picture of me

Chaos Manor Home Page> Mail Home Page  > View Home Page > Current View > Chaos Manor Reviews Home Page


Mail 609 February 8 - 14, 2010







BOOK Reviews

Chaos Manor Reviews

read book now

emailblimp.gif (23130 bytes)mailto:jerryp@jerrypournelle.com

CLICK ON THE BLIMP TO SEND MAIL TO ME. Mail sent to me may be published.

LAST WEEK                             NEXT WEEK


This page looks better if you set the default text to Georgia.

Atom FEED from Chaos Manor

Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat Sun

Highlights this week:


  If you send mail, it may be published. See below. For boiler plate, instructions, and how to pay for this place, see below.

line6.gif (917 bytes)

This week:


read book now


Monday  February 8, 2010

More on John Hofmeister

He has a website. The following is a very good video on infrastructure. It's 18 minutes long, but good.




Letter from England

Updates on Climategate--the witch hunt is underway: <http://tinyurl.com/yzmqz9b> <http://tinyurl.com/ygqz6hl>

 Climategate Commentary: <http://tinyurl.com/ycnnzgc> <http://tinyurl.com/ycqxwhh> <http://tinyurl.com/ycxo74p> <http://tinyurl.com/yjlspnk>

 The UK public sector is driving the rise in CO2 emissions: <http://tinyurl.com/yfv5s7z>

 Telegraph on airport security (cartoons): <http://tinyurl.com/y8qshyw>

 Pope criticises growth in secularism in the UK: <http://tinyurl.com/y8vm3pf>. Bishop Tom Wright's comments: <http://tinyurl.com/yhv8wc4>. "The law of unintended consequences is really rather powerful here.” (Tom Wright is the Anglican bishop of Durham--the local diocese--and a well-known theologian.)

 MP expenses scandal: <http://tinyurl.com/yjam2wj> <http://tinyurl.com/yzrur6s> <http://tinyurl.com/ygg44q6> <http://tinyurl.com/y9e8ynh> Police wary: <http://tinyurl.com/ykc9z3a>

 London Times coverage of Tea Party convention: <http://tinyurl.com/ye2gdm5> Telegraph coverage: <http://tinyurl.com/ybkn828>


Harry Erwin, PhD

"Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety." (Benjamin Franklin, 1755)

Well, there certainly were some witches here. A trillion dollar industry created out of -- hmm. Created out of what?


This was in the Times of London:

Robert Watson, chief scientist at Defra, the environment ministry, who chaired the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) from 1997 to 2002, was speaking after more potential inaccuracies emerged in the IPCC’s 2007 benchmark report on global warming. The most important is a claim that global warming could cut rain-fed north African crop production by up to 50% by 2020, a remarkably short time for such a dramatic change. The claim has been quoted in speeches by Rajendra Pachauri, the IPCC chairman, and by Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary-general. This weekend Professor Chris Field, the new lead author of the IPCC’s climate impacts team, told The Sunday Times that he could find nothing in the report to support the claim.

So here we have two top =IPCC= scientists complaining about the growing list of errors, inaccuracies, and questionable citations: the former chairman and the lead author of the climate impact team.



Facts Don't Matter to Climate Change Worshipers...


"Mounting evidence of scientific fraud might make little difference in terms of the response to manmade global warming hysteria. Why? Vested economic and political interests have emerged where trillions of dollars and social control are at stake. Therefore, many people who recognize the scientific fraud underlying global warming claims are likely to defend it anyway."

"It's deeper than just money. Schoolteachers have created polar-bear-dying lectures to frighten and indoctrinate our children when in fact there are more polar bears now than in 1950. They've taught children about melting glaciers."

"What would all the beneficiaries of the global warming hype do if it becomes widely known and accepted that mankind's activities have very little to do with the Earth's temperature? I don't know but a lot of people would feel and look like idiots. But I bet that even if the permafrost returned as far south as New Jersey, as it once did, the warmers and their congressional stooges would still call for measures to fight global warming."

Sounds a lot like "Fallen Angels" to me... 

Charles Brumbelow


Dramatic climate change on Pluto--Proof of advanced life on other planets

Dr. Pournelle:

Since we know that dramatic changes in climate can only be caused by uncontrolled release of greenhouse gases by technologically advanced civilizations, we must conclude that not only is there intelligent life elsewhere in the universe, but it is right here in our solar system!


Best regards,

Doug Ely


Effect of volcanoes

Jerry A while ago I ran across a chart on Watts Up With That which showed the official temperature anomalies - minus El Nino years - minus estimated effects of volcanoes, and - minus "variations in the advection of marine air masses over the high latitude continents during winter” (Tdyn)

The resultant chart is interesting. http://m-francis.livejournal.com/103324.html 

It seems to indicate a "kick" effect from the ENSO events which would account for 40% of the official temperature rise. The global ocean SST average is one such commonly used measure (Hegerl et al. 2007). As already shown in Fig. 1, removing its ENSO-related component reduces its 136-year warming trend by 40% from ~0.05 K/decade to ~0.03 K/decade. This is also consistent with Angell’s (2000) analysis of tropospheric air temperatures, who found that about 2/3 of the overall trend in his data was ENSO-unrelated. (See: "Removing ENSO-related variations from the climate record," by Gilbert P. Compo and Prashant D. Sardeshmukh, NOAA, p.22) http://www.esrl.noaa.gov/psd/people

The original Thompson, Jones, et al. paper is here: http://ams.allenpress.com/perlserv/?

The essay at Watt's is here: http://wattsupwiththat.com/
and-removal-of-natural-variables/  I don't know who Tisdale is or what his chops might be.


I keep hoping that rationality will creep in.


Navy vs civilian reactors

I am no engineer. But I did graduate from the USN Nuclear Power Program in 1968. At that time, the "Yankee Atomic Power Plant" in, I believe Connecticut was virtually identical to one of the plants used by the Navy aboard ship. The Navy's prime interests were in reactor safety and reliability. A basically standard PWR (Pressurized Water Reactor) was developed, largely by the Navy, and was later adapted by the civilian electrical utilities.

I agree that the systems have diverged somewhat in the last 40 odd years. Still, the divergence seemed to more in the steam propulsion side of the system than in the reactor side when I left the program in 1970 and wound up on the Mekong River in Viet Nam. Note, both the Navy Nuclear Power Program and I considered the duty change an improvement.



Green Police - truth in advertising

When I first saw this "Green and Clean" ad from Audi during that football game yesterday, I thought it was a news report.....then I thought that it might become fact, not fiction.






 read book now




This week:


read book now


Tuesday,  February 9, 2010

The shape of things to come - revealed in an Audi commercial.


--- Roland Dobbins

It's worth thinking about. Picture of the future indeed. It's not easy, not being green. Fallen Angels, anyone?


Towards a Navy Corps of Nuclear Engineering

It's a dumb idea. Whenever you take a military service and get it to do civilian functions, it becomes civilianized.

The analogy to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers makes my argument. Not only does the Corps of Engineers have a large civilian employee component, but it happens to be associated with one of the biggest disasters in at least the last 50 years, hurricane Katrina. It was the Corps of Engineers that was partially responsible for the failure of the levee system that made that disaster much bigger than it would have been.

The Corps of Engineers is partially responsible for regulation of bridges in the U.S. Yet, there have been some high profile failures of bridges, and those failures occurred AFTER warnings were issued about our infra-structure.

You can argue the real culprit is the lack of funding from Congress, but it still makes my argument that the militarization of a function is not a silver bullet.

The argument for militarization seems to be that the military is less corrupt and more disciplined than their civilian counterparts. My take is that it's true for combat units. But for the rear echelon it's less so. Much less so.

If militarization is the answer to our problems, then why don't we militarize everything? I guess the worst example of that might be Communist China during Mao's reign. It didn't turn out well.

