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Monday  May 23, 2011

hydrothermal vents

Jerry P:

Massive Ocean Eddies Stir Up Life around Deep-Sea Vents: Scientific American

New research suggests that surface-generated eddies help distribute heat, chemistry and life at deep-ocean hydrothermal vents

By Nina Bai <http://www.scientificamerican.com/author.cfm?id=2709

This article relates to a conversation you have been having about other sources of thermal energy which can possibly affect climate.



The Supreme Court's Prison Break

Wise Latino anyone?



We have seen the logic of the President's appointees. Winning elections matters.


The Great Mystery

Dr. Pournelle,

You said

"As to the rest of the Middle East, so far as I know the main reason for the US to be interested in the region at all is the obvious one: energy. Although US oil and gas reserves are high, the development is low."

But why? Do "green imperialists" encourage others to rape Nature on our behalf? Is there some conspiracy by the Illuminati? Mind control by the House of Saud?

I honestly find this situation both puzzling and frustrating.

Steve Chu


Chief Scientist


You wrote

“I would not say that Newt always tends to blow things up, or that he has bad judgment; but I will agree that he is far better in the role of advisor than as the boss. In the aerospace industry there is the post of "Chief Scientist". The simplest description of the job is that everyone in a project including the Chief Engineer must listen to the Chief Scientist, but they don't have to follow the advice. They do have to consider it.”

I would love to read an in-depth analysis of this thought or links to other resources. My company has had people in this role but we are never quite sure how to use them. While we are quite far from aerospace (in fact, nearly the opposite since we are still stone age)… I think this can apply to any innovative “hard” industry.



 This was forwarded by Colonel Couvillon, USMC Ret. It is fairly long, and is a general lecture on warfare by the Commandant of the Royal Marines. Recommended.


Letter From England

I'm watching the super-injunction story play out. The judges are livid.  <http://tinyurl.com/65ykntz> <http://tinyurl.com/3rzjjjt> <http://tinyurl.com/42ydhan> <http://tinyurl.com/43c66y6> <http://tinyurl.com/3r2qv76> Judge demands on-line controls to attack the problem of 'those who peddle lies', equating it to child pornography. <http://tinyurl.com/444ltx8> Top judge attacks those in parliament who speak out about these cases. <http://tinyurl.com/63nhw6f> A judge has issued an injunction against Twitter. <http://tinyurl.com/44etr7h> <http://tinyurl.com/3ogfdjc> <http://tinyurl.com/3rx2nc3> <http://tinyurl.com/3beo6xc>, which is based in California and has no presence in Britain. <http://tinyurl.com/3g62p7b>.

 Why it's not simply personal privacy. <http://tinyurl.com/3tarjht>

 My prayers are with Space Shuttle crew: <http://tinyurl.com/3omjp72>

 A high inflation rate has been accepted by the Bank of England <http://tinyurl.com/3csxa3e>


Harry Erwin, PhD

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


Don't leave home without it.


--- Roland Dobbins


Your disquisition on Mid East peace today was right on. I would emphasize that by supporting the overthrow of Mubarak who honored the Camp David Accords for three decades, Obama destroyed any vestige of hope that the Israelis would be willing to trade land for peace. Obama's subsequent demand for a return to the 1967 borders without even addressing the right of return issue will only further alienate Israelis. As you point out, a border will have to be imposed, not negotiated. If the Israelis succeed in imposing that border, they will expel all of the Palestinians and perhaps the Israeli Arabs. If the Arabs succeed in imposing a border, there will be no Israel to have a border and the Israelis will be exterminated rather than expelled. Until recently it was presumed that Israeli's opportunity to impose a border would end not long after Iran got the bomb. With the radicalization of Egypt and the alienation of Pakistan which already has nuclear weapons, that window of opportunity may already have closed. Given the United States' refusal to have an intelligent energy policy, acquiescing to Israel's extermination would seem to be in the United States' best interest. However, the long term consequences might be catastrophic.


Israel has managed since 1948 and in far more hostile climates than now. Things can go on as they have for another generation.

If something cannot go on forever, it will stop; but some things go on for a very long time even so.


Subject: Horizontal Drilling

Jerry, I happened to run across this explanation of how horizontal oil wells are drilled into shale formations and thought you might find it interesting: http://www.northernoil.com/drilling.php





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Tuesday,  May 24, 2011

Numbers Flap Has Minor Implications For Global Extinctions


Some researchers touched up the model biologists have been using to assess extinction rates. It turns out that to be accurate, one must carefully gather lots more data than has been the practice to date. No surprise. But Organized Biology’s (must capitalize it now) response has been AGW-like in its furor:


“Outspoken ecologists have already dismissed the work as technical quibbling that threatens to distract attention from the most cataclysmic loss of biodiversity in at least 65 million years. A long-time thinker about extinctions, Stuart Pimm of Duke University, objects to the paper as “truly disastrous.” He says it does advance understanding on a technical point but ignores bigger issues and practices among extinction predictors. “This is going to be the biggest bun-fight in my profession in a very long time,” Pimm says.

“But Hubbell insists that he is raising a scientifically substantive issue: “Come hell or high water, we have to be self-correcting. Or why are we doing science?” <snip>

“All ways that we measure extinction, not just species-area relationships, point to [extinction] rates that are elevated today,” says paleobiologist Anthony Barnosky of the University of California, Berkeley. In March he and his colleagues published an analysis — not based on species-area relationships — suggesting that ongoing extinctions could within the next few centuries grow to proportions qualifying as the sixth of Earth’s historical mass extinctions. Even using Hubbell and He’s adjustments to dial back a recent high-profile prediction of 18 percent to 35 percent land species losses from climate change could still means losing 10 percent in the not-too-distant future. That’s “an unacceptably high loss by anyone's standards,” he says.

