CHAOS MANOR MAIL
Mail 240 January 13 - 19, 2003
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January 13, 2003
Roland found this about a plane missing for 50 years. It is on tonight:
The description is interesting. The Attu Campaign is a largely unknown story of incredible feats and heroism.
He also finds that Diablo Kills...
But we sort of knew that...
And yet more:
Gets the Galileo thing right, worth reading:
- Roland Dobbins
Which is about both Lomborg and Galileo, and I agree with Roland's assessment. Worth reading indeed. The assertion is that Galileo was persecuted, not by the religious authorities (who tried to help him) but by scientists of the Aristotelian bent who were ruined by the new science, and who wanted to stop this nonsense dead.
I am assuming that that hoax virus that you mentioned in your Monday "Journal" is not the W32/Sobig@MM virus (see here http://vil.nai.com/vil/content/v_99950.htm ) .
In fact, I got this one several times starting Friday, and McAfee/Network Associates didn't update their DAT files until Saturday morning. It caused a bit of a ruckus here at work, since copies of the attachment got through before we got the automatic update from Network Associates.
We have since decided to block all incoming PIF files (no need for them) and are considering blocking EXE files.
But your loyal readership should be alerted to the prevalence of this one in the 'wild'.
Thanks...Rick (you can publish my email address as email@example.com , which is where I have my one feeble attempt at technology fiction, and have started by own "Daynotes" at www.digitalchoke.com/daynoes )
On another subject:
One would think that just by random chance, considering how much time people spend in front of computers, a good number would croak on their keyboards (I've dozed off on mine a few times.)
But I wonder if this might be related to those sometimes-fatal blood-clot problems that some people have on airplanes? The article doesn't tell the autopsy results. Maybe the key to computer work is getting up and taking a break every so often, which makes good sense anyway.
The other option is that there is something fatal about Diablo II. A certain combination of keys, certain weapons in a certain sequence, creating a certain flashing pattern....nah.
In fact, moving about is very good advice. An old friend of mine lost his leg by sitting too long in one place. He was a large man, overweight, and diabetic; but it was a one-time thing that cost him a leg. Not good.
Get up and move about. Computer games can be absorbing...
|This week:||Tuesday, January
Today is the day I go back to working on fiction. Feels good to feel good, so to speak. Begin with this:
Pray pardon the informality, but Dr. Pournelle just feels stuffy heading a friendly note.
To the point, with Orchid and Onion season upon and past us, I felt you might be interested in a program called The Proxomitron ( www.proxomitron.org ). It acts as a local proxy server, filtering out pop-up windows and banner/spot ads.
Once installed, using it is simple: Just set your browser up to use a proxy server, localhost, and port 8080 for HTTP only. I've been using it, and apart from a slight delay in page displays, it works quite admirably. When I ran a browser 'around' it for speed testing, the delay appeared to come from the server end of the connections.
Glad to hear you're feeling better, may you never again be mistaken for a 'blog' ("...I am Plagarismus of Blog, prepare to be assimilated..." Sorry, couldn't resist <grin>) and I look forward to many more pleasant sessions of perusing your daybook/view/journal.
I don't mind informalities, and after all, this is a big dinner party. I have no experience with proxomitron. Popup Stopper works well for most of what I do. Sometimes the blinking banners are annoying, but no more so than many other things I get used to. I suppose I ought to give this a try, and thanks.
Blog is an ugly SOUNDING word. But it is something more than a journal or daybook. Perhaps all that is needed is an adjective. Is this a RESPONSIVE daybook? Perhaps a new word entirely.
The distinction is that a blogger publishes and interacts with his readers' mail. Sullivan publishes three or four times a day, but does not include mail. That is a journal or daybook. You provide something more. To me the distinction is publishing the conversations with your readers, or even among your readers.
Quote from "Through the Looking Glass" - Lewis Carroll (sometimes called "Alice in Wonderland")
“When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean – no more, no less.”
You did start your site long before the word blog existed. You are a professional writer and we all know that people who decide to blog don't need to have any writing talent. And you have a great collection of reference stuff. And the site is somewhat eccentric in that you do it your way rather than paying attention to what other bloggers might be doing.
That just makes it a very good blog. An excellant blog. A prototypical blog that encouraged others. A leader. However, the word "blog" now exists and has aquired a meaning. The majority of people looking at your site would find it met their definition of a blog. And that is the important test. I think its time to accept, like it or not, you managed to create a blog.
Hope the new pup is providing much pleasure. I really enjoy my two dogs.
I must strongly disagree with those who would call your site a 'Blog', a term that I also abhore. Your site is a Web Journal. It is one of the first useful ones, in my experience, since you don't dump every detail of every minute of your life onto the webpage.
It is more like an extension of your columns, and the mail section is obviously a dialog with your readers (the ones worthy of a response anyway).
Don't let 'them' (whoever they are) rename your site a Blog. Blogging is a fad, more like a daily brain dump than a daily log of interesting and useful experiences.
I don't think you are running a blog. Blogs, in my view, are collections of links put together by people who mostly can't write.
Nothing wrong with blogs...I view a number of them and have garnered lots of links that I revisit.
I read your website. I really liked the description of the site as a dinner conversation among friends.
On one page of mail we find the Star of Bethlehem, Hati, Harlan Ellision, Victor Suvorov, global warming, Saddam, Cyborg lobsters, pre-crime, Daniel Webster, airline security, Frank Lloyd Wright, Google and search engines, Airline security, and cracking Microsoft reader. We don't have a lot of backbiting (at least not THIS week), ad hominem attacks, and only one point of view. I don't know anyplace else like it on the web.
I'm not sure what it is that your website is...but I'll keep subscribing and keep trying to contribute as long as you keep it running.
It could probably be shown by facts and figures that there is no distinctly American criminal class except Congress. twain
Which ought to be enough on the subject. Thanks to all who wrote on this.
Roland found this. If you have recently had iodine treatment, take notice:
It does seem a bit extreme... Incidentally, the letter to JAMA is signed by Dr. Christoph Buettner. In my early days in space medicine I worked with Dr. Konrad von Buettner, formerly chief of aviation medicine for the Luftwaffe in World War II, now a professor of medicine and of meteorology -- as odd a combination as you can imagine -- at the University of Washington as well as a consultant to the Boeing Company. We were not so close as to share family stories, so I don't know, but the the similarity of names suggests that this must be the son of my former colleague.
