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Mail 664 February 28 - March 6, 2011







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Monday  February 28, 2011

USN deployments 

Dear Dr. Pournelle,

I recently wrote that the US had fewer ships in the Med than Iran did. That appears to have changed.


Although the newspapers don't spell it out, I suspect the carriers were originally deployed to cover Bahrain, which is of course a major base in that area. I'll wager they'll still want adequate ships to cover a blowup there, but it appears we are now preparing for contingency operations against Libya as well.

I must also give President Obama credit for not calling for Quadafi to resign until AFTER the American citizens in the country had been evacuated. While we can argue that he showed insufficient force, the fact that our people were extracted without the need for armed intervention is probably a good thing .. certainly in the eyes of those people who actually rode the ferry.


Brian P.

Well, the Navy's here. Deo Gratia.


There's hope yet for America


People send you a lot of news about how the Legions are getting shafted in one way or another. I thought you might like to see one example of spontaneous support for a down-on-his-luck vet selling his pistol for cash.


Greatest Regards, Preston DuBose


Letter From England

First the news and then some stories from the academic zoo.

 Libyan events. Meanwhile, the UK Government mis-manages the evacuation of UK citizens: <http://tinyurl.com/6crl45p> <http://tinyurl.com/4c34xtg> <http://tinyurl.com/66vjeh7> Perhaps this is part of the reason: <http://tinyurl.com/48jq55y>

 UK GDP shrinking faster than previously thought. <http://tinyurl.com/6b64g2n>

 Research funding cutback uncertainty means that grants are not currently being funded. This is making planning at the sharp end a bit fraught. Hopefully, we'll know more in April. Neuroscience was previously cut back 20%, supposedly due to the high quality of the proposals being submitted and probably due to the departure of a lot of biotech research from the UK. The Government is also threatening to cut research funding further as punishment for universities raising fees to the maximum (£9,000/year).

 The Government believed that OFFA could impose by fiat the fee levels the Government wanted. It can't. <http://tinyurl.com/6l2tbuy>

 University College London considered ignoring the Government's mandates on fees and student numbers to address a major budget gap. <http://tinyurl.com/62rbglh>

 David Willetts' position on £9K fees. <http://tinyurl.com/6ejzoro> <http://tinyurl.com/6eqtger> <http://tinyurl.com/6yaftw7> <http://tinyurl.com/6ad5xyy> <http://tinyurl.com/6xt2o34>

 Changes to student visa system aggravating the problems: <http://tinyurl.com/5thu6lo> <http://tinyurl.com/68amron>

 "US undergraduates' lack of learning bodes ill for the UK, says Alan Ryan." <http://tinyurl.com/6a2o83f>


Beware Outside Context Problems

--Harry Erwin, PhD



Looters at The Egyptian Museum have reportedly excavated a crisis management cartouche of the 21st dynasty Vice Pharaoh Tutankhbiden:

My fellow Amerankhans, Uneasy lies the head that wears a cobra for a crown.

As Pharaoh Obamhotep is busy smiting Libyans this week, the Speaker of the House of the Dead has asked me to add to add a Nileside chat to the State Of The Union of Upper and Lower Egypt address, so listen up ye mighty and despair :

Our vizier Hoznymandias was once a scepter of stability in a region full of strategic bitumen reserves. But now former next Pharaoh Hillaryshepsut ,daughter of Rhodames, informs us that all that remains of him is a colossal wreck round which, boundless and bare, the lone and level sands stretch far away.

Ra knows, Hoznymandias’s son Gamaltiti is not worth a canopic jar of warm spit, for he was fond of waterboarding crocodiles, but his father is a real son-of-a-Sun, and an up front guy for a king of kings.

So may the beak of Horus devour the liver of any scribe who tweets Hoznymandias is a dictator, or suggests he pack his sarcophagus and take the next solar boat out of here, for without him, we couldn’t float a basket of bulrushes in the Red Sea, let alone ships loaded with ivory, apes and peacocks.

Without Hoznymandias’s vast and trunkless legs of stone standing in the desert in an antique land, the peace process would be in the hurt locker beneath the Great Pentamid, and Philistine extremists would be smashing the wash pots of Moab, smiting the Israelites and unleashing a plague of frogs of book of the dead proportions.

Instead, Hoznymandias has moved his own street’s dynastic concerns forward in a dynamic way, shifted the pylons of democracy from Tunis to Tanis by backing free elections in Kush and erased the evils of Axum by smiting the pirates of Punt.

Let it be graven on an obelisk of red porphyry that Death comes on swift wings to him who cuts foreign aid to the land of the lotus-eaters, so let the granaries be opened, and a cataract of frankincense, myrrh and gold flow forth to the East.

Thank you, and as it is written, let it be done.

-- Russell Seitz


Re: Orbital Democracy Projector

Emailer John Strohm writes: "One can almost envision a device that could incinerate an individual tinpot dictator, in the middle of giving a rabble-rousing speech, out of a clear blue sky."

There was an amusing movie called "Real Genius" which began with exactly that scenario!

-- Mike T. Powers

Of course there is such a weapon. It is called an assassin, or ninja, or ... And Poul Anderson wrote that story long ago. Of course one person's tinpot dictator is anther's beloved president or king. So it goes.


This may interest you (Nuclear Power)

Dear Dr. Pournelle:

This link


goes to a WSJ article about Bill Gates taking a hand in the nuclear power industry.

Regards, Tim Scott

We have safe and effective reactor designs: see France and Japan. A new design will not stop the opposition. Perhaps Gates thinks so. But the only physics the anti-nukes take is ExLax.


A real analysis of climate change?

Dear Dr Pournelle:

Are we about to get our wish?


"The team will also make every piece of data it uses – 1.6bn data points – freely available on a website. It will post its workings alongside, including full information on how more than 100 years of data from thousands of instruments around the world are stitched together to give a historic record of the planet's temperature."

