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Monday  January 5, 2009

Hamas, Ground War, Day 2.5

As far as conscript NCOs in the IDF go, sure. In the regulars, basically all IDF soldiers through Staff Sergeant are conscripts, and promotions through to Staff Sergeant are for time in, not merit (or really rank) promotions; corporals, for example wear the same insignia (or, actually, lack thereof) as privates. (When I heard that the first IDF fatality was Staff Sergeant Dvir Emmanueloff, for example, I knew that he was 21 or 22, and had been in for about two and a half years; he was about to complete his active service, and go into the reserves.)

Those that command units are called "Mashak" -- and, yup, basically all NCOs in the regulars through the rank of Staff Sergeant who command units are conscripts. The officer class is quite young, too; most career IDF officers retire in their forties and start another career. (As opposed to the reserve officers, who have already started another career. Can't think of another army where you'd have a guy leading a combat outfit for about a month every year, and then going back to his day job as a heart surgeon.)

It's a very different system than that in the US. Ranks through Staff Sergeant are all considered "enlisted" ; "NCO" ranks star at First Sergeant.

(I'm not at all sure it's a better model generally, but I am pretty sure that it's better for the Israeli situation, and very distinct from both the good class-conscious US model that's dependent on the career NCOs and warrant officers and the lousy enlisted-including-NCOs-as-ignorant-dolts model of the Arab world that's utterly dependent on the officer class. The offduty social distinctions between the NCO and officer class that the US inherited from the British aren't quite absent, but close to it, for example.)

Onward . . .

Well, we don't agree on everything; I don't think the fuel monopoly is as important as you do, in the larger scheme of things. Yup, if all the other necessary conditions for a growing economy were extant in Gaza, an outside fuel monopoly might be a big deal, but, well, I can think of at least four necessary conditions that are absent, just off the top of my head. If you're trying to set sail in a colander, which of the holes is the most important?

That said, what you and I have been calling a blockade really isn't; it's an embargo. That's not just semantics; Israel has only closed down three sides of the rectangle; the fourth is as open as Egypt lets it be. The Egyptians can take over supply into Gaza anytime that they want to, simply by, well, exporting stuff into Gaza -- certainly including fuel.

(And, in fact, the Egyptian smugglers have been sending in all kinds of stuff -- the NYTimes passes along one report that tunnels used for supplies aren't being touched; see http://thelede.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/12/31/sealing-gazas-tunnels. If so, that bodes very well for the tactical side of OCL, as do some other things. Israeli tactical intelligence in Gaza is obviously of a very high order, as even accepting Hamas numbers, they've been getting targets at a 3-1 ratio over the human body armor. But knowing which of literally hundreds of tunnels are being used for what suggests an even greater amount of good data.)

I think the best analysis around is Kramer's at http://eweri.com/2C8 . It's by no means perfect. I think that he gives far too much weight to the reliability of Abbas and the PLO as a possible negotiating partner, despite all the evidence since (and, for that matter, before) Oslo that they're not. That said, it's obvious that the Eastern fence has become more effective than the Gaza fence, despite its flaws -- and that's because, I'd argue, that deterrence is working better there, because Abbas and company a: think that they have something to lose if the missiles start flying toward central Israel and b: aren't as stupid as Hamas.

If you want to look long term, the only viable solution is one you and I (among many others) pointed to, years ago -- for Israel to cut off what's beyond a given line, and let the Arabs work it out themselves, as long as they keep to themselves. If that can't be done with Gaza, where the line is easy to work out, there's no point in making concessions to try it in Judea and Samaria.

Like you, I wish the new President and SecState a lot of luck in dealing with the situation; they're going to need it. It's clear that the Arabs in Judea and Samaria are expecting a lot of help and support from the new administration; I'm not sure that they're going to get it.

Which suggests another thought -- assuming, at least for the sake of argument, that the top leadership of Hamas isn't stupid, that suggests that they had to set this off now, rather than wait another month or so until the Obama administration is in place. Which means that the embargo really did have Hamas thinking that they had to provoke something sooner than later, to distract the populace.

Meanwhile, the Golani, Givati, and Paratrooper brigades are in Gaza, and they're all awfully good. My guess -- and it's just a guess -- is that a lot of the reservists called up are among the Paratroopers.

-- Joel Rosenberg

I have no sources inside Hamas, of course, but I do have friends in the West Bank (Christians, mostly). You might be astonished at just how much the fuel monopoly is resented. I don't think Egypt has any means of delivering a lot of fuel to Gaza; certainly it has no way to do so to the West Bank. And of course the west bank of the Jordan River is a security zone -- it's a bit unsettling to see the Israeli side of the Jordan, which is a desolation, in contrast with the Jordan side which is amber waves of grain and fruit trees. At least it was that way when I was there perhaps a decade ago, and I doubt much has changed for the better.

I know that much is smuggled into Gaza through Egypt. I also know that Egypt has no love for Hamas (or the Muslim Brotherhood). But with current conditions there is no hope whatever for Gaza and everyone there knows it; and a land without hope but many children is a long term source of desperate young men who can be turned into martyrs. You and I both know how that is done. And so far there isn't a lot of reason for those in the West Bank, or Judea and Samaria as one chooses, to have much hope either -- and they really are in the vice grip of the fuel monopoly. The monopoly isn't a government entity, it makes profits; lots of profits; and a long chain of people, private and government bureaucrats, wet their beaks before a drop of kerosene or gasoline flows across the border. Enough so that one suspect there is no politician willing to take it on. Energy costs are a key to any kind of economy.

Obviously the soul of the US Army are the long term NCO's, just as the Chiefs are the heart of the Navy. With conscript part time sergeants an army is not going to do well; it's easier to be a part time officer than a sergeant. An army can't operate without company commanders, but it can't operate without sergeants either. There needs to be a gap between command and the troops; armies have found this out over thousands of years; there's always a bit of a gap between officers and the rest of the army. But there have to be NCO's as well. In a properly run army, the NCO's derive their authority from the officers, and the officers understand when to get out of the way, or look the other way -- and when to give orders. But this isn't a treatise on military organization and leadership. Old Doc Cameron's Anatomy of Military Merit does a pretty good job of that.

It looks to be an interesting month.



Jerry, There is an interesting essay on education at http://fpb.livejournal.com/364850.html#cutid1  . The author is italian living in England who has some excellent essays and ideas from time to time. The comments section is also worth perusing. I still am looking forward to your essay on the subject, but I am well aware that you can only dance so fast, and less so since last summer. I am looking forward to Inferno, pt 2. It will be the first book that I've bought in a long time. Keep up the good work.

Don Scherer

We're Americans, we neither study nor learn from history - OSC

I am still working on my essay. I have other things I have to get done. And bills to pay, alas.


China's Sea Lanes.


-- Roland Dobbins

A blue water Chinese Navy; first since the 15th Century


Best short explanation I've read (if he didn't cut a few corners) on the evidence for long term solar cycles driving climate. Happy New Year!


The astonishing thing is that it is in the Huffington Post


Subj: Can Army officers become switch hitters?


>>Earlier this year, the army went one step further, and came out with a top line field manual (FM 3-07) "stability operations" (the kind of "small wars" being waged in Iraq and Afghanistan.) The army has always had an FM-7 for "full spectrum operations" (total war, against troops in uniform, armed with a full spectrum of weapons and tactics). Now it is committed to training for both types of combat. The key to this is training the commanders. One discovery in the last decade is that the troops can switch from conventional combat, to irregular type operations, more quickly and efficiently than their bosses.<<

Rod Montgomery==monty@starfief.com

I do not believe that the same army can be both a first class military machine capable of winning battles against an organized foe, and simultaneously be a constabulary capable of pacifying an occupied land. The Romans never managed it, not has anyone else I can recall. The missions are different. Legions and Auxiliaries are not the same kind of force. And constabulary can never stand up against Legions.


Fukuyama on Huntington.


- Roland Dobbins


Gun Control in England

Dr. Pournelle,


This is a very disturbing story about the failure of Gun Control in England. I highly recommend that everyone take 10 minutes and watch it. With the new Administration on it's way in, we could very well have something similar in store for us.

Matt Kirchner


Jerry, that video dates from summer 2003, now the big thing is “Knife Crime” and considerations of Knife Bans. In UK it is now illegal to possess in a public place a knife with a fixed blade or a folding knife with a blade over 3 inches long. Even a small lockable blade is illegal without a bona fide reason – general utility may not be sufficient. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Knife_legislation    When they take away the knives what will be next?...pointy stick crime?

Chris Spratt


possible pirate fighting vessel?

Dr. Pournelle,

Ever seen this before? It's pretty cool. Take a look.


"It might look like something out of a James Bond film but this is could be the ocean cruiser of the future. The WAM-V, or Wave Adaptive Modular Vessel, blasts along on two giant inflatable tubes which, according to its designers, let it 'dance' with the waves. Powered by twin diesel engines, the spider-like craft can be crewed by just two people as it tackles voyages of up to 5,000 miles."

Matt Kirchner


Harry Erwin's Letter From England

On New Years Day, I went to a charity lunch (bread, cheese, and coffee) at a working castle--one serving as an apartment house. I met a security analyst who had been tasked to evaluate the Labour Government's proposed monolithic national databases, and we compared notes. We agreed these databases are incredibly stupid ideas from the perspective of security--think large warehouses of valuable information with minimal protection. America's compartmented approach works a lot better. The current UK Government simply doesn't listen-- since 1997, they've destroyed no end of institutional systems--think Royal Mail--that had taken centuries to get right.

Private firm to run UK database tracking everyone's calls and internet usage <http://tinyurl.com/7zyg5y

I also had a talk with a vicar about some statistics I learned earlier this week. According to the Lenskis, up to 15% of the population of the Roman Empire (and similar agrarian empires) was excess to the needs of the economy. This "expendable class" was made up of beggars, petty criminals, bandits, outlaws, and itinerant workers. The typical range was 5-10% of the population, with the upper end associated with social unrest and peasant revolts. This class still exists in modern society, although we don't treat it quite as poorly. However, it has grown to about 10% of the population in America and is perhaps 13% in the UK. We see its influence in the high level of "volume crime" we tolerate--the offences, burglary, theft, rape, assault, drunkenness, vandalism--that the UK police don't bother to investigate. The interesting point is that the expendable class--despite the advances of modern civilisation--is larger today than it was two thousand years ago.

When I mentioned this, the immediate reaction was that it was a side- effect of the purely academic orientation of UK schools. Teaching people the skills they need to be productive members of society is not part of their remit. The same problem exists in America, but I don't think we can blame the schools. It's more about how the groups who wield power organise society to their own short-term benefit.

The UK working class feels threatened <http://tinyurl.com/8n5b9o

Times story on mortgages: <http://tinyurl.com/7krpbm

No loans (Guardian story) <http://tinyurl.com/8qtxqn

Family matters <http://tinyurl.com/8p9j9a

The UK Government is now thinking about regulating foods to control obesity. I suppose my fat intake will be monitored, and butter will be rationed. Guardian story: <http://tinyurl.com/8uzqr3>  Telegraph story <http://tinyurl.com/786v3p

Fiddling the figures: <http://tinyurl.com/a7e5ko

-- Harry Erwin, PhD, Program Leader, MSc Information Systems Security, University of Sunderland. <http://scat-he-g4.sunderland.ac.uk/~harryerw> Weblog at: <http://scat-he-g4.sunderland.ac.uk/~harryerw/blog/index.php>


Legions and Constabulary


"I do not believe that the same army can be both a first class military machine capable of winning battles against an organized foe, and simultaneously be a constabulary capable of pacifying an occupied land."