Note that the payment to the "clients" is in vouchers, but the lawyers want their money in cash. What a surprise. I have several times been told that I have been the winner of a law suit about which I knew nothing, and I would get a certificate amounting to about what one gets on a rebate offer. In every case, oddly enough, "my" lawyers got cash. And in California the Plaintiff Bar lawyers are going mad with suits "protecting" the public to the point of deprivation of services. Most of the suits are no more than blackmail: they are inevitably accompanied with offers to settle for some tribute to be paid to the law firm filing the suit. In one case a restaurant got a "B" rating from the county health authorities for one day; the refrigerator was fixed the next day and the "A" rating was returned. The law suit came a week later, but the law partners filing it on behalf of the people of California will settle for only $2,000. It would be dismissed if it got to trial, but that would cost the restaurant about $4,000. In either case the money would go to lawyers.
There was another lawyer filing suits against Vietnamese Nail Salons "protecting" the people against the use of the same bottle of nail polish for more than one customer. This chap wants $30,000 per incident, but will settle for only $2,000 per shop. There are 3,000 of those suits filed by him, and he personally delivers the papers to the shop. A Vietnamese business association meeting queried how much it would cost to have a Los Vegas protection service make the man go to sleep; but it was pointed out in the meeting that there are plenty of Vietnamese gangs who would be willing to do that cheaper. The motion to hire a gang was voted down. I haven't heard whether there was a minority opinion in the meeting.
Of course nothing can or at least will be done about these matters. California has laws allowing lawyers to "protect" the public with these suits against first that offend against public health regulations, and efforts to change the laws have for two years met with failure. The legislators promise reform but somehow the reforms get lost in committee. Ah, well.
Could the result be to make heroes of The Godfathers? As in the novel? "For justice we must go to the Godfather..."
The original Mafia was formed by Sicilians under the occupation of the Norman conquerors, and was originally a group founded to seek justice against an oppressive class. Of course one could never think of the Plaintiff Bar as an oppressive class.
And thanks to Roland for finding
which examines the question of did the Chinese Treasure Fleet do a circumnavigation in 1421?
Terry Cole on Lomborg:
Dear Dr Pournelle,
"How odd. Why, in the first place, is a panel with a name such as this investigating complaints against a book which makes no claim to be a scientific treatise? “The Skeptical Environmentalist” is explicitly not concerned with conducting scientific research. Rather, it measures the “litany” of environmental alarm ...[which] comes off very badly from the comparison. The environmental movement was right to find the book a severe embarrassment. But since the book was not conducting scientific research, what business is it of a panel concerned with scientific dishonesty?"
Leaving aside the question of whether Lomborg's book called itself science or not, the Danes' sole evidence for dishonesty lay with Scientific American articles some time back, which also failed to impress the Economist:
"The panel seems to regard these pieces as disinterested science, rather than counter-advocacy from committed environmentalists. Incredibly, the complaints of these self-interested parties are blandly accepted at face value. Mr Lomborg's line-by-line replies to the criticisms (see www.lomborg.com ) are not reported. On its own behalf, the panel offers not one instance of inaccuracy or distortion in Mr Lomborg's book: not its job, it says. On this basis it finds Mr Lomborg guilty of dishonesty."
The Economist editors then give a rare example of
collectively losing their temper with another respected journal. They also
refer back to their earlier criticisms of the offending counter-advocacy
as unscientific. I don't have a print copy of the Feb 2002 issue, so had
to go on-line to find these, at < http://www.economist.com/science/
Regarding the lack of actual science in that magazine's rebuttal by four different authors of Lomborg's book (“The Skeptical Environmentalist”), the Economist has this to say:
"The January issue of Scientific American devoted many pages to a series of articles trashing “The Skeptical Environmentalist”. The authors, all supporters of the green movement, were strong on contempt and sneering, but weak on substance. The arresting thing about Scientific American's coverage, however, was not this barrage of ineffective rejoinders but the editor's notion of what was going on: “Science defends itself against the Skeptical Environmentalist,” he announced...
The fuss over Mr Lomborg highlights an attitude among some media-conscious scientists that militates not just against good policy but against the truth. Stephen Schneider, one of Scientific American's anti-Lomborgians, spoke we suspect not just for himself when he told Discover in 1989: “[We] are not just scientists but human beings as well. And like most people we'd like to see the world a better place...To do that we need to get some broad-based support, to capture the public's imagination. That, of course, entails getting loads of media coverage. So we have to offer up scary scenarios, make simplified, dramatic statements, and make little mention of any doubts we might have...Each of us has to decide what the right balance is between being effective and being honest.”
In other words, save science for other scientists, in peer-reviewed journals and other sanctified places. In public, strike a balance between telling the truth and telling necessary lies.
Science needs no defending from Mr Lomborg. It may very well need defending from champions like Mr Schneider."
Really, I couldn't possibly have said it any better. These remarks deserve a much wider readership. Some people are put off by the style. Don't be. Very angry intellectual Brits venting steam are the spice of prime time TV.
-- Terry Cole BA/BSc/BE/BA(hons) (firstname.lastname@example.org) System Administrator, Dept. of Maths. & Stats., Otago Uni.
Indeed. Thank you.
Did some fiction work today.
January 16, 2002
Mail about Fred when I get back from my walk. Meanwhile, Joel Rosenberg on starting the war.
I'll take a shy at it.
The political maneuvering will, of course, come first. There'll be another trip to the UN, and at least a move toward yet another final warning to Saddam there.
Regardless of what happens at the UN, a public final warning, with a deadline, will be issued by the Administration, and the Iraqis will affect to be prepared to consider discussing negotiating compliance, and the deadline will pass. The Administration may or may not publicly declare all of Iraq to be a No-Fly zone as of the passing of the deadline, but it will treat it that way.
It'll get quiet, for about a week, but never completely quiet. The behind-the-scenes negotiation to get Saddam to leave for Switzerland or Riyadh will go on, but fail. There'll be a few preliminary air sorties, just to see if the Iraqis will light up radars and bring up their AAA and SAM batteries, and to keep them on, but those will fail.
