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Monday  March 21, 2011

Good radiation chart - 

Hi Jerry,

Here's a very easy to read radiation chart.


Thanks for helping control the hysteria.

-- E.C. "Stan" Field

Very instructive. Thanks


Nukes, overfishing, Stewart Brand, Server Sky

The unfiltered TEPCO press releases are terse but useful: http://www.tepco.co.jp/en/index-e.html  . Tepco has lives to save and a power grid to rebuild. Spoonfeeding reporters, who don't accurately report the information they do get, is not high priority. When in Tokyo, visit TEPCO's museum in Shibuya district. Pick up their strange English brochure "Let's Make Friends With Electricity". As an electronics tinkerer, I have shaken hands with high voltage far too often :-)

The Fukushima Daiichi radiation releases are mostly falling into the ocean off Japan. Fish are a large part of the Japanese diet, and they heavily overfish these seas. Perhaps because of fear of radiation, they will slow down for a while, and the fish populations will recover. More gruesomely, perhaps the thousands of human corpses that washed out to sea will not end up in shark stomachs on dinner plates in Japan. Yuck.

Searching your site does not bring up Stewart Brand's recent book "Whole Earth Discipline". A lot you will agree with and learn from, from a different perspective.

My big project these days: http://server-sky.com  . Data centers in orbit. Gigawatt space solar power used in situ. Applying Moore's Law to space and energy. How thick does a satellite have to be? Microns or less. How much does a megawatt of satellite power need to weigh? Kilograms or less. Paraphrasing Ivan Bekey: "don't do with beams and struts what you can do with light pressure and information". Lots of amazing discoveries emerging from this oddball way of looking at things. Launch loop will continue the cost reduction - other smart people are now advancing that banner. Now to turn all that into a book.

Hang in there. I look forward to our meeting at Worldcon 100. You will be 109, and at 88 I will still be "babes-in-dipes". We will debate whether it should still be called Worldcon when the sites and the attendees are mostly digital and off-planet ...


-- Keith Lofstrom
 Integrated Circuits


Oil concessions


Missiles in Gadaffy's home? Why?

I recall that it was just about a year ago that the mastermind of the Lockerbie bombing was released to Libya due to alleged health reasons. Perhaps not coincidentally, British Petroleum was soon thereafter granted lucrative oil leases in Libya. One would think that the Brits and perhaps the French would be grateful enough to support Gadaffy against rebells and certainly not incite rebellion as someone has obviously done. The evacuation of tens of thousands of Chinese workers from Libya suggests that perhaps Gadaffy had reneged and granted the oil concessions to China.

I expect that disaffected youths whose Arab and African origins will not be mentioned will soon be torching Renaults and Citerons in Paris.

Meanwhile, it is reported that the fighter jet that the rebels shot down with a ZSU-23 was one of their own. I can't wait until they bag a French Jet.

Jim Crawford


Two Different Wars in Libya


http://blogs.aljazeera.net/live/africa/libya-live-blog-march-18  ----

Most Respectfully,

Joshua Jordan, KSC


A Report from Japan

Took our towels and left! 

Dear Jerry,

We decided to take our towels and decamp to my in-law's house south of Mt. Fuji on Thursday. The response to Fukushima wasn't showing much progress and the threat of some kind of major release from the containment pools started to look imminent if some progress wasn't made. I wasn't so much worried about the radiation per se as being stuck in Tokyo if some kind of shelter-in-place did come through. It may have been irrational, but getting out definitely helped our peace of mind. We stopped at a service area close to Mt Fuji and had a snack at the Starbucks there. The atmosphere was noticeably different. People in Tokyo have been handling it very, very well but there has been an undercurrent of tension. On the plus side, we had a major meeting with a potential partner company right before leaving Tokyo. Their accounting staff was supposed to be present but had decided to stay home so we had a very productive meeting.

Reactors 5 and 6 have the cooling back on and should be no concern. They finally got enough equipment present and in use that the water spraying started to have an effect. The power has been connected back to Unit 2 and they're checking the equipment to see how much damage has occurred and hopefully the pumps will be back on tomorrow. Unit 1 will be powered from Unit 2. That leaves 3 and 4 as potential problems. 4 has nothing in the reactor and the top is blown off so water can be sprayed into the spent storage pool. 3 has been quiet to date. Storage pool problems seem to be preceded by a hydrogen explosion, so if 3's storage pool becomes critical the root will probably blow off first and then they can spray water in at worst.

We are continuing to check the news but we will probably head back to Tokyo this afternoon (Sunday). The situation looks to have tipped in favor of bringing it under control without any more major incidents. Lots of hot, nasty, dirty, dangerous work ahead but I have faith in the workers once they have a viable direction.

I think I'm taking 3 major lessons away from this (as regards power plant design):

1) Plants appear to be designed for no more than 24 hours without power. Had the diesels survived at Fukushima this would have been a non-event. Had TEPCO been able to restore power within the first 24 hours this would have been a non-event. I'm sure that it's hard to imagine that a power plant can be without power for a significant amount of time, but it's been a week and they're just beginning to get the power routed back in. The newer, passive cooling designs are looking better and better.

2) Planners may not be taking into account devastation around the plant. Fukushima was mostly intact. The surrounding countryside, roads, etc. were not.

3) The spent fuel storage pool is a major blindspot. Certainly I always thought of them as just big pools with stuff sitting in them, relatively inert and it's becoming obvious that people who should have known better were thinking of them the same way. I think the pools need some kind of containment structure. It definitely should be discussed and analyzed better. Every plant in the world has a storage pool, don't they?

I've seen people renewing the call for 100% safety from the nuclear industry. That's been the call for a long time and those assurances have been given. Unfortunately, as we well know, nothing is 100%, especially something so complex and dangerous as nuclear power. Cooking stoves are not 100% and we've been using those for a long, long time. Furthermore, once something has been declared as 100% safe there is no incentive, in fact there is major disincentive, to look for problems to fix. We need to accept that there's risk in everything. Living next to the seashore looks to be more dangerous than living next to the nuclear power plant.

Regards, Dave Smith Kakegawa, Japan

If it helps your peace of mind by all means do it, but there is no radiation reaction necessity. On the other hand the electricity that was being produced won't be, which means power shortages. On the gripping hand, being on high ground given the probability of more aftershocks and possible tsunamis is not unwise.

 Good luck.

Jerry Pournelle

Whether or not leaving Tokyo was rational is definitely debatable. Radiation, of course, isn't going to travel that far and fallout should not be carried that far by the winds. However, people are already stressed to the breaking point. Truck drivers are refusing to deliver food and water into the areas around Fukushima adding to the problems there. Were any kind of major problem at Fukushima announced, I don't think I can predict the reaction in Tokyo. While there might not be an actual problem, perception of a problem could create its own disaster. Tokyo is, for all intents and purposes, impossible to evacuate and we saw three options if a panic were to start: 1) Be ahead of the wave. 2) Be in the crush or 3) stay behind and deal with the consequences (perhaps no radiation, but empty stores and a dark, cold apartment). We chose 1. Fortunately things are stabilizing, we had a couple of nights with a lot less stress and my wife's mother was very happy to spend time with her grandchildren. Generally a win all around for us.

