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Mail 549 December 15 - 21, 2008
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December 15, 2008
Separate but equal.
- Roland Dobbins
I believe in freedom. And many of the historically black colleges are superb. When I ran Pepperdine Research Institute the Administrator was a graduate of Howard University awaiting a commission in the Army. I held some of my political philosophy seminars in the PRI office suite (a former residential home at the edge of the campus; we used the dining room table for seminars) and it was clear that he had received an excellent education in basic principles of logic and research as well as in management.
I understand the arguments against "segregated" colleges. This is all of a piece with the whole problem of education, and I'll deal with it there.
"Are almost half of college-age students mentally ill?"
Probably most adolescents could be committed at some point, except that that sort of behaviour is normal in adolescents.
-- "The difference between theory and practice is that, in theory, there is no difference between theory and practice, but in practice, there is." (Tom Vogl)
When echolocating bats fly in a familiar space, they exhibit what is called Wiederorientierung--once they've recognised where they are and oriented themselves, they stop paying attention and fly by dead reckoning. You can put an obstacle in their flight path, and they'll fly right into it. They seem to be using an internal model of the environment to control their behaviour, and it may be quite inaccurate. Rats are similar--once they've learned to hop over a branch blocking their path, they'll continue to hop there after the branch is removed. People and governments do this, too.
The UK government doesn't really understand the risks of centralised databases. <http://tinyurl.com/6yr625>
Working class pupils drop out of school due to educational grants fiasco. <http://tinyurl.com/5qxkxs>
ETS, the American firm that ran the 2008 national curriculum test fiasco here, is refusing to respond to the Government inquiry, citing a gagging clause in their contract. <http://tinyurl.com/5nz2m9> <http://tinyurl.com/5zgzg6 >
New RN carriers delayed by costs <http://tinyurl.com/5npnmd>
Road pricing rejected by voters in Manchester <http://tinyurl.com/
Radical plan to eliminate one million from benefits roll <http://tinyurl.com/5orc38 >
Criticism of new children's dictionary <http://tinyurl.com/5vgkng>
Pound drops below the euro <http://tinyurl.com/5znt8s>
Missing activist in Zimbabwe was collecting evidence on Mugabe crimes <http://tinyurl.com/5obszp >
Supermarkets' plans to survive possible bankruptcy of their food distribution network <http://tinyurl.com/6g3t8h>
List names Firefox, Adobe, and VMWare as top threats to security. <http://tinyurl.com/5kme4e > Other threats on the list include Java, Apple, and Symantec.
New Home Office immigration system has major exploitable flaws <http://tinyurl.com/6fd9zz >
IWF story <http://tinyurl.com/6ajktr>
"If they do that with marks and grades, should they be trusted with experimental data?"
Harry Erwin, PhD
U.S. says lacks intelligence to fight pirates in Somalia - Yahoo! News
Normally the sort of detail one solicits from prisoners.
This is the sort of objection you raise when you don't want to do the mission. Gates & JCS clearly want to be pulled into this dragging their heels all the way.
Goal: free hand with resourcing and a free hand on rules of engagement. No replay of Blackhawk Down and no blame afterwards by the suddenly squeamish (translate EU).
Were it me I'd probably be acting the same way.
It's not as if DoD/USN lacks idle resources. 160 P-3 Orion patrol aircraft, a couple hundred armed SH-60s, a handy land base in Djibouti, all of the LHAs and LHDs available. A couple of B-52 sorties from Diego loaded with JDAMs will provide plenty of air support.
* * *
I looked up USN's current status of SH-60s. Plenty of SH-60Bs armed with Hellfire missiles. No apparent shortage of USMC AH-1s, either.
Between them, RN, French, Italians and Japanese they should have no difficulty finding 100 helos. No one wants to take responsibility.
I also learned that this summer, 2008, USMC expanded their AH-1Z upgrade program to include new production airframes of this nearly 50 y/o design. Plus the UH-1Y Venom, which dates back over 50 years. USMC is too small an institution to effectively manage its own aviation programs. Lack of institutional depth leads to decisions like this and the V-22 Osprey.
All three of them Bell Textron products. Their only criteria seems to be Not Army Helos and not Sikorsky or Boeing.
In response to:
I'm quite familiar with the helo operations in the Gulf during the tanker war. I wasn't there then, but served with a number of people who were shortly afterwards. After I got out of the Navy I was also involved in some of the preliminary design work for magazine modifications for some of our larger surface combatants to enable them to better support armed helicopters.
I didn't detail what approaches I considered when I declared a sustained sea control solution infeasible because I think it applies to all of them.
