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Monday  February 14, 2011

Throwing an Ally Off a Cliff.


--- Roland Dobbins


'Turkey's descent into Islamic radicalism is slowed only by its once-secular military and by the cultural separation between Turkish and Arab peoples.'


-- Roland Dobbins


: Smiling Faces and Purple Fingers...

A long, but very important and informative read. I should have written this myself!


David Couvillon Colonel, U.S. Marine Corps Reserve, 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; Avoider of Yard Work


SUBJECT: A Lack Of Rigor Leaves Students 'Adrift' In College

Hi Jerry.

Commentary on a study that finds that a portion of students don't improve much in college:



Mike Casey

There was a time when scholarship had a specific meaning. It  is not to everyone's taste.


Every mosque in Cairo has a toilet and washing area, and there are mosques on every street, nearly every block, so there probably isn’t a shortage of toilet facilities for protesters. There are more mosques than needed, because mosques get free water and electricity, so many building owners have a small mosque built into their buildings. At least that was the case in the mid 90’s when we lived there for 18 months.

I hope Egypt gets through this crisis intact. However, the most likely parties to get into government are those that are better organized. For now, that means the more radical groups that have invisible cadres with much experience in getting people together. The mainstream is unlikely you be well organized, given the longevity of Mubarak’s rule and his failure to properly plan for succession.


Interesting. The week the sewers stop working is the week that plague begins. Clearly there is some expertise in such matters; they have had the hadj for centuries. But the logistics of large crowds is a bit more complex than many suppose.


Letter from England

 Rumour from on high is that *all* UK universities will be charging £9000 ($14400) fees per year, with students from poorer families receiving a £3000 discount. Living expenses on top of that. As far as the Government is concerned, this is the most expensive option due to student loan costs, but lower fees would cause the unis to go bust as the Government is no longer making a contribution to teaching costs. The Government is upset. <http://tinyurl.com/6anp9mp>  <http://tinyurl.com/68mk295>  Article about how the Government's policy may reverse decades of work to widen participation at Oxford and Cambridge: <http://tinyurl.com/5rla2nx>

 The Government wants to sell off the public-owned commercial forests--which also serve as forest parks. So much land coming onto the market simultaneously means that the price will be severely depressed. <http://tinyurl.com/5v8de6b>  <http://tinyurl.com/5tm823j>  <http://tinyurl.com/6zh239y>

 Apparently water may finally be fluoridated in the UK. UK dental health is notoriously bad, and the NHS provision of dental care is very, very poor. Many working class kids never see a dentist. <http://tinyurl.com/62ux7et>  

 Middle class backlash against cuts is building: <http://tinyurl.com/62lhvet>  <http://tinyurl.com/6ejbqmm>  <http://tinyurl.com/62er7dj>  <http://tinyurl.com/4mfovow>  <http://tinyurl.com/5uvqvk9>

 DNA profiles of innocent people to be finally removed from the UK police database: <http://tinyurl.com/6z3w5z6>  <http://tinyurl.com/6hnn4fw>  Met accused of a political campaign against expert witnesses: <http://tinyurl.com/6ebcjqg>

 Mubarak gone. <http://tinyurl.com/6jn97pv>  <http://tinyurl.com/66o2k6o>  <http://tinyurl.com/4jm8l59> . I've been getting phone calls from an ex-student there about these events. Few people in Egypt knew what was going on.

 Berlusconi embattled: <http://tinyurl.com/69cfunp>  

"Lost art of editing" <http://tinyurl.com/6d5x38l>

 Register article on Amazon versus Texas over taxes: <http://tinyurl.com/67ryj6m>

 UK students 'worst in Europe' at study abroad <http://tinyurl.com/5t5hdcn> . Discussion below.

Statistics in the UK in serious decline. <http://tinyurl.com/6e3lwcw>  I teach this stuff, and most students here are so innumerate that they can't deal with the numbers. And it doesn't help that an A-level in statistics doesn't even count for entrance to a good university! Discussion below.

UK to cut neuroscience funding by 20% <http://tinyurl.com/63k4x4j>. Perhaps because the major drug firms are pulling their research out of the UK. I will continue exploring my return to America.

The promised discussion: Carl Zimmer's column in the March/April issue of Discover discusses some things we now know about adolescent judgement. There is neuro-imaging evidence that the reward identification subsystem--which triggers actions--matures much earlier (age 14) than the long term judgment subsystem (age 25)--involved in delaying gratification. So adolescents have the tastes of an adult and the foresight of a child. In the UK educational system, students are required to make adult judgments earlier than anywhere else, and it shows: most students opt out of foreign language and mathematics in their early teens. I much prefer teaching mature students--they usually understand how effort now might have a payoff in the future.


Harry Erwin

Rock management: "Bring me a rock! Not that one!" and "If you want it bad; you get it bad. If you want it really bad; you get it really bad. If you want it really, really bad..." Both seem applicable to the current UK Government. (Labour was no better.)






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Tuesday,  February 15, 2011

magnetic field 


In very roundish back of the envelope numbers, the total energy of the geomagnetic field can be approximated as follows:

a) Use surface field of 0.3 gauss (3 E -5 Tesla) as constant through volume of 3 earth radii.

b) Energy density is

E/V = B^2/2/mu = (3 E -5)^2/2/4/pi/E-7 J/m^3 = (9/2/4/pi) * (E-10/E-7) J/m^3 = 3/8 * E-3 J/m^3 = 3 E-4 J/m&3.

c) The resulting volume is 4*(18 E 6 m)^3 = 4 * 18^3 E 18 m^3 = 15 E 21 m^3

d) The total energy is thus

45 E-4 E21 J = 5 E18 J = 5000 Megatonnes

Not insignificant, but on the order of one millionth of the corresponding thermal energies involved in climate.

If I've not slipped a digit anywhere.

This page http://www.creationresearch.org/crsq/articles/39/39_1/GeoMag.htm  (which I do not otherwise endorse) gives the integrated total energy of the geomagnetic field as 7E18 J, so my crude approximations are apparently not that far off.


Thanks. 5000 Mt is 100 copies of Tsar Bomba (minus the fallout) which was taken seriously enough by the Union of Concerned Scientists and the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists back at the time, but it does seem a bit small as a causal factor of extreme weather, much less climate. Shifting of the Magnetic Field sounds alarming, and I'd still think it worth having some post-doc who is being funded to do climate modeling spend a day or two just looking at the numbers -- I can't think that would cost the people much money since I suspect most of those grants have a bit of slack in them, and heck, the post doc might even come up with something publishable.

So the only way that the Magnetic Pole Shift is likely to have  a big climactic effect=============



: Earth's temperature...

You continue to exclaim regarding "the earth's temperature."

I didn't know the earth is an isothermal body.

If it isn't, does it make sense to talk about it as having a single temperature?

steven, physicist

I can only say that there are plenty of charts showing the Earth's Average Annual Temperature and this is often referred to as the Temperature of the Earth. I tend to agree that this is an ambiguous term, and I would prefer to know the operations used to ascertain the temperature of the earth. Operational definitions work just fine.


Pole Shift Criticism 

Dear Jerry,

Apparently the critic of your musing on the energy requirements of the shifting of the Earth's magnetic poles didn't recall that the first steps of the Scientific Method are to ask a question and gather information. Your inquiry clearly was following that route. Score another victim of Modern Education. :(

Thanx for the Fund Drive nag. I hope to be a subscriber for many, many more years.

Cheers, Rod Schaffter

-- "If a mandate was the solution, we can try that to solve homelessness by mandating everybody to buy a house," -Sen. Barack Obama


Deep-Sea Volcanic Vents 

Hello Dr. Pournelle,

Subject: Deep-Sea Volcanic Vents

More water heaters -- they just keep on finding them. http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/02/110214115438.htm 


Clyde Wisham

***“Clearly, a civilization that feels guilty for everything it is and does will lack the energy and conviction to defend itself.” -- Jean Francois Revel***

Which goes to the question of Earth temperature. I am repeatedly told that volcanic activity and the interior temperature of the Earth has little direct effect on biosphere temperatures, and volcanoes most cool by spewing up shiny particulates (see eighteen hundred and froze to death). I have this nagging notion that heat sources at ocean bottom is an efficient way to heat water, and hot water in the deeps will start currents, but I cheerfully admit that I haven't the time and probably not the talent to make a decent mathematical model of the process. I wish someone would.


Stratfor on Egypt: The Distance Between Enthusiasm and Reality,


Stratfor says what we all thought:


“At this point, we simply don’t know what will happen. We do know what has happened. Mubarak is out of office, the military regime remains intact and it is stronger than ever. This is not surprising, given what STRATFOR has said about recent events in Egypt, but the reality of what has happened in the last 72 hours and the interpretation that much of the world has placed on it are startlingly different. Power rests with the regime, not with the crowds. In our view, the crowds never had nearly as much power as many have claimed.

“Certainly, there was a large crowd concentrated in a square in Cairo, and there were demonstrations in other cities. But the crowd was limited. It never got to be more than 300,000 people or so in Tahrir Square, and while that’s a lot of people, it is nothing like the crowds that turned out during the 1989 risings in Eastern Europe or the 1979 revolution in Iran. Those were massive social convulsions in which millions came out onto the streets. The crowd in Cairo never swelled to the point that it involved a substantial portion of the city.

“In a genuine revolution, the police and military cannot contain the crowds. In Egypt, the military chose not to confront the demonstrators, not because the military itself was split, but because it agreed with the demonstrators’ core demand: getting rid of Mubarak. And since the military was the essence of the Egyptian regime, it is odd to consider this a revolution.” <snip>

“The crowd in Cairo, as telegenic as it was, was the backdrop to the drama, not the main feature. The main drama began months ago when it became apparent that Mubarak intended to make his reform-minded 47-year-old son, Gamal, lacking in military service, president of Egypt. This represented a direct challenge to the regime. In a way, Mubarak was the one trying to overthrow the regime.”

Now that is cute: Mubarak was the one trying to overthrow the regime.

“The Egyptian regime was founded in a coup led by Col. Gamal Abdel Nasser . . . basing it on the military. . . . While Nasser took off his uniform, the military remained the bulwark of the regime. Each successive president of Egypt, Anwar Sadat and Hosni Mubarak, while formally elected in elections of varying dubiousness, was an officer in the Egyptian military who had removed his uniform when he entered political life.

