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Mail 241 January 20 - 26, 2003 






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This week:


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Monday  January 20, 2003

On IQ:


This website < > may be of some relevance to the discussions of IQ.

........Karl Lembke

Griff is in a discussion group I much enjoy, and he is often remarkably clear headed. Thank you for the reminder.

Dear Dr. Pournelle,

While at the library Friday I ran across an article (in Science Mag.) that said - (as best as I can remember)-

People with IQ's >115 die in car wrecks at a rate of 52 per 10,000.

100 to 115                          53

85 to 100                           93

80 to 84                           148


Also those with higher IQ's lived longer and were healthier. Because they took care of themselves. Probably not smoking etc. The lower IQ's could not understand simple directions for their medication (for instance - don't take a drug on an empty stomach.) So nature has a way I guess of thinning out the population based on how smart you are. Interesting stuff.

Tom Slater

An interesting correlation. Will the Insurance Companies pick up on it? Or is this one reason USAA insurance is so low?


And from Joel Rosenberg:

Subject: The smoking gun

Whatever one thinks about whether or not the US should go to war with Iraq, if this turns out to be anything like what it purports to be, well, it's now a done deal, and protestations about giving Iraq another chance will fall on increasingly deaf ears, even in France.

"These are not old documents. They are new and they relate to on-going work taking place in Iraq to develop nuclear weapons," the official told The Telegraph.

"They had been hidden at the scientists' homes on Saddam's personal orders. Furthermore, no mention of this work is made in the Iraqi dossier that was submitted to the UN last December."

Joel Rosenberg

I am not only certain that we will  have the war now, but I have mixed emotions about it: that is, I still think it would have been better had we adopted a different policy. We haven't done so, and now it is a bit late: we would look rather stupid to have marched the king's men up the hill only to march them down again.

I can still hope that with the defeat of Iraq we can rethink our entire global strategy, and move back to a republic of limited government; but it is a fading hope.

Given that we will be an empire with world responsibilities, perhaps it is time to think of how to be a competent empire with some advantages to the citizens of the United States. If we are to seek national glory, we ought to pay attention to what is glorious, but we might also look to see how the citizens can benefit.

And See Below

Like you I was raised to say "Oriental Americans" etc. Which I noticed in your Saturday comments. However, since my daughter married a young man, ethnic chinese, I have discovered that "Oriental" refers to things (ie rugs)while people MUST be refered to as "Asian" sigh.

God's blessings.

Art Bolstad 

While I am inclined to call people by whatever name they prefer, I am also old enough to be forgetful. Congratulations on your daughter's wedding.

Gleaned from the Risks List, available at e.g. >:

=================== ... a garage door opener company (The Chamberlain Group) has leveled a DMCA claim (among other claims) against the maker of universal garage door remotes (Skylink). Yet another case where the anti- circumvention provisions of the DMCA are being used to impede legitimate competition, similar to the Lexmark case. Not, I think, what Congress had in mind when enacting the DMCA.

The Complaint:

The Amended Complaint:

The Summary Judgment Motion:

=================== Best wishes, FB


Dr. Pournelle:

Fred has more to say: see 

about a Colorado youngster suspended from school for a year, because he had a laser pointer.

Mark Thompson jomath [at]

Alas it is becoming easier all the time to collect such horror stories, although few are as revealing as the horror story Eric pointed us to last week.





This week:


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Tuesday,  January 21, 2003

There are a few clouds but it's mostly sunny and 75 degrees outside, with about 30% humidity. Just right, and the reason we pay taxes I guess...

Subject: Used rocket salesmen

Da Gang.jpg (76522 bytes)

Would you buy a used rocket from these guys???? ;-> Aleta

Well, given that you're standing next to Richard Pournelle I guess I have to...

On Resegregation:

Dr. Pournelle,

I've been thinking about the "resegregation" issue that was raised and I have reached this conclusion: People group themselves according to who they feel comfortable with. Even within the "natural" groupings that occur, there are people one feels more comfortable and open with more so than the others. Divisions occur because, usually, a person will gravitate toward the person or people he or she is more familiar with or with whom he or she shares more in common . The original meaning of the term "University" was "out of the many, one". That is, to highlight the similarities rather than to dwell on the differences and through commonness of purpose encourage the "diversity" that is so worshiped today. But diversity as a byproduct and not an end in itself. This is the flaw. Desegregation / integration was intended as a tool only, to raise the comfort level between two discreet groups. I think that this has been accomplished to a large degree. But the mechanisms have taken on a life of their own and they die hard.

