CHAOS MANOR MAIL
Mail 296 February 9 - 15, 2004
Highlights this week:
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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.
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February 9, 2004
There will be a LOT of mail today, but it will take a bit of time to get it all up.
and led to http://www.enterprisemission.com/empire.html
Eric Pobirs comments:
I've never understood these lunatics. Unless there were actually a building with a sign on front reading "Pod Transhipping Facility" or "HQ for Secret Occupation of Terra" why in hell would NASA, an organization in desperate of the general public finding some reason to be interested, suppress the discovery of something INTERESTING?
This is like accusing Oliver Stone of suppressing new conspiratorial info about the JFK assassination.
And I would have to agree. I would also add that sustaining any conspiracy to suppress something that exciting would be damned near impossible: someone inside it would get the word out. As to my friend Arthur Clarke, understand that he is permanently in a wheel chair, and can only communicate by telephone and through email and the like. He lives in Sri Lanka, and has not had any opportunity to get out to JPL and talk to the people involved there. I wish he could.
And See Below
I have two letters on this:
Hi Dr. Pournelle,
I'm curious what you think of this:
Sincerely, Jeffrey Harris
Who cares about terrorists when the pilots are certifiably insane?
-- /\ Geoff. Lane. /\ Manchester Computing /\ Manchester /\ M13 9PL /\ England /\
Any comedy program described a "Zany" in the program guide will be rubbish.
Apparently an airline pilot carried what he considered his Christian duty to Witness a lot further than I would think appropriate. We do not go in for that sort of thing in these enlightened times. And of course there are those who say that anyone who professes belief in God in general and Christianity in particular is either stupid or a madman and need not be taken seriously about anything else.
I don't accept that, of course. What that says -- and Dawkins has said it explicitly -- is that the vast majority of people who live now or who ever lived were insane or stupid: only the properly enlightened deserve to have their views taken seriously.
Clearly I don't believe that. I haven't the proper talents for Christian apologetics to write very meaningfully on this, but do note: the pilot was taking his religion seriously. After all, if you believe as he does, then it's important to get other people to at least think about the subject. I would not have done as he did, and I don't spend my time proselytizing, or writing apologetics as did C. S. Lewis. I can refer you to two of Lewis's works if you take the issue seriously: The Great Divorce, and The Abolition of Man. His Screwtape Letters are amusingly thought-provoking, of course, and the Christian theme runs through most of his work. Lewis was brought to religion in part by his friend Professor J. R. R. Tolkien, of whom you will hear more when the Oscars are given out.
In any event, I don't intend to argue apologetics here. I think the pilot carried his zeal too far, but I don't see that anyone was harmed, and I certainly don't believe he was mad. Anyone whose atheism or non-Christian faith was shattered by this exhortation must be rather full of doubts.
I don't intend this to become a big argument. If I had my druthers I'd take a short sting of evangelism over the tender attentions and smarmy politeness of the TSA any day.
Something else to worry about:
FROM JOSEPH FARAH'S G2 BULLETIN
The outcome might not be so very predictable, all things considered.
Here's an interesting link. The author built a program to scan Amazon.com web pages, in particular the "people who bought this book also bought" links, to try and identify clusters of interest in a particular subject matter. When applied to a sample of political books, the results are revealing: "The pattern reveals two distinct clusters with dense internal ties. These political books are preaching to the converted. The extreme book titles on both sides reveal a focus on hate, instead of debate."
-- Talin (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Dear Dr. Pournelle,
While I understand that many Christians might disagree with me, the behavior of that pilot was not only inappropriate, it was wrong. First, while America is a predominately Christian nation, we do have large minorities of other beliefs both as citizens and as visitors. Christians should ask how they would feel if the pilot had been Buddhist or Moslem. Second, in a situation like that, with a captive audience, isn't that type of proselytizing akin to spam? I don't doubt his sincerity, I do question his judgment.
Patrick A. Hoage
But of course. I thought I had made that clear enough. But in the list of horrors to which we must submit in order to travel by air, that one is rather small. An excess of zeal is never desirable, and is seldom effective, but I will save my outrage for other sins.
My thoughts on the above subject:
- As you said, being devout, he would want to get people thinking and talking about the subject - BUT, there are more appropriate places to do it than from the pilot's position on a commercial airplane. This seems, to me, to be an abuse of power.
Now, if he wants to hand out tracts before he gets to his gate, or after he's landed the plane and is in the general populace area of an airport, that would be both devout and *wise*.
Just my $0.02,
And of course I agree, although "abuse of power" seems a bit extreme. Certainly he was unwise and inappropriate.
I noticed in Part 4 of your annual Orchid and Onion Parade you mention Microsoft optical mice. I recently bought a Wireless Optical Mouse 2.0 which sports the new tilt wheel. Despite the hype, IMHO the tilt feature is overshadowed by a different scroll wheel enhancement: MS has added acceleration and smooth scrolling to the venerable scroll wheel. Microsoft added adjustable acceleration to basic mouse pointer movement many years ago. Most of us use it in its default "low" setting, yet we would sorely miss it if it were removed entirely.
Acceleration of the wheel makes a huge difference -- scrolling is much more precise and intuitive, especially with long documents.
I recommend you give it a try and see for yourself. My biggest problem is budgetary - I now long to upgrade my other mice so all of them support this feature.
As always, thanks for your enjoyable and informative Chaos Manor column!
Brian Stewart, Database Administrator
Interesting. I haven't tried acceleration. Sounds as if I should.
I tend to do a lot of work with PC hardware for my linux machines (even though my one apple powerbook g4 is where my heart is). Anyway, I came across something that has really made my life easier, and it's so simple.
It's a PC screw assortment in a box:
best $8.95 I've ever spent. Now I don't end up digging around for the right screws. I have 50 of each size.
Wish Fry's would sell these.
Keep up the good work. (NASA has prizes now? are they listening?!?) Mike
That story is too hard. It breaks my heart.
An eternal story. Every generation learns. It is what sergeants are for.
