Chaos Manor View, Sunday, June 07, 2015
Costco Hearing Aid Center is not open on weekends. I did some experiments: the amplifier on my right hand hearing aid is not broken, but the conducting tube which runs from it to my ear is damaged, so that much of the sound does not get through. That, I know, they can fix on the spot so I am going out there tomorrow to see what they can do. That will relive the time pressure; next I need to contemplate upgrading my hearing aids to Bluetooth with some TV capability; I will see what’s available, and at what cost, although cost is not all that big a factor when it comes to quality of life. I can hardly say I am saving my money for my old age…
Thanks to all of you who sent mail suggesting what’s available out there. I think the alternatives have increased in the something over a year that has gone by since I bought these. I may have to buy a new set.
I found that if I put the left ear hearing aid in the right ear – where it dangles from the ear like a high tech earring – I can hear pretty well, and if I put the right ear hearing aid in my left ear I hear with the left ear as well as I ever do. This means the problem is mechanical not electronic, and mechanical I think they can fix on the spot. So out to Burbank I go tomorrow to see if that’s good enough for the emergency. Alex will drive me, but this ups my determination to get back to driving myself. I have been practicing putting my walker away and getting it out when Roberta takes me places, and I can do that; it shouldn’t be a problem. I’ve already determined that I can use a shopping cart as a walker and that works just fine. I suspect I could walk with a cane now, but I don’t have the confidence. I may never have; it’s not my highest priority.
I can’t say my typing improves very fast, but it is improving a little. Not much. I still have to look at the keyboard and it’s one hand (left) sort of touch and two finger (right) and punching two or more keys at once every third or fourth word. Correcting a sentence takes at least as long as writing it. But every now and then when I am not thinking about it I get nearly a paragraph without mistakes. Maybe it’s progress. I remember having only one finger and a thumb, so there’s some progress.
Eric was over and we installed an update to Sigil, and the trial version of Scrivener for Windows. Scrivener is a way of life. I am going to learn it because we are revising and updating The Strategy of Technology by adding a new chapter on asymmetric warfare, incorporating some of the late Dr. Kane’s notes, and adding my own comments about how the principles worked during the Cold War – after all, the Soviet Union did collapse. Faster than we hoped and with a lot less bloodshed. The strategy of technology worked == and would you trust American engineers and technologists, or the State Department experts like April Glaspie (http://foreignpolicy.com/2011/01/09/wikileaks-april-glaspie-and-saddam-hussein/ and Bremer? You need not answer. Anyway sometime this summer there will be a somewhat revived Strategy of Technology, by Stefan Possony, Jerry Pournelle, and Francis X, Kane. Stefan and Duke Kane are dead; I need to get this out. It’s important. We’ll have an eBook and a PDF quality paper version.
Eric has also been working on Another Step Farther Out, assembled largely from my old Galaxy columns – still, alas, relevant – and some BYTE columns and other sources. And while I am at it I intend to use Scrivener to get control of the huge sprawling backlist of stuff from this page. Ambitious.
And all that in addition to the book with Niven and Barnes, LisaBetta with John DeChancie, and Mamelukes. Ambitious indeed.
Russia, containment, the Cold War, and the new Protracted Struggle
Dear Dr. Pournelle:
I find it hard to credit that you actually believe we could have somehow avoided eventual confrontation with Russia, post-Cold-War. You argue “…Containment was of course explicitly encirclement but we had no choice as the USSR was expansionist, But when the Cold War ended there was a chance of a reset…”
Really? Soviet policies were almost indistinguishable from historical Russian ones, at least in those areas adjacent to the Russian/Soviet Empire: nor has Russia ever not been expansionist–see, e.g. Richard Pipes’ many works on the subject.
The British Empire spent most of the 19th century containing Russia: indeed, the Charge of the Light Brigade was a direct consequence of that effort. In that conflict, the British found themselves allied with their erstwhile adversaries, the French, to prop up a thugocracy, the Ottoman Empire, whose “human rights record” as we would nowadays call it was vile, despicable.
Fast forward another sixty years, and the Brits are now aligned with the Russians against the Germans…and the Ottomans!…over what amounted to…who should be the dominant power in the Balkan Massif!
Russian expansionism is nothing new, and it was inexorable that, once the Cold War ended, we’d suddenly notice that all those old power-politics conflicts were still alive and kicking…they’d just been anesthetized by Soviet hegemony for fifty years.
