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Mail 491 November 5 - 11, 2007
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November 5, 2007
Guy Fawkes Day
Martial law declared in Pakistan--
<http://www.guardian.co.uk/worldlatest/story/0,,-7048784,00.html> <http://tinyurl.com/276vrx >
<http://observer.guardian.co.uk/world/story/0,,2205020,00.html> <http://tinyurl.com/2e5ogc >
Scotland Yard chief under pressure to resign--
<http://observer.guardian.co.uk/uk_news/story/0,,2205033,00.html> <http://tinyurl.com/ypgsv4 >
Iraq war planning story in the Telegraph--
High insurance costs because British soldiers are poorly compensated for death or injury--
article2801051.ece> <http://tinyurl.com/25xxke >
Privacy and Europe--
Disaster movie about oil apocalypse--
Drinking and children in Britain--
Harry Erwin, PhD
"Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety." (Benjamin Franklin, 1755)
November 6, 2007
Subject: English innumeracy
"A LOTTERY scratchcard has been withdrawn from sale by Camelot - because players couldn't understand it. ... "But the concept of comparing negative numbers proved too difficult for some Camelot received dozens of complaints on the first day from players who could not understand how, for example, -5 is higher than -6."
"... there was always a minority afraid of something, and a great majority afraid of the dark, afraid of the future, afraid of the past ..." - Ray Bradbury, _The Martian Chronicles_
Leopard Server vs. Windows Server.f
Subject: I'm surprised
you said nothing about BGen Tibbets, sir.
- Roland Dobbins
I've said a lot over the years, and I am not sure I have anything new to say. RIP.
“We are not building a GPhone; we are enabling 1,000 people to build a GPhone.”
- Roland Dobbins
Your correspondent who believes Google has “jumped the shark” might try reading Google’s pages on HOW to search effectively.
You don’t simply plonk in words and expect an intuitive program to go to work, and then be disappointed when it doesn’t know what you mean or want.
Subj: U Delaware Diversity Program Canceled
But the people who implemented it are still there and still in charge. It will be back.
Dear Dr Pournelle ,
If you have time to read this, I hope you might find it interesting. I think is an excellent short hand critique of Climate Change by non-scientists.
Hansen is still around and still telling his story. No one seems inclined to look at all of the data. Climate Science, like Regulatory Science, has joined the VOODOO Sciences.
Preparing for the future
Jerry, You have in the past , when commenting on globalisation, the oursourcing of manufacturing overseas and the usual defence thereof quoting Ricardo, referred obliquely to us 'all getting rich by taking in each others washing.'
I'm pleased to be able to tell you that in Britain, the far sighted education Minister, Ed Balls, (nominative determinism at work again?) has annouced some changes to the education system, which should prevent the prospect of teeming hordes armed with washboards lining the banks of the Thames.
Instead of fusty A levels and the like, scholars (learners?) will be able to choose from an exciting range of 'Diplomas' uniquely equipping them for their future careers. viz. engineering; health and social care; ICT; creative and media; construction and the built environment; land-based and environment; manufacturing; hair and beauty; business administration and finance; hospitality and catering; public services; sport and leisure; retail; travel and tourism.
with commentary here:
An announcement that tractor production is up 30% would make my joy complete.
November 7, 2007
Readers of Dr. Pournelle's "Spartan counterinsurgency" stories may find this interesting:
Some traditions are worth remembering... Of course Cicero was standard in second year Latin back when high schools routinely offered Latin. I sort of grew up on Cicero and Caesar.
Subject: need for an air force
I read your comments and the article on the army vs. air force controversy.
A division of powers is good from a political standpoint. It makes fomenting a military takeover that much more difficult.
I like it. I think it adds long-term stability to our system of government to have 3 branches at odds with each other. I seem to recall from an event from Japanese pre-ww2 history when their navy stymied the army in a coup attempt.
I am not currently worried about coups in the US, but our current political climate, where on party seems mindlessly anti-military and the other pro, could lead to problems in the future.
Hitler thought that, too. OKH was filled with old General Staff people who didn't think much of Hitler, so he created OKW; also the SS, and ground units of the Luftwaffe so that Goering would have troops. Dividing the Legions against themselves is pretty standard in Empires. The result isn't usually healthy for republics (although it might happen); the result is usually succession wars.
The Framers never feared the Navy, which is why the Constitution treats Navy appropriations different from Army appropriations. Of course the Framers never contemplated armies of Marines.
