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Harry Erwin's Letter From England

I'll be in Oregon next week at a conference, presenting my results, seeing old friends, and checking out the stateside job scene. 8)


europe/article4495637.ece>   <http://tinyurl.com/5ly4kj>


  <http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2008/aug/10/russia.georgia> <http://tinyurl.com/5uycvn  >

  < http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/

 > <http://tinyurl.com/6ds9jr>

  < http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/

 > <http://tinyurl.com/5po8eq>


Military analysis of Georgia:

  < http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/

 > <http://tinyurl.com/6cas86>


Dumas tribute in France:

  < http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/programmes/

 > <http://tinyurl.com/5kle82>


Circumnavigating Africa in a Phoenician boat:



The English seem prone to making fudge when a clear solution would be better in the long run...

  < http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/

 > <http://tinyurl.com/6bggz3>

  < http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/

 > <http://tinyurl.com/55md3m>

  <http://www.guardian.co.uk/education/2008/aug/10/1> <http://tinyurl.com/5gjf4b  >


UK Bill of Rights? Reminds me of the 1977 Soviet Bill of Rights.


  < http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2008/

 > <http://tinyurl.com/5oqccn>


"If academic research is not devoted to finding the truth, it is a 

form of propaganda, and not necessarily to be preferred to other 

forms, much cheaper and perhaps more persuasive." (Russell 1993)

Harry Erwin



Jerry, I'm interested in hearing you explain your take on Georgia again. What you say seems sensible, but you don't touch on the moral issue. I think many people's reaction to this is: "Russia is invading Georgia... In a civilized world, we don't let countries invade their neighbors. It's no different than witnessing a mugging; every decent person or nation should want to do something about it, if possible."

You professed to be dumbfounded at reactions similar to these ("Has everyone at State and in the Pentagon lost their minds?"). Yet I have no doubt that you understand all that. I'd like to hear your response.

Michoel Reach

We haven't sent the Marines into Chad. We have not invaded China to liberate Tibet. We have not gone back to Kosovo even though the Albanians have acted like triumphant swine.  There are territorial and tribal disputes all over Africa. Burma is a mess and won't even let our military rescue teams aid the victims. There are low level insurgencies all over the Philippines. India and Pakistan continue territorial disputes over Kashmir.

That's what I remember off the top of my head. I make no doubt I could find other places where people are being beastly to each other, and where US intervention would be one hell of a lot less dangerous than getting into armed conflict with the possessor of  20,000 nuclear warheads on missiles capable of reaching the United States.

 Do you want our young officers back in those silos waiting to hear the klaxons? EWO. EWO. Emergency War Orders. Emergency War Orders. I have a message in five parts. Tango. X-ray Alfa...

The illusion that we can right all wrongs is terribly dangerous; and if it is anyone's business, I would presume that it is Europe's, just as the Balkans are in Europe and the Europeans are more than strong enough to deal with that situation.

Why is it the business of the United States to shed blood and treasure everywhere that people are beastly to each other?


Subject: A Twist on the Russia-Georgia War


The Russians now control most of the websites of the government of Georgia. Cyber-superiority isn't a big deal in this little dirty war, but this is a view of things to come. I don't think we are ready to wage cyber war against the People's Republic of China.

One item in the story, "Attacks against the Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili's website first occurred in late July, but gathered relatively little attention. Security investigators from the United States Computer Response Readiness Team (US-CERT) monitored the attacks, and stated that they did not appear to be a test run for a major assault." People didn't pay much attention to the events of July. A big mistake.

-- Dwayne Phillips


A New and Needless Cold War 

Hi Dr. Pournelle,

In regards to your comment "Has everyone at State and in the Pentagon lost their minds?" - I think the answer is covered under the iron rule of bureaucracy. A new Cold War is most desired for both bureaucracies so the real question is why side against USSR ant not with her. To me the answer is inertia - it is far easier to rekindle the old situation then try to explain to the masses that things have changed and the former enemy is now the friend.


Bob Marriott


The truth about 'recycled' computer equipment.


- Roland Dobbin

An ugly story. Ugly, ugly, ugly.


Interesting quotes from the Washington Post Article about Ivins counselor...

Duley is not a psychiatrist, a psychologist or even a social worker; in the highly stratified world of mental health, she is an addictions counselor who earns $20 an hour.

Blond and slightly disheveled, a pack of Marlboro Golds in her purse, Duley said....

In the breathless rush of media coverage, her life was scoured for details. News reports described her multiple DUI arrests and problems with addiction, including her current probation for her most recent DUI arrest in 2007.

I don't really have an opinion on Ivin's guilt or innocence, but I am concerned about this person being a 'addition counselor'. I can see where some life experience could be invaluable to a counselor. This of course assumes that they had successfully overcome their addictions. Am I wrong or is there something wrong here?

John Harlow


Hi Jerry -

I took the liberty of editing together your last two blog posts on the Georgia business. The result is here: http://mensnewsdaily.com/2008/08/11/a-new-and-needless-cold-war 

You will find that I have moved sentences around for better readability -- but I made no content changes to your words. I did add some helpful reference links.

On a personal note, I justed wanted to express my best wishes as always for your speedy and complete recovery. If you will forgive my saying so, you are a national treasure and a personal hero to great numbers of people, including me.




The Neanderthal Murder Mystery.


- Roland Dobbins


Subj: WARPLANES: The Rise Of The Droids


>>The U.S. Air Force is, for the first time, converting a fighter wing from manned (F-16) combat aircraft, to unmanned ones (the MQ-9 Reaper.) ... While the pilots of the 174th Fighter Wing will miss flying jets, as National Guard reservists, they can now do their active duty without leaving their families... .<<

Rod Montgomery==monty@starfief.com




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Tuesday,  August 12, 2008

US military surprised by speed, timing of Russia military action 

Dr. Pournelle,

The following is hilarious. Tragically so. The March Of Folly continues::


"The US military was surprised by the timing and swiftness of the Russian military's move into South Ossetia and is still trying to sort out what happened, a US defense official said Monday.

