Deterrence and Defense; Space Access Conference; and other matters

Chaos Manor View, Friday, April 1, 2016

“This is the most transparent administration in history.”

Barrack Obama

Liberalism is a philosophy of consolation for Western Civilization as it commits suicide.

Under Capitalism, the rich become powerful. Under Socialism, the powerful become rich.

Under Socialism, government employees become powerful.


Today’s Wall Street Journal, in its panic over Trump, raises an issue of general interest which should be of importance to all candidates: nuclear proliferation, and thus deterrence.

In an interview that has a great resemblance to a “gotcha” interview, CNN’s Anderson Cooper asked what he thought about Japan and South Korea having a new interest in acquiring their own nuclear weapons. It is clearly an issue Trump has not thought much about, as have very few of us. US policy has always been that the fewer nuclear weapons, the better, and the fewer countries that have them, the better.

This has long ceased to be an issue over which we have complete control and it can be argued that we have already lost it. We haven’t done much to ensure it for years.

Obama’s agreements with Iran practically assure that Iran will go nuclear; the agreement may have bought some time before they get them, but it certainly does not prevent a determined Iran from acquiring a nuclear fission capability; and the transition from fission to fusion – A-bomb to H-bomb – is inevitable. India and Pakistan have already got nukes, and the possibility of the Taliban acquiring one or more by theft or conquest is certainly not zero. North Korea has nukes, and may well be welling to sell them to enemies of the US – either to states like ISIS, or to Non-Government Organizations. I leave it as an exercise for the reader to determine whether the Taliban is a once and future state, or an NGO; and I suppose that it could be disputed that ISIS is actually an NGO pretending to be a state, or, as it proclaims itself, a state whose ambition is to bring the entire world into the House of Islam. The point is that it may have the desire and the means of acquiring nuclear weapons by purchase. The Taliban has the option of attempting to acquire them by stealth or conquest.

Moreover, Japan and South Korea can’t help noticing that although the United States has them under our Nuclear Umbrella, that umbrella is beginning to wear. The Republic of China – which we now call Taiwan – has had every possible assurance of a US guarantee, but no US Administration can commit a future majority in Congress, or a President, or both; and as conditions change, a change in policy becomes more and more likely. Would the United States bomb The People’s Republic of China because the Chinese People’s Army occupied offshore islands belonging to Taiwan? There is certainly for more doubt in 2016 under Barrack Hussein Obama than there was in 1961 under John Fitzgerald Kennedy. We can be sure that Japan and North Korea have also made this observation. Taiwan certainly has. Trust in the United States may be better than attempting to acquire your own Mutual Assured Destruction – MAD – policy, but the temptation is always there. Why would the United States risk the obliteration of Seattle or San Francisco because another country is invaded? Might there be a timid administration? Would it be better to have a Mutual Destruction capability? Those questions may have an obvious answer at one time, but times change.

Of course a safe second strike deterrent will be expensive. In the early days of the nuclear era, the atomic weapons carrying bombers were moved often, and other such precautions were taken. Then we developed the Triad: aircraft on the runways, submarines on cruise, and land based missiles. The submarine based missiles were not accurate enough for war fighting: they were city busters, pure deterrent. With GPS, much better gyroscopes an accelerometers, and computers that is no longer true, but there are not a lot of them to actually fight a war; they are still more a threat to populations than to an enemy’s nuclear forces.

A nuclear umbrella is even more expensive.

Of course there is defense as well as deterrence; I have some experience in developing “Star Wars”, Ted Kennedy’s derisive phrase for the Strategic Defense Initiative proposed by Reagan. President Reagan did a lot of work on his own speeches. I was chairman of a group which wrote about the technology and policy that informed that Reagan speech. (It met at Larry Niven’s Tarzana house five times from late fall, 1980, until 1984. Our papers went directly to the President.)

We are not doing as much as we could to develop and deploy strategic defenses. Without that development and deployment we cannot insure against small nuclear attacks on the United States. Even with the best strategic defenses we cannot be sure of protecting our cities against a major power; in a nuclear world, that requires deterrence. Deterrence is not easy, nor is it cheap. Among other costs are the dedicated young men and women sitting in silos. They can study and learn, but they cannot gain experience in the field; they will probably be useful academics, but they are not getting experience in command, and they are not advancing their careers. How could they be? They give their most productive years, and if they do their job well, nothing happens; yet our lives depend on them.

