picture of me

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


Monday, April 05, 2010

05:18 PM








BOOK Reviews

Chaos Manor Reviews

read book now

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

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

LAST WEEK                             NEXT WEEK


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

Atom FEED from Chaos Manor

Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat Sun

Highlights this week:


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

line6.gif (917 bytes)

This week:


read book now


Monday  March 29, 2010

Subject: ENJOY !!!!!!!!!

Our US Navy Ceremonial Guard Silent Drill Team was invited to compete in an International Tattoo in Norway in May of 2009.

The Navy competed against military units from all over NATO and won first place. I think when you watch this video you'll see why they won.

Turn Sound ON and click the link below!

US Navy in Norway


Dr. Mischa


interview with a pirate

There is a reason that in the past pirates were hung on the spot. Some people are not worth talking to.


Well, not many were hung, although a lot were hanged. Perhaps a bit extreme in these times...


'Earth Hour' kills.


--- Roland Dobbins


Congressional Hearing?

Hi Jerry

On Saturday, you quoted an article that said: "Democrats announced yesterday that they will haul these companies in for an April 21 hearing". Congressional hearings have been rather frequent of late - financial companies, various auto companies - but they are something I do not entirely understand. If other readers are in the same situation, perhaps you would take a moment to explain?

First, what authority does Congress have to "haul companies in" for a hearing? Second, do these hearing serve any purpose beyond perhaps intimidation? After all, if Congress believes the companies to be mistaken, and wants to transfer information, it would surely be better to arrange a meeting between company accountants and the CBO.

If this is simply punishment for daring to say that Obamacare will dramatically raise costs, then my third question: What would happen if the companies declined the invitation? "Sorry, we are too busy figuring out how to survive your legislative mistake, perhaps another time..."



The Congress is the Grand Inquest of the Nation, and always has been. That power was used by, for example, the House Committee on UnAmerican Activities and the Senate Internal Security (McCarthy) as an example. Congress can investigate, and while in theory the entire House (the power is held by each house independently) must approve, in practice Committee Chairmen get their way and subpoenas are issued. Few have been jailed for refusing such a summons, but it can happen, and defending against the charge of contempt of Congress can be expensive.

It is an immense power and is supposed to be used sparingly and with bi-partisan support. The Red Scare investigations had bi-partisan support until the Army-McCarthy hearings and the later vote of censure of McCarthy. Of course the power can be abused for partisan purposes, particularly if one Party holds a large majority.

In the case of the health care future earning disclosures, the companies are required by law to make those disclosures, although Deere and Caterpillar may have made theirs a few days earlier than required by law.

So: yes, Congress has the authority. In fact each house separately has that authority. As to purpose, you will have to be the judge of that. Surely Waxman would not be partisan?


Re "The warmest winter on record"

This is titled, “Battling one of the worst winters in Mongolia.”




Hormesis is the theory that a little radiation is good for you: it is in contrast with a former "consensus" that radiation is dangerous at any level whatever linearly down to zero. I covered much of this in my Galaxy column and there may even be some of it in A Step Farther Out which was a selection of those Galaxy columns. Hormesis is   accepted by some oncologists and others as established: that is, that living in low level radiation levels makes you a bit healthier than living elsewhere. The Swedish Army conducted a study on conscripts from various areas of the nation (Sweden has a number of naturally radioactive regions) and concluded that hormesis was confirmed by the study. The late Petr Beckmann concluded in Access to Energy that the hormesis hypothesis was pretty well confirmed; this was about twenty years ago. Many other studies reach similar conclusions, but I am told that the linear hypothesis remains "consensus".

A reader sends this. It was not easily formatted, and it takes some attention to understand, but the subject is important. I had thought that the LNT people were slowly giving up, but perhaps not.

Cattle Irradiated in 1946 Killed at Record Ages - Radiation Hormesis or Scientific Censorship

If I have got this right, it seems to me to be more than important. I would welcome comments from those who know more than I. I would also welcome any further evidence or links on the subject of these cattle which do seem to be underreported.

-oldest.html  The offer of a Nobel is not mine to make but is no more than half in jest.

Neil Craig


Among the various bits of evidence against the LNT theory (that radiation is dangerous even at low levels) & for radiation hormesis (that it is beneficial even as high as 260 mSv - 17 times the official unsafe level) was this: <http://www.alamut.com/proj/98/

In 1964, the cows exposed to about 150 rads after the Trinity A-Bomb in 1946 were quietly euthanized because of extreme old age.

Destroying data & scientific evidence is the 2nd worst crime in science, the worst being total fabrication <http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/
says-knew-data-verified.html>  . I thought this deserved deeper coverage.

I couldn't find <http://www.google.com/search?
cattle+trinity+A-bomb+1964>  anything new about the euthanizing but did find this pdf (p 29) <http://www.lahdra.org/pubs/reports/In%20Pieces/
Chapter%2010-%20Trinity%20Test.pdf>  from the report on Trinity

cattle that grazed on Chupadera mesa suffered local beta burns and temporary loss of dorsal hair (Hempelmann 1947, Hacker 1987, Stannard 1988). Patches of hair grew back discoloured. The army bought in 75 head of cattle from all ranchers, the 17 most significantly marked were kept at Los Alamos, while the rest were shipped to Oak Ridge for long term observation. It was estimated that the doses required to produce such effects were between 4,000 & 50,000 R, most likely around 20,000 R (Hacker 1987)

That must be it. This (page 4) <http://nepis.epa.gov/Exe/ZyNET.exe/
=Results%20page&MaximumPages=1&ZyEntry=6>  refers to the EPA having maintained a cattle testing station at Oak Ridge since 1964 which I presume means they have taken over the military facilities once they had disposed of the evidence. Los Alamos also still have a facility which has been used <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cattle_mutilation#Laboratory_reports>  for forensic tests on cattle mutilations.

By the somewhat varied units used to measure radioactivity <http://www.stevequayle.com/ARAN/rad.conversion.html>  1 R seems to match 100,000 millisieverts so 20,000 R means 2 billion mSv!! This does not match the 150 rads mentioned, which would be a slightly more credible 15 million mSv & I suspect I am misunderstanding the units involved.

