Incarcerated for writing a science fiction novel? Or not?

View 841 Monday, September 01, 2014

“Transparency and the rule of law will be the touchstones of this presidency.”

President Barack Obama, January 31, 2009


I pretty much took the weekend off – well, I worked on the upcoming column for Chaos Manor Reviews in which I’m going to talk about how we have updated Chaos Manor in the years since I wrote the last column – and I did some work on fiction, but today, Labor Day, Alex came over with some friends and we did a barbeque.

So I was going to skip today’s day book, but I can’t. It’s not often that I pay much attention to the Daily Kos, but this entry got my full attention: 

A Dorchester County, Maryland, teacher was taken in for an "emergency medical evaluation," suspended from his job, and barred from setting foot on another public school. Authorities searched his school, Mace’s Lane Middle School in Cambridge, for weapons. As classes resumed, parents worried that their children were in danger, so police decided to remain on the premises to watch over them.

What happened? The teacher, Patrick McLaw, published a fiction novel. Under a pen name. About a made-up school shooting. Set in the year 2902.

I first saw it in a Science Fiction Writers of America Forum, and apparently it’s all true, and the author appears to still be in some kind of restraint, possibly retained for psychological evaluations or something. Now I hope there’s some terrible mis-reporting, and it’s all exaggerated, but this is designed to arouse paranoid feelings in science fiction writers. All fiction writers for that matter.

I’ll have more on this if I find out more. Breaking news is generally unreliable. I sure hope that is the case here, but I fear it is not. It happened days ago, and there is still no report of any charge or specification, or of what evidence was used to cause a warrant for search of his house.  Obviously the authorities have the right and for that matter the duty to search the school, but if their only reason for doing so is that a teacher wrote an SF novel about a school massacre set in another century, they must not have very much to do in Cambridge Maryland.  Do judges routinely issue warrants for searches in such circumstances? 


I have found this.  From the Atlantic:

From the Dept. of Insane and Dangerous Overreactions to Fictional Threats:

A 23-year-old teacher at a Cambridge, Md. middle school has been placed on leave and—in the words of a local news report—"taken in for an emergency medical evaluation" for publishing, under a pseudonym, a novel about a school shooting. The novelist, Patrick McLaw, an eighth-grade language-arts teacher at the Mace’s Lane Middle School, was placed on leave by the Dorchester County Board of Education, and is being investigated by the Dorchester County Sheriff’s Office, according to news reports from Maryland’s Eastern Shore. The novel, by the way, is set 900 years in the future.

Here is part of a breathless, law enforcement-friendly report from WBOC, which describes itself as "Delmarva’s News Leader":

He’s a man with many names, and the books he has written have raised the concerns of the Dorchester County Board of Education and the Dorchester County Sheriff’s Office.
Early last week the school board was alerted that one of its eighth grade language arts teachers at Mace’s Lane Middle School had several aliases.  Police said that under those names, he wrote two fictional books about the largest school shooting in the country’s history set in the future.  Now, Patrick McLaw is placed on leave.
Dr. K.S. Voltaer is better known by some in Dorchester County as Patrick McLaw, or even Patrick Beale.  Not only was he a teacher at Mace’s Lane Middle School in Cambridge, but according to Dorchester Sheriff James Phillips, McLaw is also the author of two books: "The Insurrectionist" and its sequel, "Lillith’s Heir."


And of course the Soviets used to do precisely that: send dissidents to the psychiatric ward.  I confess that the enthusiasm with which Daily KOS and the Atlantic, neither precisely a conservative publication, arouses concern; but I had yet to see any actual charge or specification of an illegal act. On what evidence were search warrants issued? Did this chap actually exhibit any bizarre behavior?  I don’t for a moment believe that someone who writes and publishes a book can’t be off his nut, but certainly the deed of writing and publishing a novel cannot possibly be prima facie evidence of homicidal mania…  In any event this chap seems to be barred from all county property and turned out from his job, with no hearing and up to this point nothing alleged other than that he wrote and published novels about a massacre in a public school; not under his own name, but under a pen name.  And if that’s all he has done, this is definitely a matter for concern.  Surely the authorities know they have not alleged any crime? 



The LA Times has a story that adds a significant detail:

Reports circulated this weekend that a middle school teacher in Dorchester County, Md., had been placed on administrative leave over his two futuristic novels about school violence. That is not that case, authorities tell the L.A. Times.

"It didn’t start with the books and it didn’t end with the books," State’s Attorney for Wicomico County Matt Maciarello told The Times. "It’s not even a factor in what law enforcement is doing now."

There have been no charges filed against Patrick McLaw, a teacher at Mace’s Lane Middle School in Cambridge who self-published two novels, "The Insurrectionist" (2011) and "Lilith’s Heir" (2013), under the pen name Dr. K.S. Voltaer.


Free speech supporters who believed the author was targeted for the books’ stories of school massacres in 2902 have been purchasing the novels from Amazon. "Bought this in protest of the local authorities arresting and confining this person just for being a teacher and writing a book about a school killing," reads a typical comment, one of more than 100.

In fact, McLaw has not been arrested. No warrant for his arrest has been issued.

Concerns about McLaw were raised after he sent a four-page letter to officials in Dorchester County. Those concerns brought together authorities from multiple jurisdictions, including health authorities.

McLaw’s attorney, David Moore, tells The Times that his client was taken in for a mental health evaluation. "He is receiving treatment," Moore said.

Because of HIPPA regulations mandating privacy around healthcare issues, he was unable to say whether McLaw has been released.

McLaw’s letter was of primary concern to healthcare officials, Maciarello says. It, combined with complaints of alleged harassment and an alleged possible crime from various jurisdictions led to his suspension. Maciarello cautions that these allegations are still being investigated; authorities, he says, "proceeded with great restraint."

What’s more, he told The Times, "everyone knew about the book in 2012."

McLaw, who is also known as Patrick Beale, was placed on administrative leave on Aug. 22 due to "concerns raised by law enforcement," according to an official statement by the Dorchester County Public Schools.


The problem here is that there is still no specification of whatever he did to warrant search of his house, or commitment to involuntary mental treatment.  One would think that this would be forthcoming.  Getting a search warrant for someone’s house when he is already apparently undergoing mental evaluation should require that the culprit has done something; but since we don’t know the text of this mysterious letter, or anything about his four page letter to officials in Dorchester County; one would think that by now there would be enough known to allow release of some details justifying the official action.  The Soviets used to send dissidents to the mental ward on the grounds that you had to be crazy to resist communism.  What is it that this chap didn’t believe, or believed about the school board?  And why were his books ever mentioned at all in the original story?