We're going to pick up some staples before we head back and I'm making damn sure the car's gas tank is full from now on!

Cheers, Dave Smith

Be well. God bless you.


_The Legacy of Heorot_ for Kindle.


--- Roland Dobbins


Nuclear robots 

Hi Jerry,

Some thoughts on the use (or rather the lack of) hardened robots in a damaged power plant. There is an intervention group with the proper gear that was never called in. See my blog entry at http://ballonbleu.blogspot.com/2011/03/robo-atomjacks.html 

Regards, Frank Schweppe


Letter from England

I dreamt I was trying to comment out portions of a program written two-dimensionally on a floor. It wasn't a trivial exercise.

 The current Government has agreed to a referendum on the UK voting system ("first past the post"). Labour is opposed as it prevents them from ruling as a minority party. <http://tinyurl.com/6eq5zdq> I'm afraid I don't consider that a compelling argument.

 Internal Ministry of Defence politics affecting readiness. <http://tinyurl.com/5stfou9>

 Stampede to university fees of £9000/year <http://tinyurl.com/654v8yl>. The universities least likely to charge the full fees are the ones experiencing the largest cuts in funding. I had a suspicion it was headed this way after a chat with a Tory politician last Christmas in London--I went away wondering if we lived in the same universe. Of course I have had the same reaction after talking with a trade union organiser--"Tax and Spend!"

 The UK Government would also like the UK bachelor's degree reduced to two years. The current three-year degree is regarded by North American colleges as equivalent to the four-year bachelor's, but only if it includes a substantial research project during the final year. The fact that the current UK bachelor's can be delivered in two years should make you a bit suspicious, so let me walk you through the figures: (1) A North American full-time student attends (theoretically) 12 hours of lecture or the equivalent per week for 36 weeks during the academic year, for 432 contact hours per year and 1728 hours for a four year degree. (2) A UK academic year is 24 weeks of teaching, with typically 9 or 10 hours of contact time per week, or about 240 contact hours per year. The UK doesn't have TAs, so lecturers handle tutorials. (3) 720 contact hours can be delivered in two years by lengthening the academic year to the 36 week standard or by shortening the nominal semester length to 8 weeks. Either increases the lecturer workload by 50%, nothing else changing, which is the real reason for the strike action. (4) UK students are required to take A-levels as a prerequisite to university, usually in three fields. That gives them the equivalent of an additional 240 contact hours at entry. So a UK bachelor's degree is about half as much work as a North American degree, and it shows. I don't think degree equivalency can be maintained.


"If academic research is not devoted to finding the truth, it is a form of propaganda, and not necessarily to be preferred to other forms, much cheaper and perhaps more persuasive." (Russell 1993)

Harry Erwin


'And that's the root of Tokyo's current electricity problems: utility companies in west Japan are unable to make up for all of the lost power.'


---- Roland Dobbins


'My guess is that all those automated, robotic trading programming are picking up the same chatter on the internet about "Hathaway" as the IMDb's StarMeter, and they're applying it to the stock market.'


-- Roland Dobbins

We are a long way from the Cordwainer Smith story of the boy who bought the Earth.  I think it time someone did a serious analysis of the effects of computerized speculative trading. I am quite sure there are Black Swans lurking in there.


Logistics: China Enters The Big Leagues, 


China joins the big leagues:


“China quickly mobilized military forces, and commercial transport, to evacuate 35,000 Chinese citizens from Libya in late February and early March. A Chinese warship was quickly summoned from the anti-piracy flotilla off Somalia, to protect <http://www.strategypage.com/htmw/htlog/articles/20110318.aspx>  the commercial ships quickly chartered to take most of these Chinese expatriates out via the eastern Libya port of Benghazi. Others were moved by chartered bus to Tunisia and Egypt, while a few thousand were flown out using chartered aircraft, and four Chinese Air Force Il-76s flown in (via Sudan, a Chinese ally).

“For the last two decades, China has been a growing factor in the sea <http://www.strategypage.com/htmw/htlog/articles/20110318.aspx>  and air transport industries, because of booming exports and raw materials imports. Sending warships to the anti-piracy patrol for the past two years was another exercise of China's growing global reach. But the prompt and orderly evacuation of nearly 40,000 Chinese from Libya was a masterful demonstration that China had entered the big leagues, as far as global logistics was concerned.” <snip>

Res ipsa loquitur


More interesting is the question of what were 40,000 Chinese doing in Libya? What were they working on? It is likely to be oil...


Meanwhile, back on Mothra Island 

World Nuclear News reports: Peach Bottom recognised for habitat work 06 January 2011

Staff at Exelon's 1140 MW Peach Bottom nuclear power station have been recognised by the Wildlife Habitat Council (WHC) for their work in creating wildlife preservation areas and helping to stem the global tide of biodiversity loss.

The WHC's Wildlife at Work certification was awarded to a number of programs at the plant, including the construction of bat habitats, a butterfly garden and the installation of motion sensor cameras.

Russell Seitz

Mothra! So!


SKYTea scores Superior Ratings at North American Tea Championship!

Please celebrate with us!

No.1 Special Masala Chai scored a superior rating of 84 and no other company after us came close, they said! Means in only having launched in September, we have been honored above all other well respected American companies. I mean we sent if off cause you all kept saying it was off the charts ridiculously good... but wow!

THEN! We were cheeky enough to also send our best selling House Breakfast No.3 And guess what?! The judges agreed with a superior rating of 78!

Please don't forget our other specialty though of Single Estate Organic Fair Trade Rare stuff :D A highlight for this season’s menu is the Organic Hand Picked Jade Bao Zhong. Only 22lbs in existence, we were given one pound of it! Very delicate light almost a green tea with lily and orchid notes and a hint of macadamia nut.

The website is almost finished! Ummm, I didn't design it so I'm allowed to say it's... AMAZING. So please keep tuning into   <http://www.sky-tea.com/>  for its debut!

We are very excited, having just launched, to take the tea world by surprise. Thank you so much for being crazy about our tea line and telling everyone about us. We really appreciate all you who follow us on Facebook/Twitter. We are having a lot of fun with it and hope you are too.

Warm Regards, Jeni

- SKYTea Co.

www.sky-tea.com <http://www.sky-tea.com/

Full Disclosure: Jeni (JQ) is my one time starlet grand niece.


"I also note that Germany has shut down the seven older of their seventeen plants in response. I guess they're afraid of tsunamis over their design limit."

The German reactors were already operating past their design life and had been granted an extension, over major opposition. The ones being closed are part of 17 plants than had been given a 12 year extension last year.


So, the move is political. (Surprise, surprise, surprise!)

Lee Keller King


Libya and congress 


Watching the events unfolding in the Middle East, I have a question, which you have already asked and I think needs to be answered.

Where IS Congress in all this? Were they consulted? Then why aren't they helping the President make his case? Were they not consulted? Then why aren't they raising hell about it?

How can I get an answer from my representative? If I send a letter or a phone call, I'm going to get a form letter.

Republicans mock President Obama for going to Rio, but they've been so invisible during this crisis we may need to start putting their faces on milk cartons.


Brian P.