Subject: Terrorists Assembling Bombs in Flight
Is 'Fly Nude' next? See < http://www.guardian.co.uk/airlines/story/0,1371,1143625,00.html >
-- "The difference between theory and practice is that, in theory, there is no difference between theory and practice, but in practice, there is." (Tom Vogl) Harry Erwin
At http://www.ceip.org/files/pdf/Policybrief24.pdf you will find a sobering essay on "nation building", by The Carnegie Endowment's Minxin Pei and Sara Kaspar.
From the summary: "Out of sixteen such efforts during the past century, democracy was sustained in only four cases ten years after the departure of US forces. Two of these followed the total defeat and surrender of Japan and Germanay after WWII, and two were tiny Grenada and Panama"
This time for sure.
Subject: Echoes of the 80s
Maybe the 70s. Whilst doing some reading for a policy/economics course, I found the headline below. I first met this assertion, as I recall, in "A Step Farther Out" in the 80s (or was it the 70s?). Yours Aye,
----------------------------------- Energy and Standard of Living There is an astonishing amount of evidence linking energy with standard of living. It is elaborated, among other places, in the pdf document available as http://www.undp.org/seed/pei/publication/energy.PDF
See, I told you so...
subject: Microscopic Artwork
Just wanted to drop you a line to let you know about a site called Molecular Expressions(tm), at http://www.molecularexpressions.com/
You can find links to some of the more interesting artwork drawn on IC chips in a short article I wrote on my weblog, The Gantry Launchpad: http://www.thegantry.net/blog/
Tux was the best.
Regards, Casey Tompkins
Just some stuff I happened
across that you and the others might enjoy.
Subject: To kill spam, follow the money...
I've been saying this for years now.
"Mitchell is an advocate of the new Can-Spam Act. She's particularly fond of Section 6, which she helped write. Bypassing issues like zombie computers and elusive spammers for hire, Section 6 targets the company whose product is being sold, not the spammer."
I had no idea that the Can-Spam Act had such a section. I hate to sound cynical, but will they really go after those companies? If they are serious about this, I'd be in the front row of whatever courtroom that holds the first trial against the first company they prosecute. Hell, I'd even save you a seat!
Remember the old game of 20 questions? Well, this is the computerised, Artificial Intelligence version. It's absolutely mind boggling in terms of its accuracy - give it a try. You'll be blown away!
Try this link: http://y.20q.net:8095/btest?xOSQesfvyzpWuYA2tl,GtWppE
And if that doesn't work, try the home page:
Absolutely wild - enjoy!
Best wishes, Charlie
Stephen Wolfram has published his book "A New Kind of Science" online. The entire book is available for registration, and it looks to be quite interesting...
If you remember, Wolfram was behind the company that produced the "Mathematica" computer program.
I bought the actual book. I probably should have waited...
Please note, the correct URL for the video is: http://www.maasdigital.com/gallery.html
The link you posted is now broken since we shift the video files around to manage bandwidth. The gallery.html link will always work. I would appreciate if you could edit your link to point there.
(your link is at the bottom of http://www.jerrypournelle.com/view/view295.html)
Thought you might find this interesting:
The article really is focused on the difficulty of achieving oil independence rather than energy independence, but the author makes some good points.
It seems to me if we were serious about energy independence we would not only be investing heavily in alternative technologies, but also building nuclear plants as fast as we could. Unfortunately, it seems we have to many political forces arrayed against changing the status quo. The publics fears are too easily mobilized and the oil companies have too much to lose if we end our dependence on oil any time soon.
Sincerely, Lawrence Hoagland
Seems that way to me as well...
February 10, 2004
Subject: Explanation of the Tubes
An interesting web site about the tubes and natural processes.
Charles Adams, Bellevue, NE
You can spend a lot of time at this site. The forests are there as well as the worms, and of course The Face is here. While I would very much like to believe is Martian forests and sandworms, I fear this is more likely.
Good News about Modula and Oberon:
Subject: Oberon and Oberon OS, successors to Modula-2
It appears that you're not the only one who thinks a Modula-2 type of OS would be a good idea. Some have even gone so far as to actually do it using Oberon, Wirth's latest language. Check out the WikiPedia definition and related pages, it looks interesting:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oberon_programming_language http://www.oberon.ethz.ch http://www.oberon.ethz.ch/native/
I've been planning some new projects, and have reached the conclusion that writing it in 'c' is just too much of a pain in the butt. So I'm going to use Perl. Half the code I need has already been written as modules and it makes things like linking to databases dead easy.
PERL may well be the way to go. PYTHON is excellent as well. But I still believe that strongly typed, strongly structured compiled languages with intelligent compilers will let you get the work done quicker with more confidence that the program does what you think it will do. Wirth understands this better than anyone I know. I didn't agree with him at first, but I have for some time.
Not usual for our dinner conversation, but a nicely done and quite brief article.
Much with which to agree! Your sons and I face a more worrisome future than I’d hoped. I’d like to see some economic courage from our representatives in federal government. Kerry???
I have recently read again Sir James Goldsmith's The Trap and while I think he was misinformed about nuclear energy, his economic analysis reads as if it were written today with hindsight instead of in 1992 forecasting. Boom and Bust and exporting your capabilities -- and your profits ---
As to Kerry and the Democrats, I wonder if the Democrats are not too beholden to special interests of a pernicious variety? But then the Country Club Republicans and their neoconservative allies -- I rather like the term neo-Jacobins as more descriptive -- have many markers out, and the concentration of wealth in this nation is not good for it or us.
Democracy is rule by the middle class: that is, if a government is to be stable and not an instrument of class warfare, then the only way to have a democratic government is to have it be rule by the middle class. The middle class are those who possess the goods of fortune in moderation. This is pure Aristotle, and I haven't seen it bettered: all history since Aristotle bears him out, particularly his "Constitutions of Athens" work.
A republic, which incorporates elements of monarchy, aristocracy, plutocracy, and democracy all in one government of checks and balances can also be stable and pleasant. It can be torn apart by some issues: the Civil War, which among the elites was over supremacy of states vs. the federal government, and among economic interests over manufacturing and tariff policies vs. agriculture and more or less free trade, enlisted the slavery issue to get the masses interested and excited, and as a result became a holy war. (That it wasn't precisely over slavery is illustrated by the fact that slavery was not abolished in the District of Columbia until after the War Between the States, although no one had the slightest doubt that Congress had every right to abolish slavery in the DC at any time it wanted to by simple majority vote.) But leave that: my point was that certain issues become so emotional that they can tear a republic apart.
