Farewell to the Bard of Man in Space; Can Republicans Rule; More on Education


Friday, July 21, 2017

Shuttle accomplished much. And she was all we had. And yes, I loved seeing her fly, and I can’t listen to ‘Fly Columbia’ without a tear. And if that doesn’t get to you, and you can hear Fire in the Sky without emotion, then – well. It’s not my place to insult my readers.


Dr. Jordin Kare, The Bard of Man in Space.  RIP

He was never as famous as he should have been, but he was instrumental in keeping the dream alive after the the Apollo program ended as anyone, and he inspired interest in the Shuttle when it was all we had.

He also kept alive the concept of laser propulsion, including launch to orbit but ground based lasers, long after Arky Kantrowitz pretty well despaired of it’s acceptance in his lifetime. He did serious work for the space program; but he will be longer remembered for his songs.

From September, 2010:

I make no secret of having mixed emotions about the Shuttle. The design was wrong and the design criteria included requiring the services of the large standing army of development scientists who had made Apollo possible. Had I stayed in the aerospace industry, say in Operations Research at North American Rockwell – I would doubtless have benefitted from Shuttle. And in 1980, when we were preparing the transition team papers for the incoming Reagan Administration, the Administrator of NASA came to Larry Niven’s house to plead the case for continuing Shuttle on the grounds that it might be flawed, but it was all we had. (It had not yet flown an orbital mission.)

And it was all we had for manned space flight, and it was possible that it could evolve into a truly reusable space ship. It didn’t. From the first Shuttle required operation of the Shuttle main engines at more than 100% of their design rated thrust, and that meant that after each flight they had to be reconstructed. Shuttle was a rebuildable spacecraft, but it was not reusable in the usual operational sense – refuel it and fly again. And over time we found that the Shuttle annual budget was independent of the number of flights. Shuttle ate much of the dream of manned space flight.

Worse, NASA Houston and the standing army insisted on keeping the low pressure pure oxygen space suit system rather than developing the NASA Ames higher pressure air suit. This compromised all the Shuttle EVA missions since it required pure oxygen prebreathing, meaning that the pressure in the Shuttle on missions in which an EVA was planned had to be at low pressure pure oxygen; and that in turn meant that the number of molecules of cooling ‘air’ would be low, meaning that many of the electronics in Shuttle had to be shut down until after the last EVA.

There were other flaws. And yet: Shuttle accomplished much. And she was all we had. And yes, I loved seeing her fly, and I can’t listen to ‘Fly Columbia’ without a tear. And if that doesn’t get to you, and you can hear Fire in the Sky without emotion, then – well. It’s not my place to insult my readers.

A long time ago Larry Niven pointed out to Carl Sagan that every time Carl and his people won the argument that robots would do, and we did not need a manned space program, he lost more support for space. The American people were willing to pay to send humans to space. They were not so concerned with taxing themselves to send robots and only robots. Exploring the universe has a purpose, and part of that purpose is to find new resources, and new habitats, for humanity. As Tsiolkovsky said long ago, the Earth is too small and fragile a basket for the human race to keep all its eggs in. And as I said long ago in A Step Farther Out,  90% of the resources easily available to the human race are not on the Earth at all. Even inefficient space exploration has a high potential payoff.

It may be that I am part of an irrelevant and bygone era, but if so, then so are you all. Arthur Clarke said it well: if the human race is to survive, than for most of its history the word ‘ship’ will mean ‘space ship.’ If we do not go to space, all of humanity will one day be part of an irrelevant and bygone era.

I used to see Jordin at conventions, and made a point of finding him. It was always worth doing. We were never close friends, but he was a good friend. Farewell to the Bard of Man in Space.


A Step Farther Out



I don’t like to say it because it sounds like despair, but it’s becoming more obvious that Republicans can’t rule; at least these Republicans can’t. Having passed bills to repeal Obamacare back when they knew President Obama would veto them, they can’t do it now that they have a President who would sign it. The only remedy here is to do it: send the bills through, and record the votes. Then we’d have an idea of who not to invite back to any party function, fund raising event, or even barbeque or baby kissing; let them caucus with the Democrats if they like. And raise their own money.