I suspect Congress is stunned. And the President is not in the country. Governors have no executive power when they leave their state, but that does not apply to the President of the United States of America, who can order the Navy to fire missiles while he is in Brazil.


Question answered. http://thehill.com/blogs/blog-briefing-room/

So they weren't consulted, evidently, and don't know why we're there. I realize it's too late to unring the bell, but shouldn't Congress be more involved in these questions ? Isn't the War Powers law on the books specifically so they can jerk the rug out from under an adventurous president?


Brian P.

It would be useful to know what the mission is. I would also like to know if there are any people in all the world that the United States does not have the obligation to protect. I can understand war against Gaddafi with the goal of apprehending or killing him. I can understand war against Libya with the goal of conquering the oil fields and raising an American flag over them as compensation for the Barbary Pirate actions against the people of the United States (pity that Somalia has no oil). I do not believe the latter policy is useful, and I am not sure that hanging Gaddafi is worth what it will cost (was taking off Saddam Hussein's head by tearing it off when he was dropped too far worth a $Trillion $Dollars?). I do suspect that if we are to engage in wars of assassination there might be better tools for the job.  Delta Force offense, Secret Service defense, and do remember that the enemy always gets a vote.

I don't like Gaddafi, but I didn't like Saddam either. I suspect that putting out a contract on Saddam Hussein would have cost a lot less than a $Trillion $Dollars. I would guess that a billion dollars and a US passport -- bring me his head or proof that you killed him, no questions asked -- would do it. Indeed, I suspect that offering a billion dollars to the first winner of a fair election might be a good old college try at nation building...

I have no idea what the mission is in Libya, but I do think we had better be prepared to furnish the victors a lot of ammunition to fire in the air.


US Troops under foreign command - 

Hi Jerry,

You'd asked: "Does anyone know why the President seems anxious to put American forces in combat under a foreign general?"

I believe that the political strategists are in control of the White House. First, they dither, then they support it with words, but not a resolution in the UN, then we have the resolution and wait until the 8th anniversary of the Iraq war (that must have been on purpose), then support it with missiles, not planes, then with planes, but they don't want to take responsibility, so they're trying to abdicate command and control. They're afraid that Obama will be blamed 1) By Americans for getting us into another war in which we have no compelling national interest, and 2) by the Arab world (note: not the royal dictators) for attacking yet another Muslim country. I fully expected the Arab league to do what they've done - goad the US into doing their dirty work for them, but then playing the other side of the populist aisle to protect their own positions.

They waited until the worst possible time to intervene - right after the rebels no longer had a credible chance of winning. If we'd have gone in early, they might have won (not to say that would be better), and a bit later there'd have been no point. But having goaded them with words, Obama trapped himself into doing 'something' or risk being compared to Bush and the Iraq rebels. I'm stunned that the market is up today - we'll see what happens with oil prices as this drags into a third front in the neo-con crusade to liberate the world. This, quite simply, is not good.

The White House is in desperate need of adult supervision.



P.S. I'm very glad we're not traveling to Europe this summer for vacation. I expect the terrorist response to happen some weeks or months from now.


Cuius regio, eius religio.

Just a note: "Cuius regio, eius religio" meant that "whose prince, his religion." That is, whatever religion the prince wanted to practice would become everyone's state religion. The Elector-Duke of Bavaria was staunchly Catholic, so Bavarians remained Catholic. The Elector-King of Saxony preferred Lutheranism, so Saxony became Lutheran. The Elector-Markgraf of Brandenburg chose Calvinism; then changed his mind and chose Lutheranism, and his subjects had to follow suit. The fooferaw between Lutherans and Calvinists continued until Bismark finally forced them into the combined "Evangelische Kirche," which is a Lutheran church with a coat of Calvinist paint.

It also seems unfair to call them "The Wars of Religion." The German Princes did not declare themselves independent of the Empire because they had become Protestant. They became Protestant because they wanted to become independent of the Empire. Remember, the Pope was financing the "Protestant" side. The same is true of the Wars of the French Succession. The three great Houses shifted alliances and usually included both Catholics and Huguenots on both sides. "Paris is worth a mass," Henri Bourbon famously declared, and blithely changed his religion to suit his ambition.


The problem with writing about one thing and using something else as an illustration when there's no longer any agreement over history is nearly insoluble. Your first paragraph is correct, and my translation of the Latin phrase used by my correspondent, while literally correct, didn't make it clear that it applied to rulers, not to just anyone.

Whether the Thirty Years War was one of religion is a far more complex matter. The Emperor was raised by Jesuits and applied his intolerance of heresy in Austria with good effect: he then tried to apply it to Bohemia and caught a tiger. He had to be bailed out by Spain and the Catholic League (which as you point out was not really on the Pope's side, the alliance that let Don John of Austria win at Lepanto being over and done).  Certainly some of the Princes in Germany chose religions for political purposes, and in Sweden the choice had been made long before Gustavus came to the throne, and his intervention on the Protestant side was political (for the German Liberties, etc. and for control of the Baltic) -- as well as induced by the exhortations and subsidies paid him by Richelieu in France. Richelieu was a Cardinal but a French Cardinal who happened to be the Chief Minister. Even so, the Thirty Years War was as much over the Edict of Restoration as anything else, and the Emperor's insistence on that -- 

This could go on for a long time, and when done we probably would not settle much. The Thirty Years War was more political than religious perhaps, but the sheer viciousness of it was certainly intensified by religious fervor. Wallenstein's biography in Wikipedia is a good argument for not relying on Wikipedia for accuracy: it makes him "religious but not zealous" when so far as I know there is no evidence that he had any sign of a conscience; but that is another story. The atrocities of the Thirty Years War were enormously exacerbated by armies supporting themselves by living off the land. But I ramble.

I can agree that the Thirty Years War was as much political as religious. Beyond that would require a much longer discussion and would not be very relevant to the point I was trying to make about today's wars. Thanks.


"Excess" radiation and cancer


"There is...burgeoning evidence that excess radiation operates as a sort of cancer vaccine."

So maybe those TSA full body scanners are good for people's health if not their privacy.

Charles Brumbelow

Bringing up the enormously complex question of radiation hormesis, which is established in principle, but nearly as controversial in science/policy disputes as anything I know of. At some point I will do a long essay on the subject.





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Tuesday,  March 22, 2011

XCOR gets LH2+LOX upper-stage engine development contract from BoeLock

I suspect you know about this already, but maybe I can save you some of the bother of composing a posting:

Subj: XCOR gets LH2+LOX upper-stage engine development contract from BoeLock


>>Teaming with closely held XCOR to develop a new upper-stage engine for ULA's existing Delta IV and Atlas 5 launchers is a way for the established rocket maker to "recognize the value of the newer aerospace companies" and benefit from potentially lower production costs, according to George Sowers, ULA's vice president of business development and advanced programs.<<


>>Under a 2010 joint risk-reduction program by XCOR and ULA, ULA facilitated an accelerated demonstration of the nozzle technology, which was developed in XCOR’s Lynx reusable, suborbital-vehicle technology program. ULA sought to determine the nozzle technology’s applicability to future expendable launch vehicle programs. Earlier in the same risk-reduction program, XCOR demonstrated the ability to pump liquid hydrogen (LH2) using cryogenic piston-pump technology it developed for the Lynx suborbital vehicle.