If I were going to attempt such an operation it would probably be along the lines that your anonymous correspondent suggests, but I think he seriously underestimates the size of the potential area of operations and the considerable logistics advantages we had in the way we were able to undertake our operations during the Tanker War that don't apply in the open waters off Somalia.
So yes, he's right, that lots of armed helos would be better than wall to wall surface combatants from Aden to Nairobi, but I don't think they'd work particularly well either.
We know where the weed grows from and the only real answer is to pull it out by the roots.
While a little wordy this shows how piracy has and is working.
Explanation of Shenzhou 7 Bubbles
Dear Dr. Pournelle,
The following webpage may be of interest: http://www.astroengine.com/?p=1531
It analyzes the apparent bubbles in the Shenzhou 7 spacewalk video and claims that they behave more characteristically of debris leaving the spaceship due to a slight pressure differential with the vacuum of space. I don't claim to be competent to judge whether this analysis makes sense, but it seems like there exist people with enough experience both with known real spacewalk videos and with known water tank practice spacewalk videos who would have a good sense of what this is more characteristic of.
Also, I have to wonder whether any hams might have intercepted the transmissions from the Shenzhou 7 mission--I assume they wouldn't have been encrypted and I don't think China has anything like TDRS, so this seems like it would at least be possible, though I don't imagine the PRC government likes to announce the frequencies it uses for anything.
--Daniel Walter Rowlands
There was a brief but fascinating radio news report yesterday afternoon, 11 Dec (in LA I heard it about 1 or 2 PM I believe) saying that Michael Griffin and Laurie Garver had an argument that climaxed with Griffin, redfaced, saying she was "incompetent" and that he wanted to speak with the Pres. Elect directly. I can just imagine Garver telling him they will put the Lunar Program on ice for five years (as proposed by a previous Obama space "expert" during the campaign). The "incompetence" is documented by the idea that you can simply interrupt such a complex technical effort and then resume it after such an interruption just where you left off.
Those who report space news do us no favor by shielding the public from such a revelation.
Nor do they protect our new Washington leadership ... the story is out, and I'm sure any number of space-knowledgeable people have heard about it.
It is really important in my view, that those of us who devote ourselves to supporting space activities be informed on such developments. Or are we now to learn that the report was bogus?
I fully expect that neither the Obama team nor NASA want this publicized ... but Michael is surely going to leave NASA early in the new Administration (especially after the reported outburst, if true), so perhaps he's decided that he will no longer "suffer fools gladly"!
My NASA sources (unofficial) tell me that JSC has degenerated into a primarily paper shuffling exercise with decisions driven by internal politics and jealousies by people who need the quote: "Forgive them Father, for they know not what they do".
Lori is married to an astronaut and I have not found her unable to understand technical arguments, but she is not an engineer. She's pretty good at people skills.
December 16, 2008
I had errands all day including going out to the lab to let them spear a corpuscle.
For a PDF copy of A Step Farther Out:
December 17, 2008
Creative Destruction: Time To Make Companies Small Enough To Fail.
- Roland Dobbins
Harvard prof slams US nut allergy hysteria.
-- Roland Dobbins
Hi Jerry The discussions on Education (whilst specifically about the US) does remind me of soemething I have believed for some time. Nobody should be allowed to teach until they are at least 30 or have 10 years life experience, teacher trainers must have 10 year "chalk face" experience.I came to this conclusion listening to teachers, and with the knowledge that they go to school, go to University, go to training colledge and then teach.
My suggestion would ensure that they have some idea of outside life and go into teaching with something to teach and want to teach not just teaching because they have no other ideas.You might want to provide a waiver for retired militry personel,I would accept that.
The more important point would be requiring professors of education to have ten years classroom experience. A 22 year old graduate of a competent normal school with a 2 year AA degree can be a first rate first grade teacher: I call to evidence my mother, who went to Gainesville Normal in Florida and from there to the classroom, and who taught all her pupils to read. (Except, as she said, "There were a couple who didn't learn to read. But they didn't learn anything else, either.")
Self proving statement?
You write "I am becoming the prefect example of the absent minded professor".
Very likely. Thanks.
Subject: On the US and Guns
I read Tony's anti-gun tirade with interest. I am always interested in the ideas of people from different cultures. I do have a couple of points I would like to illustrate for Tony. First, the US, is a country that established it's independence by shooting the soldiers of the mother country. Australian Independence came about through acts of legislation spanning two hundred years, ending in 1986 with England granting full independence to Australia. Remember that killing people who act in a way contrary to your perceived rights is the basis of America itself. We have fundamentally different views about the utility of violence. Second, he should recognize that he made a number of assumptions centering around the false idea that legal access to some weapons is related to the illegal use of other weapons. The fact is that the Swiss militia all have machine guns and the Rwandans killed each other with cheap machetes. It is also worth noting that methamphetamine is illegal in the United States but is plentiful because it is in demand. People with a small amount of equipment can make it from materials available for other common use. I suspect the same would be true of firearms. Violence occurs because of our culture's taste for it, not because the availability of firearms. If it were otherwise, prisons would be the safest places in the country.