“Mubarak’s decision to name his son represented a direct challenge to the Egyptian regime.”

“If [Mubarak’s son] were to be appointed, then the military regime would be replaced by, in essence, a hereditary monarchy — what had ruled Egypt before the military. Large segments of the military had been maneuvering to block Mubarak’s ambitions . . . Hosni Mubarak was the leader of the regime, successor to Nasser and Sadat, who over time came to distinguish his interests from those of the regime. He was increasingly seen as a threat to the regime, and the regime turned on him.” <snip>

“The demonstrators never called for the downfall of the regime. They demanded that Mubarak step aside. . . The military welcomed the demonstrations, since they created a crisis that put the question of Mubarak’s future on the table. They gave the military an opportunity to save the regime and preserve its own interests.” <snip>

“What happened was not a revolution. The demonstrators never brought down Mubarak, let alone the regime. What happened was a military coup that used the cover of protests to force Mubarak out of office in order to preserve the regime.” <snip>

“We now face the question of whether the coup will turn into a revolution. The demonstrators demanded — and the military has agreed to hold — genuinely democratic elections and to stop repression. It is not clear that the new leaders mean what they have said or were simply saying it to get the crowds to go home. But there are deeper problems in the democratization of Egypt. First, Mubarak’s repression had wrecked civil society. The formation of coherent political parties able to find and run candidates will take a while. Second, the military is deeply enmeshed in running the country. Backing them out of that position, with the best will in the world, will require time. The military bought time Feb. 13, but it is not clear that six months is enough time, and it is not clear that, in the end, the military will want to leave the position it has held for more than half a century.” <snip>

What Was Achieved? . . . The Egyptian regime is still there, still controlled by old generals. They are committed to the same foreign policy as the man they forced out of office. They have promised democracy, but it is not clear that they mean it. If they mean it, it is not clear how they would do it, certainly not in a timeframe of a few months.” <snip>

“The week began with an old soldier running Egypt. It ended with different old soldiers running Egypt with even more formal power than Mubarak had. This has caused worldwide shock and awe. . . . But . . . in spite of the crowds, nothing much has really happened yet in Egypt. It doesn’t mean that it won’t, but it hasn’t yet.

“An 82-year-old man has been thrown out of office, and his son will not be president. The constitution and parliament are gone and a military junta is in charge. The rest is speculation.”

I think they summed it up nicely.


As I said when this began, the Mamelukes have retired a Sultan. It has happened before. What their intentions are now is not so clear.

As to the junior Mubarak, I know nothing of his views; but he did choose to avoid a military career, which would have been a pretty certain route to a high position. Still, for a long time both Janissaries and Mamelukes were forbidden to have legitimate children, then when that was allowed, entry into the organizations are not hereditary; but of course over time they began to take in and advance their own children. That seems always to happen. Consult the Borgias for another example.


What we don't know 

Dear Jerry,

As you pointed out in VIEW today, 02/14/11, now that the "revolution" has won in Egypt and Tunisia, and there are demonstrations in Yemen and Iran, we are now into a period where no one knows what will come out of this.

Quite true.

I've studied history formally and informally for quite some time, and long ago noticed a pattern which might be of some use in spotting a trend here.

It seems that ever since science and industry began their quickening, ca. 1700 to 1800, that there is a seventy year cycle in social upheaval. The equivalency between this and the Biblical three score and ten putative human lifetime, may not be a coincidence. In times before modern medicine, even with the best food, shelter and water available, it was unlikely any but a vanishingly small fraction of a single percentage point would live significantly beyond 70.

I'll get back to that, Here's the pattern

1680 to 1710 English Restoration and Glorious Revolution, Act of Settlement, unification of Scotland and England, effective rule by (upper) middle class, early concepts of rights Of Man.

1750- 1780 Development in Scottish and (to lesser extent) French Enlightenment of theories of government and popular rule. French Revolution just a few years off the mark.

1947 Right on Schedule Europe erupts in its biggest year of revolution prior to 1917/18.

1870 A second cycle begins. Just 24 years later the new kid on the block, Socialism, jumps the shark and sets up the Paris Commune, which the Middle Class in France, newly empowered, puts down with as much bloodshed as The Terror collapsed into a few weeks.

1947 Exactly 70 ears after the previous year of the barricade, three empires are destroyed, Austria-Hungary breaks into small states, Germany's Second Reich falls to a classic bourgeois take over and the Russian Empire is given a one-two punch of a classic bourgeois revolt stifled in its crib by a socialist coup d' etat that uses Terror as effectively as the Bourgeoisie did in 1870 against the socialist revolt.

1940 Year of revolution? You likely think not, but consider that the Nazi's and Italian Fascists were considered to be socialists not only be man of their adherents, but even by many socialists (who coined the term "Right Deviationist" to define their place in the Socialist pecking order). Not to mention in 1941 they were both de facto allies of the Soviet Union, and through the victories of 1940 those three countries had overthrown every government in Europe that was no already actively allied with them, even if only de fact as in the cases of Portugal and Spain. It was a near complete Socialist takeover of Europe. It was partially reversed by the success of the Allies in the Normandy invasion of 1944, as well as the Marshall plan and NATO in the post war years, but ony partially.

1989 The first cycle hits, with bourgeois revolts in Eastern and Central Europe, followed by the Balkans and China.

2010 The second cycle hits again. This time it starts with the most vulnerable societies, the basket case bodies politic of the Middle East.

Maybe it's that it takes seventy years for a society to forget what happened last time, and give it another go.

Perhaps it's just me making patterns where there is only randomness.

Then again, what if there is a pattern we can use to make some guesses?

Myself, I think the most likely candidate is Iran. It has a large middle class, mostly young, mostly secular, and they've been blooded.

We shall see.


After the fall of Paris, American communists offered toasts to the victory of the people over the bourgeois while the Wehrmacht marched under the Arc d Triumph.


'Turkey's descent into Islamic radicalism is slowed only by its once-secular military and by the cultural separation between Turkish and Arab peoples.'


--- Roland Dobbins

I think Mustapha Kemal's band of brothers has but little time to act now before the window will be closed.


Physical Avatars

We may be witnessing the emergence of physical avatars, robots that carry a person's presence in the physical world the way virtual 3D "mobiles" serve as surrogates in virtual worlds, such as MMOs. This video is what I would call a stunt (a quite humorous one) by a robot manufacturer in Mountain View, CA, but it does a good job of demonstrating the robot-as-avatar concept. The idea is that the robots would serve as surrogates for business travellers, perhaps being captive to a business associate's facility, but not necessarily so. Rather than be tied through video-conferencing to a single conference room, the robotic "virtual traveller" could travel from office to office for private meetings, or even be given a plant tour. Although it isn't apparent at first glance in the video, there is a small video monitor near the top of the robot's "head" that carries the image of the robot's controller, the "virtual traveller".


If these were just a bit more robust, they could serve for pleasure travel as well. As the video noted, they're not really weatherproof. However, at the $15k purchase price, I'd think that rental concessions would spring up, and as long as the rates were less than a plane ticket...

Jeff Larson



“They may tell you they don’t believe everything they read on the Internet, but they do.”


- Roland Dobbins


Fred On Everything - 

Don’t miss Fred’s current installment. He is pretty brutal towards the CIA and U.S. intelligence community in general. And not without more than a little justification.

My Name's Blind. James Blind.

Pondering Intelligence, if Any.




Some of Fred's examples are not correct. As for example, the plan of the Bay of Pigs operation was to establish Cuban politicians on Cuban soil, who could then call for US aid. The Marines would then go in, and would be in Havana in a week. This was considered enough of a diplomatic beard to make the operation more or less legitimate under the Monroe Doctrine in which the US had warned Europe to stay out of this hemisphere and particularly out of the Caribbean.

There is little doubt that this would have worked in the sense of victory of the Marines against Castro's army. How welcome the Marines would be in Havana was not certain, but Castro's popularity was falling rapidly. In any event the Kennedy brothers approved the plan and indeed were enthusiastic. The plan failed because there was no air cover for the operation and not all the landing boats got to shore. The invaders, Cubans all, could not hold the beachhead long enough to bring in the shadow government which would appeal for aid to the United States.

Regarding Viet Nam, everyone in intelligence evaluations understood that there were only two national heroes in Viet Nam (both halves): Ho Chi Minh, and Diem. Diem was the Prime Minister who had exiled the Emperor and proclaimed the Republic. His government was certainly no model of honesty and purity, but neither is Chicago. Kennedy approved a plan for deposing Diem against the advice of everyone in the intelligence community (correction: everyone I know or knew). The plan was conceived and championed by Harvard brains trusters, and Diem's death sentence was personally carried to Viet Nam by a Harvard PhD Whitehouse staffer.

There are a number of effective working people in the CIA, but there are also a lot of political intellectuals. Promotion has become political to the point that the armed forces generally rely more on their own intelligence people than on the CIA.

Incidentally, everyone knew the address of the Chinese Embassy. Messages were delivered there. There is a lot more to that story than has come out in public.



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Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Earth as a dynamo

Dear Jerry,

We exchanged e-mails a while back about this subject.

I set out to do some back-of-the-envelope calculations. It's far more difficult than initial appearance.

Data on the solar wind is difficult to find unless you delve into quite complicated scientific publications. I have neither the time nor the expertise for this. I did 40+ years ago but pursued a career in software development. Not much use for Maxwell's equations in that field.

You also have to calculate the magnetic shielding effect of the material outside the core. I don't believe that we know enough about the shape of magnetic field surrounding the earth to be very accurate with the calculations.

I, like you, suspect that the effect is significant. The generally accepted theory for the interior temperature, radioactive decay, has some difficulties. Thorium and uranium have a half-life of about 5 billion years. Given that, the temp should be lower now than historically. Geologic history doesn't seem to indicate that to be the case.

Don't know how to approach the problem of finding out. I doubt that I have sufficient time left to get a graduate education in enough subjects anyway. You seem to know a lot of well educated people . Maybe a concerted reach-out can get something stirring.

Regards, Roy

I have made several such attempts myself. I always come up with the conclusion that there are so many fudge factors involved that one might conclude insignificance or great importance depending on the assumptions you make, and wondering how that is different from our very expensive climate models.