Georgian officials said Russian troops had moved out of South Ossetia into Georgia proper, occupying the city of Gori while Georgian troops were retreating to the capital.

The State Department issued a mild statement on August 5 urging Moscow to refrain from provocative actions, but gave no hint that it was aware that military action either by Georgia or Russia was in the offing."

And just HOW can the US ,military claim with anything approaching a "straight face" to be "surprised surprised by the timing and swiftness" by the speed and ferocity of hte Russian of the Russian military's move..."? This is, after all, the same Russian military that was schooled, by the best in the world (the Germans), that if you go to war, you do so with massive force and maximum operational tempo. Schooled, for those who do not know their history, for four years in the largest. bloodiest land campaign in military history, at a cost of twelve million soldiers. Russian generals don't believe in escalation or "sending a message" when so much as a fly bites them. They believe in using a sledgehammer to make sure the fly stays dead. After all, they were conquered by the Mongols, who began the lesson in tactics that the Germans finished.

As for "What Were The Georgians Thinking?!" To paraphrase you from a few weeks ago, I'm not much for believing in conspiracies, but if I hear that April Glaspie was seen in Tblisi (Georgia's capital) recently, wellllll.... I suspect someone in or near Foggy Bottom gave Georgia something the Georgians took as a "Green Light" to poke the bear in the eye.

As usual, our State Department is lost in the woods with no trail of bread crumbs.

The month of August, given its' "track record", seems a time when I would have everyone at their posts, yet the diplomats are evergreen, always "Shocked!" by events. See 1914 (outbreak of World War One); 1938 (Munich Crisis and the true beginning of the second round of the Seventy Years War); 1939 (Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact that allowed Hitler to start the shooting part of World War Two on Sept. 1); 1990 and ham-handed diplomacy gave Saddam the Green Light to start a nearly twenty year Middle East fiasco for the USA, and now: August,2008 when such "forgotten nothing and learned nothing" Jacobins as Krauthammer and friends on Fox News want the USA to (you just canNOT make this stuff up) boycott the 2010 Olympics in Sochi (Russia), kick Russia out of the G-8, block Russian entry into the World Trade Organization AND (wait for it!) immediately admit the Ukraine to NATO!

Is Jimmy carter back in office?

If we are VERY lucky, we will only (ONLY!) start a new Cold War. If we are not, well: the Russians may well be weak, wounded and cornered. That's exactly when an adversary is most dangerous. As you have pointed out, weak, cornered and dangerous WITH a massive right arm and fist.

I tend to agree with Dr. Cochran: Our soi disant "leaders" are insane. God save the Mark,



McCain, Obama urge diplomatic move against Russia - Yahoo! News 


"ERIE, Pa. - Presidential rivals John McCain and Barack Obama on Monday called for a multi-pronged diplomatic effort to force Russia to withdraw from Georgia, saying Moscow's relationship with the rest of the world depends on it backing down."

Or what? The EU will stop buying natural gas from Gazprom? We'll impose an oil export blockade on the second largest oil producer? Maybe at the same time we start bombing Iran?

Things like this, immigration, "global warming" and energy policy are why I have such extreme difficulty telling these two apart. I saw another article where Obama is now rhetorically flirting with the idea of restructuring "Affirmative Action". He won't do anything once elected, but it's helpful to confuse the masses.

This dovetails nicely with Rovian style abandonment of the issue. When was the last time this was even mentioned by a prominent national Republican? That's why Obama can make such misleading noises now.



Nasty cynical thinking

Y'know...the Cold War resulted in _massive_ technological development. The Internet exists because of the Cold War. The entire Space Race and all of the technology that came from it was the result of the Cold War. Inexpensive, fast, reliable long-range travel by jet airliner is the result of the Cold War. It's arguable that the interstate highway system was the result of the Cold War. During the Cold War I doubt we'd have laughed off overt attempts to break into government computers.

It's an awful thing to think, but maybe the Cold War was good for us. Take away an athlete's competition and he goes to seed just like the rest of us; why should nations be any different?

-- Mike T. Powers

The Cold War was expensive and expanded the powers of government. I'd hate to see another.



Dick Morris appears to be beating the drums for the US to involve itself in what Russia considers its business.


"If the United States appeases Russia now, it will pay the same price British Prime Minister Nevelle Chamberlain paid in the 1930s."

Somehow, I don't think Russia can be as easily removed from Georgia as Iraq was from Kuwait. The EU probably isn't willing to become involved, and the US does not have any resources to put to this use. (Maybe, though, the US could print some more T-bills and outsource the work to China.)

"Russia has encouraged migration by ethnic Russians into its satellite empire ever since Stalin's days and now is using the provinces with large Russian populations to foment discord in nations that lean to the West."

Isn't that what Mexico is doing? Maybe we should deal with THAT quiet but very real threat first.

Charles Brumbelow

But we probably won't.


Russia Did the Right Thing in Georgia.


- Roland Dobbins

Right or wrong is not really the point here, is it?


Why Not Ossetian Independence?


"AFSis and a few others, I imagine, are wondering why the Republic of Georgia would fight to keep a recalcitrant little spit of land? Even to the point of taking on a much bigger adversary to keep it. It is a good question. Another good question is why would Russia want it? In fact, by recognizing South Ossetia as joined to North Ossetia, a Russian territory, it brings that territory into Russia proper and gives them a territory where they can "legally" station thousands of more troops than they currently have under a "peace keeping" agreement. What good are those troops?