In Mumbai, the officers were not well trained and not well equipped. In the United States, there was a bank robbery by men armed with illegally full-auto rifles and body armor that were stopped after the police went to a local gun store and got rifles available for purchase to civilians. I shudder to think what would have happened had the store not been there. We have had other shootings, like the tower in Texas that were suppressed by civilians directing covering fire at the maniac. Every shooting by maniacs that has had high casualties has been at a location were the legal possession of firearms was made illegal. There have been no mass shootings at gun shows.
Will Albenzi Gun Owner, Citizen, and Former Marine
I used to shop regularly at B&B Guns on Oxnard. They are closed now; the owner declined to sell to anyone, and just retired. Pity. It wan an excellent store. (That's where LAPD went to get some equipment in the Victory/Laurel Canyon bank robbery.
In case anyone thinks the Mumbai attacks couldn’t happen here, just remember those two clowns who shot up LA after robbing a bank. Yes the police depts. in most major cities are better armed now, but would they be able to handle 4 or more separate incidents with explosives added to the mix? I suspect the city would be in chaos for at least a day, and then they’d spend a week looking for hidden delay fuse explosives and waiting for a follow-up attack.
LAPD managed in this case. I suspect they'd have handled a Bombay like incident as well; there are other police departments and the LA Sheriff here. And armed citizens.
Things like this are why I say "I know nothing of naval operations".
I well could be. I have to say this sounds like the Navy got out of the underway replenishment business. A container ship can carry lots of cargo containers, too. It's what they do. If USN can't support this logistically they certainly can't support the probable alternatives.
OK. I understand that as give the job to the ground pounders, or the air-land pounders in this era. We can certainly launch merciless punitive raids against any fishing ports we decide are guilty sinners. And the USN can even cruise in close and bombard the towns with 5" shell fire as in the good old days of the USS Constitution and the Barbary Coast, despite the obsolescence of this kind of ordnance.
A Marine battalion landing team is already optimized to do this. Tales of the CoDominium indeed! This will lead to lots of dead bodies and lots of destroyed boats in fishing ports. Plus subsequent pictures of starving Somalian tots whose parents can no longer catch fish. Jerry can do this in his novels because he also controls the fictional war crimes tribunals. UN Security Council resolution please as an immunizer against subsequent war crimes charges?
I have to point out the Somalian pirates have been reasonably careful about not killing indiscriminately or sinking ships. And probably because they fear precisely the above response from the USMC. The Barbary Wars/CoDo punitive raid tactic will therefore be ruled out by International Morality as a disproportionate response, despite its certain efficacy and economy of force.
If punitive raids are inadmissible as being too barbaric, the next option is a baby-sitting mission. Here, Blackhawk Down Redux, is where the UN and the Euro NGOs are insistently trying to nudge us. This means every fishing port has to be occupied and the fishermen closely supervised to ensure they stick to fishing. How long will it take for the Somalians to adopt the path of righteousness on a self-sustaining voluntary basis? They've gotten along without a central government for 20 years now, and without any noticeable desire to have one.
Despite my doubts let's analyze this second approach. On this coast this scenario requires a minimum of one infantry battalion task force per fishing port occupied. This is the smallest unit that is somewhat self-contained logistically and will also be able to reasonably defend itself, as a sitting target, against attacks that will certainly develop over the months. Even so there will be a drizzle of casualties from occasional night time mortar attacks. And given a little time Al Qaida will certainly return to set up a local IED & suicide bomber vest plant, plus training base.
It seems to me all the fishing ports have to be occupied simultaneously to prevent pirates from simply moving their bases of operations to unoccupied ports. More populous ports will require brigade task forces to occupy them.
How many fishing ports have to be occupied? The commanders in Afghanistan are already calling for four more combat brigades, which reinforcements must await an equivalent draw down in Iraq. And even so we'll still need at least 10 container ships with helos. This time with CH-53s and CH-47s to resupply the port occupation forces.
If 10 container ships and armed helos are insufficient, I'll certainly raise the ante to 20. This is still a small fraction of the cost of what's required for Real World alternative Two; land based baby-sitting.