Michael Houst Barrington, NH


Can a group of scientists in California end the war on climate change? | Science | The Guardian


This is news to me. I'm happy to see Dr. Richard Muller and Dr. Judith Curry work on the data, as well as respected scientists from other disciplines. I think that scientists from many disciplines are just as capable, if not more so, as Climate Scientists at looking at measured data.

The article mentions that some of the data comes from as early as the 1700s, which does concern me that this new effort might not look at the Medieval Warming Period.

Randy Lea

We can hope. I cheer.


re: loss of jobs to automation or to overseas workers.

The requirements to sustain life are what I call the basic 4: food, clothing, clean water, and shelter. With the advance of technology it requires less and less time to meet these basic needs, in fact we end up with a surplus of basic stuff. With our extra food we can pay people to do other "work" such as sing songs, write novels, play doctor, teach, program the internet, and create reality TV shows. Some of these activities improve our effectiveness at the basic 4, others just make our lives more enjoyable.

This process has been going on for the last 200 years or so. Farm automation allowed one farmer to feed hundreds of people. These 99 former farmers lost their "jobs" and started doing something else to make a living... we call that the industrial revolution.

As we export jobs we improve the standard of living of those who are living at a subsistance farming level. This has happened before. The textile industry has moved from England to New England to the Carolinas, to Taiwan, to China, and now to Vietnam. In each case there was dislocation and unrest in the areas that lost the jobs, but with good education, rule of law, and a strong work ethic the original economy seemed to recover pretty well.

As long as the process doesn't proceed too quickly human ingenuity seems to do well. Or perhaps speed is good because you develop new things faster than the iron law can keep up and create rules to limit productivity and stifle new business creation.

As you have said before, technology requires energy. Farmers with good land can become extremely productive 1000x or so, because of fertilizers, pesticides, water pumps, and tractors. Fertilizers and Pesticides come from the chemical industry which is a huge user of energy.

We are spending the capital resources of our planet (oil, coal, uranium) to improve our standard of living. If we run out of capital before we develop sustainable replacements (space solar perhaps) we will follow the path of the Moties.

---------- Jim Coffey

At one time the giant sucking sound was to the South, and created jobs in the border areas; Free trade with Mexico gave them an advantage, but the jobs didn't go to China. Now...


Release the Giant Cobra Robot: Bollywood's Big, New Global Bet on Sci-Fi, 


A lovely new Bollywood trailer for a robot super hero, with accompanying story:


Now here’s the ominous bit:

“India was never known for special-effects movies, but things are changing because the country now has so many effects houses doing work for Western filmmakers,” says Gitish Pandya, who tracks the Indian movie industry and runs Box Office Guru. “We’re going to be seeing more Indian sci-fi because the technology and staffing is there.”

I read the warnings about outsourcing something like 30 years ago: you put the equipment there, then there are engineers, then you have competitors with a lower cost basis than yours. We saw it in electronics. Now we’re seeing it in special effects. Pretty soon only the actors will live in Hollywood. All else will be elsewhere, and your company town will be a shell. Nice, eh?

Anyway, enjoy the trailer. It’s fun.


I can hardly wait.


Wisconsin's is not the first runaway legislature

I cannot find an exact reference, and I don't remember on which C-SPAN or BookTV show I heard the story told, but...

When the legislature of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania met, in 1787, to vote on calling a convention in that State to ratify the newly-proposed Federal Constitution, the Federalists had the necessary majority of legislators, but were two short of having the necessary quorum.

The anti-Federalist legislators had run away and barricaded themselves in a tavern.

The Federalists thereupon convened a mob, broke into the tavern, seized two of the anti-Federalists and dragged them through the streets to the State House (now known as Independence Hall), thereby securing the necessary quorum. The bill to call a ratifying convention passed forthwith, with two dissenting votes.

This story is generally consistent with (though somewhat more colorful than) this reference:


Rod Montgomery==monty@starfief.com

I am not sure I ever heard that one before. Thank you.


LA Snow

Dr. Pournelle,

From Sunday, Feb 27: "...I am not sure the consensus has agreed on an acceptable theory on how warmer air in cold dry areas has caused snow in the Hollywood Hills..."

I've heard a plausible explanation for this. Sans global warming, the winter temperature at the North Pole is say -20 degrees. This cold dense air causes an intense high pressure that effectively bottles up the cold air with a strong circumpolar circulation. If the polar temperature 'warms' to say 0 degrees, the high pressure is not so intense, the circumpolar circulation becomes wobbly, and this 'warmer' air (zero degrees) spills out to lower latitudes.

Best Regards, Art Vaughn

Perhaps. But of course plausible is not what science needs. Plausible is for novelists like me. Lawyers want evidence of their views and leave counter examples to the opposition. Science needs evidence and must take account of all of it, including why this didn't happen last year, and an hypothesis about what will happen next year. Freud could explain everything that anyone ever did. So can L. Ron Hubbard. Science works differently.


Subject: Septimius Severus

Jerry, you wrote on Sunday that Septimius Severus was the first emperor of Rome to be proclaimed in the provinces. I don't think so, and Wikipedia agrees. That "honor" goes to Vespasian who was proclaimed in Judea in the Year of Four Emperors after Nero died, over 120 years before Severus came to power.


You are of course correct. Indeed, it was of Vespasian that Tacitus wrote of the discovery of the dread secret that emperors could be made in places other than Rome. The parallels between what happened after Commodus and what happened after Nero are close enough to be confusing when I'm writing an essay and don't look things up. Severus ruled purely by the consent of the army and didn't even pretend to the consent of the people, so he's a better example of what I was trying to show.