=== Al

I tend to agree that non-combat military units are subject to the Iron Law just as any other bureaucracy, and creating new bureaucracies is not usually a good idea. The thing is, these are desperate times, and this might be a way to Get Things Done. Apollo was done the military way after NASA pretty well failed. Alas, that built a standing army that couldn't be fired.

We have to do something. The US has to import 30% of its energy and we don't have the money to keep doing that.


Computer Models

Saw this in the comments at Roger Simon's blog at Pajamas Media:

RHHardin: http://rhhardin.blogspot.com 

Computer models grow towards results that produce funding.

Charlie Martin:

I propose this should henceforth be known as Hardin’s Law.

I second the proposal. Geoff


America's Energy Deficit

You are quite right that the US imports 30% of it's energy. I will ignore the practical implications of what our policy makers want to do that will make that worse, but there is one balancing factor. The US exports a significant amount of food. That balances what we import on energy so on a macro basis, we are in balance. Being a exporting superpower in food has always been the US's ace in a hole, although we often forget about it.


Indeed. But furnishing raw materials for export is not entirely the best way for a modern industrial state to support itself.


Manned Space Travel -

Hi Jerry,

I sent you a note a couple of years ago, about doing great things. http://www.jerrypournelle.com/

I'd argue that we now have our answer, and it's no. As to why that's so sad, I agree with Dave Scott:

"As I stand out here in the wonders of the unknown at Hadley, I sort of realize there's a fundamental truth to our nature, Man must explore . . . and this is exploration at its greatest."

"For when I look at the Moon I do not see a hostile, empty world. I see the radiant body where man has taken his first steps into a frontier that will never end."




WSJ article


So, the boat has a hole in it and is sinking. Well, the way to stop it is to drill a bigger hole! And this guy is a Berkeley Cal professor. Or, perhaps that is a self defining statement?


When in a hole, stop digging?


The Obama Spell Is Broken

Unlike this president, John Kennedy was an ironist who never fell for his own mystique.


He was a blank slate, and devotees projected onto him what they wanted or wished. In the manner of political redeemers who have marked—and wrecked—the politics of the Arab world and Latin America, Mr. Obama left the crowd to its most precious and volatile asset—its imagination.

Tracy Walters, CISSP

We can hope.


Coal exports

A great deal of our low sulfur coal is being exported to the far East, at a profit. They love it, especially India. A major reason why Warren Buffet bought the railroad.

No doubt it would be foolish for me to ask why we don't just use it here.



'China's online community tends to be urban, young, and male — precisely the people who are most likely to spout jingoistic rants and to castigate any sign of weakness in the regime.'


----- Roland Dobbins

Which leads to some interesting speculations.


Navy vs Civilian reactors

The first “civilian” nuclear power plant in the US was built by Rickover at Shippingport, west of Pittsburgh, in the mid-late 50s. It was basically the same power plant that was used on the Enterprise and the Long Bridge, but fit into a civilian building and powering a turbine generator instead of a turbine-driver propeller, turbine generators, and catapaults. I was 7 when I first visited this plant - my dad worked at Bettis Lab, which did the design work.

In the late 50s, the commercial reactor business started with the construction of the Dresden I BWR, near Chicago, Indian Point 1, north of NYC, and the Yankee Atomic Power Station in far NW Massachusetts. Dresden and IP1 operated until the early 70s, when they were shut down because it was not feasible to upgrade them to meet the requirements of the new Emergency Core Cooling regulations issued by the AEC. Yankee was able to be upgraded, and it continued to operate till the early 90s, when it shutdown because of concerns over an issue called “pressurized thermal shock” related to the toughness of the reactor vessel during severe cooldown events.

Dresden 1 was a BWR, and nothing like the navy reactors. IP1 was the first B&W design, and was a PWR, but it was also different from navy designs. Yankee was the closest to a navy design, but it showed that the future did not lie in building compact plants that had to be able to withstand the shocks of weapons fire, or the motion of a ship at sea, and without the highly-enriched fuels used by naval reactors. It was built in a concrete bowl standing up in the air on stilts(!), surrounded by a steel containment sphere. You could walk under it! I think TXARNG is thinking about Connecticut Yankee, which was one of the first “turnkey” plants built in the mid-60s, and which was the first truly commercial design, although as a PWR it did have a strong resemblance to a naval reactor. CY was eventually decommissioned because the utility that ran it lost control of its design basis documentation, and it was not considered financially viable to try to reconstitute it. Interestingly, I think the recent gas explosion in Ct. occurred in a new merchant combined-cycle plant that is sited very close to the old CY site, probably to take advantage of the existing transmission lines.

Commercial plants have very different design requirements compared to naval reactors, and it is silly to say that we should build naval reactors to generate electricity in the US. Economical commercial plants are nearly an order of magnitude more powerful than the largest naval reactors, and they do not use, or want to use highly enriched fuel. It costs a LOT of money to enrich uranium, and it is easier and cheaper to use fuel management techniques that start with lower enrichments and breed plutonium from the U-238 to burn in the later part of the cycle. I have talked to industry fuel managers who would love to shift to more frequent refueling with lower enrichment, to avoid the cost of higher enrichment, but because they have to deal with the volume of waste (number of fuel bundles) at the back end, they pay more for higher enrichment. When you design a commercial plant properly, refueling can be performed relatively routinely, compared to refueling a ship, where you have to open up all sorts of structures to get to the core. This is why naval reactors use high-enriched fuel that is intended to last a long time – refueling naval vessels is not a trivial event.

Commercial plants can use concrete, which is relatively cheap compared to steel and other materials used in naval reactors, for structural and shielding purposes, and because they operate for long periods of time at steady power, the turbines can be designed to operate at the most efficient state point, compared to naval reactors that go up and down in power all the time. Because they have lots of room, commercial plants also include a LOT of other equipment related to the treatment of the water used in the plant that is not capable of being fit into a submarine. Most commercial plants in the US are PWRs, like naval reactors, but about a third are BWRs, which operate in an open cycle using steam that is generated in the core going directly to the turbine without an intermediate heat exchanger. There are advantages and disadvantages of each type, and the latest designs are quite simple in a way that could actually be called “elegant” by an engineer. The newest BWR designs are basically just a big pot that holds the core – you pull the control rods to make it go critical and it makes steam that goes directly to the turbine. The exhaust is condensed and pumped back into the pot.

The commercial nuclear business does have a lot to thank Rickover for, including the dedication to quality and training, and everyone agrees that the naval experience showed that light-water reactors could be operated safely and economically. The last core at Shippingport was an experiment to show that it is possible to use a PWR to breed fuel using thorium, and it was a success as well, but until the cost of uranium rises quite a bit, it is unlikely that anyone will start using thorium fuel.

Finally, it is ironic that everyone talks about how good the naval designs are, considering that many engineers who had never actually built a reactor used to complain to Congress that Rickover’s designs were too conservative and expensive. He used to respond that when they had actually built something and showed that it could work, they could be believed. There are a lot of proposals now for new fuel/reactor designs, from pebble-bed to homogeneous thorium breeders to modular high-temperature prismatic designs to “nuclear batteries”. The AEC built a LOT of experimental reactors like these back in the 50s and 60s, and they even convinced a few utilities to take them, for $1 each. They turned out to be the most expensive $1 sales ever made, when the utilities counted up the cost of operation and security and decommissioning and public relations nightmares.

Thanks for your web site – it is a voice of reason in the current cacophony of blather. It is good that the environmentalists are running into trouble over the AGW scam. They have been cherry-picking data, taking quotes out of context, misusing statistics and analytical methods, spinning issues, and just plain lying about nuclear issues for over 40 years, and this is just the issues that I know about personally. I hope that our society starts to take a look at other “green” issues, starting with the DDT farce, to see what else we have been sold in the name of “saving the children”.