In my stories the war crimes tribunals would need the Fleet and Line Marines to enforce any edicts. But I set it up that way, of course. You will note that Sparta finds herself the victim of something like that, and the hamper that puts on their CT efforts.
The more I contemplate this the more inclined I am to non-intervention. They don't dare molest USN warships. Sealift command long ago armed its cargo ships against Al Q. Plus they get escorts as deemed necessary.
The one mission profile most likely to be decisive, Marine Amphibious Unit punitive expeditions against pirate ports, is the least likely to be approved. And truth be told, that would kill a lot of relatively innocent people.
There's my fall back position of helos + container ships. People in boats on the high seas are most likely to be guilty. I still believe a few well publicized gunship attacks would curtail the entire business.
The only land mission that would be approved through the UN is a replay of 1992-1993. No.
Let the people whose trade is affected by this fishing scow piracy figure this out. And if they can't figure it out then they don't need to be trading on that route. Let 'em sail around the Cape of Good Hope instead.
"Under the resolution, nations must first get a request for an attack from Somalia's weak U.N.-backed government, which itself would be required to notify U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon before any attack."
This is precisely the kind of rigmarole I predicted would accompany any land action authorization. It's a certainty only innocent villagers will be left in the kill zone by the time this process with its built-in security leaks is completed.
The WSJ 'network neutrality' story was fabricated from the whole cloth. Google, like other large over-the-top (OTT) content and application providers, like to work out deals with SPs with high volumes of users to essentially provision caching farms colocated in the points of presence (PoPs) of those SPs, caching commonly- downloaded content (remember, Google owns YouTube), and even search results and the like.
In other words, they're simply looking to expand their content deliver network (CDN), which has nothing to do at all with so-called 'network neutrality', which is about settlement-free peering and quality-of- service (QoS) prioritization of traffic to/from OTT networks, and the possibility of the large backbone providers and/or broadband access providers wanting to essentially charge extra 'pay-for-play' money despite their existing peering agreements - sort of a Daley/ Blagojevich model of network interconnection, vs. the East German model of the 'network neutrality' proponents.
So, this genned-up 'story' is totally bogus, has nothing to do with so- called 'network neutrality', totally misquotes Lessig and others, and is clearly a provocation masterminded by the broadband providers and/ or other parties (NOT Microsoft) with a vested interest in seizing any blunt instrument to hand and beating about Google's head.
My question on network neutrality is just what Rule, precisely, is wanted, and by whom should it be issued? And will it encourage or discourage further investment in providing bandwidth?
There has been an awful lot of attention paid to this over the last couple of years. Certainly the whole Comcast debacle thrust it into the limelight. Generally speaking, ISPs provide access to a shared resource, very much similar to what a typical LAN does, where the switch does its best to balance the bandwidth demands of the different attached machines. Since it is shared, not every machine can use it to its fullest capacity all of the time.
Virtually everything in life (e.g. water, electricity, natural gas) is shared, because it is efficient. It gives us access to things we could not otherwise afford. It is possible for me to have my own private electrical system, but typically it is not cost-effective. With most shared systems, there are mechanisms in place that keep access "fair". With all of these services, I pay for use, not a flat cost. It is this usage-based system that keeps things "fair". If I wish to heat my pool water, my dog house, and my driveway to melt the snow, I use more natural gas and I pay for that increased use, and that allows the gas company to expand storage and/or increase delivery capacity.
How long would it take for the electrical grid to fail completely if everyone was allowed to use as much electricity as they wished, up to the limit of their service capacity? About 5 minutes is my guess. Smart meters allow billing based on *when* electricity is used, so I can save money by running my dishwasher at midnight instead of 7PM because the electrical service provider wants to encourage off-peak usage, and so will offer a cheaper rate for that off-peak use.
If we go back to the days of dial-up for the average user, ISPs could offer unlimited packages because only gear-heads bothered with a second phone line, and the speed of dial-up limited online activities. People would buy software and music and movies on CD or DVD, because downloading them was time-prohibitive. These realities kept use somewhat fair. When broadband started to roll out, customers continued to expect the "unlimited" part of the equation. The problem was that the previous limiting factors of speed and phone-line tie-up had been removed, while at the same time you have provided a service that is typically at least 20x faster (mine today is 200x faster), and yet the cost was only doubled. This trifecta of changes has brought us to where we are today, where internet usage is exploding, and ISPs are between the proverbial rock and a hard place.
In my opinion, the proponents of net neutrality fear that if legislation IS NOT brought forward, ISPs will become the gatekeepers of the content available on the internet, and will use their role as gatekeepers for their commercial benefit, much as the cable and satellite companies do now when it comes to television. This also applies to other media such as print and radio. The internet has been incredibly open, and the bar to entry is incredibly low. For very little money, you can publish to the world, something that was impossible as recent as 20 years ago. If ISPs become the gatekeepers, then that openness can disappear and the entry bar raised high again.