Based on the results of these successful technology demonstrations, ULA today announced a larger follow-on program with XCOR to develop a liquid oxygen (LOX)/LH2 engine.

Conceived as a lower-cost, risk-managed program compared to traditional engine development efforts, the multi-year project’s main objective is to produce a flight-ready LOX/LH2 upper-stage engine in the 25,000 to 30,000 lbf thrust class that costs significantly less to produce and is easier to operate and integrate than competing engine technologies.<<

Congratulations to the XCORians!

Rod Montgomery==monty@starfief.com



Subject: Power

"1) Plants appear to be designed for no more than 24 hours without power. Had the diesels survived at Fukushima this would have been a non-event. Had TEPCO been able to restore power within the first 24 hours this would have been a non-event. I'm sure that it's hard to imagine that a power plant can be without power for a significant amount of time, but it's been a week and they're just beginning to get the power routed back in. The newer, passive cooling designs are looking better and better."

I was perplexed at the response to getting power to the plants.... 75,000Kw diesel generators are air transportable by helicopters (certainly military grade sling loaded). Fuel bladders can as well be transported. They can certainly be 'plugged' into the plant grid to run the pumps. Or, even hooked up to the pumps directly. But, I'm no engineer.

Cheap energy = prosperity!

Drill here, DRILL NOW!

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 find that perplexing also; doubtless it has to do with confusions after the tsunami, but I don't really know. I'll see if I can find out.



Congresscritters -- stunned, culpable, or complacent?

Dr. Pournelle,

You responded to another correspondent (subj: 'Libya and congress' ) thusly:

I suspect Congress is stunned. And the President is not in the country. Governors have no executive power when they leave their state, but that does not apply to the President of the United States of America, who can order the Navy to fire missiles while he is in Brazil.

I note that (as you reported) the opposition leadership, some independents, and the hawks of his own party were clamoring for this move. Who's left to complain? Not so stunned as unable to respond -- either organizationally or for consistency's sake. I suspect that the CINC got a "by" (spelling in sports contest elimination metaphor should be "bye" perhaps?) on this one, and your theory on the "Harvard" reasoning behind it is quite likely to be both true and to remain unchallenged. The conspiracy theorist in me keeps thinking that perhaps the spelling should truly be "buy" and he's sold out to the others for later concessions.

{Please withhold name and address}


I got a kick out of the letter writer in Japan who fled to the slopes of a technically-active volcano to avoid possible power plant issues.

Tom Brosz


SUBJECT: Everglades tree islands are prehistoric trash piles

Hi Jerry.

Interesting finding - subject line says it all:



Mike Casey


Quantum Frontier

Getting closer to Schrodinger's Cat <http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/8570836.stm>  !

Dan Steele
Icepilot Port Ludlow, WA


Subj: Death of the Internet predicted, film at your local cineplex


>>A scary story about the demise of the Internet has been making the rounds through the social networking echo chamber lately. It's a paper by five researchers from the University of Minnesota and one from Kansas State University (actually only a poster was published). The title is ominous: "Losing Control of the Internet: Using the Data Plane to Attack the Control Plane." ...<<

Rod Montgomery==monty@starfief.com

I solicit informed comments on this.


On Saudi Intervention in Bahrain

The US (and the West in general) continue to step on its (collective) crank by not garnering Arab Shia support in opposition to the Persians (nee' Iran). The simple change of monikers from 'Iranians' to 'Persians' will tremendously shift the rhetoric and lines of opposition in the region. Instead of the Shia/Sunni/Wahabi/Sufi split perceptions, this will unite Arabs vs. the Persians in a conflict so ancient it predates Zorastrianism.

Cheap energy = prosperity!

Drill here, DRILL NOW!

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

Arabian nights...

I do note that the Shia/Sunni conflict was important in the success of the First Crusade.


For a PDF copy of A Step Farther Out:



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Wednesday, March 23, 2011

"Uncle" was considered a respectful term for white children to call elderly blacks in the segregated Old South.

Among white people maybe. My parents say they didn't think about it much.

Your comment made me think about how language is inextricably linked to culture, race, and time.

A respectful term for white children to call elderly blacks in the South would be "sir", which is what black children and white children called their elders.

Brian Gulino

For good or ill, "sir" was not an option in Tennessee of the 1940's, although one was expected to say 'sir' to relatives and authorities. Uncle was the polite term; those who weren't being polite (I didn't know many of them; they were of a differentr social class) would say 'boy'. Things have changed since then. Now no one is called boy. On the other hand, no one is called sir or uncle either. The times, they have been a-changing.


Bachelor's Degree

A couple of corrections, and an addition, to the letter from England.

The typical US Bachelor of Arts degree is nominally 120 credit hours, where 1 credit hour is 1 contact hour per week over the roughly three-month semester. This is acheivable in 4 years, 2 semesters per year, if the student is taking a 15-hour load, which works out to 15 contact hours per year.

The Bachelor of Science is closer to 132 credit hours (I think). The BSEE at UT Austin nowadays requires 16-17 hour loads (or do it in five years).

Not mentioned is the fact that the typical undergraduate class requires nominally 2 hours of outside preparation (study, homework, labs) for every contact hour. A 15-hour load is a full-time job. Some classes require a lot more. (Radio-TV-Film production courses are notoriously heavy workloads. Plan on living in the studio. Certain CS classes are equally hard-core.)

--John R. Strohm

I have never understood the point of having Bonehead English at state universities. Surely those who are likely to profit  from a tax supported university education do not need Bonehead English and Bonehead Math. Let them learn that before they get into university classes. Universities ought not have to compensate for awful high schools.


Subject: BBC & TSA


Well, I'll save a majority of my wry comments about how the U.S. is now funding the British propaganda effort. But, Britain's military is about to shrink and they are doing that collective defense thing with France. Now, the Brits can't even fund their own propaganda station and I wonder who is picking up the GCHQ slack on our signals intelligence agreement. I suppose we owe the Brits; they taught us the craft of intelligence. I also suspect that having Britain in our pocket could be useful. However, I am a bit -- I don't know if frightened is the right word -- that Britain is taking such a turn for the worse.


And, the latest from T&A -- excuse me -- TSA: http://www2.nbc17.com/news/

I have no comments on this story other than a sigh and a scowl.


Most Respectfully,

Joshua Jordan, KSC Percussa Resurgo


The Cost Of Printed Books

Random thought:

"I don't need any special equipment to read a printed book!"

Well, yeah, you kind of *do*. And, according to the link from the Chaos Manor website, the equipment costs $200 plus shipping and sales tax.

-- Mike T. Powers


F-111F Lost Over Libya


Reference the F-111F we lost over Libya in April 1986 (note: the same time that the Chernoybal reactor leak was going on - odd, huh?). Although I moved on to the USAF space program in 1978 I retained a personal interest in F-111's, especially the D and F models. I put my hands on the hardware for every one of those airplanes in my first assignment in the USAF.

