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Mail 639 September 6 - 12, 2010







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Monday  September 6, 2010

Family is here for the holidays. I took the day off.





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Tuesday,  September 7, 2010

I am way behind so some of this will be short shrift. We have much interesting mail, and I'll comment on some.


Dr. Pournelle --

There has been much talk of "conservatives" taking control of the House and Senate with the November elections. I'm not as confident as some seem to be. Too much talk of a sure thing can easily hurt turnout. Furthermore, The "Tea Party" movement is still new. I don't know how many have truly adopted the tenets of small government and less spending, especially when they realize that it's not just the other person who will have to do with less. Then, too, the candidates supported by the Tea Party are sometimes new and novel. Independents have recently been burned by the new and novel and they may be "twice shy" when they get to the voting booth.

I'm not confident that conservatives taking the House and Senate in November would necessarily be a good thing. Even with conservatives in control I doubt that the administration would shift to the center and allow anything to be done. In addition, so much of what has been done in the past eighteen months has its costs and impacts back loaded that it may well be that things will get worse in the run-up to the 2012 elections. This would give the administration and the liberals a clear opening to argue that things had been getting better before the conservatives took Congress. We could then be back where we are now, only worse. However, there is always the question of whether we can survive the next two years with things similar to as they are.

It took a long time for things to get as they are and it will take time to get out of this fix. Does the electorate have the patience and courage for the journey?


The best thing that can happen in November is a return to sanity in Congress, so that we stop the bleeding and the frantic efforts to "Do Something" about the economy. There is an eerie resemblance to the lurching about of the New Deal as the Great Depression continued without much regard to what the very well intentioned Roosevelt did. As I have said many times, the story is well told by Amity Schlaes The Forgotten Man, a really well done history of the New Deal and the Great Depression. (book) (kindle). As to the Tea Party movement it is important to provide the proper vectors to any attempt to take back our government. The United States is very much in trouble; there is a way back, but it requires us to know that we have gone down the wrong path and need to return to the principles of The Republic. That is not a party: I mean Republic as opposed to a national plebiscitary democracy. Republics are limited governments, and the most important issues are usually left to lower levels. Transparency and subsidiarity. Fractioning of power. Power cannot be destroyed; it must be partitioned and set in opposition to itself. We used to call that "checks and balances", a phrase that seems to have been lost in our high school civics books.

The real enemy is the notion that a centralized government can solve all problems. The delusion of the "Big Government Conservatives" was the same delusion as the Socialist Delusion: that there are "social problems" and a big and powerful government can "do something" about them. This was Bismark's principle -- but note that he was, and was openly  and enthusiastically, in the service of an Imperial bureaucracy, and his goal was to convert the Prussian monarchy into the Second Reich, a German Empire successor to the Holy Roman Empire. To this end he introduced a number of national welfare programs. This was Big Government Conservatism. I doubt that those among the post-Gingrich Republicans who coined this phrase understood where the notion came from.

Two years of amicable chaos with a Republican Congress and a Democratic White House will do no grat harm unless the Republicans fall into the hands of the Creeps again. It is that end that the Tea Parties must avoid, while those dedicated to transparencies and subsidiarity organize and develop practical programs.

The real disaster would be a Republican Congress that becomes tax collectors for Democratic programs. That would not quite be as great a disaster as we are experiencing at present.

We got rid of the Creeps. We need to get rid of the Nuts, and return to the notion of a Republic that provides rules and order and does not attempt to "solve all problems."

God is not willing to do everything, and thus take away our free will and that share of glory which belongs to us.
Niccolo Machiavelli

We need a Federal Government which understands that applies to them, too. It isn't God.


Letter from England

And a happy Labor Day to everyone. Diane and I celebrated our 40th wedding anniversary by taking a 60-mile bike trip. <http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=262361&id=672530873&ref=mf>

 Let there be light entertainment <http://tinyurl.com/39ogkex>

 Double-dip recession? <http://tinyurl.com/3accvf3>

 UK ambivalent attitude towards disability <http://tinyurl.com/2vl2u7p>.

 Army chief: Labour betrayed UK troops <http://tinyurl.com/2vmyu6q>

 Diane and I have been enjoying "Yes, Minister" <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yes_Minister>. Things haven't changed in 30 years <http://tinyurl.com/337jgfn>


Harry Erwin, PhD

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


USAID to Foreign Countries

This is an interesting Foreign Aid Summary from the USAID Site as of 2009. I'm certainly not sure it's everything the USA spends on "aid" but $52 Billion in 2009 seems like a fair amount of tax dollars at work.


The summary lists "Foreign Assistance" by program and country. I guess I knew this in the back of my head somewhere, but it would appear the single largest line item in the budget (by country) is "FMF" (Foreign Military Financing) for Israel at around $2.4 Billion (with a "B"). Not far behind is FMF for Egypt at $1.3 Billion. Together, these 2 line items are 7% and 4% of the total Foreign Operation Budget, respectively. I've always thought Israel was a testing ground for US military weaponry. I suppose giving Egypt a good amount of money somehow "stabilizes" the balance of power in the region?

Interestingly, Aid for Iraq is a paltry $20 Million, but I'm guessing there have been several billions that have been spent in other government programs in Iraq (in support of Our Legions, of course.)

One rather heartening amount is about $1.4 Billion for Global AIDS funding. If someone asks me if we are doing enough to combat global epidemics, including AIDS, I think I can safely say the United States is doing it's part.

Take care, Joe Conyers

I would think it time and past time to have a national debate on Foreign Aid: what it's for and what it accomplishes, and what we can afford; and why.


Microsoft Knows Your Dirty Secrets, 


Microsoft dumped upon again, and it appears that this dump contains much fertilizer:


"Now that most hackers have figured out what was happening, Microsoft revealed that, for years many hackers have unthinkingly allowed their Windows operating system to send information back to Microsoft. This came in the form of data files on failed attempts to build new hacker code." <snip>

"These hacker files were so numerous that they provided a reliable picture of what software the criminal programmers were creating, and was a big help in making computer security software more effective." <snip>


I continue to send in the reports; I really don't mind and I know for a fact (we had sessions on this at WinHEC) that Microsoft has used the information to my advantage in fixing bugs.


Balkans: How Kosovo Is Ripping Europe Apart,


In the "Sow the wind . . . " department we have this - "How Kosovo Is Ripping Europe Apart:"


" . . . One Bosnian Serb official made the interesting argument that the ICJ's ruling supersedes the Dayton Accords which ended the Bosnian War and established Bosnia's current government. In August several other Balkan countries also indicated they are very interested in the ICJ's July 22 decision. The court declared that it was ruling on Serbia's petition about Kosovo - implying it was a unique case. Other nations aren't sure. There are many observers who regard it as an indication that the time is approaching when European borders will be allowed to shift." <snip> Georgia, Moldova, Bosnia, etc.



Ancient Nubians Made Antibiotic Beer:

Howdy, Jerry -

As the article points out, this was first noticed in 1981.

As I recall, Von Danikan (remember him? Chariots of the Gods?) jumped on this as evidence of high technology in ancient times. Who knew the ancients were using antibiotics? It must have been aliens.

As Ed says, you or I can't make this stuff up. There are, however, those who can.


Jim Martin

You can call it penicillin but it's blue bread mold...


Bookstore as coffee shop

There's some evidence that coffee shops are realizing that they don't actually want "regulars" who order one $5 coffee and spend ten hours blogging.




Land of the free, home of the brave

Hello Jerry,

Reading Gary Pavek's letter on the latest financial reporting requirements led me to remember a few surprises that I have encountered as our society 'advanced'. Or should I say 'progressed'?

When I was in the Navy and not too long after Kennedy was shot, I came home to WV on leave and went to Cumberland, MD with my uncle. Of course, we went to a sporting goods store, which just happened to have a S&W Model 41 target .22 that I thought would be just spiffy to take back to RI and shoot in our pistol league. Not so fast, I was told. It was now illegal for me, stationed in RI and with a permanent address in WV to buy a pistol in MD. Guess that will teach all those wannabe Lee Harvey Oswald's not to mess with Uncle Sam.

A bit later (1992), I was now a civilian returning home from a government job in Germany. Having saved my pennies while in Germany I thought it would be amusing to buy my new car with cash, so I went to my credit union, got a briefcase full of $100 bills, and bought the car. And was satisfactorily amused by the dealer's reaction. A couple of days later I got a frantic call from the dealer begging me to come in and fill out a bunch of paperwork for the government stating exactly why I showed up at the dealer with more than $10k in cash. Again, I had never heard of such a thing, but having it explained as necessary to avoid a jail term, I filled out the papers. Whoda thunk it?

New job; SSN required. New bank account; SSN required. New physician; SSN required. New credit card; SSN required. Ride an airplane; TWO forms of ID (at least) required. Visit a government building; submit to being searched. I now learn that because the government is so concerned about my privacy, I must give them carte blanche access to my banking and medical records, and sign a paper thanking them (apparently) every time I visit a physician, to ensure that they are properly protected. From everyone except a government employee with a self-identified need-to-know. Or morbid curiosity.