I have all my life heard that the numbers for computing Earth's interior temperature don't seem to add up, and I keep hearing about more and more undersea volcanoes, yet no one seems to change their temperature exchange models. This may not be significant. It may well be that the interchange between interior temperature and the biosphere is trivial. Yet, still, there has to be some mechanism for equilibrium. If radioactivity and magnetic flux and gravitational settlement add heat to the interior, but the temperature down there doesn't change, then there has to be someplace the surplus goes. There also ought to be hot spots at least for a while: could those have any effects? All simple speculations that, I would think, would be fun for undergraduate classes in climatology to discuss and might furnish good topics for Master's theses. Yet I have yet to be shown the discussions, and climatology students don't know about them either. I find that a bit odd, but you saw the result of my asking the question in a conference that has several physicists and at least one ardent advocate of the AGW theory. Ah well.


Lara Logan

Dear Jerry:

The coverage I saw on Laara Logan was that there was a crowd of people who were not part of the demonstration, all male, and that she was separated from her crew and attacked and then rescued by a group of about 20 Egyptian women who called in the soldiers. Apparently Egypt still has a "lad" problem and women are routinely harassed by young men on the street when walking alone. I suspect the reason that the press isn't saying much is that they don't know much and they are not about to guess on this one. Logan is one of their own, like a sister. That makes it hard to be objective.


Francis Hamit

Boys will be boys. Seduction is fine for sissies, but a real man loves his rape. Sounds like a great culture we ought to import for the sake of diversity, since such sentiments aren't so popular here now. Civilized countries have a somewhat different view, or bloody well should if they want to be called civilized.


1848 and the Arab World

Dear Jerry,

I've long enjoyed your webpage and thought to offer a comment.

You and others, including Jacob Heilbrunn at the National Interest, have compared recent events with the Revolutions of 1848, and this piece, along with the book it reviews, might give some useful background:


Readers may find it of interest. The two questions that extend the comparison are (1) what are people doing and thinking outside the major cities and (2) can the revolutions establish alternative structures of authority that last. Otherwise, the Revolutions of 2011 are no more transformative than those of 1848.



There being no structure in either Egypt or Tunisia, the result is de facto a military coup. I note that the Baathists in Iraq did have a structure, and the result of their revolution against the Hashemite king in Iraq gave them the joys of Saddam Hussein. Syria had its revolution, with joyful results. And the Black Swan came to Lebanon, and the Cedar Revolution went nowhere; at one time Lebanon had a dynamic balance between Muslems, Druzes, Jews, and Marionites, but that doesn't seem to be holding now. Multiculturalism in action.


Let's invert an assumption and test it for truth

There is a prevalent assumption floating around especially in political circles that once Muslims see how great America is they'll become moderate and drop the coarser aspects of Muslim teachings. Clearly, the cant goes, if anyone sees how wonderful America is they will want to emulate it.

I claim it simply is not true. Look at Sayyid Qutb, one of the guiding lights of the extremist Muslim Brotherhood and most other actively extremist groups around the world. He lived in the US for awhile and was so actively disgusted with it he moved back to Egypt to expound on violent jihad and hate for the west.

Look at the home grown jihadists we've had shooting people at Ft. Hood, bombing and then flying planes into the twin towers, and so forth. Do remember that the leader of the 911 crew was well educated and had lived in the US for an extended period. Look at the would be Times Square bomber who had lived and worked here and had a successful middle class life. Look to the "moderate Muslim" TV station owner who hacked off his wife's head because she filed for a divorce. Look at Said the taxi driver who killed his two daughters because they were too Westernized. Look to the recent spate of drivers plowing into crowds, Muslim drivers plowing into crowds. (Note the incident list Spencer provides.) San Diego: "Devoutly Muslim" cab driver plows into crowd outside nightclub, injuring 23 "http://www.jihadwatch.org/2011/02

With these and more in mind Raymond Ibrahim asks the simple question that seems more likely to be the truth than the presumption that American values can moderate Muslims.

Can American Values Radicalize Muslims? "http://www.raymondibrahim.com/8765/

It's long. Read it ALL.


Muslims can have accidents too. But the history of Major Hasan is illustrative: what part of American culture did he not understand?


'In all likelihood, China’s foreign policy disasters in 2010 reflect a new mindset, one that combines arrogance (our rise is unstoppable), misjudgement (the United States is declining and can’t do much about China) and renewed hostility to the liberal order (Western democracies represent an existential threat to the Communist Party’s political monopoly).'


---- Roland Dobbins


'It behooves Washington to watch for evidence that Beijing is indeed patterning its rise on Bismarck — and to consider whether Beijing understands what that may portend.'


--- Roland Dobbins

An interesting analogy. Ein Blut und Eisen Dragon


Lara Logan


You write, "Why is the American press minimizing the sexual assault on Lara Logan <http://pournelle.com/view/2011/Q1/view662.html#mob> by the victory celebrants in Cairo? This morning's papers have no additional information other than that it was a "frenzy"."

So, I went to Factiva (the Dow Jones/Reuters newspaper and magazine database, available through my local library system), searched for "Lara Logan," and can find stories about the assault today, 2/16, from the following sources:

AP Reuters ABC News (Good Morning America) The Hotline (newsletter aimed at journalists) NPR's Talk of the Nation USA Today NBC News New York Post CNN's American Morning Washington Post New York Daily News Wall Street Journal New York Times

There are others, that's just a quick sample. And that leaves out international sources -- the Guardian, the Telegraph, the Times, the International Herald Tribune, etc. -- because you specifically asked about American ones.

Many of the stories mention how Mr. Obama called Ms. Logan today.

So, um... Just how does broad coverage in print, TV, and radio constitute "minimizing" a story?

-- Hal

Ah but those are all the same story endlessly repeated; there is nothing new in them. Nothing about who was involved, how there happened to be two hundred men with the design of assaulting a blonde in their exuberance; indeed almost nothing else that was not in the original announcement. There seems to be no investigative reporting at all. Nothing on the Egyptian response, investigation -- perhaps I make too much of this. It's certainly possible. It just seems a curiosity to me.









Space Access Update #121 2/16/11 Copyright 2011 by Space Access Society  (end)


This week, the House of Representatives is debating a new Continuing Resolution (CR) that will appropriate funds for the Federal Government for the rest of federal fiscal year 2011 (FY'11, October 1 2010 through September 30 2011.) (Background: The entire US government is currently funded by a Continuing Resolution, a stopgap budget bill that continues funding at the previous year's levels when Congress, as they did last year, fails to pass normal budget appropriations. The existing CR runs out this March 4th.) And Monday, the White House released its proposed FY'12 federal budget.

As regards NASA Exploration funding, our view is that the CR is pretty good as-is, while the FY'12 budget proposal could be better but is more or less acceptable. Unfortunately, neither the House FY'11 CR nor the White House NASA FY'12 budget is a final product. Both are opening positions in a negotiating process among the House, Senate, and White House, a process that will likely be particularly volatile this year. Our read of the political factors is that the ongoing attempt to reform NASA human space exploration into actual usefulness could be easily be gutted in the coming months if we stand by and do nothing. The other side of that coin is, there is a possibility for significant improvements if we persuasively sell our case.

Bottom line, it's time to get involved again. As the process unfolds over the coming weeks and months we expect multiple opportunities for specific action, but for the moment what we have for you is our overview of the situation, with (for those of you of an activist bent) some thoughts on what would be useful to educate the Congress about in the meantime.

The FY'11 CR, House Version

The new House CR does several interesting things. It sets overall NASA funding at $18.4 billion, down approximately 1.5% from 2010's $18.7 billion. It cancels the "Shelby Amendment" that's been delaying final shutdown of even the parts of Constellation (notably Ares 1) that nobody expects to keep. And it gives NASA HQ surprising freedom in implementing planned Exploration reforms by reprogramming money between NASA funding accounts for the rest of the fiscal year. This CR largely carries over 2010 amounts to this year's accounts, but then exempts NASA's Space Operations (Station and Shuttle), Aeronautics (where a bunch of new Exploration Technology work was slated to go this year) and Education accounts from the usual Congressional reprogramming limits of 5% max decrease/10% max increase on any one account.

Presumably the surplus in Space Operations from this year's shutdown of the Shuttle program can then go to top up Aeronautics to get the new Exploration Technology projects underway, and possibly also to top up the Exploration account (though to no more than a 10% increase) for expanded Commercial Crew and Cargo (CCDev) work. The main requirement imposed is that NASA HQ report back to Congress with a spending plan within 60 days of CR passage - not a problem, we expect, as HQ has known what they want to do this year for months already.

We do not expect passage of this House version CR to be simple or straightforward. NASA is only cut 1.5%, but this CR makes considerably larger cuts elsewhere that the Senate, the White House, or both will almost certainly strongly oppose. NASA FY'11 funding could possibly be cut further in the compromises likely before a final CR is passed and signed. Worse, there will almost certainly be attempts in the Congress (both House and Senate) to mandate larger slices of the available NASA funding for SLS and MPCV, eating everybody else's lunch.

SLS/MPCV Background

SLS is "Space Launch System", the new Congressionally mandated and specified heavy lifter. SLS as specified looks remarkably like the old Ares 5, contractors and all (regardless of whether that's legal without a re-compete.) MPCV is Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle, the Orion capsule by another name. SLS and MPCV were the result of a compromise last summer. The Senate NASA Authorization bill, s.3729, allocated 2/3rds of the $4 billion NASA Exploration budget to keeping Ares 5 and Orion alive under new names, as opposed to the House version that would have given these projects 9/10ths of the Exploration budget. Under the circumstances, we held our nose and worked for the Senate version; 1/3rd of the Exploration budget for actual exploration preparations was hugely better than 1/10th.

Congress also mandated last summer that SLS and MPCV would fly in far less time for far less money than had been planned for Ares/Orion. You may recall that the Constellation program was cancelled when Ares 1 and Orion projected costs to first flight in 2019 passed $40 billion, climbing fast - the last detailed estimate anyone bothered to make said it could run $49 billion to first flight. Needless to say, this was a major increase from original estimates. For what it's worth, SLS and MPCV are mandated in s.3729 to fly in 2016, roughly half the time, for roughly half that much money.

At that point it becomes blindingly obvious (to us at least) that the real goal is continuing jobs and contracts in Ares/Orion congressional districts, no matter what damage it does to work on making actual future NASA space exploration affordable. NASA HQ has very politely reported back to the Congress that SLS/MPCV simply can't fly as Congressionally specified for the available money. The continued insistence by SLS advocates in Congress that "it's the law!" would be hilarious if they weren't working so hard to waste scarce billions on an obvious never-fly jobs program. But we digress...

