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Monday March 17, 2008

Harry Erwin's Letter from England

Subject: Letter from England

The surveillance society grows--a proposal to put 'potential offenders' on the DNA database at age 5: <http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/
2008/mar/16/ youthjustice.children>  

Tracking of commuters:

 It's taking hold locally--they no longer give change at the Tyne and Wear tunnel, and they charge an uneven amount for use--essentially to encourage commuters to use a commuter card.

Labour support down: <http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/
politics/article3559480.ece>  <http://tinyurl.com/2obn9a > <http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk
/politics/brown-aide-no-class-war-on-tories-796603.html >  <http://tinyurl.com/2spjmf>

Terry Pratchett against Alzheimer's: <http://www.telegraph.co.uk/
opinion/2008/03/16/do1604.xml >  <http://tinyurl.com/ytltfg>

Notes on the proposal to have all English schoolchildren swear allegiance to the Queen at age 18: <http://ukpress.google.com/article/
ALeqM5jtrHX3WO61c7WAfZErVykAVlpqGg>  <http://tinyurl.com/27jw3g> <http://www.timesonline.co.uk/
jeremy_clarkson/article3558638.ece>  > <http://tinyurl.com/2e7qn7>

Cambridge gives up on language requirement to accommodate state school graduates. <http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/education/7297143.stm

Heathrow problems: <http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/
2008/mar/16/britishairwaysbusiness.theairlineindustry>   > <http://tinyurl.com/25ldbr>

-- "If they do that with marks and grades, should they be trusted with experimental data?" Harry Erwin, PhD


Subject: Unregulated Market

Just a thought, and perhaps one that is not really important. You often say something similar to "Left to itself, the market will eventually offer the flesh of human children, by the pound. As well as slaves of any age and for any purpose."

The image this brings to mind is quite "interesting", and unfortunately, probably accurate.

But (you knew that but was coming didn't you? :) isn't it really just an extension of you Iron Law? In other words, if people had the right to sue the pants off slavers, or children the right to sue a child pornographer into total bankruptcy, wouldn't that give some kind of balance to situation? Tort law seems to be in great disfavor in our society, perhaps because it can be used by any average Joe to put the bite on a corporation. Of course, anything can be abused, and tort law is not exception. However, it seems that the balance today is all in favor of big corporations and the government.

The individual citizen appears to be considered as nothing more than either a revenue source or, if you believe what you hear some politicians today saying, the property of the government, to be guided, and protected very carefully. To hear some of them talk, you would think the population is nothing more than a vast heard of food animals, valuable, but as property.

Of course, there are exceptions to this, but it keeps getting harder to be an individual and retain any measure of freedom. The democrats may be doing it for all the wrong reasons, but refusing to grant immunity to the telco companies and renew the surveillance acts is definitely a good thing in my book!


As time goes by, the purpose of government changes; and indeed it is due to the Iron Law of Bureaucracy that this happens. We have reached that stage here: the purpose of government is now to collect taxes and pay government workers, and hire more government workers who can be depended upon to continue to support expanded government and expanded taxation. Once that goal is accomplished, then government may do something else; but that is the first charge and the major purpose of most of our government, Federal, State, and local.

And indeed the subjects -- formerly citizens -- are in fact the property of the bureaucracies. Note that it is pretty well out in the open now. There is almost never an admission that government spends too much money; it is always that it has not enough to spend, and must have more. We have schools indistinguishable from an act of war, but there is zero chance that the education bureaucracy will release any students. Indeed they seek to take more control; and always to expand the school budgets. It is the same with every other department.


 Employment: Borjas et al revisit immigrant-native complementarity


>>In a recent paper, Ottaviano and Peri (2007a) report evidence that immigrant and native workers are not perfect substitutes within narrowly defined skill groups. The resulting complementarities have important policy implications because immigration may then raise the wage of many native-born workers. We examine the Ottaviano-Peri empirical exercise and show that their finding of imperfect substitution is fragile and depends on the way the sample of working persons is constructed. There is a great deal of heterogeneity in labor market attachment among workers and the finding of imperfect substitution disappears once the analysis adjusts for such heterogeneity. ...<<

In other words, the O&P finding, that immigration *increases* wages of natives, seems to depend on a faulty assumption.

Rod Montgomery==monty@starfief.com

Well of course it does. Elementary observation as well as logic says that unskilled workers have no choice but to compete on acceptable wages.


Subject: Models

Mr. Pournelle,

Models. When creating a simulation/emulation of some system, the biggest problem is the basic formulae set to use to create the model. Since in many cases you do not know all (or even many) of the rules that relate the various parameters (or even all of the parameters needed), you have to make an educated guess as to what the formulae look like and how to organize them. A major problem is that you usually have to do a simplistic approximation of the real thing.

True physical systems use systems of partial differential equations to give true solutions (those "coupled pendulums" they give you in Mechanics class being a VERY simplistic example), but unless you get them right, you cannot solve them, especially if they are not homogeneous (have a solution using an algebraic solution technique). Thus, for a first rough approximation, you usually have to use a pure geometric/trigonometric/algebraic formulae set, doing curve matching to data points on graphs.

The first problem is the format of these approximation formulae. Interpolation is usually not too much of a problem unless the data points are far apart, then you do not really know what is happening in the blank intervals and usually initially, at least, have to assume a smooth curve or straight line between the known points. This is dangerous, but cannot be helped. Extrapolation past the end of the known data set is much more error-prone. You can try to use the simple applications of the laws of physics, but though this works for the "big picture" (prior to and after the process being modeled), but during the process itself, the various parameters interact in rather complex and sometimes totally non-intuitive ways, most especially when "sudden changes in state" occur (shock-induced cracking/breakage and so forth).

When I had to figure out how to model the rules for the penetration of face-hardened naval armor (battleship side armor) by armor-piercing projectiles (capped and uncapped, rigid and deformable), I had to figure out a basic format for the equations. Since I had nothing else to use and had decided to "let the chips fall where they may", I chose the general format of the then-widely-used 1890 French DeMarre Nickel-Steel Armor Penetration Formula, which worked, more-or-less, for average right-angle impacts over a time of 50-odd years, so it seemed a good place to start from. I expanded its framework by adding multiplicative terms handling more and more parameters that the DeMarre Formula ignored, but I still had to figure out how to model each of those added terms. Such added factors as scaling (changes with absolute size of the projectile and plate) and so forth, ignored in the DeMarre Formula, but VERY important in real life, had to be approximated in some manner and I had to make educated guesses as to the format of these approximations from my past experience and "gut feelings" and hope for the best. If I chose the wrong formula, then no matter how much a fudged and bent it to try to fit the data, it would be like Ptolemy and his "wheels within wheels" Earth-centered approximation to the inverse square gravity law and Sun-centered reality -- not pretty and totally wrong in fundamental ways. Not good, to say the least. I was able to approximate most of this reasonably well using various methods, though some data sets turned out to be so different from others that I had to create separate formulae for them and then try to figure out why they were so different from one-another (rigid projectiles versus deformable -- compressed and bent -- projectiles were an example of very different data sets under identical impact conditions).

Once I had some kind of formula set that seemed "good enough", I curve matched them to the data by adjusting the various multipliers and exponents in the terms to fit the data, ignoring any "laws of physics" that seemed to conflict -- the real world trumps any laws, always! I of course tried to eventually figure out how the actual curves "violated" these laws and discovered that they really didn't, once I was able to study the formulae I had. I found that the biggest factor was that many physical laws ignored the TIME that the function was applied -- if you went slowly step-by-step through the process you would find the discontinuous points where there was a sudden change in the application of the formulae that explained why the results seemed to violate the rules; they really didn't, but what you were studying was not the entire picture and other effects took up the slack. This is just like the neutrino was postulated to take up the extra energy in many nuclear reactions -- it was not in the initial data set (invisible), but had a marked effect on the results once it was described and, later, found.

My results work very well (after 35 years of effort, they better work!); I even got EXACT matches as to the velocity needed to penetrate plates that I later evaluated which had known test results (my hair stood on end, since I didn't think I was that good!). I was lucky in some respects and also got very good at guessing as my knowledge increased.

What this indicates is that modeling is an art, not a science. It is only AFTER the model is made and you try to fit further data to it and it begins to fail that you can really learn what is actually happening, creating the science part. Without a model you have "your feet firmly planted in mid-air" -- once you have a model, even a bad one, you have something to start from to find the real "rules of engagement" in the subject you are studying. Thus, even a bad model is better than no model at all, at least at the start. However, you have to be able to compare its results with real life (tests or observations) or "you have the sound of one-hand clapping" (silence).

Nathan Okun

With modern computers it's possible to do numerical analyses far beyond anything we could do back when I was in Operations Research. Back in the 60's we had to keep simplifying and approximating, because there was no hope of actually solving large models. As time when on, though, we were able to invert large matrices, and that will at least give multiple regression equations for generating some differential predictions: the University of Washington Grade Prediction Program was a splendid example.