And more of the same. They call it a ‘bun fight’ but to me it looks more like a hissy fit by the Catastrophists that their religion is being challenged.


The social sciences are also learning that many of their discoveries are based on faulty statistics. Science only works when crucial experiments are replicated; when a theory becomes a creed, it's no longer science and when it becomes heresy to experiment or question a theory, the results are seldom good.


Being a terrorist is like being a Chinook salmon

Your longevity depends on keeping away from seals

(retired Navy)


'Their primary objective appeared to be some of the military’s most sophisticated electronic warfare equipment, as they wiped out Pakistan’s anti-submarine warfare capability in a single stroke.'


--- Roland Dobbins


Pakistani Troops Hunt Taliban Militants After Attack on Naval Base - FoxNews.com


This event should scare the Hell out of everyone. This certainly undermines the presumption that Pakistan's nuclear weapons are secure. It also demonstrates why the Bin Laden raid was an unnecessary and dangerous provocation.


Jim Crawford


FT.com / Asia-Pacific - Taliban raid triggers Pakistan shockwave


More on Pakistan. 


Has it occurred to anyone that this raid was more than just a spectacular but random attack. The patrol planes are for surface as well as subsurface surveillance. Perhaps the Taliban want the Paki Navy blinded so that they can sneak something in or out?

Jim Crawford

Or the Moslem Brotherhood is planning a new raid on India, and a faction in the ISI wants to be certain the raid will not be detected until it's done. In Pakistan the government, the military, and the ISI are separate institutions and command of one does not insure loyalty of the others. To make it worse, they are subdivided. Think anarchy tempered by having  India as a common enemy.


Illegal immigration

The USA and the UK have similar problems with illegal immigration. Similar but not identical; I do not believe that the USA has any significant number of immigrants who are followers of a psychopathic paedophile, and the UK does. However, you are quite correct in saying that “deport them all” is a policy fraught with difficulties. On the other hand, deporting foreign criminals is both possible and desirable.

One partial solution is to stop pandering to the culture of the illegals. Specifically, end the dubious practice of multilingual education and public notices, with the exception of lessons in English for those who don’t speak it at home. The most basic expression of any country’s culture is its language. Multilingualism is also extremely expensive; in the UK official documents (including notices in hospitals, which are a government function over here) have to be available in at least a dozen languages, at vast expense. (Add one more, for the translation into American. J ) Yes, this would lead to the exclusion of non-English speakers from public life; this is a feature not a bug.


Ian Campbell

Controlling the borders is a necessary but no sufficient condition for addressing the problem...


The Power Point controversy

Dear Jerry:

I wasn't surprised a bit at that Army Times story. My last job in the Army was what is now called "Public Affairs" and was then called "Public Information". This was during the Vietnam War when the Army finally got serious about implementing Harry Truman's order about racial integration and certain civilians were trying to use that issue to damage morale and undermine readiness. I was in Europe, you will recall, so this had nothing to do with that "noisy sideshow" (My First Sergeant's words, not mine) in Vietnam. We also had a certain number of mid level career NCOs and officers who could not get with the program. The NCOs found they couldn't re-enlist and therefore would not get their pensions. The officers found when the big reduction in force came down after we were out of Vietnam that they were likewise shown the door, with their contracts bought out.

This was 40 years ago. With that history, it amazes me that some of the current generation have fallen into the same traps of what the Brits call "ladism". I'm not surprised they were dismissed. What surprises me is that they got promoted that high in the first place. Freedom of speech does not exist in the Armed Forces. There is a remarkable simulation of it most of the time, but the regulations are clear. It's an Army. not a debating society. You ignore the standards at your peril. Political correctness has nothing to do with this. It's about unity of command and unit cohesion.


Francis Hamit


New Levels of Absurdity 

It's getting weird. Some people are commenting that the Arab Spring has made landfall in Europe.

30,000 Twitter users breach gag order: <http://tinyurl.com/3gtvuho>  <http://tinyurl.com/3jyoawt>  <http://tinyurl.com/3pnrcdf>  <http://tinyurl.com/448z7mn>  <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CTB_v_News_Group_Newspapers

Other stories:

White toy tiger scares the police: <http://tinyurl.com/3m3dt97>  <http://tinyurl.com/3vxmuq6

Multiple sclerosis coverage in Britain weak. <http://tinyurl.com/4x2lxk7>  I know more neurology than almost all UK GPs despite being a research neuroscientist. This is an area where the curriculum is quite weak and not many specialists are trained. The downside of universal health care is that costs must be controlled and services rationed.

-- Harry Erwin, PhD, Senior Lecturer of Computing, University of Sunderland. Computational neuroethologist:


Wouldn't it be nice if they put this kind of time and effort going back to get us *more* rocks, instead?


--- Roland Dobbins



At a Mexican restaurant in downtown Fort Worth, our table was attended by a delightful young woman who spoke perfect English with a barely detectable accent (not unusual in Texas). She was intelligent, mature and witty. We had a nice conversation with her and discovered that she was originally from Mexico. Her mother had packed up her and her siblings and moved north with them because the local drug gang had taken up the practice of kidnapping school children when they thought it might serve their interests. They would even send photographs of the children to their families without taking them just to put them on notice that they were vulnerable. Her mother had received such a photo.

I told her that I was very glad that they had made it. I did not ask her if they had obtained visas in advance.