When that happens, the inevitable result is to turn to strong central government and give it extraordinary powers. Those powers are self-perpetuating, and the bureaucracies inevitably recruited to carry out the missions of strong government inevitably seek new reasons to justify their powers and the very large slice of the republic's wealth they take.
The crisis started in America in The Great Depression, itself intensified by Hoover's centralist attempts to get us out of it -- a previous recession had been weathered by doing nothing -- and then came Roosevelt, who restructured the state/federal relations and created a bureaucracy to carry out his economic program. The program failed, and then came World War II. A majority of Americans wanted us to stay out of the war, but also were willing to fight if it looked as if Britain would lose; and certainly a majority approved all measures short of war to aid Britain. Japan and Germany solved that moral dilemma at Pearl Harbor and Hitler's followup declaration of war. WW II ended and we began going back to normalcy, and dismantling the bureaucracy and disbanding the armed forces, and the example of Britain made it clear that this was the right way to go.
And then came the Cold War, and the centralization continued. I was of the opinion that we had no choice. So was Possony. The USSR would not have collapsed had it been able to feed itself by expansion. Empires can make war feed war, and the USSR would have had Europe to the Rhine, perhaps to the Spanish Border, perhaps to Gibraltar had the US not been vigorous in containment. But that had a terrible price: the abolition of the US Constitution.
The Constitution and the federal system were gravely wounded by Roosevelt's fascist new deal (it was fascism, as Huey Long knew: the NIRA was pure Mussolini fascism personified); the wounds were deepened by World War II; and between the Cold War and the Great Society (the Great Society legislation was the price the liberals exacted for allowing us to fight the Cold War) the Constitution is either dead or nearly so.
Clearly the County Club Republicans are not interested in returning any power to the states or to the people. Neither are the Democrats with their voting bloc arithmetic.
So: you ask about Kerry, and I don't know what he stands for other than that Kerry ought to have high political office: he has been all over all the issues voting in ways that defy any attempt to deduce principles; and throwing away another man's medals in the purport that they were his (well deserved) own medals is odd. But that was a long time ago, and youthful enthusiasms often justify odd actions. It's his legislative record that puzzles me.
Sir James Goldsmith saw clearly that unrestricted free trade would mean that corporations would be forced to export manufacturing jobs and after those much of the service industry to places where you can hire "37 Vietnamese for the price of one Frenchman". Prosperity that requires you to send your most important capabilities out of the country and move your most important operations overseas may be false prosperity. Wealth created by stock manipulations and bubbles and stocks at 100 times earnings may be unstable. And exporting US agricultural methods, so that most people who work on the land will be superfluous will create huge suburban slums in all those places, assuring a supply of super-cheap labor.
The world is faced with some severe challenges. Whether Kerry and his divisive political party leaders, or Bush with the Country Club Republicans and their neo-Jacobin advisors are best fit to steer the remains of this republic through those shoals is something I may not be wise enough to know. I tend to the devil I know, and I rather trust the instincts of Bush the man; but his neo-Jacobin advisors scare hell out of me.
I will say it again: my policy would be to punish our enemies but not seek to impose any government anywhere not based on the consent of the governed; and to invest in defense while encouraging energy independence. As to jobs I would impose a straight 10% tariff on everything imported as a means of giving a bit of an edge to "Made in USA" without distorting the market beyond endurance by protecting grossly inefficient industries.
The fact is that efficiency is not what we want any more. It is contentment, and that comes with people doing good work that is needed work and getting a fair day's pay for a fair day's work. If we could get more profits from beggaring our own workers and enriching those overseas, why do we want to do that?
But I know of no party that advocates what I want, nor do I know of any party that would solve most of the social issues the Constitutional way -- leave it to the states!
I tuned into CSPAN this morning , where the Joint Chiefs were giving testimony to several senators on the Armed Services Committee. The Army Chief of Staff, Gen. Shoomaker had some interesting responses. Going to war accelerated the ongoing transformation process by several decades. Operational necessity also means that HUMVEES are being used up at an accelerated rate. The armored version is hard to make and they've gotten production up to 220 a month. They need 11,000. The old cream puff version is also in short supply because many armored and artillery units have been converted to quasi military police or constabulary duties to meet the insurgency. Just maintaining and replacing what we have in theater will cost more than three billion dollars a year.
One gets the impression that Rumsfeld et al were told this, in great detail, and choose not to believe it. The National Guard/Reserve overstretch falls on a few specialized units (probably MI, Mp, Civil Affairs, Engineering. Changes are needed but can't be done very quickly.
The Navy Chief of Staff said that the Navy is short of ships and airplanes and that it needs to retain enlisted people at the E-6 level despite the up or out policy, and that just recruiting new sailors is not a solution. It's not just training but experience that counts here.
Senator Clinton had a very good question about the Guard's medical and dental readiness. Seems that a significant percentage of those called up can't be deployed because they have preventable medical conditions that weren't covered by health insurance. It sounds like a rational for national health insurance, but a good one. If you lose people because they need their teeth fixed or have some other kind of medical problem then readiness is silently degraded.
As always, the devil is in the details.
Sincerely, Francis Hamit
National Health Insurance so that we can have empire. Interesting: which is the more important?
Stephen Wolfram has a sense of humor that borders on the sadistic. He has made his very expensive and long book available for free on the Web, but there is a catch. Every page is a separate graphic file which must be retrieved to be read and/or printed. You can read or print the whole thing, but if you time is worth anything above minimum wage, you'll probably just say "aw the hell with it!" and buy the book itself -- about $45.00 as I recall. This is one of the more clever marketing ploys I've seen. One which I may copy.
Sincerely, Francis Hamit
I bought it. I wouldn't have downloaded it that way.
The addition of fluorides to public water is pretty well universal now. I recall when it was controversial, and there was organized resistance to it. Those who opposed fluoridation of water were said to be strange kooks. My own view was that compulsory medication wasn't a very good idea, and that it would be cheaper to give away fluoride drops in fire stations: it's not drinking it that does any good, it's the physical application on growing teeth, and most of the fluorides go to watering plants.