And every extension of our nuclear umbrella may put their lives – and ours – in more danger.

In other words, nuclear protection is a complex subject; I doubt if any of the candidates of either party has thought much about the subject. Thinking about the unthinkable is not pleasant, even if must be done; and few do it. I am not astonished that Mr. Trump has not spent much time at it. Neither have his opponents.

Asked by CNN’s Anderson Cooper earlier this week whether he favored Japan and South Korea developing nuclear weapons of their own, the Republican front-runner said he wouldn’t mind if they did, and that it’s probably only a matter of time before they did so anyway.

“At some point we have to say—you know what?—we’re better off if Japan protects itself against this maniac in North Korea, we’re better off, frankly, if South Korea is going to start to protect itself,” he said. Pressed by Mr. Cooper whether there wasn’t a benefit to the U.S. in providing (nuclear-backed) security guarantees to our allies in Asia or Europe, Mr. Trump acknowledged “there’s a benefit, but not big enough to bankrupt and destroy the United States, because that’s what’s happening.”

This is not a bad answer for someone who has not thought much about the problem, and has little data not in the newspapers, and not much to go on other than what the President is doing. It may be the incorrect answer, but it takes a great deal of discussion to specify why. Extending the US nuclear umbrella – with defense backed up by deterrence or with deterrence alone – is complex and expensive, and talking about it as if you were in a sophomore class in International Security (as I once taught) is going to produce answers a lot more absurd than Trump’s first cut.

Mr. Trump is not an expert in International Security. Few are, and they don’t all agree, meaning that the expertise of at least some of them must be flawed. What we need in a President is someone we are pretty sure is on our side.

I do not have that confidence in the present administration.

More on the technicalities of deterrence and defense another time. Obviously, defense has the higher moral position; it is also more difficult.


Nuclear Iran

Jerry, some years back, I described a scenario.

This was shortly after it was revealed that Iran USED TO have a nuclear weapons development program, but wasn’t working on it any more.

I invite you to recall that, despite all the rhetoric in the world, despite all the sanctions, despite EVERYTHING, Iran has NEVER slowed their centrifuges or reduced their enrichment program.

I further invite you to recall that they went all-out pedal-to-the-metal to conceal a development facility until the very last minute, when it was about to be revealed to the world by Somebody Else, as PROOF that they were cheating.

I suggested, to a friend of mine with some connections, that what had happened was that Iran had completed ALL of the engineering material development for a Device, right out to development of the CNC machine programs, including proving them out and doing form and fit test assemblies, using parts machined from inert material (U-238).  They’d shelved the project because, at that point, ALL that remained to be done was acquiring a sufficient quantity of highly-enriched uranium, at which time they could machine the critical parts.

If my suspicion is correct, and I’d *REALLY* rather be wrong, then the current deal didn’t do DIDDLY to retard Iran’s schedule for joining the nuclear club.  It just freed up a lot of money for them to make more mischief.



I don’t disagree, but I have no evidence not available to the public. It is inevitable that Iran will get nukes (if they don’t already have some bought from North Korea); slowing or stopping them requires an act of war, well above my pay grade. We are not doing all we should to bolster either deterrence or defense; apparently we intend to use diplomatic means.




If you’re interested in the space program, this is a great way to find out a lot about what’s going on. I won’t be there because I committed to another event earlier, but I would be if I could. You’ll meet a lot of people who know a lot about space science, commerce, and politics.

Space Access ’16 – next week! – three days focused on the technology, business, and politics of radically cheaper space transportation.

Thursday afternoon April 7th through Saturday night April 9th in warm springtime Phoenix, in an intensive informal atmosphere, single-track throughout so you don’t have to miss anything.

Organizations like Agile Aero, DARPA, Lasermotive, Masten Space Systems, Nanoracks, Spaceport America, United Launch Alliance, XCOR Aerospace.