First, we need a map."

Worth a read. It shows why both sides care about South Ossetia, and touches on the concerns Europe should have right now.


Europe yes.

The most vital US interest now is securing energy supplies under our control. If we need oil it is a hell of a lot cheaper to seize Iraqi oil fields and pump like hell. Russia has not interfered with our operations in Iraq, even though 100,000 Iraqi civilians have been killed.

Maybe we are recreating the CoDominium...


Jerry, I agree with you on this one. I can still appreciate why the Georgians don't want to be reassimilated into a Russian "sphere of influence" but this is fundamentally a European problem, not an American one. Even if it were more directly an issue for the United States, surely the national interest could not be served by any kind of involvement.

I don't necessarily think alliances are a bad thing in and of themselves, but let's face it. NATO's purpose ended in 1991, and wisely during the 1990s the United States came to Russia's aid, befriended the Great Bear after what seemed near-mortal wounds. We're never going to see eye to eye on everything, of course, but to mount, directly or indirectly any sort of expedition in the Caucus would be madness.

Despite all the nonsense about secession clauses in defunct Soviet constitutions, the fact remains, as you point out, that Russia is (and has been for many centuries now) an empire. For better and for worse, Georgia and most of the other former Soviet republics are, in the Russian, still part of that empire. In recognition of the collapse and the various agreements that came about after that, the Kremlin seems willing to allow them to exercise a certain amount of sovereignty, but we have to face the fact that Russia wants them to be client states, and it has the muscle and the wealth to do it.

At some point, people are going to have to crack open their history books. The Russia of today, despite any number of distressing policies, is still much preferable to the form it took between 1917 and 1991. I fear that the United States begins behaving like it's the Cold War all over again, the old enemy may reemerge, and much good that has been done since the Soviet collapse would be undone in very short order.

Besides, there's this old saying about not poking wounded bears with sticks...

-- Aaron Clausen



Random thoughts on Georgia-Russia war

Bush Sr. and his State Dept. inadvertently started a war by giving Sadam the green light to take back land he thought of as Iraqi.

Bush Jr. and his State Dept. inadvertently started a war by giving the Georgian leadership the green light to take back land they thought of as Georgian.

Bush Jr. is shocked that Russia used disproportionate force. I thought that was the desired goal in a war (Desert Storm, Shock and Awe).

Russia is not just sending Georgia and the USA a message. They are sending it to Poland and the Czech Republic. A few months ago, Russia warned them to not let us build parts of a missile defense system in their countries. They basically laughed and though, "What are you going to do - invade us?" They aren't laughing anymore.




Negative refraction.


-- Roland Dobbins

Truly fascinating.


Domestic Oil Drilling

Jerry P:

The question is whether domestic oil drilling will change the supply of oil, worldwide, enough to reduce the price of crude oil. If there are export restrictions, it may do so for a while, but in the long term I would guess it will be a negligible blip on the whole supply/demand curve. But that will not hit even for quite a few years. Natural gas production from Texas and Louisiana will have a much larger impact on the short term. Politically, it will be a home run, but an empty win, the pennant goes to countries who match their populations with their ability to sustain themselves economically in the world market.


By itself domestic oil drilling does little. As part of an energy production plan to expand the kinds and amounts of energy under US control, it is vital. Adding to supply is always useful if you want to reduce prices. Adding to domestic supply in uncertain times is always worth doing. Sometimes it's vital. You can't conserve your way to anything if you start with nothing to conserve.


The Neanderthal Murder Mystery.


--- Roland Dobbins


Life on Earth

Dr. Pournelle,

From Science Daily - Solar System Is Pretty Special <http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/08/080807144236.htm>  .

"The solar system had to be born under just the right conditions to become this quiet place we see. The vast majority of other planetary systems didn't have these special properties at birth and became something very different."

Combined with the odds of a large object striking the Earth to create the Moon, likely a necessary precondition for the creation of life (tidal pools and all that), and Enrico Fermi's question "Where are they?" becomes a bit more answerable.

Perhaps they aren't anywhere. Or maybe one to a galaxy.

Hope all goes well,

Dan Steele

With generation ships moving at non-relativistic speeds it takes a thousand years to go from one star to another. Assume another thousand years for the new colony to develop the ability to build another generation ship and send the old one out. It takes only a few million years to fill the galaxy. There are serious analyses that say that you will never have but one civilization in each galaxy.





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Wednesday, August 13, 2008

US public supports missile defense, poll shows

(reposted from Defense Daily)

U.S. PUBLIC SUPPORTS BALLISTIC MISSILE DEFENSE BY A WIDE MARGIN: A lopsided 87 percent of the American public supports creation of the multi-layered U.S. ballistic missile defense shield being developed by the Missile Defense Agency, according to a national poll taken by a professional polling organization that was released by the Missile Defense Advocacy Alliance (MDAA). "This is the highest percentage of support ever recorded in the history of missile defense," according to Riki Ellison, MDAA president and founder, terming it an overwhelming show of support. This poll comes as some Democratic lawmakers in Congress have moved to cut funding for some ballistic missile defense programs, as MDA funding legislation is written for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2009. The survey showed that 58 percent of Americans believe that there is a real threat from missiles carrying weapons of mass destruction and that missile defense is the preferred option over pre-emptive military action or diplomatic efforts for dealing with the proliferation of missiles and weapons of mass destruction by nation states. As well, the poll further showed 71 percent of Americans support deployment of the U.S. European Missile Defense shield in Poland and the Czech Republic, 84 percent believe that the U.S. BMD shield protects U.S. troops overseas, and 65 percent believe the U.S. missile defense system should protect U.S. allies as well. Further, 78 percent of the American public believes it is important for the U.S. presidential candidates to address the issue of missile defense. Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois, the presumptive Democratic presidential candidate, has been seen as possibly being lukewarm in supporting missile defense programs. However, after Iran fired a series of medium- and long-range missiles in a salvo test, Obama said last month that "Iran is a great threat. We have to make sure we are working with our allies to apply tightened pressure on Iran," according to the Guardian newspaper in the United Kingdom. Further, Obama has voiced support for cooperation with Israeli missile defense programs, including the Arrow. Sen. John McCain of Arizona, the presumptive Republican presidential candidate, over the years has voiced strong support for missile defense programs. He is the ranking Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee. The poll was conducted by Opinion Research Corp. with a 3 percent plus or minus margin of error. Opinion Research Corp. partners with CNN on public opinion polls. (Defense Daily, 8-13)


Real missile defense requires space based components, as well as ground lasers with popup mirrors.