Ralph Caruso

Were it my call I'd see how France does it. They clearly know how to do commercial nuclear. As to having Navy or Army engineers do the work, I wouldn't think that a good use of those resources, but if that would make it easier to get past the legal and economic hurdles I'd do it. I am no fan of Roosevelt's New Deal in general, but TWA did generate power and still does.

Energy plus freedom equals wealth. One reason France can continue is the reliable nuclear power plant establishment there.

We cannot pay for the 30% of our energy we have to import. We need -- quickly -- a way out of our looming energy crisis.

Thanks for the data.


Security chip that does encryption in PCs hacked

Tarnovsky figured out a way to break chips that carry a "Trusted Platform Module," or TPM, designation by essentially spying on them like a phone conversation. Such chips are billed as the industry's most secure and are estimated to be in as many as 100 million personal computers and servers, according to market research firm IDC.


Bill Shields


A few simple ideas; 

Hi Jerry,

Rather than put the federal regulation regime wholesale to the states, or invite a global trade war by instituting protective tariffs (which are prohibited by treaty anyway), how about we try a few simple things first?

We are not the only society that has barriers to effective deployment of capital--our regulations can be onerous, to be sure, but China's regulations are arbitrary. A Chinese company's profit margin is often only as good as its relationship with the government. We don't have to be perfect--when chased by a bear you don't have to outrun the bear, you just have to outrun your camping buddies.

So, why not start with the direct approach to reducing barriers to deployment of capital? Start by letting companies depreciate capital expenditures in year one, and at the same time drastically reduce corporate tax rates. Economists have shown over and over again that hiring and compensation is directly related to a company's stock of capital--so let's stop treating capital goods and profits as something to be punished!


Agreed. The devil is in the details. The principles I trust are transparency and subsidiarity. Shuffling regulations but leaving regulatory authority doesn't work very well.


SUBJ: The politics of Party before principle

Dear Jerry,

Viewing current politics, I like to consider myself principled, but tempered by realism. But lately I have trouble drawing the line between duty and perfidy.

Of late I see respected conservatives such as Newt Gingrich and Sarah Palin campaigning vigorously for sniveling RINOs who actively support leftist agendas. Yes, team loyalty is a most admirable virtue. But on the gripping hand, it is disquieting. Very disquieting.

Principle in politics is often naivety writ large. Yet if you surrender to Realpolitik, eventually some party faithful will sell you the Brooklyn Bridge.

I'd enjoy reading your blog thoughts on this. You're a wise and experienced man and your insights have unlocked several doors in my thinking over the years.

Cordially, John

I did not agree with Newt on the New York House seat election. I do tend to agree with Reagan, people who agree with you 70% of the time are generally allies, not enemies; it depends on the issue. I tend to value agreement on limiting government power and expansion over "social conservatism" that wants to use the Federal Government to enforce social issues. That is not to say that I consider social issues unimportant. I do think that the principle of subsidiarity is even more important -- that issues like abortion are not part of federal power, and ought to be left to the states. There are many such issues that ought to be left to the states.

Government can't do everything.

I had a long history in Republican politics having been a County Chairman, and campaign manager for several candidates including Barry Goldwater Jr., and I was always careful in tactics. Reagan's 11th Commandment (Never speak ill of a follow Republican) was not my favoritge principle, and I told him so; Nofziger and I were in basic agreement on this but neither of us was very public in the matter.

The Republican Party is subject to capture by Creeps just as the Democrats are always in danger of capture by Nuts. Keeping the two parties from being a rumble by the Creeps vs. the Nuts is a difficult thing, and while I believe there are some fundamental principles that ought not be compromised, I also know that zero-tolerance stances never work.

Unrestricted capitalism will always lead to the sale of human flesh in the market place. That does not mean that we reject capitalism as the primary engine of wealth creation. Political tactics take skilled pilots just as navigating river harbors do. We need to listen to local people -- that was Newt's justification for going along with the County Chairmen who chose the candidate in the New York election. As I said, I didn't agree with him: the lady was just too far toward the Nuts for me.

Note that in Massachusetts the candidate was not a "Real Republican" and differs with many of us on many issues: but as Reagan was fond of telling us, he's an ally, not an enemy, and a "real Republican" probably could not win in Massachusetts -- and almost certainly can't win in California. Reagan was not always a "Real Republican" and I certainly did not agree with him on some of his tax policies when he was governor -- I told him so often enough. He didn't think that made me an enemy, nor did it keep me from working for his Republican nomination.

Sorry to ramble. The subject needs a well thought out coherent essay, and I haven't the time today.



For a PDF copy of A Step Farther Out:



 read book now





This week:


read book now


Wednesday, February 10. 2010

'A self-reinforcing cycle kicked in: outreach attracted more workers, and workers built support for outreach.'


-- Roland Dobbins

The demand for a free good is infinite but it may take time to build. There's an Iron Law at work here, too.


Politics, Neo-cons and the 11th

Jerry, I served as a county vice-chairman, state convention officer as well as a member of the state rules committee. I was elected in a partisan election for justice of the peace ( yes JPs are still trial court judges in Texas) In 2008 I ran a spirited ( another way of saying I lost) campaign for state Republican chairman.

Reagan's 11th commandment may have served us well over a particular period of time, to the extent it was followed. However in those states where the electorate has conservative expectations I think it is very important we re-establish the Goldwater Reagan mode of conservatism. We simply must show more respect for our founding documents and the principles that underlie them. The neo-cons have through their lack of respect for those documents paved the way for the usurpation of the underlying principles of our nation by the socialists. If you confuse the voters about where you stand they will often opt for change.

Write your essay if you can find the time. The topic is timely.

Regards, Paul D. Perry

I don't disagree. And different principles apply in different places. A long time ago I was involved in Henry Salvatori's effort to recapture a safe Republican seat that was held by a very liberal Republican. And of course I was instrumental in getting young Goldwater to run. I don't disagree, but I also know it's not simple, and I'm reluctant to try to establish rules for broad areas and certainly not national.

And it is as important to rescue the Democratic Party from the Nuts as it is to get the Republicans out of the hand of the Creeps.



Dr. Pournelle,

Thought this might interest you:


I believe you have written about this.

Solar Maximum is coming and, it could wreak havoc with virtually all satellite based communications. I have yet to see any correlation data on Global Warming and solar activity but, I am sure there are some studies out there.

While I disagree with your position on AGW (I have followed a number of your links to AGW sites), I do maintain a high level of skepticism. Unfortunately, I have strong memories of the 1970’s Club of Rome predictions. I find that many of my fellow progressives/liberals have a tendency to seriously underestimate humankind’s resourcefulness and flexibility when faced with real threats. (They also have a strong tendency to underestimate the opposition.)

Richard York

The models of Doom -- huge computer models of the Club of Rome done by Donella Meadows et. al. -- of the 1970's and the Carter Era would have us all dead now. They didn't have much correspondence with reality. Solar Max and satellite communications is a significant threat, but of course it has nothing to do with Arrhenius Gobal Warming; on that the evidence is mixed. I don't recall AGW predictions of record snowfalls. If AGW can explain lack of snow and record snowfalls, whatever else it is, it is not science. Like Freudianism which explained everything but wasn't very predictive, yet consumed enormous resources and energy and was very respectable.


White Roofs

Dear Dr. Pournelle:

I note that for some time, you've been calling for roofs to be painted white as a common-sense measure to deal with rising temperatures. Well, a new study by a team from the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) slated for publication in Geophysical Research Letters shows exactly that. One of the findings was that location matters; buildings with white roofs in cold climates will be cooler in the summer but have higher heating bills in the winter (surprise!) Estimated summer cooling for a building in New York City would be nearly 1.1 degrees C.

Obviously, the warmer the climate, the larger the savings on cooling costs.