I now have this correspondence:
Melvin Konner reviews Evolutionary Psychology and Violence edited by Richard W. Bloom and Nancy Dess > http://human-nature.com/ep/reviews/ep022831.html Evolutionary Psychology 2: 28-31
Roger Masters, a political scientist ably practicing evolutionary psychology since long before it had that name, contributes the second chapter. Although it seems out of place in this book-it has little directly to do with evolution or its consequences-it is potentially very important. He summarizes evidence that when silicon fluoride is added to drinking water it enhances the body's uptake of lead, "a neurotoxin that lowers dopaminergic function in the inhibitory circuits of the basal ganglia," [p. 43] and that this effect increases rates of violent crime where water is so treated. SiF also increases manganese content of water, and the two elements (lead and manganese) interact to produce a more than additive effect on crime. Masters reasonably concludes "that a moratorium on the use of SiF in public water supplies would be a relatively low-cost policy capable of lowering rates of substance abuse and violent crime." [p. 49] The epidemiological analyses are very challenging and no doubt subject to criticism, but at a minimum, this possibility deserves further study.
This comes as a complete surprise to me, and in fact I don't know much about the subject, particularly the chemistry.
But it is odd. Anyone know more?
February 11, 2004
See Security Warning in View
Subject: Say It Isn't So!
<snip> WASHINGTON (AP) -- Once considered a springboard to success, the high school diploma now has little meaning in determining whether students are ready for college or work, a coalition of education groups contends. </snip>
A public education sucks?!? How shocking and unexpected!
Braxton S. Cook
It doesn't have to be that way. But the teacher unions have made it so
Subject: An excellent quotation from Nicholas Kristof
In his February 11 column in the New York Times:
There's a tendency in U.S. intellectual circles to value the humanities but not the sciences. Anyone who doesn't nod sagely at the mention of Plato's cave is dismissed as barely civilized, while it's no blemish to be ignorant of statistics, probability and genetics. If we're going to revere Plato, as we should, we should also remember that his academy supposedly had a sign at the entrance: "Let no one ignorant of geometry enter here."
Regards, Mike Broderick Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Agreed. Somewhere around I have my essay on science and culture written 20 years ago as the CP Snow Memorial Lecture I gave back then. I should dig it out, but it's been around, called "The Voodoo Sciences".
The referenced essay is thorough. Too thorough by half, some will say; but it's very good, and considers many factors. The question asked is, what would happen if a Medieval knight met a Samurai in single combat? And then rightly considers the circumstances. Are they mounted? Do they have bows? (The Samurai were far more skilled with the bow than most European knights, with the exception of some of the Byantines.) Are they armored? (Western armor was pretty well superior to Japanese.) When? Does the knight have a shield? (Broadsword and shield almost always wins against sword alone.) He doesn't consider what would happen had forty knights met forty samurai; which might have been a more interesting question.
Robert of Normandy, after the successful conclusion of the First Crusade and the establishment of the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem, with sixty knights rode the length and breadth of the Saracen empire, from Cairo to Baghdad, challenging anyone who care to come and fight him. Few did, and his journey was not interrupted. Of course sixty knights would be about 300 armed men at arms and esquires and another 200 grooms and servants, but still, it is interesting that he could do that. The Saracens by that time were demoralized, having been defeated despite having considerably larger forces at Doryleum, Antioch (The Battle of the Lance) and Jerusalem itself. Still, it would be interesting to speculate what might have happened had Robert and his forces met a Japanese army of his time.
Napoleon said after the Battle of the Sands that one Mameluke could defeat five French, but 100 French could defeat 1,000 Mamelukes (or words to that effect). His point was that proper military organization won battles. But that was the age of gunpowder.
The mystique of the Samurai endures in part because it took so long for gunpowder and modern weapons to become common in Japan; the way of the Samurai (bushido, the way of the horse and bow) lasted far longer there, and thus we know more about it. Hollywood and many writers who ought to know better write from the perspective of post-Medieval times, and it is not uncommon to make the knight an armored iron-head incapable of no great skill. I have sometimes been guilty of this myself although I try not to be. The fact is, though, that Medieval warriors could be greatly skilled. They were also tough. At Doryleum Robert held his ground after falling into a trap, and fought all the day. When one of his men suggested they should retreat, Robert said "Why run? their horses are better than ours." But toward evening Tancred brought up the other Christian column behind the Saracens, and in one hammer charge drove the enemy against Robert as anvil, winning not only the battle but passage through Anatolia.
I've spent too long on this. The essay is well worth reading.
Incidentally, I have a bastard sword of wonderful balance. It's modern in the sense that it is made of a steel the Medieval swordsmiths didn't have. Such swords were every bit as well made and useful as the katana...
On the fluoride issue:
I, too, can recall when fluoridation was controversial, and there was organized resistance to it. It was the year 1999, when fluoridation was to go online in the Los Angeles water system.
We got phone calls.
We got lots of phone calls.
We got callers offering all kinds of arguments against fluoridation. We (those of us who were handling phones) were told that fluoride would induce every disease except Twonk's disease. We were told that Europe had banned the fluoridation of water. We were told it was all a Con$piracy, though there were at least two different con$pirators blamed.
We learned the answers to these claims. The short answer: "Take it up with your State representative." Longer answers, if we had time, dealt with specific objections.
Claims that fluoride caused various illnesses were generally not supported by scientific studies, and certainly not at levels actually seen in drinking water. (True even in places like Amarillo, TX, where naturally occurring levels of fluoride top 4 ppm, the upper limit set by the EPA for added fluoride.)
Fluoridation has been taking place in huge chunks of the population for most of a century now, and if there are any adverse health effects, they are so rare and so minor that they've never shown up in any studies I've heard of. I also note that I've never heard of insurance companies red-lining cities that fluoridate their water, and this would be something that impacts their bottom line.
I've asked people to send me a copy of the law that bans fluoridation in Europe. I'm still waiting.