Want to buy a gun. OK as long as you get permission from the government first.

Want to use drugs (I don't.)? The government is so concerned with their ill effects on your health that it is willing to shoot you, for your own good of course, if you persist in using them.

Last month I bought a car. I was doing fine with the paperwork until I was told that I had to give the dealership my SSN. I asked why, as it was going to be a simple transaction. I give them my old car and a check; they give me the new car. Au contraire. I was told that they would not be allowed to sell me the car until they submitted my SSN to the government and received permission to proceed. Another new experience in freedom. Of course I did have the freedom, unlike the upcoming brave new world of medical insurance, to forgo the purchase.

Oh well. At least I am now safe, finally. Unless I visit southwestern AZ or the 'wrong' section of any major city after dark, identify myself as a conservative and attempt to give a speech on a college campus, or tick off the government.

Maybe we're still brave.

Bob Ludwick


Asking About Gold 


Your correspondent Paul writes:

<quote> Thinking ('way behind the curve, I admit) it might be worthwhile to invest gold coins in the event civil order broke down I searched online for a local coin shop website and asked the following question: "Given a desire for privacy, what is the threshold on purchases not requiring reporting to the federal government?"

The answer came back:

"I can't help you structure your purchases to avoid government reporting. That is a federal offense. Also I have your name. So now that I know your intentions I am not able to sell you anything."

<end quote>

Sounds like it's time for a whole bunch of people to send that question to every coin shop they can find.


O subtle one, O serpent...


The "Global Warming Thing" and NASA

Politics, Greenies, Global Warming and NASA

Seems to me that we are missing an opportunity here. We seem to be getting lost amongst the trees, trying to measure a forest (temperature of the earth). What we need to do is to build a large infrared laser thermometer on the surface of the moon so that it will measure the entire exposed face of Terra at one time - thereby smoothing the different temperatures into one automatically. Do this for one entire orbit of the moon around Terra and get an average. When the laser is built, make sure it is on a articulated mount, so that we can use it on light sails, as a secondary purpose. The laser would have to have a support colony, of course, to try out several other methodologies. For example, to focus the multiple terra-watt laser onto wherever that annoying Green Peace ship happens to be. But wait! We would need another laser to confirm the first lasers findings. So, using the first laser to boost the spacecraft, we should send another colony to Mars (take me! take me!) to set up another articulated infrared laser to confirm the moon unit (not the Frank Zappa one, the other one). But what if there is a disagreement in readings? Well, we would have to send out another colony to the asteroid belt to build a third laser. With all three lasers giving us measurements, we would finally have the definitive temperature, as long as any two agree. What if one of them goes down? I guess we should send another colony to, um, Alpha Centauri. Everybody wins! The Greens get rid of a bunch of "icky" people who use numbers a lot, NASA has a sustainable political mission, and I get to go because I thought of it.


Blanchard, Idaho (Daddy, are we far enough away yet?. . . .)


Saudi Arabia builds World's Biggest Clock, Hopes to replace GMT with "Mecca Time"


It would be funny if they weren't serious.



the continuing discussion about 18 USC 1001 (aka: The Martha Stewart crime)

Dear Dr. Pournelle:

On several occasions in your excellent webpage, you have remarked upon the Martha Stewart crime (i.e., 18 USC 1001). For those who have not read those comments, or who have been unacquainted with modern events, I will offer a brief reminder: It is a crime to lie to a federal officer. It does not matter if what you lie about is of no account. It does not matter if you were not under oath when you made the 'little white lie'. If you say some thing that is not true to a U.S. agent, no matter how small, it is a federal crime, and a felony. It has a five year prison term, unless you've done something particularly nasty. Then it is eight years in Club Fed. End of story.

You have recommended that anyone who has to speak with a federal agent simply not talk with that agent. I write because this may not be the wisest of alternatives. It seems that 18 USC 1001 (a)(1) also makes it a crime if one "falsifies, conceals, or covers up by any trick, scheme, or device a material fact". I invite the reader to check out the Cornell School of Law website, which provides a copy of 18 USC 1001, here:


In short, it is also a crime to refuse to speak with a federal officer.

As I find neither alternative to be acceptable, I've taken the time to look for, and (I think) to find, a means of escaping the horns of this dilemma. Cutting to the chase, I suggest that one first read this article:


One might also consider taking the advice given in the above article:

"Is there an intelligent alternative to lying or telling the truth that we have not yet examined? Yes. In our hypothetical interview, you can politely decline to be interviewed by the FBI agent. Tell the agent that you have an attorney and that "my attorney will be in contact with you." If the agent persists, say that you will not discuss anything without first consulting counsel. Ask for the agent's card, to give to your attorney. If you have not yet hired a lawyer, tell the agent that "I want to consult a lawyer first" or that "an attorney will be in touch with you." The absolutely essential thing to keep in mind is to say nothing of substance about the matter under investigation. It is preferable to do this by politely declining to be interviewed in the absence of counsel. If the agent asks "why do you need an attorney?" or "what do you have to hide?" do not take his bait and directly respond to such questions. (Do not even say that you have nothing to hide.) Simply state that you will not discuss the matter at all without first consulting counsel and that counsel will be in touch with him. If the agent asks for a commitment from you to speak with him after you have consulted or retained counsel, do not oblige him. Just respond that you will consult with your attorney (or "an" attorney) and that the attorney will be in touch. And by all means do not get bullied or panicked into making up a phony reason for refusing to talk. You are not obliged to explain your decision to anyone."

In short, tell the federal agent that you will not speak with him without the presence of counsel. Repeat as needed.

The money quote (sorry for the porn reference) is even more interesting:

"Your invocation of counsel, however, cannot be used against you at trial. United States v. McDonald , 620 F.2d 559, 561-64 (5th Cir. 1980). Your refusal to talk substance in the absence of counsel will force the prosecutor to decide whether your information is important enough to justify a grand jury subpoena for your testimony. "

I find it interesting to note that the author of this article does NOT suggest that one have counsel present when one speaks to the agent. Apparently, Martha had counsel present when she had her 'oopsy' moment. The author recommends NEVER speaking with a federal agent if one can help it. So ultimately, your advice is sound. As is usual with the law, though, it is important just HOW one tells the agent to go to Hell. I would suggest both politeness and a knowledge of the law. I have found that combination to have satisfactory results.

Hoping that this might be of some help, I am

Very truly yours,

Bernard Brandt

P.S., you have my permission to post this missive.

P.P.S. Thank you again for your website. I must say that while I watch Fox Network when I want to [annoy] my left-wing brother, I read your weblog to get a better grasp of the news than I am able to obtain from CNN, Fox, or MSNBC. You have an intelligent and informed readership who are willing to share their knowledge and experience. You yourself also appear to be 'smarter than the average bear'.

Thank you for the advice and for the kind words.

The law cannot require me to have an accurate memory; and since I no longer do, it would seem to me simple prudence to say that I am not sure of my recollection and therefore I don't think I should say anything.

The obvious remedy to this nonsense is to bring back the practice that was standard for most of my life: that which you state under penalty of perjury is in fact accurate under penalty of perjury. That which is simply said to investigators, agents, hirelings and bondsmen of the various regimes is to be evaluated by the agent's experience and judgment. I was brought up on the notion that it was a civic duty to cooperate with the police and authorities, and I count it a major disaster that we have thrown that all away in favor of the rule of fear and terror. The Martha Stewart case was treason against the entire notion of a Republic: not Ms. Stewart, but the "investigators" who ought to be dismissed and the prosecutors who ought to be disbarred and dismissed with prejudice.

The notion that one can be prosecuted for denying that you did something that is not a crime to begin with is monstrous and those involved in that prosecution ought to be so ashamed that they withdraw forever from public life. They have neither honor nor good sense.

Discussion continues below


NASA's lighter side


Cheers Tim Cunningham


Volcanic heating of the oceans

Hello Jerry,

The Global Warming clergy are quick to dismiss undersea volcanos as a significant driver of the temperature of the oceans. They make the argument that the oceans are vast and although volcanos put out seemingly large amounts of heat, that heat is not sufficient to warm the oceans noticeably.

Well, maybe, and keeping in mind that no one seems to have any real knowledge as to the total amount of volcanic activity on the sea beds, at least to an order of magnitude, we DO know with iron clad certainty that there is a large number of undersea volcanos and that each of them dumps huge quantities of heat into the ocean when they erupt.

Now A volcanic eruption may not release enough energy to raise the overall temperature of the oceans appreciably, but it is not dumped into the oceans, plural. It is released essentially as a point source and raises the temperature of the ocean, singular, at THAT point VERY noticeably.

Weather, and by extension, climate, are highly dependent on ocean currents, which in turn are driven by ocean thermal gradients, among other things. What the volcanos do is to inject enormous, but unknown, quantities of heat into the ocean at random points and at random times. The process produces a highly localized and very steep thermal gradients, introducing in turn local perturbations in the ocean currents. These random perturbations in the large scale currents may not affect the 'temperature of the ocean' very much, but they will do something, at random, affecting how that temperature is distributed. When the ocean currents change, the weather changes. When they change at random, by random amounts, good luck on 'predicting the weather', long term.