I was a third grader in a small N.C. town in the old "Freedom of Choice" days just before integration and there were four of us black kids in the whole school. It was tough at first, but I formed friendships that have lasted until this day and there are others I will never forget for other reasons. But isn't that just how people are? It would have been the same no matter where I was, only the details would have changed.

We will never enjoy a completely homogeneous society. If you write a program to plot random x,y coordinates on a screen, they begin to clump together. But this may not be a bad thing. The universe is supposed to end when everything reaches a uniform temperature.

Ron Booker 


On Martin Luther King:


Whatever you think of Martin Luther King, I think he managed to make the case for patriotism in the latter half of the twentieth century as well as any American: 

To speak like that -- to think like that -- you have to think that America stands for something enduring, and that that something is worth defending and improving.

That is no mean thing.

I don't like seeing Washington's birthday taken away as a day of national rememberance, but I'm proud that we have intermittently managed to produce new men who have spoken words of fire about the American dream. MLK is worth honoring.

--Erich Schwarz

It is, I think, a matter of import: the republic would not have existed without Washington, and the Union would not have been created had it not been known he would be its first President. I think of no national figure who approaches him in historic importance. Otherwise, I agree.

From Jack Anderson:

You probably missed it in the rush of news last week, but there was actually a report that someone in Pakistan had published in a newspaper an offer of a reward to anyone who killed an American, any American. A Bounty on Americans !

So an Australian dentist wrote the following to let everyone know what an American is, so they would know when they found one: An American is English, Norwegian, Swede, Dane or French, or Italian, Irish, German, Spanish, Polish, Russian or Greek. An American may also be Canadian, Mexican, African, Indian, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Australian, Iranian, Asian, or Arab, or Pakistani, or Afghan. An American may also be a Cherokee, Osage, Blackfoot, Navaho, Apache, Seminole or one of the many other tribes known as native Americans.

America was settled by a "tribe" of Christians, but, it was already populated by many Native Americans. Today, they could be Jewish, or Buddhist, Native Spirits or Muslim. In fact, there are more Muslims in America than in Afghanistan. The only difference is that in America they are free to worship as each of them chooses. An American is also free to believe in no religion. For that they will answer only to God, not to the government, or to armed thugs claiming to speak for the government and for God.

An American is from the most prosperous land in the history of the world. The root of that prosperity can be found in the Declaration of Independence, which recognizes the God given right of each person the pursuit of happiness. An American is generous. Americans have helped out just about every other nation in the world in their time of need. Americans never take other peoples territory.

When Afghanistan was overrun by the Soviet army 20 years ago, Americans came with arms and supplies to enable the people to win back their country. As of the morning of September 11, Americans had given more than any other nation to the poor in Afghanistan.

Americans welcome the best, the best products, the best books, the best music, the best food, the best athletes. But they also welcome the least. The national symbol of America, The Statue of Liberty, welcomes your tired and your poor, the wretched refuse of your teeming shores, the homeless, tempest tossed. These in fact are the people who built America. Some of them were working in the Twin Towers the morning of September 11, 2002 earning a better life for their families. I've been told that the World Trade Center victims were from at least 30 other countries, cultures, and first languages, including those that aided and abetted the terrorists. So you can try to kill an American if you must. Hitler did. So did General Tojo, and Stalin, and Mao Tse-Tung, and every bloodthirsty tyrant in the history of the world. But, in doing so you would just be killing yourself. Because Americans are not a particular people from a particular place. They are the embodiment of the human spirit of freedom. Everyone who holds to that spirit, everywhere, is just like an American. You must be very careful not kill one of your own, for that reward!!

Thanks Doc !!! We will try and pass your good thoughts around the World.




On Partly Baked Ideas

Last month's PBI versus this month's PBI.