Opponents of net neutrality fear that if legislation IS brought forward that network management of ANY kind will be illegal. For example, I am happy that my ISP has Quality of Service settings in my cable modem that ensure that my VOIP traffic gets priority over my web browsing. I would most definitely not want this made illegal, and I doubt anyone else would either. Services such as streaming video that are more sensitive to timing than say, a software download would not be allowed to be given priority. Again, most people would not have an issue slowing their software download a bit if it meant that the episode of LOST they were watching had smoother playback. The key part here is that the filtering benefits the customer. In the Comcast case, their filtering reduced the service to the customer in order to benefit Comcast.
The grey area that exists here that is not brought up is where these high-speed pipes are located. If Google were put some of their content within the borders of an ISP, and assuming that the ISP does not then give priority routing to that content, doesn't that simply improve the service level for everyone? How is it different than an ISP just having a dedicated fat pipe to Google? ISPs have peering arrangements all the time because it makes sense - it improves traffic flow. Isn't Google's plan, given what we know about it, just a mirroring (where customers are directed to a server that is geographically close to them) solution on steroids? Akamai does this now on a commercial basis, and other companies do it, just on a less organized scale.
I believe the issue is not how the bits get to the ISP, it's how they are handled when delivered to the customer. I want my ISP to do its best to get the bits I request delivered to me as quickly as possible, without limiting what I ask for, unless it benefits me (e.g. VOIP traffic, blocking viruses). And what is getting blocked needs to be published, because cases like http://www.theregister.co.uk/2008/12/07/brit_isps_censor_wikipedia/ are what fuels the fire for net neutrality.
The problems, as I understand them, are these: Must Comcast provide the same speed of service for Vonage as it does for its own VOIP packets? In the case of Comcast VOIP, someone has paid for the service; Vonage comes in from somewhere else as part of a sharing agreement, and Comcast is not paid anything other than reciprocity for packets that go from Comcast to some other ISP. In the case of Comcast as I understand it, they don't send VOIP packets through anyone else.
Thus the "level playing field" means that Comcast must treat incoming VOIP packets exactly the same as it treats VOIP packets that it originated; not that it can't route VOIP ahead of, say, bit torrents or even email, but that if it does that for any VOIP then it must do it for ALL VOIP packets, its own and those that come in from Resume Speed, Michigan through a small family owned ISP.
That is my understanding of what net neutrality would mean. I am open to corrections on this, but I have found that even experts have problems with the simple question: what is the Rule, and what entity issues and enforces it to achieve net neutrality. I find that different advocates of neutrality have entirely different views of what Rule they would impose.
Further to my previous email:
As much as it hurts me, since I am a heavy internet user, ISPs need to introduce time-of-day caps. For example, they could give users 50GB of traffic to use between 9AM and 11PM. Traffic outside of that is say another 50GB. Cell phone companies do it this way, electrical providers are starting to do this (with smart meters), and it works great, because it encourages off-peak usage. I do download some things on Bittorrent (typically TV shows that didn't get taped on our PVR and we can't get through online streaming because I live in Canada), but I start them up at night when usage is low and I am going to bed. Then I stop them in the morning when I start work. A cap system such as this would then automatically bill those who exceed the cap, providing extra income to the ISP. If a user didn't want to pay the extra, they would find a way to stay within the cap.
A local public school system, Montgomery County, has decided to do away with identifying students as "gifted".
Of course, this is consistent with "no child gets ahead", but the article contains tidbits of jawdropping stupidity,
"Two-fifths of Montgomery students are considered gifted on the basis of aptitude tests, schoolwork, expert opinion and parents' wishes"
Yep, "parents' wishes" will get a kid identified as gifted. It's the same in my local school district, another Washington DC suburb. With that backdrop, perhaps we -should- get rid of a meaningless label.
But, we shouldn't worry because,
"School system leaders say losing the label won't change gifted instruction, because it is open to all students."
I guess Charles Murray calls this educational romanticism, but I think this goes past romanticism and on to outright stupidity and/or fraud.
The future of America depends on actually educating the brightest 20%. And we are failing at that. We sow the wind.
December 18, 2008
So that's what happened to your birds:
Merry Christmas and a Prosperous New Year
Actually, terror birds existed in North America as recently as 5,000 years ago; I put them in The Burning City and Burning Tower because it didn't take any magic at all to have a really frightening enemy...
