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Monday  April 21, 2008

Letter from England

The PM was in Washington, and so there was no single theme in the news.

Loss of moral compass report (very liberal, the survey approach is easy to criticise): <http://entertainment.timesonline.co.uk/tol/
religion/article3779988.ece  >

Labour proposes to double the income tax for the poor: <http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/7356982.stm>  <http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/7355901.stm>  <http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/7353945.stm> <http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/politics/article3779976.ece>  <http://tinyurl.com/5t2a2g

Anatole France wrote: "The law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich as well as the poor to sleep under bridges, to beg in the streets and steal bread." <http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/
columnists/minette_marrin/article3779862.ece >  <http://tinyurl.com/4tw4o3

Students believe universities are failing too few people: <http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/
story.asp?sectioncode=26&storycode=401508&c=2 >  <http://tinyurl.com/3k8pv9

Top criminologist urges a boycott of Government grants--"endorsement for political priorities only" <http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/
story.asp?sectioncode=26&storycode=401481&c=2 >  <http://tinyurl.com/3os4t8

-- Harry Erwin, PhD "If you can't be a good example, then you'll just have to be a horrible warning." (Catherine Aird)


Subject: The Iron Law


This brief discussion of a Britcom seems to dramatize the iron law:

And the primary goal of any good civil servant is to maintain the status quo and ensure the smooth processing of their next pay rise.

Mike Flynn


Here She Is!! All 24 Tons of Scrap Steel

Here SHE is, The USS New York (LPD 21), made from the World Trade Center !

USS New York

It was built with 24 tons of scrap steel from the WorldTrade Center .

It is the fifth in a new class of warship - designed for missions that include special operations against terrorists. It will carry a crew of 360 sailors and 700 combat-ready Marines to be delivered ashore by helicopters and assault craft.

Steel from the World Trade Center was melted down in a foundry in Amite , LA to cast the ship's bow section. When it was poured into the molds on Sept. 9, 2003 , "those big rough steelworkers treated it with total reverence," recalled Navy Capt. Kevin Wensing, who was there. "It was a spiritual moment for everybody there."

Junior Chavers, foundry operations manager, said that when the trade center steel first arrived, he touched it with his hand and the "hair on my neck stood up." "It had a big meaning to it for all of us," he said. "They knocked us down. They can't keep us down. We're going to be back."

The ship's motto? "Never Forget."







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Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Recent essays

Jerry I can understand your position on debating issues. At first I wondered what you were driving at when you started the Intelligent Design discussion. Why bring it up was what I was wondering. But then you kept driving home the point that if an idea can be tested (generate falsifiable hypotheses as you put it) then there is no reason not to discuss it. You also seem to be trying to deal with groups / individuals which will not discuss or debate their ideas. Just state their position and damn the others. That is hard.

I am continually encouraged at your drive and determination to get to the truth. (An aside, you do seem a bit more sarcastic than you were before the symptoms and radiation started, but then, when I'm tired I tend to snap a bit more, myself.)

Whether intentional or not, I appreciate your comments about education and "The Bell Curve" which have answered some of my questions. I think I better read the book--the point that though the averages might be high, for example, white women higher than white men, that the extremes are different. That answered a few of my questions.

I look forward to your return to good health and I am willing to wait a bit while you heal--if a nap helps clear out the gunk or a walk speeds up the removal, then do it. It may be the first time for you to need to work slowly--don't hesitate to do so. Your "slow work" is still very simulating and contains insights not found elsewhere.

Again thank you for posting your progress and your mini essays.

Charles Tully

Thanks for the kind words. Alas, I don't seem to have a lot of choice: it's work slow, with lots of time for naps, or not work at all. Today seems better, though.

I am still plugging away at my essay on education and the bell curve. I can only hope I haven't lost the ability to explain complex ideas.

Simply asserting that an opposing position is worthless is hardly conducive top learning much; doing so when in control of the curriculum is even less productive. I would have thought that the search for falsifiable hypotheses would be illuminating if only to illustrate scientific method. Asserting that one or the other side can't come up with any is fine, so long as you let them try to do it...


Culture Wars...

You have commented from time to time, Dr. Pournelle, that the most effective anti-terrorism move the West could take with regard to fundamentalist Islam would be to export our culture. Apparently some in Afghanistan have figured that out, although the specific source this time is India rather than the USA.


"In the latest battle of the long-simmering war between cultural conservatives and liberals, the minister for information and culture ordered television networks to stop broadcasting five soap operas on Tuesday, saying they were not in keeping with "Afghan religion and culture."

"The private television companies initially refused to obey the order and said they would plead their case to Afghanistan's president. The television shows, all soap operas produced in India, continued to be broadcast every evening and have much of the urban population hooked.

"As the deadline approached, however, one network, Ariana TV, buckled and pulled one of the soap operas, "Kumkum," on Sunday. The network was immediately deluged with calls from viewers, said Abdul Qadir Mirzai, Ariana's chief news editor."

Charles Brumbelow


House Speakers Pelosi and Gingrich Come Together to Promote Action on Climate Change

"Today, the We campaign announced the launch of the second in their series of "Unlikely Alliances" ads, in which House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and former Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-GA) discuss their shared interest in seeing the American public and elected officials work together to address climate change."


I saw this ad on television just yesterday, and wa stunned. How can this be? Speaker Gingrich is (one hopes?) aware of many of the "climate change" follies we often discuss here, is he not?


I would certainly hope so. I have not spoken with Newt in a year or so, but surely he knows better?


re: 9-11 Memorial Service 

Jerry, As far as I can tell, the unabashedly old school patriotic memorial service has gone down the "memory hole". The MSM TV news have all this wonderful footage which they will not release, even for profit. I'm sure their excuse is not "exploiting" things, when the reality is that they wish to squelch any nationalistic feelings among the rabble.

In the same way one cannot find a detailed documentary of the first 3 weeks of the conventional phase of the war with all of the fantastic embedded footage that was broadcast (up to and including Baghdad Bob being shown up on live TV with US tanks across the river behind him) -- again the MSM sit on it quite deliberately. You can only find dvds which skim over it and bury those things for which any American could be proud in quagmire "context" provided by talking heads.

(I haven't looked in a while, but if any other readers can correct me, I would be glad to hear it.)

I hope your medical progress continues, as frustratingly erratic as it may be at times.

Richard J

I have noticed this. There was a ton of footage about 9-11, but you never get to see any of it. If there have been new sources of 9-11 or the fall of Baghdad I don't know how to find them.

This morning I can wink and blink my right eye! So the original symptoms are abating...


Baen's bar thread 

Jerry, some assessments on Baen's Bar - Politics - thread titled "Obama would 'immediately' begin looking into prosecution of Bush officials" notes that as one of the slippery slopes that destroyed Rome, and degenerated into discussion of the Civil War that Obama would engender thereby. Not sure what to do with it, not sure I even want to discuss it, but good points were made by most.


The surest way to civil war is to begin prosecuting policy differences as criminal. There is no faster way to destroy a republic than to give the loser great fear of losing the election. Make the stakes high enough and you will see armed gangs in the streets and recruiting of elements of the Legions. Caesar crossed the Rubicon with his Legions because he did not get immunity from prosecution as he ran for Consul.