Yes, I suppose I don’t mean all of that, but Obamacare? The very notion that I am responsible for everyone’s medical problems has not been debated openly; and there has been no real debate on the utter unconstitutionality of a national entitlement to health care. No State dared try it; not the richest, nor the poorest.

Federal aid to education worked so well, didn’t it? It converted a fairly decent system of education in many states that scaled down to something awful in a few – converted that to something near awful in all. That’s improvement? And we move further down the path.

The only way that sending the tax collector (followed by the hangman for those who refuse) to finance education is justified is the theory that education is a good investment: educated students make better citizens who cost less to govern, and some will go on to create jobs and find other ways to enrich us all. It may even be true – if done right. It’s demonstrably not true now. Now the schools exist to make sure that anyone who gets “credentials” will never have to work a day after a few years working in a state educational institution. This does not seem like a good investment to me.

Los Angeles pays over $8,000 a year per student to each school. If they were to offer me $8,000 a year to educate 100 10th grade students, paying me only for those who demonstrated previously agreed to standards of progress and otherwise leaving it to me to hire a hall and assistants to do the teaching, do you think I’d do well? I do. I’d be arguing to add a grade a year to my school, and profiting every year. And if I couldn’t do it, the kids would damn well still have got a better education than what I saw last time I visited a classroom.

John Stuart Mill argued in On Liberty:

Were the duty of enforcing universal education once admitted, there would be an end to the difficulties about what the State should teach, and how it should teach, which now convert the subject into a mere battle-field for sects and parties, causing the time and labour which should have been spent in educating, to be wasted in quarrelling about education. If the government would make up its mind to require for every child a good education, it might save itself the trouble of providing one. It might leave to parents to obtain the education where and how they pleased, and content itself with helping to pay the school fees of the poorer classes of children, and defraying the entire school expenses of those who have no one else to pay for them. The objections which are urged with reason against State education, do not apply to the enforcement of education by the State, but to the State’s taking upon itself to direct that education: which is a totally different thing. That the whole or any large part of the education of the people should be in State hands, I go as far as any one in deprecating.

Of course we’ve forgotten all that. If we ever thought about it. The purpose of today’s public education is to see that all teachers’ union members are paid until they die.



And in a lighter vein:

SUBJ: Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.

Apropos of nothing – this is just too damn good not to pass along.

“Man hurt after blasting wheel with shotgun”

“Stupid is as stupid does.” – Forrest Gump

Yeah I know this guy is a poster child for natural selection.

But. . .

How many (of us!) can TRULY say we have NEVER, EVER been SORELY tempted to shoot a piece of recalcitrant hardware?

I suspect most (of us!) have never heeded such temptation. But I will confess, when I was younger and my passions were yet unmellowed by a couple score of years . . . I was DAMNED close a time or two.

Don’t look so smug.




(Waaaaay) back when Johnny Carson was still hosting The Tonight Show, I recall a guest he had one evening. The guy had finally gotten fed up with the coke machine in his gas station stealing people’s money. He drew his pistol and shot the machine.

(Suddenly Keenan Wynn’s famous deadpan line from _Dr. Strangelove_ springs to mind, to wit: “You’re gonna have to answer to the Coca-Cola Company.” But I digress.)

Carson interviewed the guy in a light-hearted fashion and give him an award for “The Best Use Of A Slug In A Vending Machine.”

The audience cheered uproariously.

I opine that in the heart of every member of a technologically-advanced society lurks a tiny little Luddite spirit thirsting for revenge.



But perhaps that is more true than you think.


The end of the internet startup

We haven’t had a major new technology company in more than 10 years.

Updated by Timothy B. Jul 11, 2017, 10:00am EDT

Silicon Valley is supposed to be a place where a couple of guys in a garage or a dorm room can start companies that change the world. It happened with Apple and Microsoft in the 1970s, AOL in the 1980s, Amazon, Yahoo, and Google in the 1990s, and Facebook in the 2000s.