I agree that for understanding bad models are better than none. Herman Kahn taught us that in his "Techniques of Systems Analysis", a RAND document which I wish I had permission to publish because it is still one of the best introductions to Systems Analysis/Operations Research I know of. However:

THE MAP IS NOT THE TERRITORY and it is not only possible, but nearly inevitable, that one forgets that as one gets more attached to the models. The whole point of systems analysis used to be to "show your work": that is, to make it pretty clear how you came to a decision. The modern climate models do not do that. They do not even make it clear that CO2 can only affect dry air (because water vapor is a far more effective greenhouse gas). And the models are abused when they are used to generate policy.

Bayesian analysis says that when faced with two expensive and mutually exclusive courses of action dependent on future events, one should spend a good bit to reduce the uncertainties rather than just choose one and spend on that alternative. We are not doing that, and this is due to the models.


I Love It. But I Have To Leave It.

He's a bit of a whiner, but he does raise a couple of good points about the mismanagement of the war and the bureaucratic promotion- ladder:


- Roland Dobbins


Fool Britannia.


-- Roland Dobbins


Copyright and lobbying
Dear Jerry:
Reading the news this week I cam across a report that the latest attempt 
to reform the Copyright Act is being short-circuited by industry 
lobbyists who are pitching the members of various Congressional 
committees about how it will hurt their businesses.  They are being 
joined by purported consumerists about the damage that could be incurred 
by ordinary consumers if they are sued for copying music online and 
giving it away to their friends.  As you pointed out in the most recent 
Mailbag, there is no fair use right to copy and give away copyrighted 
work.   Theft is a crime, no matter how much you try to pretty it up.
As I have said many times, Copyright is always about the money.  Were it 
not for the loss of sales to the owners (and that's what they are, 
children, owners of property) none of this would be an issue.  All the 
rhetoric about what a big favor it is to spread the work of artists and 
writers around the internet is bunk.  You can't eat "exposure".  The 
interesting thing here is that the people who are resisting one 
provision; that of making every violation eligible for statutory 
damages, is being resisted by the big magazine publishers, who say that 
this will keep them from selling DVDs of their old issues because it is 
too expensive to clear the rights.  Funny.  These are the same people 
that were sued in the Tasini  case and in that big class action where 
the settlement was rejected by the Federal Appeals Court on 
jurisdictional grounds.  Why?  Because more than 99 percent of the class 
had never registered their copyrights and without registration you have 
no standing in Federal Court, nor, because of "Federal Preemption" can 
you bring a lawsuit elsewhere.  Of course that's only true in this 
nation.  Most countries do not have a clumsy unworkable registration 
system for copyrights, but their citizens, because of the international 
treaties we've signed, enjoy the rights they have in their native 
countries when going to our courts.  They don't need to register here to 
sue here.  Ironic, isn't it?  We have to register here to sue there.     
Of course the American Copyright law and Federal Rules of Procedure are 
designed to prevent lawsuits and no Federal Court welcomes them, which 
is why there is so little case law.
It is never an easy process.  Having been successful in two copyright 
infringement lawsuits against former publishers, I determined not to do 
the other four simply as a matter of business.  It costs money to sue 
someone.  Even if your lawyer works on contingency, as mine did, you 
have thousands of dollars in filing and service fees, and if you are 
bold enough to go beyond the settlement conference, which I was not, you 
are looking at tens of thousands of dollars for depositions, expert 
witnesses and so on.  And time is on the side of the defendants.  A 
photographer sued the National Geographic for using his photos on their 
DVD collections without permission or payment, won the case, which was 
appealed and it is still at issue eleven years later. 
My cases were really only possible because I acted as my own paralegal 
and private investigator.  The settlement happened because we added a 
section 1202 claim to the lawsuit,  No statute of limitations for those 
and I had hundreds of them at as much as $25,000 each.  (Beyond that I 
am not allowed by the terms of the settlements to say more).  And 
perhaps, at one point I said to the Magistrate Judge, "Your Honor, these 
rights were always available to the defendants; they simply failed to 
pay for them." added to the fact that they forced us to file the lawsuit 
by ignoring all of our attempts to settle before and actually forced us 
to file, they didn't really have a defense.  We took the money simply 
because it was a good business decision and an adjusted fair payment for 
what was stolen.  Copyright is always about the  money.
Statutory damages for every violation is scary for all those infringers 
who might be sued by big media firms.  It also scares the Hell of our 
them, which is why they are lobbying against it.  Freelance writers 
would be able to find tort lawyers to take their cases on contingency 
and prosecute these claims.  There is no time limit on when a work can 
be registered and if you ignore such a registration, which is public 
notice of ownership and publish  there is an argument  that statutory 
damages would enter in.  "First publication" is such a slippery term in 
an age of electronic distribution.
One thing is sure: we do need Copyright reform in this country, and not 
a piecemeal solution that keeps tweaking a law so biases in favor of the 
big media companies.  One of the continued shames of the current 
situation is the continued refusal of the FBI and the U.S. Attorneys to 
enforce the criminal provisions of the Copyright Act unless the 
complaint comes from a Big Media company against a small infringer.     
And when it comes to lobbying, where are those three big so-called 
"writers organizations" in all this?  The NWU, ASJA and the Authors 
Guild were willing to negotiate a settlement even for those writers who 
are not members and whom they did not represent in the Class Action.  
Why are they not going to Congress to protect those same rights?  It 
couldn't be that they were bought off, could it?   The fight for 
copyright goes on, but most of those involved are very passive, as if 
the  whole thing were beyond their control.  I once asked if anyone had 
some rabble they wanted roused on these issues.  The answer was a 
deafening silence.
Francis Hamit

Thanks. This is why it is vitally important that author associations be involved in these matters. SFWA had considerable input in the 1975 copyright Act. We don't seem to be so active now. And of course EFF pays people to trash copyright in a stream of blogs.


Subject: Techniques of Systems Analysis

Jerry, you may not be able to post the doc, but it's available for free download at http://www.rand.org/pubs/research_memoranda/RM1829-1/  <http://www.rand.org/pubs/research_memoranda/RM1829-1/>  . I'm sure Rand won’t mind if you post the link.

Cheers! Chris

Christopher Mazuk
Area Operations Manager - Sprint PCS EVDO Southwest

This is one of the key documents in learning Systems Analysis. I will have more to say in the mailbag at Chaos Manor Reviews. Thanks to the many people who took the trouble to find this for me.

If you have an interest in what Systems Analysis is all about, this is still one of the best introductory documents I know of.


'Bamboo death'.


-- Roland Dobbins



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Tuesday,  March 18, 2008

Subj: Standards, hacks and why Vista and IE8 can't possibly work


Rod Montgomery

Joel is always worth reading.


Subject: Durk Pearson


I just watched you on YouTube.com http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8U-Oxhb8SK4  in an 1979 interview by Tom Snyder and the really interesting future predictions made during that interview.

I have an interesting future prediction of my own: The only certain thing left is death because there will be no taxes in our future www.TaxPatent.com <http://www.taxpatent.com/>  or www.AutomaticTax.com <http://www.automatictax.com/>  .

Do you know what happened to Durk Pearson (Sandy Shaw). There is no new information to be found on him in the search engines. Can you help? I would like to know how he fared with his health and fitness in later life. He should be 2 years younger than I am (67) and according to his projections in very good health?

I have contributed a great deal to people’s health and fitness since I have built saunas for over 45 years now www.sauna.com  <http://www.sauna.com/>  and more importantly, I have manufactured since 1990 (18 years) an exercise machine that gives a person a complete workout in exactly 4 minutes per day (never more than 4 minutes). www.FastExercise.com <http://www.fastexercise.com/> Currently a 5 week waiting list for this $14,615 exercise device.


Alf Temme


I haven't spoken to Durk in several years. Last I knew he and Sandy were living in Tonopah, Nevada, a place very far from anywhere I am likely to go.


Atomic Coilgun Halts Supersonic Beams

By magnetically pulsing a sequence of 64 copper coils in an "atomic coilgun," scientists have succeeded in stopping a supersonic neon beam in its tracks in just microseconds.


Bill Shields


Bad models/data are *worse* than no models/data, actually, sir.

They lead to erroneous conclusions; better to have none at all than bad ones.

The 'global warming' nonsense is a prime example.

--- Roland Dobbins

I would dispute that, in that a bad model is at least a model, and makes assumptions explicit. Otherwise it isn't a model. The global warming imbroglio is not due to bad models, but to superstitions and religious beliefs and assertions without backing; with ignoring evidence and data. You can prove anything if you make up your data.

I understand that bad theories can be trouble; but there is a sense in which the entire scientific method rests on generating bad models. Falsifiability is the key here. Without falsifiable models we can make little progress.

I think what you are denouncing are models which do not in fact make their assumptions clear, and thus do not become falsifiable.


Subject: Our Young Captains 

Dear Jerry,

I really hope you publish this, or something very like it by someone. It ought to be said.

On 03/17/08 you posted a link sent by a correspondent, the link being to an Op-Ed piece by a US Army Captain about to retire after four years of service.