And then, either just before sunrise or just after sunset (I think the latter is more likely) the air war goes off, all at once, with no more preliminaries, no warm-up. The closest thing to a preliminary will be the combination of stealth aircraft/cruise missile strikes at all the radars that have been identified, but that will precede the next step by hours.
Everything that can fly and drop stuff will; ditto for the sea-launched missiles. The twin objectives will be to flatten anything military that's locked in place and to pin down/isolate all the Iraqi forces that haven't yet retreated to Baghdad.
Demands for surrender will be made by the US/Allied forces and the Iraqis will eagerly agree to discuss not surrender, but the end to the "US aggression", as soon as the bombing stops.
Which it won't.
The ground invasion comes at least a week later, probably from two directions,
I'd go on, but you did ask how the war starts, not how the Pentagon decides to handle Baghdad . . . and that's much less clear to me.
More JBT follies:
So some jacked-up poltroon can arbitrarily decide that your stuff "looks like" a bomb, and gets ticked off by a perfectly reasonable note ("in bad taste" == "not properly deferential"?) and the couple spend three days in jail under threat of felony charges.
The requirement that we keep our luggage unlocked (for "security", of course), places every traveller at risk. Whether it is someone stealing property, or using one's luggage as a means of transporting illegal substances (how long before baggage handlers realize this?), we are increasingly stripped of our rights and placed at the mercy of others.
How long will Americans tolerate this state of affairs? I fear I know the answer... :-(
===== Even if you're on the right track, you'll get run over if you just sit there. -- Will Rogers
In Imperial Rome the one crime that would get you every time was lese majeste; maiestas was unforgivable. One would think that Americans would have learned this by now. In the US, it is not the Emperor who cannot be mocked; it is the Imperium, and the servants of Empire who brook no maiestas.
On that score several have sent this. If you are sufficiently well known and famous, you may be exempt. So far.
I was at Lawrence Lessig's site finding out more about the unfortunate decision for Eldred vs. Ashcroft. I also found this link and thought it might be of interest.
On his site, Lessig warns not to try this if you're not famous.
But I would not count on it, even if you are a court jester.
Somewhat on subject,
Dear Dr. Pournelle,
A report on MSNBC told of the US government concern for the vulnerability of airliners to cheap man-carried missiles. They are reacting in their usual fashion. We can only hope the terrorists will collapse in giggling fits before they act.
I submit one scenario for one airport: The airliners landing at San Diego CA fly through the business district low enough that passengers can see into the upper stories of business buildings. A terrorist would need one antitank cannon, WWI vintage would do. An artillery expert would use observation and the known approach speed of landing aircraft to aim the cannon. He would then leave. The terrorist would fire the cannon, located in an office or on the roof, then leave immediately. He might even escape. The cannon, very cheap on the surplus market, could be abandoned.
Similar simple plans could be drawn up for any airport close to a big city or seaport. My suggestion for Homeland Security is to borrow orange traffic cones from street maintenance to use as thinking caps. If Homeland Security wishes respect, it can earn it.
William L. Jones email@example.com
And we can all think of variations on that theme. Homeland Security seems unable to think about much at all other than ways to harass the citizens. So it goes.
And now a lot of mail about Fred on Everything.
Dear Mr. Pournelle, I had to read the page on the Charlotte resegregation (Is that even a word? ::shrug:: It is now...) three times. The first time, I thought that he was being folksy and sarcastic. Then I thought that he was being folksy and truthfully ignorant. After the third read, and checking his other columns, I've come to the sad conclusion that he's an intelligent man who uses a folksy style to sugarcoat ignorant opinions and hide the occasional outright untruth.
Yes, Fred, black and white people do mix together socially. Heck... sometimes we get really crazy and let some of the lighter skin mud people like Mexicans party with us. My black son did -not- have a desire to find a black dorm at his college. At my workplace, there are no complaints that the minorities are being oppressed -or- getting a sweetheart deal (we're too busy defending your right to spout ignorance; not that I begrudge you that right...).
Of course, the most telling comment is "Do you see more whites at black parties? I don't know. I've never been to one.". Which is fine. I am all for freedom of association, and freedom -from- association... in the privacy of your own home. What Fred doesn't seem to get (or willfully ignores) is that this cannot be allowed when it comes to public spaces.
Is Fred completely wrong? Of course not. Blind pigs find truffles too. There are racial problems in this country. Heck, I've been discriminated against myself. Some minorities feel shafted. Some white people feel that minorities are getting a sweetheart deal. Occasionally both sides are even right. The good news is that every year things get incrementally better. Are they getting better fast enough? Definitely not fast enough for some... and judging from this article, probably too fast for others.
Respectfully, Dave Langdon
"For every problem, there is a solution which is simple, neat, and wrong." --H. L. Mencken
One simple statement about Blogs: I would never, ever, pay for a Blog.
I went to a very ethnically diverse high school, and I always remember one thing. In the lunchroom, the only time the kids got together as a collective group and decided for themselves who they were gonna hang out with, the story was 100% the same. Black kids sat together, asian kids sat together, latinos sat together, whites filled the rest of the space. There were rare cases of integration, but it was more often a tale of rejection from the original group rather than seeking out integration.
Fred said some pretty deep voodoo there. I wonder how much the negativity of these forced interactions, in amongst the realities that everyone in school is equally unskilled socially, and it seems that it gets exactly the opposite outcome from the intended: more bitterness underscored by lots of bad, forced, rats-in-a-cage experiences. Hm.
Keith C. Langill
These two letters ought to be taken together.
Forced integration is no more appropriate for a republic than is legal segregation. The one is law, the other social.
Forced integration of schools that destroys the neighborhood school system and divorces the parents from interest in the local school is one of the most pernicious doctrines imaginable, and responsible in large part for the rise of private schools.
A good public school system with real education and considerable local control, including parental involvement, with association by neighborhoods, will result in a fair degree of "segregation"; but it is also voluntary. Allowing voluntary transfers can somewhat alleviate neighborhood boundaries. But the notion that a black child is somehow better off spending 2 hours a day on a bus so that he can have a magical association with white children is at best a questionable proposition; maybe if the money were spent on more or better teachers for the black school?