The real questions tested here are the limits of rule by force in these times of communications. Not may science fiction writers including me really saw all this coming, certainly not so soon. I used to write of the computer as the great equalizer. giving a great deal of power to the people, and Arthur Koestler noted that the free exchange of ideas will end a totalitarian state (but not an authoritarian dictatorship: totalitarians want you to believe; authoritarians like Franco are content that you do not actively oppose).

Septimius Severus was the first non Roman emperor of Rome. He was also the last Italian Emperor of old Rome.


“Everyone was greedy. I just went along. It’s not an excuse.”


- Roland Dobbins

One of the characters in Mary McCarthy's Groves of Academe is so liberal that if the President of the CIO burned down her house and sowed the ground with salt, she would want to know why he had done such a thing. I presume there are those who want to understand Madoff.


GO - as in the game


I happened to be cleaning out some old boxes when I happened across a column from Byte that you wrote in 1986. (And yes, I was a subscriber and a BIXen back then) This little column was about a GO playing game called Nemesis which played at 20 kyu. Back in those days, in an artificial intelligence class I was taking, I took a brief stab at writing a small GO program and then became enchanted with the graphics side of it and never did much else with it. Last week I happened to download GOBan, and have been trying to remember all the things I've forgotten in the 20 years since I last played seriously, so I was amused to find this in a box along with a flyer from Nemesis about ordering the game. GoBan apparently can be pushed to about a 5kyu but I don't think anyone has really tested it in years.

Anyway, there isn't much point to this note other than to say that the more things change, the more they stay the same. 25 years later, I still enjoy a good rummage around the inside of a computer and Go, and you are at Chaos Manor enjoying the view.


I used to get a new Go player -- either a small dedicated system or a DOS program -- every few months. I havent seen or thought about a Go teacher/player in years. For that matter I haven't thought about playing Go in years. I'll have to have a look to see what's out there. Thanks!




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Tuesday,  March 2, 2011

"The Decline of U.S. Naval Power "


We should not let this happen.


It usually takes a long time to rebuild naval power. It also takes a while to develop a blue water Navy. The USSR sort of gave up. Now comes China, which already has a large presence.


KPCB - USA Inc. - 


A team led by a partner at Kleiner Perkins has prepared a financial statement for the USA. The forward is signed by by George P. Shultz, Paul Volcker, Michael Bloomberg, Richard Ravitch and John Doerr. This is not a lightweight thing. Quite interesting. I have just started reading it.

For those of your readers not familiar with Kleiner Perkins, they are perhaps the most important venture capital firm of the Internet era.


USA Inc.is a non-partisan report that looks at the U.S. federal government (and its financials) as if it were a business. Mary Meeker <http://www.kpcb.com/team/index.php?Mary%20Meeker>  , partner at KPCB and former financial analyst at Morgan Stanley, created and compiled the report with the goal of informing the discussion about our financial situation and outlook. USA Inc. examines the country’s income statement and balance sheet, aiming to interpret the underlying data and facts, and illustrate patterns and trends in easy-to-understand ways. The report also analyzes the drivers of federal revenue and the history of expense growth, and discusses basic scenarios for how revenue and expense growth might change to help America move toward positive cash flow.


Jim Riticher

I will try to look at it. Meanwhile I await comments.


Never Fight a Land War in Asia | STRATFOR, 


Strafor has an interesting read on why the US should not fight land wars in Asia:




Cold Fusion and Experts.


If there is anything in the Rossi cold fusion device there is an easy way to silence those skeptics who are not so wedded to their beliefs as to be beyond reason. Assuming a raw output of 10kw it shouldn't be too difficult to obtain, say, 1kw of usable power. Mount the whole apparatus on a sheet of acrylic to exclude the hidden wire argument and then use the power to drive a fan. A 1kw fan is a serious bit of industrial kit. I confess to my prejudice now. Fleischman and Pons were both established and respected electrochemists. Either they jointly decided to commit professional suicide in return for brief notoriety, followed by a lifetime of denigration or they really did get the result they claimed. On a balance of probability it seems to me that they stumbled on something which has no theoretical support. Astonishingly, the theoreticians interpret this as fraud and not as a deficiency of theory. A striking example of this phenomena was a BBC science programme about ball lightning. An Americam physicist spent his sabbatical researching this for the US submarine service. He got quite good at producing ball lightning by switching a submarine battery on and off load in an atmosphere resembling that of a submerged conventional submarine, (don't ask). About two weeks later the subject came up again and this time a different expert confidently stated that ball lightning does not exist. I have always wanted to be an expert myself and the idea that expertise in a non-existent phenomena could be a source of fees caused me to entertain so far unrealised hopes.

Of course one has to be careful. A serious public scientific conference pre-announced that they were to demonstrate perpetual motion and delegates were invited to detect the fraud, if any. It consisted of what appeared to be, and was, a slowly rotating but quite ordinary racing bicycle wheel in a glass case. It was mounted vertically on acrylic forks and artistically lit by a quartz halogen lamp. As you can imagine all sorts of detectors were pointed at this thing and unless my memory is at fault quite without result. In defence of the deluded scientists with their barrow loads of the latest and most sensitive instruments. I should say that halogen lamps were relatively new at the time. All that was happening was that the hot lamp playing on one side of the wheel caused the spokes to expand enough to unbalance the wheel so causing it to rotate.

I have a visceral loathing of faux professional experts. For example Randi, an accomplished stage magician. denigrates Yuri Geller as a fake psychic. This may or may not be correct, but since Randi refuses to disclose how he uses trickery to reproduce Geller's supposedly psychic effects, there is no actual evidence of trickery. On the evidence Randi might be using psychic powers himself. Unlikely certainly, but on the evidence alone there is no reason to favour either party.

Your correspondent, the skeptics sceptic, John Edwards

The Fleischman/Pons experiments sometimes did produce watts without neutrons; the last theory I read on why was that it was a form of battery effect. I note that low level experiments continue.