One last point of comparison, on the fundamental need to shut down NASA in-house space transport development in favor of procuring transportation on a commercial basis outside of the utterly dysfunctional NASA rocket bureaucracy: Ares 1/Orion were up to $49 billion projected cost to 2019 first flight when they were cancelled. SpaceX recently stated that their total cost for Falcon 9/Dragon development (actual first flight, 2010) has been $600 million so far. That's more than an 80 to 1 cost ratio, for considerably less than a 2 to 1 vehicle capability ratio.

The FY'12 Budget, White House Proposal

The White House FY'12 budget has a top-level problem: It freezes overall Federal spending at 2010 levels, at a time when the House has made it clear that it wants to cut back to 2008 levels. There is immense political pressure to reduce rather than merely freeze Federal spending. This is likely to lead to a major political confrontation, with somewhat unpredictable results. (NASA FY'08 funding was $17.4 billion, 7% less than FY'10's $18.7 billion, for what it's worth.)

NASA still enjoys considerable public good will, and is less vulnerable to cuts than many parts of the government - this is reflected in the House FY'11 CR which trims NASA only 1.5% from FY'10 levels. We see it as possible that overall NASA funding levels for FY'12 will survive this year's budget process relatively unscathed - cut, very likely, but by less than the 7% that would take NASA back to FY'08 levels - but there are no guarantees.

However, as with the FY'11 CR, we see it as near certain that there will be attempts in the Congress to mandate much larger slices of the available pie for SLS and MPCV, raiding other NASA accounts to feed what is in essence an earmarked porkbarrel megaproject. We can (if we must) live with SLS/MPCV as a never-fly jobs program, as long as it's funding-capped and never allowed to pretend that grabbing just a few billion more from the rest of NASA would make any real difference in the outcome. Far better though would be to scale SLS back to a smaller ongoing heavy-lift research program to preserve the core NASA rocket-development talent, while redirecting MPCV to develop a capsule that can ride on available commercial launchers. (Politics may be the art of the possible, but one should never totally forget the ideal.)

The good news is that the White House FY'12 budget does cap SLS/MPCV funding, albeit at a higher level than we'd like - about $1.7 billion per year for SLS, and about $900 million per year for MPCV, about $2.6 billion combined total in FY'12 and for the next several years. This essentially maintains the FY'11 level these programs were started at by the s.3729 FY'11 NASA Authorization, rather than increasing funding significantly in FY'12 and onward as called for in s.3729. It looks to us as if both the White House and NASA HQ are trying to gently steer SLS away from being Ares 5 in drag, and toward a more generic program aimed at figuring out what heavy-lift capability NASA actually needs and how to obtain that capability affordably.

We doubt the Congressional Ares/Orion mega-earmark lobby will accept this course change quietly. We expect continued attempts to both grab funding from, and place roadblocks in front of, programs seen as rivals to continued in-house NASA space transport development - very obviously, Commercial Crew & Cargo (decently funded at just under $800 million in the FY'12 request) and more subtly, Orbital Propellant Depots work. Propellant Depots have potential to greatly reduce (or even eliminate) the need for a really large new booster, reducing future exploration costs in the process. (Much more about Depots at our upcoming conference, Space Access '11, April 7-9 in Phoenix Arizona, details at http://www.space-access.org.)

What Comes Next

We expect a series of sharp tactical fights in the coming months. Part of winning those fights is preparing the battlefield by educating Congress and the public about the issues. For the self-starter solo activists out there, we encourage your individual initiatives, but there are also some group-organized volunteer DC lobbying efforts coming up soon that are worth mentioning:

- Space Frontier Foundation's "Keep The Promise" event, March 6-8, run by people we work with regularly, and focusing pretty directly on the issues we've discussed here.


- ProSpace's "March Storm", March 13-15, announced as focusing primarily on "Zero-G, Zero Tax" but also mentioning support for NASA Commercial Crew & Cargo. Far be it from us to suggest the possibility of getting involved with this effort then working to influence the focus in favor of the issues you consider most timely...


And then there's

- National Space Society/Space Exploration Alliance's "Legislative Blitz", February 27 - March 1. The main NSS webpage currently describes the Blitz agenda as "In September 2010, Congress passed the NASA Authorization Act of 2010. [AKA s.3729 - ed.] It is now time for Congress to enact legislation that appropriates the required funding in compliance with the Authorization Act." We'd advise caution before getting involved with this effort, since taken literally, that's a call to increase SLS/MPCV funding at the expense of other NASA exploration work, as outlined in s.3729. We wouldn't be totally surprised if that's indeed what these groups are pushing for, given their histories. We'd advise checking carefully first before committing here.

There's also an AIAA "Congressional Visits Day" effort March 15-16 that seems to be generically in favor of aerospace technology work. It's not clear how much latitude they'll want to give you to set your own agenda for your visits, but as the old saying goes, it's often easier to ask forgiveness than permission. This could be worthwhile if you're an AIAA member - again though, we'd advise you to find out more before committing.


Happy citizen lobbying! 

Space Access Society's sole purpose is to promote radical reductions in the cost of reaching space. You may redistribute this Update in any medium you choose, as long as you do it unedited in its entirety. You may reproduce sections of this Update beyond obvious "fair use" quotes if you credit the source and include a pointer to our website.


Space Access Society http://www.space-access.org  space.access@space-access.org  "Reach low orbit and you're halfway to anywhere in the Solar System" - Robert A. Heinlein, as related by G Harry Stine 



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Thursday, February 17, 2011

No help from the US?


Ms Harrop gives the impression that Egypt's (and Tunisia's) revolution is purely the result of peoples, peaceably organizing and demonstrating for freedoms and rights without violence - guided and encouraged by the technology of Facebook, Twitter, et-al.

I won't disagree that non-military efforts are wrong or right/effective or non-effective, but there should be no dispute that the Cedar Revolution, the Green Revolution, the Tunisian Revolution, the Egyptian Revolution, the Yemani Revolution, and nascent movements in Jordan and Syria (some of those mentioned are ongoing and some summarily crushed) would NOT have happened without the overthrow of Saddam Hussein - at the point of a gun, "American Weaponry" if you will. And thus with the seeds planted by United States. The waving of purple fingers has had profound effects in the region. And the world

David Couvillon Colonel, U.S. Marine Corps Reserve, 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; Avoider of Yard Work

I was not in favor of invading Iraq, not because I thought Hussein was a good guy or that he didn't need overthrowing, but because I think incompetent empire is a losing strategy. Having overthrown Hussein, what then? Powell said it: "You break it, you own it." We could have simply gone in, thrown out Hussein, and left Iraq to its own devices. We might have kept our word to the Iraqi generals on their possible role in a new Iraq.

Instead, and it was inevitable, we sent in Bremer, the most incompetent proconsul since Rome found that Mesopotamia was not fertile soil for Roman culture. Bremer made it certain that Iraq would absorb blood and treasure -- our blood and Iraqi blood -- without effect. We went in blinded by the notion of the end of history. We listened to the blandishments of Chalabi the Thief. We had no idea of what to replace Hussein with. We'd have done better to find the current Hashemite pretender and send him in to form a government. That wouldn't have worked but it would not have failed any worse than what is coming.

We might have made a strategy of pumping oil and keeping world oil prices low. That would have been better for Iraq, actually, since there would have been plenty of money; and we could have hired Iraqis to patrol the oil fields, protect the pipelines, and send their children to universities to learn the oil business. With enough money flowing things would have been a lot easier. And there would have been something for the American people as well.

I fear the Cedar Revolution has failed. We do not yet know what the results in Tunisia and Egypt will be other than the sexual assault on a US reporter by an exuberant crowd of men in the frenzy of victory.

I can hope for better outcomes in Iraq, but hope is not a plan. We were persuaded that establishing democracy in Iraq would be trivial once the tyrant was down. We were told that any random American Foreign Service Officer could do the job once the military had done its job. We sent Bremer, which was pretty inevitable -- if not him, another like him. It was the time of the end of history.

Democracy is not the answer to all the world's problems. A democracy of unlimited power is easy: the result is Zimbabwe and Gaza. A democracy with constitutional power is much more difficult, and well beyond the limits of a Bremer. And in today's America, we are fortunate if the worst we get is Bremer.

Egypt will probably stabilize under the Mamelukes, with luck under a kinder Sultan than Mubarak. I have no predictions for Tunisia, and no confidence that we will like the results of what is going on in Yemen and Jordan.

They would like to wave purple fingers in Iran. I wish them well.


The insanity virus, 



Back in the mid-1980’s Fuller Torrey came home from New Guinea to discover that he no longer had a directorship of a unit of St Elizabeths Hospital in Washington, DC. He then took a job with the Forensic Division, and we became office mates for a few years. We discussed his ideas about schizophrenia being due to germs. Turns out his trip to New Guinea was to see how much schizophrenia had turned up there. When he first went to NG there was almost no schizophrenia there. When he went back in the early 1980’s he found lots, but mostly in areas where the people had been exposed to Western culture.

Fuller also gave me a copy of a long paper that looked at the patterns of illness in the asylums of England. Prior to the sixteenth century stays had been reasonably short. It looked like those hospitals were sheltering lunatics – people with manic-depressive psychosis. After that there was a gradual increase in the length of stay which did not stabilize until around 1915. The interpretation was that the data was consistent with a gradual increase in the incidence of schizophrenia from negligible to its modern rate. This data set supported the hypothesis that schizophrenia was related to and infective illness.

Personally, I suspect that schizophrenia is like hepatitis B – we get ill, but the main damage comes from our bodies’ responses to the virus. But I await further data.

Nice find in your Firefox windows.


I have long intended to write an essay on the subject. Hereditary schizophrenia makes no evolutionary sense. Senile dementia might even have a positive effect since in times of food scarcity one ought to have the good grace to die when one's grandchildren reach adolescence, or sometimes even earlier. Dementia praecox -- juvenile dementia -- has an enormous evolutionary burden, so much so that one suspects infection rather than genes are at work. Infections can run in families too.

We could design the ideal infectious monster, one that cripples but does not kill, does not run riot in the village so that everyone dies, one that allows enough to survive that they can support the madman. One wonders if that happened.