So we are talking about a herd in 1946 of between 75 & 58 cattle at Oak Ridge, depending on what happened to those at Los Alamos. That is a statistically significant number. We don't know how many were still alive in 1964 but if it was described as a herd being put down there must have been a fair number. The animals were a random selection from the cattle of a number of ranchers - the only obvious selection criteria being that they were the ones most effected or expected to be. That means their ages in 1964 should run from 0 to 7 years. Older than that they are no longer commercial & get sold. So in 1964 they were aged between 18 & 25. How "extreme" is that for well cared for cattle?

This chart provides the expected maximum life span for a variety of animals in years. Many of the values are based on record life spans taken from various sources.

Cow - 22 <http://sonic.net/~petdoc/lifespan.htm

So when these cows were put down several of them would have passed the maximum longevity for cattle. Even if an assumption was made that none of those which had been adults in 1946 were more than 3 or 4 years old they would still be about to make records. If one assumes the LNT theory was being heavily pushed by government as the official truth one can see why they had to be disposed of. Because this is virtually irrefutable evidence of radiation hormesis & of it occurring even at high levels of radioactivity.

I regard the destruction of these animals not only as a crime against science but a crime against humanity since it has prevented study of a phenomenon that if made use of, over the last 46 years, could not have failed to extend many millions of lives.

My guess is that although the experiment was destroyed the files & results for the preceding 18 years could not have been since that would have made it blatantly clear what was being done & why. These records probably still exist filed in some warehouse beside the Lost Ark.

If so, bearing in mind how much easier it is to use data nowadays with personal computers available & that more information must have been collated about ordinary cattle providing control group statistics, it is possible, just from the measurements & death records left, to make a good calculation of the statistical effect of hormesis on longevity in large mammals. If so there is a PhD or perhaps even Nobel for some American who uses their Freedom of Information Act to get the data & use it.

A further thought occurs - did these animals have calves (it seems likely that at least in the early years when mutations were expected this would have been encouraged)? If so what happened to them?

Neil C

There is a great deal of money at stake in this. The tort bar lawyers will be involved.


'In the end, Main Street, having been desolated by a mortgage-driven housing bust, now found itself the buyer of last resort of Wall Street’s garbage.'

Warning, 'adult' language:


-- Roland Dobbins

A long and somewhat difficult read giving another story of Just What Happened. I think it pays too little attention to the way the bubble was created in the first place, but if you are interested in the causes of the crunch it will add to understanding.


Hard degrees pay best.

Soft pseudo-sciences are very popular; hard engineering degrees pay best. The laws of supply and demand continue to work just fine!


Brian H.


The night the lights went out

I hate the "Earth Hour." I don't want the lights to go out. I don't want to cower in the dark. I want the lights to stay on. I want more lights. I want to find a way to provide cheap, abundant, and non-polluting energy so that we never have to go back to the dark.

I resent "Earth Hour" more every year and learning that "Earth Hour" contributed to the death of an innocent doesn't help.

R, Rose




 read book now




This week:


read book now


Tuesday,  March 30, 2010

proof that the winter was warm?

Hi Jerry,

In case you don't already have many, many replies to your query: The warmth of the winter is based on the arctic temperatures. Everywhere else the winter temperatures were normal or below-normal. Here in continental Europe we certainly had a long, cold winter.

The catch: the very hot arctic temperatures are inferred - there aren't actually any temperature sensors there, only a very few around the edges. In fact, the rapid ice growth in the arctic strongly implies that this inference is wrong. Two links from WUWT:

Arctic temperatures: http://wattsupwiththat.com/2010/03/25/gisscapades/ 

Ice growth: http://wattsupwiththat.com/2010/03/25/

In other words, the only way to continue to pretend that there is global warming is to assume high temperatures where no one can look at temperature records and prove you wrong.




Dear Dr. Pournelle,

I'm still reading your comments about El Nino and AGW. I did a quick and dirty search and found this:

http://www.wrh.noaa.gov/sgx/document/weatherhistory.pdf  , a compilation of weather events in Southern California. Note that there are anecdotal remarks of heavy winter rains periodically back to the mission era of the late 18th century. Unusually heavy winter rains every few years are often indicative of an El Nino event. I say often, not always, since the deluge of 2005 was not considered to be an El Nino. But the phenomena have been occurring for alot longer than the AGW proponents have been claiming AGW.

I hope this helps.

Sincerely, Frank Luxem

"I was gratified to be able to answer promptly, and I did. I said I didn't know." Mark Twain




1) I suspect the only value to second or third decimal place averages is to avoid arguments about rounding up or down. While first decimal temperatures are probably not useful in Fahrenheit, they are more useful in Celsius where there are 100 degrees used to represent the 180 degrees in the Fahrenheit scale between freezing and boiling at sea level.

As to meaning of those decimals, I too have doubts.

2) After reading most recent posts at <http://www.drroyspencer.com/>, the illogical conclusion is that global temperatures would level off and slowly decline after all people are eliminated and man-made structures crumble to dust. This is before any adjustments for atmospheric gasses being no longer added by people which is predictable or for gases added/subtracted by natural methods--some of which are not predictable as to when but the odds are good over the long term that major volcanic and impact events will occur. This also excludes solar output variations which probably cancel out over a million years.

Running this simple experiment to the climate arguments will be impractical until all humans leave the planet for a very long time and then return.

FWIW--I have two thermometers in my upstairs hallway, about 6 feet apart. On a warm (80+ F) day, I see up to a 20 F difference with one on hallway side wall of furnace cabinet higher. At night, the one on that wall is 10 degrees cooler. Why? Because the metal furnace flue pipe does a wonderful job of conducting heat from where its hotter to where its cooler. The furnace (turned off) then radiates the heat from outside to the cabinet or collects heat from inside cabinet and radiates it out via the flue.

The other thermometer is 6 feet of air from furnace and thus more isolated from the local effect.