The notion that Randi is a psychic is amusing but unlikely. Randi often demonstrates how certain illusions are performed, or at least he certainly did so when he performed for the science press corps at AAAS meetings. My pro-psychic friends tell me that Geller is sometimes empowered and then his performances are real, but all too often he hasn't got the power and has to resort to tricks. I can testify to the latter having seen one of the "this time it was tricks" performances. My late mad friend Dan MacLean used to point out some of Geller's techniques. I hadn't realized he was still around.

Cold fusion would be so valuable that it would be worth a lot of effort to get it, but of course wishing doesn't make it so.


Book Review - "The Information"


"What, exactly, is information? Prior to Shannon [Claude Shannon, the inventor of information theory], Mr. Gleick notes, the term seemed as hopelessly subjective as "beauty" or "truth." But in 1948 Shannon, then working for Bell Laboratories, gave information an almost magically precise, quantitative definition: The information in a message is inversely proportional to its probability. Random "noise" is quite uniform; the more surprising a message, the more information it contains. Shannon reduced information to a basic unit called a "bit," short for binary digit. A bit is a message that represents one of two choices: yes or no, heads or tails, one or zero."

Charles Brumbelow

I first read Shannon's book in about 1953. It was hard slogging at the time, but the insight stayed with me. I met Shannon once some time ago. He was very cheerful but his wife sometimes had to answer questions for him.


National Geographic - Global Cooling


Did you read the article in the National Geographic about limited nuclear war causing global cooling? NG Article <http://news.nationalgeographic.com/

The article says that limited war could cause global cooling. Since the whole Nuclear Winter thing has been amply debunked, why would they print something this inane?


Well, the science ain't bad: depends on the particulates put into the stratosphere.


A few stories from Merrie Auld England...

PlayStation 3s banned in Europe <http://tinyurl.com/6bb57mm>  <http://tinyurl.com/6b4xwfghttp://tinyurl.com/6b4xwfg>  <http://tinyurl.com/4gbl55m

Secret UK court opened up <http://tinyurl.com/6g2l9l9

Postcode lottery for Alzheimer's <http://tinyurl.com/4um8q7j

Hospital admissions are currently being delayed until the new fiscal year. <http://tinyurl.com/6ypwqo2

German defence minister loses his doctorate and his job <http://tinyurl.com/6ejk32k>  <http://tinyurl.com/5ws2pj5

Gender ruling on insurance costs <http://tinyurl.com/6a6erc9>  <http://tinyurl.com/6cfhmue> . I wonder how long until the insurance companies stop writing the kinds of insurance covered by the ruling.

Gordon Brown blocked knighthood for Steve Jobs because he turned down an invitation to speak at the Labour Party Conference. <http://tinyurl.com/5rzx9qv

-- Why I use a Macintosh: Eccl 12:3 "those who look through the windows see dimly" (Crossan's translation).

Harry Erwin


Indicators of War


This is all pretty gloomy in sum:

<snip> The Pentagon is deploying naval and air forces around Libya as the US and UK governments consider tougher measures to force Muammer Gaddafi from power, including the possible establishment of a no-fly zone.

“We must not tolerate this regime using military force against its own people,” David Cameron, UK prime minister, said. “In that context I have asked the Ministry of Defence [sic] and the Chief of the Defence [sic] Staff to work with our allies on plans for a military no-fly zone.”



Humanitarian war, or some form of it will likely constitute the buzzword to sell this military adventure. This could get most interesting and the conflict could escalate beyond Libya; other nations have interests there. Notice China. Again, the focus is China and Russia. The rest is the patter.

<snip> WASHINGTON (AFP) – China's holdings of US bonds reached $1.16 trillion at the end of December, almost $270 billion more than previously estimated, new data showed Monday.

Beijing, which has converted much of a huge trade surplus with the United States over the past two decades into buying up US treasuries and other securities, held 26.1 percent of the total of $4.44 trillion held by foreigners, the Treasury said.



The significance of 270 Billion USD in 2011 is not the issue, the issue is that China's reserves are larger than estimated. That piece of information is now in the index. What a time to add it.

Recursing to Libya and the article from the Financial Times of London, I found this line of particular interest:


She [Secretary of State Hillary Clinton] insisted the naval deployments did not signal pending military action, emphasising [sic] instead that refugees might need to be rescued at sea amid a worsening humanitarian crisis.



Yes, now it is a "humanitarian crisis", which necessitates a build up of military forces. But, these forces do not signal impending military action. *waves hand in front of reader's eyes* These are not the droids you are looking for.

I think Gaddafi remained a target of opportunity all these years. It seems the Anglo-American establishment plans to kill Gaddafi:

<snip> The UK, meanwhile, has frozen at least £1bn of assets belonging to Col Gaddafi and five members of his family.

With Col Gaddafi apparently willing to fight to the death, some opponents of the regime are arguing that the international community should threaten military action, in an effort to persuade the Libyan leader’s forces to defect and hasten his downfall.



Apparently, Gaddafi's fixed wing aircraft are depleted. I read that in the FT article. That FT article is interesting. I think they are going to finish the job from the 80's. There is more:


A no-fly zone would be designed principally to prevent attacks on Libyan people by the Gaddafi regime – mainly by his helicopter gun ships.



The FT article mentions the gunships, but not so much about the no-fly zones. The FT article said that getting UN approval for the no-fly zones would be difficult -- because of China. But, it also mentioned that UK fighter jets would use a base in Cyprus to enforce a no-fly zone. Well, this no fly zone is going to have to be pretty far inland if they are targeting helicopters. So, it seems there will be military action in the area even as they are telling us there will not be military action in the area. What a surprise. But, what is not a surprise is that -- once more -- you cannot get a cigarette paper between the UK Prime Minister and the US President -- ever.


Most Respectfully,

Joshua Jordan, KSC Percussa Resurgo

There will be wars and rumors of war...