Should we have avoided confrontation with the “new” Russia? Possibly. Apparently you’ve forgotten that George H.W. Bush gave a speech (infamously referred to as “Chicken Kiev”) in 1991, in which he urged the Ukrainians not to break up the new Confederation of Independent States or whatever it was called. So it’s not like we didn’t try our best.
But the Ukrainians made their break for the exits anyhow (and how could we have stopped them?), and…the Russians blamed us. What to do? Well, we did our best to stabilize things through the quadripartite agreement (along with the UK) under which the Ukes gave up their nukes (has a nice ring, don’t you think <g>?) in return for security guarantees from the West and a recognition of their borders–including Crimea–from Russia.
Well, we can all see how well that worked out. Maybe we’d have been better off if we’d stayed out of it and left the Ukes with their nukes? Hmmm…then again, maybe not?
So then, to this business of how all the problems we face are of our own device. Well, sure they are: we “created” Al Qaeda by using them in the effort to contain the USSR, which even you concede was necessary. And of course, we “created” the need for containment by not going home after WW2 and just letting the Russians “peacefully” take over the rest of post-war Europe–you know, the parts of it we hadn’t already told them they could keep?
If the OSS/CIA hadn’t covertly intervened in the immediate post-war French (1946) and Italian (1948) elections, there’s a good chance those elections would have resulted in Communist Party victories. And while it’s certainly possible those Communist Parties would have been somehow different than those in–say–Poland, or Hungary, or Czechoslovakia…what were the odds?
Now of course we weren’t going to take Poland away from the Russians, nor likely Hungary…but Czechoslovakia wasn’t occupied by the Russians: indeed, when the War ended, the only troops the Allies had on Czech soil were…Americans. But then, in 1948, the coup “happened” and…well, you know the rest.
So, sure…all the problems we have now, and all the problems we’ve had in the past, are in a sense of our own making. That’s Sevareid’s Law: “The chief cause of problems is solutions.” We don’t live in an ideal world: we don’t get to choose between good and bad, or at least not very often: it’s generally between bad and worse.
Nor do we have the benefit of hindsight when we make those choices: the fact that choices blow back on us is not a justification for saying that the choices were bad in the first place. To paraphrase our former Secretary of Defense, you don’t make decisions with the information you wish you had, you make them with the information you actually have. The oft-posed questions that start out “If you had known then what we know now…” are meaningless polemical exercises, more intended to show how clever the question-asker is than to actually shed any light.
Finally, regarding Saddam, Qaddafi, and no doubt Assad and others in the future. Senator Goldwater was once challenged as to how he could claim to oppose Soviet dictatorship in the name of freedom, yet allow and indeed encourage the U.S. to align itself with some of the world’s most repulsive dictators. His answer, which I took very much to heart, was that, in the supreme struggle for the world, any tool to hand was a useful one, and there’d be plenty of time to go around and clean up our smelly little dictators afterwards.
Well, I regard this as “afterwards”: the bill is due, and we must pay it, or be revealed as self-servers who only care about freedom for Americans, or possibly a few Europeans and other American allies too. I for one have zero regrets about taking down Saddam or Qaddafi: I’d do it again, even with the benefit of hindsight. The fact that there is chaos in those countries is lamentable, but it’s not “our fault”, any more than the chaos that we had in this country, post-Revolutionary War, was anyone’s “fault”.
We could have kept stability in Iraq by leaving a larger force in place and reigning in the Shiite-dominated government: we could have established stability in Libya by taking a more proactive role there. If there is anything that is “our fault”, it’s a lack of follow-through. As I’ve observed many times before, to you and others, we still have forces in Germany and Japan, nearly three-quarters of a century after the bullets stopped flying.
You need to come to grips with the new reality, which is that we are in a new Protracted Struggle, with an enemy that is perhaps less obviously powerful than the Soviet Union, but whose relative strength is far greater, if for no other reason that this country’s–and the West’s more generally–elites have lost faith in their own virtues.
So if those like you who at least have some love for Western values–frankly, civilizational values–aren’t willing to step up, then I fear that the next generation is condemned–to quote a great man–“…to taking the last step into a thousand years of darkness.”