Bob Ludwick

El Nino has more effect on climate than anything else I know other than the Sun. It is somewhat cyclical but there is a very large unpredictability. It could I suspect be caused by a thin mantle layer at the Mindanao Deep or similar area in the Pacific, where there is more conductivity between the core and the biosphere (if you can call those benthic depths part of the biosphere -- certainly they are connected to it by nothing more than a column of water). Until we know more about El Nino, models of climate are a bit incomplete I would say.  Actually I am being restrained...


There follow a number of mails sent over the past six months and all trapped by a spam filter. I just found them, and salvaged some.


NOAA Surface Temperature Stations Survey Results /


"The reliability of data used to document temperature trends is of great importance in this debate (i.e. global warming). We can’t know for sure if global warming is a problem if we can’t trust the data."

"The official record of temperatures in the continental United States comes from a network of 1,221 climate-monitoring stations overseen by the National Weather Service, a department of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Until now, no one had ever conducted a comprehensive review of the quality of the measurement environment of those stations."

"During the past few years I recruited a team of more than 650 volunteers to visually inspect and photographically document more than 860 of these temperature stations. We were shocked by what we found."

"We found stations located next to the exhaust fans of air conditioning units, surrounded by asphalt parking lots and roads, on blistering-hot rooftops, and near sidewalks and buildings that absorb and radiate heat. We found 68 stations located at wastewater treatment plants, where the process of waste digestion causes temperatures to be higher than in surrounding areas."

"In fact, we found that 89 percent of the stations – nearly 9 of every 10 – fail to meet the National Weather Service’s own siting requirements that stations must be 30 meters (about 100 feet) or more away from an artificial heating or radiating/reflecting heat source."

"In other words, 9 of every 10 stations are likely reporting higher or rising temperatures because they are badly sited."

"It gets worse. We observed that changes in the technology of temperature stations over time also has caused them to report a false warming trend. We found major gaps in the data record that were filled in with data from nearby sites, a practice that propagates and compounds errors. We found that adjustments to the data by both NOAA and another government agency, NASA, cause recent temperatures to look even higher."



Those  sophists

"They did not pretend to teach how the truth is to be attained. They did not care whether it could be attained or not. They aimed to impart to their pupils the ability to make the better cause seem the worse, and the worse the better."




Dear Dr. Pournelle,

Fascinating documentary on the true history of Project Orion (Old Bang Bang, not the current NASA project about to be canceled):


Freeman Dyson and several of the other original Orion researchers are interviewed.There is some great footage of actual model Orion tests with high explosives, proof of the workability of the concept. At the end there is a segment on laser launch systems as the most likely utilization of the pulse rocket idea.

One of the researchers comments at the end of the film that nuclear energy is a million times more powerful than any chemical rocket fuel possible. To equal the lifting power of one Orion flight with a chemical rocket you would need a fuel load the size of the Earth!



IQ, ecucation and the Iron Law 

Dear Dr. Pournelle,

In grade school forty plus years ago I was regularly tested, along with all other students, annually in a day long battery of tests. The standard sort of "Choose the correct answer and fill in all of the circle next to it with your Number Two pencil."

Those test results were never communicated to me. To the best of my knowledge, they were never given to my parents. My teachers may have been privy to them. I don't know that they were.

For all of my school up to grade 12 I was never told I was anything but average. I still recall my GPA at high school graduation: 2.12 out of four possible.

Typically, in high school and even before, I would get either an A if the class interested me, or a low c to D if it bored me.

I struggled through three years (!) of community college. D average, about 1.82.

Then, like the typical 21 year old I was, I fell in love, got my heart broken, and Saw My Local Recruiter. Seemed like a good way to Get Out Of Dodge. "The Girl I Left Behind Me", etc.

The recruiter, since it was his job to find good recruits, made sure I was tested ten ways from Sunday. He then sked me what sir if soldiering I wanted to do. "I always thought artillery looked interesting," I put forth.

The recruiter gave me that look Sergeants have been giving Dumb Ass Recruits since about 500 BCE. "Your scores are way too high for that. I was in MI, and you are perfect for that. Your language aptitude scores are off the charts. You ought to go to language school, and be an MI specialist."

"But I flunked out of German when I took it last year..."

He said a few pointed things about how the Army knew how to teach languages to Dumb Asses better than any civilian, and started me filling out forms.

Three years later I was an E-5 Military Intelligence Specialist, with three semesters of college credit on the books from Army training of one sort or another, all of it at high B to A grades, and a whole new view of myself.

Not to mention the Army showed me my test scores. The company clerk at my first duty station called me in to check my records. He was sure there had been a mistake. He showed me my GT score, the "General Test" that all soldiers take before induction. It was 160. I told him 160 was correct, that was what it had always been.

He shook his head. "No way. I've been doing this job one place or another for twelve years, and I never saw a 160 before."

I just looked confused, and said something about not seeing what was the problem.

"Don't you know what 160 is?" he asked. " |A pretty good score?" I answered.

He made a funny face at me, as if I was an idiot.

"It's a (censored) Perfect Score' Never saw one before."

Then he got thoughtful, anmd tld me tog et out of his (censored) office,.

The next week he had a new car. He earned the down payment thanks to my score.

Over beers at the NCO CLub, he told every other company clerk in the Headquarters Battalion of the First Infantry Division that he had a soldier with a perfect GT score.

"No way! Im-(censored)-Possible!)" they averred.

Wanna bet?" he replied

He got more action on that bet than if the Little Sisters of Mercy were playing the Colts in the Super Bowl and he was backing the nuns.

Ny point? You are absolutely right that the schools do not know how to handle exceptional children of any sort. It has only gotten wrose since my time in the barrel.

My eleven year old son was identified in Kindergarten (after two weeks!), as in need of Special Education.

At eleven he is now halfway through the fifth Harry Potter book, completely on his own in developing a taste for books of that length. A few weeks back I found that he had gotten out his microscope on his own and was "researching" everything in the kitchen to see what looked like under the 'scope. He has a telescope at his mothers (we're divorced) and uses it. Studying flue and piano.

But the schools still have him in Special Ed., and insist he will never be mainstreamed. He's become part of someone's RIce Bowl, and that bowl is made of Iron as cold and hard as your own Iron Law.

The schools treated me like I was average, and I rose to that level. Why they hid my test scores, which had to be above average, is beyond me. I suspect that it was important to some bureaucrat to limit the number of above average students in that school or district. It was his Iron Law Rice Bowl.

There has to be a special circle in the Inferno for those who run such a system. Think of the ruined lives, the cost to civilization.

At least, once the Army straightened me out, I went on to Magna Cum Laude work at the University of California, and a career as a writer.

We live in the world of "Harrison Bergeron".



Aircraft contrls and that term  

I don['t know if they called it "Fly By Wire" or if anyone called a cable control system "wire control", but I do know it's hardly a new concept to use electrical motors and electrical wire that conducts a fluctuating current to servomotors that actually work aircraft control surfaces.

Martin Caidin, the great aviation writer, wrote in his classic history of the B-17 bomber of World War Two "Flying Fotrts" that one reason the Fort's brought crews home safe when other bombers would have fallen from the sky was that it used a system of servomotors and electrical wire to move the control surfaces, rather than hydraulics or cable. It was much harder for a lucky bullet, shell or piece of random flak to destroy a 1/8 inch or so electrical wire than a hydraulic line or wire cable. A small hole in hydraulics can lower pressure enough to severely limit control, and could cascade to further damage and zero pressure/control. Same with wire cable. A nick in it, and the stress of pulling it can lead to a complete severance of connection/control. Electrical wire is smaller and harder to hit, is easily run through armored portions of the aircraft, you can have more than one line per servo at small added cost in time, money OR weight, AND even if damaged might still get the signal through If connection is broken, you can reconnect electrical wires a lot easier than hydraulic lines in the air, wearing gloves while being shot at (!), or splicing a wire cable under the same conditions,

My first car, a 63' Mercury, did not have a wire between the gas pedal and throttle anyway. it was a mechanical linkage, a rod with levers and hinges Archimedes himself would have been proud of. You could adjust it to give you massive "Hot Rod" power at a twitch (which is great when you are 19!), or pull it out and turn it into a "Only On Sundays To Church" Little Old Lady ( if not from Pasadena!)showboat.. At this point, perhaps someone at Toyota ought consider putting one of those back in, just as a fallback. It would make a lot of older auto mechanics sentimental for the days when a scope and a timing light was all the electronics you needed in an auto shop!


Actually the Fortress and the B-52 still had cables -- physical cables -- from the yoke to the control surface. The BUFF can be flown without hydraulics at all. It takes two men and a boy to horse that yoke back, but it can be done.


Another polar rescue must send chills down spines of alarmists (

e6frfhqf-1225856131380  Stupid is as stupid does.



No need to put fingers on a diet? 

Jerry: John Derbyshire at NRO suggests last week's stock hiccup was normal market workings, amplified. <http://corner.nationalreview.com/post/?