If you would have peace, be prepared for war. In war, luck goes mostly to the well prepared.

What's the point of this great army if you can't use it? (And see below)


Williams: 'If those decisions were made through a democratic process, the average person would see it as tyranny and not personal liberty.'


-- Roland Dobbins


Average Joe: The Return of Stalin Apologists.


--- Roland Dobbins

And there are periodic attempts to exonerate the Rosenbergs and Alger Hiss. Stalinism is alive and well in American academia, particularly in literature departments. Long live Theory.


The Goldilocks Meteorite?


--- Roland Dobbins


For a PDF copy of A Step Farther Out:



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Wednesday, March 3, 2011

I missed this day.




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CURRENT VIEW    Wednesday


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Thursday, March 4, 2011

Russians intercept Kzinti ship

Close encounters of the purred kind: Aliens spoke to us in a 'cat-like language' claim Russian flight controllers By Daily Mail Reporter <http://www.dailymail.co.uk/home/
search.html?s=y&authornamef=Daily+Mail+Reporter>  Last updated at 5:08 PM on 1st March 2011

Air traffic controllers in Siberia claim they were buzzed by a high-speed UFO with a female sounding alien who spoke in an unintelligible cat-like language. [Hero's Tongue, of course!]

The mystery object suddenly burst onto flight monitors over the remote Russian diamond capital of Yakutsk.

It was shown flying at a speed of slightly over 6000 mph, and rapidly changing direction in the early morning sky, it is claimed. Scroll down to see the video

Alien encounter: The UFO is the craft in the centre of the screen closest to the gold writing. In the video the UFO moves comparatively quickly across the radar <http://i.dailymail.co.uk/i

Alien encounter: The UFO is the craft in the centre of the screen closest to the gold writing. In the video the UFO moves comparatively quickly across the radar

The UFO was logged at a height of 64, 895 feet above sea level and appeared to interfere with aviation frequencies.

On footage posted on You Tube, an air traffic controller made clear he sought to make contact with the UFO.

The Russian aviation workers are heard in the control tower trying to make contact with the ship.

A radar shows the UFO moving rapidly through the skies while surrounding planes in the air travel much slower.

'I kept hearing some female voice, as if a woman was saying mioaw-mioaw all the time,' he told the pilot of a passing Aeroflot flight.

His communication to the Russian plane were disrupted by interference from the UFO, it was claimed.

The air traffic control monitor automatically designated the UFO as '00000' because it did not have a flight number.

The footage was first posted last month but it is unclear when it was taken. A shot of the airport did not appear to show any snow which isnormal for eight months a year in Yakutsk, where the temperature last night was minus 36C.

At one point the UFO is showing moving away from Yakutsk at great speed before turning and heading back towards the city.

There was no comment last night from airport officials on the alleged UFO

Some experts claim that it is widely known that UFOs have made contact and landed on earth but details have never been made public.

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article


Of course there's a government cover-up. They don't want to cause panic. The story is being suppressed.


SmartGo Kifu for iPad.


- Roland Dobbins

I recall that this was one of the better Go training programs offering a number of lessons in joseki. I don't recall how well it played with a full board, but anyone learning Go would profit from the lessons; if you don't know how to do tactical maneuvers you are at a disadvantage. On the other hand, among masters the slogan is "learning joseki gives a two stone disadvantage" meaning that rote learning of tactical moves detracts from one's strategic sense.


Further University Funding Stories 

The UK universities are moving en-mass to charge the maximum--£9000 ($14,400) per year--or just slightly less. Meanwhile it comes out that the Government was advised by the only survey they did that £6000 per year was the maximum acceptable level to the population. <http://tinyurl.com/6ctomj4

In response to this stampede, the Government is now planning to open up degree-awarding powers to franchise operations. <http://tinyurl.com/4nw2lgz

Letter from academics: <http://tinyurl.com/4o2njko>  <http://tinyurl.com/6glk3tl

Problems with vocational programmes: <http://tinyurl.com/5u429yy

Government decides to pause for more consultation. <http://tinyurl.com/65klpta>  "Unfortunately, a rising tide won't help a craft that has been holed below the waterline."

Guardian commentary: "Once higher education was a public good...." <http://tinyurl.com/6xycsod>  Public goods are defined here: <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Public_good> .

-- Why I use a Macintosh: Eccl 12:3 "those who look through the windows see dimly" (Crossan's translation). Harry Erwin

The goal in the US is to see to it that only the very rich will graduate without a crushing loan burden; thus there will be a number of educated bond slaves to work for those who graduate debt free. Of course the tax burden will make it nearly impossible for anyone to get into the class whose kids graduate debt free. A few will, by going to work for Goldman Sachs and such, but most professionals will no longer be middle class: they will be debtors who can be ordered about.

Welcome to the brave new world. England is used to that sort of thing. Americans are not. Yet.


Hate Speech


>>To summarize: The Westbro Baptist Church prophecies the utter destruction of the United States because it tolerates homosexuality in the military. It does so by picketing the funerals of dead soldiers. It is difficult to imagine speech more offensive.

When Mrs John Edwards (wife of th former senator and vice-presidential candidate) died of cancer a couple of months back, this "church" demonstrated outside her funeral in downtown Raleigh, with signs such as "Elizabeth Edwards rots in Hell". The community response was to surround them with peaceful demonstrators and drown out their hate speech with hymns and patritic songs.


-- ~   Cecil Rose

Is this an attempt to show something even more gross? It fails, but that's not the point.

Clearly a marching band has every right to drown out the protestors, but that isn't really the point.


"This should have considerable impact on hate speech laws; .."

As I was reading that, it occurred to me that this should also have a profound effect on any attempt at a new "Fairness Doctrine."

Drill here, DRILL NOW!

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

As well as suppression as hate speech of almost anything one can say about Muslims, or for that matter almost anyone else. Which is as well, since the concept of Hate Speech as a Thoughtcrime is frightening.