I've also seen analyses of how studies are misrepresented to "prove" the dangers of fluoridated water. Because of this, I take accounts of new studies showing dangers with a grain of salt (which can be bought with added fluoride in parts of Europe).
Is it effective? Yes it is. Drinking fluoridated water raises the levels of fluoride ion in the saliva and other [precious] bodily fluids, and over time, this is more effective than dental treatments in the office. The concentration of fluoride in a dental treatment is higher, but the time duration is much shorter.
And this is one effect that *has* shown up in statistical studies.
Indeed. I can only say there is a matter of principle involved in treating people against their will. It is not a Constitutional issue: California certainly has the constitutional right. I would argue that the Federal government does not, but that is another issue.
But daily treatment with drops works as well, and is considerably less expensive than fluoridation of lawns and swimming pools.
My only question is the violence business, and the susceptibility to lead intake: the argument that fluorides had to be in the water because the urban poor wouldn't be smart enough to get free drops and use them is interesting in that this is also the population most exposed to lead in the air (before we got it out of gasoline) and in older house paints, and such like.
I don't claim to know. My proclivity in most matters is to leave things to the states as a matter of constitutional principle, and generally to leave decisions to individuals; but I am hardly blind to the arguments from public health.
As to the people involved in the issue, Niven's Law applies: there is no cause so right and noble that it will not attract fuggheads, who will get most of the attention from the press.
I did manage to find a link to a research paper on the relationship between fluoridation of water and lead uptake. < fluoride.oralhealth.org/papers/pdf/urbansky.pdf >
The money quote from the abstract:
"Overall, we conclude that no credible evidence exists to show that water fluoridation has any quantifiable effects on the solubility, bioavailability, bioaccumulation, or reactivity of lead(0) or lead(II) compounds."
The authors work at the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Office of Research and Development, National Risk Management Research Laboratory, Water Supply and Water Resources Division.
The top-level domain, <fluoride.oralhealth.org>, belongs to the National Center for Fluoridation Policy and Research. The director of the NCFPR is Michael Easley, who has been collecting examples of bad science directed against fluoridation for decades now.
Once again, I have no idea. I certainly know nothing about the chemistry.
Did we just discover fossil evidence of life on Mars? Perhaps so -- in the latest photos that the Martian rover "Opportunity" has sent back. These microscopic photos show that the rocks have a layered structure, probably formed with the aid of water (perhaps annual freeze thaw build up?) with small spherical nodes occasionally appearing in between the layers. See: http://marsrovers.jpl.nasa.gov/home/index.html .
Could these small spheres be nodules, possibly enriched in iron (hematite), that were created by Martian bacteria eons ago? These may be analogous to the manganese nodules formed by bacteria on the floor of the ocean on Earth. JPL has a paper discussing this possibility at: http://marsprogram.jpl.nasa.gov/mgs/sci/fifthconf99/6133.pdf .
NASA will understandably be conservative at making any sort of claims here, but I'm surprised that the media have not picked up on this idea yet.
No data. It would not astonish me. I subscribe to the panspermia hypothesis anyway (and have used that assumption in most of my novels).
Subject: Exiting Deanspace
It's a rather long-winded piece but delves into what happened to Dean - besides being out of touch with America.
http://www.corante.com/many/archives/2004/02/03/exiting_deanspace.php You can ring doorbells and carry signs and donate and stay up til 4 in the morning talking with fellow believers about the sorry state of politics today, and you still only get one vote. If you want more votes than that, you have to do the hardest, most humbling thing in the world. You have to change someone else's mind.
February 12, 2004
Subject: Microsoft security patch date
Jerry: a kind, or perhaps optimistic, person would suggest that they spent the last 3 months testing that DLL, wouldn't they?
Still, months seems a bit excessive in the case of something this serious. On the gripping hand, it never seems to have got into the wild.
Subject: - Panspermia indeed!
And this works perfectly, mouse and all:
Dear Dr. Pournelle,
Take the following steps in Windows 98:
1. Go to your windows directory.
2. Find either the "MSDOS mode for Games" or the "MSDOS mode for Games with EMS and XMS Support" as appropriate.
3. Right click on the icon and Copy. Right Click on the Copy and Rename as appropriate.
4. Right click on the icon and select properties.
5.Click on the Program tab. Click on the Advanced button.
6.. Edit the Config.sys and Autoexec.bat as directed by the game instructions. Place the command for the game as the last line in the Autoexec.bat.
7. Click on the radio button; Specify new autoexec.bat and config.sys for MS-DOS mode. Click OK.
8. If there is an icon file that you want to use for the program find where it is on the drive.
9. Click on the Change Icon Button, browse to the location and select the icon. Click on OK.
10. (You are still at the program tab in properties) Click OK.
11. Right click on the icon and select Create Shortcut. Place this where ever you want on the system.
When you double click on the shortcut, the system will warn you that it is shutting down and rebooting on MS DOS mode.
An alternate is to use the old boot disk method. Create a boot floppy to start the system the way the game wants and then reboot with it in the A drive. I have done this with a couple old DOS games but the results were a game that ran at 400 MHz instead of the design speed of 4.77 MHz. This is discouraging but you game may not be that old.
Patrick A. Hoage
I am sure I remember doing that, particularly to play Privateer but also other DOS games in earlier editions of Windows. I guess my mind is going... But in fact that does work for playing RR Tycoon and using the mouse. Alas, it does not work with sound, or at least I have been unable to get the sound to work so far. I'll keep trying
Begin with some good news:
The Court ruled "that once a word is declared generic it would continue to be generic, informing Microsoft that no amount of marketing around a generic word changes the generic state of the word."
===== -- John E. Bartley, III
K7AAY telcom admin, PDX, USA - Views mine. celdata (dot) cjb (dot) net - Handheld Cellular Data FAQ
*This post is quad-ROT13 encrypted. Reading it violates the DMCA.* One Ringtone to rule them all, one Carrier to find them, One Phone to bring them all and to the Service Contract bind them.
Lately I have been haring a lot of people talk about how difficult it was to know the danger level from Iraq, and how pretty much everybody agreed with the Administration's basic assumptions.