Good heavens! Would that I had more neighbors like her.

Richard White Austin, Texas

-- "One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors." --Plato

Of course I could also show you many data points of the dangers of 'diversity.' The Melting Pot works, but only if it is not overloaded. America can assimilate many cultures but it needs to have assimilation as a goal for that to work' and sheer numbers can destroy its effectiveness. Do we really want a fundamental change in the nature of the American society? Some would say so, but to what?

Deport them all and deport them now doesn't work; but a program of deporting those involved in crimes can be made to work, and if the borders are controlled a program for legal residence if not citizenship can be added; but only if the borders are controlled. Part of control would seek out and allow the results you are after.



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Wednesday, May 25, 2011

I was a bit under the weather.






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Thursday, May 26, 2011

: WSJ claim about mercury

"presuming its accuracy are quite enlightening: US power plants emit perhaps 50 tons of mercury per year. Contrast that to 44 tons from forest fires; 26 tons from human cremations; 400 tons from Chinese power plant -- and 9,000 tons annually from vulcanism."

I did bother to check. As far as I can tell, it's a lie. Not a mistake. That is absolutely typical for the WSj editorial page.

Maybe you should check more, Jerry.

Gregory Cochran

One of the advantages of being me is that while I don't have a big paid staff to do fact checking for me, I can be confident that someone will do it.

You can get spikes from volcanoes, but steady anthropogenic inputs are the main story in recent decades. Some not so steady anthropogenic inputs also show, like the Gold Rush in California ( amalgamation process).

To put it gently, why do you listen to God-damned liars?

Gregory Cochran

Although mercury is a naturally occurring element (it makes up 0.000008 percent of the earth’s crust) and has natural sources of emission, most notably volcano eruptions, the increased mercury levels of the past 150 years are almost entirely human-caused. Ice cores from the Wind River mountain range in Wyoming produced the following pattern in atmospheric mercury concentrations (2):

The base concentration from natural emissions is shown in green, with spikes emanating from large volcanic eruptions highlighted in blue. The large increase in concentration of the mid nineteenth century was a result of the Gold Rush period. As mentioned earlier, mercury easily forms amalgams with other metals, effectively dissolving them. Miners used mercury to extract gold from rock, later separating the mercury and gold through filtering and distillation. The red area of the chart shows the effects of industrialization. The most significant source of atmospheric mercury in the industrial period was the burning of fossil fuels, particularly coal. As human demand for cheap energy has risen, so too has the concentration of mercury in the environment.

No source was given for the diagram (as no source was given for the WSJ article), and I do not know the source of the text. I would be astonished if the WSJ just made up their data; surely sources were given in the testimony at the hearings. As those who have given data to Congressional committees are aware, those are done under oath and penalty of perjury (although there is seldom prosecution for presenting made up data to Congress). I do know that in the 1970's when I was preparing my articles on "America's Looming Energy Crisis" I visited several coal fired power plants, and was shown the stringent measures taken to clean up the stack gasses. Mercury was one of the elements scrubbed. Previously built coal plants had not been so efficient in cleaning up pollutants.

In the 1970's Los Angeles smog was a subject of national jokes -- Niven and I used the image of "Hertz Rent-a-Mountain" in Lucifer's Hammer -- but much has changed since then. The question is one of what is happening now, and is it cost effective to increase the burden on US power plants. What I said in my view was

US power plants emit perhaps 50 tons of mercury per year. Contrast that to 44 tons from forest fires; 26 tons from human cremations; 400 tons from Chinese power plant -- and 9,000 tons annually from vulcanism. Mother Nature accounts for 99%, and if we got rid of all the rest the result would hardly be noticed. If the economy were booming, with plentiful energy, it would make sense to debate the cost/effectiveness of phasing in even more efficient stack scrubbers for power plants. Until that time, this new regulation makes no sense.

If those numbers are wrong, then the conclusion is wrong. If there not 9,000 tons of mercury a year (on average, I would suppose) that is an argument in favor of making the scrubbers more efficient; but if the Chinese continue to put out 400 tons, and India is doing something similar, then there is at least something to discuss. The key to US prosperity is low cost energy. The US is not doing much investing in generating low cost energy, and adding to the burdens of the power industry certainly doesn't lower the cost to the consumer. I will repeat: if the economy were booming, it would make sense to debate the cost/effectiveness of phasing in even more efficient stack scrubbers for power plants. I will modify my statement that until then the new regulation makes no sense since that implies that there is no sense in debating it now; but it is a debate, not a foregone conclusion.

The "environmentalist" argument is that anything we do to harm the environment is wrong, and must not be done, and usually is followed by predictions of doom to the human race. The Small is Beautiful advocates of the last century went further. Isaac Asimov predicted that by the year 2000 we would be crowded into unbearable stress. Yet the life expectancy of humans in the US has steadily risen as we employed more technology, and one reason for the health care crisis is that we don't die soon enough. The longer we live the more it costs to keep us alive -- but the more it costs, the more it costs. Longevity is not free. Longevity in times of economic stress is a sure path to deficits. There are more dooms in this world than an increase in atmospheric mercury levels. There are costs to putting burdens on energy industries. Often those burdens make economic sense, but as we find new ways to increase scrubbing efficiencies, the cost of each incremental reduction in pollutants increases as well. Deciding to add to the costs of energy production in order to get the pollutions to ever lower levels is not an automatic decision.


New EPA mercury rules and related....

see below on mercury in light bulbs. Interesting.



Further notes;

1. GE's "FAQ" on compact fluorescent bulbs (CFL) answers questions about mercury by making claims on mercury from coal-fired power plants averted by use of lower-power CFLs. It does not discuss the mercury content of the CFL.