This situation began when I had new heating/A.C. system installed. In the process, the nicely insulated flue pipe was removed because it had asbestos insulation and was replaced by a metal pipe with no insulation. Of course, the asbestos around old pipe wasn't going anywhere and don't get me started on cost to safely remove it which I was told was required.


When I was doing human factors research in the aerospace industry, we used "globe" temperature: a copper globe 4" in diameter, painted black, with a thermocouple in the air inside it. This gave a measure of both air temperature and the radiation temperature -- an average, sort of, as each influenced the other -- and worked well for what we were doing which was human tolerance to extreme (50 C and higher) temperatures over time, and the ability of pressure suits to keep pilots and astronauts functional in those environments. We had an altitude temperare chamber and of course we had to take the temperature of the globe surface for that, there being no air in there...

The point being that we went to considerable lengths to get consistency and reproducability; but then we were working on practical problems at the time. In those days Human Factors included Reliability evaluation and reached into other areas of operations research, and I went from there to systems analysis, but early experience at data gathering gave me a perspective that I suspect many climate modelers do not have.

It's pretty clear that Earth has had both higher and lower temperatures in times when there were no human at all. We've had the global ice ball, and apparently tropical Earth if I am not mistaken. Modelers don't seem to notice that, or at least I keep hearing that CO2 levels are the only way to explain Earth's present warmth compared to its black body temperature in space. I confess that I have trouble following that argument, since Earth's core temperatures are quite high, and we can conceive of volcanic events that would melt all of Man's works... Or throw up enough ash to produce nuclear winter and perhaps iceball the planet.

I do not believe that climate models have or can have a way to predict volcanic events and their effects. Yet surely an enormous underwater lava flow would have an effect on sea temperatures?


Slavery as a cause of the Civil War

Dear Jerry:

As you can imagine, with "The Shenandoah Spy" out and research continuing for the other four books in my Civil War narrative, let me add my agreement that slavery was a doomed institution. John Randolph of Virginia, before the war, said about the Underground Railroad, "If the slave does not run away from his master, the master will have to run away from his slave" Indicating that it had become the ultimate social welfare system because owners were obligated, legally and socially, to care for their aged and sick and disabled slaves. Some slaves simply bought themselves free, One was Elizabeth Keckley, who was a dressmaker for both Varnia Davis and Mary Todd Lincoln and the most powerful Black woman in Washington. The African American community in Washington DC was doing very well. English journalists I have read for research, such as William Howard Russell and George Augustus Sala remarked on this in their respective books written from America during the Civil War. Sala was unable to find a barber who was not , as he put it "sable" He was also very pleased with the skill they showed in shaving him.

Minor details but indicative that "Uncle Tom's Cabin" may have been the most successful piece of Black Propaganda (pardon the pun) leading up to the war. The reasons for slavery were rooted in economics, with a lot of self-serving rhetoric to justify its continuation. From an economic standpoint, slavery didn't really make sense any more; not in the long term. All those noble self sacrificing young men who freed the slaves they inherited may have been neither of those things. Poseurs.

One of the inquiries I've been making focuses on the actions of Britain and France in the two decades before the War. That would include the Mexican War period, of course. If you really want to understand a war you have to look at the one before it. And I am coming to the conclusion that there may have been some covert nudging by both of these nations, working in tandem, to create the war and split the country. From about 1830 onwards.

It's a good thing I write fiction and am not a formal historian. I can make stuff up to fill in the gaps. But there is a dissertation there for a brave Ph.D student with a lot of grant money and a taste for archive dust. .

It's late More of this, anon.


Francis Hamit


Letter from England (and California)

I'm seeing my new granddaughter Sunday!


Shen H, et al (2010) "A Critical Role for a4bd GABAA Receptors in Shaping Learning Deficits at Puberty in Mice," Science 327:1515-1518, 19 March 2010. This paper discusses the processes underlying diminished learning processes during puberty. If you've ever had teenagers in your family, you're familiar with this 8).

 UK Politics--first round, the budget:

 The Guardian focusses on changes in stamp duty <http://tinyurl.com/yle32yh> <http://tinyurl.com/ya6xdr2> Telegraph predicts future difficulties <http://tinyurl.com/yga3pr9> <http://tinyurl.com/y9ya7m9> BBC avoids controversy <http://tinyurl.com/yjcvae4> <http://tinyurl.com/yzcdv3d> New university places promised <http://tinyurl.com/ybbfrce> The Times points out the political nature of the budget <http://tinyurl.com/y9g5kqe> Same for the Independent <http://tinyurl.com/ycaat2r>


Terror threat overstated since 9/11:

 Telegraph story: <http://tinyurl.com/y8uxnvu> BBC story <http://tinyurl.com/yaahpfd>


Facebook as a transmission vector for syphilis:

 See <http://tinyurl.com/y8t3rup>, <http://tinyurl.com/yaqsobn> <http://tinyurl.com/ybp8cx2>


UK Government attack on private higher education:

 See <http://tinyurl.com/yjzxkxy>


Where UK research money should be invested:

 See <http://tinyurl.com/ye3v95s> and <http://tinyurl.com/yk8rjzu>


Scotland as a patronage state:

 See <http://tinyurl.com/ygg9qnx>

 UK sexual politics:

 See <http://tinyurl.com/yal9wd5>

 UK libel laws and science:

 See <http://tinyurl.com/yb8v3kh> <http://tinyurl.com/y89k4qn>

 Are knowledge and skills more or less important than the academic virtues?--honesty, care, patience, and faith that the universe makes sense. If the virtues are important, what kinds of university education teach them?


Harry Erwin


Subject: The surface temperature record


In recent blog posts, you've expressed an interest in learning more about the methods and data used to reach conclusions about changes in the surface temperature of the earth. I recently stumbled upon a National Academy of Sciences report which may provide some of that background information.

The report stems from the Micheal Mann 'hockey stick' controversy. Congress requested that NAS investigate the matter, and this report was the result:


A paper copy costs $36.00, but you can download a PDF for free if you are willing to provide an e-mail address. It is approximately 160 pages long.

Here is link to a press release which summarizes their conclusions:


CP, Connecticut

I recall going through it at the time and finding it remarkably vague, but perhaps I saw an early copy (it was sent by an Academy Fellow friend).