Jeff Larson Webster, Texas

Well, of course I wouldn't advocate painting roofs white everywhere; one presumes some sanity. The problem is that often there is no sanity applied, and you're right there. But certainly location matters.

There are other elementary moves we can make if we're serious, and they'd cost a lot less than cap and trade. Of course they don't empower a bueaucracy.


Corps of Engineers and Katrina

The Corps of Engineers people that I spoke with were quite bitter about the levees in New Orleans. They had submitted a proposal ten years earlier to extend and strengthen the levees, but it was held up in the courts in litigation by the Sierra Club, et al. Meanwhile, maintenance of the levees was the responsibility of the levee boards, which the City of New Orleans treated as a political plum appointment for one's relatives and friends.


Precisely. And not that the liberal view is that insisting on dismantling FEMA in favor of a return to civil defense is seen as some kind of blind anti-government blather. Sigh.


SUBJECT: Interesting map of US social regions

Hi Jerry.

Data from Facebook shows some interesting social regions in the US:



Mike Casey


Twenty Shot Revolver...

Ever seen (or heard of) these? The "wonder nines" weren't the first high capacity handguns.

Here is a link:


Charles Brumbelow


Nader's piece in the WSJ opinion section


I love this section:

Corporations know that money makes a big difference when it comes to blocking protections for workers, consumers and the environment. Wall Street, health insurance and drug companies, fossil fuel and nuclear power companies, and defense corporations have been hard at work defeating common-sense reforms that would make them more accountable.

So, tell me Mr. Nader, just how influential has the Nuclear power industry been in the last 50 years? Or, to put it more bluntly, where the Hell is my nuclear power plant?



"Need to change community norms and expectations such that it is all right to tell your neighbors what they can and cannot do in the realm of climate change‐related behavior."


- Roland Dobbins


'In general he receives about 8 percent of the retail price, or about 40 bucks for a $495 Lacoste watch.'


--- Roland Dobbins


Obama and Titles 

Hi Jerry

Just a couple of comments on recent posts:

I have always been a supporter of Obama in principle (I am a Welshman, so what do I know) and I have always taken your opinions on him with a pinch of salt. Reading your piece today which was basically a commentary on his inabilities, I turned to my, very apolitical, British, wife and asked her for a one word description of Obama - "ineffectual". I think I will use less salt in future...

On another subject (if I may) I read your comment in the column about the Lenovo representative that started by calling you Dr Pournelle and then moved immediately to "Jerry": It's an interesting situation - were I to arrive at the door of Chaos Manor, I would address you as Dr Pournelle until (if) invited otherwise. However, I assign a "Jerry" to this email with no thought at all - you have been my writing companion for 25 years - notwithstanding the fact that you've done 99.99% of the writing. I guess it's a sign of the times, otherwise, each email would start "Dear Deadbeat" or similar (See "To sail beyond the sunset").



(Mr Kevin Crisp)

Thank you for the kind words. I expect my readers to address me by my first name. I don't expect Billy in M'bai to do that. Perhaps it's my age.


Re: Is This Smart?


US to base troops in Eastern Europe.


Regards, George

The Forever War

February 8, 2010; The United States <http://www.strategypage.com/htmw/htworld/articles/20100208.aspx#>  has decided to halt the reduction of its forces in Europe <http://www.strategypage.com/htmw/htworld/articles/20100208.aspx#>  . Instead, at least four brigades and a corps headquarters will remain. Formerly, the plan was to reduce American troops strength in Europe to about 24,000. Instead, there will be closer to 40,000 troops remaining. The U.S. has had troops stationed in Europe for nearly 70 years.

I see no reason for US troops to be in Europe. The French want us to sit on Fritz. Everyone welcomes the spending. I don't see what we get from it other than a large base, and I don't see why we need that. I do not encourage entangling alliances or becoming involved in the territorial disputes of Europe or the Near East.


In re Net Neutrality


Just saw this tidbit in the Andrews Telecom Industry Litigation reporter. Considering how you have followed the "net neutrality" issue (or non-issue, as the case may be), I thought you might be interested.

Settlement: COMCAST AGREES TO PAY $16M TO SETTLE P2P 'THROTTLING' SUIT, In re Comcast Corp. Peer-to-Peer Transmission Litig., 13 No. 19 Andrews Telecomm. Indus. Litig. Rep. 11, Andrews Telecommunications Industry Litigation Reporter February 2, 2010 <http://web2.westlaw.com/find/default.
ffind%2fdefault.wl&mt=12>  Internet service provider Comcast Corp. has agreed to pay $16 million to settle a class-action lawsuit accusing it of secretly slowing down or even stopping several common online file-sharing applications. The case is one of many such lawsuits that accused the company of "throttling," or deliberately slowing, peer-to-peer applications such as BitTorrent and Kazaa.Lead plaintiff Jon Hart sought to lead a class of anyone who signed up for cable Internet service after Nov. 13, 2003, and attempted...

(I only pay for Westlaw access to the abstracts, but I am sure the full story is probably somewhere on the internet for those interested enough to search).


Chris Reichman


NY Times: Microsoft’s Creative Destruction Buffy Willow Article

You've probably received several links to this, but I thought it worth passing on.


"Microsoft's Creative Destruction"

I recall you reporting that, at one Microsoft gathering you attended, people were more interested in Apple and Google announcements that day than in what Microsoft was demonstrating there in the auditorium. Brass may have a point: "While the company has had a truly amazing past and an enviably prosperous present, unless it regains its creative spark, it’s an open question whether it has much of a future."

JA -- John Alexander

I would never count Microsoft out. Gates and Allen can still come back if they think they have to.

But I agree that some ossification is taking place.


 read book now




CURRENT VIEW    Wednesday


This week:


read book now


Thursday, February 11, 2010

Schools and Black Language Skills


"It is very likely that a person with poor language skills will suffer significant deficits in other areas of academic competence such as mathematics and the sciences. It doesn't mean that the person is unintelligent; it means that he doesn't have all the tools of intelligence. That is what's so insidious about the state of black education today; so many blacks do not have a chance to develop the tools of intelligence. Many might have high native intelligence but come off sounding like a moron."

Charles Brumbelow

I hadn't realized there was anyone who doubted it. There was the 'ebonics' movement some years ago, but I thought it had entirely died away. I think everyone understands that learning decent English is important to one's future, no matter what native language -- including ebonics -- one started with.


I Blame Global Warming...


"For Washington, the winter of 2010, which blanketed the capital with about 45 inches before Tuesday, seems likely to break the record 54.5 inches set a decade after record-keeping began in 1888. "I don't know any staff member that's been around that remembers snowfalls of this magnitude," Mr. Howland [the head of the D.C. Department of Public Works] said."

Charles Brumbelow

See today's View. And see below.




An update of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders planned for 2013 will increase the number of persons diagnosed with mental illness or risks thereof:


<snip> The most controversial change under consideration is likely to be the addition of a new "at risk" category for patients displaying early symptoms of illnesses such as dementia and psychosis. Some experts are expressing concern that it could lead to stigmatization and misdiagnosis.

"There will be adolescents who are a little odd and have funny ideas, and this will label them as pre-psychotic," Robert Spitzer, a professor of psychiatry at Columbia University, told The Washington Post <http://www.washingtonpost.com/
AR2010021000009.html>  .

Several childhood disorders could be folded into a broadly defined category, called "autism spectrum disorders," that would include Asperger's and autistic disorder. The committee has also recommended a new diagnostic category called temper dysregulation disorder with dysphoria (TDD), which would apply to children who display symptoms of bipolar disorder.

Rather than treatment with anti-psychotics, doctors would turn to behavioral therapy for TDD patients. <snip>


The DSM came after I got my PhD in psychology. I thought it poorly done when it first came out, and I'm not much impressed with it now. It serves as the bible for those who have to decide on what insurance policies will pay for, and the coverage of "mental illness" is one of the enormous factors in health care costs. If it's in the DSM -- and some pretty silly things are -- then it can be treated by some practitioner or another, and insurance will pay.