I think a remedy for the Westboro church is the Marine Band, or Army or Navy as the case may be. As bands can play appropriate music for the occasion, and can march to the correct location, they would be able to stick a few Sousaphones in front of any banners. A color guard would be appropriate and a few veterans, if they see fit to volunteer. The dishonor displayed by the Phelps family, hard to call it a church apparently as it is reported that most are members of the leader's family, should be dealt with in a firm but civil manner. In fact more than a few flags would be appropriate and I suspect that there would be volunteers to carry them. If this becomes a reality, I will be happy to participate in my town. But the supreme court, note the lower case as indicative of their class, needs to consider that young men whom the nation hires to go to war, deserve a respectful funeral. And if the national leaders, again in lower case etc., can't provide for proper courtesy in such cases, they should be retired to the backwoods to learn what this country is about.



'Those vans are capable of scanning people, the inside of cars and even the internals of some buildings while rolling down public streets. '


--- Roland Dobbins

Salve, Sclave!


Re: TSA Scanners on the Street?


The full article is here:


It contains a link to some or all of the documents obtained (which I have not read).

The article describes TSA planning and exploratory projects. In addition to plans to implement TSA airport-style screening in train stations and on mass-transit, TSA documents revealed:

"The projects range from what the DHS describes as “a walk through x-ray screening system that could be deployed at entrances to special events or other points of interest” to “covert inspection of moving subjects” employing the same backscatter imaging technology currently used in American airports."


"One project allocated to Northeastern University and Siemens would mount backscatter x-ray scanners and video cameras on roving vans, along with other cameras on buildings and utility poles, to monitor groups of pedestrians, assess what they carried, and even track their eye movements. In another program, the researchers were asked to develop a system of long range x-ray scanning to determine what metal objects an individual might have on his or her body at distances up to thirty feet."

The article includes reports on TSA's response to the report, which focuses on efforts to maintain the anonymity of those so searched. In other words, it seems TSA is oblivious to the 4th Amendment to the US Constitution and its prohibition on search without warrant and probable cause.

Looking at another aspect of this, I find it impossible to understand how even unreasonable minds would find searches of or at "special events", "other points of interest", "pedestrians", "buildings", and even automobiles to be within TSA's mission. The appropriate description of such inclusion is 'irrational'.

Regards, George

Let's give these people even more power. Think how safe we will be. We don't need on stinking Bill of Rights.


CBC News : Solar study sheds light on sunspot doldrums

I thought you might be interested in this article.

Changes in the flow of plasma deep below the sun's surface could be behind the recent period of unusually low sunspot activity.


This story, forwarded to you, appears on http://www.cbc.ca at the following URL:


Regards, Bill Wilkinson

I confess to knowing nothing about solar sunspot theory. Thanks


Of course, the liberal view is "what's yours is mine".

See, for example, Jonah Goldberg at NRO, on Michael Moore: *

 The economically literate will compete with the liberty loving to see who can be more offended by Michael Moore’s idiocy here. <http://www.realclearpolitics.com/video/2011/03/02/

“They’re sitting on the money, they’re using it for their own — they’re putting it someplace else with no interest in helping you with our life, with that money. We’ve allowed them to take that. That’s not theirs, that’s a national resource, that’s ours. We all have this, we all benefit from this or we all suffer as a result of not having it,” Michael Moore told Laura Flanders of GRITtv.

The money he’s talking about, by the way, is basically the money you have in the bank.


And no, the economically literate will not 'compete' to do anything. We're too busy cleaning the coffee out of the keyboard...

-- R. Geoffrey Newbury
Barrister and Solicitor  Ontario, 

I do not think Michael Moore could say anything that would surprise me much. Of course the liberal view is not quite as you state it. The view is that everything belongs to the state which generously allows you to keep some; but it gets complicated when one of the owners is, for example, George Soros. But since the state owns it all, it can be as generous as the liberals want it to be. It is very easy to be generous with money you do not yourself own; and it feels good.




- Roland Dobbins

Many really believe this. All that CO2 must be doing SOMETHING, and since it's not as hot and dry as we thought it would be, then it caused something else.

Now it may be that the snow and ice is from global warming, but I to not think the evidence is unambiguous. It's an hypothesis, but then there was the More Hurricanes hypothesis we don't hear so much about now.

I would be pleased to understand climate, but given that it's hard to find a decent explanation of how one goes about measuring the temperature of the Earth to one degree for a yearly average, and they need 0.1 degree for their predictions, I do not believe we are there yet. I am willing to be convinced, but I haven't been.

I don't think we know much about climate modeling, despite what we spend on it. And see View



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CURRENT VIEW    Thursday


This week:


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Friday,  March 4, 2011

Who needs a Stick, anyway? 

Dear Jerry,

I guess we ought not send ANY ships, planes or Marines to the Mediterranean, eh?

That seems to be Joshua Jordan's "analysis" . He seems disposed to argue that should we and the UK, (the one ally we can count on for anything more than "After you, Alphonse1" if the balloon goes up) send anything to the "Med", if we try to be prepared for evacuation of the approximately six thousand U.S. citizens still in Libya, we are simply gearing up for a revanchist assault, one self evidently long planned by the Anglo-Saxon (?) Establishment, on Gaddaffi.

The mind croggles.

So much for walking softly and carrying a Big Stick. We can't think about brandishing the ol' stick the least bit, lest it upset someone.

Color me disgusted.

Maybe La Belle France will save our bacon. They still have La Legion Etrangere. They might even give us a good price.



Mr. Jordan replies:

   I never said that what I posted was analysis.  I posted some snippets of articles with some comments.  I find the propaganda amusing and so I pointed out that -- since leftists are in power -- we will see "humanitarian war" as a buzzword. [My intention was] satire. 