If someone is familiar with the method used to get the single figure of merit earth temperature including the data sources and the weights used to make the average, I would really appreciate a brief summary.




Paging down his front page reveals a graph of global temperatures which explicitly ties the global warming in January and February of this year to the newly developed El Nino. (The intervening articles discuss new data quantifying the effect of "urban heat islands" on the data which supports "global warming," to the detriment of the anthropomorphic global warming theory.) Spencer notes that the Northern Hemisphere remains mostly in record cold, though the January map (currently near the bottom of his front page) shows intense heating over eastern Canada.

I think I recall from this and other sources that October/November 2009 were among the coldest Octobers and Novembers on record, which supports the ties of the current warming to El Nino.


Warmer in Canada, colder in the US, China, and Siberia. How are these factors weighted? How many Toronto's equal one Worcester, Mass? Ontario vs. Illinois? Is this done by area? I'd like to hear the logic used to justify the weighting factors used.


Re: Many Doctors do it for the Money 

Dr. Pournelle,

To the charge that “many doctors do it for the money”, my reply is “what is your point?”. If they do it well, I really don’t care what is in their hearts.

The response to the statement:

“With the same amount of education and intelligence you can be a chemical or biomedical researcher and make $150,000 a year, or you can be a M.D. and make $250,000+.”

deserves a much longer answer.

First of all, the income disparity figure is deceptive. Most primary care doctors, i.e. most doctors, make nowhere near 250k, and in fact make much closer to the figure quoted for a researcher. This is easy to verify, see




In addition, they also often start out with crushing debt that can run to 6 figures.

The point about education is also deceptive. To become board certified in your specialty as a physician also requires completing a residency. The time this takes varies from about 3 years for a primary care doc, to more than double that for surgical specialties. During that time, you are treated in a manner similar to a graduate assistant at university (only you can be called in any time of the day or night). You can make some money on the side at a doc-in-the-box, but it can’t interfere with your training, and of course you make nothing like real “doctor money”. If you want to make the big money, you have to REALLY be able to deal with the concept of delayed gratification. You’ll be into your thirties before you have a chance of getting a taste.

So cheer up. Being a scientific researcher is not such a bad deal compared to being a primary care doc. Lawyers rarely sue you for malpractice. And you don’t have your sleep disrupted every few nights on call.

Steve Chu (married to a primary care doc 10+ years)

I fail to understand the question. Most people "do it for the money" in that the pay they can earn influences their choice of professions. It is generally not the only decision factor, but surely it is a major factor for nearly everyone? As I said earlier, cutting the pay for the professions doesn't lose you the most dedicated -- my favorite example on that was the nuns who ran Catholic schools for much of my life; they were hardly in it for the money -- but you will lose a number of highly competent people who just can't afford to turn down something else.

The point was that cutting doctor pay will decrease the number of doctors unless something is done to change that. One way would be to reduce the effort required to be one. That has a cost. Another would be to make the education less costly. That has a cost. What can't be done is to ignore the situation. That, I thought was the point...


Regarding Mr. Coffey's e-mail, I don't know of lawyers who are mandated to do pro bono work; they usually do it as a public service, as I understand things (on the other hand, I've not done a study of the conditions under which lawyers do pro bono work, and whether they get benefits other than resume enhancement). However, I have heard other alternatives for doctors, such as allowing them to deduct pro bono work from their taxes or educational loan balances at some equitable rate. (How many surgeons might perform a free surgery or two per month in lieu of paying $1500 against their educational loans, or taking an equivalent deduction against taxes?) This can probably be structured such that "society" -- the federal government -- picks up a much smaller bill than otherwise. We can probably also benefit by pushing more routine examinations down to nurse practitioners rather than doctors. There are an astonishing array of small steps that could achieve broad health-care improvements without this 2700 page monster.

Apropos of nothing, I found the following interesting and relevant in this regard: http://townhall.com/cartoons/2010/03/27/2 



Self-improving robots


You've mentioned the so-called "singularity" on more than one occasion recently, and I've been thinking about the concept. What strikes me is that I have not yet seen it explained how one can expect to get more intelligence out of robot-designing robots than one puts into them.

I am a Unix systems administrator: I work with programs and programmers, and I do shell scripting of my own. What I see from that experience is that working computers do precisely what they are are told, and a program is only as intelligent as its programmer. I've never seen anything to contradict those principles, but if those principles are true, then robot-designing robots would never be able to design something more intelligent than what was programmed into the first robot by the programmers.

In short, I would expect the laws of entropy and diminishing returns to make the "singularity" impossible to achieve.


Roger Penrose holds the "weak AI" conclusion: that is, Artificial Intelligence is possible, but it will never be actually self-aware and thus can't lead to a singularity. (See The Emperor's New Mind.) Obviously he is not in agreement with the "Strong AI" advocates like Minsky, who holds that consciousness is an epiphenomenon (well, his view is a lot more complicated than that; see The Society of Mind ). Intelligence comes from a series of heuristic algorithms, and these can be built into machines, which can then generate more algorithms and test them...

The issue is clearly not settled. There are strong philosophical, religious, and theological consequences to AI theories, and I don't expect the matter to be settled any time soon.

Minsky has often said that the problem with AI is that every time you demonstrate that you can do something that previously was said to be AI, it is then said, well, you did that, but that's not really Artificial Intelligence. And so it goes.



For a PDF copy of A Step Farther Out:



 read book now





This week:


read book now


Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Continuing discussion on causes of the War Between The States AKA the Civil War

On Mr. Hamit's thesis.

It used to be pretty widely known - at least before the present Dark Age in education - that the British Prime Minister, Lord Palmerston, and the British Foreign Secretary, Lord Russell, were quite eager to use the War Between the States to sunder the US in two, if they could accomplish it without a general war with the United States, which would result in a US invasion of Canada, loss of sales of manufactured goods to the US, loss of grain sales from the US which were key to Britain's food supply, and perhaps military action against other British interests around the world.