I was particularly dumbfounded by the following comment found in Captain Rogers' commentary:

"I've lost confidence that I can serve both a wife and the Army. It's not that my fiancee is putting demands on me; this is a conclusion I've reached on my own. Staying in would mean six months of Army schooling in the Captain Career Course. We'd have to move from Seattle <http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/r
elated/topic/Seattle?tid=informline>  to Georgia <http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/
related/topic/Georgia?tid=informline>  or Kentucky <http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/
related/topic/Kentucky?tid=informline> . My wife would have to quit her job to be with me. Then I'd move again to a deploying unit or become an adviser to the Iraqi army for another 12 to 15 months. My wife would be uprooted and replanted in a place where she'd be alone, knowing no one, and without the job she loves."

Four years as an officer in the United States Army and he can act surprised that this is the bargain he made?

He ought to have read "A Soldier's' Life", the autobiography of General of the Army Omar Bradley. Bradley told in that book of how in the Army where he was a young captain, during the 1920's and 1930's, promotions came about once every six years, if you were really lucky.. The idea of being a Captain in only four years would have seemed heaven to that young officer named Bradley. It was common then for First Lieutenants to see their thirtieth birthday before making Captain. Bradley was a Captain for at least eight years, maybe ten. He had not the luxury of a wife with a careen. In fact, Bradley worked weekends and lengthy furloughs as a civilian construction worker building bridges, just to make ends meet! He knew the Army was worth it, he knew the nation needed him and men like him. He understood the bargain he had made. He understood the highest cost is often found in standing The Long Watch" when there are no flags flying or bugles sounding. I wish he could read Robert A. Heinlein's 1973 Forrestal Lecture Series speech on patriotism and duty.

If Omar Bradley had had a weather eye out for the main chance, he might have taken a job as a construction foreman at three times the pay of an army Captain in 1928/ Then someone less qualified might have been the commander at Omaha Beach when the Big Red One ran headlong into the German 7th Division (A full strength elite German infantry unit that was not supposed to be there on that day) and things might not have turned into the razor-thin edge of victory that widened into the eventual breach in the Atlantic Wall that Patton exploited to break out in July of 1944.

On such small matters can great events hinge. I imagine John Christian Falkenberg must have had moments when he thought he might resign and take up a post as a civilian security consultant or even leading construction crews on some border world. We are all heir to the temptations of the world when duty calls us away from them.

With great respect for what Captain Rogers has done, if this is his attitude towards serving in our Army, I respectfully agree that it is, indeed, time for him to move on. Physical courage is a great and laudable virtue, and he has shown that. He has "seen the elephant", and stood his ground.

But physical courage is not all the job of being an officer asks of a woman or man... Moral courage is required, and it seems, to judge Captain Rogers by what he has written, to be sadly lacking.

I can only hope a few (it only takes a few) of our young Captain's are made of sterner stuff than this.

As Heinlein wrote:

"But why would anyone want to become a naval officer?”

“Why would anyone elect a career which is unappreciated, overworked, and underpaid? It can't be just to wear a pretty uniform. There has to be a better reason.

As one drives through the bush veldt of East Africa it is easy to spot herds of baboons grazing on the ground. But not by looking at the ground. Instead you look up and spot the lookout, an adult male posted on a limb of a tree where he has a clear view all around him -- which is why you can spot him; he has to be where he can see a leopard in time to give the alarm. On the ground a leopard can catch a baboon. . .but if a baboon is warned in time to reach the trees, he can out-climb a leopard.

The lookout is a young male assigned to that duty and there he will stay, until the bull of the herd sends up another male to relieve him."

Thank you Captain Rogers, and Godspeed. May those who take your place on watch be more aware of, and steadfast in paying, the price of that duty.



Army families

Dear Jerry:

That young Captain should not be dismissed as callow: The Army has changed since Bradley's day. First of all making Captain in four years is now so automatic that if you fail to do, especially with two wars on, people know something is wrong with you. This was true even during the Vietnam era. Secondly the Army has become very family oriented. Until recently, when the overstretch fouled everything up. There are married couples in the Army, both of whom are serving officers, leading to a problem my mother, an Army wife for 24 years, never confronted. What do you do when the Colonel's wife is also a Colonel? Growing up in the Army, like the Army itself, gives you unique experiences you can't get elsewhere. We moved every two or three years, so I was always the new kid and I really have no "home town".

When my father was the Chief of Surgery and Commanding Officer of the 121st Evacuation Hospital in Seoul, where dependents were not allowed because it's still a war zone, my mother was very lonely, and very depressed, so the young Captain's concerns about separation is anything but misplaced. Officers who put career ahead of family tend to loose those families. It takes a lot of internal fortitude to get through these separations even when we have telepresense technologies rather than letters to fill the gap.

My sister, younger than I am, attended four different high schools in three years and never did finish college. I lucked out and finished where I started only because Dad took that assignment in Korea. When the Army was going to send him to Vietnam for a fourth unaccompanied tour, this time in Vietnam (the job carried a Brigadier's star with it) leaving my mother, who did not drive and was rather fragile alone again (my sister was in college) he gave into the blandishments of a major drug company and retired to take a job with them that he quickly hated. Personally and careerwise it was the wrong move, for he loved being in the Army and was was a candidate for the top spot (the number of flag rank officers in the Army Medical Corps can be counted on the fingers of two hands) but it probably saved my mother's life.

Three unaccompanied overseas tours was supposed to be the max, but when there's a war on all the old promises and rules go out the window. That young Captain knows this; that the needs of the service will always come ahead of his family when the chips are down, so he's taking his off the table. No one should blame him for that. The man loves his wife and wants to keep her.


Francis Hamit



If you perceive CPT Rogers to be whiner, I would contend that he has earned the right to represent his position in any manner that he sees fit.

A serving officer

Continued tomorrow


Global Warming et al

Hi Jerry

Your item on the sharp decline in the temperature of the Northern hemisphere triggered several postings on my Blog. I share my last most important comment here.

Arctic Heat Discharge


As mentioned briefly yesterday, our thoughts on heat transport into the Arctic must be completely retooled to allow for a vastly larger seasonal amplitude. All our prior observations had shown us a largely steady movement of heat that varied little over the decades. Unmeasurable variation meant that a modest heat increase in the northern hemisphere was able to accumulate and provide a measurable warming signal. The abrupt and apparently unusual shift in winds has now dissipated that surplus.

Yes, I know that we are looking at a mere one year piece of the record, bur it was an unprecedented climate

blogspot.com/2008/03/arctic-heat-discharge.html#>  event with no prior comparable. My initial difficulty was linking the causation event of a warm summer arctic with the present effect of a very chilled Northern hemisphere. Confirmation of the extent of winter chill proved that the surplus heat had suddenly disappeared and we all came to appreciate the global cooling system much better.

This very likely completely delinks the apparent association of CO2 content with apparent global temperatures that have possibly now gone their own way. The climate may be back to below average temperatures for a couple of decades, which is a bit of a disappointment.

If this explanation is correct, then unless these winds are maintained for some reason which seems unlikely, the Arctic will now rebuild its supply of perennial sea ice until we need another atmospheric heat discharge. This tells us that a true runaway global warming

/2008/03/arctic-heat-discharge.html#>  as predicted by a few is utterly impossible. It is nice to know that mother nature can easily handle this. I note that even an incredible amount of heat could be handled by this mechanism, just as the tropical ocean discharges

/2008/03/arctic-heat-discharge.html#>  a build up in ocean temperatures by spawning hurricanes.

Posted by arclein at 10:57 AM


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[Emphasis added]

I keep having to say, the map is not the territory. Models are useful if they are falsifiable and open. If not, they are part of the problem.


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Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Here opens a discussion that ends with comments on Republic and Empire.

Petronius and Captain Rogers

I find Petronius’s comments about Captain Rogers snide, disturbing and his expression of gratitude at the end of his letter disingenuous. Captain Rogers has done much more than most citizens would even consider doing. He should not be criticized because he chose not continue to make a career of the Army. How can Petronius judge that Captain Rogers is not made of stern enough stuff? Does he know him personally? Does he know what kind of combat leader he is? Captain Rogers should be commended for having the courage to serve and to publically express his opinion about that service.

Once a Young Captain


Counterpoint to Petronius 

Dr. Pournelle,

Apologies for the length of this, but as Petronius noted, it deserves some attention.

A counterpoint to Petronius’ conclusion about Capt Rogers… Not justification or excuses, but observations from someone supervising highly intelligent and patriotic airmen (officers and enlisted troops) who are making these very same decisions. I think it is not entirely just or correct to dismiss Capt Rogers’ personal decision as lack of awareness, moral courage, or dedication to duty, and here are my thoughts on why.

If we were a nation at war, then those personal sacrifices would certainly be accepted, and willingly. But we are not. The demands and price to be paid continues to rise, yet the country is not at war. Anyone doubting this needs to take a walk outside, and try to find any sign that we are at war. Any good leader knows you cannot for long pursue an objective, no matter how legitimate, on the backs of a few while the remainder parties on. This is true whether you are talking about a platoon or a nation, and it is doubly true when those who make no sacrifice consider those doing the job to be running a fools errand. The character of the troops simply determines the nature of the inevitable dissent, and it may be telling that dissenting troops seem to quit when their term is up rather than cause trouble or frag their leaders.