People like Mitchell Burnside Clapp, Jeff Greason, Gary Hudson, Jordin Kare, Dave Masten, Rand Simberg, and Henry Spencer in a variety of presentations and panels.

Progress reports ranging from major government & industry programs through university student & high-end amateur rocket hardware projects.

Plus this year, now that a thriving low-cost space transportation industry is near, a focus on What’s Needed for The Next Thirty Years?

SA’16 is just days away – make your plans NOW. Everything you need to know to be there, at


The Clinton Investigation Enters a Dangerous Phase.



Roland Dobbins


I think it’s too late to pull back the NAFTA jobs. Especially in China.

China has developed some kind of economy for it’s 1.5 Billion people. The net result is a more peaceful cooperative global environment.

Unfortunately, the net result has been a decline in the U.S. economy.

But, pulling jobs back would disrupt a pretty fragile global economic situation…..

I’m not sure if my Canadian friends are happy with the NAFTA agreement. It’s pretty clear that they are basically dependent and incorporated in the U.S. economy at this point.

The idea of a North American Trade Partnership Agreement seems on the surface to be a pretty good idea. Especially in the energy sector. Boone Pickens has been calling for a North America Energy Alliance. I think this is sound thinking because Mexico is apparently considering selling directly to China for Yuan. (Renminbi Currency)

The volatile price of oil and gas has a negative impact on the Global Economy.

Stability is vital in this sector. That’s why I have come to the conclusion there are two things that you do not tamper with in a new Presidential Administration;

1. The energy sector. Unless you are going to consolidate North America to counter balance the OPEC consortium.

2. The Federal Reserve. I hate to say it but, I have to agree with Chomsky on the  Federal Reserve. Auditing the FED or even talking about auditing the Fed is not in anybody’s best interest. When the FED Chair even speaks, it impacts the markets.

    Just the other day, Janet Yellin gave a speech and the market bounced up.

    I didn’t see it, but assume she said there would be no increase in rates.

The FED is sitting on a very precarious Global Economic situation. Coordination between all the Central Banks globally, is probably a good thing for world peace. There should always be constructive conversation with the BRIC’s Central Banks. (BRIC = Brazil, Russia, India, China)

It’s always important to keep in mind this statement;

“Merchants have no country. The mere spot they stand on does not constitute so strong an attachment as that from which they draw their gains.” –Thomas Jefferson


NeuroComputer to Shepherd Nukes (EE Times)

IBM brain-like chips now working for LLNL

R. Colin Johnson

3/31/2016 10:48 AM EDT

LAKE WALES Fla.—IBM’s brain-like supercomputer chips—dubbed its TrueNorth neurocomputer—have been installed at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) to explore new ways to ensure the cyber-security and the stewardship of the U.S. nuclear arsenal. Sounding eerily like a prelude to Skynet “waking up” in charge of our nukes, IBM and LLNL assure us that its TrueNorth neurocomputer use with our “nation’s nuclear deterrent” does not mean being in charge of the launch codes, but rather being used for simulating the deterioration of our aging nuclear arsenal—currently the most difficult problem for supercomputers to solve worldwide.

“LLNL will use the new system to explore new computing capabilities important to the National Nuclear Security Administration’s (NNSA) missions in cyber security, stewardship of the nation’s nuclear deterrent and non-proliferation,” Dharmendra Modha, IBM fellow and chief scientist for brain-inspired computing, IBM Research-Almaden (San Jose, Calif.) told EE Times. “NNSA’s Advanced Simulation and Computing (ASC) program will evaluate machine learning applications, deep learning algorithms and architectures plus conduct general computing feasibility studies. ASC is a cornerstone of NNSA’s Stockpile Stewardship Program to ensure the safety, security and reliability of the nation’s nuclear deterrent without underground testing.”

Besides packing more supercomputing punch into a smaller space (see photos compared to a single server rack) the TrueNorth neuromorphic computer consumes the smallest fraction possible of the a supercomputer—just two-watts.

[Learn to implement crypto-security on bare-metal ARM Cortex-M processors at ESC Boston]

“The 16-chip neuromorphic system represents 50 times the computing power of today’s computers,” Modha told us. And consumes just “1/10th the power of a dim lightbulb.”