But the 2010s seem to be suffering from a startup drought. People are still starting startups, of course. But the last really big tech startup success, Facebook, is 13 years old.

Until last year, Uber seemed destined to be Silicon Valley’s newest technology giant. But now Uber’s CEO has resigned in disgrace and the company’s future is in doubt. Other technology companies launched in the past 10 years don’t seem to be in the same league. Airbnb, the most valuable American tech startup after Uber, is worth $31 billion, about 7 percent of Facebook’s value. Others — like Snap, Square, and Slack — are worth much less.

So what’s going on? On a recent trip to Silicon Valley, I posed that question to several technology executives and startup investors.

“When I look at like Google and Amazon in the 1990s, I kind of feel like it’s Columbus and Vasco da Gama sailing out of Portugal the first time,” said Jay Zaveri, an investor at the Silicon Valley firm Social Capital.

The early internet pioneers grabbed the “low-hanging fruit,” Zaveri suggested, occupying lucrative niches like search, social networks, and e-commerce. By the time latecomers like Pinterest and Blue Apron came along, the pickings had gotten slimmer.

But others told me there was more to the story than that. Today’s technology giants have become a lot more savvy about anticipating and preempting threats to their dominance. They’ve done this by aggressively expanding into new markets and by acquiring potential rivals when they’re still relatively small. And, some critics say, they’ve gotten better at controlling and locking down key parts of the internet’s infrastructure, closing off paths that early internet companies used to reach a mass market.

As a result, an industry that used to be famous for its churn is starting to look like a conventional oligopoly — dominated by a handful of big companies whose perch atop the industry looks increasingly secure. [snip]

It didn’t take the Deep State to get control. As Adam Smith said. Whenever two capitalists get together, they conspire to keep newcomers out of their business. One way is to get government to impose regulations which add greatly to startup expenses


All Men Are Created Equal

I have never in my life read or heard the phrase “all men are created equal” to mean that all people are equal in all of their abilities. It was evident to me as a five year old in first grade that not all of the children or adults were of equal ability. I have always understood the phrase to mean that all people are born with the same basic prerequisite of life, the need for sustenance, which implies the need for nourishment, shelter, and security in one’s self. This prerequisite is there no matter how dull or brilliant, no matter how physically incapable or capable a person is.
The need for sustenance implies the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. That is, that to lead a rational life, one must be free to obtain their sustenance, secure in the knowledge that the fruits of their efforts will not be summarily seized by another, and that their efforts will not be arbitrarily impeded by another. The whole edifice of Western law unfolds from this first principle.
There is the implication that the law should neither penalize on person’s efforts nor favor those of another. There is the implication that one must be judged for one’s actions, not one’s appearance or beliefs. In short, there is the implication that all persons are equal UNDER THE LAW. But, nowhere is there the implication that all persons are equal in their abilities.
To attempt to create a society in which all persons are equal in their abilities is to contravene the principle that all persons are equal under the law. You must use the law to impede the efforts those who are able and favor the efforts of those who are not. Such a system is not even communism, where the efforts of the able are not impeded, but their fruits are seized for the not able. Such a system will not let the able produce at all. This is the society that the far left would impose on the West.


If anything in nature is self-evident, it is that all men are not created equal. When I was young I said openly – even in my days of flirtation with communism – that 90% of humanity were dependent on the other10% to keep them out of utter poverty. Probably I was wrong. But men are not created equal.

That does not mean they are not human.


A long dialog and other discussion of Global Warming from 2010:

And more, including some lengthy words on education:

Actually more rational than most discussions are now.