Subject: Prince Georges Police Self-Justification

If one views the video embedded in the story you linked to, about the raid on the mayor's house, you'll eventually get to Mark Spencer, identified as "Prince Georges County Police Dept. Inspector General," making a statement on camera. Here's my transcription from the video:

"It's unfortunate that innocent civilians do get caught up in activities like this, but, the drug dealers know that, and that's why sometimes they use the innocent to try to screen their activities, and this is just an unfortunate occurrence."

In other words, he's claiming the police are allowed to inflict collateral damage on innocent civilians, if they deem it necessary. Sorry, but the bad guys using you as a shield negates all the rights you thought you had. But I don't think martial law has been declared, so I'm pretty sure the police are a bit off base in thinking and acting like an army in a war zone.

'It's just an unfortunate occurrence.' 'innocent civilians do get caught up in activities' One wonders--does Mr. Spencer think anything done by the police ever constitutes an intentional action by a human being?

I too get to a point where I need to stop talking about this.

Mike Juergens

It's in Maryland, not California, I keep telling myself. I do wonder about the Maryland Attorney General. Those police ought to be in big state trouble.


What were they thinking?

Dear Doctor Pournelle,

"What were they thinking>"

I have noted some recent published letters to Chaos Manor have alluded to some confusion over the Russian attack on Georgia. As with many of the Chattering Class on Television and Radio, , some readers of Chaos Manor have asked "How could the Russian leadership have ever thought they could get away with such a brazen act of 'aggression'?"

For those who ask that question, a primer:

First, take a small country that has one province overwhelmingly populated by an ethnic group that has traditionally been connected politically and culturally with a bordering nation.

Then, that ethnic group decides to revolt, and uses force in an attempt to secede their province from the small nation.

In ude course, acting as nation-states are wont to act, the small country uses force to stop the revolt and attempted secession by the breakaway province. This force is directed largely against the ethnic group that seeks to secede.

Peace keepers are then dispatched to the province in order to stop the "ethnic cleansing". Since there is no peace to keep, this is useless, but there you have it. International opinion is appeased.

When fighting continues, the small country decides to cut the "Gordian Knot" and settle things once and for all with relatively massive military force.

So then the local nuclear superpower intervenes to "stop the genocide" (note the escalation in terms?), using massive air power because it's cheap, fast and pretty much all they have ready to go on such short notice, since they were relatively unprepared, and want to protect the peacekeeping forces they have in the breakaway province under the previous agreement. The nuclear powers leadership labels the leadershoip of the small country "war criminals" and demands their punishment.

So then the OTHER nuclear superpower, an ally of the small country, protests vehemently and seeks for anything they can use to punish the offending nuclear superpower for attacking its' ally. With little leverage, the second nuclear superpower is reduced to vehement protests, pointless gestures and a simmering sense of outrage. Over time the entire fiasco poisons the two nuclear superpowers relationship to everyone's loss.

Eventually, when enough times has passed, the breakaway province gains independence, under the protection of the first nuclear superpower, and the small country undergoes a change of regime in a process once called "Finlandization" when we did not like it.

You might think I have just described recent events in Georgia.

You would be wrong.

I have just described events in 1999, in the Balkans, when the United States and NATO intervened in the Serbian province of Kosovo.

Yes, how could the Russians have -possibly- thought that they could get away with something like that? "I'm shocked, SHOCKED!' that they could have ever made such an assumption.

The chickens have come home to roost.



Putin for US president - more than ever,


Putin for US president - more than ever, says Spengler:


He has much to say on the Georgian and Kosovo affairs. Juicy quotes:

" If Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin were president of the United States, would Iran try to build a nuclear bomb? Would Pakistan provide covert aid to al-Qaeda? Would Hugo Chavez train terrorists in Venezuela? Would leftover nationalities with delusions of grandeur provoke the great powers? . . . Thanks to Putin, the world has become a much safer place."

" Russia has wiped the floor with a putative US ally, and apart from a bad case of cream pie on the face, America has lost nothing."

" Contrary to the hyperventilation of policy analysts on American news shows, the West has no vital interests in Georgia. It would be convenient from Washington's vantage point for oil to flow from the Caspian Sea via Georgia to the Black Sea, to be sure, but nothing that occurs in Georgia will have a measurable impact on American energy security. It is humiliating for the US to watch the Russians thrash a prospective ally, but not harmful, for Georgia never should have been an ally in the first place."

Of Russia, China and the US: " never before in the history of the world has the world's economic and military power resided in countries whose fundamental interests do not conflict in any important way."

" If it had not been for America's insistence on installing a gang of trigger-happy pimps and drug-pushers in Kosovo, Russia might have responded less ferociously to the flea bites on its southern border."