The nuclear arsenal stewardship program using TrueNorth’s neuromorphic power, started long before the current announcement. IBM had already collaborated on simulating the TrueNorth 16-chip set on LLNL’s Sequoia supercomputer based on the Power architecture. With the knowledge derived from that program IBM was able to create a suite of support software that converts traditional computing goals into brain-line neuromorphic commands.

“IBM researchers collaborated with LLNL to develop a pilot project that simulated the power of the 16-chip IBM Neuromorphic System,” Mocha told us. “Based on that pilot, IBM Research subsequently developed the ecosystem of support software to help LLNL computer scientists easily access the [neuromorphic] supercomputer’s functionality.”

TrueNorth—the semiconductor—is a culmination of IBM’s long-road quest to create not just cognitive computing simulations like Watson running on traditional computers, but to harness the latest neural science insight into how the brain works better—and consumes far less power—than the fastest digital supercomputers in the world. Using brain-inspired machine learning on TrueNorth cores, has enabled IBM to pass a major milestone in cognitive computing—with more to come as more-and-more is understood about how the real human brain works.

According to IBM, neuromorphic supercomputers will be the shortest path to the goal of exascale computing while simultaneously making that power accessible to the masses by virtue of its tiny-size,-cost and -power envelop compared to planned exascale digital supercomputers. By depending on deep learning supported by hardware that emulates 16 million neurons and 4 billion synapses while consuming less power than a small tablet, IBM is pinning its hopes on TrueNorth performing pattern recognition, sensory fusion and other cognitive tasks better than any other know architectures—from massive multicores, to synchronized co-processors to massive arrays of graphic-processing units (GPUs).

The True-North architecture is expandable by configuring multiple 4-by-4 arrays into larger configurations using arrays of arrays, resulting in supercomputers two orders of magnitude faster than today’s fastest petaflop supercomputers, and aspiring to exascale neuro-synaptic systems at a fraction of the volume and power.

A single TrueNorth processor consists of 5.4 billion transistors wired together to create an array of 1 million digital neurons 256 million synapses to communicate and store learned knowledge. At 0.8 volts, it consumes just 70 milliwatts per chip running in real time and delivers 46 billion synaptic operations per second—hundreds of times lower energy than conventional digit simulations of neural networks.

Beside the 16-chip TrueNorth hardware, its programming environment mimics the brain’s abilities for perception, action and cognition. In conventional terms, that consists of a simulator, a programming language, a library of common algorithms as well as prepackaged applications, firmware and tools for configuring neural networks for deep learning.

TrueNorth was originally funder by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s (DARPA) Systems and its Neuromorphic Adaptive Plastic Scalable Electronics (SyNAPSE) program in collaboration with Cornell University.

— R. Colin Johnson, Advanced Technology Editor, EE Times


“When I realized that people believe what the Internet says more than reality, I discovered that I had the power to make people believe almost anything.”



Roland Dobbins


I include this message I have received without comment:


Fred on Everything Trump…

Subj: It Cometh from the Pit:And Hath a Knout


I’m utterly shocked by the source of this fine article which defines the historical spring from which ISIS has (er) sprung. The article admits that we had nothing to do with it. Yes, we did help some of the al Qaeda people at some points in time; but, we had no more influence over their ideology than any rock you might pluck from the deserts that spawned them.

I’m shocked Huffington Post (not HuffPo in this instance) posted it as it flies into the apparent ideological biases at “HuffPo”.

You Can’t Understand ISIS If You Don’t Know the History of Wahhabism in Saudi Arabia

This is highly recommended reading. And it will give you an acute idea of just how difficult winning this 14 century long war with literalist Islam will be for us. It’s probably a war that will never end within the life time of even those newly born today. But it is a war that is absolutely worth winning. It is a war of goodness, grace, love, and live against unspeakable evil, death, and destruction. It is a war against an ideology that amounts to humanity’s suicide pact with itself, a war which cannot end until no two people can reach each other to fight to the death.


The war is inevitable, but we have the weapons of mass destruction of culture: rock music, iPhones and iPads, blue jeans, etc.  I fear we must use them.









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




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