the water is hot, and it’s not too late to take a walk. More later.

Walked a mile. Went out to dinner. All’s well.


record warmth….


during the Medieval warm period when trees grew under the glacier whose retreat Obama expressed concern about this week…


And I point out again:


After this great glaciation, a succession of smaller glaciations has followed, each separated by about 100,000 years from its predecessor, according to changes in the eccentricity of the Earth’s orbit (a fact first discovered by the astronomer Johannes Kepler, 1571-1630). These periods of time when large areas of the Earth are covered by ice sheets are called “ice ages.” The last of the ice ages in human experience (often referred to as the Ice Age) reached its maximum roughly 20,000 years ago, and then gave way to warming. Sea level rose in two major steps, one centered near 14,000 years and the other near 11,500 years. However, between these two periods of rapid melting there was a pause in melting and sea level rise, known as the “Younger Dryas” period. During the Younger Dryas the climate system went back into almost fully glacial conditions, after having offered balmy conditions for more than 1000 years. The reasons for these large swings in climate change are not yet well understood.

The map is not the territory. We do not have good maps. We know that CO2 can add up to a degree per century; but the temperature was rising before CO2. Climate is what we expect: it is a map. Weather is what we get. It is sometimes what we expect, but there are anomalies, meaning our maps are not good.


Re: The Arctic Iris Effect


I think you’ll find the linked article quite interesting. The basic issue is that the greatest effect of Arctic ice is that of an insulating blanket – as opposed to the effect of its albedo. Thick ice cover, itself protected by a thick layer of cold water underneath, acts to insulate the large volume of (comparatively) warm water at greater depths. When ice is not present due to melting and/or wind pushing it aside, the water below is mixed by wind and vents great amounts of heat into the atmosphere. The result is a cooling ocean and a warming lower atmosphere, exactly what has been observed.

The Arctic Iris Effect, Dansgaard-Oeschger Events, and Climate Model Shortcomings. Lesson from Climate Past – part 1.




PS: I’ve copied the article tile one one line followed by the URL on a separate line both in plain text, just in case that helps to maintain context when your software shortens the URL.

“Skepticism is a core part of science and we need to embrace it. If the evidence is tentative, you should be skeptical of your evidence. We should be our own worst critics.”


Except in ‘climate science’ and human intelligence research, apparently.

It’s ironic that a professor in one of the woo-woo ‘sciences’ has more professional integrity and understanding of the scientific method than many of those in the supposedly more concrete disciplines.


Roland Dobbins


Nuclear Strategy

Dear Dr. Pournelle,

I read your discussion on Iran and the Munich-like deal with interest.   I have an extremely naive question:

Can we confront a nuclear Iran with overwhelming conventional force?

What I mean is, if Iran nukes Israel, can we start off with a conventional bombing campaign using cruise missiles and stealth aircraft, then escalate to a ground invasion, culminating in the occupation of Tehran?

You mention the need for SIOPS et al. I suggest we needed that during the Cold War because invading the Soviet Union was a pragmatic impossibility. We could not match the Russians in conventional battle in Western Europe, so nuclear weapons were the only reasonable deterrent measure.

Iran has only a fraction of the old USSR’s population, geography, and military potential. Conventional defeat of the Iranian army and conquest of the country is feasible.

At any rate, I don’t see what else we can threaten them with;  the will to use nuclear weapons on another country is simply not in modern Washington DC. There’s no point in having a SIOP or a SAC if you not only do not possess the will to use them, you cannot even credibly bluff that you will to others.

Which is what happens when you have a chief executive who goes around bowing to other world leaders, but I digress.
At any rate — conventionally speaking, we have the ability to destroy Iran. And it is *deterrence* , which will keep Iran in check.  If we can threaten Iran credibly with conventional weapons, we don’t need nuclear weapons to do it.  Nuclear weapons are only really needed for countries like China or Russia which are beyond conventional military power. 
At any rate, the best thing we can do to deter Iran is to elect a President who will credibly brandish a big stick.    If we have that, we can get by with less weaponry. If we don’t have that, even having the entire 1945 military back will not help.