" America remains so committed to the myth of moderate Islam that it is prepared to invent it. Kosovo, like the Turkey of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, supposedly embodies a moderate, Sufi-derived brand of Islam that will foster an American partnership with the Muslim world. The US intelligence community knows perfectly well that the networks that traffic prostitutes through Albania into Italy and the rest of Europe also move narcotics, weapons and terrorists from Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia to Grozny in Chechnya to Tirana in Albania and Pristina in Kosovo." (He comments on Sufism and pederasty here: http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Middle_East/JH12Ak03.html.) 

" The number of flashpoints for violence in the world has grown in inverse proportion to their importance. The world is full of undead tribes with delusions of grandeur, and soon-to-be-extinct peoples who rather would go out with a bang than a whimper. The supra-ethnic states of the world have a common interest in containing the mischief that might be made by the losers. China, which has an annoying terrorist problem in its Westernmost province, has plenty of reason to help suppress Muslim separatists.

"Unfortunately, modern weapons technology makes it possible for a spoiler state to inflict a disproportionate amount of damage. China recognized this when it cooperated with the United States to defuse the North Korean nuclear problem. The most visible prospective spoiler in the pack remains Iran. If America wants to recover from its humiliation in the Caucasus, it might, for example, conduct an air raid against Iran's nuclear facilities, and justify it with the same sort of reasoning that Russia invoked in Georgia. Contrary to surface impressions, Moscow wouldn't mind a bit."

As usual, much to enjoy here.


There is very little moderate Islam in the middle east. The Kemalist Turks are secularists and atheists, not moderates. The Baath party came closest to being "moderate Muslims".

Spengler is always worth paying attention to. I do not always agree. Regarding Iran, if we can stave off a real confrontation with Iran before there is a disaster in the Middle East, Iran will come apart under the impact of America's cultural weapons of mass destruction -- which actually can create "moderate Muslims" in the same sense that many American teenagers are "moderate Christians." How desirable this kind of paganism might be is possibly worth discussing. I would suppose that Uday Hussein of Iraq was a "moderate Muslim"...


Georgia on My Mind 

Hi Jerry,

I wish that I could disagree with your essay here: http://www.jerrypournelle.com/view/2008/Q3/view531.html#Tuesday  I was born in 1960. I have wondered how I would have felt when the Russian tanks crushed the rebellion in Hungary in 1956. Now I know. I am upset watching the Russian tanks drive the roads of Georgia but I know that the cost of USA blood and money would be too immense to do anything.

That blood and money are extremely near and dear to my heart right now as the wife and I are holding our breath praying that our USMC son does not go to Afghanistan in October. He just got back from Iraq in April (tour #2). The four US Marine battalions that went to Afghanistan in April from his base only had two to four weeks notice before leaving. Most people don't know that we have a surge going in Afghanistan also !

I also noticed that the Russian troops are using the latest in digital camo and look fit and eager. I had the impression that Russia was downsizing their army and neglecting them. Looks like I was wrong. 500 tanks and 20,000 troops deployed on a day's notice means a well trained and well supplied army.

It is a hard world out there and we best remember that here in the USA. Especially when certain presidential candidates talk about unilateral disarmament and other such nonsense.

BTW, I saw John McCain saying that Russia is using Georgia as an object lesson to the Ukraine. If the Ukraine does not learn their lesson we could be watching this again in the not so distant future.


Russia is a Great Power, and has a legitimate sphere of influence.

We are the friends of liberty everywhere, but we are guardians only of our own. If our liberty is threatened, as it was in World War II (but not the Great War) and in the Cold War, then we have no choice but to seek alliances and take active part in changing that condition -- which usually means hot war: in the Cold War that was proxy war, with Viet Nam a highly successful (to the US) campaign of attrition against the USSR.

Our liberty is not threatened; and the best thing we can do for liberty abroad is to keep the trade routes open, defend the notion of International Law, and remain both strong and free as the City on the Hill.


Price of farm land

Petronius said: “If you own 500 acres of good corn land, you can sell it for about half a million dollars, move to town, buy a house for a hundred thousand, and retire.”

Good corn land is selling for around $7000/acre now in mid-state Illinois where my family (dad and brother) farm. So make that $3.5 million. Assuming it’s an old family farm, probably no more than 100 acres of that is “owned by the bank”, and there’s a good chance even that was bought for around $5000 to $6000/acre. Some farms are about half that size, and some are deeper in debt than others. So call it $1 to $3M, if the farmer sold out now.

I suspect family farms are in for a very hard time in a few years, as algae or some other relatively efficient alternative to burning food comes on line. Crop prices will probably collapse fairly rapidly, while fuel and fertilizer will remain relatively expensive. As farms go under, land prices will fall. I’d guess we’re now at or near the market top for crop and land prices. If the only reason to farm were the money, a smart farmer would sell now.

But most farmers can’t bear the thought of letting the family farm go. The farm defines who he is; to sell it would be to sell his soul AND betray his father, who entrusted him with the farm. No matter how bad things are getting, no matter how many other farms are going under, farmers figure that they’ve always been able to make it through bad times before – “people have to eat”.

Tom Craver

Chandler, AZ

It has been a long time since I thought about the price of land. The yeoman farmer. mainstay of Jefferson's notion of a Republic, has not been an important factor in the US for decades. Which is very much a pity.


Aren't you glad that they've turned the Capitol into an armed fortress, completely inaccessible to the proles?


-- Roland Dobbins




-- Roland Dobbins


Kipling eBook Collection

Available in HTML or MOBI format.


-- Dave Markowitz


Saudi Textbooks, and some short comments on mail.

Thought you might find this interesting.



foreigners: Opinions about events beyond our borders.

A Textbook Case of Intolerance Changing the world one schoolbook at a time.

By Anne Applebaum Posted Monday, July 21, 2008, at 8:01 PM ET

Because they are so clearly designed for the convenience of large testing companies, I had always assumed that multiple-choice tests, the bane of any fourth grader's existence, were a quintessentially American phenomenon...