Education, the Scientific Method, and Evolution vs Planning...


I come down on the side of Teaching any darned Theory the Educrats wish, about how our Globe got its present cast of Flora, Fauna, and Confused!

Why? Because of my realization that the students will use the Scientific Method to sort out what makes sense, just as I did, from my own readings in Geology, Geophysics, and the somewhat drunken march to Theories, by folks stumbling over a Maps-fact here, a rock there, some river sands here, some ocean beach sands there, and then some sandstone layers on edge, in a mountain, here and there.

Falsification is a pretty powerful Tool. It does not care about my feelings about facts, just as my hammer does not care about my feeling, before I hit my Thumb!

So the earnest Educrat is going to react quite like the setting Hen, when her Ducklings started paddling across the Pond. The Educrat is going to be agast, watching Students eagerly heading across the Sea of Know, to search the Oceans of the Unknown.



Creationism in schools

I am passionately opposed to teaching creationism in schools. But the analogy with anti-phonics and historical diversity is a good one. Damn you.

Bottom-up democracy is the best answer. Do stuff locally unless there is a pressing need to do it county-wide. And you really need a pressing need to worry about setting policy at the state or national level. Unless I'm right and the local doofuses are wrong.

Beating me over the head with my own incosistencies hurts. Do you REALLY need to do that? (grin)


More on Enoch Powell

For more on the great man, see
(2001) -- synopsis follows.

Synopsis: The gifted and esteemed, if unsmiling and much abused British politician, Enoch Powell,* fell from grace in 1968. Powell's mistake was to have alluded to the possible perils of the mass coloured immigration into Britain which was by then well under way. Powell was instantly sacked from the Conservative Shadow Cabinet (where he had been Defence spokesman) and then left to languish on the Westminster backbenches - finally becoming an Ulster Unionist MP. With this put-down by the Heath government vanished for a generation any serious possibility of public realism in Britain about race or nationhood. Even the quite successful Scottish National Party currently professes multiculturalism and in 1999 reproved its leader when he queried Nato's bombing of Serbia (which had tried to control the Albanians within its borders). Today, it is not just academics and journalists but drinking men and grandmothers in Britain who know that "you mustn't mention the darkies." By intimidation, Britain's political class has preserved the fiction that race is not a problem.

Such enforced piety is sometimes claimed to have been a success. Britain's roughly 93% white population has certainly tolerated rather well the 7% of British citizens who now hail from the New Commonwealth. Yet, this year, Britain experienced its worst race riots since the 1950s - with over 200 police injured by young Pakistanis in nights of street battles in Oldham, Leeds, Burnley, Bradford and Stoke-on-Trent. Globalized capitalism and its convenient religion of Political Correctness are likely to be answered by ever-rising levels of white racial consciousness and the rejection of multicultural illusions. In the past two years, scores of violent incidents between Glaswegians and London's 4,000 Muslim "asylum seekers" have provided a test of how keen the Scots are on multiculturalism.

Was Enoch Powell correct in his forebodings that multiculturalism would not succeed? Contrary to the wishful thinking of Britain's chattering classes (themselves largely unaffected by coloured immigrants competing for their own jobs or nearby living space) the jury is still out. The murderous ethnic polarization which erupted in multicultural Sarajevo could also happen in Macedonia and even the UK's south Pennines. Fortunately, dangerous multiculturalism may prove corrigible if it meets a monoculturalism that is at once nationalist and classically liberal - the kind of dynamic compromise that Enoch Powell would have wished.

Chris Brand

Diversity vs. the Melting Pot. The experiment continues.


Ignoring the Obvious

Dr. Pournelle,

Not "What were they thinking?", but rather, "Were they thinking?"...

"But scientists from the U.S. National Centre for Atmospheric Research in Bolder, Colorado published a report in 2006 that showed the sun had a negligible effect on climate change.

The researchers wrote in the journal Nature that the sun's brightness varied by only 0.07 percent over 11-year sunspot cycles, and that that was far too little to account for the rise in temperatures since the Industrial Revolution." http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,352241,00.html

It's great to see that your inner spirit is keeping you driven, and logical, knowing that the symptoms will change soon. Keep up the willpower, and the good fight!

Best Wishes, Peter Czora

I can't prove it was solar output, but the Maunder Minimum of sunspots happened at the same time as the Little Ice Age. And we know there was a Medieval Warm period between 800 and 1300, when Greenland had inhabitable regions and the Inuit herded both caribou and cattle, and growing seasons were longer everywhere. Solar output seems a reasonable explanation.


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Wednesday, April 23, 2008

This day was devoured by locusts.






CURRENT VIEW    Wednesday


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Thursday, April 24, 2008

"But I do feel up to working on some essays, and I suppose I had better give the column a lick and a promise if nothing more."

Aha, this is a job for Khaos in a lounge chair!!!!

Richard Hakala 

"Age and treachery always overcome youth and skill"

Actually, that sounds like a great idea! I was able to do a bit of work with Khaos while waiting for Dr. Wang Tuesday. For some reason I haven't thought about working that way at home. I can't think why.



Dr. Pournelle:



It's nice to see National Review waking up to something you've discussed for years.


I wonder what will happen in Great Britain if the Scots remember Wallace and Robert the Bruce? I really wouldn't want to be near someone instigating a riot (Niven's Laws) if the Scots heritage awakens.


I tried for years to get someone in the Republican leadership to understand that Hansen was a politician, not a scientist, and the Global Warming model builders were not supported by those who gather the data; and failing someone in the Republican leadership to understand this, at least someone in the conservative movement leadership. I wasn't terribly successful. Access to Energy (www.accesstoewnergy.com) was the only publication that took the threat of "environmentalism" seriously.

After all, who can be against helping the Earth? But as Petr Beckmann, founder of Access to Energy, used to say, there is no need for coercive laws requiring us to conserve diamonds and gold...

Actually, some conservation laws make sense; but note what has come of environmentalism: the mechanisms of government are used to make us add methanol to gasoline despite all the engineering objections to the stuff; despite the fact that it takes about as much energy to make the ethanol or methanol as your car gets from it; and the result is lots of money for the producers (astonishment!) and silent famine in parts of Asia; food riots in Mexico City, and I suppose a feeling of smug accomplishment by those who require us to burn food. Welcome to the Day After Earth Day.

As to Scottish Nationalism, we will see. My last visit to Scotland showed one thing: as soon as you crossed the border, the roads got narrower.

Scots, wha hae wi' Wallace bled,
Scots, wham Bruce has aften led,
Welcome tae your gory bed,
Or tae Victorie!
'Now's the day, and now's the hour:
See the front o' battle lour,
See approach proud Edward's power -
Chains and Slaverie!
'Wha will be a traitor knave?
Wha will fill a coward's grave?
Wha sae base as be a slave?
Let him turn and flee!
'Wha, for Scotland's king and law,
Freedom's sword will strongly draw,
Freeman stand, or Freeman fa',
Let him on wi' me!
'By Oppression's woes and pains!
By your sons in servile chains!
We will drain our dearest veins,
But they shall be free!
'Lay the proud usurpers low!
Tyrants fall in every foe!
Liberty's in every blow! -
Let us do or dee!'


