California Reader is up; musings on strategy of technology; Reviving Chaos Manor Reviews

View 834 Monday, July 21, 2014

“Transparency and the rule of law will be the touchstones of this presidency.”

President Barack Obama, January 31, 2009


Many developments at Chaos Manor. I am bringing back Chaos Manor Reviews. It will take a bit to get it going again, but I’ve taken steps to make it happen. One is Precious, the name I have given to my new Surface 3 Pro which Eric found for me at a big one-day sale. Precious has a Type Cover 2 with backlighting, and we’ve installed a 64 GB Sun microdisk for extra memory in case there’s ever a need, but her purpose isn’t to replace a desktop – I like working with desktops and BIG screens – but to sit on my breakfast table while I read the Wall Street Journal and make notes. And that she does nicely. At the moment she has a special OneNote program that she came with, and I haven’t mastered using it yet; and I haven’t yet installed Office 365 yet. All in due time. But she’s connected into my Wi-Fi system and is settling down nicely. I’m pretty sure I’m going to like her – she reminds me of LisaBetta, my Compaq 1100 Tablet I had back in COMDEX days, and which I more than once carried as the only computer when I was on the road.


I also got the California Sixth Grade Reader up on Amazon, thanks to Rick Hellewell and many others on my team of advisors. If you were planning on buying a copy, please let me know if what you get is all right. I found a couple of bugs when we first put it up, and there may be more – perhaps a problem with the Table of Contents – but if there are we will fix all that and I’ll see that you get a new copy when it’s all fixed. I’ll have more about that book another time, but we’re very proud of it. It took a lot of work, and it has been years in the making, largely because I got laid out with brain cancer about the time it was going up the first time, and then other things delayed it. The Reader is important: this was the Sixth Grade Reader for the state of California in 1914 and many years before and after that. The stories include Macaulay’s Horatius at the Bridge, Ruskin’s King of the Golden River, Jason and the Argonauts, and a number of other works which are part of our literary heritage. There are great poems, some of which influenced the thinking of generations of Americans.

One of the great pleasures of my life has been enjoyment of literature and poetry. I did not precisely choose to master poetry: it was required of me that I do so, and I disliked a lot of it; but eventually I learned to love it. I am reminded of Kipling commenting on his education: he wrote of his Latin teacher that he “taught me to loathe Horace for two year; to forget him for twenty; and then to love him for the rest of my days and through many sleepless nights.” Alas, my Latin teachers were not so thorough as that, but I was required to read and learn epic poems, some of which are in this book, and the effect was about the same: I resented being required to learn to love those works, but I have been thankful for fifty years that I was so required. Enough: I’ll review the Reader in Chaos Manor Reviews, and probably some of what I just said will be in there. There will be overlap between that place and this one.


I found most of the items on the editorial pages of the Wall Street Journal well worth reading today. The sum total of them reminded me that it is time to revise The Strategy of Technology, and we’ll do so. One of my former students from my professor days is now a Pentagon consultant and wants in on the process. The principle in that book haven’t changed and are still true. The technological war is stilt the decisive war. The examples are all from Cold War days, and need updating to modern conditions and modern warfare. We’ll get to it. It takes time and energy, of course. While I am on that subject I want to thank the Platinum subscribers who continue to renew: their support allows me to work on what I think is important rather than grubbing about for lucrative stuff. At my age I don’t keep quote so many balls in the air as I used to…

“Lasers Are No Longer a ‘Star Wars’ Fantasy by Eric Schechter and Dave Majumdar reminds me of the importance of a strategy of technology.

The two Iranian-designed Abadil-1 drones that Hamas flew from the Gaza Strip into Israel last week were little more than over-glorified toy planes. So why did the Israeli military shoot them down with $3 million Patriot missiles? After all, Israel has multiple Iron Dome missile-defense batteries in the south of the country.

In all likelihood, the Patriot crew were the first to detect and track the invading drones. And not knowing exactly what they were facing, the Israeli Defense Forces took no chances.