David G.D. Hecht
If you believe Putin’s Russia has the same ambitions as the Soviet Union, I simply do not agree. Putin wants Russians, Russian speaking Slavs, Slavic people, in that order. He has no desire to rule Muslims or Chinese. He wants an assured Russia. Yes, that is much the same as the Imperial goal; why would it not be? But it is territorial disputes in Europe, and not our job. He is not trying to conquer the world; he is afraid the world wants to conquer him, and as a Russian patriot he seeks security in breaking the ring that surrounds him.
As to removing world tyrants, we used to do that; but when Venezuela’s army cast out Chavez, and Haiti got rid of the mad ex-priest, The United States of America restored them; and we chose a side in the Balkan upheaval that was not only anti-Slavic but was soon dominated by ethnic units every bit as committed to ethnic cleansing as any Serb.
We are not much use as world governors. Our success in Germany (our part) and Japan was largely due to the competence of our proconsuls, and MacArthur failed in Korea because we lack commitment and resources. Fortunately South Korea evolved it’s own stable form of government; but then Koreans can be intelligent. The North shows what could have happened. And look at how long Japan has been since the end of the occupation; better than the old Imperial Japan no doubt. How would you improve it and why would you try?
John Quincy Adams remains relevant. The speech is long and seldom read; it ought to be read to every employee at State every year. http://www.theamericanconservative.com/repository/she-goes-not-abroad-in-search-of-monsters-to-destroy/
“Wherever the standard of freedom and independence has been or shall be unfurled, there will her heart, her benedictions and her prayers be. But she goes not abroad in search of monsters to destroy. She is the well-wisher to the freedom and independence of all. She is the champion and vindicator only of her own. She will recommend the general cause, by the countenance of her voice, and the benignant sympathy of her example.
She well knows that by once enlisting under other banners than her own, were they even the banners of foreign independence, she would involve herself, beyond the power of extrication, in all the wars of interest and intrigue, of individual avarice, envy, and ambition, which assume the colors and usurp the standard of freedom. The fundamental maxims of her policy would insensibly change from liberty to force. The frontlet upon her brows would no longer beam with the ineffable splendor of freedom and independence; but in its stead would soon be substituted an imperial diadem, flashing in false and tarnished lustre the murky radiance of dominion and power. She might become the dictatress of the world: she would be no longer the ruler of her own spirit.
It cannot be said much better than this. Or do you seriously believe Iraq is better ruled today than under Saddam?
This Time For Sure
The Prophets of Global Warming destroyed their baseline data to prevent it from being seen by skeptics.
SCIENTISTS would have been pushing the data on anyone who would slow down enough to catch up to, to force them to see that what they were saying was true.
However, we’re talking about religion here, so when they knew they couldn’t actually hit the target, they shot their arrows at a blank wall then painted the target around them.
See The Voodoo Sciences http://www.jerrypournelle.com/science/voodoo.html where I discuss the obligations of novelists (be plausible), lawyers (present your own side), and scientists.
In all the hoopla over whether or not the ‘Temperature of the Earth’ (whatever that is—always undefined) has trended slightly upward, slightly downward, or has been trendless over the last couple of decades what seems to get glossed over is the REAL threat of global warming: that any upward trend, for any period, no matter how the ‘data’ was tortured to obtain it or how slight its slope, is ALWAYS presented as proof positive of THREE things:
a. That the rising temperature was caused by Anthropogenic CO2 (ACO2) AND b. That the rising temperature poses an existential threat to the biosphere that can ONLY be mitigated by
c. Governments worldwide taking immediate action to tax and/or regulate EVERY human activity that produces a ‘carbon signature’. The size of the carbon signature, the amount of the tax, and the complexity of the regulations to be determined by those self-same governments. Which will also be creating the bureaucracy necessary to collect the taxes, draft the regulations, monitor compliance, and determine the penalties for any infractions.
You will also note that the demands for action are NEVER accompanied by evidence that the actions being demanded will have ANY measurable effect on the Climate of the Earth (Does the Earth, as a whole, HAVE a quantifiable climate?) OR that the the effects, if any, will be benign.
Climate Change does indeed pose an existential threat to civilization. Not because of any (so far) undetectable consequences-except for a noticeable ‘greening’ of the earth and enhanced plant growth-of producing CO2 as a byproduct of supplying the energy REQUIRED to maintain our civilization, but because of the political actions being taken citing ‘Fighting Climate Change’ as justification.
Mostly they seem determined to prove their models are worth the $billions already spent although they don’t predict much; but Real Soon Now.
Freedom is not free. Free men are not equal. Equal men are not free.