As to "diversity" in universities, the result is usually the opposite of what its advocates say they intend; since the consequences are so predictable it makes one wonder at the true intent. Taking a kid who would do well at UCLA but didn't qualify for California Institute of Technology, and sending him to CalTech where he is almost certain to flunk out gives the CalTech students a view that would not want; just as taking a kid who would do well at Cal State Northridge and sending him to UCLA for "diversity" does little for anyone.
I am not entirely sure that segregating all colleges by IQ is such a great idea to begin with; but if we are going to mostly do that, then we had better be prepared for the consequences.
A good public school system is one of the better ways to redistribute wealth. If everyone goes to public schools, then the wealthy will voluntarily contribute to those schools. This has happened in many lands, and could happen here; but not unless the wealthy believe their children will profit from a public education.
That requires, incidentally, a degree of tracking in public schools, as well as "segregation" by discipline and behavior: and that must be color blind in both directions. It seldom is.
One wonders if we must hit bottom before deciding on real public school reforms?
On other matters: the science fiction community has always been color blind, to the extent of becoming irked when anyone tries to use race one way or another. Even so, it is hardly "integrated" in the sense of any "balance" in numbers, at conventions, parties, club meetings, or anywhere else. There is a mild over representation of Jewish and Oriental, and (based on populations) a severe under representation of Black people; but it's easy to see that's not on any basis of racial discrimination, because within the science fiction community, both fan and professional, race has always been irrelevant. From the earliest days I knew him, Mr. Heinlein was always equally warmly polite to people of all races who were polite to him, and equally curt and cold to people of all races whom he thought deserved that. I always thought that to be the essence of being color blind.
And see below.
"The current war is being touted as a war of good vs. evil, by us and Al-Qaeda. And it is. But to define it even closer to the core, it is a war between cultures that drink and those that don't."
===== -- John E. Bartley,
I used to point out that alcohol using cultures are often quite different from hashish using cultures. I haven't thought about that for some time. Northern breeds of mankind don't tolerate alcohol well, and seem more prone to alcoholism than southern. I am not sure why that is so, nor is it universal, but the more Celt or Scandinavian in one's ancestry, the more likely alcohol addiction.
I am not at all sure of the importance of the observation quoted.
Changing subjects... The war on Iraq is going to start when we mysteriously lose a transport plane. All the reservists/guardsmen on board will be lost. Wailing and gnashing of teeth will commence over the loss of these "citizen soldiers". Bombing will start soon after. "Remember the Maine!" Oops... wrong war.
While we're on the subject of war predictions, am I the only person who wonders if one of North Korea's nukes will be used to clear the mine field in the DMZ when things get hot?
Respectfully, Dave Langdon
Interesting speculation, and thanks.
Now here's an offer that even if it is only in chance in 10^8 of being true has a reasonable expected value:
As you've mentioned in the past, anyone with email will get plenty of offers to help African bureaucrats transfer surplus money out of their nations, but today I received one that really tries to make it worth the effort:
"...WE HAVE EIGHTEN-FIVE HUNDRED THOUSAND MILLION US DOLLARS..."
That's $9,000,000,000,000, and I get 30%!
which, of course, shows the fallacy in simple expected value calculations. However, when the lottery expected value of a ticket goes to 90% or more of the ticket cost, I do buy a ticket. I am reminded of the man who prayed, "God, why won't you ever let me win the lottery?" and received the reply "You have never bought a ticket."
Jerry, I see that The Economist (as quoted by Terry Cole) has truncated the final sentence of Mr. Schneider's quotation, as is so very, very often done on the web. Do a google search for 'stephen schneider effective honest', and you'll see that there is quite a large contingent of folks who show no qualms about (or awareness of) excerpting Schneider's statement to put a very particular spin on his original statement. I don't suppose I consider that any more worthy a tactic than censuring Mr. Lombard, do you?
"On the one hand, as scientists we are ethically bound to the scientific method, in effect promising to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but - which means that we must include all the doubts, the caveats, the ifs, ands, and buts. On the other hand, we are not just scientists but human beings as well. And like most people we'd like to see the world a better place, which in this context translates into our working to reduce the risk of potentially disastrous climatic change. To do that we need to get some broadbased support, to capture the public's imagination. That, of course, entails getting loads of media coverage. So we have to offer up scary scenarios, make simplified, dramatic statements, and make little mention of any doubts we might have. This 'double ethical bind' we frequently find ourselves in cannot be solved by any formula. Each of us has to decide what the right balance is between being effective and being honest. I hope that means being both."
Schneider's commentary on being continually spun is at
-- Jonathan Abbey firstname.lastname@example.org Austin, TX http://www.ganymeta.org/
It is true that the complete statement is a bit less damning, and it is certainly unfair to print only the truncated version. Having said all that, the treatment of Schneider is nowhere near as savage as the treatment of Lomborg; nor was Schneider denouncing Hanson and some of the others he was talking about at the time.
Do also note that in Lomborg's reply to Schneider (you can find it at http://www.greenspirit.com/lomborg/ ) he does give the entire Schneider quote.
An interesting analysis of Lomborg's book is here if you are interested.
Best regards & Scratch the pup's ears for me, Lee W. Plaisted
"Even in the valley of the shadow of death, two and two do not make six." Leo Tolstoy on his deathbed, refusing to reconcile himself with the Russian Orthodox Church
But in fact I don't find that analysis very informative: it keeps telling us that Lomborg is wrong, but it doesn't tell much about what is in fact wrong.
I did find that the original Scientific American articles with Lomborg's replies have been posted (Lomborg took it down due to legal threats from Scientific American). The place you will find the original and Lomborg's replies may surprise you:
I did find that interesting because specific; I fear the Skeptical Inquirer stayed too general for my tastes. In any event, I do urge that readers look at Lomborg's replies, which are given with the original Scientific American critique. Once that is digested it's easier to evaluate just what is going one.
And I return to my own views: we need to invest in finding out what the devil is happening to the climate; but rushing about to apply remedies before we know what is wrong is not the proper way to go about it.
And we have
First, he describes himself as a scientist and lawyer. In fact he teaches environmental studies to international students here at a New Zealand college, which arguably makes him a Sociologist sort of scientist if he is one at all; he also has a law degree which he deploys in the service of environmental activism (usually in the company of real lawyers).