Sci-Fi: What's it really about?
Science fiction isn't (as a rule) about predicting the future, and science fiction writers aren't trying to predict it.
"No sensible science fiction writer tries to predict anything," says Frederick Pohl, whose work includes the classic The Space Merchants (written with Cyril M. Kornbluth), Man Plus and most recently The Last Theorem, co-authored with the late Arthur C. Clarke. "Neither do the smartest futurologists. What those people do is try to imagine every important thing that may happen (so as to do in the present, things which may encourage the good ones and forestall the bad) and that's what SF writers do in their daily toil."
Since the US Government is now going to throw money with abandon, let's at least get something for it.
1. Replace all federal, state and municipal cars and light trucks with new production vehicles, preferably hybrids. Is not lack of orders a major problem in the domestic vehicle industry?
2. Replace all federal, state and local government construction equipment with new - domestic - production. This is an excellent time to completely reequip DoD with brand new dump trucks, bulldozers and graders, and everyone else, too.
3. Every foreign made machine tool in any government facility (and ship) should be replaced with new US- made dual capable manual/CNC or straight CNC equipment, and within three years. Set up new foundries and factories as necessary to handle any order overflow from the existing shrunken domestic machine tool industry. This is a timely moment to replace all other government owned power tools with new domestic production, and all hand tools.
4. Many countries make van sized mini-bus mass transit work on low density routes feeding into higher density bus routes. Here's at least 500,000 orders for hybrid mini-busses.
5. It's useful to note the US Army's entire logistics vehicle fleet is showing the strain after six years of war. Order up for trucks of all sizes! There's also a growing backlog of deferred maintenance and depot overhauls for combat vehicles. Here's additional billions of orders to flush the parts suppliers.
We favored the Germans (in 1943 to 1945) with creative destruction of their manufacturing base so it was required to build anew... It's not as if we don't need all this stuff....
World Coal Reserves Could Be a Fraction of Previous Estimates,
According to this, we may run out of coal:
So it may be that we go nuclear, go solarsat or begin the orderly evacuation of northern countries.
Plus, as an added bonus, we'll find out if coal burning really did defer the next ice age.
Now there's a rub. I have always said that oil is too valuable as feed stock to just light a match to it.
Spengler has some material that is worth reading about failed Muslim states to come:
He comments that Pakistan, Iran and Turkey are all heading to financial crashes. He also says, "Pakistan's military-age population is far greater than those of other Muslim military powers in the region. With about 20 million men of military age, Pakistan today has as much manpower as Turkey and Iran combined, and by 2035 it will have half again as many."
Then he moves on to a partial comment on the Mumbai massacre:
"[S]everal readers have asked me to comment on the terror attack on Mumbai in November. I will do so with great caution, given the absence of accurate information. I have good reason to believe that the Indian authorities lied about the attack. India claimed that 10 shooters were involved, because nine were killed and one captured. The actual number is closer to 30, I am reliably informed, not counting support personnel in Mumbai who arranged safe houses with extra ammunition and explosives months in advance of the attack. It was not a suicide attack at all, but a new kind of urban terror assault, in which the participants had a reasonable expectation of survival, and the majority did in fact survive. That is an important wrinkle, for a better class of combatant can be recruited for missions in which survival is at least possible.
"No analyst I know has answered with confidence the question, cui bono? To whose benefit was the attack? It has been suggested that al-Qaeda diverted a Pakistani military intelligence team from Kashmir to Mumbai, in a demonstration of power against India. But there may be another dimension. The Mumbai attack has been a test of a different kind of warfare, the kind that emanates from failed states: the tactics of the Somali pirates applied to random destruction of civilian lives."
In the middle, he supports his argument that Pakistan, Iran and Turkey are headed for trouble.
As always, interesting.
I have no reliable information on the number of attackers; I assumed the news reports were true, or if not that some news people would question them. If in fact there were 30 shooters and most survived this is frightening; but I have seen no evidence of this nor anyone else claim it.
The demographics he quotes are all correct. But then Indonesia is the world's most populous Muslim State...
You and Paris Hilton,
On 2008-12-17 you said:
You must be right: that's just what Paris Hilton said in her video response to John McCain.
“. Home invasions of people known to be non-Swiss citizens (and hence unlikely to have firearms on the premises) not quite zero.
Having said that I think you have to work at being burgled in Switzerland. You probably need 1) few neighbors 2) signs up saying "We be furriners" 3) lots of easy to carry bling available 4) lots of workmen doing home improvement for you
The contrast is biggest on the Italian border but even crossing over from Germany into Basel the difference is clear. Switzerland just is cleaner and safer.