The best part of your site is where people raise speculative ideas before they are fully resolved by detailed study (PBI = Partly Baked Idea, perhaps not even "half-baked"). Recently we discussed the question of whether Ashkenazi genetic defects are a side effect of turbo charging brain function. This month provided a link to La Griffe du Lion who is raising several speculations on the relation between IQ and society. The link referenced his August 2002 column.

In Griffe's March column, his examined the relationship between a country's IQ and its wealth. As part of that, he included a table of "National IQ". USA showed 98, Canada showed 97, and Israel showed 94.

Is this a conflict with last month's data that Jews tend to have a higher IQ than white norm? What portion of Israel is Ashkenazi? Perhaps there are major holes in my assumptions.

Greg Goss 

The figures I have for "Jewish" IQ are based on Americans, and from a time when the national average IQ was 100 (because it was set that way). There has been a small drift since, but small differences can be ignored. The Chinese average at 4 points higher than the US national average could be significant, but not enormously so.

I will leave it to those better informed than me to speak about the mix of Ashkenazi and Sephardim in Israel.


Subject: I assume they mean NERVA , not ORION,heh.

--- Roland Dobbins

I suspect so..

From Joanne Dow

NASA plans to go full speed ahead on nuclear propulsion.

Now I wonder why? Another infinite money sink?


Well, NERVA worked well before it was cancelled; I recall working with then Congressman Barry Goldwater Jr. to try to keep the project alive. It had a tested ISP of greater than 1,000 at sea level, and while it never would have developed a thrust capable of lifting it in an Earth gravity field, it would have been a highly efficient way to travel through the solar system.

Dr. Pournelle,

While not as disturbing as the inner-city teacher being sued for breaking up fights amongst students, this article from USA Today
  is troubling none the less.

It appears that, in Italy at least, if you just can't do basic math (or rather, have a psychological pathology against it), you can just get the courts to rule in your favor.

Hmmm... I wonder if Alan Perlis would have let me off for that reason in Intro to Computer Science, or Hugh Young would have done the same in Physics I.

Or Dr. Moscovitz in Calculus I. Yes, I still want to be an Electrical Engineer, but I just can't get this differential equation stuff.


Dave Ballentine KQ3T Export PA

It is clearly some kind of unconstitutional crime to deny the math deprived their engineering degrees...


Subject: Astonishing good sense from New York.

Roland Dobbins


Subject: Saint Mario

 - Roland Dobbins

One of the best accounts of the Siege of Vienna is in Fletcher Pratt's Battles That Changed History, a capsule military history of the West that anyone can profit from reading.

Subject: Double bungling?

Double bungling?

 Roland Dobbins

Returning to one of the oddest cases of executive incompetence in many years...








This week:


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Wednesday, January 23, 2003

Greetings, Dr. Pournelle. I note that you are posting an item on your lead page that Mrs. Heinlein has died. As has been your custom, will you be posting a eulogy for her?

I've always considered Mr. Heinlein to be a philosophical father of mine and a prized possession is 2 pieces of correspondence from him and I have participated in an online live chat that Mrs. Heinlein took part in. I consider there not to be any doubt that she greatly extended his life and the quality of his life, and I also consider that we owe her a debt of appreciation. I think that if she has indeed died, we should honor her life in partnership with Robert Heinlein and celebrate her.

Thank you very much for your efforts in your website. If I had not been unemployed for 10 months of the past 12 months, I'd would be a monetary contributor. Instead, all I can contribute at this time is heartfelt appreciation as your website has greatly helped me to maintain a sense of perspective and hopeful outlook during a difficult time personally.

Karl Murphy

I will try. She was a remarkable lady. Neither Robert nor Ginny liked -- or even permitted -- their friends to tell stories of their private lives except among friends. I do have a few stories I don't think they'd mind having my friends know about.

I also confess I am not good at obituaries of close friends. I was supposed to write an appreciation for Poul, and another for Charlie Sheffield, and I haven't done either. I did deliver an address about Robert at the SFWA meeting following his death, but that wasn't easy either.

Ginny -- to her friends she was always Ginny, and Robert once said anyone who called her Virginia probably ought to be calling her Mrs. Heinlein -- was very much an inspiration and a tower of strength to Robert.