David Frum: A Big Country Has Lots of Crazy People
Dr. Pournelle, here's a recent diary entry from David Frum:
. . ."it is worth recalling that in the much lower-intensity race of 2000, Ralph Nader raised over $8 million for his presidential bid. It would be interesting to know how many of today's Paul donors were Nader donors then. But surely the moral of the story is that the United States is a very big and rich country, and that its political fringes are likewise big and rich. "
What else would one expect from the egregious Frum?
Tracking Copyrighted Content
"New technology allows newspapers to track where their content may have been pirated online... Developing... " This may prove useful to the SFWA or its successor. This includes software, and does not appear to be a concept only.
Regards, Peter Czora
I'll have to find someone to look into it. I make no doubt that publishers will become interested in the matter when they realize where the market is going.
As part of NBC's week-long "green" event (which includes photo ops for LA stars planting trees in pots outside Rockefeller Center), we have Matt Lauer and Ann Curry, respectively, on the Arctic Circle and Antarctica. In the Arctic, Matt is reporting on the local benefits of warming and the local woman he just interviewed is concerned that tourism -- mostly "greenies" wanting to see global warming for themselves -- continue.
How many carbon offsets must they buy to make up for the junket? And from whom?
November 8, 2007
A click a day keeps the doctor in pay
In your September 10, 2007 Mailbag, there was a bit on Tales of MU. I've been reading Alexandra Erin's writing since then (and even gave a small contribution).
In her RSS feed today, there is a bit about a woman who has a Chiari malformation and is trying to raise money for her medical bills via the MegaUpload reward program. As my wife has the same condition (but not as bad), it peeked my interest. You can read her post here - http://www.talesofmu.com/story/?p=131. The Project Download page may be found here - http://projecterin.com/index.html.
I didn't know if this might be something you will also be willing to share with your readers. If so, please remove my name.
Hope all is well.
Ingested Chinese Toys Convert to Date Rape Drug Puffy Willow
Another good reason to buy from unregulated sources:
"Millions of Chinese-made toys have been pulled from shelves in North America and Australia after scientists found they contain a chemical that converts into a powerful "date rape" drug when ingested. Two children in the United States and three in Australia were hospitalized after swallowing the beads."
"This is not an area where sane discussion prevails at the moment"
-- Harry Erwin, PhD, Program Leader, MSc Information Systems Security, University of Sunderland. <http://scat-he-g4.sunderland.ac.uk/~harryerw> Weblog at: <http://scat-he-g4.sunderland.ac.uk/~harryerw/blog/index.php>
A picture of our future?
And here's one I known about for a while, but wasn't sure when to spring it.
--- Roland Dobbins
Built by XCOR. My son Richard is a VP.
Looking for a nightmare?
Subject: Malware in Military UAVs? -
I realize there is a low chance… but the idea of any military leader authorizing any sort of control software to be ‘offshored’ scares the heck out of me.
E.C. "Stan" Field
Through the looking glass
"You can't be the president and the head of the military at the same time." --G.W. Bush, President, USA and Commander in Chief, all U.S. Military branches
Verbatim, earlier today, in post-meeting presser with French president Sarkozy, in an open message delivered to Pakistan's president Musharraf.
(Waiting to see if Musharraf replies, "You first!")
Is this an artifact of the writers strike? Who came up with this hairball?
November 9, 2007
First, I'm sorry to hear about the Palsy, but as you say, that's better than cancer!
Regarding the Ethanol/Politics situation, this was covered rather convincingly in Jane Jacobs' _Systems of Survival_ (which I seem to recall you citing in one of the Prince Lysander/Falkenberg's Legion books). The upshot of her argument was that governments can't resist meddling in agriculture because agriculture requires physical territory to implement, and territory is what governments are all about.
Jacobs goes into much more detail, and it's been a while since I've read the book (must re-visit it soon), but the upshot was that when it comes to agriculture and ag-related issues, don't expect economic logic from the government. Their calculus is not based on financial cost/benefit analysis, but rather on territorial control and patronage.
Jason M. Bontrager
Oderint dum metuant
I've long been an admirer of Jane Jacobs and her trenchant analyses. I don't alway support her conclusions, although her Dark Age book is certainly correct in its general conclusions and recommendations. It has been a long time since I read Systems of Survival; I've ordered a copy and I'll look again.