In the first DSM a lot of very typical adolescent behavior like talking back to mother and not cleaning up your room got transferred into syndromes and disorders that could te treated under insurance policies. I gather they've cleaned up some of that nonsense, but there's a lot of Freudian speculation still in the DSM. It used to be that full psychoanalysis, one of the longest term and most expensive treatment programs imaginable, could be charged to insurance policies. Perhaps it still can; as I said, I'm not familiar with the DSM. Let me hasten to add that I don't have a psychology practice nor do I maintain a license (the malpractice liability costs would be prohibitive even if I had the inclination) so there's no need for me to be familiar with the DSM. When I did briefly have a practice in a relationship with a pediatrician I confined it to bright kids not doing well academically. I didn't do much of that.

It's likely that the new DSM will raise the costs of "health care" in the US. One of the features of both 'reform' bills is that health insurance has to include mental health, which means treatment for DSM described disorders. So it goes.

I am prepared to be convinced otherwise, but my impression of the DSM is that it is an excellent example of the inevitable expansion you will get if you put the fox in charge of the hen house. The demand for a free good is infinite: and the incentive for those who are well paid for providing free goods is always to come up with more products. So it goes.


Emerging Problems with Satnav 

See <http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/8494225.stm>

-- Harry Erwin

Solar storms have wide effects. Perhaps on global warming as well.


China PLA officers urge economic punch against U.S.

Dr. Pournelle --

This from Reuters news:

China PLA officers urge economic punch against U.S. http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE6183KG20100209 

"The calls for broad retaliation over the planned U.S. weapons sales to the disputed island came from officers at China's National Defence University and Academy of Military Sciences, interviewed by Outlook Weekly, a Chinese-language magazine published by the official Xinhua news agency."

" 'Our retaliation should not be restricted to merely military matters, and we should adopt a strategic package of counter-punches covering politics, military affairs, diplomacy and economics to treat both the symptoms and root cause of this disease,' said Luo Yuan, a researcher at the Academy of Military Sciences."

" 'For example, we could sanction them using economic means, such as dumping some U.S. government bonds,' Luo said."

It could be interesting to see if Beijing agrees with its generals.

Avoid strength, attack weakness. - Sun Tzu


Why, what a surprise!


: Re: Industrial Policy

Dear Dr. Pournelle,

Subsidiarity and transparency, good. I'm with you there. But I have to differ when you argue that a protective tariff is, or could be, an alternative to getting our own house in order. Things don't work that way, for at least two reasons: first, because everyone's foreign competitor is somebody else's foreign supplier; and secondly, because trade is determined by relative, not absolute, costs of production. To illustrate the first point, Bush's steel "safeguards," recommended by Karl Rove, threw more people out of work in steel-using industries than they kept at work in steelmaking, which should have come as no surprise, and did not to those who understood economics.

It's not just industrial commodities like steel. If we raise tariffs and cut import quotas on clothing, for example, that may mean more jobs for American textile workers, but then the cost of living goes up, everyone who wants to buy clothing is a bit worse off, and has less to spend on other things after buying his clothes, meaning fewer jobs for the people who make the things he has to do without. He may even have to do without the latest book by his favorite sf author.

Then there are other problems. When union contracts require wage increases to match the Consumer Price Index, higher clothing prices will result in higher wages for workers in at least some industries, making those industries less competitive. When government pensions or public-sector wages are indexed to inflation, then taxes or borrowing have to go up, leaving less for the private sector.

Next, there's the matter of comparative advantage. Even if we are in absolute terms better at producing everything than Bangladesh is, we can gain by importing from Bangladesh those products that Bangladesh has a comparative advantage in (towels, for example, or materials salvaged from derelict ships). Even if we are worse at producing everything than Japan is, we can gain by exporting to Japan those products in which we have a comparative advantage (soybeans, wood products, oranges, etc.) Unnecessary regulations do not fundamentally change this.

If we have unnecessary regulations that raise the costs of all forms of production and economic activity equally, they will make us poorer than we need to be, but they won't have much effect on trade. If we have unnecessary regulations that burden the widget industry more than the wadget industry, they may result in us importing widgets and exporting wadgets, which may irrational if our comparative advantage would otherwise be in widgets, but this should not produce general unemployment, even if some widget makers are thrown out of work, and don't have the training or other opportunities to become wadget workers. (High general unemployment must have other causes, and does.)

In thinking that protective tariffs can help us, you're taking a view contrary to the mainstream of economic thought. That's not necessarily a condemnation; I hold some views contrary to the mainstream of economic thought. But it does raise a question: If you are convinced that you know better than the supposed experts, and seek to persuade the rest of the country that you do, isn't there a burden on you to refute the standard economic arguments, supposedly based on logic (as adumbrated above) and experience (Smoot-Hawley Tariff, etc.)?

Can you explain why you believe these standard economic arguments to be wrong? You're welcome to quote my letter and respond to it, if you wish.

Yours for liberty, transparency, subsidiarity, and sound reasoning,

Nicholas D. Rosen

A reasonable summary of Ricardo and the standard economic views on Free Trade. I have written about this for thirty years, and I suppose I ought to summarize it at some point, but it is obviously a complex subject.

Let me state a couple of assumptions. First, the US is pretty sell self-sufficient and capable of a large humming economy if the rest of the world sank beneath the sea. Second, our regulations are costly. Let's just take minimum wages: the US could raise minimum wage to $100 an hour, and we would have a sort of an economy. We wouldn't export much, and there would be an enormous black market economy, and huge official unemployment. Many of our regulations have much the same effect.

The obvious remedy is to repeal them. That we cannot do.

Another possibility, one maintained by many including my old friend Jim Baen, is subsidies: the regulations benefit all, so let all pay for their effect. That one is intriguing, but it isn't Free Trade, and many of the free trade disputes come from subsidies.

Another is to say yes free trade is best -- but we can't compete given the regulations, and thus we have no choice. We can't export all our manufacturing jobs and have a comparative advantage in financial products. Our economy in recent years has been to open containers from China while borrowing money from China to pay for importing them, and when we can buy it from China cheaper than it can be made here, we export the job to China; Walmart insist on doing it that way. They even finished off the Mexican border town economies and exported those jobs to China.

Free Trade isn't working and the giant sucking sound happened -- you just don't notice it because China sucked up what went South and now it just goes directly to China and India.

If we could have free trade without regulations AND if we could have some kind of competition on education instead of the increasingly stultified national education system controlled from DC and designed to convert ALL our school systems into what you see in DC, I'd cheer and go for free trade. Yes American can compete.

None of that will happen.

The question is how do we live with what we have? Economists don't take politics into effect. We have to. I have been arguing this all my life. Politics trumps economics every time.  I don't have all wisdom, but over my years I have become convinced that we need something like a 10% across the board tariff on everything we import. At Lincoln said, if you buy a shirt in from England you have the shirt. If you buy it from New England, the money stays in the United States and you still have the shirt.

Now suppose we have to borrow the money from England to buy the shirt from England?

More another time, but I am not unaware of Ricardo. I just don't believe he thought enough about politics. AND SEE BELOW


French reactors

There's a good overview of nuclear electricty generation in France on this page: http://www.world-nuclear.org/info/inf40.html

A few key points are missing or somwhat unclear, though:

All nuclear research in France is conducted at CEA (Center for Atomic Studies), which is roughly the equivalent of the US DoE, doing fundamental research, and military and civilian applications.

The core civilian industrial capacity is controlled by Areva, formerly Framatome, which is legally a private corporation but in which the State has a majority share.

EDF (Electricité de France) was until recently a completely state-owned entity with a monopoly on electricity distribution - not production, but in practice it owned something like 95% of the capacity.