If you believe in evolution you have to take evolution seriously. How did an insanity gene for juvenile dementia or autism evolve? And if it did not, then why does that kind of defect seem to run in families? I have not had time to prepare a real essay on this. I can only point out some of the factors.

And I too await further data.


Subject: Anonymous speaks: the inside story of the HBGary hack


Tracy Walters, CISSP



apple and kindle 


It isn’t a political or hypothetical statement at all, but if Apple requires a 30% cut for every kindle book read on an ipad, then I simply won’t be getting an ipad, now or ever. I use my kindle for almost all of my casual reading now, and most new books I get are through Amazon. If the price goes up or if authors get less money, for the privilege of reading the book on an ipad, then I’ll find another solution or just keep using my kindle. I’ve thought about replacing my kindle with an ipad since it wouldn’t take up much more space and would add features, but making it cost more or adding barriers to usability is just stacking up reasons to keep using what I already have in my travel kit.

Surely Apple must know that there are several attractive alternatives… Apple sells extremely well when their stuff is unique but I think their sales record on mainstream items isn’t nearly as good. Android isn’t nearly as good as iOS in my opinion, but a decent high performance small laptop (like the R700 or thinkpad T410s) matched with a kindle and any sort of smartphone, is an attractive travelers kit. Any addition in price or decrease in usability for the ipad or online store makes replacing the kindle (and laptop?) with an ipad a really unattractive option.


I am still reading books bought from Amazon Kindle on my iPad.


another global warming rebuttal

Good Morning Jerry ,

We traded a couple of e-mails regarding global warming and the increase in precipitation having resulted from the increase in global temperatures. Anthony Watts blog carried this posting today that actually uses hard science to discuss and rebut the comments made by Mr Gore. The article is technical and basically refutes everything Mr Gore said during an interview with Bill O’Reilly of FOX news.




Glen Shevlin

Distinctive Expressions Inc.

Technical it is, and counter intuitive as well: I would have thought that it takes more energy to move more water, and that warm air and warm temperatures cause more evaporation (while of course cooling the lake where the evaporation happens). But that's just my common sense interpretation.


The earth as a dynamo...

Interesting coincidence that the following data base was made available on the web this week (according to BBC on the side bar of the recent Sun CME) the British Geological Society has been collecting these since Victorian times! http://www.bgs.ac.uk/data/Magnetograms/home.html 

BTW my wife of 20 years (an Armenian from the Shah's Iran and proudly served in Reagan's Army) has recently been pursuing a college degree and has reawakened her early love of mathematics with her Calculus and Physics courses; she used some of your blog as sourcing to essay a dispelling of the AGW for her ethics class, and shot down many of her lefty teachers' arguments with logic, and common sense. It has been interesting for her and her classmates!

...a su buen salud! transliterated Hay ... arrotchu tchun -- Warmest regards;

Sid Chapel Hill, NC 27515


A History of Texas Towers in Air Defense, 1952 - 1964.


-- Roland Dobbins


Melting Pots and stability 

Dear Jerry,

Your recent commentary on the growing disreputability of Cultural Diversity within nations, and on the possible return of the "Melting Pot", of the very idea of "Learning to Be An American", reminds me of a very apt historical comparison with a possible lesson.

Many European and Asian nations traditionally have had citizenship laws that attached great value to the citizen being ethnically part of the nation. Until just a year or so ago, Germany made it much easier for a VolksDeutsch (ethnically German but born outside of Germany) applicant to become naturalized than one with no German ancestry. Ancient concepts of "blood" and "race" still have a certain sway, even if they are usually couched in less politically incorrect terms. This is especially the case in Japan, where there are about a million ethnic Korean residents who can trace their "born in Japan" ancestry back several generations, yet are not Japanese citizens, and there is no great chance of Immigration Reform making such status possible for them.

Of course, Western Europe has been forced to become immigrant friendly, shrinking populations of "ethnic citizens" forced them to adapt. They've tried multi-culturalism, and now are seeing how badly it works. They may move towards a "melting Pot" "Learn to be a European" system. France has the most experience with such, having taken in so many political refugees over the last two hundred years, as well as the occasional wave of colonials displaced by ethnically driven revolutions who suddenly found they were unwelcome in Algeria, Indochina, Tunisia, and so on.

Interestingly, there is one other example of a nation that set themselves up from the "get go" as a Melting Pot, where you could learn to be a member and all "applicants" were welcome. It's worked well enough that they’ve followed it for about ten times longer than the entire history of these United States.

It's China.

With the unification of the Chinese state, at that time restricted to what is now the central and coastal regions of the People's Republic of China, it was established what it meant to be Chinese. The original Han, the subjects of the emperor, shared a somewhat common ethnicity, about the same as being a denizen of Northwest Europe around the same time, CA. 400 AD. But it was deemed that ethnicity was not important, but rather the social norms.

As the Empire absorbed surrounding states, then moved into tribal regions, such as in the south and west of what is today China, the Imperial bureaucracy set up a system for those new subjects to be integrated into Han identity.

You had to worship/honor your ancestors, take one of the traditional Han names as a patronymic for your clan/family/sept/what have you, accept Confucianism as a philosophy, with its respect for order, filial loyalty and the Mandate of Heaven as embodied in the person and authority of the Emperor, and you had to accept, even if only notionally, Han styles of clothing and architecture. Oh, and pay your taxes, as well as occasionally work on Imperial projects when requested.

You could learn to be Chinese, and the system worked. China has had three national governments in the past 2400 years, and two of them are still functioning. The Empire still exists, under new management, and thrives, though not without problems. The Han bureaucrats still follow the "learn to be Han" policy, see Tibet and the Uighur regions of Xnjiang (SInkiang) for current examples. There is force and persuasion (along with many "ethnic" Han settlers, to be sure) used to motivate the students to make the cultural shift, but even that is nothing new. It's the same policy used by the Chinese about eight-hundred years ago, with the Vietnamese. The Vietnamese successfully forced the Chinese out, regaining political independence. Culturally, they are as Chinese as many of the citizens of the PRC, if not more so.

So the two largest economies on Earth, and two of the three top populations, each have systems which allow anyone to become a full member, instead of having literally a Grandfather Clause for membership. Not to mention that one of the pair has the most stable social structure in history.

Sorry, it is not the USA. China has had only two successful revolutions in 2400 years, and the first was a restoration of the Han to the Mandate of Heaven when the Ming rebels overthrew the descendants of Genghis Khan. China has always had the largest population of any nation, and the largest economy until the mid-nineteenth century when the West got a temporary lead due to technology. As they learned the new arts from the West, they closed the gap steadily and are now second. They will most likely be back on top in another generation. Per Capita still poor, but that's also always been the case with them.

The stability of Chinese culture, combined with wealth and their Confucian predisposition to take a Long View of matters, leads me to see a bright future for the human race. No matter what the West does, the Chinese will expand off this planet if there is any way to travel to the stars.

They have a lot of experience with colonization. Look at all the Overseas Chinese communities of Asia, and how they dominate the economic life of their adopted homelands. Not to mention Singapore, where they created a hugely successful nation from Whole Cloth, in two hundred years starting from literally nothing but some malaria ridden mangrove swamps, and one crazy Englishman’s ideas about Free Trade. If there’s ever ANY way for a few thousand Chinese to get to one of the Earth type worlds we’re beginning to discover around other stars, can you imagine what they could achieve, given that much opportunity? If it is ever technically feasible to get to those worlds, the Empire of Man is virtually inevitable, and it will use Mandarin for its official documents.

Of course, I do pray that Americans are right alongside them. But that's my sentimental side speaking. I'm not sure we're still practical enough, by and large, to actually do what will be required.

The Chinese, as with our Roman ancestors, virtually invented systemic pragmatism. The Chinese never forgot it. That's why the government that once traded with the Caesar’s lasted until exactly one hundred years ago. Within living memory, and culturally just barely yesterday. Quite a record, for a "Melting Pot",


I learned in grade school that China absorbed its conquerors. It seemed an interesting generalization.


Update on T&A


Well well, look who is back in the news. Our favorite little crew at the Ministry of Homeland Security:


Two TSA agents were busted today at Kennedy Airport for stealing $160,000 in cash from bags, authorities said. </snip>


This is an embarrassment. Jerry, I got my travelers cheques stolen when I was on a flight from Bangkok to Hong Kong and I wasn't mad. I expected this from people in the third world, which is why I got traveler's cheques. T&A is making us look like a third-world country--and not only with the free breast and testicular exams at the airport--now they are doing stuff I expect from third-world nationals and did not expect of Americans.

Also, consider all the travelers who will catch wind of this--like the Argentine national who got 39,000 USD stolen from him by T&A. I've talked a lot of smack about third-world countries when I encountered backwards experiences. I'm starting to wish I had kept my mouth shut. Activities that just were not in the same sentence with the United States are embarrassing us. How did we get so far?

Not only that, Jerry, the Kabuki Theater is proving that it is just that, still, in 2011:


A knife inside a carry-on made it past a checkpoint and two passengers were allowed to board flights despite issues with their full-body scans, TSA officials told the newspaper.

The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the two incidents were among a string of five security lapses at Newark within the last 30 days.



If certain accounts are true, we have some pranksters in T&A. One T&A worker thought it would be funny to plant fake drugs on a woman:


Rebecca Solomon said the screener planted a small plastic bag filled with white powder in her laptop case before she boarded a flight back to school in Michigan earlier this month.

He confronted her in the security line and then said he was just kidding.

Sullivan wasn’t laughing. She complained, and the worker is no longer employed by the TSA. (TSA in my opinion acted quickly and made the right decision)



I hope the GOP cuts their funding. Clearly, this isn't working. All this even as the TSA director says that airports cannot hire private security because there is no point:


The Transportation Security Administration has said it won’t allow any more airports to “opt out” and bring in private security contractors in place of the agency’s federal workers. Rep. John Mica, R-Fla., who in the fall wrote a letter to 100 airports urging them to ditch TSA agents, said it is “unimaginable” that TSA would end “the most successfully performing passenger screening program we’ve had over the last decade.”



How am I going to explain this mess to my children?


BDAB, Joshua Jordan, KSC Percussa Resurgo

At one time the honesty of the US Post Office was legendary, but that was long ago, In those days it was enforved by hidden inspectors -- every major post office had a sort of secret room that might or might not have an inspector. Now with cheap cameras the workers have rights I guess. Surveillance cameras and recordings of TSA actions would go a long way to make things more honest, but of course the purpose of TSA is to prove to you that it can do anything it wants to do to an ordinary subject, oops, citizen.