Lord Lyons, the British Ambassador to the US, was also in this camp, as were Napoleon III of France and Alexander II of Russia. What the clique needed was sufficient Confederate successful feats of arms which would then make European mediation - which would entail de jure recognition of the Confederacy as a bona fide belligerent deserving of full diplomatic recognition - impossible for Lincoln to refuse.

The majority of the British citizenry were pro-Union, or at least anti-Confederate, because of the slavery issue; the Trent Affair, however, raised such public indignation that if Prince Albert hadn't basically pulled every string he had from his deathbed to avoid war, it's likely that Britain would've gone to war with the US over the slight to her national honor. At the same time, Secretary of State Seward had appointed Charles Francis Adams, Sr. as the US Ambassador to Britain, and Adams was extraordinarily effective at charming, cajoling, subtly threatening, and otherwise keeping the war party from gaining enough self-certainty to press forward.

In the event, Messrs. Slidell and Mason were such inept diplomats that it might've been wiser for the Confederacy to allow them to remain prisoners, so that more competent emissaries could've been put forward.

The Confederate victory at Second Manassas gave the war clique a boost, but as Lee was launching his first invasion of Northern soil, they decided to wait and see whether the Confederates could unequivocally defeat Union armies on their home ground. Britain, Russia, Prussia, and France all had military observers posted with the Confederates, and took their reports into serious consideration when evaluating the perceived viability of the Confederate war effort.

While Lee's feat of fighting a numerically superior, if poorly led, Union army to a stalemate at Sharpsburg was impressive, he was unable to exploit it due to his high casualty rates, and thus had to withdraw from Maryland. McClellan's 'victory through not losing' was spun by Lincoln into a propaganda victory which gave him the political capital to announce his Emancipation Proclamation, the main purpose of which was to make it even more politically unpalatable for the European states to intervene or press for mediation by further associating the Union with abolition and the South with continued chattel slavery.

Gettysburg was the final nail in the coffin for the interventionists. Had any of the great ifs of Gettysburg taken place - if Ewell had followed Lee's orders and taken Cemetery Hill on the First Day, had Stuart not been joyriding and instead had rejoined Lee's army in time to provide timely battlefield intelligence which would've avoided the long countermarch on the Second Day and allowed Longstreet's planned assault to move forward during main daylight, had Lee listened to Longstreet and let him conduct a defensive engagement which would've forced Meade to assault him, had Joshua Chamberlain not had the presence of mind and military genius to order the bayonet charge at the Little Round Top - it's likely that the outcome of Gettysburg would've been far different, and Lincoln would've been unable to withstand proffers of mediation from the European powers.

Britain, France, and Russia all would've gained by the fracturing of the United States; while I doubt there was anything taking place prior to the War which could rightfully be called a conspiracy, it's pretty obvious that they wouldn't have shed many tears had the Union failed. The Oregon Question, Pakenham and Palmerston's designs on California (frustrated by Peel's administration), British designs on Texas, Russian interests in Alaska and Northern California, French interests in Quebec, general British insecurities vis-a-vis Canada, et. al. certainly influenced those parties, but there were sufficient discord, centrifugal motivations, greed, regional/economic animosity, and incompetent statesmanship within the United States alone to explain both the wholly unjust Mexican-American War and the entirely avoidable War Between the States.

- Roland Dobbins

Odd: I can recall debates on nearly all those points when I was in high school, and almost nothing of that sort since. Now while my high school was the "academic" Catholic school in Memphis, the girl across the street went to Central High, which was the public "academic" high school, and as I recall she studied much the same kind of thing. Tennessee was divided during the War, with three counties seceding from the state and declaring the independent nation of Franklin. Neither the Union nor the Confederacy recognized Franklin; the legitimacy or lack thereof was discussed in high school.. Actually, considerable parts of all this were in our 7th grade state history class, and that was a Capleville consolidated where we had two grades to each room and only 4 teachers for the entire K-8 school.

I won't say we went into much detail on the matters of the last paragraph above, but they wouldn't have been mysteries either. Today I wonder how many readers will make sense of the arguments without having to look up a lot of it.

Readers may recall that Niven and I put Charles Francis Adams in Escape From Hell. Those who wonder why will have to read the book.

As to Gettysburg I completely agree that Pickett's Charge was magnificent but it was not war: I have never comprehended Lee's obsession with an offensive battle. Had he remained on the defensive he could not be dislodged, and the onus would have been on the Union to drive him out of Pennsylvania.

It was very much to Britain's interest -- then -- not to have the undivided United States hold the resources of North America.


Subject: Arctic sea ice trends


Since there have been a couple of posts with links to Watts-Up-With-That's comments on the current anomaly in Arctic sea ice, it may be worthwhile to also direct your readers to this blog post by Andy Revkin of the New York Times:


It seems that there is credible scientific evidence that changes in wind patterns can produce significant variations in sea ice coverage, independent of the effects of warming or cooling of the region. So events like the low ice extent in the summer of 2007 and the delayed melting this spring could have nothing at all to do with global warming or cooling. Perhaps both are examples of much ado about nothing...

CP, Connecticut

Curiouser and curiouser


Warmest winter on record -- truth or fiction?

Dear Dr. Pournelle,

With regards to your post concerning this being the warmest winter on record, and the reasons thereof, I call - politely - bullpucket on those trying to explain their reasoning.

NASA's info is apparently not to be trusted <http://blogs.dailymail.com/donsurber/archives/11633>  .

As for accurately monitoring the world's temperature? -- how can you do that when you've removed almost 90% of the recording thermometers <http://www.smalldeadanimals.com/archives/013142.html>  ?


Russ Smith

I am concerned that there are fewer instruments recording; and I am not able to find a real account of the reasoning behind how the averages are done to create a single figure of merit. I cannot believe it is accurate to a fraction of a degree.

We seem to have mixed data on the cold/warmth of this year.


Re-education camps for meteorologists.


-- Roland Dobbins


The economist 


One point on the "Economist" piece quoted. If the blackbody temperature of the earth is -18 Celsius...then all things being equal, temperatures will trend to that point rather than increase. It takes work to keep the temperature higher than that point, I would think...