I can also guarantee there will be no Bombay-style attacks on Swiss trains or other public transport because just about every Swiss train you travel on has a handful of Swiss soldiers traveling somewhere on it and they all travel with their weapons...
Oh and prostitution is legal and it looks like drugs are going to be mostly legal. Great place Switzerland.”
And in the home of Calvinism! But an armed society can be a safe society. Depends on the inhabitants... And what they will put up with. The cure for disorderly people is known but usually not applied.
The Grand Duke's Conscience.
-- Roland Dobbins
Did Multiple Moons Once Orbit Earth?
-- Roland Dobbins
The suicide of western civilization proceeds apace. Until we are able to state the problem, we will not solve it. If we do not solve it, western civilization will disappear into the dustbin of history, and deservedly so. Mark Steyn's column, posted on 'freerepublic.com' provides an abbreviated report on 'human rights' in Canada. A commenter provides information on the status of western civilization, Christianity, and the Jews in areas controlled by Muslims or which have significant Muslim populations. Similar signs, not widely publicized, are popping up in the US.
I think it is time to read Pareto again, particularly the part about circulation of elites.
December 19, 2008
The idea of using a government bailout of an auto maker to acquire new military vehicles has been tried--under Carter, with Chrysler. Tens of thousands of Chrysler corp pickups and related vehicles were equipped with military light and power packages and adopted into the US Army. They were nursed along for two decades (indeed, some of them still persist), but are widely reviled and generally not desirable for more than running around on post. The National Guard likes them okay for transport between armories and ranges, but not for actual disaster use. They're still glorified pickup trucks--"technicals"--not combat vehicles.
As to other vehicles (dump trucks, etc), there are specific requirements in the contracts that off the shelf civilian vehicles can't meet.
The idea is to bail out the auto makers, not build entire new assembly lines for them.
Or better yet, let the market decided if $40-$70 an hour is "reasonable" for unskilled and semi-skilled labor, and if "keep building SUVs so we're in the lead when the market turns around" is a good business plan for a CEO to propose.
I've had fantastic luck with my Pontiacs and Dodges, but I'm selective on which models I buy.
-- Recent novels from Michael Z. Williamson
Agreed that it is possible to get this result; but it's also possible to use a crisis like this to get a pretty good deal. We will have to refurbish the Legions after our Mesopotamian adventure; GM and Ford, and Chrysler for that matter, have the capability to do it; and it would be a heck of a lot better to bail them out with orders and good contract management (I have some experience in that area; it's possible to make sure contractors are doing what you wanted them to do) beats holy hell out of buying shares in the companies.
I have been reading your books for 25 years. The first thing I read was: Inferno with Larry Niven. Brilliant. It inspired me to read the Divine Comedy in high school and eventually take an elective course on Dante in college, which was one of my favorite classes. It was a welcome break from my engineering curriculum.
I recently read Fallen Angels. I was stunned to see that it was published in 1991. Bravo for your foresight. I was also grateful that you (and Mr. Niven) pointed the finger firmly at irrational governmental interference as the main culprit in your story.
I had to laugh, though, at a letter in your archives from the early 2000's. A woman wrote in to compliment Fallen Angels, but proceeded to use the example of creationism in public schools as supporting evidence of close-mindedness that was leading us to disaster. I certainly understand where the secular mind would hold creationism as irrational, but I thought that your correspondent rather missed the point if she thought that the evangelical Christians are a greater threat to science and life-style than runaway governmental political correctness.
Best Regards and Merry Christmas!
Time to re-flag,
The more I think about it, the more I believe that this is the opportune moment to get the owners of vessels to flag the ships with the ship-owners' countries, rather than infamous flags of convenience. Then the countries with country-flagged vessels could arrange to protect their own, with convoys, Marine babysitters, etc.
As it is, I would not like to have any of my tax dollars going to protect ships belonging to owners who dodge taxes and regulations by registering their vessels in Liberia. Let Liberia protect them.
Jerry: (I just signed up as a subscriber, btw.. no free lunch in this world).
I am an experienced exploration geologist and oil and gas operator out here in West Texas with over 30 years of experience and I think that I will pull out my hair if I hear another ignorant clown say that wells drilled today will not contribute to our production for 10, 20 or even (from that absolute moron Bill Richardson) 30 years.
Almost all land-based well drilled in the lower 48 states (such as the hot Bakken oil trend in North Dakota) are on line within a month of their completion. Wells on the North Slope of Alaska that are tied into a pipeline are on line in a matter of months. If a well is not tied into a pipeline, then it is only a matter of building the pipeline - something that can be done in a 6 month - 3 year timeframe, depending on the red tape and distance, etc. Wells drilled in the deep Gulf are in a 2-4 year development timeframe. The entire "10-30 year period" so beloved by dumb governors and former community organizers is a rank fraud.