"A coal-fired power plant will emit 13.6 milligrams of mercury to produce electricity required to use an incandescent light bulb, compared to 3.3 milligrams for a CFL."

2. The government page suggests that 0.4 milligrams of mercury will enter the environment from a landfilled CFL (while claiming less emissions and savings from above, but they might have corrected for the fraction of coal-generated electricity).


3. This page -- which extols the benefits of CFLs -- finally give the truth: CFL's have 4-5 mg of total mercury.


So going back to the energystar page... total mercury (coal plant emissions plus bulb contents) exceeds the coal plant emissions from incandescent. Of course, there is a bit of apples and oranges here -- but it goes both ways (not all mercury emitted from power plants is going to be in bioaccessable toxic forms, either, by any stretch of the imagination).

4. Finally, from today's Wall Street Journal: The Myth of Killer Mercury. http://online.wsj.com/article/

A counterpoint from a doctor in this Atlanta Journal-Constitution piece: http://www.ajc.com/opinion/pro-con-should-the-957562.html 

talks about the risks of mercury to air-pollution sensitive children -- without EVER saying that she has ever treated a single child for a specific mercury-related illness. (Or noting how the child's health might suffer if the power goes out.


Mercury makes us stupid. The Flynn effect says the world as a whole is getting smarter. As I noted in A Step Farther Out   protein deficiencies also make people stupid, and this happens fairly often in poor societies. Whole countries can have people stunted in size and in intelligence, and prosperity remedies that. The costs of prosperity may be high, but the benefits are large too.

Nobody in his right mind is for the release of mercury into the atmosphere; but it does not make one insane to say that sometimes the cost of removing another percent of the pollution is just too high. The costs of economic stagnation can be high. The costs of poverty can be devastating. The decisions are not automatic.

Discussion continues below.


The Ryan Medicare Plan as I Understand it.


1. Medicare is already a Budget Buster and it will only get worse if something is not done.

2. No one that is 55 or older will be affected by these changes.

3. If you are younger than 55, when you would have been eligible for Medicare you will get a periodic Federal payment to assist in the purchase of private medial insurance.

Pretty simple and straight forward if you ask me.

Bob Holmes

I don't disagree, but the voters in suburban Buffalo don't seem to have caught on. Somehow the message is not getting across. As I said yesterday, I want to see the precinct by precinct voting before I come to tactical conclusions. The loss of a safe district is alarming. It needs more analysis than I have seen so far.

If it were that easy to explain ---


Japan nuclear disaster...

Just to remind you about what is "really" happening in Japan at the site of the nuclear disaster:



Things are worse than we thought...see, especially, Martenson's remarks....


I am not sure what is meant by "we thought", and thus "worse". The worst case on Fukushima was that it was multiple Chernobyl class events. It does not seem to have been as bad as one Chernobyl. Of course it was bad enough. It will be very expensive to clean up.

I have not seen new reports of off-site injuries. 

Martenson concludes"

If I lived over there, I would get myself a sensitive radiation/dosimeter and I would be personally scanning all of the food and water my family consumed, and my immediate surroundings as I lived, worked and played. If levels beyond what I considered safe were detected, I would then leave.

If I lived in Japan I would be doing much the same thing.


So, forty years later, NASA decide that what's really needed is a 4-man Apollo. 


Also, their definition of 'deep space' is questionable.

---- Roland Dobbins


The Moon is getting wetter, well, being discovered wetter 


It turns out that the moon's interior rock is as wet as the Earth's rock http://www.cleveland.com/science/index.ssf
/2011/05/lunar_samples_show_that_parts.html  . The water may not be quite able to be mined, but it sure would be left over after processing the minerals/ores (or its constituents). We keep getting more and more reasons to go back and the picture continues to get rosier.


Jim Laheta

It seems clear to me that a Lunar Base could be reasonably self-sustaining. Hong Kong Luna?


"Tea" Party Candidates

It occurs to me that, given the media prominence of the Tea Party, the Democrats could do quite well by having someone declare themselves a "Tea Party Candidate" in races where nobody of the sort was running. Anyone who doesn't research voting before they walk into the polling booth might see the label and think they're the real thing, splitting the otherwise-Republican vote.

-- Mike T. Powers

I would expect to see a lot of this.


The Democrat budget plan

is to have no plan. The President appointed a budget commission in 2010, whose recommendations he promptly ignored in 2011. The Democrat Senate majority leader has no interest in even pretending to put together a budget


notwithstanding the fact that the Democrat controlled Senate has not passed a budget in more than 2 years.

The Democrat strategy appears to be to criticize the Republican proposals while offering none of their own. The Republicans can't beat that if the people do not demand to see a Democrat plan.

Steve Chu



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Friday,  May 27, 2011

Steve Sailer

I quoted your "Liberalism is a philosophy of consolation for western civilization as it commits suicide"

and was berated by this comment:

LOL, Pournelle is friends with Steve Sailer < The-Refudiator <http://westslope.craigslist.org/forums/?act=su&handle=The-Refudiator>  > 05/24 21:06:37 Craigslist, politics USA

You're quoting from a guy who is friends with the founder of VDare, a white supremacist group.

I'd appreciate your comment; I'm a veteran SF fan and think highly of you and your work.


I have many friends, including unabashed liberals like Francis Hamit. I am not very familiar with VDare (I think I went to the site once when something there was cited as a source). The Wiki description of VDare says it is "is a website that advocates reduced immigration, especially illegal immigration, into the United States." That is a position I would agree with. The Melting Pot works, and the US can assimilate all sorts and kinds of people (and has done so), but the system can be overloaded and in my judgment has been. I've said so fairly often.