And I still say, see "The Man Who Traveled in Elephants" for some insights there.


More on The War

I am not only certain that we will  have the war now, but I have mixed emotions about it: that is, I still think it would have been better had we adopted a different policy. We haven't done so, and now it is a bit late: we would look rather stupid to have marched the king's men up the hill only to march them down again.

I can still hope that with the defeat of Iraq we can rethink our entire global strategy, and move back to a republic of limited government; but it is a fading hope.

Given that we will be an empire with world responsibilities, perhaps it is time to think of how to be a competent empire with some advantages to the citizens of the United States. If we are to seek national glory, we ought to pay attention to what is glorious, but we might also look to see how the citizens can benefit.

There are people in the world which intone the mantra of us being part of a 'world community', and many in positions of authority, listen to them.

With the technology we have today, the world is much different than in the day when the British Empire acted as a world policeman. I would like to hear more from you Dr. Pournelle, about how we could make the concept of being 'friends of liberty everywhere, but the guardian only of our own' stick. It is not as simple as it sounds, to me.

It is not simple, and without determination isn't possible; and clearly our elected leaders of either party don't intend that. We are not, I think, going to be a republic that minds its own business. I believe we could be and both we and the world would be the better for it, but I also don't think it will happen.

We will have the war, and we must look to what to do when it is over. And even if we depose Saddam Hussein without war, that will not be the act of the kind of republic I have described that leads more by example than by sending 100,000 troops to foreign ports and disrupts lives all over the world.

So: while I think we could, for the cost of this war, achieve independence and prosperity, I don't think it will happen, and it is probably time to look to imperial policy.

I also believe that the American citizens will suffer for our imperialism. We are exporting manufacturing jobs daily, and creating few. We are committed to Global Free Trade: in which our specialty will be military power...


You said:

I am not only certain that we will have the war now, but I have mixed emotions about it: that is, I still think it would have been better had we adopted a different policy. We haven't done so, and now it is a bit late: we would look rather stupid to have marched the king's men up the hill only to march them down again.

Ignoring for the moment the liklihood of war, I have a hunch the last part of your statement need not hold true. Oh, certainly if we don't go to war a good many people (reporters, etc) will portray the buildup as an act of stupidity. A lot of these folk will portray anything as absolutely anything to sell a story.

But I find it somewhat interesting that Rumsfeld has been saying for months that "the troops are there to provide political pressure, and absent the threat of war we wouldn't have a UN resolution and we wouldn't have inspectors in the country now." And I certainly think that he is right, that the UN would certainly not have bothered to think about Iraq unless actively forced to, and that the inspectors would not be there absent active threat of war at the point that they were "invited" back in.

Runsfeld has also been saying "war is the last choice, not the first". Because of this, I think the Administration, if it wanted to, would be perfectly willing to bring the troops home without ever getting off the boats, saying "the troops accomplished their mission by their very presence, we had no need to risk their lives on the ground." And I think they would be willing to weather the flak from those that couldn't see (or weren't willing to concede) the possibility that Intimidation was sufficient militrary action in this hypothetical case. It appears to me the Administration has laid the groundwork for this option.

As to our having a war: wars come in various sizes. Afganistan was a war for a few months, but I don't think is a war now, despite considerable military presence and occasional firefights and shellings of bases.

Suppose Saddam and a few hundred of his close friends really could be persuaded to retire to a small Carribian island, and take the payroll for the Republican Guard with him as a nest egg? It might be at that point the country would become rather disorganized, and a bunch of troops wandering in to keep the looting at a minimum might actually be welcomed by the locals for a short while.

Now, certainly some of the troops will get shot at under this scenario. But would this actually constitute what most would consider a "war"?

I don't know how likely such a scenario would be, either in Saddam leaving, or the reaction of the remaining populace and military to a bunch of Peace Enforcers showing up. Perhaps it isn't completely impossible.


It is not the act of the republic in any case. But perhaps a good outcome.

An interesting narration into the possible outcome to the impending conflict in Iraq. 