I wasn't enlisted in a Legion, but I did spend a few years in the Marines.

When I worked for the II MEF G-6 (as a computer tech) our missions were as diverse as training to fight the Soviets in Norway to stability operations in Haiti to loading up everyone aboard ship and fighting Iraqis in Kuwait.

Changing roles from constabulary to winning battles against organized foes is an accurate description of what the Marines are all about. If a bunch of dumb jarheads can do it, our esteemed colleagues in the Army can certainly learn how.

-- Brian Dunbar Geidus

"Display some adaptability"

And when all the Marines are employed as constables? Certainly there are units and troops that can do both, although the longer they are employed as constables the less able they will be to fight wars against organized and trained units. Light infantry is not armor. Artillery is rarely useful in constabulary work. The weapons are different, the thought processes are different.


The USAF are the Legions, the Army are the Constabulary?

You write: "I do not believe that the same army can be both a first class military machine capable of winning battles against an organized foe, and simultaneously be a constabulary capable of pacifying an occupied land. The Romans never managed it, not has anyone else I can recall. The missions are different. Legions and Auxiliaries are not the same kind of force. And constabulary can never stand up against Legions."

Maybe, though, in a modern context, "Legions" and "Constabulary" are in fact different technologies entirely--rather than just different training and force structure.

It's long been a truism that air power can clear an area, but only infantry can hold it. However...what does "hold it" mean in a modern situation? The modern military is set up to shatter the enemy with air power, and then sweep up the mess with ground forces. We're not going to see the kind of World War II-era massed infantry assaults on prepared positions; we no longer have a situation where "shoot straight and die" is all that infantry need to do. In a way, the USAF is the Legion, the force which is only for war; the Army (and the Marines) are the constabulary, whose job is to pacify newly-conquered areas.

-- Mike T. Powers

I answered, briefly, that this seems to me to be the Victory through Airpower fallacy.

Not quite. I'm not saying "bomb it all flat and then it'll pacify itself". I'm saying that it's a bit shortsighted to suggest that the Army should be only viewed as a reusable self-guided ordnance-delivery system. You talk about the Legion and the Constabulary, but those are missions; not men.

-- Mike T. Powers

Which may not need comment. Nuclear weapons can flatten anything, but their employment is a bit more complex.

The training and doctrines that make for good constabulary are not those that make for armies that can defeat other armies in real war. Insurgency is war, but it is war by other means.

Republics in general do not need a constabulary, and to the extent that we do, the Marine Corps served the purpose, as when we occupied the Dominican Republic before turning it over to the Trujillo family way back when. Competent empires need a whole panoply of forces: Legions, Constabulary, Auxiliaries who settle into the new land and marry the locals and eventually recruit from the locals; puppet kings, puppet governments; good administrators. Judges and law. See Experiment in World Order for more.

If the argument is that the US has no need for anything but Legions, that's a legitimate argument: it basically says that the US ought to be a Republic, should look out for its own interests, keep an Army of citizens trained and armed and able to handle any military needs in the nation's interest and a foreign policy commensurate with that (and the Marines as the general purpose force for short term constabulary needs).

But if the US is to continue to intervene in the territorial disputes of Europe and Asia, and undertake not just regime changes but exporting democracy, we will need most of the accoutrements of a competent empire. Incidentally, do we really want Democracy in countries where the result will be one person one vote once; or where the result will be the installation of mullahs and jihad? Jimmy Carter apparently thought so and the result was modern Iran, which I suspect is not better off for the overthrow of the Shah and his White Revolution. (I understand that this is a separate argument, and if you think Iran is better off now than before, do you also argue that the US is better for the change? And then there's Turkey...)

We have, at considerable cost, installed what may be a friendly government in the Middle East when we pull out of Iraq. It was done at great cost, and the Army will feel its effects for a decade. We did so by sending in Legions without training in how to be a constabulary. We can discuss that another time.

Air power alone would not have defeated Saddam. On the other hand, the Legions were perfectly capable of imposing a regime change on Iraq. What we couldn't do then, and probably have not done now, is build a western style democracy in Iraq.




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Tuesday,  January 6, 2009

Israeli Political Objectives in Gaza


I have been watching you ad Joel Rosenberg go back and forth on Israeli objectives in Gaza.

I disagree with Joel.

Israeli political objectives in Gaza are very, very short sited. This fight is about the next Israeli political election and the survival of Kadima and Labour as political parties. The current Israeli political coalition needs a bloody shirt to wave at Bibi Netanyahu (sp?) to keep their own supporters voting.

Note -- not the Israeli general public, just Kadima and Labour voters.

On a practical level, that means air strikes and limited ground fighting followed by an "Internationally Monitored Cease Fire."

The latter is very important to the Labour/Kadima block as a political/military obstacle to Bibi Netanyahu doing anything militarily effective, compared to them, as Prime Minister during an Obama Administration.

Caroline Glick also sees it that way.





Jan 1, 2009 21:48 | Updated Jan 2, 2009 17:47 Column One: Hamas's march to victory By CAROLINE GLICK

George Orwell once quipped, "The quickest way of ending a war is to lose it."

Since Tuesday it has become clear that the Olmert-Livni-Barak government has decided to end the war with Iran's Hamas proxy army in Gaza as quickly as possible. That is, the government has decided to lose the war.

Most Israelis are unaware of this state of affairs. In an obvious attempt to bolster the popularity of Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and Defense Minister Ehud Barak ahead of the February 10 general elections, the local media have spent the six days since the government launched Operation Cast Lead praising the government's competence and wisdom, and declaring victory over Hamas after every IAF sortie in Gaza.

What the media have declined to notice is that the outcome of the war will not be determined by the number of Hamas buildings the IAF destroys. The outcome of this war - like the outcome of all wars - will be determined by one factor only: Which side will achieve the goals it set out for itself at the outset of the conflict and which side will concede its goals? <snip>

I have no real expertise here. The United States has no choice but to be involved because of our internal politics.


600,000 New Government Employees 

Apparently the president-elect is clueless regarding Pournelle's Iron Law. And so it goes....

Prez-Elect Makes New Pitch, Promises on Job Creation -- Including 600,000 New Government Employees

January 03, 2009 9:52 AM

In his radio address today, President-elect Obama uses some new language when discussing what he wants the stimulus package to achieve in terms of jobs. First off, he has a name for the package -- the "American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan."

The president-elect says he wants to "create three million new jobs" -- this is a change from a few weeks ago, when he said he wanted the plan to create OR SAVE two million jobs.

He says the "No. 1 goal of my plan ... is to create three million new jobs, more than 80 percent of them in the private sector.”

If you do the math: 20 percent of three million means 600,000 new government employees.



Public Education

The social goals of free public education are that everyone has the opportunity to learn the skills needed to be productive and to gain the knowledge needed to participate intelligently in the political process. That costs money, but consider the costs to society of ignorance.

-- Harry Erwin, PhD

Actually, are we not getting the ignorance plus the costs? By attempting to do everything the public schools fail to do what they can do. The results are not pretty.

I don't think we have much shortage of ignorance.


“It’s absolutely bizarre. We now have trains that can’t let the passengers out because they fail to pick up signals from outer space.”


-- Roland Dobbins

But that's how we do things! Get used to it.


The Big One?


From The Times

January 5, 2009

Fears over earthquake 'swarm' at Yellowstone National Park

(William Kronholm/AP)

Hundreds of earthquakes have hit Yellowstone National Park, raising fears of a more powerful volcanic eruption.

The earthquake swarm, the biggest in more than 20 years, is being closely monitored by scientists and emergency authorities.

The series of small quakes included three last Friday which measured stronger than magnitude 3.0. The strongest since this latest swarm of quakes began on December 27 was 3.9.

No damage has yet been reported but scientists say this level of activity - there have been more than 500 tremors in the last week - is highly unusual.

"The earthquake sequence is the most intense in this area for some years," said the Yellowstone Volcano Observatory. Some of the larger earthquakes have been felt by park employees and guests, according to the observatory.

The swarm is occurring beneath the northern part of Yellowstone Lake in the park. Yellowstone sits on the caldera of an ancient supervolcano and continuing geothermal activity can be seen in the picturesque geysers and steam holes, such as Old Faithful.

About 1,000 to 2,000 tremors a year have been recorded since 2004. The most devastating earthquake in recent history in the Yellowstone region occurred on August 17, 1959, when a magnitude 7.1 earthquake hit.

It was centered near Hebgen Lake, Montana and it caused landslides that killed 28 people and caused more than $11 million in damage.

Geysers in Yellowstone National park changed eruption times, and new ones began to erupt. On June 30, 1975, a magnitude 6.4 tremor hit the park.

Professor Robert B. Smith, a geophysicist at the University of Utah and one of the leading experts on earthquake and volcanic activity at Yellowstone, said that the swarm was significant.

"It's not business as usual," he said. "This is a large earthquake swarm, and we've recorded several hundred. We are paying careful attention. This is an important sequence."

The last full-scale explosion of the Yellowstone Supervolcano, the Lava Creek eruption which happened approximately 640,000 years ago, ejected about 240 cubic miles of rock and dust into the sky.

Geologists have been closely monitoring the rise and fall of the Yellowstone Plateau as an indication of changes in magma chamber pressure.

The Yellowstone caldera floor has risen recently - almost 3in per year for the past three years - a rate more than three times greater than ever observed since such measurements began in 1923.

From mid-summer 2004 through to mid-summer 2008, the land surface within the caldera moved upwards as much as 8in at the White Lake GPS station. The last major earthquake swarm was in 1985 and lasted three months.

The observatory said similar swarms have occurred in the past without triggering steam explosions or volcanic activity. However, the observatory said there is some potential for explosions and that earthquakes may continue and increase in intensity.

Joe Moore, director of the Wyoming Office of Homeland Security, said his office is tracking the events at Yellowstone on a minute-by-minute basis. "It's being followed very closely," Mr Moore said

Emphasis added.


Enlisted V. "NCO"

Dear Jerry:

With all due respect, Joel Rosenberg is a bit off about enlisted ranks in the American military. All soldiers from E-1 (Private) to E-9 (Sergeant Major) are "enlisted" even if they select a career path. NCO ranks start at E-4 or Corporal/ Specialist. It takes more than "time in grade" to get promoted. There are promotion boards for E-5 and above. Your actual rank may not equal your responsibilities. Hence the term "working above your pay grade". If someone of the authorized rank is not available then it falls to someone of lower rank to do that job, which is critical. ASA had E-5 First Sergeants ( Normally an E-8 slot) when we were retrograding out of Vietnam. Morning reports wait for no man. There used to be Specialist Five and Specialist Six positions, but those were abolished when it became obvious that hard and soft stripes played no role in determining who was in charge.


Francis Hamit

In my time company officers took care of company promotions. I don't know if that's still true. That is the way military organizations have worked for thousands of years -- officers get authority from the state, NCO's get their from their officers. There can be exceptions, but it's the fundamental difference between the two classes, and there are very good reasons for doing things that way.

Democratic armies have tried other means including electing officers -- we did that a lot in the Civil War -- purchasing commissions, not paying officers at all to ensure they would be from the right social class, and so forth, but until recently we haven't tried democratizing the NCO's. Shortage of competent junior officers is usually the big bottleneck in creating big armies; shortage of effective NCO's is almost always the big bottleneck in creating effective large armies.