I am also friends with Charles Murray, one of the authors of The Bell Curve, which I am sure horrifies your friend. I suspect I have other friends your commentator would find unacceptable. Heck, I have friends that some of my friends find unacceptable: as Larry Niven often says, I do not insist that my friends like each other.

The quote is from the late James Burnham, a National Review editor and author of The Managerial Revolution as well as The Machiavellians, both important books. His dictum that Liberalism is a philosophy of consolation for western civilization as it commits suicide was formulated at a particularly bleak time during the Cold War, and was quite accurate at the time; it may still be so. Its truth is not affected by who is or is not my friend.




Recent discussion of illegal immigration leads to the following random thoughts.

A. Technically, there was no "illegal immigration" at the time, since there were no immigration laws as such, but when the parents of my grandfather's grandmother came over during the Hunger, the Know Nothings acted as a sort of informal immigration control. Because the US had imposed various port fees while the British were subsidizing transit to Canada, a lot of the Irish who fled in 1846/7 went to Canada up the St. Lawrence to Gross Isle Quarantine. But crossing into the US was a problem. Consequently, steamboat captains in Lake Champlain would make some money smuggling Irish across the lake. Consequently, my grandfather's grandmother was born in Burlington VT, "six days after her parents reached the New World." I guess nowadays she would be called an anchor baby.

B. Of the 9004 students in the public schools of Northampton County [PA] for the school year ending 1 June 1858: 4,537 spoke German Only 3,149 spoke both English & German 1,318 spoke English Only The Superintendent reported: “But the difficulty lies not therein, as some superficial observers seem to think, because our children speak German, but because they do not speak English. It is not the presence of the German language which causes the difficulty, but the absence of English.” So geht's im Leben. When my mother was in parochial school in the 30s, German was still a required course in grade school. Even years later, she could recite the Vater onser in a broad Swabian dialect. Our parish had its last native-born German pastor when I was in grade school. As late as my grandfather's time, there were as many German-language newspapers as English in town.

C. When I was a kid, the Italians in town were still speaking Italian among themselves and the Lebanese were speaking Arabic among themselves, but English with everyone else. I notice the same thing among the Spanish-speakers at church. They will speak Spanish to one another, but with everyone else they will use English with greater or lesser facility.

IOW, I think the melting pot is working fine in my part of the country, mainly because i) folks ain't stupid and aren't all that eager to sequester themselves in a linguistic ghetto and ii) television and pop culture pretty much does what comic books and penny dreadfuls did in earlier ages. Then too, PA doesn't have as many institutions promoting the opposite as perhaps other states have.

D. Someone once asked on an internet message board why everyone should have to learn English, so I responded: "Weil alle Amerikaner moechten einander verstehen." She responded: "I don't understand what you wrote." And I said, "Exactly."

E. The Edison NJ schools had so many students from India that they tried to put them all in ESL classes taught in Hindi. That sound you hear is hundreds of Indian mothers stampeding to the school to protest. "This is America," they said. "They should learn in English! In fact, English is a national language in India, and we are all Gujaratis and Marathis and Tamils and Punjabis. We don't even speak Hindi." The schools got federal aid based on the number of students enrolled in ESL classes.

F. A friend of my daughter was born in Argentina, so in middle school she was put in Spanish ESL. The mother was outraged. She had brought her daughter to America at age 2 and she did not speak nor understand a word of Spanish. They told this Argentinian mother that it was terrible that her daughter had lost touch with her native culture; and the mother said the US was her native culture. Nevertheless, it took months to get her out of the Spanish language instruction. See E for reasons.

G. When my daughter was living in Yonkers NY a number of years ago, MacLean Avenue was called "Irish Broadway" and the quickest way to clear out the Irish pubs along the street was to walk in and holler INS! There is also an open border at JFK airport arrivals, although these usually come on visas and then stay on. Weirdly enough, the other end of MacLean Avenue was mostly Arab, and mostly legal.

H. A good friend in grad school was from Iran. (He now teaches physics in San Mateo.) He had been in the country for a while and had applied for citizenship, but had been awaiting disposition for years. Then he learned that there was a fast track system for minorities, so he applied for that only to be told that there were not enough Iranians in the country to be eligible for minority status. The idea of not being big enough to be a minority puzzled his mathematical soul. So he joined the Army. And while his eyesight eventually got him a medical discharge, his enlistment did get him his citizenship.

Enough rambling.


The Melting Pot works quite well when it is not overwhelmed. Bill Buckley used to say -- indeed to boast -- that America was unique in that anyone could study and learn how to become an American. You can learn Swedish, but that does not make you a Swede, you can live your life in France and not become a Frenchman, but in America you can learn to become an American. It's one of the great things about America.

And of course your point F points to the vulnerability of the America system: if assimilation is not the goal, the Melting Pot has a lot more difficulty.


Engineering student cracks major riddle of the universe, 


Stop the presses! Missing mass found:


And it’s not even dark.


Great Heavens!


 Marmite has been made illegal in Denmark:


Sure, they had lots of good reasons. After all, the strongly flavored dark brown spread made from brewer's yeast has joined Rice Crispies, Shreddies, Horlicks and Ovaltine prohibited in Denmark under legislation forbidding the sale of food products with added vitamins as threat to public health.

A spokesman for the Danish Veterinary and Food Administration said: "I cannot comment on the Marmite case because our expert is away until Thursday."

And Obama holds the Europeans up for us to emulate.