Cloud Computing. Available at Amazon.com Today,


You used to say that silicon was cheaper than iron. Now it's that electrons are cheaper than silicon. Amazon is offering, well, computation and storage, really cheap:


Who could resist?



The End of the End of History


I think you will find the analysis in this long paper to be quite familiar:



It is an interesting essay, and I agree with the conclusion; but I would take issue with the general strategy that Kagan thinks necessary. His father is certainly the scholar to look to for lessons on the Peloponnesian War, and his maxim that if you seek peace you must keep it is a variant on the old Roman maxim that if you would have peace, be prepared for war. On that, I think, we can all agree.

What we do know is that the global shift toward liberal democracy coincided with the historical shift in the balance of power toward those nations and peoples who favored the liberal democratic idea, a shift that began with the triumph of the democratic powers over fascism in World War II and that was followed by a second triumph of the democracies over communism in the Cold War. The liberal international order that emerged after these two victories reflected the new overwhelming global balance in favor of liberal forces. But those victories were not inevitable, and they need not be lasting. Now the re-emergence of the great autocratic powers, along with the reactionary forces of Islamic radicalism, has weakened that order, and threatens to weaken it further in the years and decades to come. The world's democracies need to begin thinking about how they can protect their interests and advance their principles in a world in which these are, once again, powerfully contested.

On that we can agree; what we must do, and whether we should rely on our military or our technological capabilities is worth discussion.


Subject: Rowling and Copyright

Dear Jerry:

As I have said from the beginning, Copyright is always about the money. The guy who wanted to do a Potter reference work is a fanboy, but the basic rule of fan publishing is that you can't make any real money from it, because you are per se, violating someone else's copyright. This, too, will fail the smell test for the "fair use" and "commentary" exceptions. When the judge in the case urged the parties to settle he was doing what every judge wants to do in a Copyright case. Make it GO AWAY! It's a bad law that badly need reform and, despite all the rhetoric to the contrary, judges don't really want to "make" law, just interpret it. Since tried cases are so rare, every decision makes law, and these guys are desperately trying to avoid doing that since they fell, quite rightly, that this is the job of the Congress.

Rowling has every right to control this kind of derivative work. Fanboy is in the wrong, his protests and tears notwithstanding, and the case should be settled. If he proceeds, he will be the hook for attorney's fees, her as well as his, and damages at a level he will never be able to pay. Rowling doesn't need the money, but she does need the decision. She's had a platoon of very expensive lawyers on standby for years defending her rights. She and she alone has the right to profit from Harry Potter. Any other answer invites madness.


Francis Hamit


Lifetime of Civilizations  


On the lifetime of civilizations:

Converse to the Dyson contention you cited in your reply to Mr. Morgan:

Scenario 1: Stan Schmidt's 1994 Analog editorial that suggests an upper limit to the lifetime of a civilization is the time it takes for 1 disaffected or careless individual to develop the mechanisms (including leverage as required) to result in the physical destruction of his civilization (bio warfare? triggering the nuclear holocaust? forming planet-swallowing black holes with high-energy-density scientific experiments? method X?)

Scenario 2: Even avoiding a grandiose end to civilization as in Scenario 1, one can also imagine scenarios based on the contention that if civilization collapses again for any reason (a somewhat less catastrophic version of most of the items in Scenario 1, or a Fallen Angel type of scenario, for example), the ability to recover a technological civilization capable of sustaining a return to space will have been squandered through having used up most of the readily available material and energy resources of the planet.

Scenario 3: Per capita energy requirements for living in space are significantly higher than on earth (including of course the ~ 50 megajoules per kilogram necessary to move the initial mass to LEO, which is currently supplied at an energy efficiency on the order of 1%) and all but a few diehards finally decide that it is just not worth the cost in energy to move off of the planet when the same energy could provide extremely comfortable lifestyles here, even without a disaster. (of course, even at that 1% energy efficiency for launch, I use enough energy in a month to move that kilogram into orbit -- and my electric bill for doing so is currently under $300, though that might change if the ecofascists take charge, in which event revert to Scenario 2).

The human race is not out of the woods until we have multiple viable colonies off of the earth's surface, as Mr. Heinlein so poetically wrote.



Coldstream Guards Regimental Recruiting Video 

If the Army of these United States had a true regimental system (the Iron Law killed it years ago...) we might have this sort of recruitment ad. It's a bit more interesting than "Army Strong", but then it wasn't done by some Madison Avenue whiz kid.


Kind of makes you wonder if Col. Falkenberg might not have used something similar?



Subject: Tariffs

Dr. Pournelle,

Your proposal for a 10-15% tariff on all imports makes good sense. For those with a historical bent, see the graph of tariff rates on the value of ALL imports prior to 1950 and afterward.

Ron Mullane


Do understand, if all you want is increased production and cheaper prices, simply getting rid of regulations and restrictions like ADA and OSHA will probably do it better, but if you insist on "decent" working conditions for your workers, you can't also compete with countries that don't. The exception would be in skilled work, and for that you need an effective education system. Ours is not good for teaching skills, and No Child Left Behind makes it worse.

Tariff is the only way to preserve jobs in the US. We thrived under protective tariff from Lincoln to Wilson...

A tariff plus leaving working condition regulations to the states would be even better. Let the states compete for working conditions vs. business friendly. But we had that and the Great Society among other liberal interferences finished that.


Subject: Regulating Risk


Then there is a proposed Department of Transportation rule that would force infants to occupy their own seats on commercial flights, which would yield an expected savings of one life per two years — but would produce a significant net increase in risk, as studies show that parents choose to drive rather than purchase additional tickets.

Some of the worst regulatory excesses occur when the government is exercising its "gatekeeper" role, in which it must grant permission before a product can be marketed, as is the case for pharmaceuticals and pesticides.

Regulators of these products are highly risk-averse, often discounting or ignoring the costs of life-saving products that are delayed or abandoned. As a result of pharmaceutical regulators constantly raising the bar for approval, bringing a new drug to market now requires 12 to 15 years and costs more than $1 billion (in direct and indirect costs).


All of which argues for a reasonable tariff and leaving most of those regulations to the states. If a billion dollar trade deficit costs 13.000 jobs -- according to Bush among others -- then what do our staggering trade deficits cost us? And if those jobs were here and the workers paying taxes---


Nuclear Power in the UK

Probably of interest:
D53-EF75-39C1-C79C4CF1EBC4FD8F >  <http://tinyurl.com/6f7enf

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


Scottish nationalism, viewed from England

As to Scottish Nationalism, we will see. My last visit to Scotland showed one thing: as soon as you crossed the border, the roads got narrower.

Well, anytime they want to give up England and go home, they'll get no argument from me.

Seriously, they took us over with the Stuarts, most of the 1745/Culloden thing was highland vs lowland with a little English and German input, the victorious army at Culloden was mostly Scottish. Blair and now Brown, both Scots. Most of the cabinet, Scots. Lots more public money spent per head on Scots vs English. Any partly informed Americans with a romantic view of Scotland's history should be aware that right now Scottish politics is dominated by Socialist/Liberal thought, and relies on someone else stumping up the cash. And they can have independence any time they like, nobody is likely to fight them for it.