It has been separated into two distinct entities a couple years ago, one for production and one for distribution, and its monopoly is over - but good luck to the company who wants to invest in a duplicate distribution grid!

So the whole industry from research down to your outlet is government-controlled, and the people in charge almost everywhere come from a single school with a strong esprit de corps, the ultra-elite Ecole Polytechnique.

When the decision was made in 1974 to go nuclear to the fullest extent possible, it was also decided to standardize on a single reactor design, which was licensed by Framatome from Westinghouse.

The original 900MWe design was later improved by Framatome to 1,200 and later 1,450MWe - even if the process was actually a bit more evolutionary than this.

Today, all reactors in service are from one of those three closely-related PWR designs. The two new EPR's under construction are a fourth generation of this same family.

As said in the article, a major feature of French reactors from the second generation on is their ability to function in load-following mode during the first third of their fuel cycle.

Another important feature is their use of recycled fuel made at the La Hague factory in Normandy.

Unrecyclable wastes are stored underground at two sites, one in La Hague until 1994 and another one in Eastern France in a place selected for its geological stability.

In short, the key points are:

- State/Ecole Polytechnique control of the whole chain
- Standardized reactor design
- Maximum use of recycled fuel to minimize waste production
- Ability to function in load-following mode

Best Regards,

Jean-Louis Beaufils, Paris

Interesting. Thanks!


Climate Patterns

Dr. Pournelle --

Snow is consistent with global warming, say scientists http://www.telegraph.co.uk/topics/weather/

"Britain may be in the grip of the coldest winter for 30 years and grappling with up to a foot of snow in some places but the extreme weather is entirely consistent with global warming, claim scientists."

The argument is that such cold weather events used to be more common and therefore the increased rarity of them is evidence of global warming. But when do they say they were more common?

"A study by the Met Office which went back 350 years shows that such extreme weather now only occurs every 20 years.

Back in the pre-industrial days of Charles Dickens, it was a much more regular occurrence - hitting the country on average every five years or so.

During that time global temperatures has risen by 1.7 F (0.8 C), studies have shown."

Charles Dickens (1812-1870), Industrial Revolution begins 1769 with James Watt's patent of the improvement to the Newcomen engine (although I've seen arguments for everything from the 1730s to about 1810). Not only was Dickens living in the industrial age but they are basing their arguments upon the "normal" of the Little Ice Age and just afterwards. I'm not certain about AGW: I don't see proof of its existence or nonexistence. However, sloppy work such as demonstrated by the statements attributed to the Met Office in the interview certainly don't suggest a concern for detail among some AGW supporters.

I also came across a chart of warm and cold periods over the last 4500 years:


Several possible trends seem apparent, assuming the chart is accurate.

1. The timing between consecutive warm cycles (and cold cycles) seems to be shortening.

2. The warm periods may be getting slightly less warm and may be ending more abruptly.

3. The cold periods are getting colder.

One would think that the pattern seen would cause a lot of people pause.






 read book now




CURRENT VIEW    Thursday


This week:


read book now


Friday,  February 12, 2010

More on industrial policy

Nicholas D. Rosen just emailed you about this, coming down firmly in favour of free trade, but you expressed reservations.

Even mainstream economists recognize it isn't as clear cut as Mr. Rosen made out, though they usually downplay it. Here is Paul Krugman in the Melbourne Age (it's worth reading the rest, at http://www.theage.com.au/opinion/

'...there's the claim that protectionism is always a bad thing, in any circumstances. If that's what you believe, however, you learnt economics 101 from the wrong people - because when unemployment is high and the government can't restore full employment, the usual rules don't apply. Let me quote from a classic paper by the late Paul Samuelson, who more or less created modern economics: "With employment less than full . . . all the debunked mercantilistic arguments" - that is, claims that nations that subsidise their exports effectively steal jobs from other countries - "turn out to be valid".' (Samuelson's paper is available at http://burbuja.udesa.edu.ar/
materias/kawa/ecintmon/Samuelson_REcStat64.pdf. )

In my book, that doesn't make mercantilistic arguments "debunked", it means they apply to a special cases, one of which is going on right now. Also, I've been doing some of my own research. Among many other things, it turns out there is an interaction with the corporate tax system: whenever firms go offshore, they shift the tax base correspondingly, and that is equivalent to a wealth transfer of that proportion of their assets from one government to another. There is a give away with nothing in return, and the burden on everybody else in the first government's tax base goes up to match.

Yours sincerely,


That's close to my argument. Laissez faire capitalism and free trade are effective at creating goods, more so than anything else, but unrestricted capitalism leads to organlegging and the sale of human flesh in the market place. Command economies don't work. Free trade is usually a good way to limit the power of the central command economy.

Those are general principles, but when you add central regulations that burden domestic industry, then add free trade, you may be entering a death spiral of exporting jobs. We have managed that. We need to do something.

Mining and agriculture are primary occupations, and help balance the trade budget, but they won't provide employment for all the citizens. Without manufacturing, without wealth creation, the only employment is 'service' which at the extreme leads to creating wealth by taking in each other's washing. There has to be a source of that wealth. An economy in which the manufacturing job is exported to create a new job as a sales associate in the Wal-Mart can't lead to full employment or anything like it.




Clearly the snow storm that hit the east coast was significantly more than routine for the area. I'm stuck in DC waiting for the airlines to catch up. We came for a meeting Tuesday night (peak of the storm) which went on without a hitch. Hotels and restaurants in downtown Washington are coping. The DC government just went and died.

We've seen Eleanor Holmes Norton, the District's non-voting delegate to the Congress all over the news, demanding that the Congress immediately fork over more millions and declare a National Emergency because the District can't figure out how to clear snow. Didn't see any sign of plows in this part of town (11th and F) till today. The strategy seems to be mostly to push the snow onto the sidewalks to make them impassible; apparently no plan for snow removal.

Sidewalks in front of government buildings are still snow covered...not the case in front of private buildings; the public museums are still shut, the private museums within walking distance have been open throughout the week. Limited bus and metrorail service started this afternoon; private cabs have been available throughout. Seems to be a pattern here!

Clearly unless we want to revert to third world status we need to keep the government from getting their hands on any more of the basic services that we depend on.

Bill From the California mountains, where we may be broke, but can move snow.

It's all global warming.


Republicans and vectors

Hi Dr. Pournelle,

I am a long-time fan of your books, column, and daybook, and an early subscriber (although I must confess it has been much too long since I renewed...)

I seldom write, but I was quite distressed by something you said in today's View:

"the Republican vector is toward less government."

What on Earth could possibly make you say such a thing? The last Republican president we had presided over the largest increase in federal spending and bureaucracy since Lyndon Johnson. And lest someone believe that he was forced into it, he governed for six of his eight years with a Republican majority in both houses!

I'm not arguing that Democrats have been magically transformed into small-l libertarians. Clearly they have not. But the idea that the Republican Party can somehow save us from the growth of big government is simply ludicrous. It may represent words that Republicans speak, but it IN NO WAY represents actions that any recent Republicans have taken.

Your positions are typically well thought-out, even if I don't always agree with them. And you usually seem to believe, as do I, that actions speak louder than words. Do you actually believe that "the Republican vector is toward less government"? I certainly do not.

The evidence is with me on this one.


I certainly wasn't as clear on this as I should have been.

First, the statement ought to be "The Republican vector should be toward less government." That has been the traditional Republican orientation for many years. It was se even when I was growing up: the Democrats wanted to intervene in the economy, the Republicans did not -- except, as we were taught in middle school, the Democrats were for "tariff for revenue only" while the Republicans favored protective tariff to protect industry. It was one of the causes of the War Between the States: much of the revenue of the United States came from tariff and of that more was collected in the South but spent in the North. But that goes back farther than we need to.