Second, just what is he doing writing for the Skeptical Enquirer? He is hardly an unbiased observer, let alone a skeptic, and his background in statistics is comparatively negligible, certainly in comparison to Lomborg (or any of the staff in this department for that matter).
Third, Fisher accuses Lomborg and his supporters of scientific distortions; specifically, demolition of a 'straw man', improper authority, ad hominem attacks on opponents, and inconsistency.
To support these charges, he invokes the holy name of Carl Sagan and his 'baloney detection toolkit'- basically a variant of Bacon's "Idols" which classify intellectual error. Idols of the tribe, the cave, the marketplace, and the theatre correspond roughly to human error, personal blindness, sloppy language and prejudice respectively. But so far as I can determine, Fisher's own criticism is itself a good example of worship before these idols.
Fisher begins alleging Lomborg puts up a 'straw man' argument. This is commonly understood as attributing to your antagonist an opinion he does not in fact hold. Trouble is, Lomborg's opponents did in fact hold that position. Fisher calls it an early error, later disavowed, but intellectual inertia means it is still quoted as authoritative, and his quote of Lovejoy to the contrary is dated 2002.
Fisher continues with false argument from authority - one of the idols of the cave. Noting that one high-profile geneticist (Matt Ridley) has long been in favour of economic development to help sustain ecologies under threat, he complains that the public would see only support from a renowned scientist, not advocacy by a former Economist editor, and doesn't seem to see that this is a mirror image of Lomborg's complaint about the environmentalists Fisher is defending.
The argument ad hominem and inconsistency allegations are likewise mirror images of those Lomborg directs to the enviromentalists.
From Fisher's review one could easily get the impression that The Economist approved Lomborg's material without reservation. However they did declare their bias in advance:
They did take pains to point out the areas where
they felt Lomborg's analysis was flawed (see < http://www.economist.com/science/
I guess the skeptics among us will have to judge for themselves. Personally I reckon the lack of skepticism of those like Fisher is of no importance. You can't convert a religious nut by argument: as Ridley notes of another environmentalist, his arguments appear less like "defending science, and more like defending a faith".
What is much more bothersome is the concern of Woods Hole researchers and others who worry about a sudden change from one stable climatic state to another. Physicists and Engineers know how introducing heat to an isolated thermodynamic system leads to instability. A pan on a hot plate starts with pure conduction to open air, but as the temperature difference rises the smooth temperature gradient gives way to convection cells; first two, then four and finally a chaotic state called 'boiling'. By similar physical effects, it is possible the major ocean currents could meander into different paths, and if that happens all bets are off. A lot more research needs to be done into that possibility.
Regards, TC -- Terry Cole BA/BSc/BE/BA(hons) (email@example.com) System Administrator, Dept. of Maths. & Stats., Otago Uni.
I have never had much faith in The Skeptical Inquirer; now I have less. As to Carl Sagan, he was an old friend of sorts, but we had our fights, and on the "nuclear winter" issue Carl was intemperate and willing to distort facts he was quite aware of because he thought the issue sufficiently important. When Carl was being a scientist he was a good one. He was also a good advocate, but he sometimes got the roles confused.
And let me say it one more time: the important thing is that we need to find out more, not begin remedies first. But remedies and policy are where the real money go; science is cheap compared to economic policies.
Dear Dr. Pournelle , As you've said many times - we need to study this "global warming" !
According to the Finnish Meteorological Institute there is a fair amount of uncertainty about the coming weather forecasts. Prediction models longer than two days tend to break into several directions. This may or may not indicate change. Anything is possible. Statistics reveal that this year winter arrived earlier than usual and "overnight". The autumn was here today and gone tomorrow. Usually autumn lingers around for eight to nine weeks. This time the season lasted a measly four weeks. The trees hadn't undressed before winter arrived, and we had the tragicomic spectacle of birch trees in full leaf covered in snow.
I'm contending that it appears that Lomborg's book is flawed (methodology & sources). Because of that we cannot make any reasonable conclusions based upon it, as most proponents seem to be doing. We just cannot rely on it. I'm not saying the environmental "doom sayers" are right either. As you say regularly, we need more research NOW before the worst case scenario overtakes us and it is too late. I think the question is still open whether "global warming" is a man made effect or just a natural fluctuation in the system.
I'm not a scientist or even a college graduate. I rely on others who do know their fields to explain things to me. Taking the pessimist view on this matter would seem to be prudent. Whistling in the dark while plutocrats say "Move along, nothing to see here. We are doing everything we need to do to keep the environment healthy. Trust us.", does not make sense to me.
We know they lie all the time for a buck. Been to Butte, Montana lately? http://www.edheritage.org/mont/buttim.htm And yes, I realize it is an outrageous example, but similar has occured many times all around the world to varying degrees.
Lomborg is a statistician, and we all know how numbers can be manipulated and presented to people to buttress any argument.
Thank you for your time, Best regards, Lee W. Plaisted
"The sense organs, limited in scope and ability Randomly gather information. This partial information is arranged into judgements Which are based on previous judgements Which are usually based on someone else's foolish ideas. These false concepts and ideas are then stored in a highly selective memory system. Distortion upon distortion--the more one uses the mind, the more confused one becomes.
--the Hua Hu ching, ch. 44
----- Original Message ----- From: "Jerry Pournelle" <firstname.lastname@example.org> To: "LWP" <lplaiste@ Sent: Thursday, January 16, 2003 5:52 PM Subject: RE: Lomborg's book analyzed.
> Are you contending that the indicators are wrong? Or what? > > I see once again a lot directed at Lomborg but damn all on the actual > discussion. > > Are things getting worse or better? > > > > -----Original Message----- > From: LWP [mailto:lplaiste > Sent: Thursday, January 16, 2003 2:34 PM > To: Jerry Pournelle > Subject: Lomborg's book analyzed. > > Dear Jerry, > > An interesting analysis of Lomborg's book is here if you are interested. > > http://www.csicop.org/si/2002-11/environment.html > > Best regards & > Scratch the pup's ears for me, > Lee W. Plaisted > > > --- > > "Even in the valley of the shadow of death, > two and two do not make six." > Leo Tolstoy on his deathbed, > refusing to reconcile himself with the > Russian Orthodox Church > > >
Which in essence rejects the notion of rational debate and science for -- God knows what decision mechanism. Of course it is precisely this attitude that Lomborg's enemies hope to promulgate. Then the public will lose interest, the passionate advocates will have their monopoly on legislative time, and the funds will begin to flow to the Establishment Science groups again. Note that it is Fisher, whose work Terry Cole has commented above, that generated this attitude. It is a remarkably effective technique that the Skeptical Inquirer has chosen to use.