Subject: common sense

Dr. Pournelle,

Finally some common sense. With the RIAA suing ISPs over enabling pirating and everyone suing tobacco companies over forcing them to smoke their entire life in the face of clear warnings that it's hazardous, I thought for sure McDonalds was going to get hammered for making kids fat because they USED A CLOWN TO FORCE OUR KIDS TO EAT TOO MUCH! Guess not.

Sean Long

Well, we can hope...

Subject: Unbelieveable.  ---- Roland Dobbins

Alas, little is incredible today... The Hegelians continue their unhindered march to glory.

Subject: The stupidest thing in the world  

- Roland Dobbins

A strong candidate perhaps, but there is fierce competition...

And good news for Linux fanciers:

Subject: A cool $2B.


- Roland Dobbins

Which is real money...

Subject: The Congressional Boondoggle Office

Well, that title isn't really correct, it is the Department Of Education and Boondoggles.

After the CBO demonstrated that they could create a fake international school and have it Certified by the Dept Of Edu, the Dept decided they needed to do something about this.

They are now performing on-site visits to foreign schools wishing to be Certified.

"Hey Fred -- where would you like to go this week? We've got an applicant in Argentina. Italy? Yea, we have a school in the north and another one in the south. Guess we should schedule six weeks for this visit, shouldn't we?"

Loren Wilton

Sigh. Leave it to the states. Most will mess things up but perhaps one or two will get things right. As opposed to what we have...

The "What is an American?" article was not penned by an Australian (or a dentist), but by Peter Ferrara, an associate professor of law at the George Mason University School of Law in Northern Virginia. Mr. Ferrara's commentary was originally published in the National Review on 25 September 2001.

but it's still a good read.

mike zawistowski 

Thank you.

And for your amusement:

If you haven't seen this, try it. It takes a while to down load but worth the wait. Do Not Touch Anything when it starts just enlarge your screen sit back and enjoy the trip it is breath taking. 

Carrington Dixon 


On the matter of IQ in Israel:


Regarding IQ in Israel: there are about two million Ashkenazi (out of about five million total) who run most everything and are a shrinking fraction of the population. Oriental and Sepharidc Jews don't do well in school and probably have average IQ below 100. Israeli Arabs make up 20% of the population and score low on IQ. also below 100. 94 sounds low, but could be true of, say, first-graders, where the population mix has shifted.

The IQ/income correlation for a country has to consider population substructure. The number of jobs that absolutely require a high IQ is not all that large: if you have enough people to fill them you might do ok in terms of money. Of course, that fraction changes as a function of technology. Insane government policies will also lower national income and can impoverish even the brightest peoples, who seem not to be especially resistant to such insanity.

The Ashkenazi/overclocking stuff is actually pretty solid. I could bet just about as much as I could afford to lose, even odds, and still feel comfortable. An article is currently in gestation. Perhaps I will report occasional progress on this topic.

Gregory Cochran

Thanks. Continued...

On Environment and Social Engineering:

Hello Mr. Pournelle,

I noticed your "Screed" regarding the Skeptical Environmentalist and had questions and comments.

My wife just took an analytic chemistry class and as an extra credit effort there was a question out of the textbook about a map and data surrounding acid rain in Montana around 1981. Now initially many people simply take published data as a fact, but as we dug into the data we found questionable standard deviations and inadequate data to formulate some of the conclusions given. For example, how does a summer sample of one sample constitute a valid data sample set? I have to ask how is so much bad data being taken seriously?

Now another perspective on this. My brother in law in involved in traffic planning and attends conferences on the topic periodically. Now, there are several tracts at conferences as you have seen at other technical conferences. On track addressed traffic planning and the environment. He decided to attend a discussion in this area and got into a discussion about more traffic means more pollution. He raised the issue that getting the cars on the road and off the road quicker while operating them at optimum speed for efficient fuel consumption could actually produce less pollution. His primary adversary in the discussion would not accept this and fell back on "More Cars = More Pollution" without addressing the lack of depth in the argument he offered. More of a mantra than an argument. So my brother in law says, "Lets approach this differently. Lets play - what if. What if, I could snap my finger and all cars in our city are running on hydrogen? Now I snap my fingers and suspend disbelief and all cars are hydrogen based. Can I have my road project?" The response was, "No". When asked why not the detractor said "People should not live like that!!". Now finally we are at the root of the problem. There was no real environmental issue here, just some people who were hijacking the environmental issue purely for their own social agendas. Real environmental issues were side-stepped to address political and social agendas.