What was it Carter said about the committee chairmen? 


What was is Carter said about the committee chairmen? Now Intelligence Committee chairman Feinstein has her knickers in a twist because President-to-be Obama did not consult her appointing Panetta as CIA director:


Interesting times.

Well, the voters sowed the wind. Too bad they thought it was only hot air.



Just a short update

Either a: I wasn't as clear as I'd like or b: Francis Hamit misread me; I was talking about IDF ranks, where there is a distinction between what's generally called "enlisted" and "NCO"; they don't overlap. I know that in the US military, time in grade is only one factor in promotions; in the IDF, it isn't -- through Staff Sergeant.

Like I said, it's a different system.

As to T's comments about Caroline Glick, well, she's very smart, and she's there, and I'm not . . . but I think she's wrong if she's saying that the internal politics are the only reason that things are going as they are. (I'm not sure that she is, mind you.) But, sure -- it also explains Obama's silence, in part; he'd rather have Livni to push around than Bibi. But I don't think that just enough force to lose will win the election for Kadima and Labour; I think that they have to do a lot more, and I'm not sure that they will.

Meanwhile, today's developments were interesting. It only took a few hours for the AP to apparenlty come clean and admit that their reporters had interviewed Gazans who had seen the Hamas terrorists open fire from the UN school before the IDF tanks returned fire. We'll see how much play that gets on CNN and MSNBC tonight. Schools, by and large, would tend to make lousy pillboxes -- different design criteria.

But things have reached an interesting stage. There are some reports that the Hamas leadership is, well, pretty much gone; between those who have been killed and those who have thrown away their cell phones and are hiding in their fuhrerbunkers, there's not many left -- and the few who come out apparently feel that dragging children around with them will work.

What they can't do -- even if they want to -- in that situation, is give orders to stop the missile launches.

-- Joel Rosenberg

I understood you referred to IDF not US, but I ran Francis' letter because there were other points and I wanted to make my comments.

Can ANYONE stop the missile launches? The people in Gaza have no chance at all unless they simply rise up against Hamas -- and if they appear armed in the streets to throw out Hamas the IDF will kill them. It is not a good time to be a Palestinian. Or a Philistine. I gather there are more ethnic Philisines in Gaza than elsewhere in Palestine.

What Hamas needs is burning tanks, and they're not getting any. That in itself is a loss. The IDF seems to be regaining its reputation for invincibility.


Yellowstone Country

I notice all the geology scientists now quoted on Yellowstone have been previously quoted seeking increased funding.

Sex and fear sells. Look at all the porno and horror flicks churned out each year. Look at the funding nuclear physics got in the 20th Century. Gene research, viagra, Global Warming....

The "biggest earthquake swarm since 1985"? Is this the best geologists dealing in hundreds and billions of years can do? Even Michael Mann goes back to AD 1000 or so. Why can't they timeline it from the days of Athens, the Exodus or Thera? Hell, the New York Stock Exchange and National Association of Realtors currently have them beat on the Catastrophy Index.


Yeah. Yellowstone is the kind of thing Larry and I write about. The probability is pretty small, but wow what a show if it goes off...


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Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Subject: What are the Israelis Thinking?


A long and thoughtful post dissecting the planning and what might be the strategy behind the operation so far.I'm not a good editor so the following is just a bet snatched out of the middle - there are a lot of excellent thoughts, as are other recent posts at his site.

"Israel's leadership had no choice, that has been clear for a while, but how would they create the means? Being right doesn't mean you can act upon it; waging a just war with unjust methods undermines the original justification.

Where there's a need there has to be a way, especially in situations where throwing up your hands in despair will result in innocents getting killed and entire communities being terrorized. The way that seems to have been devised was what I'll call accelerated inching attrition.

First, you think a lot. You probably start with defining your goal: what is it you wish to achieve; perhaps you list various possible goals. Then you look at every possible component of the problem, you try to imagine every possible thing that can go wrong, and you ask yourself what it would take to overcome the problems and avoid the pitfalls. I have no doubt the IDF and its civilian surroundings have articulated every single objection currently being screeched by the Guardian and everyone else, and gone looking for a response. (The arrogance of the pundits who are so cock-sure they've got anything novel to say is comic, but not my subject at the moment).

The more you think (an activity that never ends), the more you can begin making preparations. You train your troops for the tasks they'll need to face, as well as for all the things you can think of that might go wrong. And then you train them some more. Reserve units, too, of course.

You collect information. Mountains of it, and sift it through, and organize it in ways that will be useful. You then use the emerging picture to calibrate your plans, hone them, and also figure out what parts of the picture need more details, and you go get them. This is all a self-enriching cycle.

You prepare the civilian formations: municipalities, water companies, medical systems and organizations, communications, etc etc. Whenever you think you've exhausted the list of preparations, you go looking for more. There's no such thing as completing all preparations, as Achikam told me an hour before they went in, after yet another day of completing all the preparations.

Finally, the time came, ten days ago."

David Smith


Joel Rosenberg comments:

It's a good analysis. Right? I dunno. What seems to be clearly right is that any kind of centralized Hamas command -- and I'm not talking command and control, either, just central authority -- is gone, at least for the time being. How far down are the commanders dead or hidden and out of commission? Very, apparently.


The question becomes, is there anyone able to surrender? Is a ceasefire possible? If Israel were to broadcast terms under which it would withdraw, could anyone in Gaza enforce them? There are always going to be idiots with access to a rocket who think it's a good idea to shoot it. The question is, what will the people nearby do when they see the rocket being set up? And what will the local Hamas precinct captain do?


The Perils of Zero-Gravity Videography.


--- Roland Dobbins


HuffPo reverts to form

Here follows a long paste from Planet Gore on NRO. I found it a little hard to follow, but it seems that the gist is that Mr. Ambler is now getting roundly (and personally) trashed on the HuffPo for his apostasy


An Inconvenient HuffPo Item [Chris Horner <http://planetgore.nationalreview.com/
author/?q=NDE2OA==>  ]

A reader writes to note that, after yesterday’s outrage of a voice of reason — er, “rambling . . . denial” — gracing its pages, the Huffington Post “could NOT allow Mr. Ambler to go on so

(so, they had to denigrate HIM),” citing this

example of HuffPo siccing someone else to go after the gent, and quite personally.

The author naturally reaches immediately for the alarmist’s oxygen, argumentum ad hominem: Ambler’s piece was the “ramblings of a rowing musician” (yet somehow the very poor science student Al Gore, and any other pol or celeb who agrees, apparently spouts Gospel). They reach, too, for the fallacious and equally typical appeal to authority
appeal-to-authority.html>  :

“NASA,” by which he actually means James Hansen, to whom he ascribes NASA’s scientific authority.

Yet, turning the mirror a bit, we see the amusing truth that, despite this approach, the author is not a scientist <http://www.desmogblog.com/kevin_grandia>  but a blogger for the tantrum-throwing PR outlet DeSmogBlog
5ZmUwY2Q3MWYzMzg=>  .

The alert reader directs us to the DeSmogblog scribbler’s HuffPo bio
kevin-grandia/%2523blogger_bio>  noting:

He’s an editor and a “social media” guy/guru. Now, how far above “musician” is that?

But, what I find most interesting is the chastisement of Mr. Ambler by other blogs because of a point made by Ms. Huffington HERSELF in one of her books.

He refers us to this post
10-on-the-inhofe-scale/>  , which complains:

What is, perhaps, especially frustrated [sic] is that Huffington Post chose to give voice to this deception as if they are redefining ‘fair and balanced’ back to the Faux News version. As Arianna wrote in her book:

Without the enabling of the traditional media — with their obsession with “balance” and their pathological devotion to the idea that truth is always found in the middle — the radical Right would never have been able to have its ideas taken seriously.

By publishing such misleading tripe, Huffington Post is contributing to defining some form of middle when it comes to science, between those who actually believe that the scientific method has value those who seem to think that they can shape reality through loudly repeating falsehoods while holding their hands over their ears. Huffington Post has done its founder, its readership, and the larger society a disservice by giving voice to dishonesty.”

So above we see how once again the objection is to allowing others to speak, or be published, and have their thoughts judged on their merits by others. And the response is, once again, not to address the merits but to take out after the speaker, personally. Humorously, however, in their pique they’re now turning on themselves.

But note that last, desperate stab of “dishonesty,” not unsurprising from an author who also went on with “It is tiring and rarely fruitful” to counter those who disagree with their prophesying, “especially because so many so-called ‘skeptics’ are not open to factual and thoughtful discussion. Data and analyses at odds with their misguided weltaunschauung [sic] will not be allowed to penetrate their thinking.” More amusing is that I received this on the heels of receiving the following from the producer of a nationally syndicated radio show, canceling a hit planned for this morning:

Unfortunately we are still unable to secure a guest to support the Global Warming Is a Reality side of the coin. Most have said that they have moved past the debate issue and are focusing on solutions to the problem. They stand behind their facts and say there is no longer a debate over this issue.

[As I address in my new book, that’s clever: refuse to debate and say, “See, there’s no debate.” Respond to every skeptic scientist or, more recently, to a petition by hundreds or even tens of thousands by saying either “oh, those same old names” or, “never heard of them.” Like calling global cooling “global warming” then “climate change.” Cover all the bases.]

As the e- mailer cited above noted, what we have here seems to be a whopper of a case of “projection.”

I met Arianna briefly one at an opera function. She was very pleasant. Otherwise I know nothing about the her that I didn't hear from commentors; I've never visited the Huffington Post. You've told me more about it than I ever expected to know. It's a pity that science is the victim here.

Democracies seldom vote for or adopt policies favorable to democracy; history shows this over and over and over. Eventually egalite trumps liberte, (fraternite long having been forgotten) and class warfare prevails. Since there will always be social classes -- the reappeared pretty fast in the USSR and again after its dissolution if you want modern examples -- the result is the end of democracy. The usual result is some form of dictatorship. Rhodesia/Zimbabwe is a moden example, but Aristotle described the process well enough.

For those interested in just what happens when democracies decay, C. Northcote Parkinson's Evolution of Political Thought is not only readable but one of the 100 or so books I would have all educated people read sometime in their lifetimes. (Alas, the book assumes some general knowledge of history and social order that was not an unreasonable assumption for its intended readership at the time it was written, but the times have changed. A lot. It's still something you ought to read.)

One of these days I'll have to write my list of essential books. That, like some of the other things I ought to do, is going to require more platinum and patron subscribers. Meanwhile I need to catch up on deadlines. Ah well.


For platinum subscription:


Huge areas of Britain have become foreign colonies. That could be tomorrow's Ireland, too


By Kevin Myers 9.1.2

People in Britain and Ireland have taken a secret, Self-Denying Ordinance not to discuss immigration or race in any meaningful way

What most struck me while watching BBC television news reports of the Christmas sales in the West End of London, was firstly obvious, and secondly, it was something that no-one with the BBC would ever have remarked on. It was this. The shoppers -- and there were thousands of them -- were overwhelmingly of Asian or African origin. In the vast throngs of faces, there was barely a Caucasian face to be seen; and when there was, of course, that was no guarantee that it was British.

Actually, I didn't need to see those TV pictures of the London Boxing Day sales to be aware that London has undergone a demographic transplant unlike that experienced by any European capital since the Fall of Constantinople in 1483. A couple of years ago, while on a trip to London, I bought a rover-ticket, which gave me unlimited travel on the public transport system. I wandered for miles upon miles through the east end, which bore the blitz in 1940-41, which is the heart of Cockney culture, with the Pearly Kings and Queens and which is, of course, the setting for the television soap.