Reagan's statement that government wasn't the solution, government was the problem, was both true and politically effective. Bush I began abandoning it, with Americans with Disabilities Act and abandoning any attempt to abolish the Department of Education. Under Clinton, and especially under the Clinton-Gingrich collaboration, the whole government growth abated a bit, welfare was reformed, and so forth, and Bush II didn't openly abandon the "less government" vector until he was elected. But Bush II wasn't able to stand up to the ravening wolves who took over after Newt Gingrich left the Speaker's Chair, and "Big Government Conservatism," a mindless contradiction, took over. I warned them about that. That sounds pretentious. I tried to warn them, and a few listened is closer to the truth. But the growth of government continued.

Then came Obama, and it continues even more. I suppose it's a more true statement to say "The Republican vector is toward less government than the Democrats want". I do hope, though, that the tea party movement is educating the country club Republicans to resight that vector.

Thanks for calling this to my attention.

Once again I say the obvious: eternal vigilance is the price of liberty. The Iron Law applies to political parties. Without oversight parties will become bureaucracies complete with Iron Law. Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.


Global warming


As I have said elsewhere, a theory derives a great deal of its power not from what it can explain, but from what it can rule out. Newton's laws explain a great deal of the behavior of our solar system, but they gain their power and acceptance from things they ruled out, and which we didn't see.

Right now, I'm seeing Global Warming as the theory that explains everything we see, and rules out nothing. As near as I can tell, the only thing ruled out is climate stasis over the long term, which I don't believe anyone else is predicting.

..........Karl Lembke

Like Freud, it explains all but it also predicts all. A false premise implies the universe class...


'Woolcock still said it was a good idea and she plans to get those disabled students iPods next year.'


-- Roland Dobbins


Everything old is new again.


--- Roland Dobbins


 read book now





This week:


read book now


Saturday, February 13, 2010

Warm globe 


In another blow to comparing empirical experience to climate, http://www.drroyspencer.com/  reports that Jan 2010 is the third warmest January in the 32-year satellite temperature record, with the record cold and snow across CONUS offset by record heat across most of eastern Canada and Greenland.

That said, Dr. Spencer is NOT a friend of anthropomorphic global warming and compares the current temperature profile to the 1998 El Nino which (rather than global warming) made it the warmest year in the satellite record.


And it is very warm in South America, or so I am told. I still want to see the continuity of data, and ClimateGate doesn't make me feel better about its accuracy. I would particularly like to compare trends in place where there are accurate data vs. those where the data for years past is estimated or approximated.

I'm prepared to believe the Earth is warming at about a degree F per century with a cyclical pattern overlaid on that. I'm nowhere near convinced that man-made global warming adds much to that. I'd be a bit more prepared to accept AGW if its adherents were not so hysterical about it and so committed to any 'remedy' they can think of that they demand we adopt it without analysis. We can't afford all those remedies.



 read book now




CURRENT VIEW     Saturday

This week:


read book now


Sunday,  February 14, 2010     

Subject: Ireland in a death spiral.


It is ironic that you would mention Ireland, and it's possible death spiral, in an essay on the perils of socialism. Just a couple of years ago, Ireland was being touted by conservatives as a prime example of how to properly manage economic policy. Here are a couple of examples:


> How did Ireland go from being among the poorest places in Western Europe to one of the richest? How did it attract the headquarters of 1,000 international companies? How did it come to rank, by some measures, among the EU’s top 15 original members? With per capita GDP estimated at $37,800 (U.S.), Ireland is now tops in Western Europe.

> The Irish deserve applause for initiating drastic fiscal and regulatory changes that have gone against the trends set by the EU’s more sclerotic members. But it would be misleading to infer that any society can now emulate these policies and expect similar success. There’s more to the Irish lesson.

> But the true miracle came when, due to these policy changes, Ireland attracted capital and pools of ambitious young people from around the globe. By now, Ireland has one of the youngest populations in the Western world.


> The top individual income tax rate was cut from 65 percent in 1985 to 42 percent today. The capital-gains tax rate was cut from 40 to 20 percent in 1999. > > However, the key to Ireland’s success has been its excellent tax climate for business. In 1980, Ireland established a corporate tax rate for manufacturing of just ten percent. That low rate was subsequently extended to high-technology, financial services, and other industries. More recently, Ireland established a flat 12.5 percent tax rate on all corporations — one of the lowest rates in the world, and just one-third of the U.S. rate. > > Low business tax rates have helped Ireland attract huge inflows of foreign investment. Given the country’s modest size, it boosts a high-tech industry second to none. Intel, Dell, and Microsoft are among the island’s biggest exporters. Ireland also hosts booming insurance, banking, money management, and pharmaceutical industries.

So they did a lot of things right, and still their economy fell off a cliff.

CP, Connecticut

Economics is not a science, and politics trumps economics. Having said all that, I am certainly no expert on the Irish economy; last I paid attention they were in an unprecedented boom. I suspect their collapse is due to over exuberance in the boom: it's very easy to build bubbles; but I'll leave this to readers who know more. I am sure we will have more explanations.

I can say that doing everything right isn't a guarantee of success, but spending more than you have and more than you can pay back is a pretty good guarantee of problems. You can borrow to invest in the future, but borrowing to pay routine expenses is not, and an economy built on opening containers from China and paying for them with money borrowed from China is not sustainable.


Subject: RE: Jobs 

I have read in a few places over the years that many of the industrial jobs that are gone could have been saved but the unions would not reduce benefits. Some of the auto plants, steel plants, tire factories, and other industries that saw their factories close down when, instead of eliminating outdated work rules (Toyota has one job classification-worker, the UAW has 15, with the same wages for janitors as the most skilled assembly worker) and reducing factory wages and benefits to the national average instead of highest in the nation, the unions would rather have the factories close than accept average wages and benefits. The GM union contract did not even allow them to fire workers when the company was going bankrupt, excess workers had to go into the jobs bank with 95% of their pay indefinitely. GM could have stayed out of bankruptcy if they were allowed to layoff workers and close factories until they reduced their overhead to match their sales, even when they were on the verge of bankruptcy GM was still the second biggest auto company in sales.

It seems likely that workers that lost the jobs forever would have accepted national average factory wages and benefits, and revised work rules if it meant keeping the factories open, and not losing jobs forever. Perhaps as you suggested, a good technical school, vocational and trade school system, like the one in Germany, will successfully provide working class jobs, and turn out craft, technical and industrial workers who can earn middleclass wages. I actually know of many plumbers, carpenters, autobody painters, and electricians who make more money than the bottom ½ of lawyers in my town.

Darryl Miyahira

Honolulu, Hawaii.


Apres moi le deluge


There was a time not so long ago when I thought that the coming economic collapse would be after I had left this mortal coil. With the current shenanigans in DC I am not so certain.

Perhaps the Tea Party Movement will force a change in the beverages of Choice in DC and the drunken binge will come quickly to an end while there is still some hope of saving the dollar and the US Economy.

Bob Holmes

We can hope. Have a glass tea...


Why do you hate the ADA so much?

Dr. Pournelle, I am puzzled by your apparent loathing of the Americans With Disabilities Act. You frequently use it as your primary example of bad legislation and government overreach without stating your reasons. Do you hate certain provisions, the act in its entirety, or the basic fact that Congress found it necessary? Speaking as a paraplegic since 1985, it would not be possible for me to be a productive and employed member of society without the physical access provisions. Indeed, without accessible bathrooms it wouldn't be possible for me to leave the house for more than a few hours at a time. And please don't try to tell me accessible buildings were common before ADA, I was there, and they weren't. Isn't part of the government's job making it easier for citizens to get around? That's why we build sidewalks, roads and public transit. I must admit that I am not thrilled with all of the ADA results over the years myself. I have no desire to have an unfireable chronic drunk as a co-worker or an epileptic airline pilot (But he's taking his medication!). Could you please explain why you hate the ADA so much?