Even more seriously, the Union with England was what allowed the Scots to have the immense influence they have had on the World. Both countries have benefited from it, neither enslaves or exploits the other (nowadays). Old rivalries remain, but they are not a reason to break up a successful act.


Adrian Camp

Agreed. Conservatives do seem intensely involved with lost causes. Fortunately they usually have the good sense not to get too involved. Singing the old songs is one thing, taking up a musket and fighting another battle is quite another.

Actually Florence MacDonald, deported to the Carolinas, was a Tory and helped raise a Loyalist company during the Revolutionary War. Most of it was wiped out at Kings Mountain.


The Ice Age Cometh...


"THE scariest photo I [Phil Chapman] have seen on the internet is www.spaceweather.com,  where you will find a real-time image of the sun from the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory, located in deep space at the equilibrium point between solar and terrestrial gravity.

"What is scary about the picture is that there is only one tiny sunspot."

"The sunspot number follows a cycle of somewhat variable length, averaging 11 years. The most recent minimum was in March last year. The new cycle, No.24, was supposed to start soon after that, with a gradual build-up in sunspot numbers.

"It didn't happen. The first sunspot appeared in January this year and lasted only two days. A tiny spot appeared last Monday but vanished within 24 hours. Another little spot appeared this Monday. Pray that there will be many more, and soon.

"The reason this matters is that there is a close correlation between variations in the sunspot cycle and Earth's climate. The previous time a cycle was delayed like this was in the Dalton Minimum, an especially cold period that lasted several decades from 1790.

"Northern winters became ferocious: in particular, the rout of Napoleon's Grand Army during the retreat from Moscow in 1812 was at least partly due to the lack of sunspots."

"The bleak truth is that, under normal conditions, most of North America and Europe are buried under about 1.5km of ice. This bitterly frigid climate is interrupted occasionally by brief warm interglacials, typically lasting less than 10,000 years.

"The interglacial we have enjoyed throughout recorded human history, called the Holocene, began 11,000 years ago, so the ice is overdue. We also know that glaciation can occur quickly: the required decline in global temperature is about 12C and it can happen in 20 years.

"The next descent into an ice age is inevitable but may not happen for another 1000 years. On the other hand, it must be noted that the cooling in 2007 was even faster than in typical glacial transitions. If it continued for 20 years, the temperature would be 14C cooler in 2027.

"By then, most of the advanced nations would have ceased to exist, vanishing under the ice, and the rest of the world would be faced with a catastrophe beyond imagining."

"All those urging action to curb global warming need to take off the blinkers and give some thought to what we should do if we are facing global cooling instead.

"It will be difficult for people to face the truth when their reputations, careers, government grants or hopes for social change depend on global warming, but the fate of civilisation may be at stake."

Would the onset of an ice age mean Algore would have to give back his Oscar and peace prize?

Charles Brumbelow

No it would mean that we'd all have to pretend there was no ice. We have just heard that a 7% variation in solar output won't have as much effect on climate as CO2. This doesn't make a lot of sense, but the computer models have to be correct, don't they?


In today's mail you said:

"No it would mean that we'd all have to pretend there was no ice. We have just heard that a 7% variation in solar output won't have as much effect on climate as CO2. This doesn't make a lot of sense, but the computer models have to be correct, don't they?"

In fairness, the figure quoted above on this page and in the linked article was ".07%" Seven hundredths of a percent, not seven percent. Factor of a hundred less. Always assuming the report got it right in the first place.

Regards, and best wishes for your physical improvement,

-- Cecil Rose

Which shows I am not thinking as well as I should.

We know that the Maunder Minimum corresponds with a very cold period; and that there have been other cold times that correlate with minimum sunspots. Solar output variation is the OBVIOUS first thing to suspect when the Earth's temperature changes...

Whether it's enough I don't know but historical evidence says it certainly is.


Re: PS, Rice

Ron -

"We still have our Y2k "hoard""

Back in Y2K days just like today most folk had zero pantry storage, and would start to go hungry if they could not buy at the supermarket every other day. I always bought when I found a deal on something we would eat anyway, and probably had at least a couple of months food for our then family of 5.

When Y2K hit lots of folk spent many thousands of dollars buying either packaged storage systems, or did it cheaper on their own. Lots of folk caned stuff at Mormon canneries. We bought a bit, including some freeze dried stuff (that we liked the taste of) but added overall very little because we already stored so much everyday.

Almost all of what we bought for Y2K got eaten in the normal course of things, with just a very little given away.

These days we are just 2 and the pantry is smaller, but still there. We might live a month on our current pantry.

I hear the "food shortage" talk and do not plan to run out and buy any big sacks of rice (only the big sacks of the most popular types such as Basmati and Jasmine rice are being rationed from what I read.) While we like and eat rice, it is not that big a part of our diet, and a 50 lb bag of rice would probably take us 10 years to go through.

Maybe I am crazy, but I plan to just keep on looking for deals on stuff we eat anyway, and stocking that in the pantry. Things are quite different from when we had 4 hungry teenage boys at home to keep fed :>) These days we almost never buy lots of things that we ran through like crazy back in the day. That is why I don't think any "food storage plan" package will ever work for us (unless we had money to throw away).

We could try to eat better, however.


Sounds like you used to read my column when I was and editor/columnist for SURVIVE Magazine. You have of course hit on the proper way to stockpile food without looking like a hoarder and without going broke.

In the survivalist days we used to have a slogan: "Some will collect food, some will collect gold, some will collect guns and ammunition. And someone will end up with gold, food, and guns."

Of course we were expecting the entire collapse of civilization with nuclear war as the probable cause, and that's not likely now; indeed, we won't fall as far as we did during the Great Depression, and even that is unlikely. Things will not collapse to the point that police and National Guard will look to their own survival and families. At least that doesn't look likely just now. The Great Rice Shortage is very local in a couple of Costco stores heavily patronized by Philippine immigrants and fairly wealthy ones at that.

Buying extra staples that you will eat anyway is a good hedge against inflation and doesn't make you look like a probable source in the event that the transport system comes apart and there are food shortages in the stores.





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Friday,  April 25, 2008

Sunspots and radio propagation

Dr. Pournelle,

I am a ham radio enthusiast and note the sudden popular interest in the lack of sunspots. It is well known that the presence of sunspots is a good indicator of solar activity and consequent ionization of the upper atmosphere. It is this ionization that allows some radio waves to reflect and be received at distant points. Hams keep pretty close track of what the sun is doing and as a group have been wondering for some time if we were entering a "Maunder Minimum." I am told by fellow hams that the propagation for the last few years is the worst in memory. Almost the only consistent methods working for long distance amateur communication are the digital modes, such as Morse code and some other modes that allow signal detection in weak, noisy conditions. Modern equipment and antennas are pretty good, but the quality of the propagation is the main driver for hams.

We anxiously await the return of the sunspots: Where's global warming when you need it? BTW, we had sleet and snow here in Seattle last weekend (April 19).

Best to you for your continued recovery--do take it easy. Things that may seem urgent now will turn out to be lost in the noise in a year and your fans will still be with you.