Well, I have some trouble with this, because _I_ certainly knew that there was no threat. I knew for sure that they had no nuclear program, when 'nuclear program' is defined as actually _doing_ anything - breeding plutonium, separating isotopes, or building the required facilities.
I knew that they had no new long-range rockets because they had done no test-fires: DSP would have seen any such test. You may have heard claims of a long-range missile program: all paper engineering studies. Whoop-de-do. You may have heard claiims of another illegal missile program: yeah, short-range missiles that were 10km over their allowed limit. Whoop-de-do.
I didn't know whether they still had the weapons they had built for the Iran-Iraq war - mustard gas and Sarin, mainly - but I didn't really care. They aren't that potent, and of course Iraq had no delivery systems.
I knew that Iraq had been stony broke for years, had a total governmental budget of maybe one billion, largely stolen from the oil-for-food program, which barely sufficed to pay for a ragged-ass conventional army and secret police - certainly not a Los Alamos or Livermore. I knew that Iraq was small, dirt poor, 60% illiterate - it was _not_ Nazi Germany, it was _not_ crammed with high-quality inventors and scientists and tool-and-die makers. It was and is an incompetent country, full of incompetent people. They are ragheads: let me say this again - RAGHEADS. The idea that Iraq had a burgeoning weapons development program (all totally invisible, of course, done by ragheads paid with sand) ) could only be held by someone who really believed that there are no differences between peoples, and that money does not matter. And who was generally an ignoramus.
Look, it was possible - for me as an _individual_ - to check many of the Administrations claims before the war, and everything checkable was false . It was easy to see that the 'aluminum tubes' claim was false. It was easy to see that the general claim of a revived nuclear program was false. It was certainly possible to notice that out of tens of tips we gave to UN inspectors just before the war, no single tip panned out. I figured that our intelligence was totally worthless, about par for the CIA.
I was reasonably close : I figured that their weapons programs had been rotting for years, and that they had no nuclear program.. . Turns out that they had nothing at all.
I have seen individuals analyze games like Everquest more thoroughly and rigorously than this Administration did this war. Congress is no better. We have an incompetent ruling class.
While I wouldn't say it in precisely that way, it's hard to find anything to disagree with. Which leads us to why did we invade? Retaliation for 9-11? But the evidence that Iraq was in on that is pretty thin.
Afghanistan was a righteous war. The Taliban was harboring our enemies. "This government expects Perdikardis alive or Rassouli dead." There is precedent, going back to the Barbary Pirates wars. But Iraq was a threat only in the minds of the neo-Jacobins.
Now it was a good place to bring down. Saddam was an evil man. But is it our mission to smite sin wherever on this planet it may appear? If so, shouldn't we start a lot closer to home? I can name some pretty awful places not far from the United States.
February 14, 2004
For observation about the day, see view.
Subject: Scientists Propose Cure for Dyslexia.
It appears that the cure is to teach them how to read.
My guess is that Roberta will not be surprised.
Imagine my astonishment!
Subject: Zombie Infection Simulation v2.3
----- Roland Dobbins
"A moment's thought would have saved us from these follies. But thought is a painful process, and a moment is a long time."
-- A.E. Houseman
Which turns out to be a lot more interesting than I thought it would be. Thanks.
On Microsoft and FAT:
How can M$ claim it "invented" the FAT? Didn't CP/M use something similar regardless of whether or not M$Basic was installed? What's the difference between (in principle) the FAT and the "Granule Allocation Table" used in TRS-DOS and its derivatives (supplemented in the R/S cases by a Hash Index Table to reduce the time needed for searching the table and accessing files - note also that the R/S directory was in the middle of the disk to minimize average head-search time). While R/S computers had M$Basic, that was largely in ROM; the DOS was a separate product. Apple probably had something similar for dealing with soft-sector disks. The only thing I can think of for M$ to "license" would be the specific MS-DOS implementation of the idea. Have they successfully patented it or is this a copyright situation? I could almost (grudgingly) see some justification for the latter, but the former should have been killed by prior art, at least. Hmmm ... even if they did "invent" it in 1976, wouldn't a patent be expired by now (more than 17 years)?
I have no answer to this. Is there a Microsoft defender in the house?
I am not a Microsoft defender and you probably have other replies; however, I thought I would throw in my 2 bits anyway.
Microsoft did not patent the FAT system. They patented the extension they introduced in Windows 95 that allowed the files in the FAT system to be assigned long file names that mapped to 8.3 style file names. I know that OS/2 had a similar system and I'm not sure how Windows 95 differed. My feeling on the situation is that Microsoft is misrepresenting the nature of its patent so that they can get the companies they are targeting to pay a minimal amount to license it. I'm not sure why; the amount of money is miniscule in the Microsoft scheme of things. I can only guess that it is the first step in something bigger. Perhaps they are trying to establish ownership of the FAT system in the same way they are now trying to claim ownership of "windows".
I ignore anyone who starts off by referring to Microsoft as M$ or any other derogatory title. They have already demonstrated that they are so bias that they are incapable of listening to a reasonable argument based on facts. Microsoft needs no defending. Have they forgotten when many software providers were charging over $500 each for word processors, spread sheets, data bases, and other programs. And that was when dollars were worth a lot more. Everybody should be glad that Microsoft gave us Office even if they use other software or operating systems. If it wasn't for Microsoft, we would all be paying a lot more.
I tend to pay less attention to M$ and "Windoze" people myself...
Blankley's Review of Gaddis
I read the review. I've read other books by Gaddis, most recently " We Now Know", a book in which he belatedly realized that your generic sophisticated right-realist-Republicans (people like Jerry and me) were right on every point concering the Cold War, which middle-of-the-road wimps like Gaddis were consistently wrong. Hell, I _already_ knew.
Gaddis does not have good judgement: and we're not talking about a single blooper here, but a man's entire adult life and publications.