(quote) Consider two market players, A and B. A sells a stock to B. Why is this happening? Well, A thinks the stock is overvalued, so he wants to sell it. B, contrariwise, thinks the stock is undervalued, so he wants to buy it.

Why do A and B have different views, though? ....

One common reason is that they’re working with different time horizons. A might be looking two weeks ahead, B may be looking two years ahead. On this basis, they might both be right: the stock may be overvalued in the short term, but undervalued in the long term.

A lot of trading is like that. Most commonly the trade will be between someone with a higher appetite for risk (short time horizon) and someone with a lower (long time horizon — probably an institutional investor). This long-term/short-term balance is one of the things that keeps the market stable.

Politics can upset this balance by introducing uncertainty into the long-term picture. The bailouts did just that. Investors — and many more long-term investors than short-term — are asking: “How do I know who’s Too Big to Fail? How do I know when there’ll be a bailout and when nature will take its course? What are the rules?” (end quote)

To the extent that trading is both rules-based and fast (the very definition of computer-based trading), this kind of thing will keep happening when conditions are right. You can address the problem by turning off the computers. You can try banning rules, but I don't think that'll work.

One fix would be to quit tinkering with the shape and slope of the playing field -- quit fiddling with the rules so traders have some idea what to expect in the long term. But politicians live to fiddle with rules, and will resist any laws to turn off *their* computers.



The   Wheat Farmer

Dear Jerry,

You ask "under which provision of the Constitution does the Congress have the power to forbid the possession and sale of marijuana? Heroin? Cocaine? Forbid their interstate shipment, yes, perhaps, but forbid a California farmer from growing hemp for sale within California?"

The answer is the Commerce Clause in conjunction with the "Aggregation Principle" articulated by the Supreme Court in Wickard v. Filburn, 317 U.S. 111 (1942). It turns out that a farmer growing wheat for his own consumption is engaged in interstate commerce because of the aggregative effect of home-grown wheat of many farmers competing with wheat in commerce. The modern version of this is the medical marijuana case, Gonzales v. Raich, 545 U.S. 1 (2005), which has, according to the opinion by Justice Stevens, "striking" similarities with Wickard. O'Connor, Rehnquist, and Thomas had the good sense to dissent in Raich, but Scalia wrote a concurring opinion. So much for the States as "laboratories".

By the way, if we are ever again to see a Commerce Clause kept within its proper bounds, it will be because of the Supreme Court, not Congress.

Gordon Sollars

I still do not see how Marijuana comes under the Constitution but Alcohol does not. Clearly there is no power to forbid alcohol -- it took the 18th amendment to do that, and it was repealed. Where is marijuana different?


thoughts on the wikilieaks debacle

Dr. Pournelle,

I thought I would share a few thoughts on the Wikileaks debacle from an Information Assurance perspective. I offer them as someone who has worked in IT for 29 years, 11 of them in the Army, in a variety of roles and has a MS in Information Assurance.

I have seen quite a bit of commentary on the fact that the data released was copied unto CDs. While the fact that that was even possible reveals a fundamental failure of security it only begins to scratch the surface of a work culture that must have had a total disregard for basic security standards and procedures.

The ability to copy the documents to a removable media is only one of several security lapses necessary for the successful smuggling of classified documents out of the (supposedly) secure network where they were stored. Before he could copy the documents the PFC (apparently formerly SPC, which raises additional reasons for concern) in question had to be able to access them. Why in the world would a PFC have access to 90,000+ classified documents? The fact that he did demonstrates that the concept of access control (also known as need to know) could not have been being practiced. Furthermore, assuming that he was functioning in some capacity where his access could not be restricted (extremely unlikely) or he somehow overcame those restrictions (a process called privilege escalation), why then was access to the documents not being audited? The fact that someone was accessing and copying huge numbers of files should have raised automated alarms alerting someone to investigate what could only be a security breach.

Frankly Dr. Pournelle, the lack of seriousness shown towards information and operational security demonstrated by this fiasco leads me to believe that you are underestimating the amount of damage that has been inflicted on the United States. How can any ally trust us with any intelligence whatsoever? Especially when this security failure is coupled with the recent news that high level officials in the Pentagon and various intelligence agencies were downloading pornography onto their work computers, including one individual in the NSA who was discovered with child pornography (he has apparently fled to Libya.) It is clear that many agencies of the United States government lack an understanding of the fundamental principles of information security. I find this especially egregious because those principles: access control, auditing, least privileges, and personnel reliability to name the ones most obviously ignored in this case, predate computing systems by thousands of years. The Pharaohs, Xerces, Alexander the Great, Caesar, Charlemagne, Saladin, Washington, Napoleon, and Patton all had to deal with these issues. We moderns have no excuse for not doing so.

This is a staggering demonstration of ineptitude from an institution (the U.S. Military) that was both trusted and believed to be competent. God help us if we have to face the Chinese on the battlefield.

Ralph Hyatt

I think you misunderstand my views.

As you said, Caesar had to deal with such problems. We can also.


The rise of robotic exoskeletons 

Dr Pournelle

Shades of Fritz Leiber's _A Spectre Is Haunting Texas_.

BehindTheMedspeak: The rise of robotic exoskeletons

link: http://www.bookofjoe.com/  (See the top entry for August 06, 2010.)

Live long and prosper
h lynn keith

PS Not all that can be counted counts. Not all that counts can be counted.


What we are leaving behindi n Iraq 

Dear Jerry,

In reference to the supposed ending of American combat operations in Iraq, you wrote in View for August 31:

"If you have the stomach for it, you can see what we are leaving behind:"

followed by a link to a video of men being stoend to death. However, the website where the linked video is embedded states that the video is of a stoning that took place in Iran in 1994, not in contemporary Iraq.

Afraid I don't see the connection to Iraq today, good, bad or indifferent though it may be..


I was persuaded that the link led to the video of the girl being stoned to death. I didn't watch it, because I did not care to. I should have checked to see that the link was to what I was told it was to.

The link should have led to the stoning of a young woman by her brother and father and the neighbors.


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Wednesday, September 8, 2010

The difference between the current Afghan Campaign and the WWII European Campaign space Buffy Willow space

Dear Dr. Pournelle,

Although I support the right of anyone to burn any property they own, subject to local laws and general attention to the safety of immediate property owned by others, I am disappointed by your analogy:

"One presumes that this would apply to burning a copy of Mein Kampf during World War II?"

The obvious difference is that the success of the European Campaign did not depend on securing the goodwill of the German populace.


John Edens

My first reaction was agreement, but on reflection I am not so sure. You are correct in the imperfection of the analogy, but other thoughts come to mind as well.

First: nothing we can do will win friends and goodwill in Afghanistan. For two thousand years the one thing that unites Afghanis is the sight of foreigners armed on Afghan land. So long as we are there with weapons we will be hated, and we will not win good will.

Second comes to mind Machiavelli. It is better to be feared than to be loved.

I do not intend to burn a Koran any more than I would burn one of the vedic collections, or the writings of Zoroaster or a Mithran text, nor do I think that a Florida clergyman will much affect the contest between the West and Islam; but if I have to fight I would rather be fighting for the right of the old guy to burn the book than be trying to arrest him for doing it.

I do not believe that appeasement is the best policy in all cases.


: Bursting Higher Ed Bubble, 

Good piece by Michael Barone.


I have to say, my daughter is attending a University in Ireland. She is already studying the research theories in her major (English and New Media). She has to have a research question by the end of this term for a media research class she is taking; I believe the class continues into the Spring term. She already knows she has a ten-page paper to write in her Irish poetry class.

What I didn't learn until my PhD program, she is getting in her sophomore year at the University. I am delighted, to say the least.

And, I don't think that teaching students the scientific method and how to design and conduct research has to be saved for the college student. While homeschooling my younger daughter, she has learned how to ask good questions, how to find answers, and how to sort through gibberish from evidence.

American educators spend so much time re-inventing and re-naming educational paradigms that they forget that there are important, basic skills we all need to know in order to run our lives and survive.

But, Washington and the Ed Dept. want better tests. Yeah, that's the ticket!


The purpose of the school system is to pay its employees. A second purpose seems to be to provide a primary hamper to the children of citizens not part of the ruling class. Most of the teachers don't know that's the purpose, but if that were the goal how might it be better done and still manage to pay all the employees and not merely be abolished in rage by the taxpayers?


Higher Education 

I'm not sure whether Sir Humphrey Appleby might be behind this <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yes_Minister>, but the morning news has a series of stories indicating the UK is falling behind the rest of the OECD countries in university graduation rates. (This is before the proposed 35% reduction in university funding.) <http://tinyurl.com/353v7xt>  <http://tinyurl.com/2bqf8e2>  <http://tinyurl.com/34btvez>  <http://tinyurl.com/3yjpde3>  <http://tinyurl.com/2vcfxzx

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


Ground-based laser for rocket propulsion


Dear Dr. Pournelle:

I happened upon this just now and it seemed similar enough to things you've described in some of your books so I thought I'd pass it on to you.

Regards, Tim Scott

Rather small but it's a start...