Ron Elkin

First, there is a difference between accessibility and hiring. Wealthy cities bashed down the curbs and put in ramps a long time ago; they could afford it and it was thought the right thing to do. Many places could not afford it: why is this a Federal matter? There is not one word in the Constitution that implies that the Federal Government has to power to force the States to adopt accessibility laws, no matter how desirable such laws might be.

But: whatever the Constitutional power on access to public buildings, there's even less for requiring private firms to put in ramps and and such, and the placement of mirrors in restrooms -- there is a well known predator in California who goes into every restaurant and bar with his tape measure and sues if the mirror isn't low enough to allow him to preen himself, and I am not making that up.

Second, while all these laws might be desirable for States to enact, or even as compacts among the states, we can't afford them. In particular we can't afford the hiring laws. When alcoholism is a 'disability', and ADHD is a 'disability', and -- really, I don't want be mean spirited, but telling companies that they have to handicap themselves by hiring less productive workers is probably not the formula for economic success in a free trade era. Now true: there are ways around some of these laws. They require procedures and legal officers all of which are easier for large companies to absorb than startups and small businesses. One startup found itself requred to hire a signer familiar with computer projects to serve as interpreter for a deaf programmer who could not understand what was being said in meetings. I don't know what finally happened in that case, but I do know that the company found itself involved in lawsuits over this. I suspect the company has long since vanished. It's likely that only a very large company could absorb that kind of handicap. Incidentally, I also know of a deaf programmer at Apple who was considered valuable enough that the company hired him assistants; but there were no lawsuits in that case. It was a management decision.

It is unfortunately that we are not born equal, and it seems unfair that handicaps, whether from birth or due to disease or accident, make one less competitive. Whether that unfairness should be shifted to employers is a different discussion. Naturally anyone who holds against the ADA is considered mean spirited, and few want to be called that. The fact remains that the ADA is a blow to American competitiveness in this Free Trade era, and if we impose it on employers, there needs to be some way to equalize the costs of the regulation. Tariffs and subsidies are the usual mechanisms.

The ADA was a primary hamper to free trade when we were wealthy and the economy was booming. It is worse now.

As to why I use it as an example, it should be obvious. There are other regulations whose purpose is more constitutional, and the debate is over the means and effectiveness of the regulation. We don't really want poison in the baby food, but the means for making sure of that can be debated.


Increasing Small Arms Lethality in Afghanistan-Taking Back the Infantry Half-Kilometer

A Monograph


Major Thomas P. Ehrhart

United States Army



Those long delayed radio echoes:

LDE & 1991 VG.

It would be an interesting exercise to take the published reports of LDE and correlate their occurrences with what we know of 1991 VG's orbit in relation to the orbit of the Earth and the relative position of the sending/receiving sites at the time. One could then extrapolate backwards in time in order to determine whether or not there were any points of correspondence between the relative positions of sending/receiving sites on Earth and the estimated position of 1991 VG during the events in question.



-- Roland Dobbins


'Harmon said the plane probably would not be delivered until next year, and payments would be spread out over 10 years.'


California lawmakers admonish department managers over vehicle, other expenses

Members of an Assembly panel challenge more than $75 million spent on new vehicles, furniture and hotel meeting rooms last year despite the budget crisis.

-- Roland Dobbins


“Silicon Valley is both a barometer of the rest of the country and a spark for the rest of the country, and if we don’t protect that innovation culture here, it’s going to be hard to sustain an innovation culture in the country.”


-- Roland Dobbins


Tunguska 1000 miles north=Ice age?

Dr J-

You might know this. Surely someone here does.

1) If Tunguska had hit in the Arctic, would we have an Ice Age?

2) Are fragile (ice) rocks more likely to make it through at the poles?

Thanks for a lot of good books.


My guess is that the Tunguska event wouldn't have been enough, but that's well outside my expertise.


Subject: A very obvious comment

I can summarize my knowledge and beliefs about CO2 in one equation (view with Courier or another monospaced font):

6 CO2 + 6 H2O + sunlight --------------> C6H12O6 + 6 O2 chlorophyll

(For the chemistry-impaired, which should not include anyone here: carbon dioxide plus water plus sunlight, in the presence of chlorophyll, makes sugar and oxygen.)

This is known as the miracle of photosynthesis, and it used to be widely taught in elementary school, middle school, *AND* high school science classes. It immediately explains why CO2 sequestration is idiocy. Given a chance, Mother Nature will RECYCLE that CO2 into FOOD.

I am personally of the opinion that the above is part of a complex feedback control system. More CO2 feeds plant growth which pulls the CO2 level back down. It would make perfect sense for CO2 to be tied into warming, since warming is ALSO good for plant growth, and that would ALSO drive that feedback loop.


As you say, obvious; although in the current school system, perhaps not. I would think that measures to protect the rain forests -- buy the land, hire the inhabitants to protect it, or at least cost that out -- would cost less and possible have a better effect. There are things we can be doing to help nature recycle the CO2. Having said that, I know it's more complex than it looks, and carbon cycles have been studied in detail and are complex.


An Interesting Literary Event

Dear Jerry,

I wonder if any of your works will be featured at this event...

"You could be hearing Isaac Asimov and Douglas Adams in a whole new way, if you happen to be in New York on March 5. The Pinchbottom Burlesque is organizing "Naked Girls Reading Science Fiction." (NSFW pic below the fold.)..."


Isn't Freedom grand?


Rod Schaffter

-- "The purpose of political correction is to delegitimate opposition; to make the most basic facts of life undiscussable, and thereby eliminate debate. It is a device for seizing power." --David Warren

This is the first I have heard of this so I do not know if any of my works will be read.  Ah well.



 read book now





The current page will always have the name currentmail.html and may be bookmarked. For previous weeks, go to the MAIL HOME PAGE.


If you are not paying for this place, click here...

IF YOU SEND MAIL it may be published; if you want it private SAY SO AT THE TOP of the mail. I try to respect confidences, but there is only me, and this is Chaos Manor. If you want a mail address other than the one from which you sent the mail to appear, PUT THAT AT THE END OF THE LETTER as a signature. In general, put the name you want at the end of the letter: if you put no address there none will be posted, but I do want some kind of name, or explicitly to say (name withheld).

Note that if you don't put a name in the bottom of the letter I have to get one from the header. This takes time I don't have, and may end up with a name and address you didn't want on the letter. Do us both a favor: sign your letters to me with the name and address (or no address) as you want them posted. Also, repeat the subject as the first line of the mail. That also saves me time.

I try to answer mail, but mostly I can't get to all of it. I read it all, although not always the instant it comes in. I do have books to write too...  I am reminded of H. P. Lovecraft who slowly starved to death while answering fan mail. 

Monday -- Tuesday -- Wednesday -- Thursday -- Friday -- Saturday -- Sunday

 Search engine:


or the freefind search

   Search this site or the web        powered by FreeFind
  Site search Web search

Boiler Plate:

If you want to PAY FOR THIS PLACE I keep the latest information HERE.  MY THANKS to all of you who sent money.  Some of you went to a lot of trouble to send money from overseas. Thank you! There are also some new payment methods. I am preparing a special (electronic) mailing to all those who paid: there will be a couple of these. I have thought about a subscriber section of the page. LET ME KNOW your thoughts.

If you subscribed:

atom.gif (1053 bytes) CLICK HERE for a Special Request.

If you didn't and haven't, why not?

If this seems a lot about paying think of it as the Subscription Drive Nag. You'll see more.

Patron Subscription:

Search: type in string and press return.


For platinum subscription:

For a PDF copy of A Step Farther Out:

= = = = = = = = = =

For a Regular Subscription click here:

= = = = = = = =

Strategy of Technology in pdf format:

To order the nose pump I recommend, click on the banner below:

Entire Site Copyright, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008 by Jerry E. Pournelle. All rights reserved.

birdline.gif (1428 bytes)