The demands on the American military member have increased in three ways (that I can see from my rather lowly perch on a very tall tree).

First, Pournelle’s Iron Law of Bureaucracy applies, and those doing the tough jobs find themselves increasingly distracted by administrivia details as well as finding themselves forced to become personnelists, logisticians, bankers, janitors, environmentalists, etc. because the support personnel have either been fired or are now on convoy duty thanks to title 10 waivers allowing us to train up expensive specialists in the USAF (and Navy) and then use them in place of Army infantry. In my opinion this DIRECTLY led to those nukes getting lost several months ago… Our warriors now do that job only part time. The rest of their day is spent playing junior finance officer or figuring out how to cut their own orders on whatever version of DTS we’re using today. This is true across the USAF and a friend of mine in the Navy (enlisted, electronics tech) tells me it’s the same over there, as he packs his bags for a year doing… you guessed it, Army convoy augmentation duty. Interesting use of expensive training, that.

For what it’s worth, the USAF has acknowledged that the additional recurring training requirements were out of control, and has taken steps to dramatically reduce the number of hours required for every airman to maintain annual training currency in areas such as environmental regulation compliance and document-of-record filing (no kidding, those are annual recurring training requirements for every USAF member). But we still cut our own orders and are on our own to ensure our pay is correct since they centralized military finance, fired many of the junior finance officers before their service commitment was up, and deployed the finance NCOs to ride shotgun on Army convoys.

The increase of Bureaucratic nonsense in the face of force drawdowns is the number one reason for leaving that I hear from the people I work with who are getting out. They simply do not want to be part of an organization that does this to its people. I see the same data and will soldier on, but that’s what I hear from those who are leaving.

Second, lives are disrupted in the way Capt Rogers describes. Even in Gen Bradley’s time, a soldier might find some time to meet someone and get married. Individual life stability in the military has been eroding. Traditional military families are a vanishing breed. More and more military spouses are highly educated and are making significantly greater sacrifices. A traditional housewife sacrificed friends and stability when she had to move every few years. As an example of what has changed today, my wife is a skilled doctor who cannot work in the small town I am currently stationed in due to a lack of jobs. This is not my father’s military nor is the nation the same as it was 50 years ago when he served, and expecting military spouses to accept a role as a perpetual housewife/husband as their patriotic duty is not reasonable by today’s American societal norms and is an additional demand on today’s servicemember.

The lack of stability is in part due to the operations tempo, but it’s aggravated by to the fact that we are simultaneously fighting a war while undermanned and restructuring the military to be more “efficient” (ie. eliminating most of the support personnel). We fired too many Lts last year, so let’s increase the next Academy class so we’ll have some replacements 5 years from now. For a bit of fun, match the cadet population at the service academies against the “force shaping” efforts that result in firing Lts shortly after finishing their post-commissioning training, then find a nice soft wall to bang your head against.

Third, the personal threat is pretty darn high when you consider the point that as a nation we are simply not at war. Soldiers are deploying, re-deploying, and deploying again, over and over. The fatality rate is low by almost any measure, but the non-fatal casualty rate is fairly high especially if you include the mental problems caused by either undiagnosed brain trauma or by various stress related disorders that may not make it onto the casualty statistics. The smaller force size and repeated deployments makes this war look to many people like a confusing, endless game of Russian roulette. Escape undamaged last time? Well, after 6 to 9 months enjoying your time at home you’re back in the war. Quick, find a wife and get her pregnant in the month you have off, because your unit starts pre-deployment exercises as soon as your R&R time is over and if she’s not pregnant when you leave, she’ll cheat on you or send divorce papers mid-deployment. That means repeated exposures to hostile fire, while the rest of the nation enjoys their weekend BBQs and marries your high school sweetheart or steals away your wife, without any concessions being made for the war by the general population.

Although not a new condition and fully anticipated by anyone who has at least read some Kipling, this is still disheartening to say the least and I can not and will not find any fault with any soldier who cries “enough!” They can get out with my thanks and with any luck someone will take their place.

Whining? Yes, of course it is! But it’s a very real problem both for military leaders and for military members who don’t seem to get any answer to any of the above three issues except “we’re at war, so soldier on soldier”. But it is clear from a quick stop at the supermarket or a glance at the news that the nation is not at war. The military is at war, but the nation is not. That is going to cause morale problems no matter how patriotic our soldiers are and dismissing those who dissent after honorable service as being lacking in moral courage seems harsh.

As a final thought, a separating troop commented to me that if he felt he would ever be asked to put his life on the line for his country or to defend standing obligations with other freedom-loving nations, he would stay in. But he felt that right now, we are making our sacrifices defending people who consider our basic concept of freedom as an unwanted alien influence, to be fought at any cost. He pointed out the philosophical differences between defending South Korea, a country as close to the United States as any I have visited, and attempting to implant a democracy in Iraq that, if successful, would likely result in an elected government that was as anti-American as any other in the middle east. One endeavor rings of the spirit of our founding fathers, the other sounds a bit like the crusades. This man was not a crusader and he is now a “mister”, not a “Sergeant”.



Captain Rogers and Petronius

Dr. Pournelle,

I am angry at Petronius. I am angry at the way he treated a man who decided that spending four years in the Army was enough. Captain Rogers may have decided he could not stay because of the continued sacrifices being asked of him, but that does not make him a moral coward. I am steaming mad over it. Petronius does not recognize that the baboon story undermines his point, when a baboon is relieved, he comes down from the tree after having stood watch for a time.


Will Albenzi
Former Legionnaire

As I said before we went into Iraq: the purpose of the Legions is not occupation, and it is a fundamental difference between Republics and Empires: Empires need Auxiliaries and Occupation Troops and Foreign Allies and Puppet Kingdoms. The Legions are to win wars and stand by to assure that the puppet kings and the auxiliaries behave.

The United States is lurching toward incompetent empire, as I said would happen before we invaded Iraq. The invasion of Iraq was a mistake to begin with; but having done it, it needed to be done properly. We needed to make use of the Iraqi Army from the very beginning, so that the Legions would not be used up in futile pacification campaigns.

We then incompetently sent the incompetent Bremer to make certain everything was done wrong. Read his book: he to this day has no understanding of what he should have done. I hesitate to call a man a fool; but when every action he takes is folly, the conclusion is difficult to avoid. His Masters were no better. Cheney and Rumsfeld were so impressed with the performance of the Legions and the Special Forces that they thought they could do anything with little to nothing: a natural consequence of putting people with no sense of history in charge.

The Democrats with Albright were worse, of course: they committed the Legions in a war in which there was no discernible US interest, destroyed the economy of the lower Danube for a lark, and cavalierly threw away the growing friendship between Russia and the US for the benefit of Albanian illegal immigrants to Kosovo: without a shred of US interest at stake. The costs of our Balkan adventure have yet to be paid.

Nor have we paid the costs of the Iraqi debacle: we should not have been there to begin with, and having put ourselves there we ought to have done it properly. If one is to invade, one should win; and to win one must commit what it takes to win, not dribble in forces piecemeal in hopes that things will work out somehow.

Having over stressed the Regulars, we proceeded to do worse with the National Guard, who ought never to be sent on more than one overseas tour of duty absent a threat to the survival of the Republic.

We do have the Marines, who are capable of multiple missions and considerable pacification; but there are never enough.

The Republic needs its Legions. If we are to continue with imperialism as a policy -- imperialism being a fixed intention to govern peoples without the consent of the governed -- then we must recruit imperial troops. Those must not be the Legions.

All this is known and has been known to serious students of military history for a very long time. Of course we don't expect modern politicians to know this.

God bless you, Captain Rogers.

(continued below)


Unrestrained Capitalism...

Your comment about unrestrained capitalism leading to sale of human body parts in the market has been demonstrated...


The plea comes more than two years after the gruesome scandal broke, with evidence that corpses were being hacked up without permission or proper screening for diseases and sold for dental implants, knee and hip replacements and other procedures around the country. The looted bodies included that of "Masterpiece Theatre" host Alistair Cooke.

"Authorities released photos of exhumed corpses that were boned below the waist. Prosecutors said the defendants had made a crude attempt to cover their tracks by sewing PVC pipe back into the bodies in time for open-casket wakes."

Charles Brumbelow

Yes, I told you it was inevitable.

And there is human slavery in the San Fernando Valley.


Subject: Military MBAs

Dear Jerry:

The current issue of Business Week has an interesting and very long story about military veterans taking MBA courses to transition to civilian life. Some are disabled from combat injuries. All are highly prized for corporate jobs because of the extraordinary responsibilities the military places on them at an early age. One was recalled from his job with Pepsi, which is paying his salary and benefits while he completes another tour in a combat zone. Interesting article.


Francis Hamit


'More than 50 proposed coal-fired power plants were delayed or canceled over the last year because of concerns over greenhouse gas emissions.'


- Roland Dobbins


The hoo-haw about the captain who wanted out of the military..

The gentleman "Sean" makes a point that certainly hits home with me.