I have to ask, "How much Environmental Science is actually for the goal of social engineering?".

How hard is it to use "Open Source" techniques of "many eyes" to validate data and highlight weak scientific studies?

Contrary to the "Environmental Experts" one does not need expertise in and credentials in Environmental Sciences to understand the scientific method and raise questions about data and statistical validity of that data.

The worst issue here is that the ability to formulate legitimate policy there is a need for absolutely solid research and valid data. Bad science simply means bad policy will follow.

Best Regards Tony Dean

Edith Efrom did a wonderful book on "Regulatory Science"; the urge to mind other people's business is overwhelming, particularly if you can get paid to do it...






This week:


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Thursday, January 23, 2003

Note that there is a column by Lomborg in today's Wall Street Journal.

From: Stephen M. St. Onge

Date: Jan. 23, 2003

subject: Environmental Science

Dear Jerry:

It's been rich, reading all the letters you've posted from people who say, 'I haven't read The Skeptical Environmentalist, but I know it's wrong.' In that sentence, the period should proceed the word 'but.'

Meanwhile, next time someone tells you that you can't trust certain opinions like Lomborg's because they're being supported by people who stand to make money if they are accepted, refer them to this story: . It isn't just skeptical environmentalists who have a financial axe to grind.

Best, Stephen


Lomborg has no larger axe than, say Ehrlich: they both profit from their books. As an author I can hardly object...




Re: IQ numbers around the world.

Both Dr Pournelle and Gregory Cochran find Griffe's numbers look a bit low. I suspect that both of you are familiar with scores normalized to the US norm. Griffe's numbers were apparently normalized to an expected world norm. There are a LOT of Chinese people. This seems to have shoved the peak two or three points away from where we are used to seeing it.

My country showed on that chart as a 97. But I expect that my government CALLS that point one hundred.

Greg Goss 

From: Stephen M. St. Onge

Date: Jan. 23rd, 2003

subject: Beyond incompetence, definitely racist

Dear Jerry:

Check out these two brochures by the New Jersey Education Association, trying to get parents to volunteer to help teachers in the classroom. One is for "parents," the other is for "African Americans." cached by Google at
.  Apparently, the NJEA doesn't think blacks can understand them 'big words.'

Or maybe it just doesn't want them to understand them.

Best, Stephen



At LASFS (   ) meeting last week I got into a conversation with Francis Hamit, who has published many articles on matters of security and foreign policy. He has been involved in a big fight over electronic rights; I told him that I didn't think the electronic rights to most of my journalism were worth much; old columns and articles don't hang around and if they do aren't very relevant. In a word, I thought Francis was legally correct but making more of the matter than perhaps he should. The result was this pair of letters, which are certainly informative:

Dear Jerry:

At the LASFS last night we were talking about electronic copyright infringement. You asked how big the problem is. The honest answer is that, so far, I really don't know. However, on mornings like this, before I'm ready to do creative work, I do internet searches looking for documents.

Since the Tasini decision in June of 2001 I've personally registered the copyrights to over 300 of my magazine articles. About a third of these are still being infringed and, as you know, registration is an absolute prerequisite to any kind of legal action. The threat of legal action is a prerequisite to even getting their attention, much less any kind of settlement.

I started out looking at the obvious source for infringement, the database providers like Lexis-Nexis, Factiva, Ingenta, Northern Light and Dialog. Prices for individual articles range between $2.95 and $22.00. Since everyone offers pretty much the same selection you may wonder about the range here. It's based upon the "Principle of Least Effort" theory. Once a researcher finds something, they won't look further for a better price, especially if they are spending someone else's money. They buy it and move on. There was a case a few years ago where Texaco got dinged for buying one copy and then making and distributing copies to about a hundred other employees. They tried a "fair use" defense and were shot down. Had to pay pretty heavy damages for infringement. Likewise a similar case against Disney for making over 130 copies of a weekly newsletter they had only three subscriptions to, was settled very quickly.