Other comments:


Not that I'm an expert or even checked the numbers, but Petronius neglected Sugar Beets (somewhere I heard that we get lots of table-sugar from them) and they grow in the Upper Plains/Mountains areas. Perhaps I misremember...

Michael Flynn:

These same people that maintain the "Hitler was a Christian" idea wouldn't possibly have any connection to the people who maintain that "Hitler WASN'T a Vegetarian" websites would they?







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Thursday, August 14, 2008

Another view of Georgia…..



The Guardian is not always reliable, of course, but the factual statements seem true enough; the interpretation is, as usual, to choose malice as motive, but that is the way of the left.


"We're saying the OSS was a lot bigger than they were saying."


-- Roland Dobbins



Subj: INTELLIGENCE OPERATIONS: How Iraq Changed The Game


>>The war in Iraq has changed the way military intelligence operations are conducted. This came about because smaller combat units were now able to pass more information to the intelligence specialists, and these troops now have more powerful hardware and software to do something with the flood of new data. ... It was data mining that led to the capture of Saddam, and the death of Zarqawi. Actually, over a hundred senior (team leader and up) al Qaeda terrorists have been killed or captured in Iraq using these techniques. ...<<

Rod Montgomery==monty@starfief.com

A lot more could be said about this. It's a fascinating development. Data mining nerds as major battlefield assets...


Re: the yeoman farmer

I'd suggest that Jefferson's idea of the yeoman farmer came from the same place as people who talk about wealth distribution, the "ten percent own ninety percent" kind of idea. If everyone in America owns a little piece of it, then everyone is motivated to keep the country strong. If one guy owns the whole thing, then it's easy for him to just let the whole thing go to hell as long as the pieces he uses stay clean and safe. I don't think that Jefferson actually thought that we should all be farmers forever; he just didn't like the idea of massive industrial empires owned by one man and staffed by a legion of laborers who owned nothing but their car and their clothes.

-- Mike T. Powers

In Jefferson's time yeomanry was possible. It was close to possible as late as 1940. By yeomanry I mean independence from government, and economic self-sufficiency. That has long gone, in part due to taxes: you can't just opt out of the money economy and live on what you grow and make. Not even the Amish can do that although they try.

But yes: distribution of wealth is important to a republic. The technical name for a form of government in which a few have enormous economic power compared to the middle class is Oligarchy. Aristotle defended democracy as rule by the middle class, and middle class as those who possess the goods of fortune in moderation. I see no reason to revise those definitions. A republic is the "mixed" form of government with elements of oligarchy/aristocracy, monarchy/dictatorship, and democracy all working together; Cicero believed that to be the ideal on which the Roman Republic was modeled. The Framers explicitly intended the United States to be that sort of Republic.

Enormous discrepancies in wealth and economic power, and particularly a structure in which a very few have most of the economic power while those who do not possess the goods of fortune in moderation have enormous political power have always proven to be short-lived polities -- I would say for obvious reasons.

That does not mean that continuous wealth distribution through taxation and transfer payments -- otherwise known as tax and tax, spend and spend, elect and elect -- are a stable alternative, since the usual result of that is predatory on the middle class without much effect on the very wealthy.

Chesterton and Hilaire Belloc wrote a great deal on this subject as have many Popes. "Distributionism" is a political movement in which the means of production are not controlled by government, but ownership is distributed as widely as possible among the middle class -- indeed creating a very large middle class. Mack Reynolds attempted to write about a future in which ownership in the form of stock was distributed to nearly everyone. Note: I am not advocating this; I so say that Belloc and Chesterton had some powerful arguments for their cause. Whether distributionism is conservative has always been a matter of debate.

Unrestricted and unregulated capitalism does not lead to stable republic. Socialism does not seem to lead to a stable republic although the Scandinavian experiments have had interesting results. (Note that as their unity of people, language, customs, and religion dissipated the political consequences of socialism have been far more severe.)

I haven't time to finish this commentary today, but you have pointed to the most vital problem of American politics: the enormous inequalities of wealth and the effects of that on both the power and the existence of the middle class.

Wealthy republics face a number of problems: they are clearly targets for aggression and theft. If they defend themselves with paid soldiers -- standing armies, hired soldiers -- they face the problem of control of that army. And unrestrained democracy usually results in great political transfers of wealth. All this was debated in the Convention of 1787, but I do not think most of our high school graduates are aware of these matters, just as most would not recognize 1787 as an important year...


Dear Dr. Pournelle,

If I may, I'd like to rant on the current situation in Russia/Georgia ...

... it turns out the administration did do one thing right.


We could see what was happening with 'national technical means', and a veritable cavalcade of American diplomats went to Tbilisi in the preceding weeks trying to dissuade the Georgians from any military action that would give the Russians a pretext for aggression. But we weren't listened to. More on that in a moment.

Now the real kicker: In response to current events there, President Bush has ordered American troops into Georgia.

WHAT, you say? It's true:



Now, as you can see it is a 'humanitarian' operation using air and naval forces only. But the way I read the tea leaves, the message is clear. President Bush is deliberately putting American servicepeople in harm's way, unarmed. The idea being for them to act as human 'speed bumps'. If the Russians want to continue operations, it's near certain they'll wind up killing American soldiers to do it. And what would THAT be a pretext for, I wonder?

I think President Bush is gambling that the Russians aren't ready for that, and therefore will back down. But I resent it when people play 'chicken' with nuclear-armed superpowers as if they were teenagers joyriding automobiles.

Why would the Georgians do this, despite our warnings not to?

It seems to me that President Saakishvali believes that he can force the hand of the US ... that the US cannot simply abandon an ally to it's fate, no matter it's locale.