I prefer Vegemite myself. Of course the Danes don't have the same traditions of freedom as we do. Well, the Vikings did...


Japanese Superquake...


Japanese Superquake Moved Ocean Floor 79 Feet Sideways and 10 Feet Up – and New Data Shows Region Is Under More Strain

Charles Brumbelow


Sarah Palin: Barack Obama's Disregard for Ally's Security Begs Clarity


Agree or disagree, this FB post demonstrates the level of sophistication that one normally expects from Gingrich. Palin is certainly not a policy wonk, but she is obviously getting tutored by someone.


Jim Crawford


For "jeff"


This is in partial response to your e-mail from "Jeff" in response to your equation of Mr. Gingrich to a corporate Chief Scientist. This regards my personal experience in a couple of positions where I've held that title; other's mileage may vary.

In my experience, the Chief Scientist may have either a staff role (and a "regular" job in addition to duties as Chief Scientist) or be a managing scientist on a research team.

In the staff position, the Chief Scientist is a broadly knowledgeable and moderately senior person trained in a scientific discipline relevant to the work; a Ph.D. is not indispensable but I can off the top of my head think of only one person I've met with the title who didn't have one. I generally had a "regular job" but would periodically be called on to perform independent reviews of business ideas and technical proposals from the standpoint of ensuring overall scientific accuracy. In other words, I was a BS detector, and I think I did a moderately good job of it most of the time.

As a managing Chief Scientist I was responsible for planning and coordinating laboratory work by others (thank goodness they didn't trust me around hazardous chemicals :) and compiling the results, and assisting in the concept-level design of systems to implement the results. I also had a view towards hazards assessment and backed up the safety staff.

I hope this helps.



Subj: James Burnham's _Suicide of the West: An Essay on the Meaning and Destiny of Liberalism_

You mentioned James Burnham's _The Managerial Revolution_ and _The Machiavellians: Defenders of Freedom_, but I think _Suicide of the West_ is actually the source of the characterization of Liberalism as "a philosophy of consolation for western civilization as it commits suicide". It was first published in 1964.


Rod Montgomery==monty@starfief.com

Yes, I should have cited that. The other two were better known works, and Managerial Revolution was once widely taught in universities back when there was a diversity of opinion in those institutions.


Job Opening - Psychic Ability Required

Dr. Pournelle --

Upon reading this, at first I thought I was gobsmacked, then I realized I was depressed.

Italy earthquake experts charged with manslaughter Risks commission members to face trial over failure to give sufficient warning about L'Aquila earthquake in 2009


I have it written above my desk: "Despair is a sin." Sometimes it's hard to remember.


Words fail me...



: Mercury and the WSJ

(Continuing a discussion that began in View)

the authors of the WSJ article on Hg and power plants have a article online with more detail and footnotes (some links no longer work)


L. Nettles



What US EPA thinks or once thought about global mercury emission 

These estimates are highly uncertain. http://www.epa.gov/hg/control_emissions/global.htm 




Additional data on mercury:

USGS: http://www.usgs.gov/themes/factsheet/146-00/#sources  non-quantitative discussion 


Considerable interesting data leads to this concluding <snip>

'That one vent of one volcano can produce 7 tonnes of mercury a year is astounding,’ said Oxford’s Dr Melanie Witt, ‘that’s considerably more than total industrial emissions of mercury from the UK – recorded at about 5.5 tonnes in 2000. It confirms our suspicions that volcanoes are an important part of the global mercury cycle: what we need to understand next is where this mercury ends up and what effects it may have on the environment.’<snip>



Re: WSJ claim about mercury http://www.jerrypournelle.com/mail/2011/Q2/mail676.html#Thursday 

I question the validity of the chart shown on this date.

First, the chart conflates data from a 1991 [ice?] core and a 1998 [ice?] core. [These could be tree cores.] Are these cores comparable? Were they taken from the same location?

The data on the chart suggest not. There is an overlap of about 3 years (approximately 1945, 1946, and 1947). For those years, the data from the 1991 core and the 1998 core differ.

Second, data has been withheld. Data from the 1991 core ends in the year 1947. Why? Data from the 1998 core were given for the years 1945 to 1998. Why did the analyst choose to withhold data from the 1991 core for the years 1948 to 1991?

Third, the analyst's choice of data evidences prejudice. During the years 1945 to 1947 -- when the data from the 1991 and 1998 cores overlap -- the analyst took the *higher* line; that is, the line from the 1991 core.

Fourth, the analyst's history is incorrect. The graph attributes an increase in mercury levels in the mid-19th century to 'Gold Rush' [Gold Rush (circa 1850-84 AD)]. The Wind River Mountain Range -- where the cores were taken -- lies in Wyoming. The Wyoming gold rush began in 1867. How does the analyst account for the increase in mercury levels from 1850 to 1866? Is he suggesting that the gold rush in California is responsible for an increase in mercury levels in Wyoming? By what mechanism was this accomplished?

Fifth, ... well, I have tired of this. I won't even deign to discuss the irrational conclusions the writer of the text reached. Correlation is not causation.

You took the better line of reasoning: this is a debate, not a foregone conclusion. But we cannot reason together if we cannot agree on the data.

This chart, too, is a lie. The choice is which God-damned liar will you listen to.

Trust everyone, but cut the cards.

Live long and prosper
h lynn keith

PS Please note that I have said nothing about the WSJ article. I have not read it and do not intend to. It may be a lie, which implies deliberate deception. Or it may be a mentira (Spanish), which implies an untruth rather than an attempt to deceive (enganar). Perhaps the WSJ article cannot withstand scrutiny. But neither can this chart.