Globalize the Presidency:
A Modest Proposal

We now have proof, from Trump Jr. himself, that he and friends tried to outsource oppo research to foreign spies. How very globalist.
In normal times this would earn condemnation even from his party. But these are not normal times. I therefore predict that the Republicans will normalize this abnormality. So of course one calls on foreigners to meddle in elections!
I am reminded of some incidents from Ancient Greek history, where a citizen of a city-state is exiled, but returns at the head of an army from another city-state. That’s treason, of course, but sometimes it worked.
Why did Russia meddle with the Presidential election? Because that office has global reach. It’s only reasonable for other nations to want a say in the American Presidency; it has an effect on them.
So here’s a modest proposal: make this official. Globalize the Presidency. Let citizens of other nations lobby and fund and campaign openly. Perhaps let them vote, at, say, 1/100 of a vote each. More if they pay off our debts.
– paradoctor

If the idea is to get our debts paid, isn’t there a more easily accomplished way? Levying tribute on others is a long and well established procedure. Today it’s the have nots levying tribute on the haves (only the State is pleased to do it fir them; the State is always pleased to do it for them). The Constitution was intended to prevent that, and did so for a while. It’s remarkable: those who possess the best arms are deferential to those who march and swagger and set fires, then run away. It will be interesting to see how long that lasts; and then to see just whom the army will obey.

To the victor belong the spoils. The strong do as they will, and the weak suffer what they must. Sometimes the strong forget that, and act as if they were the weak.


Current Status of Space Law and Private Property

Hello Dr. Pournelle,
I grew up reading your books, which helped to nurture my interest in space. My aptitudes were not the best fit for a STEM career, but I have pursued the study of law as it relates to space. I will probably be pursuing related doctoral work in the fall, and as an LL.M. student got to successfully represent North America in an academic competition on the subject before an ICJ panel in Jerusalem back in 2015.
Linked is an article I’ve written defending the 2015 U.S. law declaring private ownership of extracted space resources legal. Whatever percentage of your audience which is willing to pay the exorbitant paywall fee might be interested:
I’ve co-authored another, shorter, article on the same topic with a lawyer for a new space company–it can be requested here or from me–but I don’t think I have a direct link for it as of yet.
Ian Perry
University of Mississippi School of Law, 2013 (J.D.), 2015 (LL.M.)

At least for the next 500 years we are unlikely to encounter any space resources owned by aborigines. That does not stop someone from claiming them as “the common heritage” or some such. In the current climate those claims may prevail. You go find it, taking all the risks and paying the price. I’ll be happy to share it with you.

Thanks for the kind words.


In case you missed this:

George Mosse Lectures On-line

Dr. Pournelle:
I expect you will be glad to know that the University of Wisconsin has four series of lectures recorded by Dr. Mosse — a total of 122 lectures recorded between 1969 and 1982 — in mp3 format, available for free download at:
Best prayers and wishes for you and Mrs. Pournelle.

Mosse was the best lecturer on Western Civilization I have ever heard. I wish those had been available when my boys were growing up.



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




Nothing Burgers; Sowing the Wind; Strange News from Arecibo; Are rights alienable?


Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Being intelligent is not a felony. But most societies evaluate it as at least a misdemeanor.

-Robert A. Heinlein

The fact that in normal life and in psychiatry, anyone who “consistently and persistently insists” on anything else contrary to physical reality is considered either confused or delusional is conveniently ignored.

Michelle Cretella, M.D.

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

James Burnham

I have never said that human society ought to be aristocratic, but a great deal more than that. What I have said, and still believe with ever-increasing conviction, is that human society is always, whether it will or no, aristocratic by its very essence, to the extreme that it is a society in the measure that it is aristocratic, and ceases to be such when it ceases to be aristocratic. Of course I am speaking now of society and not of the State.

Jose Ortega y Gasset, The Revolt of the Masses


Trump, Jr., is learning the hard way that it’s not the event that’s poison, it’s the cover-up. The meeting with the Russian Crown lawyer continues to furnish the anti-Trump forces with material to mix in with their other materials and fire as grapeshot in the general direction of Trump Tower. Young Trump should have been forthcoming from the first. Yes, it was a nothing-burger, but he should have been aware that every detail, including his expression “I would love it” about the offer of dirt on Hillary would come out and be used to haunt him; and he was too inexperienced to realize that while he had said “if true” , that would be muted or left out entirely.