But in Whitechapel or Stepney, to judge from the shops and the faces and the clothes and the people around me, I could have been in a Middle Eastern city. What does "England" mean to these people? Do they know about the months that an earlier generation spent in the air-raid shelters? Do they know about the 40,000 Londoners who perished in the winter of 1940-41? Do they know anything about the history of the streets they now occupy, and could they ever be prevailed upon to care about it?

These areas were once home to the large Jewish population of London, who have since moved on, as did the Huguenots before them, and the Flemings before them. Like all great cities, London had always attracted immigrants, who have generally become assimilated into the population around them.

The immigration policies of recent British governments -- though "non-policies" would be a more accurate description of that mixture of cowardice, political timidity, abject conformism and flatulent piety that has underlain the British approach to this matter -- have now inverted the pyramid. Huge areas of Britain have become foreign colonies, which demographically and culturally dominate the native populations. This is not the much-cherished melting-pot of liberal ideologists: it is more like the race movements into Australia and the Americas from Europe, with the Aboriginals nearly as helpless as the wretched natives of those former colonies.

This time, it's a voluntary helplessness. People in Britain (and now Ireland) apparently have taken a secret, Self-Denying Ordinance not to discuss immigration or race in any meaningful way. The silence surrounding one most obvious transformation, that of Britain's Premier League, is one symptom of this. Perhaps a majority of players in any good English team will be of at least part-African origin. This is surely worth commenting on, for many reasons, not the least of them being the rapid disappearance of role models for white working-class boys; but around this issue, there is nothing but a prickly silence. So that when Michel Platini wondered about the relationship between: (a) some hypothetical Liverpool team of the future consisting entirely of Africans, and managed by a Brazilian, and (b) the traditional Merseyside community, he was roundly denounced by the soccer correspondent of 'The Daily Telegraph' -- no less -- for his implicit racism.

So is it better to say absolutely nothing when rapid racial changes occur in a society, in the hope that harmony will result? For maybe, simple discretion is better than noisy dissension, and a dutiful and prudent media silence on this topic actually furthers the process of peaceful assimilation. Well, firstly, that begs the question about whether a peaceful assimilation is either possible, or is even being sought, by many of the immigrants to Britain. And secondly, what damage is meanwhile being done to the credibility of the media? If journalists can tacitly agree to stay mute in the face of such clearly visible phenomena, who can then believe them on other, less obvious issues?

Is this of any interest to Ireland? Well, yes, not least because what happens in Britain today is what will usually happen in Ireland tomorrow; and of course, the two islands share a common-travel area, in which lawful residence in one jurisdiction conveys an equal right to dwell in the other. Now, I have long since lost any belief in the courage of the Irish media to tackle the issue of immigration, other than by showing cheery pictures of Nigerian children in hurling helmets (usually captioned, "The New Irish"), and by intoning the usual ritualistic pieties from within the comfort zone of the left-liberal consensus created by our journalism schools.

Listen: it is easier and cheaper to get from London to Dublin than to get to Liverpool or Newcastle. The shots on the BBC news from Boxing Day 2008 are just possibly merely a foretaste of RTE News on St Stephen's Day in 2018. So when the change comes, it'll be so fast, that you won't even know that it's happening: and then, it becomes then an irreversible fact. Just don't say no-one warned you: because, I did.


I wondered aloud whether, given the near annihilation of Hamas leadership, where was any way to order a secession of rocket launches and accept a ceasefire. Joel Rosenberg comments:

Business as Usual in Gaza

To answer your question: probably. The missile launches could be stopped, easily. Haniyeh's envoys to Egypt have already indicated that they want to, sorta, but what they almost certainly don't have is the infrastructure on the ground to pass the word down quietly from Haniyeh to the gunmen.

A radio broadcast from Damascus, say, by Khaled Meshaal would do it.

He could even dress it up with "having achieved our objections into terrifying the craven Zionist entity into begging for peace, we now sheath our mighty Qassam daggers" (these guys really do talk like that, you know; I don't make this stuff up).

It would have to be explicit, and open, though. Which is kind of a problem.

The launches can't be stopped quietly, not with the surviving local leadership understandably afraid to go on the air. Even if Haniyeh does pass the word down, how do they do it? Turn on their cell phones again? Or, for that matter, have a lot of foot traffic in and out of their fuhrerbunkers? How close are the drones watching? I dunno, and neither do they.

So, yes, it could be done. Quietly or within a couple of days: they get to pick one, but only one. And the facts on the ground are changing hour by hour.

About the only amusing moment out of Gaza today is this --
-- AFP photo of an "IAF jet." Photo of bizarre jet (it has one of those spinny propeller things on top) attached.

The key symbolic event for today out of Gaza probably happened at 4:38, local time: Grad rockets hit Beersheba, near a school. Which pretty much says it all: the rockets were put on their launchers during the three-hour humanitarian ceasefire Israel declared to let humanitarian aid pass into Gaza.

Not news to me -- nor, I trust, to you -- that no Israeli restraint goes unpunished.

Which isn't news in Israel, either, which helps to explain why the reserves callup is batting better than .1000; see http://yaacovlozowick.blogspot.com/
2009/01/standing-forward-to-serve.html  ; that isn't unusual.

Meanwhile, it's sure looking like there is a Step Three to the operation, and that it's moving forward; see http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/
2009/jan/07/martin-van-creveld-on-israel-in-gaza  .

Step one -- air campaign: the military component to hit high-value targets and break Hamas command, control and communication; the political component to humiliate Hamas, just a little.

Step two, after the battlefield prep, was to move in the tanks and infantry, and cut Gaza in half to prevent resupply of the north from the south; politically, to do so with minimum IDF and Gaza civilian casualties, and be able to blame the latter on Hamas.

That was tricky, and it looked for a moment, yesterday, as if the strike on the UN school was going to be turned into the Qana of the Hamas War . . . but, amazingly, the AP actually got reports out from Palestinians in Gaza that, yes, Hamas were firing at the troops from the school. (I haven't been able to verify the reports that there were secondary explosions.) And that pretty much went away.

And now to Step three: for once, I'm not wrong; I was sure that what went on in the Philadelphi corridor was going to be the big deal, and that's where the interesting part of this comes from: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bHNk6eBw3ME  ; that's from today.

And just as the IDF prepares to do whatever it's going to do there, this:
articles/0,7340,L-3652514,00.html  .

Hamas needs to get the IDF to stop before the tunnels all get shut down; I don't think they're going to get it. For domestic reasons, they need to not admit defeat, even while they're begging for a ceasefire. As some wise man pointed out, they didn't get the burning tanks that they want, and they haven't gotten the kidnapped soldiers or dead Israeli schoolchildren that they're hungry for, and while the locals are surely used to quite a lot of thuggery from Hamas, having relief supplies snatched away and having to buy them has got to sting a little more than usual. And with even Mubarak saying that they can't be allowed to win -- http://www.haaretz.com/
hasen/spages/1052974.html  . . . .

The Philadelphi corridor is the center of mass of the Hamas war, and the release of it was one of the two major strategic flaws of Sharon's withdrawal from Gaza, and the hardest to fix. If Israel is serious about a zero tolerance policy for missile attacks, that'll have fixed the first one -- at a minimum, the destruction of tons of explosive and ammunition, and the closing down of the tunnels, will make a huge difference.

And, yeah, the IDF is earning its reputation, again. If there really are folks in the PA who are looking toward something longterm, that's good news for lots of folks.

But not for Hamas.

-- Joel Rosenberg










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Thursday, January 8, 2009

Green Diktat 

This scene could be straight out of Fallen Angels:


"The supplies are running out after the Government signed up to an EU decision to replace conventional 100w light bulbs with supposedly greener low energy alternatives. Ministers claim the switch will reduce carbon dioxide by around five million tons each year."



One of my subscribers (retired military) has been taking on-line courses in mathematics and engineering. He's doing calculus now. It's considerably cheaper than going to a brick and mortar college, and he's having a good experience. I intend to get him to do a full report some time. Meanwhile:

Yesterday's lesson covered the Trapezoidal and Simpson rules for approximating integrals of functions lacking definite integrals.

DVD Professor Mosely introduced this by stating these methods were now purely of historical interest, having been superseded by the Ti-83 and other "graphing calculators". An observation omitted by Larson et al in the fairly brief text section.

Mosely is undoubtedly correct in this sense. And Gotffried Wilhelm Liebniz would agree with him:


"Leibniz once said; "It is unworthy of excellent men to lose hours like slaves in the labour of calculation which could safely be relegated to anyone else if machines were used."

Said by the co-father of modern calculus, who also developed his own calculator design.

I reached this point conceptually much earlier. Namely, if we dogmatically say "no calculators", then ought not slide rules, log tables, trig tables, square root tables and other paraphernalia have been equally debarred earlier? How far back do we regress in pursuit of an arbitrary mathematical purism? Dispense with the zero and do it like Archimedes did?

We already have a proven method for teaching students logical mental approaches to the study of higher math. It's called plane geometry.

The potential for error in complicated manual calculations is at least as objectionable as the time involved.

The common sense of Liebniz and Silvanus Thompson in application is probably the best guide. i.e. two engineers who had practical objects in view, rather than merely whiling away their tenured hours trying to impress the uneducated with their erudite learning.

Agreed completely. I was taught slide rule in 9th grade and allowed to use on all through Christian Brothers High School along with the Rubber Handbook log tables. Alas we didn't have calculators. When TI brought out the TI-150 that had logs and trig I was able to make up a spread sheet like table of calculating steps so that I could do orbits; I think my first one was for Galaxy and concerned the moons of Jupiter. And I was notorious in the aerospace industry for having a Selectric typewriter and the best Underwood-Olivetti calculator next to my nice mahogany desk...

Everyone now has more computer power than existed on the planet when I was in college. I know because I visited the Iliac in Illinois while I was an undergraduate. When I was choosing my career, I didn't go into theoretical physics because my arithmetic wasn't very good and I made sloppy errors. Not in the math, but in getting numerical answers. I probably shouldn't have let that bother me, but it did. If I'd had a TI-150...




This could be the worst news of the year:

Islamist-leaning Turkish government rounds up Kemalists.


-- Roland Dobbins

He's welcome to write in vi or something equally primitive. I use Word, 2007 on Vista and 2008 on the Mac, and I'm very happy to have it correct my sloppy typing. But Doctorow and I write different things and for different purposes. I know writers who use fountain pens. Mr. Heinlein used the latest model IBM typewriter he could get; he didn't live long enough to use a modern computer for writing.


The end of the rainbow.


-- Roland Dobbins

And then some.


The Dahiyeh Doctrine


I don't pretend to know if this is the actual doctrine that's in place -- although Eisenkot is a serious person, and this --

"We will wield disproportionate power against every village from which shots are fired on Israel, and cause immense damage and destruction. From our perspective, these are military bases," he said. "This isn't a suggestion. This is a plan that has already been authorized," he added.

-- is not an ambiguous statement. What's the trigger? Well, it's not a small number of Syrian terrorists acting in Lebanon; we learned that today. I'm not as interested in what the actual number is, but that it's forward-looking; it's looking beyond the next Lebanon War to events after.