Actually, it's not even a debate. Until we have some mutually agreed data, there's little to discuss. You can prove anything if you get to make up your data, and nearly anything if you get to select it. Science needs to consider all the data, and I don't think we have it all.

Moreover, I have seen too many policies based on selective data in this wicked world.


local vs global  mercury volcanism etc

Hello Dr. Pournelle,

I saw Greg Cochran's chart and was struck by a couple things. I'm not in favor of more mercury than necessary, but I'm not convinced that an icecore from Wyoming (which is comparatively close to Northern California and the Gold Rush) is indicative of atmosphere in general. You've mentioned Los Angeles smog back in the day, which I'm sure was awful locally, but it's unclear of it's global effect.

This reminds me of the measurements question: "how to we determine the global temperature with disparate measurement locations, systems, placements (shadow/shade etc.)?". Can I determine Global Warming from my backyard.

Just looking at Cochran's chart of the Wyoming ice-core, it shows a larger mercury volume from Mt St. Helens than from Krakatoa. However according to the Volcanic Explosivity Index at [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Volcanic_Explosivity_Index] Krakatoa ejected ~ 10 times the volume of Helens (from the other side of the world).

So can we deem the Wyoming ice core to be absolute proof of atmospheric mercury at large? Or are the Wyoming heightened Mercury levels perhaps due to West Coast Industrialization? I'd be curious to see if Arctic, Antartic, Himalayan, Kilamonjaro ice core samples reflect similar mercury emission lines. Or is mercury-measurement, like politics, local?

Also, the mercury emission at the end of the 20thC appears to be in decline. Is this part of that idea that technology gets dirtier until it gets cleaner? Are we doing better? If it turns out the chart is perfectly reflected in every ice-core from around the world, should we establish regulatory standards for 2011 et seq, based on a peak emissions from 1980 that have been declining for 30 years?

I think the source for the original chart was this USGS site http://toxics.usgs.gov/pubs/FS-051-02/  The site does mention the mercury decline over the last 20years. It states that the mercury baseline is on par with cores obtained from other geographies. However, the opening section says "Atmospheric mercury concentrations in these cores are not likely influenced by local anthropogenic sources" which seems too conclusory to be in 'background information'. Factsheet also availalbe in a one-page pdf http://toxics.usgs.gov/pubs/FS-051-02/pdf/fs-051-02.pdf 

Michael Crow

[Emphasis added ]

In general, in the West at least, industry does get dirtier before it gets cleaner, and as we discover more effective techniques the trend to cleaner continues. But for rational decisions on how much to spend for how much cleaner we need some agreement on the data; I do not think we have that.


Subj: Must be Global Warming


DENVER (AP) -- Ski resorts are bustling with activity. A key highway into Yellowstone is closed because parts of the road have seen more than 25 feet of snow. And campgrounds are feverishly removing snow from campsites to clear the way for visitors.

Welcome to Memorial Day weekend in much of the West.

The traditional kickoff of the summer season will have a decidedly wintry feel in the Rocky Mountains, as well as California's Sierra Nevada, because of a lingering record snowfall.




More Barbarians

Reporting from Sacramento -- Computer errors prompted California prison officials to mistakenly release an estimated 450 inmates with "a high risk for violence" as unsupervised parolees in a program meant to ease overcrowding, according to the state's inspector general.


-------- Most Respectfully,
Joshua Jordan, KSC
Percussa Resurgo


Farming in Central California 

Dear Dr. Pournelle,

Dr. Victor Davis Hansen is a classicist and a National Review contributor who also owns a farm in central California -- not far from where I was born.

He has a troubling tale to tell about his last six months.

" I think I have a clue to what’s ahead. Here is an aside, a sort of confession of my last six months in the center of our cry-the-beloved state: December 2011: rear-ended by a texting driver; I called 9/11 and the police; she called “relatives” who arrived in two carloads. You get the picture. Luckily the police got there before her “family” did, and cited her. Still waiting to fix the dented truck.

March 2011: riding a bike in rural California, flipped over a “loose dog,” resulting in assorted injuries. Residents — well over 10 in various dwellings —claimed ignorance about the dogs outside their homes: no licenses, no vaccinations, no leashes, no fence. Final score: them: slammed door and shrugs; me: ruined bike, injuries, and a long walk home.

May 2011: two males drive in “looking to buy scrap metal.” They are politely told to leave. That night barn is burglarized and $1200 in property stolen.

Later May 2011: a female drives in van into front driveway with four males, “just looking to rent” neighbor’s house. They leave. Only later I learn they earlier came in the back way and had forced their way in, prying the back driveway gate, springing and bending armature.

Later May 2011: shop is burglarized — both bolt and padlock knocked off. Shelves stripped clean. It is the little things like this that aggravate Californians, especially when lectured not to sweat it by the academics on the coast and the politicians in Sacramento.

NB: I have been hit three times in the last 10 years: 1) driver ran stop sign, slammed into my truck, limped off, was run down and detained by me until police arrived; 2) speeding driver hit a mattress in the road (things such as that are rarely tied down by motorists in California), swerved, was hit, did a 180, braked, but still hit me at 45 mph head-on (survived due to the air bags of the Honda Accord); 3) rear-ended as explained above. But this time your wiser author, when the car rear-ended me at 50 mph, was driving a four-wheel-drive Toyota Tundra with huge tow bar in back; the texter was driving a Civic. Nuff said.

Such is life 180 miles — and a cosmos away — from the Stanford campus."

How can we put a stop to this?