I admit I have real concern about ethanol and Global Warming: it's quite literally enough to make me despair of democracy as a means of government. The Old Republic would have left such matters to the states, and there might have been some intelligent discussion about such things; but today we have a National Democracy, and the results are utterly irrational. And either our leaders are insane and do not know that this is irrational, or they are quite cynically going along with it.
Al Gore, apparently, genuinely believes in this stuff. He also does well by it, selling carbon offset credits. Now which scares you most: that someone who might have been President believes this nonsense, or that he's putting it all on in order to make some money from gullible dopes and useful idiots?
(I understand that you can, and Cochran does, ask similar questions about positions of the current President of the United States. I will leave it at that.)
The only way we will ever have a Republic again is to take a lot of the power away from the National Government and return it to the States (and to the people as specified in the Constitution). That isn't going to happen.
The question then is, is national democracy a viable form of government?
Subject: Ethanol Tariff
Dr. Pournelle, I'm afraid the ethanol import tariff you complained about today is a necessary consequence of our subsidy for domestic ethanol. Because the 51 cent-per-gallon (of 197+ proof ethanol) credit for blending alcohol into gasoline is paid to the blender, not the farmer, we need the 54 cent tariff to prevent US taxpayers from subsidizing offshore ethanol production. Even some ethanol advocates are beginning to realize that it's time to do away with both sides of this incentive. If corn ethanol can't stand on its own when oil is $95/barrel, it never will. With a paltry energy return on energy invested of at best 1.3:1 the cost of ethanol is nearly as sensitive to the price of natural gas (for process heat and nitrogen fertilizer via the Haber process) as it is to the price of corn.
Regards, Geoff Styles
Certainly. And they never catch wise, do they? Do you seriously believe that we'll change any of this?
We don't need the ethanol in the first place. Better we produce gallons and gallons and make every Senator and Member of Congress drink two quarts a day of absolute alcohol diluted however they like. They couldn't do worse, could they?
You have got to get a MAC with Leopard. It's cool! I tell you 3 times. I just started playing with stacks. You may be bored with the PC and with good reason. I am too. I have no interest in Vista. The only reasons I have not bought another Mac Pro to replace my Supermicro home built machine in the lab is I'm waiting to renew my developer subscription and get the discount and I'm waiting for the 45 NM processors, both of which should happen about the same time.
Oh, I agree, and I will when I can afford it, which is when I get these books out the door, or I get another hundred subscribers marked "Get a Mac!" whichever comes first.
There's even a new Apple Store in Fashion Square in Sherman Oaks, so I don't have to deal with the Glendale Mall people. Now all I need is the money.
Peak oil, yeah, you bet.
-- Roland Dobbins
There's plenty in North America, only we don't pump it. And there appears to be methane and oil nearly everywhere.
What Role is there for the USAF
The US Air Force has always been primarily interested in maintaining itself as a Strategic Force. If I were them I would give up the Ground Support entirely to the army and navy and concentrate on your own High Frontier suggestion.
With that in mind a US Aerospace Force is a viable structure, let the other forces have the bottom 40000 feet, let the USAF control everything above. This would include satellites, THOR weapons, Ben Bova Laser Battlestations, and a fleet of Aerospace Fighters. This is the role I could envisage for a future USAF. The control of these and other Strategic Tools would be best controlled by a arm dedicated to them.
Become the Middle and possibly High Guard... USAF refused to give up the ground support mission even though it was clear they didn't want it and didn't want to do it. The miserable performance in close support is one reason USMC gets to keep its own air force. Marine Air works well with the ground forces. USAF hates the mission.
Democracy fails again, Bell's Palsy
I thought the link at the top of your site read, "Democracy fails again, Bell's Palsy" with a comma instead of a semicolon. I have reading glasses, but rarely use them because I find it easier to sit a little farther back from the screen, where everything focuses, even at 1280 x 1024 on a 17" monitor. I couldn't figure out what Bell's Palsy had to do with Democracy failing. I was going to write, despite my mis-reading your link, but this made it more humorous. I'll go find my glasses now.