John Witt

Cold is a lot worse than warm, as I fear we will find out soon enough. Fallen Angels was a romp, but we did our research for it; it was a plausible view of future conditions.


Chicken Fried Dinosaur 


Rest easy over , thousand year old eggs-- T. Rex T-bones are not on the menu.

DNA analysis on the amazingly well preserved soft tissue of one excavated in 2003 - the guys in the Harvard Bio lab swear the femur stank when sawn into demonstrate with 90% confidence based on sequencing that todays chickens are just dinosaurs with a poor self image .


-- Russell Seitz

Actually, I find that chicken tastes just like rattlesnake.... We had to eat snakes and lizards in that silly survival course many decades ago. Tasty if cooked.


Storing food as a hedge

Dr. Pournelle:

Either you're reading the same WSJ article I am, or you are clairvoyant! This article was on Monday's site:


My wife and I are considering stocking key consumables whose prices I've watched climb. Canned fruits and vegetables, SPAM light, tuna for my wife, and that canned chicken you can get at Costco.

I thought I'd let you know that the "rice panic" has spread. My Costco (west Houston) didn't have a grain of rice in the store. There was no sign over the display, just a blank space with empty wooden pallets where bags of rice normally sit. Houston has a large Indian population and the Basmati variants are quite popular. Costco stocked those. I'm sure this so-called "panic" was induced by Drudge, who really doesn't consider before he posts links. Interestingly, a Kroger across the highway (Interstate 10) had plenty of rice. A dozen different varieties, but smaller quantities. I bought what I needed (2 pounds Jasmine and two pounds of local long grain) for the month.

What do I think (if anyone cares to know)? This "food shortage" is a bubble that will last until some time next year. I think the current trends will get the government out of the ethanol-from-corn business, and by summer 2009 things should sort themselves out. Of course there will be higher beef prices next summer.


Bill Kelly

Houston, Texas


Free will


This is something I have thought a lot on over the years because most if not all of my ancestors lived this belief. Free will as stated by Pelagius basically says God or evolution gives us choices and that we must each individual person choose how we wish to interact with the society around us. We choose to be an ethical person or we choose not to be ethical for reasons we decide on for ourselves or are laid upon us by our local culture or cultural environment.

The doctrine of predestination put forth by some says that all actions of all people down to the smallest were pre-programmed during the creation of the universe. To me people who believe this are the saddest souls in the universe because they have no hope of rising above their current as born condition except through a miracle from god. Could it be that this focus on the inevitability of predestination is a major cause of the world’s problems because many people feel any actions they might take no matter how evil are natural acts they can not avoid because god wills it or they could not do it. This also I think leads to the expressed dependency of many who blame god directly because bad things happen to them instead of blaming themselves because they did not practice care in their own actions.

I feel that the strong teaching of free will makes people more responsible and better citizens because they can not blame god or society for their problems, they can only blame themselves. Predestination teaches dependency and fatalism, free will teaches independence and personal responsibility.

-- James Early Long Beach, CA

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


Article worth reading

Starts with a comparison of our current situation with the Boer War and goes from there.


Rich Pournelle XCOR Aerospac

My son Richard, who doesn't always agree with my assessments of the future, recommends this article, and indeed it is worth reading. A great deal of what it says is exactly on target, and well worth your attention.

The history of the British Empire is well done, and much of the economic analysis is important, either as education or reminder. The article is well done, and I repeat, well worth your attention.

It also illustrates what I have been trying to say: it is from the viewpoint of those who see the future in terms of the interests of the right side of the Bell Curve, and who think that the answer to any problems caused by that can be remedied by subsidies, retraining, giveaways, and concessions: which is to say, not with good will and good intentions.


Consider the industries of the future. Nanotechnology (applied science dealing with the control of matter at the atomic or molecular scale) is likely to lead to fundamental breakthroughs over the next 50 years, and the United States dominates the field. It has more dedicated "nanocenters" than the next three nations (Germany, Britain, and China) combined and has issued more patents for nanotechnology than the rest of the world combined, highlighting its unusual strength in turning abstract theory into practical products. Biotechnology (a broad category that describes the use of biological systems to create medical, agricultural, and industrial products) is also dominated by the United States. Biotech revenues in the United States approached $50 billion in 2005, five times as large as the amount in Europe and representing 76 percent of global biotech revenues.

Manufacturing has, of course, been leaving the country, shifting to the developing world and turning the United States into a service economy. This scares many Americans, who wonder what their country will make if everything is "made in China." But Asian manufacturing must be viewed in the context of a global economy. The Atlantic Monthly's James Fallows spent a year in China watching its manufacturing juggernaut up close, and he provides a persuasive explanation of how outsourcing has strengthened U.S. competitiveness. What it comes down to is that the real money is in designing and distributing products -- which the United States dominates -- rather than manufacturing them. A vivid example of this is the iPod: it is manufactured mostly outside the United States, but most of the added value is captured by Apple, in California.

All true: now consider how blue collar workers without college degrees (and without the intellectual capacity to earn real and productive college degrees) will profit from this? What is to be done with the mill hands, sewing machine operators, assemblers and fitters, those who used to be thought of as industrial workers: the 40% of Americans (of all races, but largely white) with reasonable intellectual skills and abilities; the lower middle class which supported its families, paid its taxes, voted in elections, participated in civic and church activities,  and was in many ways the heart of America. If the intellectuals are mostly interested in where the added value goes -- to Apple stockholders, who are not necessarily Americans and are almost certainly not lower middle class -- then who is concerned for that 40% of America.

The U.S. investment picture also looks much rosier if education and research-and-development spending are considered along with spending on physical capital and housing.

The United States has serious problems. By all calculations, Medicare threatens to blow up the federal budget. The swing from surpluses to deficits between 2000 and 2008 has serious implications. Growing inequality (the result of the knowledge economy, technology, and globalization) has become a signature feature of the new era. Perhaps most worrying, Americans are borrowing 80 percent of the world's surplus savings and using it for consumption: they are selling off their assets to foreigners to buy a couple more lattes a day. But such problems must be considered in the context of an overall economy that remains powerful and dynamic.

Which says in effect be of good cheer.

I repeat, the entire article is very much worth your attention. The second half is largely on education, starting with statements like this:

Indeed, higher education is the United States' best industry. In no other field is the United States' advantage so overwhelming. A 2006 report from the London-based Center for European Reform points out that the United States invests 2.6 percent of its GDP in higher education, compared with 1.2 percent in Europe and 1.1 percent in Japan. Depending on which study you look at, the United States, with five percent of the world's population, has either seven or eight of the world's top ten universities and either 48 percent or 68 percent of the top 50. The situation in the sciences is particularly striking. In India, universities graduate between 35 and 50 Ph.D.'s in computer science each year; in the United States, the figure is 1,000. A list of where the world's 1,000 best computer scientists were educated shows that the top ten schools are all American. The United States also remains by far the most attractive destination for students, taking in 30 percent of the total number of foreign students globally, and its collaborations between business and educational institutions are unmatched anywhere in the world. All these advantages will not be erased easily, because the structure of European and Japanese universities -- mostly state-run bureaucracies -- is unlikely to change. And although China and India are opening new institutions, it is not that easy to create a world-class university out of whole cloth in a few decades.