And it's not classical deterrence. (Or, if it is, it's foolish.) With all due respect to folks who think that it's an expression of how effective Israeli deterrence is in the north after the Lebanon War, I think they're missing the point, which isn't about what's going to happen in Lebanon for the next while. The clear implication is that the IDF is going to have to demonstrate that it's going to do real disproportionate damage, not the CNN narrative of disproportionate damage that we're hearing about now. (I think that's a safe prediction, but that's not my point here.)

My own, cynical guess is that it's going to be the Lebanese who collectively bear the brunt of it.

As a thought experiment, what would have happened if that had been the doctrine employed in 2005, after the withdrawal from Gaza? Would the 2006 Lebanon War have ever happened?

-- Joel Rosenberg







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Friday,  January 9, 2009

Word & vi

Good Morning:

yesterday you said:

"He's welcome to write in vi or something equally primitive. I use Word, 2007 on Vista and 2008 on the Mac, and I'm very happy to have it correct my sloppy typing."

For programming, scripting, etc.. I am a long time (26+ years) vi user. On the other hand, I don't word process with it.

I am curious though, from the point-of-view of someone writing fiction manuscripts, what real percent of the features of Word do you use?

I advise most of my friends and family that get a home computer to use WordPad. I believe it accomplishes most of what the average user needs for correspondence, journals and non-technical, non-illustrated manuscripts.

Failing that, I advise them to get OpenOffice, which seems to be able to do most things that Word can do.

I guess my real question is "Are the features you get from Word worth the several hundred dollars you pay for them?"


John Harlow

I don't like OpenOffice. It's sufficiently non-standard that it always causes problems with collaborators, and in my experience with publishers. Bob Thomson uses it with complex templates to write his books for O'Reilly but O'Reilly is a great deal more sophisticated than most publishers. After all, it hasn't been that long -- well, twenty years so I suppose you could say his has been that long -- since publishers insisted on paper copies of manuscripts which they then paid to have keyed in again. To this day copy editors prefer to work with paper copies (and so do I).

Those who use Linux as their main OS generally use OpenOffice, and it appears to be good enough for them. Mac and PC users have other options, although Word is used by the vast majority of them.

As to features and costs: there are student editions of Office that don't cost several hundred dollars, and I think all the features I will ever use when writing are in those editions; but then I only write manuscripts with very simple formatting, and while I often collaborate, I do the simplest form of collaboration: Niven and I work separately, then I merge the two copies with Word. That compare and merge feature is vital to us, but we don't really care who originated what version nor do we have any need for a tracking history. It's generally pretty obvious which text is better for the story. Again, though, we are producing manuscripts and we're not much concerned with formatting.

Others have other needs. Proposals are often done by teams working together, and it's important to keep track of who did what, and when. Academic documents have stringent citation requirements and again are produced in collaboration. Many documents include elaborate art work and illustrations, table and graphs, incorporated spread sheets whose content may change dynamically, and so forth. I don't have much concern with such matters, but I know people who do, and most of them use Office.

It wasn't always that way. At one time Niven and I found Symantec's Q&A (which included Q&A Write) to be the best program of the lot and we used it for years. My wife used it to keep up mailing lists, and I know of some major companies who used the combination data base, word processor, text editor, and programming script features to run fairly complex businesses with automated decisions based on comparison of prices in dynamic data bases. Alas, Symantec didn't keep this program up to date as Windows began to replace DOS, and eventually Niven and I went over to Word (induced, I have to admit, by some personal appeals from Chris Peters who at that time was the Word Czar at Microsoft, and who made some changes in the program just to suit us).

There are other programs designed for writers. One that I know is in use by selling writers is Scrivener for the Mac. I have it, and it has some interesting features, but I'm pretty set in my ways now; it took me a while to make the change to Word 2007 after Microsoft made the Big Change. (It took a while, but I have to say I now prefer 2007 to 2003; but since Niven hasn't made the adjustment, all our work is in Word 2003 and I make sure I used the 2003 compatible file format. I know I am not alone here: a number of writing teams have important participants who just won't change from Word 2003.)

I've seen just about all the alternatives to Word, but I haven't found one that has sufficient attraction to cause me to use it. Of course any alternative that isn't 100% compatible with Word would have to have such overwhelming superiority to Word that I'd be willing to persuade Niven to adopt it -- and deal with whatever problems it would cause with my agent and publishers, since Word is pretty standard in the publishing business.

As to what features I want that aren't in XYWRITE or vi or Electric Pencil or WordPad, I freely admit that this is a matter of whim and habit. I am a self-taught typist and I tend to be sloppy. I don't usually write teh for the nowadays, but it can still happen when I am in the throes of creative activity and words are coming faster than I can get them down. So can other common typographic errors. I like Word's autocorrect feature. Whenever I find myself frequently making the same typo I put that in the autocorrect table and forget about it.

I like Word's spelling and grammar corrections. Of course its grammar checker can't write as well as I can, but that doesn't mean I never make grammatical errors, and nothing says 'ignoramus' or 'careless' like their for there, and misuses of to, too, two, and other common but glaring (to all but the writer) errors. Mr. Heinlein once taught me that readers are seldom offended by high style and good grammar even if they prefer things to be more "modern", but sloppy grammar can infuriate readers to the point that they stop paying attention. That was forty years ago, and nothing I have observed since contradicts his observation. I like Word's ability to use special dictionaries as well as a general special dictionary. Fiction writers, and particularly science fiction writers, often use words that not only need not be in a spelling dictionary for general work, but shouldn't be. (Incidentally, there is no grammar checker in Front Page, which is what I use for this web site, and it shows sometimes when I misuse it's for its and such like. There isn't an autocorrect, either, and I do more corrections here than I would if I were writing in Word. There was a time when I'd write things in Word and paste into here, but that takes too much time; this is after all a daybook and what I write here is driven by whim and interruptions.) ((And I am down at the beach house with the t42p ThinkPad that has Office 2003 only, and while I generally use Word 2003 for fiction, I find that I really miss some of the Word 2007 features and arrangements when doing cut and paste and other manipulations to get this page going.))

I could continue, but it's pointless.  As to cost, some craftsmen prefer the best tools of their trade. Others get by with the kits they find on sale at Wal-Mart (A hundred tools for only $29.95); indeed, I have several of those kits because I don't fix cars or build houses for a living and it never made sense to invest in Craftsman and other professional grade tools -- but I have a few Craftsman wrenches, and I sure know which ones I'd rather use! Before small computers existed I wrote on the best IBM self-correcting Selectric I could buy, and never for a moment regretted the investment. When little computers first appeared I borrowed $12,000 (much to my wife's dismay!) to get the best  -- an S-100 system, Electric Pencil, and Diablo Spinball printer. Between the tax incentives and deductions available in those times and my increased productivity I made that back in a year. But then I am a wordsmith; it's what I do for a living.

And, as I said, the student editions of Office don't cost all that much, and deals are often available.


Big Moon a'coming

Saturday Night 1/10/09


Charles Brumbelow


We have several comments on engineering and mathematics education:

Subject: Trapezoidal and Simpson rules

Hi Jerry.

Your correspondent who's taking the on-line courses in mathematics and engineering reports:

"Yesterday's lesson covered the Trapezoidal and Simpson rules for approximating integrals of functions lacking definite integrals.

DVD Professor Mosely introduced this by stating these methods were now purely of historical interest, having been superseded by the Ti-83 and other "graphing calculators". An observation omitted by Larson et al in the fairly brief text section."

I agree whole-heartedly that you don't want to do these things by hand, and to the average person that these rules are only of historical interest. I would clarify though that there is one important case in which the rules are still relevant: if somebody chooses to go into the hard sciences, numerical integration (of which these rules are the most basic example) is one of the basic tools of modelling and data analysis, and such a person needs to know how they work. I've used them a number of times in the past year for grad-level assignments in astronomy, and had to know how to program them myself. Can't imagine doing it by hand though, that would be a nightmare, because I too make sloppy errors when doing arithmetic by hand. I am certainly glad for modern computers and calculators!

Cheers, Mike Casey

and my physicist friend adds

Professor Mosely


Regarding the quote ascribed to "Professor Mosely": I'm appalled. How does he think those graphing calculators work? How does he think his students will learn to recognize "garbage out" if they have no clue of the functions processing "garbage in"? How does he think they will learn to program the next generation of such tools?

I'm a firm believer that, first, you fully understand the process; then you use the calculator to perform it more efficiently. The good Lord knows I have to work that way to accomplish any results that I find believable. Which come to think of it also explains a lot of my concern about global warming modeling: there are too many opportunities for shortcuts that "look right" that can introduce systematic biases when extrapolated outside the bounds of the data.

I believe the Good Doctor wrote a cautionary tale to that effect about half a century ago...


This cries for a longer essay; it's clear that my comment was made in haste and doesn't convey what I intended.

I agree completely with Leibnitz's observation that mere calculation is a silly way for an intelligent person to spend time. I also agree with the above sentiments that if one is to use tools, one needs to know how they operate; in particular, if one is to make complex models, it's vital to know what is in them. A great example is Meadows' Model of Doom, a BASIC program that many readers typed into their machines and ran, and which was very influential in the "coming doom" movement during the 80's. One of the features of the model was that it simulated some complex curves through a table lookup function; you had to go into those tables to see what they were doing, which, in one case, was a "hockey stick" that wasn't at all apparent from the outside. There were other such drivers in the model, which almost always predicted a massive die-off of humanity, usually well before 2010. (Recall Paul Ehrlich the Stanford butterfly expert who foretold massive famines in the 1990's; he's still making pronouncements so far as I know, only they are now shifted outward in time and probably involve global warming).

Those who use models to make predictions definitely need to understand what's in those models; and I agree, one ought to work through numerical integrations at least once in order to understand what is involved. On the other hand, having had to invert matrices with a Monroe Calculator and a lot of paper, I can assure you that having been done, inverting a matrix by hand need not be done again. I got through graduate school doing some of that work, and when IBM gave the University of Washington a 650 I was among the first to use it: I wrote parts of a matrix inversion program and found programming a lot easier than doing that work by hand. y experience doing those calculations by hand colors my remarks on the subject.

In my early days in Operations Research we had to temper our models to involve calculations we could make: it was easier to build a model than to solve it. I suspect the climate people are doing the same things now, but if I had had Microsoft Excel in 1960 I would have been the greatest OR man who ever had lived; it was a lot easier to see how a model COULD work than actually to use it. I believe physicists used to (and probably still do) have the same problem with some of Einstein's tensors.

So: I agree with both sentiments, and I don't have time to do a longer essay on this. I will say that the more complex the model, the more important it is for the model makers to understand what they are doing. Look at the mess in determining who shall play in which Football Bowl...


Gaza -- Interesting, if true

Dan Diker of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs <http://www.jcpa.org/>  says Arabs outside Gaza have come to the conclusion that Israel has gotten it's pre-2006 mojo back.

How much of this is real and how much is Olmert government spin is yet to be determined. Hezbollah looks like it doesn't like what it is seeing in Gaza and is moving north to make clear it does not have a dog in the Gaza fight.

As for the reality on the ground in Gaza, it looks like the Hamas battle plan was for its internal security system in Gaza to avoid contact with the IDF. It has been busy ethnically cleansing Fatah supporting clans so as to maintain control after the IDF stops its bombardment and ground troops withdraw.

Meanwhile it's rocketeers and stupid young bucks have been sent out to be targets for IDF ritual bombardment.

No totalitarian regime has ever fallen to air bombardment. It has always taken men on the ground to overthrow a police state.

Unless Israel is prepared to do an extensive occupation that is long enough to clean out Hamas internal security operatives for a Fatah take over, that streak looks like it will hold.