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Thursday, September 9, 2010




We didn't cover EMP attacks in Strategy of Technology although I have done some work on the subject since and I was once the keynote speaker to a directed energy professional conference. It's a matter that needs attention.


Burning the  Koran vs. Mein Kampf

Dear Jerry,

I am suspicious about analogizing the burning of copies of Mein Kampf to burning copies of the Koran. Such an analogy suggests that most Muslims stand for terror, rather than that most Germans did not. Closer to the mark is your reference to Emperor Hirohito - given the link between the role of emperor and the Shinto religion in the founding myths of Japan. But was the focus of scorn in the U.S. on the religion of the Japanese? I didn't think so. As I understand it, commentary, such as the song "We're Going to Have to Slap the Dirty Little Jap (and Uncle Sam's the Guy Who Can Do It)", was more focused on race than religion. But I am no expert on the period, nor did I live through it.

I would not presume that having the Commander in Chief speak out against Koran burning today would at all apply to his speaking out against burning Mein Kampf or against popular songs during World War II. In my view, if there had been large numbers of ethnic Germans who, previously unaligned with Hitler, might have been moved to violence against U.S. armed forces or civilians by such actions during a time of war (and, as we all know, we are "at war" with terrorism), it would be the duty of the Commander in Chief to point this out. But that was not the situation in WWII, and a very different situation applies today. As a factual matter, burning Mein Kampf during WWII did not raise the probability of harm to U.S. soldiers or civilians; burning the Koran today does. Or so it seems to General Petraeus. Of course, this is a question of fact, and he could be wrong.

I would bet you ten years of subscriptions that if Obama had said nothing, the Korans were burned, and deadly bombings followed, Fox News would have been off on a rant about his failure to protect the troops. Sadly, I don't see any way to test this.

Gordon Sollars

As I have said, I am astonished at the attention this has garnered. I fear I am guilty of not taking it very seriously when the story first came out. I wish others shared my guilt.


Classified levels

Hello Dr Pournelle,

I see that Mr Hyatt is somewhat dated, and clearly hasn't worked with the current ABCS architeture the Army is using.

First, some background. The military has several computer networks which are physically isolated from each other due to classification level. Naturally you don't want top secret information on a network rated for secret only, etc. We also have the attempt to digitize the Army and make information work for us, combined with the belief that we could have stopped 9/11 if we knew the correct things all together that parts of us knew in bits and bobs.

So, what are the implications? I've told many officers and senior NCOs recently that when they create a document, perhaps a report format, on a classified network, they can't pull it off and put it on the one which is for official use only and which is connected to the internet. They can simply retype the admittedly unclassified file onto the network where they want it. The other way around works fine though. If I take a picture of a bridge while travelling on a main supply route, I can dump it onto a CD and then upload it onto a secret network to use in a classified report on that route, and all that I need to worry about is destroying or properly marking that CD so it doesn't go back onto my unclassified computer afterwards. If I couldn't do that, I'd be totally screwed. Now currently I can't do that with a thumb drive or an external hard drive, so those of us who work in all source analysis would be most upset if those CD burners were shut down, since it would cripple our ability to actually do the job.

Then there is the computer architecture. Suppose I'm an analyst in Bagdhad. I have access to a variety of computer systems. There is one which is for battalion and higher level units to record significant actions, and one for companies and lower level units because they don't have the same computer systems and needs. There is one to record imagery, and one for things humans tell us. All of these have somewhat different information on them. So, if I need to know what is going on in the city, I have to seek out these various databases, combine them with the reporting I get from my unit and those below me, seek out the reports from adjacent units and higher and build the whole picture. Also keep in mind that we've been in these places for years, so the databases can be large. Is there a good reason to deny access to this, other than a desire to prevent even people with top secret clearances access to secret level information?

I'm cleared for just about everything we know. Yet due to the nature of the headquarters where I work, I really won't worry about anything higher than certain types of secret, and I won't have access to that. I won't really need access to more than a tiny fraction of the information I can reach, and how many man-hours should we devote to ensuring I don't look up secret level reports on the Ecuadorean Army instead of my actual reporting area? I can do things that only a few years ago couldn't have been done by an entire division G-2 shop. Is that of more or less value than the dangers of letting me get the access and computer systems I need to do that?

No system is any more secure than the weakest human link in the chain. If you make the information perfectly secure, you also make it perfectly irrelevant. Now I do have some thoughts on checking people who are applying for clearances, but the obvious solutions are politically incorrect, as we've seen obvious bad guys slip through because their religion or sexual orientation scared those who should have stomped on them away for fear of destroying their own careers in the process. I actually trace it to the infamous newspaper leaks which are clearly illegal and which don't result in prosecutions, and Sandy Burger's slap on the wrist. Now a small but important percentage of people who are able to gain access to classified information believe they can set US policy themselves by selectively releasing that information. They believe they can do this without risk, such as the CIA sabotaging what they thought was the Bush policy on Iran, and if there is any punishment, it is hard to connect to the crime.

As is almost always the case, it is really about people.



Crime of making a False Statement to a Federal Agent Discussion

Dr. Pournelle,

Bernard Brandt's advice on refraining to make a statement to a federal investigator until consulting counsel is good. It is always appropriate and wise to consult counsel before being interviewed or having a conversation with an investigator, and even more so where the interviewee might be a Target or a Subject of some investigation.

As a federal prosecutor for over sixteen years and a trial lawyer in State and Federal Courts prior to that, it is my belief that the best answer is as Mr. Brandt suggests. If the investigator persists the best response is, "It is not appropriate to make any statement until I consult counsel." I have also thought folks could safely say, "I will respond to any questions you have in any judicial proceeding."

Most investigators, especially federal agents, will refuse to say anything or permit a tape recording, as of my last experiences when recently retiring. They insist that they will write down their own notes of what is said and place it in their own agencies forms. For example, FBI agents write up all interviews on a "302", and in many trials just what was really said or not said becomes a point of contention at trial. That is why it is wise to have counsel present.

In addition to not subjecting yourself to our Federal Criminal Code, there is another reason not to say anything if you are in any way implicated in an investigation. You may later recall facts that can be used to your benefit, but will be foreclosed if you state you have no knowledge or state something else at a variance with what you later recall. Some criminals end up convicted of crimes where they would not if they had said nothing.

Mr. Brandt did have one serious inaccuracy. Under our federal laws for making a false statement under Title 18, Section 1001, in order to result in a conviction, the "false statement" must be proven to be on a "material" matter to the investigation. To be "material," the putative false statement must have a natural tendency to influence, or be capable of influencing, the decision of the decision making body to which it was addressed. The term "material matter" is a lynch pin of the crime and is decided at the trial.

If a false statement is not material to the investigation, it is not a crime. It's as simple as that.

All of these laws, including a law you have not discussed under the federal code, called MISPRISION OF A FELONY, are a part of the laws passed by both houses of Congress and signed by the President, so it is not as if they sprang up from nowhere.

Federal statutes state that it is Misprision of a felony and a federal crime, for any person to fail to inform and report their knowledge of a felony as set out in the statute.

Keep up your good work!

Ed Kelly on USSV ANGEL LOUISE, now anchored at Martha's Vineyard

I replied

"Does that not mean that the government has forfeited whatever right it thought it had to the cooperative loyalty of the people?"

Thanks for all you do.

I understand your position - but If loyalty was forfeited, was it first forfeited over a hundred years ago?

The basis of this law goes back to March 3, 1909. That is when the original version of the statute you discuss was first passed by Congress and signed into law.

Should our Republic not enforce our laws (even bad ones) until our representatives change them? In the hundred years since this was adopted by Congress, there have been a wealth of other additional laws that criminalize lying to government agencies giving out aid, folks making false statements to banks and financial organizations...

How much fiction is found in the average financial statement or financial application for a loan?

We note the law has been used as well against enemy combatants who lie to our officials, to justify their criminal incarceration.

But, the law can be changed if citizen's desire it so.

Ed Kelly

I don't think very many people were aware of the 1909 law; it certainly wasn't enforced when I was growing up. We were taught that it was not good to lie to authority, but that "under penalty of perjury" warnings were what was to be taken very seriously.

As to enforcing all the laws, if we did that is there anyone including the enforcers who would be left unjailed? Would we not have to use prisoners as prison guards since there would be naught but felons left in the nation? And yes, I understand the obvious remedy to that...


Coal Ash Is More Radioactive than Nuclear Waste: Scientific American 

Doctor Pournelle,

"...the fly ash emitted by a (coal) power plant—a by-product from burning coal for electricity—carries into the surrounding environment 100 times more radiation than a nuclear power plant producing the same amount of energy."

Here's another subject your wrote on in Galazy, and I believe in A Step Fartehr Out, that has become accepted. At least, acceptable enough for the pages of Scientific American-


The popular conception of nuclear power is straight out of The Simpsons: Springfield abounds with signs of radioactivity, from the strange glow surrounding Mr. Burn's nuclear power plant workers to Homer's low sperm count. Then there's the local superhero, Radioactive Man, who fires beams of "nuclear heat" from his eyes. Nuclear power, many people think, is inseparable from a volatile, invariably lime-green, mutant-making radioactivity.