Which again is true enough. Of the 700,000 engineers annually graduating in China, the vast majority would be considered technicians in the United States. Two questions arise: what does this (our superior engineering education) do for the lower middle class; and which of our institutions produce a large quantity of technicians, many of whom could come from the ranks of the old working class? These questions will be addressed in my essay on education, which I'll have done Real Soon Now. Apologies, but I am taking your advice and spending as much time as needed in recuperating mode, so that is delayed. But do keep that in mind as you read the article.

One final quote:

The U.S. system may be too lax when it comes to rigor and memorization, but it is very good at developing the critical faculties of the mind. It is surely this quality that goes some way in explaining why the United States produces so many entrepreneurs, inventors, and risk takers. Tharman Shanmugaratnam, until recently Singapore's minister of education, explains the difference between his country's system and that of the United States: "We both have meritocracies," Shanmugaratnam says. "Yours is a talent meritocracy, ours is an exam meritocracy. We know how to train people to take exams. You know how to use people's talents to the fullest. Both are important, but there are some parts of the intellect that we are not able to test well -- like creativity, curiosity, a sense of adventure, ambition. Most of all, America has a culture of learning that challenges conventional wisdom, even if it means challenging authority." This is one reason that Singaporean officials recently visited U.S. schools to learn how to create a system that nurtures and rewards ingenuity, quick thinking, and problem solving. "Just by watching, you can see students are more engaged, instead of being spoon-fed all day," one Singaporean visitor told The Washington Post. While the United States marvels at Asia's test-taking skills, Asian governments come to the United States to figure out how to get their children to think.

Assume every word of that is true, and consider that 40% of the population isn't going to excel at jobs that require a high degree of ability in creative thinking. Creative thinking is hard work even for the top third of the Bell Curve -- I would be astonished if many of my readers were not in that group -- but it is possible. As we go down the Bell Curve it becomes more difficult and eventually becomes impossible -- and all the educational effort expended in teaching "talent meritocracy" skills has been wasted. Those on the left side of the Bell Curve have talents and potentials, but they require a different kind of education -- and the United States public school system, with rare exceptions, not only doesn't provide it but doesn't want to provide it. We believe or say we believe what Bill Gates believes: that every child deserves a world class university prep education. And as I have said, attempting to provide that to everyone means that few will in fact get such and education, and much of the money and resources devoted to education will be wasted. And that is where we are: with No Child Left Behind as administered by and education bureaucracy subject to the Iron Law.

As I said, I recommend the entire article to your attention. It has many truths, and its blind spots are illuminating.

And to those who have an interest in Great Britain's Empire and its accomplishments, I once again recommend


Your blog entry on the 1800 election

I just wanted to correct something you wrote. Hamilton was not a candidate for president in 1800. He could not be as he was born in the VirginIslands and the Constitution requires presidents to be native born. Hamilton was an ostensible ally of Adams (though Adams detested him) but a bitter enemy of Burr and Hamilton had the election thrown to Jefferson for which Burr never forgave him.


Actually there is an exception written into the Constitution.

"natural born Citizen, or a Citizen of the United States, at the time of the Adoption of this Constitution . . . ."

When I was in school it was assumed that this was written in precisely to allow Hamilton to become president. Washington would have insisted on it.

Of course those old enough to be President couldn't have been natural born citizens of the US because there wasn't a US before 1776, or the adoption of the Articles, whichever you like.

In any event Hamilton certainly had electoral votes, and New York voted for him when the election went to the House.



An old girlfriend once tossed off the following argument against "intelligent design": Ask any woman of childbearing age whether she can think of improvements to the design of humanity. If the possible improvements are that obvious, wouldn't an intelligent designer have already made them?

Cheers! --Stu

That may be the most powerful argument against ID. I will leave it to ID apologists to respond. Mind you, I am sure there is a response but how appealing it may be -- particularly to women -- is another story.


Subject: Mayoral control


Came across this, in case you might be interested:


The new boss ... same as the old boss? Facing ever-declining performance in their schools, ...

-- Stan.


'It's a first for mass transit in the United States.'


- Roland Dobbins

Common sight in Europe, of course...


Making Al Gore rich


You said something along the lines of "I don't see reason for global warming, except to make Al Gore rich, it certainly isn't about building a better future."

Well it just dawned on me...if you are one of the "Baby Boomer" generation, a group of people who are notorious for thinking that the world did not exist prior to their birth, then there really isn't any need to "build a better future."

If it really IS all about "the ME generation"...then it it totally logical to throw away the achievements of a thousand generations for personal short term gain. If one REALLY believes that nothing in life is more important than one's personal happiness (and the "hell no, we won't go" crowd has shown time and again that is what they believe ) then supporting a movement that destroys the Republic, trashes personal liberty, strangles Capitalism, lowers the average American's standard of living, and starves a large portion of the world's poor children is perfectly acceptable, as long as one gets a nice profit off one's alternative energy stocks, social acclaim, awards, and a big house on a hill.

These are the same people who preferred that Cambodia, South Vietnam, and Laos fall under the rule of genocidal tyrants than they risk being drafted. They are the same people who prefer to abort millions of innocent children than they have to have minimal sexual self restraint. They are the same people who prefer cheap and easy divorce, and the legions of social problems it causes to a world where they can't "trade up" for a trophy wife every 7 years, and they are the same people who would have gladly sold all of Western Civilization out to the Soviets (or the Jihadis) for a nice tenured job... be it as a professor or commisar makes no difference.

Backing Global Warming is completely consistent with all their prior behavior.

"In addition, the diversion of one-third of the U.S. corn crop into making ethanol for vehicles has increased prices for corn and other staples such as soybeans and cotton as more acreage is set aside for ethanol production."

Washington Times, April 23, 2008


So…thanks to the noble environmentalists, we’re not allowed to drill for the huge beds of oil we own; because we’re not allowed to drill and refine our own resources, our heating and fuel bills are skyrocketing, our grocery bills are rising and - most troublingly - we may be facing food shortages....



"Life Is Wonderfull."

This article is quite accurate, based upon my first-hand observations:


- Roland Dobbins


Subj: (Unmanned) US Army Air Force continues to expand


>>General Atomics, the manufacturer of the Predator UAV, is developing the new Sky Warrior UAV, which enters service next year. The army wants 45 squadrons (each with 12 UAVs), at a cost of about $8 million per aircraft (including ground equipment). The Sky Warrior weighs 1.5 tons, carries 300 pounds of sensors internally, and up to 500 pounds of sensors or weapons externally. It has an endurance of up to 36 hours and a top speed of 270 kilometers an hour. Sky Warrior has a wingspan 56 feet and is 28 feet long. The Sky Warrior is heavier than the one ton Predator, and a bit larger and more capable in general. Basically, it’s “Predator Plus”, with the added ability to land and take off automatically, and carry four Hellfire missiles (compared to two on the Predator). ... [E]ach combat division will get a Sky Warrior squadron. Combat brigades will also get detachments (of two to four UAVs) as needed ...<<

And from the Valhalla of Warriors, Hoyt Vandenberg, Pete Quesada and Otto Weyland look down ... and smile.