If it were not for the occasional "x troops killed in Iraq" article on CNN, it would be impossible for most people in this country to even determine that US troops are in the middle of an occupation.

In the 16 years I've lived in the USA I may have seen a military uniform at an airport somewhere, but by and large the only exposure I have had to the US military is watching them stand around outside the recruiting office in town smoking.

People only refer to them as "those @$%@% smokers". They'd be invisible in this town if they were not annoying the people who are sitting outside at the local cafe.

I've never met, anywhere, a member of the US military and I socialize a fair amount in this town (Boulder, CO) and the town in California in which I lived (Santa Rosa).

Politicians claiming "we are at war" may as well be saying "yesterday, something that has no effect on you happened, somewhere".

I can't believe a person who was employed by the military wouldn't see this and realize that it's not worth the risk.



More on Captain Rogers controversy

Dear Jerry:

That long entry from the gentleman who serves in the US Air Force tells me that the more things change, the more they stay the same. I was in the "management Army" of the 1960s. In Vietnam I had five jobs simply because we had so few clerks and there were Army reports and requirements which didn't mean much in a war zone, but which had to be fulfilled by regulation or the Company Commander was in real trouble. In Frankfurt, we were visited every year by an "X-team" that always stopped by the Public Information Office I ran (All of my OICs were second lieutenants with six months in. The first two had sense enough to stay out of my way and sign what they needed to sign. The third was an antique dealer in civilian life and seldom showed up at all, since he was out scouting the Frankfurt market for stuff to ship home to his wife for resale. The office equipment was signed out to me, not them.) and would gently inquire why a top secret military intelligence headquarters had such a thing, which was not on our TO&E? We would show them the Overseas Weekly, our local English language scandal sheet, and invite them to go down for a briefing from the Sergeant Major in charge of V Corps PIO about the underground "FTA" newspapers and other efforts to radicalize the troops against the war in Vietnam. Having done that, they would agree that we had a real purpose for existence and go away, only to return the next year with the same questions. My experience on an Army General staff was an essential part of my management education. I got through it by becoming the topic expert; my hobby was reading the ARs.

Here's the thing; I was fresh out of Vietnam; a combat zone veteran of well over a hundred mortar attacks, and that bought me nothing in ASA Europe. Vietnam was viewed , as I was coldly informed by my new First Sergeant, as a noisy sideshow to the main event, the coming battle with the Soviet Union. He "suggested" that I shave my cavalry mustache to regulation length, and I did. I shaved the whole thing off. (That man got a Mother's Day card every year because he was the biggest mother we knew.)

ASA Europe was full of people who were keeping out of the war by various stratagems and others, junior enlisted, who were stashed there by well meaning parents with political influence. (One was the married mistress of a US Senator, another a Major General who did not shrink to order other peoples' sons to Vietnam, just his own. One of these guys became a serious drunk after his request for a transfer was denied the fourth time. I sympathized. Being enlisted and having a high ranking officer for a parent is a special form of Hell.) On top of my experience in Basic Training with a company of men largely from the Iowa National Guard, all of whom were rather smugly proud of having found a safe way to sit out the war, it did not encourage me to stay in. My father was the Medical IG in Vietnam in November 1967 and his report shows his own doubts about whether that war could be won. He also complained about the lack of clerks.

ASA got almost all of their clerks from people who washed out of schools rater than from Army AIT. We already had the clearances. We could all type. What more did we need? Well, if you buckled down, you could make something of it. I certainly did, but the PIO job was not because I was Army trained, but already a writer and photographer with my own equipment. Like most of the clerks at that headquarters I failed upward. The pay was so lousy that I had lots of time on my hands and didn't mind working long hours. I had an off duty photo business, too. And University of Maryland courses as well as the correspondence courses from the Army Intelligence School. In 1970 we got so short of clerks that the Army send us draftees. These guys were not a fit for our all volunteer outfit and much more trouble than they were worth, but the slots got filled--sorta. The one assigned to my office hadn't graduated high school and couldn't type.

Paperwork is the connective tissue of the Army, so a shortage of clerks was as big a threat as any other and we had the lowest reenlistment rates in the Army. This led to a lot of improvisation. We were always training new people and during the drawdown in Vietnam we had a few E-5 First Sergeants. (The job I had, had it been authorized , would have been held by an E-9. Certainly all of my counterparts, including my friend at V Corps, were that rank, from Army schools and on a defined career path.) Well ASA wasn't really the Army. We just wore the uniform. All of the uniform services have tried these experiments in doubling up functions on junior personnel repeatedly. They never learn, it seems. Sometimes there is just a mismatch between planning and reality. Our Company Commander of the HQ Co. in Frankfurt came to use from a Masters in Computer Science paid for by the Army. Problem was we had no computers yet and he had no job, He loved leading troops so he asked for Headquarters Company (which ran the barracks, and not much else) and was reassigned. He had done the usual ticket punching tour in Vietnam but no one had thought to get him a clearance before he arrived, so he could not even go around the office spaces in the Farben Building without an escort. He was a Major who, in Vietnam , had led a combat battalion, and then changed branches to MI, but our little company suited him just fine. Those computers never did arrive. (IBM 360s I believe.) We had highly trained electronic warfare guys in the motor pool washing trucks for almost a year before their equipment showed up. So the mismatch between personnel and material is nothing new.

The current situation is caused in large part by the move to an all volunteer force. The comment that this nation is not "at war" is right on the money! The military was pretty much gutted after the fall of the Soviet Union and has never been properly rebuilt. IMO we need to go back to an 18 division Army and a four division Marine Corps. That can only be done if we reinstate the Draft and make it sexless. I've been beating the drum for sexual equality in the service since 1991 with an op/ed in Defense News. The fact that Specialist Brown, a 19 year old girl from Texas, is being given the Silver Star for heroic performance under fire as a medic makes the point that women can serve too. We have one good war and one really bad one right now, but for all the rhetoric about how much we love the troops, little has changed since the Vietnam era. We're seeing the same "psycho veteran" memes as before and the same reluctance to actually care for those who have served and been injured in combat. The most outrageous thing I've heard lately is the opposition from within the military establishment itself to Senator Jim Webb's new GI Bill, which actually makes it possible for veterans to attend the college of their choice again. The fear is that this will hurt retention.

Retention is overrated. ASA has the lowest in the Army during the Vietnam war. Less than one percent of the first term enlisted reenlisted. Somehow the work still got done. The turnover did seed people into the general culture who had some understanding of the military and what it takes to fight a war, and the current one in Iraq was promulgated by people who, like Dick Cheney, slid out of their obligations because they had "other priorities" . There are always these people who are eager for the fight if they don't have to do the fighting. That there is an essential unfairness to this never seems to occur to them-- or maybe they just don't care.


Francis Hamit

I do not agree that we do not need long term volunteers; I want more career enlisted Legions. I have my own ideas on how that can be made to work, but the first thing is that the Legions must NOT be used in occupation duties. We need a different kind of soldier for duty in long overseas deployment; indeed many of those troops should be locals.

The second principle is that the National Guard is deployed overseas once and once only unless there is a matter of vital national interest.

Third is that the occupation auxiliaries are long term service troops but many will not be citizens until after 8 or 12 years service and an honorable discharge; citizenship to be awarded with the discharge if wanted. After 20 years citizenship and pension, but pension may be taken in the place where one served.

I don't have time to go into the details, but the principles are known and have been for a very long time.

Somehow the work got done is not good enough. Training costs are high.

Discussion continues below.




CURRENT VIEW    Wednesday


This week:


read book now


Thursday, March 20, 2008


"Let George do it!" 

Dr. Pournelle,

A few points both expanding and clarifying upon my earlier letter, as direct and and concise as I can make:

I have angered some, perhaps more by intemperate words than intent, but I will not succumb to the fallacy of intentions.

My appreciation for Capt. Rogers' service is not disingenuous. He risked his life for me. Capt. Roger's is a brave man. He deserves nothing but good from us.. I was wrong to write that he lacked "moral courage" He has chosen to return to the life most of us would never leave unless forced to. I don't know the right word for that, obviously, but cowardice is not it.

I meant to honor those who choose, despite all those difficulties so many of your correspondents listed, to still serve what I referred to as "The Long Watch". Someone has to do it, or we won't be around as a free nation for long. All due honor and respect to Capt. Rogers, and at leat as much to those who choose the other path, and serve on.

War/Not War: We are at war. Our leader's have convinced many of us that we are not at war..Most Americans act as if we are not at war. Reality is not based on consensus. Perceptions are not reality,. The Map Is Not The Territory. The enemy certainly acts as if they believe they are in a war with us. Perhaps they are the deluded ones? The problem is, they have no problem acting on their belief/delusion. In December of 1941 the Japanese leadership believed they were at war with us, and so attacked Pearl Harbor. They felt our embargo and other actions meant the war was underway, so why not get in the first "punch" while their opponent still acted as if they were at peace? Of course it was "sneaky" and "underhanded" and righteously upset us. After all, we were "at peace" and had no business being prepared for such an attack, did we?