The fact that numbers can be manipulated does not mean there is no science; and that science can be manipulated for policy reasons does not mean there is no scientific answer to public problems. But trying to be rational is sometimes a difficult position, and it is easier to throw up one's hands and say "they are all great liars".
And then what do you do? In essence you abandon the field to the lobbyists. Which is what Fisher and Scientific American want. At least before doing that go to
and see what you find... Then see below.
Roland has found this statement by my colleague Orson Scott Card on the North Korea situation:
It's quite reasonable and a good summary.
TurboTax installs a nasty copy protection scheme on your system that does not go away when you uninstall TurboTax.
Also, an extremely evil outfit called RadLite actually deletes AdAware from your system if they manage to get installed.
And I use Turbo Tax. Aargh. But see below
This week's "New Scientist" has a piece on the Lomborg controversy which you may find interesting. Broadly, it takes the Danish Scientific Dishonesty people to task, while also saying that Lomborg was out of his depth and didn't do a proper scientific job. (Note: I haven't read him yet, and last week's "Economist" is still in its wrapper, so I'm not taking sides).
Unfortunately, it won't be online until next week.
Best wishes, FB
Note that we now take the "compromise" position. Lomborg "didn't do a proper scientific job," but there is not much about what he had wrong; just that if everyone hates him there must be a reason, so we'll say he was wrong without saying how or why.
But in fact the science establishment has been saying all the things Lomborg refuted, and if they are now withdrawing much of that nonsense, I'd say Lomborg did a damned good scientific job of making the scientists act like scientists, or showing them for the asses they often are. Do not forget, it wasn't the Church that wanted to burn Galileo. It was the "scientists" of his day who would have to learn all over again. Few want to do that.
As late as the 1870's the French Academy anathematized people who said stones fell out of the sky... and now everyone takes aspirin as a heart disease preventive but I can recall when a Glendale dentist first published the hypothesis; you cannot believe the vituperation that was heaped on him.
So it goes. We'll compromise, and say Lomborg didn't do a very good job. But we won't say what a good job would have been...
From Joanne Dow on Fred:
For what it is worth... I went to a private school designed for intellectual sorts of kids, pure college prep all the way in spades and trumps. We had some blacks in the school. One was the child of a southern physician. Two were from Detroit attending on scholarships. And so forth. The one thing they all had in common with the rest of us who lasted out the high school years is a common high ability to learn, call it IQ or whatever. We were all "peers" in that sense. I liked them as class mates. They kept up. They mixed more with the others than I did, for that matter. I didn't mix much with them or anyone else. I was the out group's token misfit from farther "out there." There was no failure to treat each other as fellow students or colleagues. We all had too little time to spare from study, sports, and extra curricular activities to spend time on such pettiness as skin color.
On another paw, there were several blacks I worked with at Rockwell in a group that a manager had pulled together of some of the brightest people in the whole facility. And we had some new hires... Some were good and some were close to total losses. Color didn't indicate who would be which, necessarily. I did notice that the older blacks were good solid performers. The younger ones had bought the "cant" that they were oppressed and were "owed something". The most egregious case eventually left to move over to Aerospace. We were indecently relieved to have this critter who spent all day on the phone to his relatives in Florida bemoaning how he was being mistreated and was owed recompense for his great grandfather being a slave and so forth. Isn't it interesting that this bad example is what sticks in my mind more than the memory of the others who simply did their jobs with competence and grace? One aw shit wipes out 100 attaboys, I guess.
I have observed a 'class' segregation at another place I worked that had more of an affirmative action program than was in place while I was at Rockwell in the 70s. The segregation was pretty much on the basis of those who whined in one group and those who did in the other group. I was REALLY struck by how much this appeared to be a color segregation. A casual look would declare it was. But it was "peers" grouping together. One black kid was REALLY competent and not really in any of the office groups, just as I was seldom in any of the office groups. It was because he was a rather quiet retiring young genius graduate of Cal Tech. He never segregated out into the group that appeared to be "the blacks". He was a misfit. Whenever he was with a group it was "the performers" because that was indeed where he belonged. He was not one of the blacks hired on lower qualifications.
Fred's noted resegregation of the Charlotte school was also along the lines of performance, by his own declaration. I am somewhat surprised that none of the blacks managed to flee the poor performing school, though. Perhaps those who would have were already in alternate schooling because their parents had more brains than the white parents, kinda like the black physician who sent his child up north to Detroit to go to a college prep school with "whites".
Blast it all, color isn't a bar to a person being intelligent. For the most part my "peers" are passing intelligent. They certainly are not "passing white". If I have something to say to them and they have something to say to me because of training, experience, and interests we have in common they're peers. Of course, there seems to be a strong movement in the black community to see to it that no blacks get the education and training to ever become peers to me. Thank God that it is not all powerful; and that some blacks do manage to escape its clutches. They end up more interesting to talk to sometimes than my white 'clones'.
On medical malpractice. The subject began over in view:
While I understand the good doctor's wish to make a fair living without the huge burden of the medical malpractice payments, I am not sure we should be so quick to blame the lawyers. Insurance companies must take their fair share of the blame for the high cost of their product.
Insurance companies are given special protection by state governments to form monopolistic structures for their product. Doctors are forced to deal with only those companies approved by their state. Insurance companies, being for the most part for profit organizations, are going to use whatever excuse they can to raise rates in general.
According to a friend of mine who has worked both for the defense and the prosecution of medical malpractice claims against doctors, a small number of doctors seem to commit the bulk of the infractions resulting in litigation. In these cases the insurance industry maintains tight control. Medical professionals who are accused of wrongdoing are not permitted by the insurance companies to control their case. Settlements are decided and payments made under the control of the insurance companies lawyers. Why don't the insurance companies simply drop the customers who generate the repeated claims?