(I think someone wrote a novel about that 17 years ago. Fallen Angels, or some such...)



Laugh or cry?

Hello Jerry,

Maybe both.

I read the 'NY Post' article about the machine gun toting cops on the NY subway and the subject line came to mind immediately.

Some quotes from the story:

"I think it's excessive," said Holly Celentang, 26, a rider from Queens. "It's Easter this week, and you have families with young kids on the subway, and I'm sure cops with machine guns would scare them." Why? Cops carry guns all the time and they are supposed to make you feel so safe that you don't feel the need to carry your own. Isn't it working any more because the guns are big and ugly? Did it work when they were carrying cute little pistols on their belts?

"I think it's ridiculous," Deprisest said. "The attack happened in a different country and had nothing to do with Americans. I'd be nervous seeing cops with machine guns on the train. It makes people afraid when they don't need to be." So, Mr. Deprisest, is it your theory, as a New Yorker, that only Muslims in OTHER countries want to strap high explosives to themselves and torch them off in the biggest crowd that they can find, preferably at a location that maximizes the damage to the infrastructure?

"I don't think it's overkill. We need to be protected -- you never know," said Renee Burke, 56, of Manhattan. "After 9/11, we learned the hard way that anything is possible. I feel protected when I see police riding the subway." Really Ms Burke? And just how do you think that a machine gun toting cop is going to protect you from a couple of surgically enhanced babes whose surgical enhancement consists of ten pounds or so of C4 (or the equivalent) and a conveniently located switch to 'make it happen'? Or any of an essentially infinite number of schemes for introducing useful quantities of HE into the subway system if those doing the introducing are willing to make sure that the job is 'done right' by doing it themselves? I will have to admit that I suspect (no actual data) that the number of subway muggings probably dropped a bit in response though.

and finally, "Oleh Kachur, 46, also of Brighton Beach, said the attack did not surprise him. "You can predict this for now and in the future," Kachur said. "It's a problem of religion. We have to treat people equally whether they are Chechen or Russian." The solution is at hand. All we have to do is to stop oppressing those fine, peace loving Muslims and they will stop slaughtering everyone that they can get their hands on who AREN'T Muslims.

Bob Ludwick


Subj: How does one locate the agent for the estate of a deceased author?

For a living author, I can ask the author, but what about -- for example -- Poul Anderson?

I did some Googling, and found the Association of Authors' Representatives web site at aaronline.org, but they don't have an EMail address in their contact info, just a snail-mail address. I guess I could use that.

Is that the best we can do, here in the 21st century?

Rod Montgomery==monty@starfief.com

I would write a polite inquiry to secretary@sfwa.org  as a start. Many author estates have sfwa membership.




"That makes Hafiz just the latest addition to an increasingly long list of former Guantanamo detainees suspected to have returned to terror. The Pentagon, in an estimate issued in January, now believes that roughly 20 percent of the 560 detainees who were released from Guantanamo are back on the terror front lines"

Keep in mind that we released them starting with those considered the least risk of recidivism. If we continue to release prisoners, for whatever reason, we can reasonably predict more and more of them will return to conflict against the US. It appears that defense lawyers to the contrary, we had a pretty good grasp of who bad guys were. What is likely to happen this time? We can't take them prisoner, we've already seen that doesn't work. We know we can't interrogate them for fear it'll screw up the legal cases. What then becomes the most likely fate of these men, and why is killing them more moral, as per the media and various advocacy groups?



'Young people today seem to have no desire for solitude, have never heard of it, can't imagine why it would be worth having.'

His tendentious adcademarxist rhetoric and ostentatious over-quotations aside, the author of this essay does have a point worth pondering, if one has the intestinal fortitude to wade through to the end:


-- Roland Dobbins


Egregious Frum Written Out of the Conservative Movement 

Or at least fired...


David March

It is uncharitable to gloat...\






 read book now




CURRENT VIEW    Wednesday


This week:


read book now


Thursday, April 1, 2010

Algebra in 8th grade

Dr. Pournelle,

The issue of preparing students for college by having them take Algebra in 8th grade is most likely a case of confused causality.

For literally decades, schools have identified talented math students and placed them into an advanced sequence which usually consists of pre-algrbra in 7th grade, algebra in 8th, geometry as freshmen, and algebra 2 as sophomores. After that, there are two paths, one of which results in taking calculus during the senior year of high school while the other ends at pre-calculus. There are variations, of course, but this is a typical type of advanced math track that I have seen from Florida to Washington.

The key point is that the schools are identifying students who are ahead of the curve in mathematics and placing them in what is obviously a college prep sequence. To then claim that getting algebra in 8th grade is the key to to ignore the fact that if students are capable enough to be placed into and succeed in the advanced math track, they are highly likely to be first-rate college material regardless of when they took algebra (e. g. I know of several students who took algebra in 9th grade then took both geometry and algebra 2 in 10th grade in order to get on the calculus track. Both did quite well as college students.)

The CEO in question has probably asked his best employees when they took algebra and most of the mathematically proficient of them said 8th grade. From there, it's just a quick over-generalization to assuming that algebra in 8th grade is the cause of college success instead of another effect of increased mathematical achievement.

On the topic of one-size-fits-all curricula, you are on target; however, figuring out the details of what works best with which students is a difficult problem. It's made more difficult by the potential political issues of parents reacting to the assignment of their child to the group that uses "low" intelligence teaching methods.

David Coffland

Well of course, but you apparently do not understand just how bad is the experimental design of some of the educational "research" on which our educational policies are built.

And understand that advanced placement classes are among the first to go when there is a crunch. No Child Left Behind rewards schools for getting marginal students from D to C; it has no reward for raising B students to A.




 read book now




CURRENT VIEW    Thursday


This week:


read book now


Friday,  April 2, 2019

I thought I had posted mail for Friday. Apologies.  I'll get to it Sunday.






 read book now





This week:


read book now


Saturday, March 3, 2010

I seem to have taken the day off.






 read book now




CURRENT VIEW     Saturday

This week:


read book now


Sunday,  March 4, 2010     

More on education...