I'll trade ten citizens in line to enlist the day AFTER a "Pearl Harbor" for one who decided "to take the King's shilling" the day before. The latter are the ones willing do the thankless job when most say "Let George do it!"


PS It might help to remember that the hero of "The Caine Mutiny" is Captain Queeg. At least Herman Wouk meant it that way.


Subject: Captain Rodgers and Dick Cheney

The comment by Petronius seems to have drawn several sharp rebukes, so I won't address what he said directly. But when I read his comment on Rodgers, I immediately thought of Dick Cheney, our current, very hawkish, vice president. When asked (in a 1989 interview) about his lack of military service, and the various draft deferments he had gotten, Cheney supposed said: "I had other priorities in the '60s than military service."

I assume those priorities were to take care of his family, and make himself some money, just like Captain Rodgers....

CP, Connecticut



Dear Jerry:

Following on your comment; the All Volunteer military did accomplish one thing; people are now decently paid for their service. When I was in I made about $400 per month, with Separate Rations being ten percent of that. My father, as a full Colonel and an Army doctor never made more than $18,000 a year on active duty. The drug company doubled his salary and threw in free stock and a car. Pay is essential to retention. So is medical care. So are education benefits. All of these have lagged behind the real costs during the recent war and the VA has been severely cut back.

Then there is the matter of family. Family matters, witness all of those Army recruiting ads aimed at the parents. Military housing has been substandard for decades and the reason my mother was so lonely was that my father, despite his rank, could not get base housing. She was isolated among civilians. Of course she was no good at being the Colonel's wife either; too timid and not interested in career politics. She was a genteel southern girl and like most of those, had a whim of iron. Once she got to Charlotte there was no moving her. She determined to die in that house and ultimately did. The policy of moving officers every two or three years is deliberate, to prevent cabals from forming and to keep units fresh and ready, but it is very hard on the families, even those where both parents are "in".

I almost stayed in. Almost. I was working on a transfer to Stars and Stripes, where the Managing Editor knew my work and badly wanted me. Our respective Command Sergeant Majors killed the deal. I was too radical, too unmilitary, too unafraid of authority and had defended my team and its function a little too well. All Army newspapers back then were under the control of a Sergeant Major; the only instance of enlisted supervision at the Pentagon. After I left that guy reformed the entire way they were published and written, transforming them from boring command information vehicles to hometown newspapers. I wanted the job at Stars and Stripes and was willing to re-up for that, but not for more of the same. So I went home. I was already in the Writers Workshop and that's even harder to get into than the ASA was. I was also looking forward to having a better social life. That haircut was a date killer if there ever was one. (These days it's "cool". sigh)

There used to be a saying in the service that "If the Army wanted you to have a wife, they would have issued you one" but that was never a practical policy. Most people want a family and the Army has greatly increased social services to ensure that families feel part of the team. That gets retarded by the pay problems, the lack of community for lower ranks (who are the very ones you want to retain) and the lack of status and respect generally among civilians. It is hard to keep faith with an institution that doesn't keep faith with you. I think this is the root of the current problem. The GI Bill retention concern is based in ignorance. The military will send you to school while you're on active duty if you pay them back with more years of service. Almost any advanced degree can be had this way. My father got a Masters In Biochemistry on the Army's dime while doing his first residency at Fitzsimmons Army Hospital In Denver . People don't need to get out to get an education and you can't get flag rank without two or more advanced degrees. We have the most educated military in the world.

The problem is op-tempo. We have that saying in the science fiction community; "You knew the job was dangerous when you took it!" Well, yeah, sure, but there are limits. Op-tempo is killing the Army in particular. No time to rest, no time to train, and PTSD in abundance because people are now on their fourth tour. All because we do not have enough troops. We don't have a draft, but we have substitutes which have been invoked. Stop-Loss programs for key jobs. Repeated call ups of National Guard and Reserve troops to the point where the physical security of the homeland is compromised. It is telling that we have as many private contractors on the front lines as we do troops, and that most of them left the service for the better paying contractors jobs.

We've eaten our seed corn with this nonsense. I suspect that the classic Army wife of my mother's day is a thing of the past. These days such women are likely to be in uniform themselves if they love the Army, and if not, the pressure on their husbands would be intense. We had one guy at that Headquarters who was a member of the New York bar; a lawyer. His very pretty and very angry wife, against the war, promised to divorce him if he took a JAG commission. He became the star clerk of our G-1 and made E-6 before he got out. And he's still married to her.

Family matters and keeping faith not just with the soldiers, but their families is the key to building the Legions you want.


Francis Hamit


Republics, Empires and Legions

As usual, I have been watching the discussion on Iraq and the Legions with great interest. I cannot recall anymore where I originally got the link to you, but I owe them a great debt. Having said that, I do find myself in disagreement with what I perceive to be your premise.

If I understand you correctly, you feel that the U.S. is on the verge of changing from a Republic to an Empire, albeit an incompetent empire. You also do not believe that process can be stopped and look for ways to at least become a competent Empire. Your advice and suggestions make a great deal of sense in that context.

I would submit, however, that what we are watching is not the transformation from Republic to Empire, but the collapse of a once-competent empire due to Imperial overreach and internal decay.

Using your definition of Empire; "imperialism being a fixed intention to govern peoples without the consent of the governed", the U.S. has been in the Empire business since at least 1865. What was Reconstruction but a post-war occupation? As a nation, we then went on to annex Hawaii, fought a war with Spain and gained several new territories and continued the pattern pretty much continuously up to today. We entered WWI on behalf of the earlier British Empire and much of the friction that caused us to enter WWII was due to competing Imperial needs in the Pacific. Following the war, we occupied Germany, Japan and Korea outright, and kept bases and troops in other countries--Britain, Spain, Turkey--that were /de facto/ client states. All of those are signs of Empire.

Unfortunately, empires have a consistent life cycle. Without fail, they all succumb to the same stressors--economic collapse and incompetent, entrenched officials. It happened with Rome, it happened with Spain, it happened with Britain, and it is happening to us now. In the early days of the American Empire we were not bashful about extracting money from the subject states. Just as Britain before us, we did it primarily on a contract basis. Britain had the British East Indias company, we had United Fruit and others. They operated on charter, hired, trained and deployed local troops, and it worked--for a while. What would Iraq look like now if, after the original invasion and military victory; we had told Halliburton that we wanted oil, money and quiet from Iraq and left? I suspect that Iraq would today be functioning at a much higher level than it is. Would the process have been pretty, or even humane? Probably not. As you've stated, unchecked capitalism has problems with limits. There's no denying that it's effective, though. And it might still have been preferable to the events of the last five years.

Recruiting auxiliaries and revamping the Legions at this point is probably futile. The bureaucracies that constitute government at all levels are firmly embedded in the Iron Law and are not to be changed short of armed rebellion on the French model. That course of action is; at least on occasion, attractive. I suspect it is also necessary. Few empires survived their own downfall without casualties and damage. Even Britain, an island nation before and after the Empire, has suffered tremendously. Part of the reason for that is that Britain still maintains an Imperial bureaucracy.

It would appear that we are presented with two choices. We can continue to act like an Empire even though we are bankrupt and suffer collapse and probable Balkanization, or we can retreat from Empire and become something very similar to Britain today. Given the choice, I prefer the open breakup to suffocating under the weight of a no longer useful bureaucratic class. Others, I'm sure, will feel differently.

Jim Keech

Your reading of history is not mine. While it is true that we have allowed the growth of bureaucracy to an alarming state, empires can still be profitable; it took a long time for Rome to collapse, and there was considerable prosperity before that happened.

It is not impossible for these United States to return to a republic in which governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed. It isn't likely. We have entrenched bureaucracies and the government service unions are enormously powerful, and have only one object, the preservation of their rights and privileges including the right to tax everyone else and pay themselves. Yet it would not take blood to cut them back to size. Not yet, anyway.

The problem is that no one wants to do that. There is no political party dedicated to the notion that government ought to be smaller, and the power of the civil service to maintain itself as a first cost to the budget should be ended. When Newt Gingrich left as Speaker all that went away, and the Country Club Republicans of Bush and McCain took over. The Republicans no less than the Democrats believe they have a right to rule, and that the taxpayer is no more than a cash cow to be exploited. In California the Democrats are saying as much, openly, and do not expect to be contradicted. Salve, Sclave!


Subject: About Global Warming

See <http://www.fel.duke.edu/~scafetta/pdf/opinion0308.pdf> , published in the March issue of Physics Today.

-- Harry Erwin, PhD, Program Leader, MSc Information Systems Security, University of Sunderland.



From Lt. Cdr. Phillip Pournelle on Military Service

FNC March 19, 2008 Reports Of 'Broken' Army Disputed Special Report with Brit Hume (FNC), 6:00 PM

BRIT HUME: The U.S. Army appears to have reversed a trend that led some people, including one of Fox News Channels' own military analysts, to suggest that it was stretched dangerously thin. New evidence reveals that more junior officers are re-upping and morale is good. National security correspondent Jennifer Griffin reports.

JENNIFER GRIFFIN: A year ago as the president decided to send more troops to Iraq, the conventional wisdom among antiwar critics and Democrats in Washington was that the Army is broken. Time Magazine, "America's Broken-Down Army."