While at the Pentagon I heard that the USAF previously had established a policy of certifying ordnance as suitable for use with aircraft on the basis of successful release from any rack on the aircraft, including those racks not used in the actual flight tests. The belief was that the F-111F that was lost was due to a problem with some of the ordnance used on the mission, an incompatibility with certain weapons and a particular bomb rack on the aircraft. This led to an extensive project to test release of all ordnance from all racks on all aircraft. I also believe that a weapons release problem on the April 1986 raid was the cause of the accidental bombing of the French Embassy in Libya (again, another strange coincidence - maybe we owed them one).


Wayne Eleazer

These things happen. Inevitably. In war everything is very simple, but the simplest things are very difficult. But the lost of a work horse is disturbing. We need those airplanes. One day someone might fight back.

Gaddafi can't fly. What happens next?


cost of Libyan war question 


Did your cost estimate for the Libyan war include the cost of an irreplaceable F-15E, the one that crashed? The production line is still open thanks to South Korea and Singapore and we could buy new-build replacements for about $75 mil a copy (very rough cost estimate), but current policy says USAF won’t buy any non-stealthy combat aircraft. There are no proposals to design/build any new aircraft that can perform the mission that the workhorse F-15E does, at any cost, hence “irreplaceable”.


Everything usually costs more... Wars always cost more.


Wind power etc

Dear Dr Pournelle,

 "It's wind power Jim, but not as we know it".

Wind power is a cubic function of wind speed, and wind speed increases with altitude above the surface of the land or sea. Some seek to exploit this with flying wind turbines kept aloft by either lighter than air devices , or the reaction forces on the turbine blades. Some also have kite arrangements pulling out cables whilst turning a generator. Gearing is a problem for large wind generators because though the tips of the blades may be traveling at 200mph plus, the hub might only be rotating at less than 100 rpm. However sea water is about 800 times more dense than air, and it matters not whether the water flows towards the turbine, or the turbine is pulled through it. A large power kite could pull a ducted water turbine through the sea at modest speed ( say 5 to 10 metres per second ) and generate large amounts of energy. Unlike free turbines, a ducted turbine is not constrained by the Betz limit of 16 / 27 efficiency. One could fantasise about purpose built wind trawlers roaming the more windy parts of the ocean harvesting energy. This would be of little use if the energy could not be economically stored or used. One strategy that comes to mind is using the energy to produce ammonium nitrate which could then be offloaded when enough was gathered. This has the beauty of using only air and water as the feedstock. It is also a commodity that is useful almost anywhere.

By no means all good ideas succeed. This was brought home to me nearly twenty years ago when I tried to get a patent on what I thought was a great idea ( I still do ). My flawed logic was because I had not heard of it it must be new, and therefor patentable.Briefly the idea was to have a tape , like duck tape, stuck along the passages of public buildings at waist level and a few inches above the floor to indicate to people blinded, for whatever reason, the direction to fire escapes and refuges. The key feature of the tape was that it felt smooth one way and rough the other. To my surprise the idea had been put up for patenting twice before and the earliest was two other Scots back in the early sixties. Both they and the English couple who had also tried had given up as they could get no public body to show any interest. It would seem that your iron law has the malignant side effect of discouraging anything novel that does not immediately profit the beaurocrats that could help it's dissemination. I still think that such a cheap and reliable safety device has a future and hopefully some of your readers agree. Geoge Orwell must be turning over in his grave at a fair old lick by now. Most of his dire predictions for1984 are coming true.

 We just received our 2011 census form for completion on 27th march. The front has a threat of up to £1000 fine for false information. Inside there are no less than 38 questions about all manner of personal details. They claim it is all so that they can deliver better services. The cynically minded might think that all this information will be used to create administrative problems requiring more regulations and more public servants to administer them.

Sandy Henderson

But of course it will be.


NY Times commits suicide.


--- Roland Dobbins


From The Halls Of Montezuma To The Shores Of Tripoli... 

A real Marine week.


"SAN DIEGO – Border Patrol agents caught 13 illegal immigrants wearing U.S. Marine uniforms at a border patrol checkpoint east of San Diego, an agency spokesman said Tuesday."


"The pilot of a downed Air Force F-15 Strike Eagle fighter jet in Libya was reportedly rescued by Marines in an MV-22 Osprey, media reports said."



Author's Guild Rejection

Hi Jerry,

I was never a fan of the settlement for (among others) exactly the reason it was rejected - opt-out, instead of opt-in. To have a settlement presented and imposed on my behalf, by an organization of which I am not a member, that grants Google essential immunity from blatant copyright violation is unacceptable. Showing 20% of one of my published works greatly diminishes the need to buy the book, as much of the value is in the first introductory sections. Forcing authors to follow a relatively obscure case, making them search for opt-out provisions, and expecting them to invest time and money to prevent overt theft isn't reasonable. Allowing authors to opt-in to the settlement (thus making Google, the beneficiary of the settlement, responsible for that effort) makes much more sense.

There is an implicit assumption that what Google is doing is OK, and we just need to reconcile it with the law. I reject that out of hand. It's theft. Orphaned works are an issue, but the flaw is with current copyright law, and the resolution is with Congress, not with a company that is driven by a complete disregard for intellectual property rights (well, at least for everyone but their own). Allowing wholesale copyright violation isn't an answer.



Doesn't opt in negate the entire point, which is that there are many works technically under copyright but whose owners don't know they own copyrights. Those works cannot be published, and there is no one to "opt in". Opt in is, in my judgment, tantamount to saying wait a very long time. Or publish and see what happens. Or --

I thought the Guild negotiated a reasonable settlement. There is payment for the insult of copying works without permission, but you have to care enough to ask for it. Google then has the right to publish things if the authors do not object. If the copyright holder objects, Google can't do anything with it until the copyright expires.

If there were a way to determine which works are copyrighted -- other than asking the copyright holders to speak up -- it would be different. As it is, many orphan works will simply vanish.

I would not give Google an exclusive right to publish orphaned works, but I do not believe the Guild agreement did that.


"Death of the Internet" mail - 

Dr. Pournelle:

I note the entry in Tuesday's mail about the "Death of the Internet" article.

Back in 2001, I amused myself by writing a fictional story on the same subject. And 'published' it on my web site (which gets an infetesimal fraction of visitors compared to yours).

As an experiment in current e-book publishing, the story is now available on Amazon as an e-book, priced at 99 cents. The story is called "Digital Choke", as is it's web site (www.digitalchoke.com <http://www.digitalchoke.com/>  ). The e-book link is http://amzn.to/i0oQsa  . The web site has a short sample of the story. 

(Creating an e-book and publishing it on Amazon in Kindle format is fairly easy. Create the book in your favorite word processor, save it as 'simple HTML', clean up the HTML code a bit, and then use Mobipocket to convert to Kindle format (or other formats). Use the Kindle Previewer to see how it will look. If adjustment needed, a bit of HTML work then Mobipocket will fix things. My story had simple formatting needs, so I was able to get it done in about 4 passes through the process. And Amazon has a nice royalty structure for self-published ebooks.)

Regards, Rick Hellewell


Special Report: Radiation fears may be greatly exaggerated -

Finally, I wonder if anyone is reading.


Special Report: Radiation fears may be greatly exaggerated

"As workers struggle to contain the fallout from the crippled nuclear plant in northeastern Japan, people as far away as Illinois are calling public health officials in a state of panic."