So now his father will end up using valuable time on the nothing-burger, to the detriment of the country.

One reason I generally avoid comment on breaking stories is that you never know all of it, and we probably don’t know it all yet; but perhaps we do. And yes, I understand his desire to keep the “I’d love to have that” remark out of the public eye, because it looks unseemly. In todays world unseemly is almost lost, but young Trump was well brought up, and it’s embarrassing to him.

But embarrassing is not illegal, and in today’s times rather trivial.

Let’s sum up what happened: a promoter associate of now President Donald Trump’s approaches Candidate – not President, not President Designate, not President Elect, not Presidential Nominee, but Candidate Trump’s son with a proposition. He says he knows a third party, a former “Crown prosecutor” for Russia who may continue to have some connection with the Russian government. She wants to see young Trump, and has derogatory, possibly damning, information on Hillary Clinton. Do you want to talk to her?

Mr. Trump, Jr. replies that he would love that information. So would any of the other campaign officials for any of the other Candidates, although most of them would not have shown the brash enthusiasm young Trump showed. He invites his brother in law, and more Trump campaign officials – how many is not certain. We may note that he was smart enough not to meet her alone or only with the promoter.

At this point has any crime been committed? Not by any stretch of the law I can make. He has only hearsay that she may have dirt on Hillary, and she may have Russian connections. “Hello? FBI? A guy I don’t know well tells me a former Russian Crown prosecutor has derogatory information on Hillary Clinton. Who am I? Donald Trump, Jr.”

FBI Agent to superior: “Trump’s people want to meet with us, because some guy told them that some Russian woman who used to be on our list, but now seems to have a visa wants to sell him dirt on Mrs. Clinton.”

The superior is very likely to laugh like hell. “Trump? What’d he get last poll? Was it even above 10%? Haven’t you got better things to do?”

But the point is that young Trump had no obligation to report that a guy told him he knows a woman who’s got dirt on Hillary for sale. Every campaign manager knows a dozen people who know someone who’s got dirt on the opposition. I sure did, I didn’t meet most of them because I thought it would be a waste of time I didn’t have – campaigns are stressful – and I sure didn’t call the police about any of them. Even when it wasn’t hearsay – when it was someone telling me he had dirt on our opponent – I sure didn’t call the police.

Of course it was a nothing-burger; the Russian lady didn’t have info to sell, she wanted an audience to lobby for her own cause – but suppose she had offered to sell him what later came out in WikiLeaks? Now the decision is above the pay grade of anyone in that room. We have no idea what Donald Trump Senior – now President Trump – would have done. Suppose he had bought the information? Suppose that analysis of it showed it contained U.S. Top Secret Documents? He may now be required to report it. He has evidence of a crime and possession of documents he ought not have and Mrs. Clinton ought not have let the Russians have – and a pretty good adventure story could be written with these assumptions. He still hasn’t committed a crime in my judgment, although I suppose such a case could be made; but in any event that didn’t happen.

But that, at least, might make a story. It at least centers on a crime – one committed by Mrs. Clinton. Whether Mr. Trump would have committed a crime by accepting the information would, I suspect, depend on what he did with it and whether or not he reported it. But since nothing happened – she offered to sell no information and none was bought – what’s all the shouting about?

And yes. I’d love to have some juicy dirt on my candidate’s opponent, and there was a time when I might have said I’d love some. That’s not a crime, it’s just lack of experience with campaigns.



Subj: Fwd: More swamp draining
“fly-infested operating room and surgical instruments that weren’t always sterilized”
Now THIS is deplorable!

“Strange times are these in which we live when old and young are taught in falsehood’s school. And the one man who dares to tell the truth is called at once a lunatic and fool.” – Plato

Top officials at New Hampshire veterans hospital removed

BOSTON –  Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin has removed two top officials at New Hampshire’s only veterans hospital and has ordered a review of the facility amid allegations of “dangerously substandard care.”