Rod Montgomery==monty@starfief.com


Jimmy Carter wasn't the worst President in our history.

That prize would go to Woodrow Wilson, IMHO. Carter and Bush II are just about tied for second, IMHO, albeit for quite different reasons.

-- Roland Dobbins

I have many nominations for Bush II.

Given my current condition I don't intend to argue the case...




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Saturday, April 26, 2008

Solar Minimum -- worse than we thought? Importance: High

Looks like things started going wonky about ten years ago.

That would at face value seem to mitigate against any sudden "back to normal" reversal, IMO.




No Child Allowed Ahead


Note that what they're not allowed to do in terms of bringing their own calculators.

I'm guessing that the student in this exam figured out that she could get square roots by entering X^0.5 on her calculator.

I attribute the two following statements to you, which is why this news story reminded me of you:

"When I was a science fiction writer in the 70s, I marveled at four function calculators that cost three hundred dollars. By the early '80s, they'd gotten so cheap that they were given away. I wrote giddily of a world where the unfettered potential of mankind would blossom, because nobody would ever have a problem doing simple mathematics.

Little did I realize that we'd started a program where I'd see two generations of teenaged clerks who couldn't count change as the result of this."

The other one was this:

"I remember, when the computer age was 8 bit and we marveled at kilohertz CPU speeds, talking about the marvelous world my grandchildren would inhabit, where they could get the answer to any question they could formulate, by the miracle of networked computers.

I live in that world now. I'd just failed to predict that I'd have to close 19 windows offering to sell me discount pharmaceuticals to read the answer."



Subject: the blue collar and Tommy

Jerry, Regarding the blue collar work force: they do make good infantry.

That is a frightening thought.

I am tempted to imagine that our elites would be content to reduce the middle and lower classes to third world levels as long as the life to which they have been accustomed to is preserved. And that -is- the purpose of the Prussian education system which the Progressivists gave us.. . .

Nah, that's paranoid. RIght?



Britanicus Pelagius, Augustine and real fatalism

Mr. Early is perhaps understandably confusing Pelagianism with Britanicus Pelagius, and fatalism in general with predestination. Now, I reject both doctrines as heretical, in keeping with the Synod of Orange, and am known to be an opponent of the determinist reductionism taking over Reformed circles. I know the beast, as I earned my M. Div. at a Calvinist seminary.

That being said, the truth is, is that it was the Reformed countries which led the scientific revolution and contributed the most to modern western civilization. Neither the Scots and the Dutch, nor the English under the Protectorate, were by any means the most backward countries in Europe, and the contributions of Scottish Presbyterians to modern science is rather noticable. Comparing the Reformed foundation of America with Catholic South America also demonstrates this rather significantly, and compared to the rest of the world Catholicism has done more for advancement than any others but for the Reformed Protestants.

I don't know why the Reformed don't succumb to the fatalism. It -does- as Mr. Early notes, seem to logically lead to that conclusion. I have noticed, though that the Reformed either reject the logical conclusions of their system, or else are content thinking that they are more beloved of God than anyone else (the latter are thankfully in the minority).

Mr. Early surely doesn't need to be offensive by using a word used as a name for a specific Person in lower case, does he?



This will serve to open the discussion that will begin Monday:

We are not burning food, and rice isn't made from corn.

That is a title, Dr. Pournelle, I know you know that. Some of your readers don't seem to.

Rice is not made from corn. I fail to see how returning 15% max of the dent corn product (maximum estimate in Minnesota for the coming year, double the previous year) to livestock feed will make rice more available. (in actuality, it will have less effect than that, as the left-over mash is better feed than the additional stock). The big thing to look for in the near future is cellulose to ethanol.

The panic against ethanol is less scientific than global warming alarmism. I'm trying to figure out if anyone besides OPEC figures into the cui bouno question on this matter.

In the midwest we produce far more corn than can be utilized. There are economic reasons partially derived from continuing WWII emergency agricultural laws that force farmers to do that.

In Iowa, we have a tax form check-off to try to find a market for our excess crops.

It is a tiny fraction of this corn which is being distilled into ethanol.

The reason food prices are going up are at least two-fold:

1) The dollar has lost perhaps 2/3 - 75% of its value in the last decade. 2) It takes a lot of diesel to farm. As fuel prices increase, so also do farming costs and transportation costs. 3) NAFTA - these regulations removed the protections on agriculture in Mexico which had kept the price of corn artificially low. With those protections removed, the price moved up to something closer to what they were in the 1920s, adjusted for inflation.

The price of fuel is up -everywhere- not just in the US.

There is drought in Australia that is causing a shortage of rice. Midwestern ethanol plants aren't causing that.

The area of the country being talked about produces two crops - for only two crops can be marketed - field corn and soybeans, both of the kind used in livestock feed, not for human consumption (tofu comes from a significantly specialized soybean that is not widely grown, flint corn for tortillas is primarily grown in South America, and pop corn and sweet corn are tiny fractions of a percent of the corn acreage in this country. The situation for farmers is not that of fungibility. No more than complaining about copyright violations due to new technology is for writers. Farmers are NOT growing -vastly- larger amounts of corn to the cost of soybeans for livestock feed. And we aren't growing it to replace wheat, rice, and human food beans, because they don't grow here, or aren't profitable here, or have no way to get those crops to market. It is not a fungible situation. Further, the dent corn/soybean rotation significantly reduces the cost of both fertilizer and eliminates or nearly eliminates the need for pesticides. Farmers -aren't- going to all corn. They need that rotation to reduce costs, to have a profit margin. In a few years, biodiesel will balance that out, anyway.

There are very few ethanol plants, and they are pretty small. The percentage of dent corn going into ethanol production is quite small compared to the fear-monger's impressions.

I know that city folks don't even begin to 'get' farming. That is part of all the 'don't burn our food' craziness. The UN may also not really desire the US to become independent of OPEC. But is there perhaps some other motive going on, that allows otherwise rational conservative commentators fall for something at least as stupid as global warming alarmism?

South Africa and Brazil did rather well on ethanol fuel for a long time.

I say this not for the people who know better, even in part, but to those readers and commentators who do not seem to be aware of the actual situation on the land, and buy into Drudge's odd reporting tendencies.


My view has always been that farm subsidies have nothing to do with energy policy, and everything to do with politics and the Iowa Caucuses. And certainly, corn policy has little to do with rice, and the rice "shortages" tend, as I have said, to be local and cultural. If this were a rational situation you wouldn't have US Asians buying 50 pound bags of rice and sending them by DHL to Asia...

But I am told -- and I am sure I will be corrected if I am wrong -- that upcoming ethanol mandates will require a great deal more than 15% of the corn crop be turned into ethanol; that indeed some seriously considered mandates will require essentially the entire corn crop.

Now I am not at all against subsidies to new and promising industries. I long ago advocated X projects in using bio-waste as an energy source, and I certainly wouldn't object to pilot projects to develop that technology.

What I don't believe is that given current technologies the ethanol mandates make any sense as a means of reducing oil prices; and what I do believe is that the current policies are far more driven by politics, and ADM lobbyists, than by any rational energy policy.