Brian P.

Hi Jerry,

Hope this finds you well.

I’ve been reading your displeasure of the current deal with Iran with a great deal of interest since most of what you say coincides with what I’ve been saying for months. I’m also just as flummoxed as you seem to be about what else we could have done since there didn’t appear to be any way to stop Iran from getting a nuke any more than there was in stopping North Korea or Pakistan from doing so; short of invasion. Since this “deal” doesn’t really address this; even the White House on their web site admits all this does is slow Iran from producing enough material to make a bomb from 2-3 months to at least 1 year, it doesn’t appear the intent of this deal was ever to stop Iran from getting a nuke but rather to simply delay it until Obama was no longer in office. Politically, this makes sense because the president gets to proclaim how wonderful his foreign policy was while also blaming whomever takes his place in 2017 for letting Iran get a nuke. He couldn’t stop them anyway, so why not make political points out of it, if possible?

Unfortunately, Congress seems to be completely clueless of the politics behind this deal. At least they seem to be doing everything in their power to ensure they can claim they tried to stop him while quietly behind the scenes patting him on the back for his magnificent political maneuvering. The Corker-Cardin agreement is perhaps the most ridiculous thing I’ve seen come out of Congress in years; and that’s saying quite a bit. Constitutionally, it has dubious authority and is a completely arbitrary process that Obama could simply ignore even if it went off fully as Republicans expected; with passage in both houses and then an override of his veto. Congress had a much better option and still does.

I’m not sure why Congress simply doesn’t declare this deal to be a treaty as far as Congress is concerned in the form of a Congressional resolution. It would be similar in effect to Obama arbitrarily saying it isn’t and fully within the Constitutional authority granted to Congress to set their own rules and in the Necessary and Proper Clause of the Constitution. All it would require is the ability to get past the certain filibuster of such a resolution in the Senate. With 54 Republicans, this means they only need 6 Democrats and the filibuster dies. This would then require Congress to handle it like a treaty meaning all they would need to defeat it is get 34 votes in the Senate. The president would certainly pitch an executive fit and refuse to accept it. Since it would not have the full authority of law he could ignore it, but Congress is now on record as opposing this treaty including andy and all sanctions relief and the Iranian legislative body would be fully aware that this meant U.S. sanctions would almost certainly go back into place in 2017. They would never accept this and the deal would die in the Iranian parliament. Speculative, to be sure, but it is well within the power of Republicans in Congress to accomplish and would be fully within their Constitutional authority unlike what they are trying now.

This still doesn’t address what to do about Iran acquiring a nuke, however. I would vote for the rapid manufacture and deployment of both land-based and satellite-based Thor systems around and above Iran with a couple of weeks worth of “capability demonstrations” on ISIS targets of opportunity were I in office. Iran might still get its nuke, but would fully understand this is not be enough to avoid total annihilation should they decide to get belligerent in the Middle East. Alas, it would also mean China and Russia would develop their own Thor-type systems and the weaponization of space would begin.

Continue to get better. I am definitely looking forward to your next novel.

Braxton S. Cook

You do realize we’re giving Iran a war guarantee in the event of Israeli attack, sir?

You do realize we’re giving Iran a war guarantee in the event of Israeli attack, sir?

It’s even more insane than the British guarantees of Belgium in the Great War and Poland in the Second World War, much less the blank cheque Wilhelm II gave the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

Crazier than the dozens of war guarantees we’ve handed out freely since the fall of the USSR.

I didn’t even think that such was possible, but it has come to pass.


Roland Dobbins

I wonder how many USAF pilots will actually lock on and fire at Israeli jets.







Freedom is not free. Free men are not equal. Equal men are not free.




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