LAWRENCE KORB [Center for American Progress]: (From tape.) It's broken. This army was not designed for a long war.

GRIFFIN: Retired Major General Bob Scales, the former head of the Army War College and a Fox News Contributor, wrote in the Washington Times last year, quote, "if you haven't heard the news, I'm afraid your Army is broken, a victim of too many missions for too few soldiers for too long... Today, anecdotal evidence of collapse is all around." Disintegrating equipment, difficulty recruiting and retaining soldiers, an exodus of junior officers who would have been the generals of the future. Now a year later, General Scales has down an about-face, the first military analyst to admit he was wrong.

MAJ GEN BOB SCALES [U.S. Army (Ret.)]: (From tape.) I was wrong a year ago when I forecast the imminent collapse of the Army.

GRIFFIN: In fact, a document prepared by two military historians for General George Casey and obtained by Fox News shows comparisons to the Vietnam hollow Army don't hold up. It states junior officers are not departing in vast numbers. The number of captains leaving has held at about 11 percent since 1990. By the end of Vietnam, 25 percent of the captains left and weren't replaced.

SCALES: Reenlistments, for instance. Particular reenlistments in Iraq and Afghanistan, remain very high.

GRIFFIN: In 2006, 67,000 soldiers eligible to reenlist did so, exceeding the Army's goals by over 3,000 men and women, a reenlistment rate higher than before 9/11. For the past 10 years, the enlisted retention rates of the Army have surpassed the Army's goals. Larry Korb, on the other hand, who served under Reagan and now advises Democrats, says the two reasons soldiers are reenlisting are the high bonuses and stop loss - the involuntary extension tours. The captains, he says, who are leaving, many are West Point graduates.

KORB: If you look at the class of 2002 who completed their obligated service in 2007, less than half stayed in.

GRIFFIN: Scales says he and the other analysts didn't take into account the band-of-brothers phenomenon. This Army is sending soldiers to fight as a unit, not as individuals as they did during the Vietnam-era draft army.

SCALES: They're bonded together. They know each other. They don't have to fight as an army of strangers.

GRIFFIN: In other words, they are going back because of their buddies. The one area where there is not such good news is with regards to equipment. Forty percent of it needs to be repaired or replaced, but in terms of the numbers, Brit, it just doesn't add up in terms of this Army being broken right now. Brit?

HUME: All right, Jennifer, thank you very much.

The above transcript demonstrates that perhaps it is a bit early to declare our Army dead or destroyed but it certainly is strained.

I read Captain Rogers' article on Sunday and my thought was along the lines of "Welcome to our world."

The United States Navy (and USMC) has been dealing with the challenges he describes since its inception. We've developed a rotational deployment policy over the years to meet presence requirements. We've also developed career rotation (sea-shore) plans accordingly.

The United States Army in the past was designed for large scale mobilization in the Cold war and later for two large sale wars. Half of the Army would go East and the other half West. Recently the President signed a new policy called the Army Force Generation Model (ARFORGEN) where active and reserve units will be binned into three corps. One corps will be deployed, one resetting from deployment, and one ready for surge/rotation.

The expansion of the Army and USMC is required to complete this model. The USAF has a similar concept in its Air Expeditionary Force (AEF). Composite air groups made of required aircraft squadrons are deployed to meet presence requirements while others are nominated for readiness for surge deployments.

I cannot fault Captain Rogers for having served and decided this is not the life he wishes to live. Being home 1 out of every 2 days while assigned to a ship is not fun. Missed birthdays and life milestones cannot be recovered. The anger and resentment of a spouse who must live the life of a single parent can build up to make homecoming a fearful experience. It takes a special & strong person to be a spouse of someone in service. Many in the Army may not have expected to be in a rotational force, particularly one with a rotation plan as brutal as is in place now. Hopefully the new ARFORGEN plan will ease this to some degree. Still I cannot fault any man or woman who has stood their watch honorably and wishes to return home.

There are some details in Captain Roger's article I would quibble with. I think he will find he has been given far more responsibility and authority as a junior officer than he will find as a junior partner in a civilian career. He may also find it more challenging to adapt to less well defined organizational environments. Sergeants and Petty Officers usually go out of their way to meet and anticipate your needs, which is not so definite in the civilian world.

Captain Rogers should be saluted and thanked for his service. He has endured hardships I have not faced (I've never actually been shot at, nor watched a shipmate die). I hope many of his classmates will stay in. We need others to stand the watch.

LCDR Phillip E. Pournelle USN


John Rodgers discussion

Dear Doctor Pournelle,

Any man who serves as an officer in "The Legions", honorably and well, and then moves on, should receive nothing but the thanks of a grateful nation and the respect of those of us who chose to "soldier on".

I did two long Wespacs, two long shipyard overhauls, two years of remote arduous isolated shore duty at La Maddalena, Sardinia, where my wife and small children accompanied me and lived "on the economy" (no housing built yet, sorry). I pulled 11 FBM patrols, 95 home, 105 gone, in a row.. I saw no shore duty as a LCDR. 23 years, damn few easy days. Cold war box score: my side 1, bad guys zip. Never got shot at.

My wife was the reason I could. Just incredibly lucky in love. Still am, same girl, 38 years so far.

Not everybody is as lucky as me. It is a personal, family decision to stay or go. We should be grateful the Captain gave us all he had for as long as he could.

Thank you, my brother in arms. BZ. Fair winds and following seas to you and yours.

Matt Hayball CDR, USN, Ret.



Life & service

Jerry This for me is going to be a fairly long note and you might not want to post it because I am not going to be nice to appeasers. Reading the notes from others on the officer who dropped out after one tour in order to spend time with his family I feel both views expressed are valid depending on ones worldview. And this to me is the point, how one views the world and their own place in it.

Some and they seem to be a majority, want only comfort and a good life without conflict or effort on their part. To live the good life with beautiful wives children and other property. To me these people are the core of the world’s problems because they will do anything to live those comfortable stress free lives even if it means selling their souls to those who would oppress others.

Others like myself will dare any danger and sacrifice even life itself to be able to live in freedom and choose the church we attend or not. To choose who leads and guides our lives is the most important choice of all. The right and ability to choose is more important than even life itself to those who believe strongly in personal individual freedom. There was one famous quote about those who do not study and understand the lessons of history having to live it over again. I feel that because of those who refuse to learn the lesson the rest of us are forced to relive that which we see coming over and over again all to clearly.

You have in your writings made these lessons all too clear, but most seem to be blind to these painful lessons our ancestors set down to guide us and save us from reliving their pain and suffering. I find the below quote says much about the human condition and why we continue to suffer:

**  Political tags - such as royalist, communist, democrat, populist, fascist, liberal, conservative, and so forth - are never basic criteria. The human race divides politically into those who want people to be controlled and those who have no such desire. Robert A. Heinlein ** **

Because so many in society only want conflict free comfort without effort or pain they sell their souls and their children’s souls to those who hunger to control the lives of others, and thus they are no longer free people, but slaves to those who guarantee their comfort. To be a truly free person requires exposing ones self to conflict and danger. To risk ones own life, safety and comfort in order to secure the freedom of those who will come after you. I learned these lessons from my family, not from the schools.

My grandfather during conversations we had in his later years informed me that our family had fought and died in many ways over the centuries for the right and ability to choose how we lived and worshipped and if we even worshipped at all. They fought and died in the crusades for this freedom after the Muslims attacked us and tried to force their barbaric religion on us. They fought and died in Europe against a church that wanted to take away their freedom of choice during the forgotten first crusade in France and the Inquisition that followed.

They were forced from their homes by priests and kings who wanted to control them and were forced to flee Europe and come to America in the mid 17th century to preserve their desire to live free and choose how they wished to live. They fought and died in the conflict between England and France in the French and Indian wars. They fought and died in the Revolution for the right to choose freedom over slavery. They came from all parts of Europe and the British Isles to be free and they were willing to stand up man, woman and child to protect that right to live free as they did against every tyrant they had faced from Cyrus to Caesar, from Henry to Hitler they fought and died for the right to live free and choose how they lived.

I never saw combat during my service years as I was in between Korea and Vietnam, but I was there and ready to serve. I find those who would rather be red than dead disgusting to say the least, those who prefer personal comfort over freedom really do not deserve the rights of freedom that has been bought and paid for by the blood and suffering of others greater than themselves.


Leaving Independence Hall in Philadelphia after signing the United States Constitution, a young citizen inquired: "Dr. Franklin, what kind of government did you give us? A monarchy or a republic?" Franklin's keen response was: "A republic, if you can keep it!" For Benjamin Franklin understood that the responsibility of a successful republican government belongs inherently to the people Liberty must at all hazards be supported. We have a right to it, derived from our Maker. But if we had not, our fathers have earned and bought it for us, at the expense of their ease, their estates, their pleasure, and their blood. John Adams, A Dissertation on the Canon and Feudal Law, 1765 What signify a few lives lost in a century or two? The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is its natural manure. Thomas Jefferson, letter to William Stephens Smith, 1787

James W. Early Long Beach, Ca

Communism, like any other revealed religion, is largely made up of prophecies. H.L.Mencken


Discussion of the Legions 

Dear Jerry,

Please keep the updates on your health coming and of course you are in our prayers.