And we've got no business doing so. Why exactly are we proposing to sign defense treaties with countries in the FSU that we can't possibly fulfill?

Utter, utter madness.

I find my election choices in the matter frustrating. It seems that in American politics we have the choice of the Bread and Circus party or the Athenian party. The Bread and Circus party wants to buy votes with other people's taxes and perpetuate the welfare state. The Athenian party seems to want to aggressively export democracy worldwide and defend it wherever it occurs, just as Athens did. And the result of that was the Peloponnesian War. And there is no option C.

Sorry. Surely there must be some reason for optimism in all this gloom. Um... we aren't actually at war with any of these people yet. I guess that'll do to start on.


Brian P.

I read McCain's "We are all Georgians" speech carefully, and it is devoid of real content. I suspect you took him more seriously as an Athenian than he takes himself.

At least I pray that is the case.

Athenians vs. Bread and Circus. A fair analysis.

And I have some indications that some Republicans are beginning to realize we have common interests with Russia vis-a-vis China.


Plastic windmills by Starck

Dr. Pournelle:

I clicked the link in your short Energy Independence essay. I saw the attractive design by Phillippe Starck. I was impressed until I started thinking about his design in real world (Southeast Texas) conditions. Depending on the quality of this design, I would guess that the plastic blades would break within two years. This would render it useless. We have over 300 days of sunshine a year (and UV is murder on plastic), a summer season that lasts six months, and violent weather that crops up at the drop of a hat. I would assume that the unit would be designed well enough to facilitate "take down" if a hurricane approached Houston.

I can't imagine what kind of storage you can get with this unit's $600 (400 euro) cost? Does it come with an inverter and batteries? I've tried gleaning more information on this and all I get are variants of the New York Times (IHT) article. The more I try to scale this up the more I see that the mini turbine blades would just be cheap clear plastic PVC.

I like the concept Starck is proposing, but I don't see it as practical. He may sell some of these (if ever built) to the ponytailed Volvo driving set who wear corduroy jackets with those patches at the elbows. I visited his Mydeco site, but this product is not for sale.

Oh well!

From your essay, I still can't see the 100 new nuclear reactors anytime soon. I'd like to, but I can't. There would be too many cries of "Big Nuclear" from the uneducated lunatic fringe, too many protests, and too many cases of sabotage by dangerously misguided "eco warrior" types. Why the latter? Because they can get away with them. They are never caught nor prosecuted as domestic terrorists.

I'm reading a book picked up at Costco the week before last. It is called Back to Basics and is a trove of ideas for doing things simply. I'm using it for ideas for the eleventh or so revision of my EOTW book. The book has some interesting ideas for off the grid energy (via solar and wind) but also has some good passive ideas. Fifteen bucks. What a steal!

Best regards,

Bill Kelly Houston, Texas

For the record, Ed Begley's vertical windmill is a drum and made of metal. I am no expert on plastics, but I would be concerned about that; and of course the storage is the key factor. In Ed's case he already had storage for his big on-roof solar panels.











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Friday,  August 15, 2008

Plight of the Little Emperors.


-- Roland Dobbins

Ideas have consequences. Social engineering always has unintended results. One child per family means effectively that the words brother, sister, aunt, uncle, cousin will have no referents; this by definition. Given the proclivity of the Chinese culture to prefer boys, another inevitable result would be a lack of wives for those boys.

This article deals with some other predictable results.


Subj: Newt Gingrich recommends prizes


>>Prizes are powerful because they send signals to everyone that they can compete. Furthermore they are payable on achievement rather than on application.<<

Bad effects of emphasizing peer-reviewed research:

1. Too much paperwork

2. Limited to the credentialed

3. Too cautious

But his "hydrogen engine for cars" prize would be a waste.

And I wonder whether DDT would qualify for his "prevent malaria" prize?

Rod Montgomery==monty@starfief.com

Well, clearly I have written many of the same things in the past. I tend to agree that a prize for a hydrogen car would not be preferable to some others, but if the principle of prizes as a means of focusing attention and research in needed areas takes hold, we will all be much better off.

You cannot predict the future, but you can invent it. Prizes are one good way to invent a future.


Roberta Pournelle, who is no admirer of Putin, recommends:


I can't disagree with her moral assessment of the situation, but I am not sure there is much we can do beyond prayer; and the United States does have a number of common interests with the Russian Empire, and realistically we will have to deal with the Imperial rulers there, just as we had to deal with alliances with rulers we disliked during the Cold War -- and an alliance with Stalin during World War II.

There are limits to what US power can accomplish. Making promises we cannot keep, and making threats of actions that we cannot carry out is not usually a good idea.


Georgia: Putin’s Biggest Mistake So Far

Hi Jerry -

You may find this interesting:


Roger F. Gay

Georgia: Putin's Biggest Mistake So Far


I may not be an expert in international relations but I have seen The Hunt for Red October more than once. Soviet submarine captain Marko Ramius inspires his crew:

"And once more, we play our dangerous game, a game of chess, against our old adversary… the American Navy.

"For years, your fathers before you and your older brothers played this game and played it well.

"But today, the game is different. We have the advantage.

"It reminds me of the heady days of Sputnik and Yuri Gagarin, when the world trembled at the sound of our rockets.

"Well, they will tremble again at the sound of our silence."

In Georgia, under pressure from the West, Russia says one thing and does another. An effective silence in regard to fact and expectation has been created by misinformation. Russia, once more, plays the dangerous game of the Soviet era, causing Georgians to tremble at the sheer weight of their chutzpa-nik. A short-term advantage exists with a background of hard-won invitations to Russia to join the civilized world in its international relations. The West wanted the Cold War to be over and invested in the change.

That advantage has been spent, like an alcoholic with 2 bucks on cheap home-made wine, and Russia will undoubtedly wake up with a terrible hangover.