As someone second-handedly involved in the ethanol industry (my employer also designs corn-to-ethanol processing plants, and sells milling and material handling equipment), you are quite correct about the ethanol scam going on. This government largesse will benefit a few large companies (I think you meant ADM, not ADL) and some squeaky-wheel type (very vocal) smaller farmers in swing states. The per bushel price of corn is up 50% in the past year, driven mostly by pie-in-the-sky claims of how "ethanol will save us all" with programs paid for by the federal government. We do have countries like Brazil dying to sell us ethanol, but political butt-covering comes first. What comes second is ignorance. These politicians really couldn't tell ethanol from methanol, s*** from Shinola for that matter, but a few buzzwords is all it takes to get the ignorant on the bandwagon. I tell people that it costs more energy to grow the corn and process the ethanol than you can get from ethanol, and the feedstock leftover from distillation means less food for cows, not more… and they look at me like I've just landed from Mars. The sciences just aren't taught anymore.
The only thing we've gotten from the domestic ethanol industry is higher corn prices, which have yielded higher beef, pork, chicken, and milk prices. A secondary effect has been higher soybean prices, because soybean farmers have been switching to corn (due to that higher price). I'm reminded of Bradbury's story A Sound of Thunder in a meandering thoughts kind of way.
I am sorry to hear about your affliction. I checked out a few links on Bell's Palsy and hope you're one of the majority who make a speedy and complete recovery. You hadn't mentioned any symptoms previously, so I was a bit surprised and immediately took to the web to find out more. Everything appears to be encouraging, but I'm sure you already know that. Great news that it isn't a stroke.
Oh, after watching your 1979 interviews on Tom Snyder, I've started taking B-12 and Lecithin with Choline. While I won't have my cholesterol checked for another month, I have noticed my digestion has improved. My hair seems to be glossier, too… but that could just be the reformulated Costco conditioner!
I continue to recommend Lecithin, and I get lots of B-12. Thanks for the kind words. I am not sure how one gets Bell's Palsy: it must be some form of contagion, and I would guess airborne since I don't recall any other form of contact with strangers (or indeed anyone) in the past couple of months.
All ur UAVs are belong to us
The creepier version of this comes when a large fraction of our military power is remote-controlled or programmed autonomous devices. A coup now changes from something you do by convincing a majority of the military to go along with you, to something you do by compromising the cryptographic keys used to control access to the devices. Maybe there's a mercenary army in Bangalore running the remote-control tanks, helicopters, etc.
Subject: Space Solar Power Satellites
As a loyal TWIT listener, it was great to hear you on the show.
I second your opinion that a multi-billion dollar prize for a true RLV or Lunar presence would be money well spent.
I was especially excited to hear you mention Space Solar Power Satellites, as I was a participant in the latest study, which was just released last month:
A good synopsis can be found here:
PETER A. GARRETSON, Lt Col, USAF Chief, Future Science & Technology Exploration Branch (HQ USAF/A8XC) Future Concepts & Transformation Division firstname.lastname@example.org Tel: 703-428-0891 SIPRNET: email@example.com
AF/A8XC Mission: Explore, develop, advocate and link future concepts, capabilities, promising technologies and their program funding to continue transforming the Air Force into a more effective fighting force.
Commander in Chief
Jerry, the President is Commander in Chief, but isn't it Constitutionally important that the President be a CIVILIAN in control of the military, rather than an active military officer?
You mean like General Washington? Andrew Jackson? Actually, the Framers expected that a qualified President would take to the field as the head of the army. Commander in Chief had a specific meaning in those days (Marlborough was CINC of English forces in Europe during Queen Anne's War).
But yes, we have over time erected the "civilian control of the military" into a constitutional principle. On the other hand, the Framers understood the principle of the unity of command quite well. Of course in those days there was more time, possibly to change Presidents.
November 10, 2007
On Ebook readers (from another conference):
Oh yes, the N800 is one *nice* piece of kit. I've got one (and one of its predecessor, the N770 -- same screen, weedier guts, but Expansys were selling them off for seventy quid); I'm forcing myself not to buy the newer N810 for now (it's got GPS and a usable retractable keyboard and more memory).
I'm with your reader. I try to read on screen rather than on dead tree these days; I've got too many damn books as it is, and besides, having an ebook reader on you means *never* being short for something to read if your plane's delayed or your car breaks down or something. (Currently I'm reading "Implied Spaces" by Walter Jon Williams -- one that's not out yet. Editors have mostly gotten used to emailing me RTF files instead of ARCs for cover blurbs: it saves them money, saves me shelf space, and gives me longer to read it due to not waiting around for trans-Atlantic air mail.)
-- Charlie Stross
|This week:||Sunday, November
I took Veterans Day off
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