Some thoughts on the Legions.

Bush: Retreat From Iraq Would Embolden Iran, Fund Terrorists

http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,339108,00.html <http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,339108,00.html

This is true in my opinion, quite a pickle we are in, is it not?

"The battle in Iraq is noble, it is necessary, and it is just. And with your courage, the battle in Iraq will end in victory."

Interesting. This may be so, but, and here I have long been in agreement with you, if empire we will be, we should be competent about it.

U.S. Army Isn't Broken After All, Military Experts Say

http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,339296,00.html <http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,339296,00.html

This falls right into our “Legions” discussion and while things may not be peachy keen, they are nowhere near as bad as the doom and gloom crowd would have you believe either. Not yet anyhow. If things continue on the current path, I don’t doubt the effects will continue to worsen with the long-term involvement of our legions. I don’t have the statistics to back this up, but the article mentions losses of USMA trained officers, but I have seen a trend of NCOs becoming officers. There is some debate whether this is a good thing of course, but enlisted personnel often respond positively, especially in time of war, to these officers and often show a bit of disdain for the “ringknockers,” at least initially. I haven’t seen a statistic that takes this particular loss of NCOs into account. Could some folks be approaching this as many approach global warming? While there are signs (environmental degradation) to be concerned about, should we all jump on the global warming bandwagon?

And then we have……

President Bush Authorizes Military Aid to Kosovo


This one has me very concerned, as I’m sure it does you and a vast majority of your readers.



God save the Legions


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CURRENT VIEW    Thursday


This week:


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Friday,  March 21, 2008

Good Friday

Niven's Law = Arlan's Law?


You and Jerry are just too much! First, within minutes of my giving the first public utterance of my phrase "...the way God and Robert Heinlein intended..." at Confrancisco in 1993, I heard someone crediting Jerry with the line -- which still happens.

Then just today, whilst reading over a memorial to Sir Arthur, I see a statement that "It's one of Niven's Laws, even though it doesn't appear on his page of Laws," referring to my other famous statement from an Analog story, "Indian Summa" (January 1989): "Any sufficiently advanced magic is indistinguishable from technology."

You two are just too powerful, attracting extraneous literary credit like galactic black holes with near-infinite gravity.

I just can't seem to win. :)

-Arlan Andrews

Well, I won't apologize...


Stirling's _In the Halls of the Crimson King

features cameos of you both in the opening chapter . . . I really enjoyed _The Sky People_, but Stirling has outdone himself with this one. The homage to all the greats in the first chapter really set the tone; I was especially gratified by the nod to Leigh Brackett, whose _The Sword of Rhiannon_ is an underappreciated gem, IMHO.

--- Roland Dobbins


Subject: "President Bush Authorizes Military Aid to Kosovo" 

"President Bush Authorizes Military Aid to Kosovo"


Well, look at the bright side. At least he hasn't done the same with Chechnya. Yet.



Subject: The nation is not at war, and thank God.

If a man annoys a house-cat, the cat may hurt him a little bit to annoy him back. If a man is serious about wanting the cat dead, the cat must run and hide. If the man is determined, he may burn down the house in which the cat is hiding. Our country is annoying the house-cat of Islamic Extremism. Thank God we are not determined to see it dead.

Imagine if the people of the US felt that their lives were really threatened by some country or group of people that did not have a nuclear arsenal sufficient to kill us all. McCain would have had 250 million backup singers for his rendition of "Bomb Bomb Bomb, Bomb Bomb Iran". Neat clean tidy red circles. We would cheerfully recreate Dresden over and over again. We would massacre from the land, sea, and air. We would exterminate our enemy. If there were a war, Captain Rogers would have stayed in the Army to kill our enemy out of the same love for his family that influenced him to leave the Army.

The conversations in that world would be much shorter: "Bin laden and his senior leadership are hiding somewhere in the mountains of Pakistan." "How do you propose we kill them?" "We have a sub in range with 8 ICBMs outfitted with MIRVs, four ICBMs should blanket the mountain range with so much radiation that they will have to dump all of the goat milk in India." "Use em all."

I do not want to live in that world.

Will Albenzi

The Republic way of war is to smash the enemy, War is not a normal state of affairs, and we do what we must to end it. The Imperial way leads to Frederic the Great's view, which is that the peasants in the field and the burghers in the towns should neither know nor care if the state is at war.


room temp superconductors 

You continue to be in our prayers for a successful outcome of the "Thing" in your head. Your daily logging is wonderful. Thank you for sharing it.

Meanwhile, if you haven't already seen this, Important news. Room temp superconduction!




Subj: So, is the Army collapsing or not?


and note in particular the link to


Note in particular Charts 4 ("Captain Losses, FY 1990-2007") and 5 ("The Status of Captains, FY 1990-2007") of the PDF.

I wonder whether anyone is trying to confirm or refute Korb's accusation, that the Army is inflating the stated reenlistment rates by counting stop-loss retentions as "reenlistments"?

How alarmed should we be if Korb's claim, that the number of West Point-graduate Captains leaving the service is running at fifty percent, is true?

Rod Montgomery==monty@starfief.com

I do not believe The Legions can sustain the current attrition rates. Occupation duty is not what they are designed for. Meanwhile the Navy is having to go without. The shock troops are neglected. Coming apart, no; but the splendid instrument we built needs to do some R&R and retraining and above all resupply.


Dear Jerry:

I believe it was Winston Churchill who said something like "People of this nation sleep easy at night because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf." I don't think of anti -military attitudes as coming from a desire to appease and avoid trouble, but simple ignorance. A retired Marine Major of my acquaintance, Jim McDonough , once said "Being against the military because you are against war is like being against the Fire Department because you are against fire."


Francis Hamit

George Orwell, actually, but yes. Agreed.

God bless the Legions


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This week:


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Saturday, March 22, 2008

I just saw this, reading a Slashdot piece


The article is dated March 11, 2008. First paragraph: "MIT announced on Friday that students whose families earn less than $75,000 per year - approximately 30 percent of the student body - will no longer pay tuition. To cover these and other new policies, MIT's financial aid budget will rise to $74 million, a $7 million increase over last year's budget."

MIT is not alone in this. From later in the article: "In December, Harvard University, whose lowest-income students already attend tuition-free, announced that families with incomes between $60,000 and $120,000 would pay between zero and 10 percent of their income to tuition, and families with incomes between $120,000 and $180,000 would pay 10 percent. In January, Yale University eliminated tuition for families earning less than $60,000 a year, limited tuition costs for families making $60,000 to $200,000 a year to an average of 10% of their income, and decreased all student self-help contributions to $2,500. Stanford University announced in February that it would eliminate tuition for families with incomes under $100,000 a year and eliminate all educational expenses, including room and board, for families with incomes under $60,000 a year."


There is no real reason why university education is so expensive other than that they can. And the middle class is now saddled with debt to the eyeballs when they graduate, effectively making them proletarians. When the government decided to make education affordable by sending lots of money into the system, why, astonishingly, all that money was absorbed and became NEEDED. Pournelle's Iron Law of Bureaucracy at work.


Subject: education

Jerry: Thought provoking Cringely column concerning what's happening to education. Interesting side claim that off-shoring is the result of ISO certification.


Stay strong!



Operating Systems From the People Who Brought You the Internal Revenue Code...

Well, maybe not the SAME people, but folks from the same "family"...


"Microsoft has been under the eye of regulators since it struck a deal in 2002 that required the company to document communication protocols. The decree also set up the technical committee and forced Microsoft and state and federal antitrust officials to deliver regular reports to Kollar-Kotelly."

"Parts of the 2002 decree requires that for any new feature added to Windows that meets the definition of "Microsoft middleware product," the company must help rivals integrate their similar software with Windows. Last year, Google Inc. argued
article.do?command=viewArticleBasic&articleId=9024238>  that Windows Vista's desktop search was a new feature -- not an extension of the search in Windows XP -- thus making it middleware, so Microsoft should be forced to open Vista to other search providers. Microsoft conceded
 the point before Kollar-Kotelly could rule; Vista SP1, which rolls out to the general user population this month, sports changes that allow users to select non-Microsoft search engines to power Vista's desktop search."

Charles Brumbelow


"The climate is actually, in one way anyway, more robust than was assumed in the climate models?"


-- Roland Dobbins



'In both studies, people who got vaccine were more likely -- not less -- to become infected, with trends suggesting roughly a twofold risk.'

article/2008/03/20/AR2008032003398_pf.html >

-- Roland Dobbins

Fascinating. Aids gets a lot of research money...







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CURRENT VIEW     Saturday

This week:


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Sunday, March 23, 2008      

Subject: Someday

I hope that someday you will learn to write the proper queens english.

Nomen Nescio nobody@dizum.com

Indeed, so do I.

= = = = = = = = = =

Much of today was taken up by column work and revising the Ethernet system.




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