Coal, meanwhile, is believed responsible for a host of more quotidian problems, such as mining accidents, acid rain and greenhouse gas emissions But it isn't supposed to spawn three-eyed fish like Blinky.

Over the past few decades, however, a series of studies has called these stereotypes into question. Among the surprising conclusions: the waste produced by coal plants actually more radioactive than that generated by their nuclear counterparts. In fact, "... "

At issue is coal's content of uranium and thorium, both radioactive elements. They occur in such trace amounts in natural, or "whole," coal that they aren't a problem. But when coal is burned into fly ash, uranium and thorium are concentrated at up to 10 times their original levels.

Fly ash uranium sometimes leaches into the soil and water surrounding a coal plant, affecting cropland and, in turn, food. People living within a "stack shadow"—the area within a half- to one-mile (0.8- to 1.6-kilometer) radius of a coal plant's smokestacks—might then ingest small amounts of radiation. Fly ash is also disposed of in landfills and abandoned mines and quarries, posing a potential risk to people living around those areas.



something amusing

I commend the first paragraph of this article to your attention, and hope it provides at least a smile:


cheerfully, Dr Bill


Study: Last Supper paintings supersize the food 

My first thnught on this was "How SIlly!".Then it occurred to me that artsts in the early Middle Ags depictedf small portijns at the Last Supper, because the clmate was miserable, harvests small and food scarce. Later artists, in the Medieval Wam Periosr, were used to much morebountiful harvests, and food that was cheap and plentiful.

Like any artist, they depcited what they knew, sometimes without even knowing life had ever been otherwise.



The food in famous paintings of the meal has grown by biblical proportions over the last millennium, researchers report in a medical journal Tuesday.

Using a computer, they compared the size of the food to the size of the heads in 52 paintings of Jesus Christ and his disciples at their final meal before his death."


Very interesting.



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Powers of Ten 

Dear Doctor Pournelle,

The APOD site rightly pointed out this as the granddaddy of all such "Known Universe" films.


From its stunning images to its ethereal music and spot on Philip Morrison narration, POWERS OF TEN is a classic worth viewing again. Produced by the design tezm of Charles and Ray Eames, it stands the test of time.

For those in or visiting the Los Angeles, CA area, a visit to theEames Office in Santa Monica is well worth ther time. It's a museum and sales point for many of their classic works.



Dr. Obamadoff seems to think the "America" is not about freedom but about tolerance: "I just hope he understands that what he's proposing to do is completely contrary to our values as Americans," he said on ABC's "Good Morning America."

What happened to those who used to defend to the death the right to say something one disagrees with? It carries no weight with me that Islam is incompatible with Christianity, as Dr. Jones claims it is, but it is hard not to admire someone who, like Joan of Arc, stands up for his beliefs.

Dissent should be encouraged and, in this case, police protection provided for Dr. Jones and his congregants. But I have yet to read about any police protection, before Dr. Jones decided to suspend the burning. He was misled about the Ground Zero mosque being moved and should go ahead with the burning. He should invite Mahometans to present the case for their religion to his congregation. If they refuse, it shows that Mahometanism is irrational, more so than Christianity, which has defenders who deploy an immense amount of reasoning. I haven't found it convincing, but I finished re-reading the Bible (KJV, of course, this time with the Apocrypha) and have read the Koran from cover to cover, too. Ditto with the Book of Mormon. And decades ago, Snorri Sturluson's Prose Edda.

Recommend to me what to read next. It is probably in my Sacred Texts DVD-ROM.

I am not sure whether to continue my coverage, unless the burning takes place.



Subject: World's only real flying car in price hikes, further delays


Tracy Walters, CISSP


Radioactivity in Coal

Dear Jerry,

Petronis' observations of the radioactivity of coal brought to mind a report from Oak Ridge I read a few years back. One of the interesting conclusions was that the fissionables released during coal combustion contain 1.5 times the energy content of the coal burned...


Also, I once knew an engineer from Babcock and Wilcox, who told me that they were completing a plant in Florida, and the radiation alarms kept going off, even though there was no fuel on site. They discovered that the alarms were being triggered by fly ash from a nearby coal plant.

On a completely unrelated subject, did you know that you are on Facebook? It appears that if a celebrity isn't a member, they create a page with their Wikipedia entry...



Rod Schaffter

-- "There are saints, there are people who know that there are saints, and there are people who don’t know. One should aspire to rise at least to the middle condition. Not everyone is called to martyrdom, but everyone is called to witness." --David Warren

I wrote about coal fly ash and radioactivity in A Step Farther Out. It's not serious, of course, but there is more radioactivity in fly ash than escapes from a nuclear plant. No one cares, of course. Nuclear plants have atoms in them.


: books to "burn"

If burning holy books makes some happy and others mad why don't we have a party and then get on with life. Below is a list of

Books to burn and appease all the gods that may or may not be:

The Analects: Works attributed to Confucius that form the basic texts of Confucianism. Bhagavad Gita: A Sanskrit poem that is the most loved religious text in Hinduism. The Koran: (Arabic, al-Qur'an) The primary holy book of Islam. The Bible: Used by the various branches of Christianity including the Old Testament: The Christian name for the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament: The second portion of the Christian Bible. Talmud: A compilation of Jewish oral law and rabbinical teachings.Tao-te-ching: (The Way and Its Power) The basic text of the Chinese philosophy and religion known as Taoism. Upanishads: The basis of Hindu religion and philosophy that form the final portion of the Veda: The sacred scripture of Hinduism. The Torah:The primary document of Judaism, and the source of all Biblical commandments. The Guru Granth Sahib: The holy book of the Sikhs. The Book of Mormon: One of four sacred texts of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. The Origin of Species: The concept of biological evolution (not a faith, but still combustible). The Avesta: The the sacred texts of the Mazdaist (Zoroastrian, also Parsi) religion. The Gospel of the Flying Spaghetti Monster: Embodies the main beliefs of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster(FSM), a parody religion mocking Intelligent Design (ID).Scientology: Enough said. The Selfish Gene: A scientific exposition of the meaning of life. The Books of Bokonon: The Bokononist scriptures (Cat’s Cradle) in poetry and prose. The Grand Design: The meaning of life the universe and everything ( HGG:42).

Some of these books may be given an aqueous demise and be flushed rather than burned at http://flushaholybook.com/  . Ice according to Frost might also suffice.


Pretty good list. I wonder if the Druze have a holy book? I don't suppose communists would be offended by the destruction by fire or ice of Marx (either the Manifesto, or Das Kapital)?

Fire and Ice



Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what I've tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To say that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.

Robert Frost



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Saturday, September 11, 2011


Sociological examination via dating website profiles

"We selected 526,000 OkCupid users at random and divided them into groups by their (self-stated) race. We then took all these people's profile essays (280 million words in total!) and isolated the words and phrases that made each racial group's essays statistically distinct from the others'."

http://blog.okcupid.com/index.php/the-real-stuff-white-people-like/ (note that this article and OKCupid in general sometimes deliver R-rated language.)

(some quotes from the article, pulled by I the emailer:)

"If I had to choose over-arching themes for white people's lists, for men, I'd go with "frat house" and for women, "escapism." Whether one begot the other is a question I'll leave to the reader."

"Religious expressions weren't among the top phrases for any of the other races, but they're all over the place for black men and (especially) black women, for whom 13 of the top 50 phrases are religious. Black people are more than twice as likely than average to mention their faith in their profiles."

"[Latino] men have two other fascinating things going on: an interest in telling you about their sense of humor (i'm a funny guy, very funny, outgoing and funny, etc.) and an interest in industrial strength ass-kicking (mma, ufc, boxing, marines, etc.) Basically, if a Latin dude tells you a joke, you should laugh."

"As you can see, both Asian men and women choose "I'm simple" as their go-to self-description. Contrast this to black men's "I am cool" and Latinos' "I'm a funny guy". It's also interesting that Asian men very often mention their specific heritage (taiwan, korea, singapore, vietnam, china) while Asian women don't."


: Inferno and Falkenberg's Legion

Dr. Pournelle,

I recently had the pleasure of reading Inferno and its sequel. They were creative, well-written, and particularly entertaining. I was curious whether either yourself or Mr. Niven are Catholics. If so, do you have any tips about how to incorporate religious themes into science fiction without turning off an audience? I think that Miller was able to accomplish this in A Canticle for Liebowitz but to my understanding religious science fiction is often criticized for failings in this area.

I read about your Falkenberg series and am quite interested. I was curious if the collected "The Prince" has all of the Falkenberg's Legion books in their entirety or is it an abridgment? Also, is Falkenberg named after the mercenary killed defending Magdeburg in the Thirty Years War?

Have a good week.

I am in fact a Roman Catholic as is my wife. For much of my life including when we wrote Inferno I was a High Church Anglican, largely due to the influence of C. S. Lewis, whose The Great Divorce was in many ways central to the thesis of both books. The working title of Escape from Hell was "Dante meets Vatican II". 

The Prince has some material that appears nowhere else, as well as all the Falkenberg stories. Some are slightly changed from their first publication.