" The only way to generate increased [teacher] performance is to structure the incentive system in such a way that the mean is raised. This means abolishing tenure and seniority, thereby removing the safety net for failure. Then find ways to give the best performers a piece of the economic action for increased productivity. If a man can increase the institution's net income, give him a larger percentage of this when his output increases. This is the reverse incentive system of the graduated income tax, which is a disincentive system.

"We understand this economic incentive system when it comes to business, yet most people fail to understand it in the field of education. They have been taught by bureaucrats in the tax-funded education system that profit-seeking schools are antithetical to education.

"The University of Phoenix has 500,000 students enrolled today who think the conventional view is wrong.

"What makes the difference? The University of Phoenix is owned by investors who profit when the school profits. They lose when the school loses. This raises price tag on envy. It raises the price tag on regression to the mean. A law of economics takes over: "When price rises, less is demanded."

Charles Brumbelow


Reading list and grade 'levelling'

Dr. Pournelle,

I thought that this link, with the accompanying story might interest you: http://home.comcast.net/~ngiansante 

The link is to a page that lists approved book lists appropriate to a standardized spread of elementary school reading levels. The good part of the story is that my 8-year-old granddaughter, due to her Mother's hard work in teaching at home, "tests out" in her elementary school at the highest reading level for her grade. The frustrating part is that the school district for the mid-western city where they live will not support advanced reading programs beyond the maximum level appropriate to the grade level, in part because materials at a higher level may not be 'appropriate for the age' group. It is highly discouraged for parents to supply reading material at a higher level (or is not listed) to their children, or to attempt to teach them to an advanced level beyond the recognized, standardized levels.

I believe this supports several of your assertions in re standardized testing and 'no child left behind.'

The amusing part (in my mildly cynical way) was that my granddaughter, prompted and shocked by her reading at an 'appropriate' level, asked my son-in-law's receptionist if she knew that some people called female dogs bitches -- much to my daughter's embarrassment.

Education is a dangerous thing.

Happily, my granddaughter has a love of reading and needs little encouragement. She has always had a great interest in many subjects and is often 'beyond her grade level' in many subjects. My daughter is finding (as we did with her siblings) that advanced instruction at home may be the only way for the girl to proceed at her own rate.



'We live in a gangster state, and our days of laughing at other countries are over.'

Yes, it's Rolling Stone, and there's some 'adult' language, but this article is pretty much spot-on (I know the area well, and what I've heard privately matches with the details of this story):


 Roland Dobbins


Repression 2.0.


-- Roland Dobbins


The Navy is still funding Bussard's fusion idea, 


The Navy's funding electrostatic confinement fusion:


Bussard's old idea.





The next battle has begun.


The battle over global warming escalated this week with the Environmental Protection Agency issuing its first rules ever on vehicle greenhouse gas emissions even as more states lined up to legally challenge the new regulations.

On Thursday, the heads of the Transportation Department and the EPA signed final rules setting fuel efficiency standards for model years 2012-2016, with a goal of achieving by 2016 the equivalent of 35.5 miles per gallon combined for cars and trucks, an increase of nearly 10 mpg over current standards set by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

The rules come after 12 states joined petitions filed by Virginia, Alabama and Texas against the EPA for ruling in December that greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide endanger human health -- a ruling that cleared the path for the agency to start issuing mandatory regulations to reduce them.<snip>

The EPA has responded to the lawsuits with a statement saying the "evidence of and threats posed by a changing climate are right before our eyes."<snip>



: A global warming heretic

Hi, Jerry!

"Global warming heretic" refers to Willis Eschenbach's description of himself in this post <http://wattsupwiththat.com/2010/03/31/18010/>  at the Watts Up With That? blog.

It's a very long post, but worth reading.

(quote) Question 1. Does the earth have a preferred temperature which is actively maintained by the climate system?

To me this is the question that we should answer first. I believe that the answer is yes. Despite millennia-long volcanic eruptions, despite being struck by monstrous asteroids, despite changes in the position of the continents, as near as we can tell the average temperature of the earth has only varied by about plus or minus three percent in the last half-billion years. Over the last ten thousand years, the temperature has only varied by plus or minus one percent. Over the last 150 years, the average temperature has only varied by plus or minus 0.3%. For a system as complex and ever-changing as the climate, this is nothing short of astounding.

Before asking any other questions about the climate, we must ask why the climate has been so stable. Until we answer that question, trying to calculate the climate sensitivity is an exercise in futility.

I have explained in “The Thermostat Hypothesis” what I think is the mechanism responsible for this unexplained stability. My explanation may be wrong, but there must be some mechanism which has kept the global temperature within plus or minus 1% for ten thousand years.

I am, however, definitely in the minority with this opinion. (end quote)

(quote) Question 5. Are humans responsible for global warming?

This is another trick question that often shows up on polls. The question suffers from two problems. First is the lack of a time period discussed above. The second is the question of the amount of responsibility. Generally, the period under discussion is the post-1900 warming. So let me rephrase the question as “Are humans responsible for some part of the late 20th century warming?”

To this question I would say “Yes”. Again, there is widespread scientific agreement on that simplistic question, but as usual, the devil is in the details discussed in Question 4. (end quote)

(quote) Question 8. Does the evidence from the climate models show that humans are responsible for changes in the climate?

This is another trick question. Climate models do not produce evidence. Evidence is observable and measurable data about the real world. Climate model results are nothing more than the beliefs and prejudices of the programmers made tangible. While the results of climate models can be interesting and informative, they are not evidence. (end quote)

(quote) Question 14. Regarding climate, what action (if any) should we take at this point?

I disagree with those who say that the “precautionary principle” means that we should act now. I detail my reasons for this assertion at “Climate Caution and Precaution”. At that page I also list the type of actions that we should be taking, which are “no regrets” actions. These are actions which will have beneficial results whether or not the earth is warming.

So that is where I stand on the climate questions. I think that the earth actively maintains a preferred temperature. I think that man is having an effect on local climate in various places, but that globally man’s effect is swamped by the regulating action of clouds and thunderstorms. I think that the local effect is mainly through LU/LC changes and soot. I think that the climate regulating mechanism is much stronger than either of these forcings and is stronger than CO2 forcing. I think that at this point the actions we should take are “no regrets” actions.