Brian P.

Hansen has written on this before. He is a professor of classic history as well as a farmer.

This is not "migration" nor is it immigration; this is invasion, and it is the task of the National Guard to protect us from this sort of thing. Of course that is unlikely.










 read book now





This week:


read book now


Saturday, May 28, 2011

I was looking for other things and I found this from long ago. It's all still true, but that's not why I copied it. I copy it here because I like the Blake poem. ===

Subject: Bletchley Park boffins seek Holy Grail, Knights Templar.


--- Roland Dobbins

Which is in fact very interesting. The whole saga of the Knights Templar is worthy of more study; unlike the silly "Da Vinci Code" stuff that seems to have taken over my local bookstore, there is some reality in the notion that the Templars actually recovered the Grail. There is also tradition although little evidence that the Grail (an actual cup, possibly plated in silver or gold, according to some traditions) was brought to England by Joseph of Arimathea.

And did those feet in ancient time
Walk upon England's mountains green?
And was the holy Lamb of God
On England's pleasant pastures seen?
And did the countenance divine
Shine forth upon our clouded hills?
And was Jerusalem builded here
Among those dark satanic mills?

Bring me my bow of burning gold!
Bring me my arrows of desire!
Bring me my spear! O clouds, unfold!
Bring me my chariot of fire!
I will not cease from mental fight,
Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand,
Till we have built Jerusalem
In England's green and pleasant land.

-- William Blake (1757-1827)

But the Da Vinci Code has it all wrong. The tradition, put forth among other places in a book I have seen recently revived, Holy Blood, Holy Grail, is that Jesus may have married: not Magdalene, but Mary of Bethany (sister of Martha; the Sons of Martha inherited service, the Sons of Mary inherited "that good part"...). Apparently there is evidence that the Albigensian Heresy had connections with this notion. The Rosicrucians and some other secret societies have held that the biological descendents of Jesus still exist and are the legitimate rulers of the world.

And it is certain that the Templars had some extraordinary secret treasures, and that many of them including a rather sizable war fleet escaped the purges, and after the Order was formally disbanded continued to play a part in history...


The Ryan/Medicare/NY-26 Conundrum


It would appear that I'm not the only one who might think that the voters may very well understand the Ryan budget plan's approach to medicare:


I realize you don't pay any attention to me, but Dr. Krugman's bona fides are a notch or two above mine; yours too, in the field of economics. That is the appropriate field for some actual insight in the federal budget, isn't it?


The heart of Krugman's argument is:

Take, for example, the statement that the Ryan plan would end Medicare as we know it. This may have Republicans screaming “Mediscare!” but it’s the absolute truth: The plan would replace our current system, in which the government pays major health costs, with a voucher system, in which seniors would, in effect, be handed a coupon and told to go find private coverage. <snip>

And, by the way, the claim that the plan would keep Medicare as we know it intact for Americans currently 55 or older is highly dubious. True, that’s what the plan promises, but if you think about the political dynamics that would emerge once Americans born a year or two too late realize how much better a deal slightly older Americans are getting, you realize that this is a promise unlikely to be fulfilled.

I hadn't thought that it was at all unclear that the Ryan Plan ends Medicare for those under 55. It's hardly a secret. As to the second paragraph quoted, that's a political prediction. It may be true, but it's not an economic fact.

The economic fact is that Medicare as we know it is the deficit: if entitlements continue as they are the deficit become endemic, and the US runs out of money. It can't be sustained. We won't grow our way out of that debit. There's another effect: The United States is being transformed into an Entitlement society: you are entitled to the fruits of someone else's labor, or, if you are fairly productive, someone else is entitled to the fruits of your labor. By entitled I do not mean moral entitlement: I mean entitlement in the sense that armed revenue agents will collect the money from the productive and bureaucrats will give it to the Entitled. That is not the Republic I was born into, and it is not the Republic of the New Deal that was formed during my lifetime. It is not even the United States of the Old Great Society, although that was substantially different -- more entitlements, less freedom -- from the New Deal.

That may be the meaning of the NY 26 election: it was the death knell of the New Deal Republic as we knew it, and the announcement of a new Great Society to replace the Old Great Society. And that may well be what the future will look like. The problem with that is that we can't afford it. Even if the economy turns around it's not likely we can afford it.

Understand that I am very much a beneficiary of the current Medicare System. It was none of my choosing. Before I turned 65 I paid about $400/month dues to Kaiser (covering Roberta and me; the kids ceased to be covered under my family policy when they came of age), with reasonable co-payments. I was willing to continue that; but the day I turned 65 I had two choices: I could pay $1250 a month for the exact same coverage; or I could accept Medicare Advantage A and let Social Security/Medicare make the vast majority of my payments for me. There wasn't a lot of choice in that. Whichever I did I would continue to pay the Social Security Tax since I have income. Naturally I "chose" Medicare. Kaiser delivered the radiation therapy that saved me from brain cancer. I didn't make a lot of money the years that was going on. I haven't been making as much after that as I had before it, but I still pay into the system. I have no idea what my choices would have been under the Ryan Plan because I don't know what the Kaiser dues would have been had there not been Medicare Advantage.

I am very happy with Medicare and Medicare Advantage. I'd be quite happy if it continued forever. Alas, I don't see how it can. There just isn't enough money. I wouldn't have voted to establish Medicare as we know it, but I certainly benefited from it. The chances that those now under 55 will be able to sign up for what I have ten years from now seem rather low to me.










 read book now




CURRENT VIEW     Saturday

This week:


read book now


Sunday,   May 29, 2011    

I took the day off.




 read book now





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