I have been reading your views and mail. I found the concentrated sources of sane and measured discussion of the situation a quick "go to". I especially appreciated the link to the MIT site. I have bitten my tongue as a friend worried about her husband stationed aboard one of the USN ships moved from downwind of the stricken reactors. I did not point out that the ship was nuclear-fueled and safe. I figured mentioning that the flight he took back to the states soon after gave him more radiation exposure than while shipboard was a pointless exercise. She would not have appreciated it. I did post the MIT site so that real information was available to friends.

Thank you for making this discussion available.


It's more fun to feign fear...




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Thursday, March 24, 2011

Dirty Bomb compared to Japan


I have a question for you and your readers: How does the crisis ongoing in Japan compare to a dirty bomb?

Randy Lea

The likelihood of any great number of deaths or gruesome injuries to anyone off the Daiichi plant premises is very low. Who would want to make such a bomb? A dirty bomb has to have a noticeable effect to be a useful act of terror. You could make a better one by stealing some medical nuclear wastes and buying some legal firecrackers.


The box in God's Eye?

Dr. Pournelle,

See http://apod.nasa.gov/apod/image/1103/redsquare_tuthill_1024.jpg   ...this is the APOD for 23 March '11. http://apod.nasa.gov/apod/astropix.html 

Looks like one of the ending special effects scenes from Kubrick/Clarke's "2001."



Contra 'Death of the Internet predicted, film at your local cineplex'.

This is yet another academic DDoS paper making wild, unsupportable claims due to operational disconnect, with credulous reporters buying into the hype.

Here's the original popular press article:


Here's a link to the paper itself:


Iljitsch van Beijnum, the author of the Ars Technica article, is very technically astute and knows that this is nonsense; I'm unsure why he's so mild in his criticisms:



1. There are three generally agreed-upon planes, not two - control, management, and data.

2. The described methodology isn't novel. Observing the effects of attacks is something attackers do routinely, as is attack selectivity in order to garner maximum impact. This goes back a couple of decades with regards to DDoS attacks.

3. Routers will continue to forward and process priority 6/7 traffic - i.e., control-plane traffic like BGP - whilst dropping enough data-plane traffic to ensure sufficient link bandwidth & RP/LC CPU overhead to keep routing sessions up and process routing updates. This undercuts the central thesis of the paper.

4. Re-marking all priority 6/7 traffic at the edge is a best current practice (BCP) for network operators; this prevents attackers from sending floods of priority 6/7 traffic in order to force punts.

5. iACLs and GTSM, two more BCPs, protect BGP sessions against direct attack via SYN-flooding, et. al.

6. Control-plane policing (CoPP) is yet another BCP which indirectly limits the number of updates/sec via rate-limiting control-plane traffic exchanged between routers.

So, the assertions of novelty in the paper aren't really justified, nor are all the assumptions and assertions regarding the way routers work and the way they handle control-plane traffic. Also, standard BCPs to protect control-plane traffic aren't taken into account. Nor are routine defensive BCPs discussed and taken into account.

Finally, there are other mechanisms which are considerably more effective in disrupting control-plane communication due to high RP CPU which aren't touched upon in the paper, nor are they cited in references. Though there are defenses against those, as well, they aren't as well-known (i.e, TTL=0/1, et. al.).

It's generally a good idea for researchers to consult with members of the global operational security (opsec) community while looking for topics and methodologies which are truly unique. This saves a lot of time and effort in duplicating existing work and going down paths which don't lead to truly novel research and results.

It's also a good idea for researchers investigating routing resilience to launch real attacks (in a lab environment) on real routers, rather than just theorizing and simulating, in order to gain an understanding of how they actually behave under attack, and how the various BCPs and other defensive mechanisms come into play.

The authors of the paper really should consider walking back their unsupported claims of uniqueness and indefensibility, as they don't hold water.

-- Roland Dobbins


Incredible BS of the Day


Here is the prevailing BS of the day:

Toilet Paper Tax -- Federal Toilet Paper Tax -- http://www.omaha.com/article/20110323/NEWS01/703239866 


I don't know that it would get off the ground, but the idea is a joke. First, I would switch to baby wipes. Second, if they started taxing baby wipes I'd use water. I lived overseas in places that do not use toilet paper. I'll wash my butt and dry it with a dedicated towel rather than pay their idiotic toilet paper taxes. Maybe I can use the faces of the policy makers who wrote the law as a wiping application? That'll work as long as they keep their gaping maws shut; I wouldn't want any bacteria from their lying mouths to get into my body. They are not even reliable as toilet paper...

In other weird news, Girl Scouts are no longer allowed to sell their cookies in certain places. That's almost enough to make you want to http://stlouis.cbslocal.com/2011/03/24/hazelwood-crackdown-on-girl-scout-cookies/ 


Most Respectfully,

Joshua Jordan, KSC Percussa Resurgo

Words fail me. I understand that Girl Scout Cookies are again available in Hazelwood, though.


Subject: FW: Damn right I'll forward it.





Subject: Damn right I'll forward it.....

You're a 19 year old kid.

You're critically wounded and dying in the jungle somewhere in the Central Highlands of Viet Nam.

It's November 11, 1967. LZ (landing zone) X-ray.

Your unit is outnumbered 8-1 and the enemy fire is so intense from 100 yards away, that your CO (commanding officer) has ordered the MedEvac helicopters to stop coming in.

You're lying there, listening to the enemy machine guns and you know you're not getting out.

Your family is half way around the world, 12,000 miles away, and you'll never see them again.

As the world starts to fade in and out, you know this is the day.

Then - over the machine gun noise - you faintly hear that sound of a helicopter.

You look up to see a Huey coming in. But.. It doesn't seem real because no MedEvac markings are on it.

Captain Ed Freeman is coming in for you.

He's not MedEvac so it's not his job, but he heard the radio call and decided he's flying his Huey down into the machine gun fire anyway.

Even after the MedEvacs were ordered not to come. He's coming anyway.

And he drops it in and sits there in the machine gun fire, as they load 3 of you at a time on board.

Then he flies you up and out through the gunfire to the doctors and nurses and safety.

And, he kept coming back!! 13 more times!! Until all the wounded were out. No one knew until the mission was over that the Captain had been hit 4 times in the legs and left arm.

He took 29 of you and your buddies out that day. Some would not have made it without the Captain and his Huey.

Medal of Honor Recipient, Captain Ed Freeman, United States Air Force, died last Wednesday at the age of 70, in Boise, Idaho


I bet you didn't hear about this hero's passing, but we've sure seen a whole bunch about Lindsay Lohan, Tiger Woods and the bickering of congress over Health Reform.

Medal of Honor Winner Captain Ed Freeman

Shame on the American media !!!

Now... YOU pass this along to YOUR mailing list. Honor this real American.


Forwarded to me by Professor Greg Benford. Damn right I'll forward it.


Subj: Ed Freeman was Army not Air Force


and search down for "Freeman".

He died in 2008.


Bruce Crandall pulled the same duty that day.

Their selfless courage was memorialized in the movie _We Were Soldiers_, based on the book, _We Were Soldiers, Once ... And Young_, written by Hal Moore, who commanded the battalion holding that way-too-hot LZ.