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Friday,  February 18, 2011

Here comes the Ayotollah


Just saw thsarticle about a Muslim Cleric who has been banned from leading Friday Prayers for thirty years will now be allowed to do so. I don't know enough about him to make a prediction. However, the parallels are ominous.

Perhaps the Mameluks still govern Egypt and will continue to do so. However there is no guarantee that the Mameluks will not adopt an Islamisist rather than secular agenda.

Jim Crawford


Qaradawi Returns to Egypt



"Let history show that neither the New York Times nor the Washington Post reported on the return of the world's single most important Islamic cleric to Cairo to begin what he hopes to be the transformation of Egypt into a revolutionary anti-American state."

-- "The past, while much studied, is little read." - M.M.

"In the first and in the final analysis, so-called multiculturalists are simply Western radicals, in the Western radical tradition, with the most imperial, dogmatic, and absolutist aspirations of all." - Alan Charles Kors

-- "The past, while much studied, is little read." - M.M.

"In the first and in the final analysis, so-called multiculturalists are simply Western radicals, in the Western radical tradition, with the most imperial, dogmatic, and absolutist aspirations of all." - Alan Charles Kors


Think of it as democracy in action.


Thursday essay 


There are several thoughts stimulated by your essay today that are worth considering.

1. One factor to be considered is that, as the amount of information increases, the time require to assimilate it will also increase. More people are spending more time assimilating more information these days (maybe not always effectively) just in order to stay on top of their jobs. (This is what Mr. Heinlein called "the crisis of the librarians. In the 50's, if I recall, but it is hardly surprising that he would be ahead of the curve on this one.)

2. This then leads to what I've called "the scariest fact in engineering." Consider a consolidated development project involving N people. Each person is capable of producing an amount of output, call it "P," for each full worday. Each person also spend some amount of time, call the average "f", coordinating with and/or reviewing each full workday's output from each of the other people on the project. If we calibrate "P" as 8 work hours of production per workday, the total effort to produce one fully coordinated workday of effort from every project member is thus:

W = NP + N(N-1)f = NP (1+(N-1)(f/P))

The time required to produce N workdays of individual productivity is thus:

T = W/NP = 1 + (N-1)(f/P)

As an illustration, assume an average of six minutes reviewing each additional person's work product; hence,

f/P = 6 minutes / 8 hours = 1/80.


If N = 81, it takes two days for each person to generate one day's worth of original product If N = 321, it takes five days (one week) for each person to generate one day's worth of original product If N = 1521, it takes twenty work days (one MONTH) for each person to generate one day's worth of original product.

Alternatively, this is viewed as a tax on individual productivity. In any work day, each person is capable of performing

K = (P + (N-1)f)/P

work days of productive output; hence individual productivity is decreased by 1/T.

Note that this doesn't apply to assembly line production line work, but it does apply to large-scale engineering projects.

3. As the number of requirements increase, there is a further drag on productivity that is predictable. This is true whether the requirements are technical (e.g. the product has to meet certain reliability standards), social (either formal or informal training is required to complete part of the work), or bureaucratic (adding unnecessary meetings, technical requirements, training requirements, mentoring requirements, regulatory reporting burdens, or other)

4. The "job" of program management / systems engineering is to minimize f/P without compromising quality. That's it. of course, it's a big job.

This has some interplay with productivity on big projects, which is why I was reminded of it in consideration of today's essay.



Social Security trust fund made simple

Dr. Pournelle,

You have recently pointed out that Social Security is broke. Yet, it is reported that the "trust fund" will not be completely depleted for a number of years. I am sure that you and many of your readers understand the subterfuge, but it may be worth using your forum to lay it out, plain and simple.

Social Security taxes are collected by the federal government. The government pays the beneficiaries from these taxes. The surplus, if any, is invested in special government-issued bonds. This is the simple truth.

This is also where the obfuscation begins (OK, the "employer contribution" is an obfuscation too, but I digress). The government is both the buyer AND seller of these bonds. The effect is exactly the same as if I try to loan myself my paycheck. The government and I both spend the money, and the "loan" is meaningless.

Both parties have indulged in this charade, because for most of the history of the program, SS has collected money faster than it has had to pay it out. The surplus has been used to fund other government programs. Washington politicians loved it, because they could have it both ways. They could both spend and "invest" the same money! However, they can only keep up the illusion as long as the money comes in faster than it goes out.

The time of SS surpluses under the current scheme has come to an end, as the demographics of an aging population dictate it must. To successfully deal with this, it is essential to understand that there are no real assets in the SS "trust fund." All talk about how the fund will "run out" sometime in the future is just blather. The time is now, the Washington pols know it, and they are desperately trying to spin the story.

Steve Chu


Apple and in App Purchases


How do you spell Class Action?

Until this week anyone who purchased an iPad had the expectation that the Kindle App and others would work in a ceratin way when making purchases and that Apple did not have any influence over pticing.

If Apple goes ahead as reported, the value of my iPad will be reduced and the prices that I pay for vontent may increase.

Bob Holmes


Now, I have seen it all.

The young man in question deserves tremendous credit for maintaining his honor and integrity in such a bizarre, high-pressure situation:


-- Roland Dobbins


Subject: Dr Hassan


Reading your comments about him reminded me why Officers should always be armed. They are responsible for enforcing discipline. But not, apparently, in our Army.

An old soldier


Murphy's Law: Storm Troopers Are Not A Luxury,


Says here, “A major reason for the inability of the recently deposed Egyptian dictatorship to suppress anti-government demonstrations was the lack of a large, loyal and reliable security force:”


“Not having such a force handy was unthinkable for any security conscious dictator. For example, in Iraq, Saddam Hussein had his Republican Guard, . . . who were, above all, loyal to Saddam. All other successful dictatorships have similar forces. Russia had the KGB, . . . trained and equipped to deal with rebellions by the population, or the armed forces. Iran has a similar force, the Revolutionary Guard . . . During World War II, Adolf Hitler had the SS, Gestapo and his private army, the Waffen SS.”

“Former Egyptian ruler Hosni Mubarak got lazy and greedy by filling his "regime maintenance" forces with conscripts (as troops) and recent college graduates (as officers). Theses security forces . . . were more loyal to the people than to the small group of corrupt politicians running the country.”

“The only people who were loyal to Mubarak were the most senior officers (active or retired) who were allowed a share of the national wealth being stolen by Mubarak, his family and key allies in the business world. By not spreading the largess around, Mubarak insured that he would be unprotected when a popular uprising got started.

“Dictators everywhere are noting what happened in Tunisia and Egypt, and what did not happen in other nations undergoing popular uprisings. Expect to see some reorganizations, and more attention being paid to having a reliable KGB, Republican Guard, Waffen SS or Revolutionary Guard when you really need it.”

Ah, the lessons re-learned.


Septimius Severus, having found the dread secret that emperors could be made in places other than Rome, abolished the Praetorian Guard which had been accustomed to auctioning off the Empire after the death of the last Good Emperor.

As Talleyrand told Napoleon, you can do anything with a bayonet except sit upon it; and as Ortega observed you must maintain the loyalty of your Janissaries whatever else you do. Maintaining the loyalty does not necessarily translate into having the good will or listening to the views, as the Korean Dynasty has found. You can do a lot with a Party Structure, as the current Chinese dynasty has found, even with such a large and important organization as the People's Liberation Army. What we thought we knew of the secrets of maintaining tyranny is being challenged.

Note that the KGB and the Party were the political elements in the USSR; the Army was actually respected, and became decisive when it abandoned the government and took Yeltsin's side. Precisely because it was not political, the Army of the USSR lost out in the subsequent power struggles, and the KGB, which was the only organization that actually knew the economic truths of the country, came out on top when Party/Nomenklatura control collapsed.

Good soldiers do not make good butchers, nor do they make good politicians. Of course many places no longer need good soldiers because they are not threatened by nations with Good Soldiers. In the Middle East, there were wars until Sadat and Mubarak; after that, Egypt did not need good soldiers, for they were not threatened by anyone with a good army. Israel gave Sinai back and was not threatening to take Sharm El Sheikh again. The Egyptian Army turned it attention inward, with what effect and result we are no longer sure: the concepts of military honor, what makes up a "timocracy" in the old Aristotelian classification, may yet survive there, but one of the saving graces of an army, that it is led by officers who once survived leadership in the field, is lacking as Mubarak's generation dies.

Note that the Gestapo was never a military organization; and while the Waffen SS was in theory a Party Army, the relations between Party and Army were strained. At the Bulge the SS showed it had overcome the inhibitions of the old Wehrmacht sense of military honor; but it did not win, and Peiper was not thought of as a hero, even by his own men. But there was no serious German resistance movement, nor by the Wehrmacht until Adler. The SS was essential to Hitler's control of the Party by eliminating the SA; its reward was the formation of Waffen SS units and officers with ranks similar to the old Wehrmacht. But that's another story.

Ortega's observation was that rule by Janissaries required that the ruler pay some attention to the opinions of the Janissaries. It is in my judgment a partial truth: in North Korea, it is not clear who the Janissaries are, and in China the Party structure is the principal means of control. In the old USSR the balance was among Army, Party/Nomenklatura, and the KGB which had its own nomenklatura, and which had no intention of letting the Party have total control or allowing another Stalin. Do note that many KGB operatives considered themselves the real patriots of Russia.

It is possible that social networks and the Internet have changed things yet again. Alas, the deficiencies in the US intelligence apparatus have kept many of our political leaders in the dark Study of history is not a popular subject among politicians to begin with...


The following is long, but it has to be to make its point. Those uninterested in the Lara Logan affair can skip to here.


You write, "Why is the American press minimizing the sexual assault on Lara Logan

<http://pournelle.com/view/2011/Q1/view662.html#mob>  by the victory celebrants in Cairo? This morning's papers have no additional information other than that it was a "frenzy"."

So, I went to Factiva (the Dow Jones/Reuters newspaper and magazine database, available through my local library system), searched for "Lara Logan," and can find stories about the assault today, 2/16, from the following sources:

AP Reuters ABC News (Good Morning America) The Hotline (newsletter aimed at journalists) NPR's Talk of the Nation USA Today NBC News New York Post CNN's American Morning Washington Post New York Daily News Wall Street Journal New York Times

There are others, that's just a quick sample. And that leaves out international sources -- the Guardian, the Telegraph, the Times, the International Herald Tribune, etc. -- because you specifically asked about American ones.