Maybe he had fits behaved in a way inconsistent with being a high school teacher: if so he ought to be removed from a classroom, but how does that justify searching his house? But in fact the only violence in the story is in his books.  There must be more to this, and it is possible that it’s just lousy news reporting, but I confess I am still worried.


One reader feels about the way I do:

Dr. Pournelle,

Regarding that Soviet style action against that writer/teacher in Maryland, I’m willing to pledge $250 toward his legal defense if the facts are as stated. I want to say unbelievable, but I can’t anymore.

I don’t have a lot of extra time to research the matter, but I trust that you and your readership will be able to ferret out the truth. Just put the word out and I’ll send a check.



It seems so unlikely that we can hope it’s just bad reporting on the part of Atlantic and Daily Kos, but it’s important enough to be certain that this is all it was.  I’ll continue to watch it.




On the Other Hand


Regarding the fellow who self-published a book about a school massacre, here is what you have to do to earn only a reprimand but not a suspension:

Who knows what they would do with the author of the Hunger Games, in which children are trained and set loose to hunt and kill one another.



But that link led me to this one: and I do believe the world has gone mad.



Incarcerated writer

It sounds like the teacher is being held under a law dealing with being "a danger to himself or others." That is a medical hold. Unfortunately HIPPA ties the hands of all involved on releasing information, while the press is free to speculate. The most common cause of such things is a threat to harm himself (threats to harm others is of course criminal).

The claims of harassment could be related to rebuffed romantic advances towards a coworker. Which could explain a letter indicating he may wish to harm himself. I guess we will find out more as time goes on.

Al Lipscomb


I really hope that’s all there is to the story.  Bad reporting and a rush to get something out without thinking it through,.



Freedom is not free. Free men are not equal. Equal men are not free.




We Need the Bricker Amendment; The Future of Work

View 840 Tuesday, August 26, 2014

“Transparency and the rule of law will be the touchstones of this presidency.”

President Barack Obama, January 31, 2009


I just saw this, and words fail me:


Obama Pursuing Climate Accord in Lieu of Treaty


WASHINGTON — The Obama administration is working to forge a sweeping international climate change agreement to compel nations to cut their planet-warming fossil fuel emissions, but without ratification from Congress.

In preparation for this agreement, to be signed at a United Nations summit meeting in 2015 in Paris, the negotiators are meeting with diplomats from other countries to broker a deal to commit some of the world’s largest economies to enact laws to reduce their carbon pollution. But under the Constitution, a president may enter into a legally binding treaty only if it is approved by a two-thirds majority of the Senate.

To sidestep that requirement, President Obama’s climate negotiators are devising what they call a “politically binding” deal that would “name and shame” countries into cutting their emissions. The deal is likely to face strong objections from Republicans on Capitol Hill and from poor countries around the world, but negotiators say it may be the only realistic path.

“If you want a deal that includes all the major emitters, including the U.S., you cannot realistically pursue a legally binding treaty at this time,” said Paul Bledsoe, a top climate change official in the Clinton administration who works closely with the Obama White House on international climate change policy.

Lawmakers in both parties on Capitol Hill say there is no chance that the currently gridlocked Senate will ratify a climate change treaty in the near future, especially in a political environment where many Republican lawmakers remain skeptical of the established science of human-caused global warming.

“There’s a strong understanding of the difficulties of the U.S. situation, and a willingness to work with the U.S. to get out of this impasse,” said Laurence Tubiana, the French ambassador for climate change to the United Nations. “There is an implicit understanding that this not require ratification by the Senate.”

American negotiators are instead homing in on a hybrid agreement — a proposal to blend legally binding conditions from an existing 1992 treaty with new voluntary pledges. The mix would create a deal that would update the treaty, and thus, negotiators say, not require a new vote of ratification.

Countries would be legally required to enact domestic climate change policies — but would voluntarily pledge to specific levels of emissions cuts and to channel money to poor countries to help them adapt to climate change. Countries might then be legally obligated to report their progress toward meeting those pledges at meetings held to identify those nations that did not meet their cuts.

There is more. I knew that Harvard Law School was capable of allowing people to graduate without learning as much as was taught in pre-law in other universities, but that a man so separated from the law of the Constitution and its purpose and spirit could be a lecturer at the University of Chicago – a lecturer in Constitutional Law – tells me a great deal about the present management of the University of Chicago.

A long time ago when Senator Bricker proposed an amendment to the constitution that – well, here is a reasonable summary

The best-known version of the Bricker Amendment, considered by the Congress in 1953–54, declared that no treaty could be made by the United States that conflicted with the Constitution, was self-executing without the passage of separate enabling legislation through Congress, or which granted Congress legislative powers beyond those specified in the Constitution. It also limited the president’s power to enter into executive agreements with foreign powers.

I recall the debates. President Eisenhower, with the solemn agreement of many Democratic and Republican scholar and leaders, assured the nation that this was needless, and the Constitution would never be threatened by Presidential Executive Agreements. The Amendment failed in the Senate by one vote, largely due to Eisenhower’s opposition.

It is now clear that reviving the Bricker Amendment should be a major business for the Republican Party: it is all too clear that whatever the assurances from President Eisenhower in those times, the danger is very real today.

Whatever one’s beliefs regarding Man Caused Global Warming Due to Increased CO2 – my own is that we do not have any valid theories on climate, the Earth having been both warmer and colder than now in Anno Domino historical times well before human industrial activities raised the CO2 level – one thing is certain: unilateral actions by the USA, or USA and European Union, will have great effects on the economies of those countries adopting the restrictive measures, and very little effect on CO2 levels since China and India have set out to exploit all energy sources available to them. Massively. And Africa is far behind them only because they do not yet have the capital for such development – but if they can get capital they’ll build fossil fuel electric plants in great quantities. The effect of the US slowdown on atmospheric CO2 won’t be noticed. CO2 n=may be a problem, but its solution is to find ways to get it our of the atmosphere, not to wreck the economy of the only country that cares much about it.