Does that make me a “denier”? And if so, what am I denying?

Finally, I would like to invite Dr. Judith Curry in particular, and any other interested scientists, to publicly answer these same questions here on Watts Up With That. There has been far too much misunderstanding of everyone’s position on these important issues. A clear statement of what each of us thinks about the climate and the science will go a long way towards making the discussion both more focused and more pleasant, and perhaps it will tend to heal the well-earned distrust that many have of climate science. (end quote)

As you can tell, given the question-and-answer format, I've left out quite a bit. You can read the rest of the questions and answers at the blog. <http://wattsupwiththat.com/2010/03/31/18010/>


'If the nation went to war today in a cyberwar, we would lose."


"'If the nation went to war today in a cyberwar, we would lose. We're the most vulnerable. We're the most connected. We have the most to lose.' Former Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell delivered that bracing statement at a recent Senate hearing on cybersecurity."

Charles Brumbelow


Government Lotteries - Taxes on the Math Impaired...


"Gambling is a moron’s retirement plan, and it is certainly not our positive obligations to help morons. Yet, unlike the casinos, what is it about state lotteries that make these acts so contemptible?

"By means of mandatory K-12 drill-and-kill public education, the state ill-educates the public into a pool of mathematical ignorance. Most high school students graduate without a single course in probability/statistics. Sure, in seventh grade they learn about the probability of pulling an ace out of a deck of cards, but permutations and combinations like that needed to calculate the odds of winning the mega-millionaire jackpot is only taught to the top percentile of high school students, which is usually recommended as an elective, not as a course of learning.

"How convenient.

"The state not only promotes the public’s ignorance in probabilities, but then maximizes that ignorance via a monopoly on gambling."

Charles Brumbelow


Subject: It’s over: MPs say the special relationship with US is dead

BRITAIN’S special relationship with the US — forged by Winston Churchill and Franklin Roosevelt in the second world war — no longer exists, says a committee of influential MPs.

Instead, America’s relationship with Britain is no more special than with its other main allies, according to a report by the Commons foreign affairs committee published today.

The report also warns that the perception of the UK after the Iraq war as America’s “subservient poodle” has been highly damaging to Britain’s reputation and interests around the world. The MPs conclude that British prime ministers have to learn to be less deferential to US presidents and be “willing to say no” to America.





'Hart said commissioners thought that Christmas has become so recognized and secular as to have been rendered virtually religion-neutral. Good Friday, on the other hand, is strictly a Christian observance, he said.'


- Roland Dobbins


Welcome to the Asian Century.

"I can't do that business. That's the way they want to do it, so I can't do it."


 Roland Dobbins


Healthcare & politics

Hi Jerry:

I am a Platinum subscriber and have read your columns since early Byte days. I have always enjoyed your technology stories and writings.

There are many aspects of your political leanings which I agree with. However, I also fundamentally believe that there is a role for government in the provision of access to healthcare. Notice that I didn’t say provide, I said providing access…

I travel constantly all over the world for my job as a senior sales executive for a worldwide technology company. The U.S. is the only industrial democracy that doesn’t guarantee access to healthcare. It does cost us; both in terms of those who go to emergency rooms for the flu, and those who finally go to seek medical care that care ends up being incredibly expensive because they had no access to preventative or early solutions to their medical problem. As you are aware, we do not have the best healthcare system in the world, as evidenced by our level of infant mortality, our terrible levels of obesity, and our mediocre increase in lifespan.

The current healthcare reform law is certainly not perfect. Neither was Social Security, nor Medicare. And, yet, today, Medicare is government provided healthcare at an administrative cost vastly less than our current private system. And, remember, the new plan isn’t a government take-over of healthcare, most healthcare will still be provided through private insurance companies.

I am scared to death of the unbridled expansion of government. I live in California – enough said. But, I also believe there are things that government must provide its citizens, and access to basic healthcare is one of them. So, let’s work together to try and improve the new system, versus simply saying “repeal or die.”

Alex Thurber

The problem is that there is no way we can afford the Act we just passed; moreover there may be something wrong in the morals department when we shift enormous costs onto our children. By what right do I get to have you pay for my health care? Of course I try to earn your subscription, but that is not quite the same thing; I don't just vote to have you pay me.

For a man to love his country his country ought to be lovely, and that does mean that we don't want people starving in the streets; but on the other hand we can't afford to send everyone to the Mayo Clinic, either. As to Social Security and Medicare, they are not going to last without major changes; there just isn't the money, particularly in these economic times, and the burden on the economy is not insignificant.

The major health care reform we need is to couple the recipient of the service with paying for the service. I wrote a good bit about that in the 1990's. I also wrote on the subject when Newt was Minority Whip: one solution is Health Care Savings Accounts. The money goes into an account. You spend it -- or don't -- on medical care. After a number of years anything left in there is yours. This has the merit of making it cost you something to use medical services. Reasonable co-payments -- even if they're only a few dollars -- will help. The point is that the demand for a free good expands without limit because there is no incentive not to use the services.

There are other possible reforms. They are not "new" ideas in that they have been around a long time. The Clintons had no interest in them when Newt was Speaker, and that kind of reform couldn't get through the Senate. Kennedy wasn't interested. And so forth.

As to private insurance companies, if they truly have to take anyone who applies and all at the same premium, there will soon be no such companies. Imagine a life insurance policy that they have to sell you without regard to the "pre-existing" condition, such as age. I'd love to buy a $20 million policy for the price I would have paid for it when I was twenty five.





 read book now





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


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

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

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

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

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

 Search engine:


or the freefind search

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

Boiler Plate:

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

If you subscribed:

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

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

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

Patron Subscription:

Search: type in string and press return.


For platinum subscription:

For a PDF copy of A Step Farther Out:

= = = = = = = = = =

For a Regular Subscription click here:

= = = = = = = =

Strategy of Technology in pdf format:

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

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

birdline.gif (1428 bytes)