The Boston Globe reported that 11 physicians and medical employees alleged the Manchester VA Medical Center was endangering patients. They described a fly-infested operating room and surgical instruments that weren’t always sterilized.

The Office of the Special Counsel, a federal whistle-blower agency, found “substantial likelihood” the allegations were true and ordered an investigation, which began in January.

Following the newspaper report Sunday, Shulkin removed hospital Director Danielle Ocker and Chief of Staff James Schlosser. He ordered a more thorough review.

A VA spokesman told the newspaper Ocker and Schlosser would be assigned other duties in the interim.

Assigned to other duties. Perhaps they should be sent on a training mission with a Seal Team. To North Korea. “Set ye Uriah in the forefront of the hottest battle, and retire ye from him,”


MUST SEE — Hartford Catholic School

“Strange times are these in which we live when old and young are taught in falsehood’s school. And the one man who dares to tell the truth is called at once a lunatic and fool.” — Plato

I have no comment.


SUBJ: “I felt a great disturbance in the Force . . .”

“I felt a great disturbance in the Force, as if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced. I fear something terrible has happened.” ―Obi-Wan Kenobi

“New Doctor Who Jodie Whittaker tells fans ‘don’t be scared by my gender’ as decision to cast the first-ever woman as the famous Time Lord divides fans”


“One in six BBC stars ‘must be gay or lesbian or disabled’ by 2020 says new staff-hiring guidelines at the corporation”


“British “Academy Awards” (BAFTA) Will Deny Consideration of Award To “Non Diverse” Projects”

Will there ever be, can there ever be, again be an England?




I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore.

Destruction of the glue that binds societies together is fun, but it has consequences, as we have seen after 40 years of sowing the wind. Now we reap. Perhaps we ARE in Kansas.


Opioid crisis prompts extreme proposals – MSN News

Stories by Robert Heinlein, Joe Haldeman, and Jerry Pournelle predicted this, that at some point in the future some human beings would be decided by government to be a sub-class of citizen, not worth the effort of providing medical care.  Who needs ‘em?  If they die, they die.
That future is now arrived, and the poor and sick are reaping what the rich and criminal have sown.

Opioid crisis prompts extreme proposals

CBS News – CBS News – Mon Jul 17 2017 20:07:00 GMT+0000 (Coordinated Universal Time)

CBS News gets a first-hand look at problem overwhelming Middletown, Ohio, where one councilman warns addicts: “We might not show up to treat you”


Strange Signals from the Nearby Red Dwarf Star Ross 128.



Roland Dobbins


We are conducting a scientific campaign from the Arecibo Observatory to observe red dwarf star with planets. These observations might provide information about the radiation and magnetic environment around these stars or even hint the presence of new sub-stellar objects including planets. So far, we observed Gliese 436, Ross 128, Wolf 359, HD 95735, BD +202465, V* RY Sex, and K2-18. Only Gliese 436 and K2-18 are known to have planets. Observations were done between April and May 2017 in the C-band (4 to 5 GHz).

Two weeks after these observations, we realized that there were some very peculiar signals in the 10-minute dynamic spectrum that we obtained from Ross 128 (GJ 447), observed May 12 at 8:53 PM AST (2017/05/13 00:53:55 UTC). The signals consisted of broadband quasi-periodic non-polarized pulses with very strong dispersion-like features. We believe that the signals are not local radio frequency interferences (RFI) since they are unique to Ross 128 and observations of other stars immediately before and after did not show anything similar.

We do not know the origin of these signals [snip]


The Greatest Scientific Fraud of all Time

Dr. Pournelle,
I do not recall ever seeing a reference to the Manhattan Contrarian here at Chaos Manor. It is worth a visit if you have not already become familiar with the site….after all, how often does one come across rational discussion from the heart of deep, deep blue NYC?
There appeared a 12 part (so far) series on what is the Greatest Scientific Fraud of All Time. I most heartedly recommend your perusal of these essays. The are far too long to enclose in this email so I have consolidated links to them below:
How To Tell Who’s Lying To You: Climate Science Edition
What is the Greatest Scientific Fraud of all Time? (from the
Part I
Part II
Part III
Part IV
Part V
Part VI
Part VII
Part IX
Part X
Part XI
Part XII
Very warm regards and best wishes to you and your lovely bride,
Larry Cunningham

As it happens today was our 57th anniversary…


From our Thomist philosopher:

Subject: Rights, alienable or not?