But whoever is right on the science/engineering, destroying the work of the Framers and the Convention of 1787 – the Constitution of the United States with its separation of powers – will be a far worse tragedy for mankind than a twenty foot rise in sea level, and to make it worse, if the Warmer Believers are correct, there is nothing the US can do in the way of restricting its economic growth to prevent it anyway.

Not cleverly said, I am sure. Words do fail me.


A further chapter in my experiments with large SD cards, particularly Micro SD cards. I am now pretty well up on what’s going on here. When SD cards were introduced, the maximum could be only 2 GB, and devices built in that period didn’t have drivers that recognized anything larger than that. Moore’s law was inexorable, and soon 4 GB SD cards became available. Some drivers were rewritten, some not, and there wasn’t a lot of standardization. A number of protocols were developed.

My camera was designed and built during the time of the 2 GB SD max; and so far as I know there has never been a firmware update for the camera. I’ll make it all clear in the column.

Peter Glaskowsky told me he suspected that I could find the cable that certainly came with the camera, it would be interesting to see if that would work properly. But, he said, being that it was Chaos Manor he could understand that it was lost. Which got me to thinking that the reason this is Chaos Manor is that we seldom throw anything away. We certainly would not have thrown away the cable that came with the camera. I didn’t recall ever using it, so where would it be not thrown away, and a great light dawned. I went to the back room to search for the Lumix Camera box, and lo! there it was, and inside was the cable. I connected the cable to the camera – it has a plug much smaller than the micro USB plug – shoved the USB plug into the nearest computer, and instantly the system – Windows 7, the same one that had wanted to reformat that very disk when it tried to read it through the Belkin 15-in-1 Media Reader Writer – saw a 2 GB disk and all its files. Since I had all those pictures transferred to that machine already (through the Kingston gizmo that turns a micro SD directly into a component of a USB thumb drive) I didn’t transfer any more, but I did test by opening a couple of the pictures at random. So the problem is solved, and the quest was worth while in that I now understand the situation, and it gives me a nice story for the column.


The Future of Work


You asked, "…is there now something new under the sun? The productivity of man and machine seems to be going up exponentially. The labor theory of value is irrevocably ended for the modern era so long as the technology endures."

By way of answer, something I’ve had in mind a long time is this quote from the book of Ezekiel (16:49):

"Behold, this was the iniquity of thy sister Sodom, pride, fulness of bread, and abundance of idleness was in her and in her daughters, neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy."

That ancient denunciation of Sodom seems almost tame compared to the, shall we say, traditional view of the sin of Sodom, but I find it far scarier. The United States would seem to strike out for at least three of the four. (We certainly give a great deal of attention to the poor and needy, though I do wonder how much of that attention actually strengthens them. And, granted, we’re not all idle yet. One wonders what the tipping point is.)

Witness especially the combination of "fulness of bread" and "abundance of idleness". The citizens of Sodom didn’t need to work for their food. The reason was likely different then than now, but does it matter? However we arrive at it, "idle hands are the devil’s workshop" would seem to be a valid Copybook Heading.

One conclusion I derive is that human productive energy must go somewhere, whether into useful work or not. A modern outlet for that energy, however, is virtual worlds. I’ve played massively-multiplayer online games, and I’ve witnessed people spending a great deal of time doing what can only be described as working in those worlds for virtual paychecks.

I wonder if a possible future for the productive energy of "economically useless" people is to be economically valuable in a virtual economy. Perhaps in such a society the chief function of government would be to maintain virtual game worlds in which most of the nation’s population spend their time. The dole demanded by the citizens would not be physical goods or food, but virtual goods and currency (which have the advantage of infinite creation). Elections would be about who promises better expansions to game worlds.

I could go on, but in short, in a world where bread is certain, circuses rule. Given human nature, that may be more of a dystopia than a utopia, but it would almost certainly make for interesting sci-fi. :) (And I did write a short story based on that kind of world.)


That is about the same conclusion that many political philosophers of the mid Twentieth Century came to: technology will make man useless, and with no goals man will put his energies to mischief. It is clearly happening here. There is very little of the old grinding poverty that was said to drive men to crime in the Depression. The lowliest inhabitants of Ferguson would be considered wealthy beyond avarice in much of the world. They are in poverty only by comparison to those not in poverty. Now it is true that many of their practices leave them with less disposable income than what they get, and it is here that conflict comes, and debate about deserving and undeserving poor, and the rest; but it is very difficult to say that the high crime rates associated with places like Ferguson are due to grinding poverty where one must steal to get one’s daily bread.

Nor is it impossible to get out of there: certainly far easier than for a child of the slums in Central America.

Any city, however small, is in fact divided into two, one the city of the poor, the other of the rich; these are at war with one another; and in either there are many smaller divisions, and you would be altogether beside the mark if you treated them all as a single State.

- Plato,
The Republic , Book IV

And apparently it remains true even if the poor in one city of the poor have more of the goods of fortune than the rich of the city of the rich in another country. But it is no longer fashionable to talk about the undeserving poor. Lisa Doolittle’s father would be appalled.

I don’t know the solution to all this; but it is clear enough to me that in thirty years well more than half the population will be unable to do anything that someone else would pay them money to have done. Perhaps they can be paid to enjoy the bread and circuses and 774 TCV channels on their 50 inch screen…

Science fiction writers have been doing these stories for a long time. I encountered Fahrenheit 451 as an undergraduate, about the time I encountered other works, including one by Poul Anderson, on the perils of really high automated productivity. I believed than that technology would get us out of the trouble by providing so much wealth that the poor would be rich. That looks to be coming. But I also thought that well more than half the population would be useful. Now I think that is not true. And that is frightening.

And while a world of people working in a virtual world – I have seen that phenomenon as well – is preferable to a world of bread, dope, and circuses, is it not a world that would have thrilled the old gods.  Perhaps religion will solve it.  If you no longer need to earn bread by the sweat of your brow, what is your obligation to God and man?


Sale of human flesh

Dr. Pournelle:

One of your many quotable aphorisms is that [I'm writing from memory]: Unrestricted capitalism results in the sale of human flesh in the marketplace.

You are once again proven correct. A company is trying to sell cloned celebrity flesh for consumption.

Cannibalize your favorite star!