 My concerns about Libya follow: does this investment of our time, money, and military resources make sense?  Do we have competent leadership in Washington?  Do we have competent generals?  Do we have the public support necessary to maintain the op tempo?  After answering all these questions, does this investment still make sense?  The questions answer themselves . . .

 Joshua Jordan, KSC

== I have no objection to an American presence in such areas; I do think we are broke, and we ought to think hard about what fights we pick. We have a better reason to go wring Gaddafi's neck than we had for invading Iraq in the Second Gulf War. I have no objection to the big stick, and I don't advocate that we always speak softly; but I do think that we are not very competent at the empire game, and that it is easier to get into a war than to get out of one. I do not mind using force to protect Americans and American interests; but I do think we need to give profound thought to any action that increases our commitments.

Britain, France, and Italy have far more pressing interests in Libya than we do. But then they had more interests in the Balkans than we did, but that didn't stop us from frittering about there and eventually handing Kosovo Serbs over to the tender mercies of the Albanians.

I don't believe that there is a conspiracy to invade Libya; I do think that many of Obama's advisors think a quick and successful American adventure in Libya would be a Good Think. Most Presidents like to be remembered for a successful war. The emphasis, of course, is on successful. Success in war is never certain, even when you win all the battles.


I also note that imposing a no-fly zone is an act of war, and not the president's decision. Only Congress can declare war. In an emergency the President can use the military to provide rescue and assistance in aid of American citizens. Roosevelt told Churchill that he could make war, but only Congress could declare war. But even after the sinking of the Reuben James by the German navy, the US was not at war with Germany however much the President thought war with Germany necessary to the national security and the preservation of civilization.

If we decide to impose a no-fly zone on Libya it will require an act of Congress even in this modern era of the living documents...  At least it should require an act of Congress


Inside Gadhafi's Secret Underground Arsenal,


Seems that Gadhafi had stocks of weapons and ammo squirreled away, and now it’s in the hands of the rebels:


Big oops there.


In war, luck goes mostly to the well prepared. Ignoring the principle of security is never wise.


Obama Category Error 

"Bhatti, a campaigner for human rights causes, had been aware of threats to his life. Obama said Bhatti "fought for and sacrificed his life for the universal values that Pakistanis, Americans and people around the world hold dear" — including rights to free speech and religious freedom."


When one fails to recognize Reality. it rarely returns the favor.


And on that we can freely agree.


"Discovery" made of how ice sheets form


3 March 2011 Last updated at 19:00 GMT

Antarctic ice sheet built 'bottom-up'

By Jonathan Amos Science correspondent, BBC News

Description: Radar image (AGAP)

Radar reveals the ghostly shapes of the Gamburtsevs and the giant freeze-on "beehive" structure above

Scientists have seen once again just how dynamic a place the underside of the Antarctic ice sheet can be.

Survey data collected from the middle of the White Continent shows liquid water is being frozen on to the bottom of the sheet in huge quantities.

In places, this deeply buried add-on layer is hundreds of metres thick and represents about half of the entire ice column, researchers say.

The discovery is reported online in the journal Science <http://www.sciencemag.org/> .

Project leaders confess to being astonished by the findings.

"It's jaw-dropping, I have to say," said Professor Robin Bell from Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory.

"The first time I showed the data to colleagues, there was an audible gasp," she told BBC News.

The new data will add to the understanding of how the ice sheet expands and moves, which in turn will inform researchers as they try to grasp how Antarctica might change in a warmer world.




The new non-partisan, non-political Berkeley Earth Project

Hello Jerry,

Berkeley Earth embarks on its study of Global Warming.

"Why does Muller feel compelled to shake up the world of climate change <http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/scienceofclimatechange>  ? "We are doing this because it is the most important project in the world today. Nothing else comes close," he says."

Well, that sure bodes well for an independent, non-partisan, non-political investigation. NOTHING could be more important than whether the 'Temperature of the Earth' has changed by .75 degree over the last century or so.

"Publishing an extensive set of temperature records is the first goal of Muller's project. The second is to turn this vast haul of data into an assessment on global warming. Here, the Berkeley team is going its own way again. The big three groups – Nasa, Noaa and the Met Office – work out global warming trends by placing an imaginary grid over the planet and averaging temperatures records in each square. So for a given month, all the records in England and Wales might be averaged out to give one number. Muller's team will take temperature records from individual stations and weight them according to how reliable they are.

This is where the Berkeley group faces its toughest task by far and it will be judged on how well it deals with it. There are errors running through global warming data that arise from the simple fact that the global network of temperature stations was never designed or maintained to monitor climate change. The network grew in a piecemeal fashion, starting with temperature stations installed here and there, usually to record local weather.

Among the trickiest errors to deal with are so-called systematic biases, which skew temperature measurements in fiendishly complex ways. Stations get moved around, replaced with newer models, or swapped for instruments that record in celsius instead of fahrenheit. The times measurements are taken varies, from say 6am to 9pm. The accuracy of individual stations drift over time and even changes in the surroundings, such as growing trees, can shield a station more from wind and sun one year to the next. Each of these interferes with a station's temperature measurements, perhaps making it read too cold, or too hot. And these errors combine and build up.

This is the real mess that will take a Herculean effort to clean up. The Berkeley Earth team is using algorithms that automatically correct for some of the errors, a strategy Muller favours because it doesn't rely on human interference. When the team publishes its results, this is where the scrutiny will be most intense."

Having going into great detail to explain unambiguously that historical global temperature records are garbage, the plan is to feed the garbage into a computer, have the computer correct all the errors, and produce gold. As a side effect, they will render obsolete one of the oldest and most familiar acronyms of the cyber world.

As they say, 'Completion of the exercise is left to the student.'.

Bob Ludwick

I do not view this quite so cynically: one hopes that this will generate a real discussion on the limits of measurement accuracy. Just how accurately do we know these temperatures, and how accurately can we know them? If there is a good presentation and discussion on this I don't know of it. I eagerly await it.