Justice was anciently defined as “the habit whereby a man renders to each one his due…” Since a virtue is defined by the good act proper to it, and a good act is in turn defined by its proper object, “jus” or “what is due to each man” has logical priority over the virtue of justice. Hence, “jus” is something much like the Enlightenment “right,” except for its vector. A “right” is something that I demand for myself; “jus” is what I owe to another. However, the former is rooted in the older meaning.
A right is something the defense of which is seen as natural, i.e., belongs to one’s nature. It is not something that you are guaranteed by an authority. Aristotle wrote that all pursue the good as they understand the good. All living things will, in the common course of nature, struggle to maintain their existence. To exist is a good, and the struggle to maintain existence is central to the theory of natural selection. Hence, the desire or impulse to defend one’s own life is both natural and primary, since without it, no other rights attach.
This does not mean that life is guaranteed, nor that it cannot be taken or surrendered in pursuit of a higher good, such as the well-being of society. But even the criminal is seen as legitimate in defending his life against a capital charge. Nor does one suppose that an enemy soldier is doing wrong by shooting back, although we may rather wish he didn’t.
Aquinas argued that human law ought not forbid every vice nor compel every virtue, citing Augustine’s dictum that if harlots were removed, the world would explode with lust. He noted that the death penalty might not be imposed even when justified when an unacceptable evil might result (e.g., killing the hostages along with the bandits) or when the adherents of the criminal are so numerous or well-armed as to incite insurrection by doing so. It would be in any case a last resort to a clear and present danger, precisely because taking a life is a deprivation of a natural good.
Aquinas grounded this in the fact that God permitted some evils for similar reasons, and this allowance for the freedom of the will lies at the root of the right to liberty. Aquinas uses the example of a judge depriving a robber of his liberty against allowing him his liberty to feed his family as the paradigm case of choosing the lesser of two evils.
The third such right, mentioned by William of Ockham, is the right to property. Again, a man defending his own property is seen as justified in doing so, even when the king’s tax collectors have the power to seize it.
And so on. Natural rights are those rooted in human nature. It is the right that is not alienable, not the thing itself. Life and liberty may easily be taken away, but the right to them cannot be taken away. Even a man “chained in prisons dark” may remain “in heart and conscience” free; and a man drowning in the ocean will nonetheless struggle to the end against his doom.
I have to disagree on the end of the Roman Republic. It was not a melting pot overwhelmed by an excess of Celts. The Republic collapsed well before citizenship was extended much beyond Rome itself and her close Latin allies. What brought the Public Thing low was the violence and chaos that overtook politics. They were trying to run a de facto Empire using a city council and the structure just couldn’t support it. Different politicians hired street gangs like those of Milo and Clodius to harass their opponents. There were assassinations and proscriptions; consuls and praetors leaving office were repeatedly hit with lawsuits over their conduct in office (making not-leaving-office a primary goal). Civil wars and coups d’état. All this stoked demand for a strongman who would set things aright: Marius or Sulla, Pompey or Caesar, Antony or Octavian.

Or someone to drain the swamp.


Galaxy Mag – Warning – may be spare time destroyer

Warning, Warning!!! This may be a killer of your spare time.
I just found this link to a indexed and to a limited extent searchable collection of Galaxy magazine from 1950 to 1976 or 1977 ( heading says to 1976 but I found a March 1977 issue and some 1978 links ). You can see the cover and Table of Contents on a linked page. You are also able to download an issue in 9 different formats including text and kindle.
This is more interesting than being nibbled by a host of ducks/geese. But, it is just as destructive of your spare time! Investigate at your own risk!