– Pete Nofel

Not quite what I had in mind, but it’s a long slippery slope…

And Chinese organlegging is quite real. You can buy any organ, young from a freshly killed subject of appropriate blood type, if you have the money. And do not forget the research that indicates you can halt aging – eternal youth, anyone – if you replace all your blood with the blood of a younger person at frequent intervals. Consent of the donors is not a requirement. But that’s still in research.


This is from a long time friend and subscriber:


Below find a narrative explaining my experience with United Airlines at the Oklahoma City Airport.

On August 14, 2014 I arrived at the airport and obtained my boarding pass. It said the flight was to depart at 8:31pm. I am pretty sure at that time the airline knew the flight was going to be late but printed an incorrect time anyway. I don’t have the resources to prove that, of course.

When I got to the gate I found the departure time was after 11pm, which was about an hour after my connecting flight was to depart. No one was to be found at any gate to explain.

Eventually I managed to find an agent helping another customer but was off duty and could not help me once he had finished with the current customer. He did say there should be someone at the gate I was to depart from. Whereas I commend his dedication to helping the other customer even on his own time, this did not help me.

When I arrived back at the gate, no one was there.

I managed to access the airport computer network with my laptop and obtained a telephone number for reservations. I called that number to try to get this matter resolve, the agent on the telephone said there were no other United Flights available for me, and I had to ask if there were on another airline. There were not. It was about this time an agent showed up at the gate and made a loud announcement over the loudspeaker. The agent on the telephone said there was a direct flight from OKC to The Dalles (kept pronouncing it Dallas) Oregon which is in the rough vicinity of where my final destination was, but it was going to leave in 3 minutes and he did not know what gate it was. I hurriedly asked this flight be booked and showed the flight number to the agent at the gate explaining I had an emergency and please tell me what gate this was and it was to leave in 3 minutes. The agent directed me to the American Airlines area. No one was there. I tried to find the flight on the display and it was not there. I returned to the agent at the gate who was helping someone else. After some time the agent left and while we were walking I asked why she lied to me about the flight. She replied I had asked for American Airlines. I had not. I said I had showed her the flight number, she said it was too far away to read. My reply was the answer was to ask me to bring it closer, her reply was that if I kept following her she would report me to Airport Security. I asked her name, she said Michelle, but would not give me her last name.

I found out later this was not an American Airlines flight, but a UA flight and it arrives in Washington DC, not Dallas or The Dalles.

My original flight kept being delayed, so I decided to forgo the trip and the aggravation. On my way out of the airport I was questioned by airport security. They threatened to bring charges against me unless I discussed the matter with them. So I briefly explained what had happened and that I was going home.

I was not arrested.

The next day I called the airlines about this matter and asked for a refund of my ticket price. I have an email saying that was confirmed, but due to the unreliable information I have from the staff at United, I am going to wait until I actually have confirmation from my bank. I also asked to speak to a supervisor. The supervisor directed me to a website for customer care. The web site asked for a lot of information, I am fighting Carpal Tunnel so this was something of a daunting task. It would not accept my address even though I have been getting mail here for over a year. I attempted to correct the address (leaving off the apartment) and when I pressed return it erased the form. There was a phone number at the bottom of the form indicating ‘feedback’ – a voice mail inbox. I called that and got to talk to a person who was very pleasant; this is the only foul up on this matter that worked to my favor. In the middle of the conversation it occurred to me to try the ‘back’ button on the browser. That got me back to the incorrect address page. I managed to correct this and submit the form.

The next day after returning from breakfast I found a message fragment on my answering machine from a United Airlines number. Returning the call, they had no idea what it was about and I don’t either.

My comments below.

What is United Airlines going to do to mitigate this matter? After all I missed my class reunion and there is no way to undo that event.

Has my name been added to a no-fly list of some kind or am I going to be subjected to undue scrutiny of some sort?

I want to see the police report of this incident so I can decide what to do if I ever go back to the airport.

Can United have their access to the Airport reviewed and consider another airline with a better record of customer service taking over their flights?

Can I have a written apology from this Michelle for my shabby treatment?

Where would be a good place to share this with people having experiences similar to mine?

Is it standard practice for United Airlines to direct the airport police to deal with people who ask for an explanation of their situation?

I have little experience with United Airlines, and nothing of this sort ever happened to me; indeed my latest airline travel experiences reflect on the credit of US Air employees, enough so as to erase my long time resentment of their buying California’s wonderful PSA and incorporating it into their organization. Had this happened to me I’d certainly want people to know it.

Another long time subscriber says


I have had horrid experiences with United Airlines, including a round trip to Colorado where United Airlines forgot to file flight plans on the outbound and the return trips and another where they did not put enough fuel in the aircraft to safely make the destination, causing a diversion.

As far as I can tell, they are the most incompetent major airline in the United States, barely able to fly their planes.

As it happens, when I was flying a million miles for Boeing, Aerospace, the Pentagon, and then later for BYTE, I didn’t take United often enough to notice.  In those days of semi-regulated prices, airlines competed by giving better attention, particularly to business flyers.  Out favorites were PSA (within California; it didn’t go outside the state so avoided many federal regulations), then Continental and American in that order.  United you had to take to get to Boston, and as it happens I didn’t get there too often until BYTE (in Peterborough NH) and some MIT lecture appearances.  I don’t remember any particular problems but they didn’t fly out of Burbank, and no on I know prefers LAX to much of anything…

But with deregulation came competition on price and the loss of services.  In my day, if you had a problem and you had one of those lifetime airline lounge cards, you went there : the agents there were elite and could get anything done for you.  Not so much now…

Unrestrained capitalism will always seek the lowest common denominator, and the niceties go by the board.  Or such has been my experience. The next Quarter Report is all that matters, and long term relationships vanish.  Amazon has made a publisher revolution out of not worrying about next year’s profits, but being concerned with the next decade; we’ll see how long Wall Street allows that to last.



Freedom is not free. Free men are not equal. Equal men are not free.




Is Tomorrow Already Here? Humans need not apply; Ferguson subsides a bit. And daybook notes on Micro SD cards

View 840 Monday, August 25, 2014

“Transparency and the rule of law will be the touchstones of this presidency.”