Perhaps the insurance companies have found a way to create an artificial inflation of malpractice insurance premiums moving along. By keeping the public eye on the small number of large awards each year they keep quiet and allow the government to attack their only expense. While there are times that excessive punitive damages are awarded, most of these judgments are appealed and corrected.
My prediction is that if there is any sort of "tort reform" the doctors will not see one dime of reduction in their insurance rates, but insurance company profits will continue to rise.
This is a subject on which I know little more than you see in the Wall Street Journal and other newspapers. I invite comments from people who know more than I do here; because clearly the crisis has to end.
The recent stories about doctors and tort reform reminded me of a conversation I had with my brother a few months ago. He's an executive (fairly high up in the North American division) of one of the huge international drug companies, and holds an M.D. and an M.B.A, both from schools highly respected in their fields. He practiced for several years, has taught both internal medicine and health policy at a fairly prominent medical school, and has been working for the pharmaceutical company in both medical and executive positions for many years. He was also CEO of a small health insurance company for a year or two.
The gist of the conversation was: Don't expect many more miracle drugs (or vaccines) for what used to be called "serious" illnesses, e.g. AIDS, West Nile, Lyme, etc. Expect a *lot* more along the lines of Viagra, Claritin and Prozac (note that I'm not disparaging mental illness; I spent several years fighting severe clinical depression, and an aunt likely committed suicide after losing her battle with it).
As an example: Glaxo-SmithKline pulled Lymerix, the only approved vaccine for Lyme's Disease, off the U.S. market. Not because it's ineffective, or because it's dangerous; in fact, the FDA re-reviewed the vaccine fairly recently, and said it was *both* safe and effective. No, there is a small but vocal group of people who are sick -- from what, no one really knows -- and they blame Glaxo-Smithkline's Lymerix. They've no proof, but they do have lawyers and PR folks. There's not enough money in Lymerix to pay to fight them, so it's off the market.
Not too long ago, a court in Thailand broke Pfizer's patents (in that country only, of course) on some AIDS drugs. Now the drug factories owned by the government of Thailand are gearing up to produce the drugs at very low cost. Care to guess what Pfizer will do, now that they are legally prohibited from making a profit on AIDS drugs there? South Africa is leaning in this direction as well; my brother was asked to head his company's operations there to see if he could help their government "see the light" but declined, as he feels it's already a lost cause and he'd simply be overseeing the death of their SA operations.
Given these two scenarios, the drug companies *will* focus on "lifestyle" drugs, that make people feel better without much risk. Research on AIDS and the like will be relegated to the National Institutes of Health -- which has a truly amazing track record of NOT producing viable treatments (which, please note, is NOT the same thing as saying NIH is unimportant).
S (name omitted by request)
PS -- just finished re-reading Beowulf's Children and Burning City. Just as good as the first several times, and Burning Tower is eagerly awaited! As are more Avalon stories, but I don't expect to get those.... :(
PPS -- thanks again for your wonderful "dinner party!"
And I suspect the situation will only get worse. We are not likely to curb the lawyers until we have a full tyrant who acts in an arbitrary and capricious manner to cut off the heads of the groups that have become too powerful. That is how most countries get tyrants: they bring in someone to curb the plutocracy. He is nearly always a Populares, The Friend Of The People. His successors usually include a Caligula and an Elagabalus...
The following is said to be the beginning of a remedy for the Turbo Tax problem. We will see.
In regard to the silliness over Turbo Tax and C-dilla, the following appeared yesterday:
Hope it deals with the problem as advertised.
January 18, 2003
Whenever you check such things, you will find my resubscription through my VISA. My finances having improved with the new year, I was happy to send you the amount I did. I do consider it well worth it.
I have arrived in Korea, and am stationed with Air Defense Artillery (Patriot) at Suwon Airbase, which is south of Seoul. My flight was long but smooth. I did have an annoying incident with our new airport security comissars, in which they confiscated my P-38 can opener. I had forgotten it on my keyring. I, though highly annoyed that a US Army NCO, travelling on official orders, should be thought suspect for having a 1/3 inch bladed can opener, but I simply told the fellow that he could keep it. The US government ("you know, buddy? The folks for whom YOU and I BOTH work for?) I am sure, will give me another one someday. I then told him that he should use the can opener as a training aid for his flunkies, since I had carried it without incident at least a dozen times before. Before he could comment I turned and left the area. I am sure I feel much safer without my can opener. Humbug...
Anyway, if I have anything useful or interesting to report from the Hermit Kingdom, I will be in contact. Until then I will continue to enjoy and appreciate your site.
Yours truly, Frank
Thanks for the report. Looking forward to more.
Now for a different view of Fred on Everything, and resegregation:
I respectfully suggest that people who have a negative reaction to Fred Reed's article don't know what they are talking about. I do, however.
In Colorado Springs a new high school, (Doherty, if anyone cares,) opened up in a mostly white area. People in my ethnically mixed neighborhood were bused across town to achieve racial integration. We were lab rats, and all the students knew it. We didn't want to be there, and no one else did, either. (BTW, I was one of perhaps five white kids who were rounded up and herded across town.)
We didn't fit in. It wasn't our neighborhood. It wasn't our social strata. We really couldn't participate in extracurricular activities, as we would miss the bus home. We were pariahs, outcasts, and social misfits.
The one thing the minions (of a regime with totalitarian leanings) could not do was force any of us to associate with others who were not like us. Predictably, the blacks associated with other blacks, the Latinos with other Latinos, and the whites with other whites like themselves. As for me, I spent my high school years trying to be invisible.
In the military it is illegal to act like a bigot, so no one does. Yet people in military units often associate only with others who look like them. It is surprising how often entire offices are filled with individuals from particular ethnic backgrounds. This isn't done intentionally, but supervisors often trade subordinates, and end up populating their sections with people who look like them. This happens despite official sanctions against it, and happens so often as to be more than mere coincidence.
I was once stationed at a base---one that appears on no map---a base where all the military members were white. Recruitment didn't occur in the normal fashion---members suggested their friends for inclusion, and their friends also happened to be white. As it happened, the civilian contractors who kept the base running, (cooks, garbage men, janitors, etc.,) tended to be people of color and homosexuals. The unions would send the people they wanted to get rid of to our location. Institutional racism? Of course. Interestingly, the commander of Systems Command, the parent command of this base, was black.