While the drones were destroyed, the episode shows the limits of conventional interceptors. If Hamas had sent a dozen drones, Israel would have had to waste missiles on them all. That’s why Rafael Advanced Defense Systems, the same government-owned company that built Iron Dome, is developing a laser system called Iron Beam.

Lasers have great potential as weapons. Laser beams travel at the speed of light, so no rocket will ever outrun them. They are also remarkably cheap to generate—a couple dollars a pop, compared to launching a five, six or even seven-figure missile. And as long as you’ve got electrical power, a laser cannon will never run out of ammunition. Lasers are also versatile. They don’t have to blow up a target to neutralize it. They can fry electronics, sensors and navigation systems.

Steve Possony and the late Duke Kane – Stefan T. Possony, PhD., and Francis X. Kane, Ph.D., Col. USAF – wrote much of Strategy of Technology in the 60’s, and I was asked to be a co-author and general editor of the work. Since Kane was an active duty Air Force officer (Director of Plans, USAF Systems Command) his name did not appear on the book. It was used as a text at West Point and the USAF Academy, and is still used as a text in some of the war colleges; and in 1980 Kane, Possony, and I (with about 50 others including Buzz Aldrin and General Graham) wrote the space and defense policy papers for the incoming Reagan administration. One of the outcomes of those papers was the Strategic Defense Initiative, which some have said was important in bringing the Cold War to a non-violent end. (Note that Possony was one of the authors of The Protracted Conflict, which detailed the Containment Strategy which was the major US Cold War policy.

A Congressman’s Drone Disobedience

Sean Maloney wanted aerial photos of his wedding. To get them he had to ignore the FAA.

July 20, 2014 5:43 p.m. ET

June 21 was a lovely day for the wedding of Sean Maloney, a Democratic member of Congress from upstate New York. The ceremony was held at the historic Church of St. Mary-in-the-Highlands, with the Hudson River in the background. The day ended with fireworks. These details are available via a video on YouTube, produced for Mr. Maloney by a company called Propellerheads Aerial Photography.

But shooting the video was illegal, according to the Federal Aviation Administration, a federal agency Mr. Maloney helps oversee as a member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

The FAA has taken the position since 2007 that any commercial use of drones is unlawful. It has sent cease-and-desist orders to companies in industries that include video, agriculture, real estate and journalism.

And what happens when 4,000 drones each carrying 2 kilos of high explosive, each guided by GPS, rise out of Gaza headed for Israeli Iron Dome installations?

The technological war continues whether we like it or not; and those who refuse to participate in it, or think they can stop it with treaties and arms control agreements, will find they have chosen a losing strategy.

Tunnels Matter More Than Rockets to Hamas

The terror group wants to infiltrate Israel to grab hostages and


Michael B. Mukasey

July 20, 2014 6:13 p.m. ET

Early in the current clash between Hamas and Israel, much of the drama was in the air. The Palestinian terrorist group launched hundreds of rockets at Israel, and Israel responded by knocking down rockets in the sky with its Iron Dome defense system and by bombing the rocket-launch sites in Gaza. But the real story has been underground. Hamas’s tunnels into Israel are potentially much more dangerous than its random rocket barrages.

Israel started a ground offensive against Hamas in Gaza on Thursday, intending to destroy Hamas’s tunnel network. The challenge became obvious on Saturday when eight Palestinian fighters wearing Israeli military uniforms emerged from a tunnel 300 yards inside Israel and killed two Israeli soldiers in a firefight. One of the Palestinian fighters was killed before the others fled through the tunnel back to Gaza.

in 1529 Suleiman the Magnificent besieged Vienna. ( It had rained all spring and summer all across Europe, and the huge siege cannon that brought the Turks into Constantinople in 1453 could not be brought up to Vienna; Suleiman had to rely on mines – tunnels – to get into the city. The defenders were warned of the tunneling, and dug counter-mines. Soldiers sat deep underground with drums scattered over with dried peas, listening for disturbances indicating mining going on. Countermines intercepted Suleiman’s miners, and battles took place underground. Tons of gunpowder were taken by the Christian defenders from the Turkish miners.