President Barack Obama, January 31, 2009


I got the controller for my Costco hearing aids today – the old one is somewhere within fifty feet of me, but it is fifty feet of Chaos Manor and will only be found by accident – and while I was at it I asked Kerry, the crackerjack audio technician at the Burbank Costco, to tune my hearing aid a bit, reducing very sharp upper register loud noises while boosting intermediate frequencies. That seems to have worked. In the past weeks without a controller I noticed an increasing tendency for people to shout at me. Not just people around me, but salesmen on television and radio. There is a kind of ‘frantic announcer’ voice that apparently modern radio and TV stations hire preferentially, and they have the theory that if you scream in an irritating voice at people that will make them buy the product. It works just the opposite with me, but I admit that my unturned hearing aids tended to exaggerate the screaming effect; now it’s not as bad, although it’s still irritating.

Like everything I do now, it took a lot longer than I expected it to, using up a good part of my day. I got some work done on the revised column, and in fact it’s starting to flow: there’s a lot to catch up with, and I doubt I’ll get it all in one column. I’ve given myself an early September deadline on having a complete draft done and back from my advisor friends. I’ll then send a copy of that to anyone whose products are mentioned in it with my usual advisory: I will correct errors of fact immediately, and I will consider opinions on errors of judgment; and I reserve the right to determine which is which. That has been my policy for thirty years and it has always worked out well. My opinions remain my own, but if someone presents a strong case for a different view I may or may not incorporate that into the column. Do understand that Chaos Manor Reviews tries to stay out of politics unless it directly affects technology, and is mostly my day book about computing at Chaos Manor where we do a lot of silly things so you don’t have to.

On that score, my pursuit of memory for my Panasonic DMC-FZ30 camera continues. The Kingston 2 GB micro SD card with Kingston Adapter that’s in it now works just fine, but nothing else in the house will read it. At least, nothing would read it with the tools I have for years used for the purpose.

I have had over the years a dozen Multipurpose Memory Card Read/Write devises, and some are stored somewhere in the back room, because for the last couple of years I have used a Belkin Hi-speed USB 2.0 15-in-1 Media Reader and Writer. Recently I took the Kingston SD Adapter with the Kingston Micro SD 2 GB card in it and put it into the Belkin reader, and connected to a Windows 7 computer with an SD 2,0 cable. The computer beeped, and attempted to read the card, and said the card needed formatting. I hastily got the card out of there and back in the camera, where it remained perfectly readable and writable.

I wondered if it could be the Belkin Reader, but I was also a bit concerned about the SD Adapter card that allows me to insert the micro SD card into it so that the camera – and the Belkin Reader – think they’re looking at a regular SD card. After all that reader was designed well before micro SD cards existed, and for that matter, at about the time it came out 2GB was a pretty big card.

Anyway, I tried this rig on two more Windows 7 machines, and one Windows 8 system, and the results were similar; there was no way I was going to read that card. This got me frantically ordering stuff: a USB cable for my camera (it uses something smaller than a micro USB connection), a new memory card reader, and while I was at it, some new and larger memory cards. I also discovered I had a SanDisk 64 GB micro SD card; I inserted it into the Kingston SD card adapter and that into the Belkin reader, and tried connecting that to the three different computers. None of them could read it either. Curiouser and curiouser.

Today’s mail contained a new Kingston 4 GB Micro SD card, and two other objects: another SD Card adapter into which I could insert a micro SD, and another gizmo, a tiny little thing with a small lanyard to help keep from losing it which would also allow the insertion of a micro SD card – and which directly converted that into a USB thumb drive. No adapter, no Belkin Reader, nothing: just the Micro SD card and the micro-to-USB adapter. I put the 2 GB card from the camera into the newer SD Card adapter, and that into the Belkin: no joy. But then I put the Micro into the direst USB adapter, and Lo! the Windows 7 system recognized it instantly, informed me that it was about 4 GB, and had no files. I quickly put the 2 GB Micro into the USB adapter, and there was joy and the singing of angels. It opened immediately, and I was able to transfer all my pictures into my computer. I quickly went over and tested this on Swan, a Windows 8 machine with lots of empty disk space, and once again, no problem. And to be thorough I also went to Alien Artifact, a 64-bit Windows 7 system, and did the same thing. All successful.

So then I took the 64 GB SanDisk Micro and put it into the Kingston Micro to USB adapter, and once again, instantly, all the machines saw a 64 GB empty disk, and when I used one of the machines to create an empty Foo Folder on it, all the other machines saw the disk and that folder as well.

Last experiment: put the 4 GB Kingston Micro into the newest Kingston SD Adapter, and put that into the camera. Nope: some problems. That wasn’t unexpected; I’ve read that the FX-30 had problems with 4 GB cards. There is supposed to be a remedy, but as far as I am concerned I’ll just stick to 2 GB cards for that camera – the one that’s been in there all the time is fine – and worry about the rest of it another time.

Well, that’s the day book account of the story. The column will make the story somewhat better organized and have room for other experiments. But it feels good to be back bashing the balrog again.


It’s late and I am running out of time, but this is important:

Humans Need Not Apply

Hi Jerry.

C.G.P. Grey has produced a video about the next automation revolution (smart robots and such) and that we’re completely unprepared as a society to deal with the consequences of so many people becoming unemployed.

His hypothesis: we’re going the way of the horse!

His other videos are also fun to watch….


Mike Casey

The video says at length much of what I have been saying in short screeds for a couple of years now. When 25% of the population (of the male only population, actually) could not find jobs we called it The Great Depression.

What happens when half the jobs done by men and women can be done by a robot costing about the same amount as a human is paid in a year (and running on far less in power and maintenance once the first year wage capital is paid)… When most of the citizens can’t find anything that anyone would pay them to do, what does this mean for a Republic? I have asked this before. And I wonder just who is thinking about this now?

We worried about this sort of thing back in the 1950’s. I recall Robert Jungk Tomorrow Is Already Here and thinking him an alarmist; but as I watched the inexorable march of Moore’s law I found myself thinking about it more and more. And of course our school system is totally unable to cope with this, since its purpose to make sure that everyone gets the same opportunities and outcomes and education – which means that no child will be left behind because none will get ahead. It is illegal to teach the bright kids more than the normal, or the normal more than the moron. Well, perhaps not yet; but that day will come.

Which is all pretty scary. I’ll let you think about it.  Well discuss all this again.


And finally, the Ferguson drama may be coming to an end. This particular site is more partisan than places I usually visit, but I was directed here by a friend, and I think this time they have much of the right of it.