Laws change behaviors, but don't change hearts. People cannot be forced to be friends with people they don't care to associate with. You can force them together, you can force them to behave as though they don't get along, but you cannot force them to like each other. We may wish it were otherwise, but it's not.
My own view is that leaving people to be their own potty little selves will do more wonders for integration than anything else. A color blind law will let people associate or not as they choose: the present state of the military is probably as good a model as any. It's not perfect but it does seem to work. Promotion on talent.
Subject: Fred on Everything: back issue: VERY Well Said
You've covered this topic yourself, from time to time.
which is on the subject of black IQ. Fred has said something close to what Arthur Jensen said many years ago. Jensen has been denounced as a fascist racist: what he proposed was that school classes be tailored to the specific abilities of the students, with those less interested in and less able to work with abstractions being given more concrete tasks and goals: shop classes, physical education, and so forth.
Most discussions of IQ and the races start with a political view and ignore the facts. The result is much as Fred describes: bad schools for black children, schools in which no one learns much. The why is important but the result is even more so.
Can black Americans be great statesmen? Well clearly Colin Powell and Condoleeza Rice were not chosen, either solely or primarily, for their color: they have proven their worth in difficult posts requiring abstract thinking. On a closer level, Niven and I don't work with Steve Barnes because he his black.
Note also that even in the medical profession there are specialties that require skills other than abstract thinking abilities.
The great problem is that if you make the law color blind and IQ has any meaning -- and all the evidence says that IQ is very relevant -- then the 15 point difference in the races says that the more fair and less racially based the selection process, the fewer blacks will be in the professions requiring high levels of abstract thinking: there will be no equality of outcomes. There will not be zero black Americans in the professions demanding abstract skills, but there will be fewer than the proportion in the population. Period. And any attempt to force equality of outcomes will be racist, by necessity, and resented by the majority culture, and result in condescension at best.
That is the way the world is constructed, and wishing it were not so does little good. If we could find a magic way to overclock our IQ's that worked better the lower the starting IQ we might be able to change things, but I know of no such thing, even in theory.
Incidentally, the more fair the selection procedure, the more over-represented will be Jews and Orientals. American Jews have average IQ about 10 points higher than the general population, and Oriental Americans about 6 points higher (Chinese in China about 4 points higher than the average US population; the implications of THAT are interesting but seldom thought about).
And protestations that IQ measures nothing, or are merely culturally based, and so forth, are mere dissembling: the evidence is overwhelming that IQ measures something, and is the single best predictor of success in most human activities, and is at least 50% determined by heredity and perhaps more. And it works in China as well as here.
Finally: we have spent a lot of money on Head Start. It is probably the one program almost no one resents. Everyone hopes that it will work: And it has had no result:That is, for the first couple of years after Head Start you can measure a performance difference between children who were in Head Start and those who were not, but four years or so later you can find no difference at all. Study after heartbreaking study confirms that.
And I have said often and say again: if the American people really cared about the problems of American blacks we would rise up and demand that Head Start teach every black child to read and read well by age six. We would insist on it to the point of firing any teacher who was unable to teach at least 95% of the children in a Head Start class to read (we know that at least 95% of all children of any race can learn to read English by age six if properly taught).
But we do not insist on that: in fact Head Start is forbidden to teach children to read. Which, given the years of effectiveness studies we now have, makes Head Start a farce, an amelioration, a paternalistic condescension. But it satisfies the educationist unions. Oh. Well.
There are tales, perhaps apocryphal, perhaps real, that this country was founded on a frontier, and that much of the original nature of the people of the US came from the "hearty self-sufficient frontier folk" that drove across the country from sea to shining sea.
There are other tales that the frontier has been exhaused in the US, and that society is suffering thereby. Instead of a place for malcontents to go and pit themselves against and explore, we have street gangs. Instead of minimal and somewhat non-intrusive govenrment, we have a place where everything that isn't legislated is presumed illegal, immoral, or both.
Now, one interpretation of the March Of Civilization from one coast to another (essentially the PC interpretation) was that this was a war of annhiliation and exploitation, where we pushed the native residents aside, ignored the natural order, and made something better of it. Oh wait, that last part isn't part of the PC viewpoint. Ah well, let it stand.
Now, you contend that we are at the founding of the Empire. And you may well be correct.
But just for the heck of it, I see a possible alternative interpretation. We are at the opening of the Eastern Frontier.
After all, we will presumably be pushing across land that can currently be claimed by an indiginous population. We will presumably be exploiting the resources for our own uses. Heck, we might even decide to farm the land, although that is a bit of a stretch -- that would require a lot of water, which means desalinization, which means a heck of a lot of power, and we don't seem to know how to do that any more. But then, perhaps the Hearty Settlers might, being far from the seat of Government, whip out some of the old much-vaunted American Inginuity of the past, and invent the concept of a nuclear-powered desalinization plant.
Perhaps, if we settle the New Lands the way we settled here, perhaps we might kindle for a short while a New Republic; rather than a New Empire.
For years we had hoped that space would be the Final Frontier, the frontier that can never be filled. And so it doubtless will be. Someday. For someone. But not in any forseeable future for the people of the US in any meaningful way, as we have given up our heritage, and could not recover it in less than perhaps another half a hundred years. Space colonies will not suit our purposes now for a national frontier. Perhaps then, finding a temporary frontier on Earth might not be such a bad thing. It will only serve the purpose transiently, to be sure. But perhaps it could serve long enough to rekindle enough of a spirit of adventure, and a spirit of self-sufficiency, that people might again start thinking about other frontiers with something other than fear and loathing of the unknown.
Just a passing thought.
The Frontier Hypothesis has long been important in American History.
I thought you might find this survey of interest, given the editorials you have posted over the last few weeks.
Another article in the print edition (sorry, no web post for this) states that BP Solar of Lithicum, MD will no longer produce any thin-film photovoltaics. Apparently, the two primary technologies, amorphous silicon and cadmium telluride, were not able to meet either the efficiency or production and design requirements for commercial use.
A setback but I doubt it is the end of the story.
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