Peter Wityk

I haven’t dared look. I was Science Editor of Galaxy in the 70’s, and my monthly columns were mined for text for A Step Farther Out (the book).


Galaxy Magazine archives now available online.



Roland Dobbins


SUBJ:“We’re focused on putting cash out of business”

The bad guys are seldom so blatant announcing their Evil Plans. That they feel safe, even proud, doing so is chilling.

Fortunately the pushback is simple (if perhaps occasionally

inconvenient): NEVER, EVER patronize any business that bans cash.

So simple even a Republican could do it. 🙂



From what I have seen, Republicans can’t pour warm urine out of a boot with the instructions on the heel. We need the House. Oh, we need the Senate. All, right. It’s tough, we need the White House. too Then we can repeal Obamacare. Uh–


New generation of heavy lift rockets ready to lift off (Some hopeful news)

Dr Pournelle,

Some hopeful news.

And for those who have forgotten or are to young to remember. Some of the old songs!

Fire In the Sky

Hope Eyrie

Best Regards,

James Marino P.E.

We can hope. But I wrote much of this when I was Galaxy Science Editor. And when I was Science Correspondent for the National Catholic Press Twin Circle. Forty years ago. At least we have the National Space Council again.

But do listen the A Fire in the Sky.


5 million immigrants granted US citizenship can’t speak English

In a stunning indictment of the system that tests immigrants on their eligibility to become “naturalized citizens,” a new report finds that a third are functionally illiterate, unable to speak and understand enough English to get that status.

Some 32 percent of naturalized citizens, about 5 million, fall below “basic” skills in English, the equivalent of being functionally illiterate, according to a new report from the Center for Immigration Studies.

The report is a follow on to one that found 67 percent of immigrants in the United States for 15 years or more can’t speak much English.

According to the U.S. Customs and Immigration Services, those hopeful of becoming U.S. citizens must “be able to read, write, and speak basic English.” They must also “have a basic understanding of U.S. history and government (civics).”


We used to require that they be able to read and write their own language at worst; but the Melting Pot is not magic. Overfill it, and far from producing Americans, it will assimilate anti-Americans in the the – well, I won’t say society, because we are rapidly destroying what is left of society. We are sowing tie wind. We have been doing so for over half my lifetime.


Dr. Pournelle,
It seems that someone has been reading your website:
In Support of Forming a U.S. Space Corps now:
“It’s time for the United States to have a permanent human military presence in Earth-space—starting with a US Space Corps, followed soon by a US Space Guard and leading to a US Space Force.”



Of Thorium and Grasshoppers

Dear Dr Pournelle,

               I noted with interest the re-establishment of the National Space Council. Unfortunately, the media chose to focus on the Buzz Lightyear joke. I am no Trump apologist, but it would be nice to have an actual story reported on once in a while, rather than slapping Trump for not being as urbane as the (not so) Great Obama.

               Concerning DC-X, is it fair to characterize SpaceX’s Grasshopper and ultimately its reusable Falcon 9 1st stage a descendant? Similarly for New Shepard? I seem to remember Grasshopper executing a similar up-across-down flight profile to DC-X.

               On thorium, I think India is the most recent country to announce its intention to forge ahead with reactors using this type of fuel. Good luck to them: Efforts to build a nuclear power plant in Ireland years ago failed due to public protest. We built a coal power plant instead which spewed acid rain everywhere until someone thought to put scrubbers on its chimneys. I shudder to think of the endless court hearings should we revisit the nuclear option again today. We import nuclear generated electricity instead, which I doubt many people here realise.

               Best wishes,

               Simon Woodworth.

Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos are both trying to make a business of space. I have said many times: It takes the same amount of energy to fly a pound to Australia from Los Angeles as it does to put that pound in orbit; airlines operate at a small multiple of fuel costs; but airlines do not push the airplane into the sea after its first flight. Both Musk and Bezos have flyable used space ships.


From the past:



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