Many of the stories mention how Mr. Obama called Ms. Logan today.

So, um... Just how does broad coverage in print, TV, and radio constitute "minimizing" a story?

-- Hal


On Wed, Feb 16, 2011 at 10:32 PM, Jerry Pournelle <jerryp@jerrypournelle.com> wrote:

Come now. There is not a word on who done what to whom, and hasn't been since it happened. If it had been the secret police we would know.

What is this random group of 200 men? Is there an investigation? Is anyone under arrest? Imagine this happening anywhere else

Jerry Pournelle Chaos Manor


Well, since it seems you're designating me your research assistant, here's a sampling of the 289 articles/pieces listed on Factiva for the string, "lara logan AND assault" (N.B.: No, not all of your questions have been answered. I do note, though, that a) they're being asked, and b) you do not seem to be the only one wanting progress on getting those answers.)


From today's (2/17) press gaggle at State (again, by way of Factiva):

QUESTION: Yeah, Mark, with respect to our colleague, Lara Logan, do you have any indications that the Egyptian – that Egyptian authorities are investigating this horrific incident that happened in Cairo?

MR. TONER: That’s a fair question, and it indeed was a horrific incident. I will reach out to our Embassy in Cairo and find out what the status of that is.

QUESTION: And do you know specifically – I mean, what elements of the U.S. Government have, at this stage, asked for, in this specific case, an investigation or an examination or getting to the bottom of this? Has anyone in the U.S. Government?

MR. TONER: I’m sorry, into her --

QUESTION: Has the Secretary or has the U.S. Government asked --

MR. TONER: I know the Secretary is obviously aware of the case and very concerned by it. Obviously, all of us are troubled by the incident. And I believe our Embassy has reached out to Egyptian authorities. Obviously, the safety and well-being of journalists has been, throughout this entire situation in Egypt, this entire process has been of paramount importance to us. We have engaged with the Egyptian Government and on multiple cases, we’ve tracked the whereabouts and safety of journalists throughout. As to this specific case, I’ll try to find out more information about it.

QUESTION: Do you know, when did the U.S. Government become aware of this?

MR. TONER: I don’t have all the details. I’ll have to find out more. I apologize; I just don’t know the tick tock of it.

QUESTION: Can you explain to me why you would treat this any differently than – this specific case any differently than the case of – other cases of journalists, even those who are lowly enough not to appear on – who don’t --

MR. TONER: I’m not trying to --

QUESTION: I’m just trying to – because your initial answer seemed to suggest that this case was getting some specific extra attention.

MR. TONER: Well --

QUESTION: And I’m curious as to why it would when --

MR. TONER: I am aware that people here in the building are concerned by this particular case and --

QUESTION: Over other cases?

MR. TONER: -- the allegations that she made that what transpired is pretty egregious. But that said, we take the cases of all journalists who have been physically or mentally abused while trying to carry out their work quite seriously.


Newscast: Lara Logan back in the United States after being attacked in Egypt 487 words 17 February 2011 NBC News: Today <http://global.factiva.com.ezproxy.kcls.org/ha/default.aspx> TODA English (c) Copyright 2011, NBC Universal Inc. All Rights Reserved.

ANN CURRY, anchor:

An update now on Lara Logan, the CBS reporter attacked while covering the revolution in Egypt. TODAY national correspondent Amy Robach has details now.

Hey, Amy. Good morning. What more can you tell us?

AMY ROBACH reporting:

Good morning, Ann. Lara Logan, we know, flew back to the United States on Saturday, that was the day after the attack took place. She was treated in a hospital before just recently being released to her family. The mother of two we now know is home in Washington, DC, where she continues to recover.

The latest news on Lara Logan was reported by CBS News Wednesday night.

Ms. KATIE COURIC: (From "The CBS Evening News") We're happy to report she's out of the hospital now, continuing her recovery at home. She received a call today from President Obama, who expressed his concern.

ROBACH: Logan was in Cairo Friday to report on the resignation of President Hosni Mubarak, but became separated from her crew and was surrounded by a mob of more than 200. This photo released by CBS was taken the moment before what CBS News has described as a brutal and sustained sexual assault and beating. According to the Committee to Protect Foreign Journalists, at least 140 reporters have been attacked while covering the protests in Egypt. This was not the first difficulty Logan experienced in Egypt; one week before the attack, Logan and her colleagues were detained by Egyptian security forces and endured a long interrogation before being expelled from the country. But Logan managed to return, telling Charlie Rose before she went back she felt compelled to go again.

Ms. LARA LOGAN: (From Charlie Rose interview) Fundamentally, it's in my blood to be there.

Ms. JUDITH MATLOFF (Columbia School of Journalism): You don't want people to at all question your ability to carry out what's been considered a man's job for very long.

ROBACH: Judith Matloff is a journalism professor who used to work with Logan. She says attacks against women reporting in foreign countries often go unreported.

Ms. MATLOFF: Women are worried that if their news editors are concerned that they might, too, suffered an attack like this they might now send them into dangerous assignments.

ROBACH: Logan has covered war zones for two decades. The married mother of two young children has spoken openly on CBS News' Web site about the difficulty of working in dangerous environments.

Ms. LOGAN: I have a sense of responsibility and a sense of duty and I believe that this is something that I was meant to do.

ROBACH: Experts tell us as demonstrations continue to arise in the Middle East so could the opportunity for attacks on Western journalists like the ones we've seen in recent days, Ann.

CURRY: All right. Thanks so much, Amy.


CBS REPORTER'S CAIRO NIGHTMARE - LARA LOGAN SET UPON BY MOB IN BRUTAL SEX ATTACK MICHAEL SHAIN, DON KAPLAN and KATE SHEEHY 684 words 16 February 2011 New York Post <http://global.factiva.com.ezproxy.kcls.org/ha/default.aspx> NYPO 5 English (c) 2011 N.Y.P. Holdings, Inc. All rights reserved.

"60 Minutes" correspondent Lara Logan was repeatedly sexually assaulted by thugs yelling, "Jew! Jew!" as she covered the chaotic fall of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in Cairo's main square Friday, CBS and sources said yesterday.

The TV crew with Logan, who is also the network's chief foreign correspondent, had its cameras rolling moments before she was dragged off - and caught her on tape looking tense and trying to head away from a crowd of men behind her in Tahrir Square.

"Logan was covering the jubilation . . . when she and her team and their security were surrounded by a dangerous element amidst the celebration," CBS said in a statement.

"It was a mob of more than 200 people whipped into a frenzy.

"In the crush of the mob, [Logan] was separated from her crew. She was surrounded and suffered a brutal and sustained sexual assault and beating before being saved by a group of women and an estimated 20 Egyptian soldiers.

"She reconnected with the CBS team, returned to her hotel and returned to the United States on the first flight the next morning," the network added. "She is currently in the hospital recovering." A network source told The Post that her attackers were screaming, "Jew! Jew!" during the assault. And the day before, Logan had told Esquire.com that Egyptian soldiers hassling her and her crew had accused them of "being Israeli spies." Logan is not Jewish.

In Friday's attack, she was separated from her colleagues and attacked for between 20 to 30 minutes, TheWall Street Journal said.

Her injuries were described to The Post as "serious." CBS went public with the incident only after it became clear that other media outlets were on to it, sources said.

"A call came in from The [Associated Press]" seeking information, a TV-industry source told The Post. "They knew she had been attacked, and they had details. CBS decided to get in front of the story." Most network higher-ups didn't even know how brutal the sexual assault was until a few minutes before the statement went out.

"We were surprised it stayed quiet" as long as it did, one source said.

Another source insisted that Logan was "involved in the process" of deciding whether to make her attack public, and ultimately understood why the statement had to be released.

The horrific incident came a week after the 39-year-old reporter was temporarily detained by Egyptian police amid tensions over foreign coverage of the country's growing revolution.

As part of the anti-media backlash, CNN's Anderson Cooper had also been roughed up, and ABC correspondent Brian Hartman had been threatened with beheading.

"[Logan] was not in the country for long - she'd been thrown out, if you remember - and had just gone back in," one source said.

"She had security with her, but it wasn't enough." Before the attack, Logan - who is based in Washington, where she lives with her 2-year-old daughter and husband - had been set to return to the States sometime over the weekend to tape a "60 Minutes" segment on Wael Ghonim.

Ghonim, Google <http://global.factiva.com.ezproxy.kcls.org/ha/default.aspx> 's head of marketing in the Middle East, had been briefly kidnapped after helping to organize protesters.

But after she was assaulted, Logan went back to her hotel, and within two hours - sometime late Friday and into early Saturday - was flown out of Cairo on a chartered network jet, sources said.

She wasn't taken to a hospital in Egypt because the network didn't trust local security there, sources said.

And neither CBS nor Logan reported the crime to Egyptian authorities because they felt they couldn't trust them, either, the sources said. "The way things are there now, they would have ended up arresting her again," one source said.

DANGEROUS WORK: Lara Logan had been ousted from Egypt by authorities before returning last week - only to be sexually assaulted by beasts in Cairo. [CBS News]


CBS correspondent recovers at home after attack ATTACKED REPORTER From news services 177 words 17 February 2011 St. Louis Post-Dispatch <http://global.factiva.com.ezproxy.kcls.org/ha/default.aspx> SLMO Third Edition A23 English Copyright 2011, St. Louis Post-Dispatch. All Rights Reserved.


Lara Logan, the CBS news correspondent who was sexually assaulted in Cairo's Tahrir Square on Friday, was released from a U.S. hospital and was recovering Wednesday in her Washington area home, the network announced.

President Barack Obama spoke with Logan on the telephone Wednesday. Details of the conversation were not shared.

An Egyptian security official said he was unaware of any investigation into the attack on Logan. He noted that police were pulled off the streets on Jan. 28, three days after the outbreak of the protests, and haven't returned, with the exception of traffic police.

Sexual harassment is widespread in Egypt, and even women covered up by veils and long robes in strict Islamic dress say they are not immune.

A 2008 survey by the Egyptian Center for Women's Rights found that 83 percent of Egyptian women and 98 percent of foreign women in Cairo said they had been harassed - while 62 percent of men admitted to harassing.