John Christian Falkenberg was a name I used in an unpublished (and now unpublishable) post-atomic war novel written in the 1960's. I liked the name. I have no memory of why I chose it, but when Roberta and I were in Sweden we visited the remains of Castle Falkenberg on the west coast of Sweden. At the time that Castle Falkenberg existed, it was part of Denmark, as Skane had been until near the end of the 17th Century.


: On the aborted burning

What the Pastor was planning is constitutionally protected free speech. I might not agree with it or want to do it myself, but I understand his rights and the importance of those rights. What frightens me much more than his actions is the very orchestrated reaction from the the media, government, and citizens.

I can understand the government having to condemn and distance itself from the actions of an(y) individual. However, the legal threats and media circus are entirely out of line. I also found chilling the visits the Pastor got from the FBI.

It is a sad fact that many people in this country have the attention span of a small frog, and many have commensurate brainpower. Once a nearby frog starts to chirp, there comes a great chorus of chirping without thought. That is the "I want to be part of the group, I want my voice to be the loudest, I want to be thought of most highly" emotion. That might be well suited for choosing healthy breeding partners, but it does not work as well when the goal is considered thought.

Unless one wants to continue to be abused, one does not deal with an abuser by placating and giving in to demands. Millions of abused spouses have learned that lesson on a personal level. The "leaders" in the United States government, and to a certain extent our General in Afghanistan, have forgotten that.

The fact that the United States exists at all is an incitement to the radical Muslim. Should we therefore say "Ooh, sorry for offending you, oh great uneducated ones, who have blown up our buildings and people, and people of your own religion! We'll take the U.S. apart immediately and convert everyone to your brand of religion so that you won't have to learn the word 'tolerance.' One question though. Do we convert to Shiite or Sunni? Just the idea of converting to your religion doesn't seem to be enough to stop your violence, oh great misogynist idiots."

As the great Monty Python once stated - "See the violence inherent in the system! See the violence inherent in the system!" The violence exists, whether a fellow in Florida burns books, or all reasonable attempts are made to placate. It is INHERENT IN THE SYSTEM. It is by its very nature unreasonable - meaning it cannot be dealt with from the outside using reason. It can only be stamped out by pressure from WITHIN the system, by pressure from moderate Muslims.

Since when has political correctness gone so far that an expression of disgust is illegal? People with functional memories might just remember the Taliban blasting historical statues of the Buddha, because they offended Islam. So now those same people are going to be offended when someone of another religion does something similar to them, in a place that they already loathe? Poor poor babies.

Dragging the symbols of oppressors and enemies in the dirt is a historically common occurrence. If moderate Muslims really want to tone down the violence, tone down the killing, tone down the repression, they need to not be looking at pastors in Florida, but hold those extremists of their own faith accountable for their actions.


It is clear that you need reeducation. Please report to the Department of Education Reeducation camp nearest you no later than October 15, 2010.

Pay no attention to that man objecting to the ban in Bibles in Medina. The Department of State is working on obtaining the release of Christian missionaries in Iran.


do not do your enemy a small injury

Sun Tzu say: "If your enemy is quick to anger, seek to irritate him"

The Legions are best prepared for when the enemy, in its illconsidered wrath, attempts to fight conventionally. We take the most casualties when the enemy coldly uses the partisan tactics of bombs, sniping, and the slow grind. Therefore getting their goat seems well advised, they may do something stupid, and can hardly seem to hate us more.

Besides, now that they have threatened to do us ill should we misbelieving infidels have the temerity to burn their book, we must do so, or be accounted cowards and weak. If we bow to the threat of coercive violence now, when and where will it ever end?


Of course. Clearly the troops are not allowed to burn the Koran as a means of infuriating the enemy and inducing them to suicide tactics. Nor is it profitable to make that a large topic of discussion.


: Unintended cost

Here's an unintended cost to think about, from the november 2010 issue of British Heritage.

"If it gets too windy, the National Grid will pay wind farm owners to switch off their turbines. The payments are apparently essential to prevent the electricity supply from overloading the network."

"The payments are passed on to the customers' bills."


Wind is erratic, and energy storage is less than 50% efficient. Windy areas near power dams make sense as the power can be used to pump water back up into the reservoirs. Without the storage, wind is not reliable.





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CURRENT VIEW     Saturday

This week:


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Sunday,  September 12, 2010     

"We have concluded that the Greenland and West Antarctica ice caps are melting at approximately half the speed originally predicted."


- Roland Dobbins


'Police determined Grier had the gun legally. He has no criminal record. And so he was not charged for the weapon.'


-- Roland Dobbins





"9/11 and the 9-Year War
weekly/20100907_911_and_9_year_war>  is republished with permission of STRATFOR."

I just happened to have read these two articles back to back.

The difficulty with being a 'super power' is learning when/how to do things without the 'super' (see the first 10 minutes of the movie "The Incredibles"!). It also seems that the populace (as a whole) takes on the same persona and begets leaders thereof as well... It's reminiscent of the oft heard, "If we can put a man on the moon, why can't we..."; but more like "We can do this, so we should!"

Each of these two articles neglects to mention the main cause for misunderstandings and missteps... Instant communication. Instant communication demands instant action and such action, without forethought, results in flailing about ultimately breaking things. And, when you're a super power breaking things in such a manner means breaking things in a BIG way.

David Couvillon
 Colonel, U.S. Marine Corps, Retired.; Former Governor of Wasit Province, Iraq; Righter of Wrongs; Wrong most of the time; Distinguished Expert, TV remote control; Chef de Hot Dog Excellance; Collector of Hot Sauce; Avoider of Yard Work 

Agreed. Of course the ability to infuriate the enemy can be used to his disadvantage if done cleverly.


Dr. Pournelle,

Happened across this link. Reminds me of _The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress_.




GWB at Ground Zero

HillBuzz has a great post about George W. Bush here <http://hillbuzz.org/2010/09/11/
needed-it-most/>  . It showcases this picture:

Who does the President think is the most important person in this picture? Tells you all you need to know.

Cheers, Dan


To Petronius


I felt compelled to respond to Petronius. I had the same testing experience in school, but I stopped earning A's when school stopped being interesting. I read Stephen King's The Gunslinger when I was in 5th Grade. My teacher flipped out, yelled at me for reading it saying that even college kids could not understand it. I yelled at him and called him some insulting names. Once more, I was sent to see the principle--who shoved me into the wall more than once. The school called home, again, and complained about me, again. For once, my parents stood up for me and told them that I could read whatever the hell I wanted to and that if he wanted a book report, I would do one. I prepared one and gave it. When I got to the part about the rape, my teacher told me sit down and he never said anything negative to me again. But, I never cared about school again. I got through High School, making the honor role once just to show everyone that I could do it. I have a 3.98 GPA now--that A- in math killed me.

Another problem that came with my disconnect from school, was my disconnect from others in the social sense. I had been disillusioned before I hit puberty. I never really saw the value in the activities others found so important, consequently I had few people I could relate to. The school system not only isolates people academically, but socially. Kids like me have entire committees formed to discuss "what is wrong with this child". We have to see doctors and risk being put on medications--they looked at everything from ADD to fetal alcohol syndrome, trying to find some excuse to medicate me. When we become curious adults, we have to read discussions where unqualified personnel suggest that we have some physical or mental disorder or another while they try to figure out "what is wrong with this child". Well, there was nothing wrong with me. There was everything wrong with them, their credential sellers, and their slogan slingers. The end result? Isolation, possible chemical attack--from medications, and possibly a life lost.

While I have my reservations concerning the Army, I will say that I look at the Army--overall--as a positive experience. In many ways, the Army set me up for life and set me up for success. Whatever I may feel about certain aspects of that time, it was better than the school system. I agree with Petronius. We are in the world of Harrison Bergeron. While part of me hopes that there is a special circle in the inferno for these people, I'm learning not to take things personally. These people are playing roles and they don't really know what they are doing or who they are. Unfortunately, in our Republic, they have power. With that power comes responsibility. These people really needs to quit trying to be a bunch of creeps and learn to get their act together. Because, that small circle of Inferno extended to my childhood, Petronius' childhood, the childhood of countless others and that was completely unnecessary and it didn't make my life any better.

-- BDAB,




While attending Admiral Rickover's Nuclear Power School, one background story was that :

Three of the most radioactive locations in the country are at the base of the Statue of Liberty, the Empire State building garage and Grand Central Station. Uranium seems to occur in conjunction with granite, some sources more than others, those three NYC construction jobs more than most.


Dan Steele
Port Ludlow, WA
Ice Pilot

That's actually been known for a long time, except apparently to science writers.


: Fly Ash, Nuke Plants, and Radiation


A few years ago over at the Palo Verde Nuclear plant (West of Phoenix) the radiation counters kept going off. The funny thing was, the energy was wrong, indicating radioactive products that simply are not generated by Uranium fission.

Nevertheless, they kept getting radiation hits in the cooling stacks.

Palo Verde is in the desert. There is no river or convenient ocean to dump the waste heat like at Diablo Canyon. So where does Palo Verde get its water from? They use City of Phoenix treated wastewater. So while LA might use non-potable wastewater to irrigate freeway greenswards, we use it in the cooling stacks of our local power plant.