So the principle is established. One copy, one fee, if you are a commercial enterprise. Dialog will sell you any number of copies, but bill you for the base amount times the number of copies. They service, by their own account, 20,000 major corporations. How big that user base is really is hard to measure. The Ford Motor Company intranet has 90,000 users but they are one of the largest.. If those 20,000 customers average only one thousand users each, that a potential market of twenty million users. Of course that doesn't mean that anyone will sell that many copies of one article, but if a boss wants to give his people a heads-up on a particularly interesting piece, it is well within possibility that you would sell one thousand copies at $4.30 each or $4,300. Ironically, Dialog advertises one of the benefits of their service is that they have secured all these rights and customers are protected against copyright infringement claims. I know of at least a dozen instances where that is not true.

Dialog is owned by Thomson Learning, part of Thomson Corporation, which is , I think, the world's largest provider of online information. Thomson also owns Gale Group which provides both print and online product to libraries of all kinds. Thomson sold their mature businesses like newspapers and travel agencies to invest more in the online business. Last year Thomson had revenues of 7.2 billion dollars and Thomson Learning, which includes both Gale Group and Dialog, was 1.8 billion dollars of that. Online was 31% of that, or about half a billion dollars. Eighty percent of those revenues came from the United States and Canada. (One of my assets as a reporter is the fact that I took graduate level courses in Accounting and Finance). Gale Group projects that, by 2005, eighty percent of its revenue will come from online services. Since I don't think they will discontinue any of their print product, that will give you an idea of where all this is going. Its a global market which is growing exponentially.

Gale Group, ProQuest and EBSCO between them, pretty much own the library electronic information market. Now, as I said, my local library up here in Kern County pays about $8,000 a year for the Gale Group databases it subscribes to. Patrons can access these online and can download, print out or e-mail any of the articles quite easily.

There has been a lot of disinformation about the small size of the market. The fact is that officials of both Gale Group and ProQuest have described the revenue model for this industry at conferences and this has been reported in trade magazines like "Library Journal". They can and do track article usage to the individual level and report usage to their library customers to the individual publication level. (if you think about it, this is no more difficult than any other credit card transaction. Every article has a separate tracking number.)

So even if the publishers are currently obtaining "all rights' contracts with freelancers, that doesn't cure the problem of the hundreds of thousands of articles which are already in the system and for which no one secured electronic rights. Added to which there is another problem that part of the DMCA that no one really talks about, the "Copyright Management Information" provision in Chapter 1202 which provides up to $25,000 in Statutory damages per instance for misstating the ownership of a copyright. (Timely registration is not a prerequisite here). In every case, the ownership is attributed to the publisher not the author. That's a huge potential liability which has been ignored until now. And then there is Article Six of the WIPO treaty which is now active, which seems to make the very act of making something available online without permission infringement, even if there is no actual copying or distribution.

Like I said, unless there is a court order that requires these companies to disclose the exact nature and number of infringements, its going to be very hard to determine how much is being infringed. Distribution of these articles is now so pervasive that the value of the copyrights in them has been effectively destroyed. There are over 16,000 public and academic libraries in this nation alone and I've identified about 40,000 worldwide where my articles are infringed. Given that patron usage is both "fair use" and uncontrollable and that libraries and archives have special protections in the Copyright Act, there is not much that can be done there realistically. The only people who can be sued are the original publishers, aggregators like Gale and ProQuest and the commercial database firms, who are, after all, making quite a bit of money out of this. Billions of dollars.

Technology makes it too easy and the law makes it too hard to infringe. Whatever happens here, it won't be pretty. Feel free to check this out for yourself and to use any of this information. These days I'm mostly working on my book.


Francis Hamit

During our conversation I wondered at the size of the library market and budgets. He followed with:

Dear Jerry:

Well you did ask and I view internet research as a form of meditation. So here goes:

According the American Library Association there are 9,074 public libraries in the U.S and 3,658 Academic Libraries. There are 93,861 school libraries but not many of this are online yet.