Georgia has resigned from the Commonwealth of Independent States, an organization fostering military and economic cooperation, with heads of other member nations predicting an irreparable crisis. Some Russian diplomats (so to speak) think Western nations should side with Russia, as the larger potential trading partner.

Well – nuh-uh! There are calls for expulsion of Russia from The European Council, G8, the WTO, and other organizations that at least symbolize prior efforts to bring them into the greater world community. Even the UN Security Council has demonstrated an ability to change since the "end of the Cold War." It may be time to question the Russian Federation's so-called "permanent" membership.

Political gains for the Putin crew at home, based on economic improvement, could vanish; as Russia is abandoned by its closest trading partners and watches the possibility of expanded trade with wealthier nations evaporate. Russian citizens may see their 1991 revolution as not entirely successful. If democratic elections prove unsuccessful, they may once again consider that "a little rebellion, now and then, is a good thing, and as necessary in the political world as storms are in the physical."

And what of the game of war? Since 2005, Georgia has been enrolled in the NATO Partnership for Peace and passed a non-binding resolution on NATO membership in January of this year. Membership has been delayed as some member countries hoped appeasement would help Putin's attitude eventually cool and the move could be made a bit less tense. Now – what's the point? Georgia's dire need to be a member of the common defense network has been demonstrated – quite dramatically.

A dangerous game, indeed!


A realistic assessment of the situation shows certain obvious facts: the Russian Empire is powerful and a major player in the European situation, as well as in the world energy market. Russia also lies between China and Europe, and will always have ambitions about expansion to the south. The Great Game was about Afghanistan, it's down by old Iran, with its warm water ports upon the seas...

We have legitimate interests in this game, but so does Europe; and our interests, the Russian interests, and the European interest overlap but are nowhere near identical. The situation is complex.

The Russians said, both in the Treaty of Leningrad and during the collapse of the USSR into Russian an former USSR states that we ought to respect territorial integrity of sovereign states; and that they would do so. They made a number of costly decisions on that principle including respecting Ukrainian sovereignty over the Crimea.

Madeleine Albright and Clinton rejected that principle for what amounts to Wilsonian self-determination of nations; the principle under which Hitler, with the compliance of England and the other Great Powers, disassembled Czechoslovakia and took the Sudetenland. The Aussland Deutsch had a real grievance which Hitler took full advantage of, firing up nearly all Germans in sympathy.

The United States rejected territorial integrity in Kosovo. Certainly there were Serb atrocities in expelling the Albanian invader/settlers; but there were also plenty of Albanian atrocities against the Serbs, and those continue to this day although they are seldom reported.

The UN supposedly supports territorial integrity and non-interference in the internal affairs of sovereign nations, although it is a custom kept more in the breach than in the observance.

At the moment we are insisting that the Russians observe territorial integrity while we sort of adhere to Wilsonian self-determination; the result is that there is no established International Rule of Law.

We are the friends of liberty everywhere. We are the guardians only of our own.



Where have all the sunspots gone? Long time passing...

"This is the fastest temperature change in the instrumental record, and it puts us back to where we were in 1930."


- Roland Dobbins

The last time the sunspots disappeared for a considerable time ushered in the Little Ice Age. It may be time to invest in fur coats.

I need hardly point out that while global warming is good news for many and bad news for some, the Little Ice Age was bad news for just about everyone. It takes energy to stay warm in Fimbulwinter. Growing seasons are shorter. Rivers freeze over.

It is time to put some real money into finding out what it happening in climate. The "consensus" conspiracy might even be of some use here, although their devotion to science and evidence does not appear to be strong; I'd fund some of the contrarians right now until they form a gang and try to suppress results, at which point it's time for the public to fire the lot of them and hire some instrument engineers who want data and don't have a fixed idea of that data they will find.


Subject: Blacklight Power

Dear Dr. Pournelle,

On 5 June 2008 there was a discussion of Blacklight Power. Someone mentioned that there wasn’t anything newer than 2005. I was perusing their site this morning and ran across this press release from 28 May 2008:


Looks like they’re still working on making something useful out of their process.

Thanks for your time,

Wayne Smith

"The Marines I have seen around the world have the cleanest bodies, the filthiest minds, the highest morale and the lowest morals of any animal I have ever seen. Thank God for the United States Marine Corps" - E. Roosevelt

I await a demonstration of results.


Article on Nuclear Power and Opposition by the Greens

Dr. Pournelle:

I'm glad to hear that you're feeling better. I thought you might enjoy the linked article from Steve Milloy.


I'm not a believer in the environmental movement and consequently I've been in a great many arguments with people who usually finish with the adage that even if global warming is a pipe dream we should be doing these things any way (seeking sustainability and all that claptrap). I think that Milloy's article demonstrates (to my satisfaction at least) that doing the right things for the wrong reasons is not good way to proceed. Eventually (or even concurrently) you'll be doing the wrong things based on faulty reasoning or perception.

Regards, Derek McQuay -

-- "Numbers are like people, torture them enough and they'll tell you whatever you want to hear."

"Never ascribe to malice that which is adequately explained by incompetence" - Napoleon Bonaparte

I am disappointed in Amory Lovins, who should know better. Not astonished, but disappointed.  The future of the planet is far too important for narrow politics.

We need more climate data.





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Saturday, August 16, 2008

Winning: The Empire Struggles Back, 


Just to show you that you are not alone in your opinion of the Russians comes this - The Empire Struggles Back:




Subject: Arctic ice refuses to melt as ordered, 


The polar icecap is not shrinking as advertised:


Oh, woe is us! No Northwest Passage! No easy arctic oil-drilling! No support for Pope AlGore.










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Sunday,  August 17, 2008     

In Alamogordo for DC/X reunion




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