You can bomb the land, you can fly over the land, you can annihilate the population, but you do not own the land until you stand a 17 year old kid with a rifle on it.


This is a real woman!

A story with a happy ending!

The ex-cheerleader (age 19) and now an Air Force Security Forces Sniper in this picture was watching a road that lead to a NATO military base when she observed a man digging by the road. She engaged the target, and she shot him. Turned out he was a bomb maker for the Taliban and he was burying an IED that was to be detonated when a US patrol walked by 30 minutes later. It would have certainly killed and wounded several soldiers.

The interesting fact of this story is the shot was measured at 725 yards.. She shot him as he was bent over burying the bomb. The shot struck him in the butt blowing into the bomb which detonated. He was blown to pieces.

The Air Force made a motivational poster of her.

(Folks, that's a shot taken 25 yards longer than seven football fields!)

Snipers Save Many More Lives Than They Take.


Alas, this story is an embellishment and most of it is false. See below.


[Note: Also see: Inconvenient Astronaut: NASA Moonwalker Joins Skeptics Despite Gore's Claim Skeptics Believe Moon Landing was 'Staged' <http://www.schmanck.de/Moonwalker.html>  – Excerpt: How can Gore claim skeptics are akin to people who believed the moon landing was “staged” when one of the moonwalkers himself is a skeptic?




'Consensus’ in Freefall: Left-of-center scientists now rejecting warming fears (Inhofe Speech) Inhofe Speech Excerpt:  Again, it is not Jim Inhofe calling Gore a "flat-Earther," it is the left-wing blog Huffington Post calling him these things. 

Region_id=&Issue_id <http://epw.senate.gov/


January 8, 2009



Contact: Marc Morano 202-224-5762 Marc_Morano@EPW.senate.gov <mailto:Marc_Morano@EPW.senate.gov>   


Politically Left Scientists Now Rejecting Climate Fears Global Warming ‘Consensus’ in Freefall More Than 650 International Scientists Dissent Over Man-Made Global Warming Claims


 Senator James Inhofe (R-OK) – Ranking Member, Environment and Public Works Committee  Speech Delivered on Senate Floor January 8, 2009 For Full Speech Click Here: <http://epw.senate.gov/public/

For Selected Highlights Click Here: <http://epw.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?FuseAction=Minority.PressReleases&

Senate Minority Report: More Than 650 International Scientists Dissent Over Man-Made Global Warming Claims <http://epw.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?

Senator Inhofe Speech Excerpt:

 I have given over 12 floor speeches on the science of global warming. Today, I want to update my colleagues on some of the latest science that has not been reported in the mainstream media.


 Many politically left-of-center scientists and environmental activists are now realizing that the so-called "consensus <http://epw.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?
id=DE6A54BF-802A-23AD-45ED-60AE6F3FEBE2> " on man-made global warming is not holding up.

 It is becoming increasingly clear that skepticism about man-made global warming fear is not a partisan left vs. right issue. In fact, many scientists and activists who are also progressive environmentalists believe climate fear promotion has "co-opted" or "hijacked" the green movement.

 Huffington Post Features Article Demanding Apology from Gore  The left-wing blog Huffington Post surprised many by featuring an article on January 3, 2008, by Harold Ambler, demanding an apology from Gore <http://www.huffingtonpost.com/
harold-ambler/mr-gore-apology-accepted_b_154982.html>  for promoting unfounded global warming fears. The Huffington Post article accused Gore of telling "the biggest whopper ever sold to the public in the history of humankind" because he claimed the science was settled on global warming. The Huffington Post article titled "Mr. Gore: Apology Accepted" adds, "It is Mr. Gore and his brethren who are flat-Earthers," not the skeptics.

 Again, it is not Jim Inhofe calling Gore a "flat-Earther," it is the left-wing blog Huffington Post calling him these things. 

 The Huffington Post article continues, "Let us neither cripple our own economy by mislabeling carbon dioxide a pollutant nor discourage development in the Third World, where suffering continues unabated, day after day."

 UK atmospheric scientist Richard Courtney, a left-of-political center socialist, is another dissenter of man-made climate fears. Courtney, a UN IPCC expert reviewer and a UK-based climate and atmospheric science consultant, is a self-described socialist who also happens to reject man-made climate fears. Courtney declared in 2008 <http://switchboard.nrdc.org/blogs/
pgutis/public_enemies.html/lcomment1161>  that there is "no correlation between the anthropogenic emissions of GHG (greenhouse gases) and global temperature." 

Joining Courtney are many other progressive environmentalist scientists:

 Former Greenpeace member and Finnish scientist Dr. Jarl R. Ahlbeck, a lecturer of environmental technology and a chemical engineer at Abo Akademi University in Finland who has authored 200 scientific publications, is also skeptical of man-made climate doom. Ahlbeck wrote in 2008, "Contrary to common belief, there has been no or little global warming since 1995 and this is shown by two completely independent datasets. But so far, real measurements give no ground for concern about a catastrophic future warming." (LINK <http://www.factsandarts.com/articles
/no-significant-global-warming-since-1995/> )  Scientist and life-long liberal Democrat rejects climate fears  Life-long liberal Democrat Dr. Martin Hertzberg, a retired Navy meteorologist with a PhD in physical chemistry, also declared his dissent of warming fears in 2008. "As a scientist and life-long liberal Democrat, I find the constant regurgitation of the anecdotal, fear mongering clap-trap about human-caused global warming to be a disservice to science," Hertzberg wrote. "The global warming alarmists don't even bother with data! All they have are half-baked computer models that are totally out of touch with reality and have already been proven to be false," Hertzberg added. (LINK <http://co2sceptics.com/news.php?id=1872> )  Ivy League Geologist Dr. Robert Giegengack, the former chair of Department of Earth and Environmental Science at the University of Pennsylvania, publicly announced he voted for Gore in 2000 and said he would do so again. But Giegengack does not agree with Gore’s science views and states that global warming does not even qualify as one of the top ten ENVIRONMENTAL problems facing the world, let alone one of the top problems. "In terms of [global warming's] capacity to cause the human species harm, I don't think it makes it into the top 10," Giegengack said in an interview in the May/June 2007 issue of the Pennsylvania Gazette. (LINK <http://www.upenn.edu/gazette/0507/gaz01.html> )  ‘Intellectual blasphemy’

 Other liberal environmental scientists and activists are now joining Giegengack.

 Alexander Cockburn, a maverick journalist who leans left on most topics, lambasted the alleged global-warming consensus <http://www.spiked-online.com/index.php?/site/article/4624/>  on the political Web site CounterPunch.org, arguing that there's no evidence yet that humans are causing the rise in global temperature. After publicly speaking to reject man-made warming fears, Cockburn wrote on February 22, 2008, "I have been treated as if I have committed intellectual blasphemy." Cockburn harshly critiqued the political left for embracing climate alarmism. "This turn to climate catastrophism is tied into the decline of the left, and the decline of the left’s optimistic vision of altering the economic nature of things through a political program. The left has bought into environmental catastrophism because it thinks that if it can persuade the world that there is indeed a catastrophe, then somehow the emergency response will lead to positive developments in terms of social and environmental justice," Cockburn wrote. [See: A July 2007 and a March 2008 report detail how skeptical scientists have faced threats and intimidation -

 LINK <http://epw.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?

& LINK <http://epw.senate.gov/public/
-4949-EE9098538277>  ]  CNN – not exactly a bastion of conservatism – had yet another of its meteorologists dissent from warming fears. Chad Myers, a meteorologist for 22 years and certified by the American Meteorological Society, spoke out against anthropogenic climate claims on CNN in December. "You know, to think that we could affect weather all that much is pretty arrogant," Myers said during "Lou Dobbs Tonight" on December 18, 2008
2008/20081218205953.aspx> . "Mother Nature is so big, the world is so big, the oceans are so big – I think we’re going to die from a lack of fresh water or we’re going to die from ocean acidification before we die from global warming, for sure," Myers explained.

 Myers joins fellow CNN meteorologist Rob Marciano, who compared Gore’s film to ‘fiction’ in 2007
warming_skepticism_1004.html> , and CNN anchor Lou Dobbs who just said of global warming fear promotion on January 5, "It's almost a religion without any question." <http://www.businessandmedia.org/articles/2009/20090106102328.aspx>

 Warming activists ‘have effectively been co-opted’

 Denis G. Rancourt, professor of physics and an environmental science researcher at the University of Ottawa, believes the global warming campaign does a disservice to the environmental movement. Rancourt wrote on February 27, 2007, "Promoting the global warming myth trains people to accept unverified, remote, and abstract dangers in the place of true problems that they can discover for themselves by becoming directly engaged in their workplace and by doing their own research and observations." (LINK <http://activistteacher.blogspot.com/
2007/02/global-warming-truth-or-dare.html> ). Rancourt wrote, "I argue that by far the most destructive force on the planet is power-driven financiers and profit-driven corporations and their cartels backed by military might; and that the global warming myth is a red herring that contributes to hiding this truth. In my opinion, activists who, using any justification, feed the global warming myth have effectively been co-opted, or at best neutralized." "Global warming is strictly an imaginary problem of the First World middle class," Rancourt added. 

 Perhaps the biggest shock to the global warming debate was the recent conversion of renowned French geophysicist Dr. Claude Allegre from being a believer in dangerous man-made warming fears to being a skeptic. Allegre, a former French Socialist Party leader and a member of both the French and U.S. Academies of Science, was one of the first scientists to sound global warming fears 20 years ago, but he now says the cause of climate change is "unknown." He ridiculed what he termed the "prophets of doom of global warming" in a September 2006 article.
(LINK <http://epw.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?
802A-23AD-494B-DCCB00B51A12> ) Allegre has authored more than 100 scientific articles, written 11 books, and received numerous scientific awards including the Goldschmidt Medal from the Geochemical Society of the United States. He now believes the global warming hysteria is motivated by money. "The ecology of helpless protesting has become a very lucrative business for some people!" he explained.

 ‘Hijacked’ environmental left

 Left-wing Professor David Noble of Canada's York University has joined the growing chorus of disenchanted liberal activists. Noble now believes that the movement has "hyped the global climate issue into an obsession."  Noble wrote a May 8, 2007, essay entitled "The Corporate Climate Coup" which details how global warming has "hijacked" the environmental left and created a "corporate climate campaign," "divert[ing] attention from the radical challenges of the global justice movement." (LINK <http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=57&ItemID=12771> )  Botanist Dr. David Bellamy, a famed UK environmental campaigner, former lecturer at Durham University, and host of a popular UK TV series on wildlife, converted from believer to a skeptic about global warming. Bellamy, a committed environmentalist, now says that shift cost him his career at the BBC. Bellamy said in 2008, "My opinion is that there is absolutely no proof that carbon dioxide has anything to do with any impending catastrophe. The science has, quite simply, gone awry. In fact, it’s not even science any more, it’s anti-science. There’s no proof, it’s just projections and if you look at the models people such as Gore use, you can see they cherry pick the ones that support their beliefs." (LINK <http://www.dailyexpress.co.uk/posts/view/69623> )  Geologist Peter Sciaky echoes this growing backlash <http://epw.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?FuseAction=Minority
.Blogs&ContentRecord_id=DE6A54BF-802A-23AD-45ED-60AE6F3FEBE2>  of left-wing activists about global warming. Sciaky, who describes himself as a "liberal and a leftist" wrote on June 9, 2007, "I do not know a single geologist who believes that [global warming] is a man-made phenomenon."