The radiation? It came from trace amounts of radioactive barium and iodine left in the wastewater stream. Taken as part of a medical procedure, those isotopes are then passed out of the body (via the normal means) and eventually end up in the city wastewater. And then eventually deposited on the walls of the Palo Verde cooling stacks.

So our local plant actually does put out some radiation, but it's not from the reactor.

Best regards as always,

Mark E. Horning, Physicist,


Thought you and readers might find interesting.

"What is third world status? You can’t rely on the blockheaded Wikipedia definition here, which tries to make it into a political alignment issue. Third world status means your nation is disorganized and lacks direction; as a consequence, it is corrupt, dirty, violent, illiterate and feeble. Usually it was once a greater nation, but fell into disorganization, and with that lost the ability or desire to recognize its better people, and bred them out. What is left is a horde of filthy clueless people ruled over by clever and thoroughly vicious overlords."

Quote from: http://www.amerika.org/politics/what-will-split-america/



Have you seen "The Fog of War"

Eleven Lessons from the Life of Robert S. McNamara?

I watched it for the third time last night. The first time I was mostly sucked in by the Philip Glass soundtrack and the visuals.

The second and third time I found myself compelled by MacNamara the person and his message. For someone so universally despised both then and now, he offered some seriously valuable insight into the nature of war.

One of the better accessible Cold War documents IMHO.

Best, -jim

I have not seen it. I know for a fact that McNamara sometimes -- actually frequently -- made up date. One of Pournelle's Laws is that you can prove anything if you can make up your data. I would walk wide of any lessons discovered by McNamara.


Ed Kelly writes:

"...in order to result in a conviction, the "false statement" must be proven to be on a "material" matter to the investigation...The term "material matter" is a lynch pin of the crime and is decided at the trial."

Ah-heh. So it's not a crime to make a false statement on a non-material matter, but you don't actually know what is or isn't a material matter until *after* you've made the statement!

So we're back to "I will not make any statement on any subject until I have consulted with legal counsel..."


Although the real issue here is that the investigation wasn't about identifying a crime; it was about "getting" Martha Stewart, or Scooter Libby, or Al Capone, or whoever.

-- Mike T. Powers


More on the Martha Steward Crime

Dear Dr. Pournelle:

I would like to thank you for publishing my e-mail to you in your excellent weblog. I would also like to thank Ed Kelly for his expert confirmation of most of my thesis in that e-mail. I would, however, have a small quibble with his statement that "[u]nder our federal laws for making a false statement under Title 18, Section 1001, in order to result in a conviction, the "false statement" must be proven to be on a "material" matter to the investigation."

In reading the text of 18 USC 1001(a)(1), one finds these words:

"Except as otherwise provided in this section, whoever, in any matter within the jurisdiction of the executive, legislative, or judicial branch of the Government of the United States, knowingly and willfully— (1) falsifies, conceals, or covers up by any trick, scheme, or device a material fact. . ."

I fear that the words of the statute do not limit the scope of 18 USC 1001(a)(1) to the investigation at hand. Nor do those words appear to limit that scope to a material fact of an action currently at hand. As the words 'in any matter within the jurisdiction of the executive, legislative, or judicial branch of the Government of the United States" appear rather broad, I fear that they could easily translate out into the following simple language: 'if you fail to tell us ANY fact which MAY be material to ANY federal investigation, you are committing a federal felony.'

Anyone who remembers the Al Capone tax evasion trials, or Robert F. Kennedy's famous statement "If a gangster even spits on the ground, we'll prosecute him", or who bothers to Google the words "pretextual prosecution", will have some idea of the lengths to which federal prosecutors will go after individuals who thwart those prosecutors.

In consequence, I hope if Mr. Kelly will forgive me if I disagree with him on this one point.

I also hope that Mr. Kelly will forgive my quibbling on the matter of misprision of a felony. Rather than simply going back to 1908, that crime goes back hundreds of years in the common law, and Sir William Blackstone was one of the many legal scholars who commented on it. It is still codified as 18 USC 4. It has been abolished as a crime in most of the common law jurisdictions of the British Commonwealth.

I would insist that, though, that there is a difference between a crime which forbids concealing knowledge of a felony, and which itself is punished as a misdemeanor, and a crime (punished by a felony) that forbids concealing knowledge of any material fact to ANY investigation under federal executive, legislative, or judicial jurisdiction, regardless of whether the underlying crime is a felony, misdemeanor, or simple infraction.

That said, I would like to thank Dr. Pournelle again for his good weblog.

Very truly yours,

Bernard Brandt


Doublethink Continues -- Even for the President himself


I read an article that I found most interesting. I will share a snip and some comments. The full article is here in the Journal: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB1000


Speaking at Cuyahoga Community College in Parma, Ohio, the president gave his second aggressive campaign address of the past few days—delivering a speech that was part mea culpa, part policy address but mainly red meat for a Democratic base that party officials fear will sleep through the Nov. 2 vote. He conceded that his policies have "fed the perception that Washington is still ignoring the middle class."


Translating this into English: if the President's policies are feeding a "perception that Washington is still ignoring the middle class", this raises several considerations. First, who's perception is this? Let's assume that middle class America has said perception. Thus, the President's policies are feeding this perception of ignorance. This raises the question, is the President implying that said perception incorrect? If said perception is incorrect then are his policies of ignoring the middle class intentional? If he is not implying that perception is incorrect, then he must imply that said perception is correct. This would mean the President is ignoring the middle class. So, with this statement, the President is either intentionally hurting the middle class or he is intentionally ignoring them. Clearly, the President's speech writers did not think this one through, else their doublethink introduced confusion in their own minds. But, the plot thickens.


"If we're willing again to choose hope over fear, to choose the future over the past, to come together once more around the great project of national renewal, then we will restore our economy, rebuild our middle class and reclaim the American dream for the next generation," he said, striking the revival-like cadences that buoyed his presidential bid.


This part of the speech interests me as well. I noted the use of inclusive language "we're willing"--seems to include the listener or reader. But we come to "hope over fear", "future over the past", "great project of national renewal", etc. By the time I finished reading this sentence, I was amazed at how many glittering generalities [1] a propagandist could place in one sentence! While I realize that propaganda is no stranger to the mouths of Washington's denizens, I continue to gasp in amazement at the improvements made in propaganda since the days of Dr. Goebbels.

[1] In the interests of defining my terms: glittering generalities are words or phrases that Alfred Korzybski would call "multiordinal". While there is an entire linguistic process and series of charts to demonstrate how this works, I will suffice it to say that glittering generalities are relative to the listener. "Hope" means something different to me than it does to every other person on the planet, as every other person on the planet has a nervous system slightly different from mine. The relativity of the phrase causes glittering generalities to have any meaning, therefore they have no meaning. Generous use of these phrases--I would have said "liberal use" but that would make a political pun--facilitates projection of the listener's perceptions onto the skeleton of speech uttered by the propagandist. -- BDAB,



The Wheat Farmer / Burn a Koran Day 

Dr Pournelle

Mr Gordon Sollars correctly identified the decision in Wickard v. Filburn, 317 U.S. 111 (1942) as the one that extended the Commerce Clause to wheat grown for personal consumption. http://www.jerrypournelle.com/mail/2010/Q3/mail639.html#Tuesday  Boiled down, the Court found that home-grown and home-consumed wheat displaced wheat in interstate commerce and, thus, that the reach of the national gov't extended to such wheat.

I recall reading this case in law school. I thought it wrongly decided then, and I still think it and all decisions that follow it wrong.

Wickard means all the hydroponic gardening you did was illegal, because you displaced vegetables in interstate commerce. Turn yourself in. (Well, you have a right against self-incrimination, so I guess you can skate on that one.)

Do any of your neighbors keep kitchen herb gardens? They are lawbreakers. Backyard gardeners? Felons each and every one. All those Victory Gardens grown in WWII? Illegal. (Note the year of the Wickard decision.)

If a lawyer believes the law is wrong, he has a duty to argue for a change. Otherwise Plessy v. Ferguson would still be the law of the land. Wickard is bad law and cannot be made good. It can only be overturned.


The national attention being paid to the Reverend Terry Jones's Burn-A-Koran Day surprises me for its one-sided rhetoric. Why does the ACLU not stand up to defend the Rev's right to free speech? Surely if burning an American flag is protected by the First Amendment, then burning a Koran must be, too.

Like the Ground Zero mosque, just because you have the right to do it does not mean it is right to do it.

Live long and prosper

h lynn keith

PS Thanks very much for maintaining the most thought-provoking blog on the web. Last I counted, I had four windows displaying Chaos Manor or links from Chaos Manor. And that was a light load when you took the day off.

I try to provide a variety of reasonably well baked thoughts, with a few unbaked for variety...

As to burning a Koran, perhaps the Legions should set up good fields of fire and pre-aimed artillery, and then have a Burn a Koran day announced well in advance. Sort of chumming the waters for those who want to kill us. Of course we will not do that.





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