One would think that the Israelis would have effective means of detecting incoming tunnels, but then I have always thought that Cal Tech ought to be called in to the border defense system: there are tunnels from Mexico into the United States. Surely there are technological means for detecting them? But so far we do not.

The daily new often reminds me of the need for a new textbook on Strategy of Technology. I would have thought someone would have written it by now, but it hasn’t happened so far. Today’s paper was an extreme example of that reminder.


Four Years of Dodd-Frank Damage

The financial law has restricted credit and let regulators create even more too-big-to-fail companies.


Peter J. Wallison

July 20, 2014 5:55 p.m. ET

When the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act took effect on July 21, 2010, it immediately caused a sharp partisan division. This staggeringly large legislation—2,300 pages—passed the House without a single Republican vote and received only three GOP votes in the Senate. Republicans saw the bill as ObamaCare for the financial system, a vast and unnecessary expansion of the regulatory state.

Four years later, Dodd-Frank’s pernicious effects have shown that the law’s critics were, if anything, too kind. Dodd-Frank has already overwhelmed the regulatory system, stifled the financial industry and impaired economic growth.

According to the law firm Davis, Polk & Wardell’s progress report, Dodd-Frank is severely taxing the regulatory agencies that are supposed to implement it. As of July 18, only 208 of the 398 regulations required by the act have been finalized, and more than 45% of congressional deadlines have been missed.

The effect on the economy has been worse. A 2013 Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas study showed that the GDP recovery from the recession that ended in 2009 has been the slowest on record, 11% below the average for recoveries since 1960.

For those interested in financial reforms, this is an important introduction into what must be done about Dodd-Frank. There are many other financial reforms needed.


Heinlein’s checklist

I guess I qualify as barely human; but, considering most human beings, that doesn’t bother me much.

I suspect Heinlein was counting his student experience at invasion planning; notice he says "plan an invasion," not "a successful invasion." I wonder what grade he got on that exercise.

On 7/20/2014 5:21 PM, Paul Anderson wrote:

"while in communist society, where nobody has one exclusive sphere of activity but each can become accomplished in any branch he wishes, society regulates the general production and thus makes it possible for me to do one thing today and another tomorrow, to hunt in the morning, to fish in the afternoon, rear cattle in the evening, criticize after dinner, just as I have in mind, without ever becoming hunter, fisherman, shepherd or critic. " – Das Kapital, part I, chapter 1; a shorter but clearly not comprehensive list.

I do wonder when he planned an invasion and of where; he retired as a Lieutenant in 1937. I’m not sure exercises at Annapolis count.

I have no idea when Mr. Heinlein might have been involved in planning an invasion; but remember that this is a quote from Lazarus Long, not his Author…

Heinlein said:

“A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, con a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.”

Let’s see now:

I have changed diapers, written sonnets, balanced accounts, built walls, taken orders, given orders, cooperated, acted alone, solved equations, analyzed new problems, programmed computers, and cooked tasty meals.

I have tried on occasion to comfort the dying, and to fight; but neither efficiently.

I have never planned an invasion, butchered a hog, conned a ship, designed a building, set a bone, or pitched manure. I have snuck indoors, killed mice, driven an RV, erected tents, reset passwords, and pitched leaf compost, but those don’t count. Nor have I died, gallantly or otherwise; but neither had Heinlein when he wrote this list.

So I stand at 12 to 2 to 7. The 2 and the 7 I mark down to lack of experience, and the (usually fortunate) lack of need to acquire such experience. So by Heinlein’s count, I stand as mostly human already, and trainable to full humanity if absolutely necessary.

A little birdie tells me that most people would do about as well as me. That same birdie tweets that Heinlein, when he wrote this checklist, had already passed 20 of his 21 tests. Therefore I retort to Heinlein:

A human being should be able to define humanity in self-serving terms. Objectivity is for others.


I am not entirely sure what that means, but it sure sounds good.


Several readers have told me of this:

18 Influential Voices in Literature on the Internet



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




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