 Ecologist Dr. Patrick Moore, a Greenpeace founding member, has also joined the ranks of the dissenters. “It is clear the contention that human-induced CO2 emissions and rising CO2 levels in the global atmosphere are the cause of the present global warming trend is a hypothesis that has not yet been elevated to the level of a proven theory. Causation has not been demonstrated in any conclusive way," Moore, the chief scientist for Greenspirit, wrote in 2006.

 Again, to repeat, it is becoming increasingly clear that skepticism about man-made global warming fear is not a partisan left vs. right issue. It is a scientific question and the promoters of global warming fears now realize they have significantly overreached.


 To read Senator Inhofe’s full speech, click here: <http://epw.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?

Link to Press Release:

Link to Speech Excerpt: Politically Left Scientists Now Rejecting Climate Fears Senate Minority Report: More Than 650 International Scientists Dissent Over Man-Made Global Warming Claims # #




Marc Morano

Communications Director

Senate Environment and Public Works Committee (EPW) Inhofe Staff


202-224-5167 (fax)

marc_morano@epw.senate.gov <mailto:marc_morano@epw.senate.gov>

www.epw.senate.gov <http://www.epw.senate.gov>


Pictured: The moment a $3million ransom was parachuted to Somali pirates.

ransom-parachuted-Somali-pirates.html >

---- Roland Dobbins







  Saturday, January 10, 2008

I received the "Snipergirl" story in mail from a retired colonel. It turns out not to be true.

Accurate Polly-Jan Bobseine Biography 


Accurate biography of Polly-Jan Bobseine, the Air Force riflewoman cited in the fake motivational poster from yesterday.

http://www.snopes.com/photos/military/cheerleader.asp   deconstructs the poster, noting that the photograph itself is accurate.

http://www.afa.org/aboutus/12oabios06.asp  Air Force Association Airmen of the Year biography

(Apparently in 2005, though I don't find that date on the page)

SrA Polly-Jan Bobseine is a Journeyman in the 823rd Security Forces Squadron at Moody AFB, Georgia.

Airman Bobseine was named Air Combat Command’s Security Forces Flight Level Airman of the Year. She deployed to Iraq and conducted 187 days of high-risk operations. Her participation in 45 offensive missions helped cut indirect fire attacks on Balad Air Base by 95 percent. Airman Bobseine discovered an improvised explosive device at an Iraqi polling center and quickly evacuated and secured the area for explosive ordnance disposal teams. While at Kirkuk AB, she was selectively chosen for off-base operations and conducted more than 100 combat patrols covering 63 square miles. She executed 12 traffic control points, providing critical weapons trafficking deterrent. Her patrol discovered a large munitions cache and provided security for EOD demolition.

Striving for warrior knowledge, she earned Marine Jump Wings, completed Air Force Sniper School, the US Army Air Assault Course, Combat Life Saver Course, and rigorous US Army Airborne School. Airman Bobseine has 30 flight hours toward her private pilot’s license. She is also an active volunteer, logging 30 hours for a cancer research organization and more than 50 hours caring for combat wounded.

Airman Bobseine entered the Air Force in 2003. After completing security forces training she volunteered for her current position, which is a special duty assignment within the security forces career field.


Airman Bobseine on patrol in Iraq.

http://www.acc.af.mil/photos/index.asp?galleryID=658  AF  Combat Command page, probably the original source of the photograph for the faked motivational poster.

This blog http://glocktalk.com/forums/showthread.php?p=10956030  cites her full biography as shown (this was reproduced in the Snopes item)

Here's the actual biography of Polly-Jan Bobseine from the United States Airforce banquet that honored her and others. After you read her bio, I don't think that anyone messes with Polly-Jan Bobseine. Too bad she cannot be a role model for youngsters instead of Britanny Spears and other assorted Hollywood types!


Senior Airman Polly-Jan Bobseine 9th Air Force 823d Security Forces Squadron Moody AFB, GA


Senior Airman Polly-Jan Bobseine is a Security Forces Journeyman assigned to the 823d Security Forces Squadron as a Fire Team Member, Moody Air Force Base, Georgia. She is 21 years old. Airman Bobseine was born in Chadwick Bay, New York, on 21 October 1984. She was home schooled and graduated in June 2000. She competed in state and regional High-Power Rifle shooting, achieved New York State’s 2000 Junior Trap Champion title, taught skiing, snowboarding, and lettered in swimming. After graduating high school, Airman Bobseine moved to Wyoming where she was employed as a horse wrangler until relocating to Tennessee to train horses professionally before enlisting in the United States Air Force, leaving in March 2003 for Lackland Air Force Base, Texas for basic training. Upon graduation, she volunteered for a special duty assignment to the 823d Security Forces Squadron, Moody AFB, Georgia, arriving in August 2003. Since serving in the unit, Airman Bobseine has completed Army Airborne Training, Air Force Physical Fitness Leadership School, and Army Combat Lifesaver Training. Airman Bobseine was recently selected as the 2005 Air Combat Command Outstanding Flight Level Airman of the Year. She is an active member of the National Cancer Research Organization and volunteer children’s swimming instructor. Airman Bobseine’s military awards include the Air Force Achievement Medal with two Oak Leaf clusters, Meritorious Unit Award, Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Air Force Expeditionary Service Ribbon with Gold Border and Small Arms Expert Marksmanship Ribbon (Rifle and Pistol). She is currently pursuing her private pilot license and enrolled in Park University, working towards an associates degree in Criminal Justice.

All of which is a tad less spectacular than a 750 yard shot that detonated a bomb in the terrorist's lap, but it's still one heck of a service record, and my hat's off to Senior Airman Polly-Jan Bobseine.

My apologies to anyone who was actually harmed by the original posting -- and I'd like their account of how they were harmed. I have received several rebukes for posting that as if somehow irreparable damage was done. As to why I put that up, I thought it was a good story, and a retired colonel a good enough source. As to why I didn't check it, it didn't seem like the kind of story whose truth was all that important; it is unlikely that I can put up much of anything questionable without at least one reader -- usually several -- telling me about it, some to be helpful, others with great glee, and the nature of this kind of publication makes it easy to correct. Now clearly I don't assert a right deliberately to put up something incorrect, and I certainly do feel a responsibility to get things right; but there's a difference between items that have an immediate effect and those that can be corrected later.

Regarding Snopes, I don't use that site. They have an agenda and it is not mine, and they seem more certain in questionable cases than ever I would be. They no doubt do a good service to the Internet.


Upcoming disaster?

I'm probably not the only one sending you this...

But here it is anyway.


A new study from the National Academy of Sciences outlines grim possibilities on Earth for a worst-case scenario solar storm.

Damage to power grids and other communications systems could be catastrophic, the scientists conclude, with effects leading to a potential loss of governmental control of the situation.

The prediction is based in part on major solar storm in 1859 <http://www.space.com/scienceastronomy/mystery_monday_031027.html>  caused telegraph wires to short out in the United States and Europe, igniting widespread fires. It was perhaps the worst in the past 200 years, according to the new study, and with the advent of modern power grids and satellites, much more is at risk.

........Karl Lembke


Solar storm in 2012

Interesting article. Page 1 talks about a solar storm basically ending civilization. Page 2 goes into detail that "gasp" GPS might stop working.


Yes, I've read "inconstant Moon" by a guy you might have met.



I have been concerned with this since I learned about the 1859 flare; it appears that all the telegraph offices in the US (five or so) caught fire, they being the only places in the country at the ends of long wires insulated from the ground (fences wouldn't be insulated). This means that every civilized nation with telephones or power lines might experience multiple fires -- enough of them that there might be firestorms in just about every city in the world!

As to frequency and likelihood, a cursory examination shows historical records of aurora sightings in Alexandria several times over the centuries. I would not be astonished to learn of such sightings in other low latitude cities, and that they are indications of such solar storms that had no other obvious effects because there were no electronics to be affected. This argues that such events occur every couple of centuries. It has been 150 years since the last one...

The danger not just to the US but to the entire civilization is obvious. Hmm. Instead of Lucifer's Hammer, we get Lucifer's Inferno on Earth?

Of course the Mayan Calendar famously ends in 2012...


Buchanan: Obama's choice — FDR or Reagan?


- Roland Dobbins

I hope that Obama's advisors will read this, but it is not likely. Roosevelt tried to spend our way out of Depression; and as Secretary of the Treasury Morganthau said in 1939, it did not work. Reagan had different ideas of how to end stagflation, and that did work. This is not partisanship it's history. Roosevelt certainly meant well, and had great charisma, but those of us who grew up in the 30's can recall two things: we loved Roosevelt, and the economy was in the pits and stayed there. War time rationing didn't really change our lives: we were already having Meatless Tuesdays and other days of the weeks.  Grits were generally available. I recall my father teaching me that Chili Mac was a good lunch counter order, and using that advice in college.

John F. Kennedy understood very well, and created what became a remarkable boom era. Alas, I doubt that Obama knows any of this.

Once again I recommend The Forgotten Man as a history of those times and the crazy quilt of pragmatic actions that Roosevelt attempted. Roosevelt wasn't an ideologue (other than having a healthy preference for capitalism over Socialism, but no idea how to prevent Socialism from taking over, so he tried everything).





CURRENT VIEW     Saturday

This week:


read book now


Sunday,  January 11, 2009     

The Ice is Coming


"And others say..."

Nods: Drudge


Earth on the Brink of an Ice Age

The earth is now on the brink of entering another Ice Age, according to a large and compelling body of evidence from within the field of climate science. Many sources of data which provide our knowledge base of long-term climate change indicate that the warm, twelve thousand year-long Holocene period will rather soon be coming to an end, and then the earth will return to Ice Age conditions for the next 100,000 years.<snip>


Interestingly enough, when I was doing the Galaxy column and thus attending American Association for the Advancement of Science annual meetings, and going regularly to other science conferences, the vast consensus was that the Ice Is Coming Back. The only dissenters were saying "Maybe not REAL soon." Schneider and Meade were proclaiming this -- it happens that I took the picture of Meade and Schneider that appeared on his book The Genesisi Strategy (I used his camera). This consensus continued well into my BYTE days. Then the climate modelers began finding warming, Hansen had his famous Congressional session in which he rolled the big red dice down the conference table, and a consensus of modelers formed to say "won't be ice, gonna be warming." So far as I know the observation climatologists didn't agree and haven't yet; but the modelers were very persuasive, and somewhere in there we had a tipping point, and one got grants for studying warming, not The Coming Ice.


Pravada poses me with a real quandary....

For years and years, everyone knew that Pravda meant "truth" (translated from the Russian) BUT that there was no truth in it, being, as it was, completely the propaganda tool for the Soviet Union.

But now Pravda reports that we're headed, and soon, for another Ice Age.

This presents quite the quandary. Since I have this ingrained habit of not only disbelieving everything that Pravda says, but also of believing the exact opposite (a good Cold Warrior habit), must I now believe that global warming truly does exist?


Best regards and strong wishes for a continued uncomplicated recovery from the tumor, radiation sickness and everything else over the last year,

Tim Pleasant

Mr. Tim Pleasant, Esq., did much of the editing on Another Step Farther Out -- available to subscribers in the subscriber closed area of www.chaosmanorreviews.com --. Good to hear from you again, Tim. I grew up as a Cold Warrior protégé of Stefan Possony, one of the architects of Containment as a Cold War strategy. I feel your pain, but you must remember, the US and Russia have more reasons to be friends than enemies.