They are also rightly concerned about the militarization of the police. All those military weapons which convert the police from police to occupying legions ought to be with the National Guard, or perhaps with special units of the County Sheriff Department, but not distributed for routine use by small town or even Big City cops. The police should not make war on the citizens, or even appear to do so. When that kind of weaponry is needed, bring out the National Guard. But that’s for another discussion.

The Ferguson mess will damp out although there are many whose reputations and income depend on keeping it heated up, and they will be desperate.


And it’s very late and past my bed time.



Freedom is not free. Free men are not equal. Equal men are not free.




Near East Policy; Air power and Asymmetric War

View 839 Saturday, August 23, 2014

“Transparency and the rule of law will be the touchstones of this presidency.”

President Barack Obama, January 31, 2009


The California Sixth Grade Reader (1914 edition) continues to sell steadily, if not quite as well as I’d like.  I am looking into arrangement for a Print on Demand print edition; it’s a big book, with a lot of words, but it’s apparently manageable. Meanwhile the Kindle edition continues to get decent sales and reviews, and many families are reading it together. adults and children alike.  At one time books like this united America in that we all had a large common background of stories and literature.  Some of the stories are “hard’,  but one of the joys of life is the discovery that it is worth all the work you have to put into learning to read good books and stories.

Various wars continue in the Middle East, and along the Russian/Ukrainian border, which is conventionally the “border” between Europe and Asia, or at least very near to it. That in itself says a lot about the proper US response to it. Our first President warned us not to make entangling alliances – NATO is a good example – and not to become involved in the territorial disputes of Europe. He was right on both counts. We needed and alliance with France to become independent; it is highly unlikely that we could have won independence without that alliance, and the resulting French Royal Army regulars (and at least as importantly the French Royal Navy) in the Yorktown campaign. That did not mean that we should make a permanent alliance with France. Indeed, by the time the United States was a functioning entity, the France we might have allied with was no more, and while Jefferson and Paine had enthusiasm for the French Revolution, the other Founders saw further.

We made no enduring alliances, and thus avoided most of the Napoleonic wars that redrew the map of Europe. We managed to endure the War of 1812, and Andrew Jackson turned what had been a humiliation into something more triumphal with his defeat of Wellington’s Regulars at New Orleans. And from all that experience John Adams boiled it down to:

And now, friends and countrymen, if the wise and learned philosophers of the elder world, the first observers of nutation and aberration, the discoverers of maddening ether and invisible planets, the inventors of Congreve rockets and Shrapnel shells, should find their hearts disposed to enquire what has America done for the benefit of mankind? Let our answer be this: America, with the same voice which spoke herself into existence as a nation, proclaimed to mankind the inextinguishable rights of human nature, and the only lawful foundations of government. America, in the assembly of nations, since her admission among them, has invariably, though often fruitlessly, held forth to them the hand of honest friendship, of equal freedom, of generous reciprocity. She has uniformly spoken among them, though often to heedless and often to disdainful ears, the language of equal liberty, of equal justice, and of equal rights. She has, in the lapse of nearly half a century, without a single exception, respected the independence of other nations while asserting and maintaining her own. She has abstained from interference in the concerns of others, even when conflict has been for principles to which she clings, as to the last vital drop that visits the heart. She has seen that probably for centuries to come, all the contests of that Aceldama the European world, will be contests of inveterate power, and emerging right. Wherever the standard of freedom and Independence has been or shall be unfurled, there will her heart, her benedictions and her prayers be. But she goes not abroad, in search of monsters to destroy. She is the well-wisher to the freedom and independence of all. She is the champion and vindicator only of her own. She will commend the general cause by the countenance of her voice, and the benignant sympathy of her example. She well knows that by once enlisting under other banners than her own, were they even the banners of foreign independence, she would involve herself beyond the power of extrication, in all the wars of interest and intrigue, of individual avarice, envy, and ambition, which assume the colors and usurp the standard of freedom. The fundamental maxims of her policy would insensibly change from liberty to force…. She might become the dictatress of the world. She would be no longer the ruler of her own spirit….

America’s] glory is not dominion, but liberty. Her march is the march of the mind. She has a spear and a shield: but the motto upon her shield is, Freedom, Independence, Peace. This has been her Declaration: this has been, as far as her necessary intercourse with the rest of mankind would permit, her practice.

Which does not mean that we will not go forth and destroy monsters who threaten our liberty. It does not mean that there are no just causes for war far from our borders. There is still substance to the notion that it’s better to fight them in the Philippines than California. And some conflicts are over more than territorial boundaries in Europe.

As Peggy Noonan notes well in today’s Wall Street Journal Column “A New Kind of Terrorist Threat”,

The question "What should we do about ISIS?" is not the same as the question "Do we want to go back to Iraq?" One is about facing up to an extreme and immediate challenge, which we have to do. The other is about returning to an old experience, which almost no one wants to do.

The Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham is not just a grandiose army of freelancers and fanatics. They’re something different in kind from the al Qaeda of old—more vicious, more organized and professional. George Packer in the New Yorker estimates ISIS controls 35,000 square miles of land. "The self-proclaimed Caliphate stretches from the newly conquered towns along the Syrian-Turkish border," through northern Syria, across the Iraqi border, "down to the farming towns south of Baghdad." ISIS funds its operations not like primitives but sophisticates: They sell oil and electricity and empty banks in the areas they seize. (A CNN report put their haul from the oil fields alone at $2 million a day.) They also make money from kidnappings and what they call taxation. Mr. Packer quotes a former Pentagon official: "ISIS now controls a volume of resources and territory unmatched in the history of extremist organizations."

We can’t ignore the Caliphate. It has declared war on us, and it has made its intent clear; and now is the best time to put paid to that. We have a stable ally in place, so we do not need any large expeditionary force. Our contribution is logistic and supply – and very high technology military action. It is the perfect place for this, as was our original intervention in Afghanistan before we were gulled into the notion of bringing about the end of history through the progressive wave of liberal democracy sweeping the earth. That was a delusion, and we were smacked down for having it.

Eliminating the Caliphate is a matter of arming allies and killing enemies, and we have the capability to do both. We should get to it.


Continuing the discussion on air power in the modern world


We don’t need an Army Air Force. We just need AF and Army missions which are properly coordinated and have the right tools for the job.

It doesn’t matter what the paint on the side says. All that counts is the job being done, and that’s a function of the command chain.