Most producing wells are depleted within 10 years of their initial drilling. So.... how can these ludicrous numbers be taken seriously at all? The wells I drilled in 1978 that came in at 1500 BOPD are now down to 5-10 BOPD, if they haven't already been plugged. The oil that was produced back then has been long burned up in someones 1977 Torino, and is not awaiting anyone to finally turn on the tap.. that C02 has been recycled and is currently being reprocessed within the chloroplasts of some green algae in the middle of the Indian Ocean.
Thanks. I thought it wsa a pretty silly statement when I heard it, but I have no experience in oil. Possone did, and spent a lot of time studying the oil industry, but I was the military tech guy in those days.
And thanks for subscribing!
December 20, 2008
Jerry, According to this article by Theodore Dalrymple, England is becoming a country foreign to all I thought I knew of it. It is distressing and sad, and does not bode well for the future.
I just yesterday re-read The Mote in God's Eye for the first time in mumble years. I had forgotten what a fun read it is.
I did notice that the historical chronology at the beginning gives the far future date of 2008 for the perfection of the Alderson Drive. Given that the first time I read it, I thought an FTL drive more likely that the end of the Soviet Union, I suppose I should be content trading the fall of the Berlin Wall for the Alderson drive...but don't expect me to be happy about it.
Steve Van Sickle
Nor I. I really didn't think we'd have star drives by 2008, but I did think we would have an asteroid colony and be a sparefaring nation.
Peggy Noonan talks about "the age of the empty suit:"
"An old friend in a position of some authority in Washington told me the other day, from out of nowhere, that a hard part of his job is that there's no one to talk to. I didn't understand at first. He's surrounded by people, his whole life is one long interaction. He explained that he doesn't have really thoughtful people to talk to in government, wise men, people taking the long view and going forth each day with a sense of deep time, and a sense of responsibility for the future. There's no one to go to for advice." (This kind of complements the piece about the CIA.)
" . . . the sense you pick up that people feel all trends lead downward from here, that the great days of America Rising are over, that the best is not yet to come but has already been. It is so non-American, so unlike us, to think this, and yet one picks it up everywhere, between the lines and in asides."
"People are angry but don't have a plan . . ."
She ends up on a positive note, but it's clear we're going to have to work at it.
It's a very readable essay.
It seems that the Iron Law applies to the CIA:
Of course, we all knew it, but this is a pretty straightforward indictment. I especially like the comparison between private sector and government spooks.
Police raid Food Coop in Ohio
I thought you might find this interesting.
"Agents began rifling through all of the family's possessions, a task that lasted hours and resulted in a complete upheaval of every private area in the home. Many items were taken that were not listed on the search warrant. The family was not permitted a phone call, and they were not told what crime they were being charged with. They were not read their rights. Over ten thousand dollars worth of food was taken, including the family's personal stock of food for the coming year," said one.
This kind of thing is becoming more and more widspread. How much would you like to bet that the SWAT Team that raided them was trained and equipped using Homeland Security money?
Dear. Dr. Pournelle:
I defer to Mike's experience on what vehicles the National Guard prefers to use during disasters. However, I would like to point out that utilities and contractors essentially use standard vehicles for disaster response. True, they have specialized bodies and equipment, both from third-party companies. Yet at their heart lurks a truck specified with options available through any dealership. We also use a surprising number of standard vehicles, requiring only mobile radios, first aid kits, and mounted spot light. They hold up pretty well. The only non-stock vehicle I'm aware of was a mobile boom contraption made from the bottom of a Sherman tank and operated by a guy name Swede just after Hurricane Hugo.
Come to think of it, most law enforcement and highway departments use vehicles with little or no modifications, and they work in the same weather we do. Sometimes they're the only other vehicles on the road.
- Kevin J. Cheek
|This week:||Sunday, December
The title of this piece is Standard Model Gets Right Answer For Proton, Neutron Masses:
What strikes me is that the investigators essentially used a simulation: "In their calculations, Hoelbling and collaborators approximated the continuum of spacetime with a four-dimensional crystal lattice composed of discrete points spaced along columns and rows. The researchers solved the equations of QCD on finer and finer lattices, and then extrapolated the results to the continuum, painstakingly accounting and measuring every approximation and uncertainty along the way."
I immediately thought of you and your experiences 45 years ago, transforming 2D matrices. Now they're up to 4D latices.
The Iron Law is interfering with developing a US constabulary for Iraq:
Are we surprised?
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