Gaddis's view of the payoff of the ' new imperialism' is in my opinion just silly: I doubt if we get much long-term cooperation out of countries like Syria, and there is little to gain from such cooperation, because Syria was already doing nothing against the United States. I like his claim that "the military action in Iraq has produced a modest improvement in American and global economic conditions" - Gee, how does he figure that? So far we've poured about $80 billion into that rathole - where's the payoff? It for sure hasn't taken the form of lower oil prices. Gee, a stronger dollar ? - no, can't be that. An improved balance of trade? Not hardly. Increasingly I suspect that most people don't have any idea what a billion dollars really amounts to. I have several physical equivalents in mind for spending that amount of money: it's a lot like burning down every house in New Mexico. Or, you could think of it as the cost of sinking 17 Nimitz-class carriers in the deepest trench in the Pacific Ocean.
As for withdrawing US forces from Saudi - you hardly need to conquer Iraq to find room for them. And, I forgot, why did we need to leave? Could there have been a possibility of a guerrilla war? Why, that would have been awful !
If our troops _must_ hang around the Gulf, Kuwait and Qatar are plenty big enough to hold them. Other countries think we're plenty powerful, but purposeful? What _is_ our purpose? Our purpose du jour, that is?
In the past Gaddis formed an opinion by averaging the opinions around him. This meant saying things that were untrue upon cursory examination, and it still does.
You ask provocative questions. I wish I were hearing answers from the administration. Unlike you, I think we can retrieve the situation in Iraq, and progress is being made; but I also think it's getting late, and we still haven't caught on to the nature of the problem. People on the ground there may understand, but their Washington masters are operating from theories, not from data, and their theories are wrong.
Subj: Iraq: why did Bush attack?
Guess I must be an idiot, or suffering neo-Jacobin delusions.
Greg Cochran recites a litany of Saddamite incapabilities that were obvious to him, and concludes that Bush had no reason to attack Iraq.
But the key incapability -- poverty -- was completely reversible, in direct proportion as the sanctions collapsed. The sanctions manifestly were collapsing, and the momentum in the "International Community" was strongly in favor of further, faster collapse.
I'm sorry, but I just can't buy the argument that Saddam was deterred from attacking the US. He played the classic desensitization game with the US all through the 1990s, sniping at the airplanes enforcing the no-fly zones, running troops up to the border with Kuwait to provoke a reaction, then withdrawing them. As long as the US opposed his expansionist ambitions, the US was a target.
OK, he was deterred from using gas in 1991 by the threat of US and Israeli nukes. But he also gambled he could shatter the 1991 Coalition by striking Israel. He was a gambler, and a reckless one, and he thought -- with good reason, especially after surviving his adventure in 1990-91! -- he was lucky in his gambling.
Now, maybe Dr. Pournelle's policy -- disengage completely, bring the troops home -- would have worked, in the sense of avoiding an attack on the US, if it could've been sustained. It's quite likely that Saddam would have spent the rest of his life gobbling up and digesting his immediate neighbors, and been too busy to bother the US. And after Saddam died, quite likely, there would have been chaos, maybe with Iran's mullahs picking up the pieces.
But could Bush have made complete disengagement work, given the current state of US domestic politics? Could anyone? Oh, sure, Bush could have ordered the troops home, and they'd have come -- in good order, not in a rout; probably taking some casualties on the way, but maybe not. He'd have had to dig down a ways into the Pentagon hierarchy, to get the order out, like Nixon did into Justice, after the "Saturday Night Massacre": Rumsfeld would have resigned, no? And then Wolfowitz? Maybe Powell too, no? Throwing away everything the brave men and women of Desert Storm had won, and all that? The bipartisan hue and cry in Congress would have been "coward!" And Bush's successor, after Saddam conquered Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, world oil prices quadrupled (or more), the US economy collapsed, and the Democrats exterminated the Republicans nationwide in the next election, would have reversed course at once, abjectly beseeching the UN for permission to "rejoin the International Community".
To imagine that the money spent on the war would have been appropriated to support access to space, or hemispheric energy independence, or anything else useful, is a fantasy. The money would have been spent, all right -- on pork, some of it labeled "renewable energy", and on expanding the domestic bureaucracy, of course. Oh, and don't forget the tax increases.
So, what was the _available_ alternative to attacking? Stay engaged, enforcing the "no-fly zones", and just watch, more or less passively, as the sanctions regime collapsed completely? Even granting, for purposes of argument, that the "ragheads" could never have built their own nukes, even after effective sanctions ended, how long would it have taken, for the N Koreans, with uninterrupted Pakistani help, to make a bomb, or two or ten, to sell Saddam? Or for Saddam to buy a bomb, or two or ten, on the post-USSR market? Maybe we could have interdicted their delivery, maybe not.
The rule is, Never do the enemy a _small_ injury. And the no-fly-zone regime was nothing but an everlasting series of daily small injuries.
Saddam had to go, not because he was an evil man, but because he was an evil man with the resources and demonstrated intention to do our interests grave harm, and the effort to contain him was collapsing.
You have misunderstood what I would have done. I do not advocate ANY fixed and inflexible policy. I certainly would not have given Saddam any green lights and just come home ignoring the situation there. There is a difference between disengagement and abandoning an area. Saddam would hardly gobble up meighbors with his Army: NATO has far more than enough power to prevent that, especially if it isn't dissipated through engagements in places where we have no interests at all, like Bosnia.
As to nation building, when we build one in Haiti I will think we might be able build on elsewhere. We're not bad some places, particularly when the enemy is utterly prostrate as were Germany and Japan.
But the Israeli successes in Palestine and the French successes in Algeria ought to make us think a lot about how successful we will be in planting rule of law and western style politics in foreign places. Sure, were much smarter than Israel and France, but THAT much smarter?
And I do not agree that the effort to contain him was collapsing. Had that been the case then I'd have been among the first to urge intervention; just as I had no quarrel with our commitments in Afghanistan. I'm all for showing people how dangerous it is to be our enemy or to aid our enemies or to harbor our enemies. I am not all for showing that even if you are not threatening the USA we may capriciously wring your neck because you are a bad person. There are just too many bad people in this world.
There will come a time when our enemies will have nuclear weapons. It would be well think ahead to that time. It may already be here.
I will let Mr. Cochran tell you what we could have done instead.