The cost of a USAAF would be prohibitive. Giving the Army helos makes sense, because it’s easy to build heliports. It’s not so easy to build airfields suitable for advanced aircraft, and the Air Force is already tasked with that.

Other costs of the USAAF would be pilot selection and training — jobs also already being done by the Air Force. It’s not until training is well under way that pilots are assigned to the Wide World of Warthogs, and this comes as one of a number of potential career paths. A USAAF would offer only air-to-mud, which isn’t the right fit for a lot of the pool of potential recruits.

Sure, the USAAF could possible draw from the AF training channel (as the Marines draw from the Naviators), but, what would make it worth the cost?

Having known a few Warthog pilots, I have never detected the slightest lack of enthusiasm on their part for the air-to-ground tasking. They have a saying: "It doesn’t matter how well you sweep the skies if you come back to base and find the enemy tank commander hosting lunch in the Officer’s Club." Yet not one has ever said they wished that they were in the Army. Thus, the esprit de corps of a USAAF might not be appreciably different from that among the A-10 squadrons — but if anything, I predict that it would be LOWER. A Warthog pilot knows that he has a promotion path that can put him or her in command of everything that the Air Force has, while a pilot in the USAAF that you envision would be forever in the air-to-ground environment. To put it into computer terms, this would be comparable to requiring a techie to only work on Windows-based computers for his entire career, no matter how much he wants to get into other architectures.

Given all of the above, the really is no point to giving high-capability fixed-wing back to the Army.


I thoroughly disagree. I have watched the Air Force decisions for fifty years, and they have always been in favor of the Independent Air Force rather than the interests of the United States. The Air Force has good doctrines for winning and keeping air superiority (including refusing to believe in “air superiority”: the goal is air supremacy), and needs to control the means for doing this. The Army does have strategists who understand the importance of the air arm in combat – Patton was one – but Clark Gable’s magnificent speech in the movie Command Decision – which if you have never seen, you really need to see – has a lot of truth in it.

But the Air Force has always treated support of the Field Army as a secondary goal, and this simply will not do. Air supremacy doesn’t win wars and territories. You can fly over the land, you can bomb the land, you can make it uninhabitable, but it’s not yours until you can stand a 19 year old with a rifle on it. Promotion paths in both Army and Air Force for tactical operations pilots and crews have always been a problem. A good P-47 close support pilot in 1944 was enormously valuable to the war effort, but not necessarily very good at anything else. The Air Force understood that Air supremacy was key to victory; good close support pilots weren’t part of that. The promotions went to those who were fanatic on Air Force independence. They still do. Yet the tactical support mission remains a key element of war, particularly in these asymmetric wars we find ourselves in.

I don’t much care about esprit de corps. I do care that those given the tactical mission understand its importance, and are subordinate to those who control the battlefield. It’s part of the principle of the unity of command.

But it is not at the operations level that the problem lies. The Air Force will never have close support enthusiasts in its higher echelons because they never will get there; and when it comes to allocations resources, the Warthogs will have the short end every time. An Army that has to support both tanks and Warthogs will learn quickly which is useful where.

I do understand some of the logistics problems. The USAF is the world’s largest employer of civil engineers, and has to build tactical air bases from scratch – but in short times again, that takes away from other activities more critical to the air supremacy mission. There are many other complexities like that. But in this era of asymmetric war, when two squadrons of Warthogs properly handled with good air coordinator Rangers working with the local forces could effectively wipe out the Caliphate — except we don’;t have any way to deploy two squadrons of Warthogs to Iraqi Kurdistan, and put them under the control of Rangers, do we?

For now we will have to make do, and we had better get to it fast before the Caliphate has a chance to dig in and build infrastructure (as for example tunnels). But we need to think forward because this isn’t the last of the asymmetric war. We still have monsters to destroy even though we do not go abroad seeking them; and we need to do it with the fewest Legions possible.

Since the Air Force apparently still fears the ghost of Billy Mitchell will come back to haunt them if they let the Army have ground attack aircraft, why not give ground troops to the Air Force? I propose the creation of a United States Airborne Corps, which would work with the Air Force in the same manner as the Marines do the Navy. The Navy and Air Force would divide the expeditionary mission between them, leaving the Army to focus on heavy, sustained mechanized combat (which is what it really wants to do anyway). Everybody’s happy, and the jobs get done.

John Stephens

You propose a new kind of Legionary Expedition Force. The Marines want that role also.


On the reliability of alliances:

You write "The Kurds have a good reputation for keeping their promises".

Ah, no, they haven’t, not in that part of the world at least (disclaimer: I was a child in Iraq in the ’50s, and my father later told me much of the background, while my mother passed on the horror story she had heard from our Armenian nanny’s own infancy, which I will not repeat). I recently posted the following as a reply to someone else’s blog that was suggesting they were pro-American, and it will serve for this:-

The Kurds are not pro-American. The Kurds are for the Kurds. Far from "the Kurds, unlike Barack Obama, do not forget their friends", just about everyone in that part of the world "has learned that there is no more treacherous and unreliable ally" than the Kurds. If you don’t believe me, read up about the long career of Mustapha Barzani, one of their leaders [addendum: he switched back and forth between every side there was to help the Kurds, betraying each that he deserted, and his son is notable now], and recall that the Kurds were at the cutting edge of the Armenian genocide (guess who got the Armenian land).

Almost the only exception was Saladin, who was detribalised.

Yours sincerely,


I understand that the Kurds – descendants of the Medes as in Medes and Persians – have been to some extent Arabized, but then they have had to deal with them as allies. I don’t mean that we should make any long time alliance with them; I do say that they deserve our support at this time, and a strong and independent Kurdistan in North Iraq with her own revenue sources would be a far better outcome to the Iraqi adventures than any other likely event. Kurdish interests and our interests in the region coincide, and the one thing the Kurds have not been known for is religious fervor. As to Saladin, he became “the Light of the World” but the center of that power was his Kurdish bodyguard which helped him unite the other factions – as bitterly opposed in the time of Coeur de Lion as now.


Iraq, ISIL, Historical Context

Dr. Pournelle,

I greatly enjoy reading your site, including its many contributors. Recently I read an article which corresponds nicely with much material that you have mentioned.