Rod Montgomery==monty@starfief.com

Of course he was Army. I didn't read closely enough. Thanks.

And see below.




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Friday,  March 25, 2011

I never got as much immediate mail on any mail item as I got on this. Some details do need correction. As noted above, Freeman was Army, not Air Force. As noted below, this was Ia Drang in 1965, not 1967.

Ed Freeman

The "forwarded" e-mail on Ed Freeman is one of the many invented ones, although what he did do was brave enough.


I never bother with Snopes since their views govern much of what they say, and their views are not mine. I am told they offer a useful service. As to the inventions, I think that has to do with something not in what I published.


Ed Freeman 

Dear Jerry,

The battle in which Ed "Too Tall" Freeman, Major, US Army, performed the acts that earned him the Medal of Honor, was in 1965. not 1967 as the forwarded email misstated.

It was the Air Cav's (First Cavalry Division (Airmobile) ) fight in the Ia Drang Valley, against NVA regulars, and one of the hardest fought actions of the entire war. At that early stage, the NVA had not yet learned the lesson of avoiding set piece battles with large American units, and attempted to overrun Lt. Col. Hal Moore's battalion at Landing Zone X-Ray.

Anyone with an interest in infantry combat (as well as how American's fight when surrounded and outnumbered), should read "We were soldiers once, and young", Moore's account of the battle. It shows why, after this battle, the NVA largely played "Hide And Seek" with American units. The troopers of the Air Cavb were an order of magnitude more lethal in a close fight than the French, Imperial Japanese and former Waffen SS of the Foreign Legion ever were. The two finest light infantry forces in the world met, and settled who was hardest to kill.

The young American soldier with the "thousand yard stare" in the book's cover photo, by the way, is Rick Rescorla, later to serve as Vice-President of Security for Morgan-Stanley/Dean Witter, the largest tenant in the World Trade Center, who died on9/11 trying to save more lives as the towers crashed, after having saved hundreds.


The three day Gehenna in the Is Drang was a clarion cal for heroes, and many answered the call.

http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=29186886  <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Landing_zone_x-ray

"Captain Ed W. Freeman, United States Army, distinguished himself by numerous acts of conspicuous gallantry and extraordinary intrepidity on 14 November 1965 while serving with Company A, 229th Assault Helicopter Battalion, 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile). As a flight leader and second in command of a 16-helicopter lift unit, he supported a heavily engaged American infantry battalion at Landing Zone X-Ray in the Ia Drang Valley, Republic of Vietnam. The unit was almost out of ammunition after taking some of the heaviest casualties of the war, fighting off a relentless attack from a highly motivated, heavily armed enemy force. When the infantry commander closed the helicopter landing zone due to intense direct enemy fire, Captain Freeman risked his own life by flying his unarmed helicopter through a gauntlet of enemy fire time after time, delivering critically needed ammunition, water and medical supplies to the besieged battalion. His flights had a direct impact on the battle's outcome by providing the engaged units with timely supplies of ammunition critical to their survival, without which they would almost surely have gone down, with much greater loss of life. After medical evacuation helicopters refused to fly into the area due to intense enemy fire, Captain Freeman flew 14 separate rescue missions, providing life-saving evacuation of an estimated 30 seriously wounded soldiers -- some of whom would not have survived had he not acted. All flights were made into a small emergency landing zone within 100 to 200 meters of the defensive perimeter where heavily committed units were perilously holding off the attacking elements. Captain Freeman's selfless acts of great valor, extraordinary perseverance and intrepidity were far above and beyond the call of duty or mission and set a superb example of leadership and courage for all of his peers. Captain Freeman's extraordinary heroism and devotion to duty are in keeping with the highest traditions of military service and reflect great credit upon himself, his unit and the United States Army."


And of course there is the movie.


Dr. Pournelle,

Mention of Captain Freeman, and the book "We Were Soldiers, Once ... And Young" reminds me of the person on the cover of that book, Lt. Rick Rescorla. After leaving the Army Mr. Rescorla eventually became the Chief of Security for Morgan Stanley at the World Trade Center. He saw the vulnerability of the WTC to attack, and insisted on recurring evacuation training for Morgan Stanley employees there. Training which is credited with saving many lives, as everyone knew what to do on 9/11/01.

So did he. From the Wikipedia page: "As a result of Rescorla's actions, all but 6 of Morgan Stanley's 2,700 WTC employees survived. Four of those six were Rescorla and three deputies who followed him back into the building - Wesley Mercer, Jorge Velazquez, and Godwin Forde."

His body was never recovered.

Kit Case


The rest of the story 

Dr Pournelle

I seem to recall that in the summer of 2001 the national media covered Pres Bush awarding a belated MoH to Maj Ed Freeman (USA Ret).

What you may not know is that he was a three-war veteran: served with the Navy in the Second World War and with the Army in Korea and Vietnam. He won a battlefield commission in Korea at Pork Chop Hill. Like other MoH winners, his ribbons start at his breast pocket and end at his shoulder line (translation for civilians: the man won a godawful lot of medals -- six rows of three with the MoH on top of those six rows). His Air Medal has three silver oak leaf clusters and one bronze oak leaf cluster (translation for civilians: he was awarded the Air Medal many, many times).

Here is the rest of the story: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ed_Freeman 

Live long and prosper h lynn keith

There was some coverage of the award at the time, and some when Freeman died, but I would not say there was as much as some rather silly events taking place about the same times.

I still say damn right I'll forward it. I do not apologize.


Why the cooling ponds are up in the air

I normally read the previous week on Monday, but I'm even more behind than usual this week. But, I saw a bunch of questions about why the spent fuel ponds were up high, and I figured I'd chime in just in case on one else has said it.

The main reason is that the refueling access is up there.

The pond is connected by a canal to the top of the pressure vessel. To remove fuel, they flood the core and remove the top of the pressure vessel. Then they remove the gates, allowing the canal to flood, as well as the space above the vessel. The crane them picks up one of the spent assemblies, lifts it out of the vessel, but keeps it submerged in the canal, then traverses to the pond, and lowers it into place there.

I'm fuzzy on the process after this point, but I suspect that when the time comes to transfer the fuel to the outside pond, they drop a transfer vessel into the pond, move the rod assembly into it while still under water, and then lift the whole thing out, probably including several tons of water.

Freshly removed fuel must be kept in water the whole time, both for cooling, and because water is a fairly good radiation shield (for all types: alpha, beta, gamma and neutron). It would be easy enough to design a vertical canal, where the assemblies could be lowered to a ground level pool while underwater the whole time, but that makes the next step of processing much harder.




At long last:


Bigelow marches on.


: Eagle Scouts

“Heinlein strongly supported the Scouts, and once pointed out to me that everyone who had ever walked on the Moon was an Eagle Scout.”


Robert was quite pleased when he learned that I was a hiking scoutmaster and took the troop up into the High Sierra several times for weeklong 50 mile hikes. That was in the days before cell phones: when you were up there then you were up there with what you brought with you. I always told the parents that I'd rather come out late than lose anyone. I was late more than once when the weather changed. As I recall, Farmer in the Sky was first published in Boy's Life.


Bounties on Enemies of the US

I do note that this is currently the status for Osama bin Laden and it still hasn’t worked yet. Only 27 million dollars though.