February 15, 2004
Merely improving the armor of Humvees is unlikely to do any good. The Iraqis' basic method of attack is the remote-controlled field expedient landmine, and a mine can easily be augmented with more or less unlimited quantities of ANFO or Napalm, both of which can be made from common ingredients. Tanks will fly, if enough explosive is placed underneath them. The basic defensive tactic against landmines is the old axiom from Vietnam: "never follow trails," that is, never be predictable enough that the enemy can pick a spot where you will pass, sooner or later, and prepare a special ambush for you. The correct use for a tank is to bash out a new road every time, along a different route.
However, the cumulative effect of doing this for any length of time is to systematically devastate the countryside, wrecking irrigation systems, obliterating small towns, and suchlike. We're back to the business about the people being the sea in which the guerrilla swims. There are two known solutions. One is to successfully practice politics, to the point of noncoercively persuading the people to expel the guerrillas. The other is to destroy the people, or at least to drive them off the land.
Very few people have ever practiced the first solution successfully. Magsaysay and Lansdale did so in the Philippines, with land reform at the expense of American companies. In the Middle East, land reform is irrelevant, because water is the scarce ingredient. Based on readily available figures, and subject to error, the population to water ratio in Iraq is roughly equivalent to a temperate country population density somewhere in the vicinity of five thousand persons per square mile. In ecological terms, Iraq probably cannot live on the available water without ongoing starvation, such as ensued from the embargo during the 1990's, even with UN food distribution. The Iraqis had every incentive to maximize crop production, and yet they failed. What it comes down to is that Iraq can only feed itself by selling something, or by being subsidized.
The way the American administration in Iraq dealt with the former Iraqi soldiers' pension claims has amply demonstrated its basic stinginess, and the unlikihood that America will simply pay welfare. Educated Iraqis have only to read people like Charles Murray to get an authoritative official statement of policy, and can then report their findings to their countrymen. So, what are the Iraqis supposed to sell?
Probably not oil, at least if the United States is going to deliver on its promises to its own people. Let's think about the economics of an airline ticket. Given the rapid disappearance of business travel, due to the superior efficiency of the internet, leisure travelers will have to bear the full cost of flying. Simply to maintain discount ticket prices at historic levels, the airlines will have to insist that the price of fuel drop tenfold. With something like six hundred thousand current or laid-off employees, and effective control of at least a couple of million votes, this insistence will amount to an ultimatum. Given the fixed costs of refining, shipping, and oil production, the net royalty on oil will have to drop about a hundredfold. The going rate for Wyoming coal royalties is about 65 cents/ton, or 13 cents/barrel-equivalent. Compare that to a mining cost of $3-5/ton, and a rail shipping cost of $25-30/ton. In a free market, royalties have been driven down to "noise level." Let us assume that middle-east oil commands a somewhat higher price, 20 cents/barrel, based on greater ease of refining. On that basis, Iraq's oil reserves work out to a capital sum of about a thousand dollars per capita, with a sustainable yield of fifty dollars per year. In short, the internal political requirements of the United States require that Iraq's oil be confiscated in all but name.
The prospect for exporting manufactured goods or services are marginal. Not only is Iraq's skill base minimal, not remotely comparable to that of India or China, but the developed countries are going through a productivity revolution, and imposing import restrictions in an attempt to cope, in much the same way as they did in the 1930's. Potential imports are practically confined to things that cannot be automated, and which developed country citizens plain and simple don't want to do, to the point that they don't even bother to try to organize a union , set import restrictions, and fix the price at an acceptable level. What is left? Probably, garment sewing and sex tourism.
That is not precisely a good argument with which to persuade the Iraqis to lay down their arms. They have to reckon that in the last analysis, Ayatollah Ali Khameni of Iran will do more for them than the Americans are likely to do, even for those of them who happen to be Sunnis.
Andrew D. Todd
You raise important issues that need addressing, and rightly point out that the Iraq situation must be seen in light of the entire world economic revolution. The US is in trouble at home: we simply don't know what to do with skilled workers 35 to 65 years of age whose jobs have been either automated or exported, and trying to retrain them hasn't worked and isn't likely to work: the jobs they can easily be retrained to do tend to get exported as well.
There is a need for mechanics and plumbers and hands-on people, but that isn't what most retraining programs emphasize. Moore's law reaches many places, and the productivity revolution changes the nature of what we are willing and able to make at home and what we will import.
As to the Iraqi army and the pension situation, the neoconservatives let their ideologies get in the way: that is my opinion, anyway. And thus they disbanded the Army and discontinued the pensions, alienating a lot of not only young armed men, but the middle class patriots and military bureaucrats who could have furnished considerable stability. In a state like Iraq the middle class are bureaucrats: they have to be: socialism is like that and Baathists are national socialists. That it was also a dictatorship shouldn't be surprising since concentration of power almost inevitably ensures that the worst will get on top. The man who is willing to poison and murder his way to the top and smart enough to do it generally wins over those who have more scruples. Nero beats out Britannicus every time. But dismantling the dictatorship shouldn't mean throwing most of the people out of work and disbanding the security forces.
That early move of ours, breaking the US military's word to the Iraqi forces (surrender, go to your barracks, and stay in your units; you will have an honorable place in building the new Iraq) set the tone and it is something I do not know how to recover from, particularly since there seems to be no recognition in Washington of just how great a blunder they made in the early days.
From: Stephen M. St. Onge email@example.com
Date: Feb. 14, 2004 subject: Intelligence Evaluation
The New York Times has a fairly interesting story on the aftermath of the Iraq Invasion. Among other things: http://www.nytimes.com/2004/02/12/politics/12SADD.html
Saddam's regime believed we wouldn't invade, just bomb;
When they did decide we'd invade, they thought the forces would come from Jordan;
Our efforts to get Iraqi Army members to desert didn't work, but they had unexpected benefits;
The Special Republican Guard didn't have any WMD, but the unit commanders all thought other units of the SRG had them.
Very interesting, I'd say. (note, site is free, but registration is required).
I am not entirely convinced that the NYT has sources no one else has, but the speculation contains elements of things I had concluded some time ago. I can easily believe that each commander thought there were special forces with special weapons. The regime was built that way.
Although I do not believe they thought the invasion would come from Jordan given the huge buildup in Kuwait.
This all continues next week with more by Greg Cochran and others including me.
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