HUNT FOR CAIRO MANIACS - O DEMANDS EGYPT ROUND UP THE THUGS WHO BRUTALIZED LARA GEOFF EARLE in Washington, DC, and JEANE MacINTOSH and BOB FREDERICKS in New York 711 words 17 February 2011 New York Post <http://global.factiva.com.ezproxy.kcls.org/ha/default.aspx>  NYPO 4 English (c) 2011 N.Y.P. Holdings, Inc. All rights reserved.

The White House yesterday demanded the Egyptian government round up and bring to justice the thugs who brutalized CBS foreign correspondent Lara Logan in Cairo's main square.

"We believe that those responsible for these acts need to be held accountable," White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said of the prolonged beating and sexual assault on Logan by members of a 200-strong mob.

And a State Department spokeswoman said the United States expects an "investigation and accountability for anyone involved in violence during the demonstrations."

"We've raised it publicly and privately," spokeswoman Leslie Phillips said.

The call for justice came as a concerned President Obama phoned the recuperating "60 Minutes" reporter.

"The president called her at her home around midday," a Logan family friend told The Post.

Obama asked the veteran war reporter about her condition and expressed his concern, the friend said.

In New York, a spokeswoman for the Egyptian Mission decried the attack and said the turmoil-wracked Arab state would investigate all attacks on journalists covering demonstrations before and after the fall of Hosni Mubarak last Friday.

"What happened to Miss Logan is by all means unacceptable and shameful," said spokeswoman Nihal Saad.

Yesterday, Logan, 39, was home in Washington with her husband, Joseph Burkett, and two children. A deliveryman brought flowers to the couple's fieldstone-and-brick Tudor-style home.

Inside, Logan also huddled with a senior colleague and pal, Kelli Halyard, head of CBS communications.

Halyard said neither Logan nor Burkett was ready to talk publicly.

Friends said she wants to return to work, but won't be coming back anytime soon after suffering what the network called "serious" internal injuries in the ugly Feb. 11 incident, which CBS revealed Tuesday.

"She has no idea how long this is going to take," a source said.

Logan and her crew were near Tahrir Square Friday, the day Egyptian strongman Mubarak stepped down, when a mob of jeering, leering men surrounded them. Their cameras continued rolling, capturing a tense-looking Logan trying to move away before she was grabbed and dragged off.

"She was surrounded and suffered a brutal and sustained sexual assault and beating before being saved by a group of women and an estimated 20 Egyptian soldiers," CBS said in a statement.

"She reconnected with the CBS team, returned to her hotel and returned to the United States on the first flight the next morning," the network added.

A CBS colleague told The Post, "Every day is a struggle [for her]."

Meanwhile, left-wing journalist Nir Rosen resigned as a fellow at New York University in the wake of Twitter comments he made belittling Logan after learning of the attack.

"Jesus Christ, at a moment when she is going to become a martyr and glorified we should at least remember her role as a major war monger," Rosen tweeted Monday.

In an e-mail exchange with The Post, Rosen apologized.

"It is never OK for a man to mock the sexual abuse or humiliation of women," he said. "If I saw her I would try to find a way to apologize."

A native of South Africa, Logan has been CBS's chief foreign correspondent since 2006 and has regularly filed reports from Iraq, Afghanistan and other hot spots for "60 Minutes" and the "CBS Evening News."

The nightmarish attack occurred a week after she was detained by Egyptian police amid tensions over foreign coverage of the revolution.

As part of the anti-media backlash, CNN's Anderson Cooper had been beaten up and ABC correspondent Brian Hartman threatened with beheading. In Bahrain today, ABC News reporter Miguel Marquez was beaten during a military crackdown on deadly protests.

Logan had taken precautions, bringing security with her, after her earlier troubles, "but it wasn't enough," a network source told The Post.

Additional reporting by Michael Shain in New York and Jennifer Fermino in Washington, DC

-FLASHBACK: How The Post reported the assault in Egypt. -GET WELL: CBS foreign correspondent Lara Logan (above) is recuperating with family at her home in Washington, DC. [Craig Blankenhorn/CBS]



An impressive collection, yet I still have the impression that there is some reason why this is not a bigger story. I have no idea of who the 200 men were, or why they formed the intent to assault Miss Logan. I am fairly sure they weren't Mubarak holdouts. The fact that they shouted "Jew! Jew!" is informative, but where did they get the idea and decide to act? I just think there is more to the story, and a good news editor would know that, yet I don't see a lot of activity in finding it. Imagine if something like this had happened at a tea party! It would be bigger than the Tucson shooting.

But I agree, you have found there is more coverage than I had thought. Perhaps I just don't pay enough attention to multiple sources. There is, after all, only me here...

Thanks, and all best wishes.



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This week:


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Saturday, February 19, 2011

I took the day off.






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CURRENT VIEW     Saturday

This week:


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Sunday, February 20, 2011      

Qaradawi correction 

Dear Dr. Pournelle,

In your correspondence, you wrote

""Let history show that neither the New York Times nor the Washington Post reported on the return of the world's single most important Islamic cleric to Cairo to begin what he hopes to be the transformation of Egypt into a revolutionary anti-American state."

With all due respect, the New York Times did, in point of fact.


The Washington Post mentioned him in passing in an article, but did not run a full story on him.


Just to make the tale of history as accurate as possible.


Brian P.

Actually, I didn't write that. I try to check facts included in mail I publish, but I didn't scour the Times and the Post. The story was underplayed, in my judgment, but that is an easy mistake to make when news is breaking fast. It's hard to know what ought to be in a front page story and what ought to wait for later analysis.

I am more interested in the lack of reporting on just who assaulted Lara Logan. I am told by one reader that the intelligence community knows that it was Mubarak's security goons, but that is being suppressed. I find that hard to believe for several reasons. First, that the security forces were in the Square on Victory Day, second that the crowd would not interfere since the crowd certainly would know who the security forces were, and third that the US media would suppress such a juicy story condemning Mubarak.

But that is another discussion.


'Egypt is a praetorian state.'


-- Roland Dobbins



Watson? Commercial - Not Super - Computer, 


Here is a thoughtful comment on the Watson computer system that excelled on Jeopardy:


Turns out it was not a supercomputer, but “a bunch of commercial systems lashed together for parallel processing purposes. The hardware is readily available POWER-based gear that can run either IBM’s AIX Unix operating system or Linux.

“It’s the same box that’s running commercial apps like SAP and Oracle in thousands of companies. Watson is made up of 90 4-socket IBM Power 750 systems with 360 8-core POWER7 processors running at 3.55GHz with 16 GB of memory per server. The systems are connected together via 10 GbE networking.” <snip>

“This Jeopardy exercise isn’t about computers besting humans. It’s really about how collections of computing hardware and software can be optimized to understand humans better, and to understand what we’re trying to get them to do. A lot of time, effort, and money is expended in getting real-world data into a form where it can be understood and processed by digital devices like computers. Watson is the best recent example of a machine crossing over the divide between human and machine-style thinking.

“This means that in the future, we’ll be able to spend more time on actual human work and less time on generating digital-compatible data to feed the machines. This will pay concrete dividends even in the near term. Information from thousands of patients’ vital signs and millions of clinical reports and doctors’ notes could be synthesized to provide diagnoses that aren’t guesswork.

“Businesses can make sense of staggering amounts of data that have been “noise” until now. Who knows – maybe our consumer information and requests and incoherent rants could be analyzed in such a way that we get actual help from a help desk. No supercomputer required.”

I think he correctly identifies a severe issue we have in today’s work world, especially as medical record systems become electronic: “A lot of time, effort, and money is expended in getting real-world data into a form where it can be understood and processed by digital devices like computers.” Fixing that problem alone would be major.



Bill Whittle on Space 

Hi Jerry,


His optimism is infectious.

- Paul


Thursday essay 

Not a counterexample.

1) The Apollo project had one very straightforward requirement ("...before this decade is out, to land a man on the Moon, and return him safely to the Earth.") It was locked in and would not be changed.

Modern projects have a diversity of changing requirements, of which "spread the pork" is the one least written down, most amorphous -- and, too often, the most significant. The Space Station morphed from the $8 Billion (1984) project that NASA sold to Reagan to a $25 billion "Integrator plus 4 primes" resulting in an unnecessarily complicated, high-vibration, high maintenance design when Congress redirected it in 1989 -- which added schedule and costs, rather than saving them -- then again in '93 when Gore (and he WAS almost single-handedly, personally responsible for this) "reinvented" it by inviting Russian participation "to save the Russian scientists from building nukes for Saddam and Khomeni (paraphrased)." The Ares I owed its design to the political need to continue building solid rocket motors in Utah with minimal retooling, rather than to any reasonable technical design driver. Diversity of requirements increases f/P. (So does "we'd really like "X" to be a requirement but we don't want to pay for it now. So we'll pay a price to document that, track what needs to be done to put X in when we can afford it, and pay for the rework to do so." Often the marginal cost of just doing "X" at the beginning is on the order of a couple of percent of total project costs -- whereas the total costs of delay-then-retrofit are typically about 4 times the cost of building the capability in.)

2) The Apollo project also had excellent management which developed and enforced a good segmentation of work. Note that this is still possible -- but (you didn't hear me say this) a cost-plus contracting environment does not favor limiting f/P unless doing so is incentivized. One of my "emperor for the day" reforms for contracting would be to allow companies to pocket a portion of savings on cost-plus jobs as profit. That gives an incentive to early, on-budget completion.

3) Worker motivation is the third factor. Motivated workers who stay late, focus on the job, and don't spend half their day playing solitare or surfing the web for news about the Kardashian sisters have higher values of P, which reduces f/P. And whatever else you have to say of NASA, people with a simple, well supported mission are more motivated than those who have no mission but are told that they will continue to have jobs because jobs are good for their congressional districts.

4) Fourth, again, are those amorphous additional non-technical requirements. That can involve everything from tracking changes in federal regulation (don't forget that Apollo was completed before either EPA and OSHA; my NASA friends tell me they spend an average of 1 working week a year on environmental and safety training) to learning a new set of desktop tools every few years (just administering my electronic files and dealing with computer problems/upgrades takes probably two weeks a year, and that's probably close to average). Several relevant handbooks are revised on a biannual or triannual basis and self-training is necessary for each change. Call it a 10% "frippery tax" each year. That automatically increases f/P by 10%.

And, of course, global warming increases f/P. :)









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