(That's worth another long essay, but it's true: we need the Russians as allies, and we ought to stop trying to encircle them with NATO. NATO was an entangling alliance that we needed badly when The Red Army was poised to pour through the Fulda Gap and race to the Rhine; but there is no more Red Army, the Warsaw Pact is gone, Poland and the Baltic Republics are buffer zones as is White Russia and the Ukraine (and both of those are in the Soviet sphere of influence in any rational assessment). Why we need an entangling alliance that guarantees that we will become involved in the territorial disputes of Europe is way beyond my comprehension; but that, as I said, is for another essay at another time.)



The Sunday Times

January 11, 2009

Revealed: the environmental impact of Google searches

Physicist Alex Wissner-Gross says that performing two Google searches uses up as much energy as boiling the kettle for a cup of tea

Jonathan Leake and Richard Woods

Performing two Google searches from a desktop computer can generate about the same amount of carbon dioxide as boiling a kettle for a cup of tea, according to new research.

While millions of people tap into Google without considering the environment, a typical search generates about 7g of CO2 Boiling a kettle generates about 15g. “Google operates huge data centres around the world that consume a great deal of power,” said Alex Wissner-Gross, a Harvard University physicist whose research on the environmental impact of computing is due out soon. “A Google search has a definite environmental impact.”

Google is secretive about its energy consumption and carbon footprint. It also refuses to divulge the locations of its data centres. However, with more than 200m internet searches estimated globally daily, the electricity consumption and greenhouse gas emissions caused by computers and the internet is provoking concern. A recent report by Gartner, the industry analysts, said the global IT industry generated as much greenhouse gas as the world’s airlines - about 2% of global CO2 emissions. “Data centres are among the most energy-intensive facilities imaginable,” said Evan Mills, a scientist at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California. Banks of servers storing billions of web pages require power.

Though Google says it is in the forefront of green computing, its search engine generates high levels of CO2 because of the way it operates. When you type in a Google search for, say, “energy saving tips”, your request doesn’t go to just one server. It goes to several competing against each other.

It may even be sent to servers thousands of miles apart. Google’s infrastructure sends you data from whichever produces the answer fastest. The system minimises delays but raises energy consumption. Google has servers in the US, Europe, Japan and China.

Wissner-Gross has submitted his research for publication by the US Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers and has also set up a website www.CO2stats.com <http://www.CO2stats.com> . “Google are very efficient but their primary concern is to make searches fast and that means they have a lot of extra capacity that burns energy,” he said. <snip>



A priceless, (almost) wordless commentary:

www.daybydaycartoon.com  for 2009 January 11.


Hoo Hah


IRS wants to tax online game economies.

Surprise, surprise:


-- Roland Dobbins

Astonishing. Is there anything left to tax? Must we send quarterly withholding for killing monsters on World of Warcraft? Will Blizzard automate this so that whenever you kill a monster it shows something like "your share of the loot is 1 Gold 4 Silver with 30 pieces of silver withheld"?


Best wishes for a good 2009!

Dear Dr. Pournelle;

Today I happened to remember your prediction from years ago that someday the answer to any reasonable question could be found by using a computer and on-line networks. You must have made this prediction some 25 years ago!

I think that we’re pretty well there. I’m a marketing consultant, and between the on-line Britannica (of course), Google, Wikipedia, HighBeam Research, statistical agencies, corporate websites, etc. it is pretty easy now to find out almost anything — except, for course, for the really big questions that we will never be able to answer.

I read your “Chaos Manor” columns in “Byte” magazine faithfully all through the 1980’s and much of the 1990’s starting when I was a late teen. I found computing more interesting then; we certainly went through a long stretch where improvement to Intel-based Windows machines dominated. Along the way I’ve collected and used quite a few interesting PCs, including the original netbook from a decade ago, the Psion Series 7 (there was even a version called the Psion Netbook!).

Google easily located you and I was glad to discover that you are well and recovered from The Lump.

Best wishes for a terrific New Year!

Your truly, Greg Graham.

Best wishes to you as well. The column continues at http://www.chaosmanorreviews.com ...


On calculators and calculating

Dear Dr. Pournelle:

Three links dealing with different aspects of the issue on that fruit of civilization called "calculator/computer" and its relation to science and learning:

1) When I spotted this story, I had instant flashbacks since it hits very close to home:


2) On the other hand, we know that computers cannot "think/reason" symbolically for two cents' worth, so this is a cautionary tale emphasizing the contrary angle:


3) Finally, a few essays from the great Edsger W. Dijkstra on the need to learn how to *do* math -- instead of just learning "tricks:"





Regards -- KE



_Daemon_, by Daniel Suarez.

Highly recommended:


--- Roland Dobbins


Gaza Fighting Now and in Six Months


This link has a week old summary of what the IDF did to generate it's air campaign.


The short story is that it plugged Shin Bet into its intelligence system and battle damage assessment system. This generated more targets and each target engaged was watched closely by IDF UAVs and Shin Bet snitches to generate more targets.

This is why Hamas leadership ditched their cell phones and went underground to the point their own public relations and political talking heads could not find them. To communicate with those people would allow the IDF to track the messengers back ti senior Hamas leadership hideouts.

Hamas' battle plan, on the other hand, wasn't to fight the IDF. It was to kill any Palestinian it suspected would rise to oppose it's rule after the IDF leaves Gaza. While sending its rocketeers and stupid young bucks with AK's and RPG's out to die under the ISF's "ritual bombardment," hoping to score a "propaganda victory" of pictures of dead IDF armor or helicopters.

The need to hide from Israeli air and Sayeret strikes plus conduct mass killings of Fatah supporters is why the Western media has been given a "Chechen Welcome" by Hamas in Gaza. Al-Jazeera can be trusted to cover up what Hamas is doing. The BBC and CNN cannot because many of their reporting staff are Fatah leaning Palestinians.

As for this contention from the article:

The IDF officer agreed, calling the military "more focused and much better prepared."

But he said, "There's only one thing more dangerous than learning from history; and that's learning from history. You can't draw parallels between the two wars. It's a different ballgame, against a different adversary much less capable than Hizbollah. And because the terrain is easier, our aerial superiority is decisive, the ranges are so much shorter and the war aims are much more modest, there's a lot more reason to believe we can succeed here without ground maneuver."

The IDF fighter pilot generals were still wrong about the need to go in on the ground.

The Israeli politicos are still wrong about the need to totally reoccupy Gaza to root out Hamas.

Fatah is the only game in town as far as having Palestinians to negotiate with while Hamas is on a mission from God to kill jews.

The Operation Cast Iron has bought Israel six months of quiet on its southern border. A quiet whose clock will start from the moment a Hama run Gaza-Egyptian border is left unoccupied by the IDF.

The way things are going, Israel and the USA will be in the same situation were were in Dec 2008, when July-August 2009 arrives.

The other relevant passages from the link are below:


Defense and industry sources here said the Israel Air Force made unprecedented, coordinated use of the one-ton Mk84 Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM) to attack buildings and tunnels along the Gaza-Sinai border, as well as dropping the 500-pound variant against underground bunkers. Other gear making its combat debut or seeing expanded use include synthetic aperture radar targeting pods; vertical, high-resolution aerial imaging pods; Shoval UAVs; and a range of laser-guided bombs and missiles.

But sources also attributed air power successes thus far to intimate knowledge of the Gaza Strip; meticulous planning; and new procedures for gathering, processing and disseminating expanded sources of intelligence.

"The real story is intelligence gathering and fusion," a senior defense official said. He refused to elaborate for security reasons.

For the first time, for example, Israel's Shin Bet Security Service was part and parcel of operational planning, execution and after-action assessments, sources here say. This alone allowed Israel to start the war with a list of more than 400 targets, which were dispatched within four days and continually replenished.

In comparison, Israel started the Lebanon War with only about 150 preplanned targets, required about 10 days to destroy them all, and found it difficult to find more, Israeli defense analyst Amir Rappaport said.

"This time, they're a lot more ready across multiple parameters," said Rappaport, author of a widely acclaimed book on the 2006 war. "They learned critical lessons from Lebanon, yet most are careful not to try to fight in Gaza the way they should have fought in Lebanon."


Gaza prolonged?

If this piece from Ed Morissey over on Hot Air blog is to be believed, Labour and Kadima got the memo from the IDF about the Hamas battle strategy and are acting accordingly to protect their phony baloney government jobs.

Given that the Bush Administration just did an emergency resupply of ammunition to Israel. The IDF now has the logistics to run Operation Cast Iron for several more weeks, whatever the Israeli government decides.



Israel to escalate in Gaza


The IDF dropped leaflets in Gaza urging residents to take cover as a “new phase” of their operation will shortly begin. That sounds as though the Israelis plan to escalate military activity <http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/28573204> in Gaza to dig out entrenched Hamas fighters in Gaza City, which they have all but encircled already. Meanwhile, France and Egypt have proposed a new cease-fire agreement, but neither Hamas nor Israel has acknowledged it:

The Israeli air force dropped leaflets on the Gaza Strip Saturday warning residents that it plans to escalate its two-week-old offensive. Military officials said the notices are meant as a “general warning.” The notice said Israel is about to begin a “new phase in the war on terror.” It said it will “escalate” an operation that already has killed more than 800 Palestinians. … The development came as the Palestinian Authority president urged both Israel and Hamas to agree to an Egypt-brokered truce. Mahmoud Abbas singled out the Jewish state, saying it would be responsible for a “waterfall of blood” if it didn’t accept the deal.

Either this new warning intends to pressure Hamas into quickly crying “Uncle!” and signing onto a cease fire, or Israel intends on showing the world that it learned a lesson about stopping too quickly from their action in Lebanon in 2006. I’d bet the latter, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s the former. They’ve done significant damage to Hamas in Gaza, and they’ve certainly increased Hamas’ unpopularity among other Gazans. Given Hamas’ propensity to hide among civilians, the Israelis can’t annihilate them without taking out large numbers of civilians, and that simply won’t fly among Israelis. However, if Hamas doesn’t buckle first, Israel looks prepared to continue its operations for as long as it wants. The Israeli leadership does not appear at all concerned this time about international opinion, at least not as much as in Lebanon. The unsatisfactory denouement of that conflict, combined with the betrayal of Israel by the UN and the UNIFIL force that refused to stand up to Hezbollah, undoubtedly burns bright in their minds as they decide how to proceed in Gaza.

Abbas is probably right about the “waterfall of blood”, but he can blame that squarely on Iran and its proxy army Hamas for provoking this fight. Israel has no requirement to end its operation after being attacked by a belligerent who refuses to stop attacking. Hamas has to sue for peace under those circumstances, and Israel has the right to dictate terms.


Pirates free Sirius Starn after ransom payment

Dr. Pournelle,


Well, they paid the ransom for the Saudi oil tanker. It's anyone's guess now. My SWAG (Super Wild *@! Guess) at this point is that this could accomplish 2 possible things;

1. Piracy will increase now that it is proven to be more profitable than ever and the rest of the world has been proven completely helpless to do anything but pay the ransom or........

2. If the combined governments of the world's naval/ocean-going nations (or some combination there-of) were somehow able to convey to the pirates that this was the last time, a freebee so to speak (an honorable out), and that the next one would meet with action then maybe, just maybe, this sort of piracy might decline. I say decline here because I still contest that it won't go away until we allow crews to defend themselves.

I have no information, but at this point I would put my money on option #1.

Anyone else have any other options?


Matt Kirchner






 read book now





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