This article is a useful corrective to much media coverage lately about the disasters being visited upon Iraq by ISIL. The writer points out that these behaviors have been seen in Islam since the time of Mohammed. They happened in Iraq (to Yazidi’s, Christians, and any other people judged to be insufficiently "Muslim") even during the time of our vaunted "surge" when U.S. troop levels were high. However, the really interesting thing that I have NOT seen reported before is that according to the testimony of some of these people, the ISIL is not their worst enemy. Their worst enemies are their own neighbors. And lastly, 81.5% of the Mosul population was HAPPY that the ISIL and other insurgents took over the city; they felt safer.

Based on this, I see no productive, worthwhile way for us to be involved over there, except in providing aid to any group which supports freedom and the right of liberty and religion for all peoples. The Kurds currently seem to do that more than most others over there.


Quoted from the end of the linked article:

Dr. Munqith M. Dagher, is a bona-fide Iraqi pollster. His polling organization, IIACSS, Iraq, during June 2008, following â€more than two years of testing, monitoring and evaluation€ of its research practices, was recognized as a full member of the Gallup International Association. Dr. Dagher was kind enough to send me a recent slide presentation he put together, entitled, “ISIL [Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant] in Iraq: A disease or just the symptoms? A public opinion analysis.” His presentation, made soon after Mosul fell, included these sobering data (verbatim) which underscored that the violent changes in Mosul were wrought by an indigenous, broad-based Sunni insurgency:

The population of Mosul is around 2,000,000. Most of them are Arab Sunni.

Total number of security forces in Mosul was between 120,000 to 150,000 armed with light, medium and heavy weapons including tanks and air force.

Who is Fighting in Mosul and the Sunni Areas of Iraq?

10-20% ISIL; Several Iraqi armed groups with full coordination on the ground:

1- Baathist (6 different groups including former Iraqi army officers under the name of Jihad and Liberty Front).

2- Moderate Islamist [note: whatever that means!]

3- Tribal rebels

Dagher concluded, with understatement, “IS/IL benefited from the wide, strong dissatisfaction among Sunnis.” Most striking, were data from 200 telephone interviews of Mosul residents conducted in the period of June 19-21, 2014, i.e., after the city had come under control by the Sunni insurgents, including the jihad terror organization ISIL. Two key sentiments were apparent in the immediate aftermath of the Sunni takeover, as revealed by Dagher’s polling data:

81.5% of Mosul’s predominantly Sunni residents felt more secure after the Sunni insurgents seized control of the city; they overwhelmingly rejected—i.e., 84.5% — U.S. involvement with the (longstanding Iranian proxy) Maliki government to repulse the Sunni insurgents, including ISIL.

Dagher’s hard data—combined with the independent testimonies of Yazidi and Christian survivors of this Sunni jihad—put the lie to another false notion promulgated by mainstream conservatives: that the bloody exploits against the Yazidi and Christian minorities of northern Iraq were somehow committed solely by IS/IL “extremists” in the absence of widespread Sunni Muslim support. Both Yazidi and Christian refugees from these jihad depredations have explained how local Sunni Muslims, their erstwhile “neighbors,” not only aided and abetted IS/IL, but were more responsible for killings, other atrocities, and expulsions than the “foreign” invading jihadists. For example, Sabah Hajji Hassan, a 68-year-old Yazidi, lamented,

The (non-Iraqi) jihadists were Afghans, Bosnians, Arabs and even Americans and British fighters. But the worst killings came from the people living among us, our (Sunni) Muslim neighbors. The Metwet, Khawata and Kejala tribes€”they were all our neighbors. But they joined the IS [Islamic State; ISIL], took heavy weapons from them, and informed on who was Yazidi and who was not. Our neighbors made the IS takeover possible.

Jamal Jamir, a 23-year-old Yazidi university student from Sinjar, told CNN that following IS/IL’s arrival in his town, his Arab neighbors turned on the minorities and assisted in the killings

â€They join them, and actually they kill us.

“People you know?” CNN asked.

Yes, he responded. People our neighbors!

Another confirmatory account was reported by Der Spiegel, which revealed how refugee Yazidis

described Muslim neighbors,

…who suddenly became turned into their enemies, becoming accomplices to the IS. This attack, it appears, followed a pattern established in previous offenses. First, a discrete network of informants was established over a long period of time, including Arabs from surrounding villages, Turkmens and even some Kurds.

The Yazidi observations independently validated this prior, concordant assessment (video here) by a Christian refugee from Mosul:

[Unnamed Christian refugee]: We left Mosul because ISIL came to the city. The [Sunni] people of Mosul embraced ISIS and drove the Christians out of the city. When ISIS entered Mosul, the people hailed them and drove out the Christians. Why did they expel just the Christians from Mosul? There are many sects in Mosul. Why just the Christians? This is nothing new. Even before, the Christians could not go anywhere. The Christians have faced threats of murder, kidnapping, jizya [deliberately humiliating poll-tax, per Koran 9:29, imposed upon non-Muslim Jews/Christians/Zoroastrians, vanquished by jihad, along with a slew of other sacralized debasing regulations] This is nothing new. [...] I was told to leave Mosul. They said that this was a Muslim country, not a Christian one. I am being very honest. They said that this land belongs to Islam and that Christians should not live there.

[Interviewer]: Who told you that?

[Christian refugee]: The people who embraced ISIS, the people who lived there with us¦

[Interviewer]: Your neighbors?

[Christian refugee]: Yes, my neighbors. Our neighbors and other people threatened us


Dr. Pournelle;

Rambling? For those of us who are about 20 years behind you… I would argue against your interpretation of your reminiscence. In my opinion you are presenting an oral history that conveys the details of our common history. I, for one, am interested in your "ramblings and would respectfully request that you carry on.


I find it frustrating that for the larger issues which we are all concerned about, there is not much we can do. But the myriad of small actions we can take daily are essential in keeping our civilization functioning. So I very much liked your ramble about your orioles. Keep on rambling


More data:

"Icelandic Met Office has moved the warning level for air traffic up to Orange level…GPS measurement have confirmed magma movements inside Bárðarbunga volcano and this movement is fast."

This means that the quakes are harmonic tremors indicating magma movement into the chamber, and the movement is "migrating to the north-east over the past 10 to 18 hours… Earthquake activity in other parts of Bárðarbunga have quieted down for the moment, that *might* change without warning."

Stephanie Osborn

Interstellar Woman of Mystery <>



Freedom is not free. Free men are not equal. Equal men are not free.