‘One wonders if prizes might be used in foreign policy? "The Congress hereby directs the Treasurer of the United States to pay the sum of $200 million dollars in US currency, and the Secretary of State to deliver a United States passport made out to any name the winner chooses, to anyone who will deliver to any United States Embassy the head of Colonel Muammar Muhammad al-Gaddafi (Arabic: معمر القذافي‎ Muʿammar al-Qaddāfī). The head may but need not be attached to the body. This prize shall be paid upon confirmation of the identity of the head. The winner of this prize is declared a friend of the United States." ‘

David March

It won't always work. Do note I was not being a strong advocate of the policy: there are downsides to it.


On War.


I was a conscript soldier and spent many miserable hours standing about in the rain with a loaded gun. The benefit was that it gave me time to think. I couldn't see why a committee of alpha males should determine when it was proper for me to kill people and break things. Especially as the locals and I were in complete agreement that I should go home. Why not? The locals were no threat to my homeland.

This led me to a definition of "war". A state of war may be said to exist when an individual or group acts in a manner normally considered criminal for motives other than immediate gain or gratification.

As to the present situation in Libya. When the Arab League wanted me to patrol Libya's airspace, never harm civilians, and only attack government forces, I would have immediately agreed. Subject to two preconditions. The first would be that all Gadaffi's anti-aircraft weapons be moved to a neutral country to await the outcome of the ground war, and secondly that all Gadaffi's vehicles be clearly marked with the tin of flourescent spray paint that I am now handing you. When the uproar had died down a bit I would mention that if the empty tin was returned in good condition it would be refilled at no cost. In other words "don't be silly". It ain't doable. I am simply not going to send one of my expensively trained young men in an even more expensive aeroplane into a situation where someone armed with little more than a pointed stick can kill him. He is there to defend my homeland not to facilitate the replacement of one horrible dictator with another equally horrible dictator.

I am greatly in favour of your idea of prizes for technological achievements but to offer a prize for Gadaffi dead or alive would be a mistake as the real advantage that we have in terms of advanced kit would be lost. Gadaffi's sniper rifle is no different from our sniper rifle nor would it require great effort for Gadaffi to recruit and train a sniper as skilled as ours. Indeed, I surmise that the advantage would be with Gadaffi.

John Edwards

Think of prizes and bounties as a theory: one I would be willing to defend in an argument, not something I have seriously analyzed.

We have never had a long and serious debate on regime changes, although Daniel Webster did respond to some silly threats by the Austro-Hungarian Empire over the Kossuth affair following the failed Revolution of 1848.

I know of no modern debates on the subject. Athens did impose democracies on other city states during their wars with Sparta.


Get Nukes and get them NOW


I believe you've made exactly this point many times. Interesting that North Korea is now willing to state the obvious point, even in public.



Syria knows this lesson and is working on nukes; as of course is Iran.


re: "...there is now unrest in Syria."

Dr Pournelle,

Have you heard of anyone bringing up the Revelations lately? Signs and portents, weather emergencies, earthquakes and tsunami, comets and asteroids, all the world's countries (okay, just NATO) coming together in response to unrest in the mid-east, dragons, eagles, several anti-Christ claimants ... if there were any bears around, I'd be really worried. I think the recipe calls for them.

To misquote Lloyd Bridges (as Steve McCroskey), I picked a hell of a week to give up wormwood.


There shall be wars and rumors of wars


War Powerlessness

What we need to do is wait for Congress to quit dithering, say 6 months or so, give the President permission to phrase a strongly worded statement for Kaddafy Duck to leave office in 6 months or we will blockade his ports. After 12 months of blockade we say he gets 6 months to leave office or we will do something more severe. Then after we have waited long enough for him to have killed all the insurgents we then step in and help them.


It would make seizing the oil fields easier if there weren't all those Libyan democrats hanging around.


U.S. is now funding the British propaganda effort?

http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2011/mar/20/  <http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/
2011/mar/20/bbc-world-service-us-funding?CMP=twt_fd>    <http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2011/

Looking at the original article the funding is going not for the propaganda but to develop technology that will mitigate Chinese jamming. Assuming & I admit it is an assumption, that when developed the technology will be available to both Britain and the US, this is joint research not US aid.

If anybody is looking for a candidate for US aid, not because Britain can't afford it but because our government is too Luddite to try without pushing, may I suggest this proposal put by Dr Patrick Collins to Parliament's Science and Technology Committee

"To give an example about how easy it can be to make getting into space cheaper, this is a picture of the SR53, a British supersonic rocket plane which flew in Britain 50 years ago this May. There is a British company, Bristol Spaceplanes, which has a design of a passenger space plane, drawing very much on that technology, which could make suborbital flights at a cost of £3,000 a head. There is simply no difficulty at all. The technology was already there 50 years ago, and materials and so on have advanced a great deal since then.

for a tiny investment and a modern version of this for £50 million, a one-off investment, in three years you would have a prototype which would be flying, within five years it could be certified for carrying passengers, and within 10 years it would be down to £3,000 a head. Suborbital flight is a very straight forward low cost investment"

I suspect a US government /Air Force/Bill Gates offer to put up half the money ($40 mill) would shame our government into investing the other half. If they had sense they would refuse it, spend the full lot and get all the credit. http://www.publications.parliament.uk/

Neil Craig


winner of WW2

I would dispute that the USSR was, by that definition, the winner of WW2 - they lost approx 24 million people, had half their country not merely occupied by flattened and at the end, while Germany was no longer in a position to threaten to exterminate them the US was, if anything more thoroughly because of the Bomb.

On the other hand if you look at GNP as a measure of success the US came out of WW2 with its GNP doubled & it being half the world's total for 250,000 casualties. That is victory on a standard with Alexander and Genghiz Khan.

I think this is something we are going to have to agree to disagree on because I tend to believe the Soviets were, mostly, more worried about defending themselves than attacking anybody else.

Neil Craig
"a lone wolf howling in despair in the intellectual wilderness of Scots politics"

 They went from being just another power threatened with encirclement and in danger of overthrow to being one of two superpowers. The US came out with a world enemy and the Cold War. From Stalin's view it was a win. Khrushchev believed it when he said "We will bury you." The Cold War was long and for a while dangerous.


Entitled = Obligated ?

Dr. Pournelle --

You may have seen the disturbing piece in the WSJ:

Forced int Medicare http://online.wsj.com/article/

Apparently some seniors wanted to use private insurance instead of Medicare yet keep their Social Security benefits. The government thinks otherwise:

"The Medicare statute provides that only individuals who are "entitled" to Social Security are "entitled" to Medicare. Therefore, argues the judge, "The only way to avoid entitlement to Medicare Part A at age 65 is to forego the source of that entitlement, i.e., Social Security Retirement benefits." "

I really don't understand the rationale, unless the ultimate goal is one of control and power. I can see no other reason for such a rule.


Military service is a privilege; in some democracies it is a privilege that must not be refused. This is a different sort of unrefusable privilege.









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Saturday, March 26, 2011

I was harried by plumbers working on my far too expensive sewer repairs, so I took the day off.






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CURRENT VIEW     Saturday

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Sunday,   March 27, 2011    



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