I am willing to be convinced otherwise, but I haven't seen much that persuades me.



Dear Jerry,

"And to those who have an interest in Great Britain's Empire and its accomplishments, I once again recommend"

I've found A.J.P. Taylor's history of domestic England from 1914-1945 a good accompaniment to generalized histories of "The Decline and Fall of the British Empire"


Taylor confined it to an account of domestic England during the years the Empire was imploding. Since it had extensive input from Lord Beaverbrook and was published by the Oxford University Press, perhaps even Fareed Zakaria might read it. Part of Taylor's concluding paragraph reads, "The British Empire declined, the condition of the people improved."

Food for thought for aspiring imperialists everywhere.

Best Wishes,


Fareed Zakaria's lack of concern with the left side of the Bell Curve would probably forbid his finding it interesting. The condition of the people doesn't concern such elitists.

More on that Monday.





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Sunday,  April 27, 2008     

Cold up here in the Canadian bananna belt...

Dear Dr. Pornelle;

My home sits somewhere about the 49th parallel of north latitude, on the West coast of British Columbia. This area has (had?) a very mild climate; one in which residents could be found flocking to the beach by the beginning of May and the unpleasantness of Winter was last felt sometime in February. Lovely place. But as I type this, there is still snow on the ground from a major storm that occurred a week or so ago. B.C. is experiencing the coldest Spring on record.

Of course, the popular press is parroting explanations based on La Nina, if they do more than show pretty pictures of snow-scapes and make inane expressions of amazement. For my part, I am sincerely hoping this is not the start of a trend. I read your site, I follow the links therein, I do additional research and I am not encouraged. I find myself trying very hard not to catastrophise (a natural tendency on my part) and to be critical of and open to, all plausible explanations. In the absence of the expertise necessary to truly evaluate the various positions out there, I rely on critiquing the logic behind the arguments. This may weed out a weak premise, or a bias, or an unstated assumption but does little to clarify the situation. So I must wait and see.

The way I see it, there are four possibilities:

* we are entering a period of severe cooling such as was experienced during periods of solar quiescence. * we are entering a new ice age. * we are entering a period of climate volatility, characterized by both extremes. * we are experiencing a La Nina inspired climate blip and will soon return to "the warming trend".

I believe the last one is unlikely. The science behind the so-called warming trend could be picked apart by anyone with a first year university course in experimental design. Lets face it, the Idiot minority won the day by finally receiving the attention of the popular press and becoming THE ISSUE. Thank you, Mr. Gore (incidentally, the Canadian equivalent is Dr. David Suzuki). People like myself who don't have the knowledge to evaluate the claims being made simply accept the presumption of authority and become frightened, or at least enough of them do that politicians start making public proclamations and exciting further media and public interest, etc., etc.

I'm sure most of you have noticed the subtle shift in language from "global warming" to "climate change". I have also noticed the gradual lessening of media urgency around the issue, no doubt due to the fact that the media cannot keep the emotional state of their viewers/readers high enough to attract sufficient advertising revenue and they must back off for a while until the public can be wound up again. People DO get tired of the song and dance, and while most don't have advanced degrees in climatology, they are smart enough to understand the aroma of the argument. Fecal matter is distinctive.

Is public malaise better than public alarm? Not sure. All I know is that I WOULD like to know which way the wind blows (sorry). Do I move my family South? Is there even time? Do I sell my home and buy five acres and become a subsistence farmer? Will it be business as usual? Will we all be breathing a sigh of relief in five years and feeling a little silly or will most of us be pulverised bits of tissue under mega-tonnes of ice?

Incidentally, You have my heart-felt wishes for a full recovery. I am greatly relieved at your progress so far. Do you think you have a spare room with a fold-out couch for when the ice obliterates Canada?


On the other hand, if the Global Warming people are right, you live in a most valuable place.

I wish I had more than cold comfort if the verdict is ice. From all the evidence I have seen, if Ice Is Coming, then it cometh fast. Of course the remedy is more information to reduce the uncertainties. We already spend far more on "remedies" than we do on finding out whether the man-made global warming hypothesis is true.


Is PETA reading Chaos Manor

Dr. Pournelle:

This isn't the kind of X-Prize I would have considered.


PETA Offers $1 Million Reward to First to Make In Vitro Meat


 Richard Micko


Startup Says It Can Make Ethanol for $1 a Gallon, and Without Corn

Jerry, I fully agree that the American ethanol policy is thoroughly bad, and for much the same reasons that you do. I offer no defense of the policy. However, I don't think that your comment about Brazil is entirely fair. The pretext given for the American ethanol policy was, at least in part, "energy independence." Given that pretext, you could see how one could (sort of) defend not depending on another country (Brazil) as the source for one's ethanol. Yes, certainly, if ethanol was what one was really after, our American policy would be doubly absurd.


If they can make it they should. But then the Whiskey Rebellion had to do with that, didn't it? Moonshine at a 2008 dollar a gallon...

Do then need a subsidy?


Roland Dobbins, whose job consists of waiting for disasters and then dealing with them, spends his waiting time reading, so far as I can tell, just about everything interesting on the Internet and selecting the best items to recommend. Herewith several, not necessarily related, but all of interest to some, and some of interest to all:

'This year, at least a fifth and perhaps a quarter of the U.S. corn crop will be fed to ethanol plants.'


I note that it is not realistic to believe this won't affect food prices.


Navy Limits Nominations to Space Program [with choice George Abbey quote].



Closing Tempelhof?

27apr27,1,233822,full.story >

Sister Jenny took the bomb and angled off...


Doesn't this sound like a nightmare?


Tweet! Tweet!

More Twitter twaddle.



Nation States' Espionage and Counterespionage.

What I'm seeing on a daily basis far exceeds Cold War efforts.


A predictable consequence of a global economy, no?


"The question is are we going to be a 21st century city with shared prosperity, or a Third World city with an elite group on top and most on near poverty wages?"

2008/04/23/wla123.xml >

Roland Dobbins

I would say that is a key question for all of us.


Not a word about what actually happened with DDT?!

/AR2008042503504_pf.html >

-- Roland Dobbins

Of course not.


“Thinking these ships could be built to commercial specs was a dumb move.”


--- Roland Dobbins


OBAMA EXPOSED An interesting post at American Renaissance (1 iv):

"In all of the flap about "Reverend" Jeremiah Wright, everyone, or almost everyone, seems to be missing an equally pernicious influence on his worldview, Saul Alinsky. Alinsky is the cultural Marxist whose organization Obama joined when he launched his career as a "community activist" straight out of law school. Hilary Clinton, coincidentally, almost joined Alinsky's organization after graduating from Wellesley, but chose to attend Yale Law School instead. He was her idol in college. Alinsky, in good cultural Marxist fashion, encouraged his protégés to lie and otherwise decieve others to gain support and achieve the secret goals of the organization. Now you know why and how Obama learned to be so vague and non-commital on the campaign trail. But wait until he gets elected and the wrapping paper comes off!"

For more on the extremism of Obama's 'United Church of Christ', which was determined to reject God's love itself unless it was committed to the overthrow of the "white enemy", see http://www.washingtontimes.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080401/NATION/766118950/1001.








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