I read your website weekly. Thanks for leaving it open for those of use who can't afford to be members (at least for now). I've been out of work for over 6 months. I've received 3 project offers in the last 2 months, but all have fallen through and now am starting over again. I plan to subscribe when I get a job. Anyway, I enjoy reading your opinions!

Thanks, C

We will continue to operate on the Public Radio model for as long as we can, meaning so long as those who can afford to send in their subscriptions. We are not after anyone's rent money here. I'll take the beer money...


I have added Mr. Jordan's response to Petronius above.





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This week:


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Saturday, March 5, 2011

Regarding  Libya:

An Administration that sends US enforcement agents armed with BEANBAGS against fully armed insurgents in our border drug wars, while waging war on civilians who want to take public transportation, is NOT going to stay to see any combat operation through.



Not unrelated:



Overall assessment: I still disagree with you on strategy regarding Iraq, but certainly events on the ground have borne you out.


Maybe we can give the Marines some bean bags and send them to Tripoli.



 read book now




CURRENT VIEW     Saturday

This week:


read book now


Sunday,  March 6, 2011     

Global Average Temperature: What It Isn't


I think you and Dr. Briggs must have had a mind meld. I haven't seen this yet on your site, but it sounds like you might have inspired it.

Global Average Temperature: What It Isn’t <http://wmbriggs.com/blog/?p=3558

Al Perrella

See also http://wmbriggs.com/blog/?p=3562 on Bayesian analysis and models. Dr. Briggs calls himself statistician to the stars, and spends more time thinking about this than I do. We seem to have similar conclusions.


Special Operations: Egypt Quietly Invades Libya, 


I suspect this is a more effective way to help get rid of Kaddafi:


“Egypt has apparently sent some of its commandos in to help out the largely amateur rebel force. Wearing civilian clothes, the hundred or so Egyptian commandos are officially not there, but are providing crucial skills and experience to help the rebels cope . . . There are also some commandos from Britain (SAS) and American (Special Forces) operators are also believed wandering around, mainly to escort diplomats or perform reconnaissance (and find out who is in charge among the rebels).” <snip>


Adult supervision.


Re: military funerals

 Dr. P In case no one else has informed you, those who wish to do something to protect the family and friends of our fallen war heroes at their burial services can join the Patriot Guard Riders ( www.patriotgaurd.org ).  This is a loosely organized group of Veterans who assemble at military funerals and form flag lines to shield funeral goers from the sight of the members of this so-called church. They also perform escort duties from services to burial sites. One need not currently be a biker (I am a used-to-be biker) to join and participate. I am not sure if Veteran status is a requirement, but all the members I met at the one service I have had the unfortunate privilege to attend so far were. Non-Vets could just show up at the services and volunteer to man the flag line. It’s the least one can do to show respect for our fallen comrades. Keep up the good work. I have been enjoying Chaos Manor (in print and electronic form) for years.


Roger Shorney


- Given that the nut cases were 1000 feet away and it was established at the trial that the family didn't know the content of their banners and protests until they saw them on the news shows covering the Westbro, this seems more well intentioned than necessary.

The Court didn't give Westbro the right to come into the funeral area and make their points; only to say their piece at a distance. It's true that Westbro uses the military funeral to draw attention to their message which otherwise might reach dozens and dozens of people, but it can't force the media to pay attention to them, and a clash is just what they want.

Jerry Pournelle
 Chaos Manor


Agreed. Wholeheartedly. But it is still a shame that such solemn events are used by these people in attempts to get attention for their cause. And at the services I attended, the demonstration permit that the city had issued to them was for a location a half mile or so away from the church. But it does make my blood boil to think about such protests at these services. Even if one does not agree with the reasons for the fighting, the men and women doing that fighting are still our friends, neighbors, relatives, co-workers, etc., and deserve all the respect and support that we at home can give them. And if they should happen to have to pay that ultimate price, their final services should be occasions of utmost respect, undertaken with propriety and decorum.

Thank you.

Roger Shorney,
6 years active duty, U.S.N.


Now we know the real purpose of the TSA - it's to make money.


--- Roland Dobbins 

As the Iron Law develops.


Subject: Orange CT union problems

Dear Dr. Pournelle,

Union shop steward was among the many jobs I did. First Selectman James Zeloi is reported as a bully. This is probably true. Managers and elected officials with his reported attitude are the biggest reasons unions were formed and continue to prosper. The union pointed out that the coffee and milk were secondary issues. If they were written in the contract, they can be negotiated right back out at the next contract negotiation. What they won at the state Labor Relations Board was the ruling that retaliation against disagreeable speech is not a valid reason for arbitrary removal of rights and privileges.

My own experience was in a big corporation. The national union office made it clear that the company must make money. Management must be obeyed, with disagreements negotiated later. Company policy declared that any grievance carried to arbitration and lost by the company meant instant termination for the responsible manager. We had many instances where certain rules or clauses were temporarily set aside in the interest of timely product delivery. Arbitrary declarations were met with instant opposition. Negotiated solutions went very smoothly. My main problem was tactfully explaining that the company guaranteed the members forty hours of work a week. It was up to them to do that work, and not complain about it.


William L. Jones


So the taxpayers can't remove free coffee from the perks that their employees get? Have a bonus. "Thanks. Wasn't enough." We're taking the bonus away. "You can't do that we will sue."

Perhaps they ought simply to hang Zeloi? Failing that, run someone against him?

Jerry Pournelle
Chaos Manor


Dear Dr. Pournelle,

No need to hang Selectman Zeloi, he can do that quite well himself. The union really should work with politicians to find a replacement.

Working with Dr. Pournelle, any of them, would be a privilege. Working for any of them would require common sense, and might be difficult for an old hourly laborer.


William L. Jones









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