Now, according the the National Center for Education Statistics July 2002 report entitled "Public Libraries in the UNited States, Fiscal Year 2000" (Referring only to the first category, the total operating income was 7>7 billion dollars. The average per capita operating income was over $28 million.

95 percent of these libraries had some form of internet access with 99, 453 terminals available in the libraries themselves plus whatever dial-in is provided for patrons. Over 85 percent of these libraries provided access to "electronic services". I think that means databases.

Now extrapolating the $8,000 paid for one database by the Kern County Library (and some libraries have as many as ten databases) by the 7,730 libraries in this category we arrive at a very rough guess figure of $61,840,000, but that's old data and the market is said the be growing at 20% per year. And that is just the U.S.A. and not the other 100 or so nations where these services are sold. Heck, it doesn't even include the government, military, special or other school libraries.

Use this as you will.

Regards, Francis Hamit

BTW, that report is a 144 page PDF file which can be downloaded easily from the ALA site.

All of which is worth thinking about. Thanks! Discussion continues below.

And lots of news from Dan Spisak:


Just when I thought I wouldn't find something cool to do with computer technology comes along this article in New Scientist. Apparently there is a group using a modified ink jet printer to print complex bio-materials and there is a possibility it could lead to being able to print skin, organs and the like. Fascinating stuff:

Also, Wired has some interesting commentary/speculation on the seemingly inevitable collapse/revolution of the music industry as we all know it:

A cautionary tale of why sometimes its not a good idea to push the absolute limits of your CPU, extreme overclocking can result in permanent damage to you CPU, just not in the ways you expected:

Amazon International (whomever they are) has preliminary SPEC ViewPerf 7 benchmarks from the new NVIDIA QuadroFX 2000. By the numbers this card looks to seriously compete with the ATI FireGL X1 card, and NVIDIA totally destroys its previous Quadro card in this benchmark. This is about to become an interesting two horse race once again:

-Dan S.

Subject: Arbeit macht frei.

 Roland Dobbins

Ugh. What's with Denmark? 

Robert and Ginny did not encourage their friends to talk about their private lives, and it is difficult for me to sort out what is public and what is not. It's also rather painful. Here is a good letter about them:

[Mrs.] Virginia Heinlein - A 2003 Remembrance

She was the wife and partner of the writer who most influenced my life.

She passed away on Saturday morning and I just found out this Tuesday night.

I met her in the late 70s, though she would not recall that meeting. I was one of many people in line seeking an autograph from her famous husband at a gathering of Libertarians in Phoenix, Arizona. It was the only time I met her in person.

I was there as the guest of another author, Thea Alexander, who wrote a book called 2150 A.D. She took me along as a kind of executive assistant, but it was really just to give me the opportunity to see the man I had admired for so long.

It is almost impossible, you see, to talk about Virginia Heinlein without talking about her husband.

Virginia Doris Gerstenfeld Heinlein married Robert Anson Heinlein in 1948 after his divorce from his first wife. They lived for a while in Colorado. I know that because I became friends with their back-then next door neighbors, the late G. Harry Stine, and his wife Barbara Stine.

I began corresponding with Virginia Heinlein in the summer of 1987 and had my last letter from her in 1996, when her eyesight became so poor that correspondence became a chore.

Naturally, that means I began writing to the Heinleins just eleven months before Mr. Heinlein passed away. As a result, I corresponded with Mrs. Heinlein through the period just before and after his death - a difficult time. (We were on a first name basis, but it hardly seems appropriate here).

The content of those letters is, of course, personal, and, as Mrs. Heinlein once said, people forget that a letter is the property of the writer of the letter. It would not be proper to quote from personal correspondence. Most of the Heinlein's correspondence was sealed for a time after his death.

But I can say that the letters to me were politely informal and that I feel fortunate in having had a chance to get to know the Heinleins as many fans did not.

I cannot claim to have known them as a close friend who saw them often, but the correspondence was a genuine privilege.

And there were wonderful bits and pieces in Mrs. Heinlein's letters.

I learned, for example, about Grumbles From the Grave right after Mrs. Heinlein requested Robert's letters from the archivist. I like to think that my urging was part of her motivation in going to work on it, but I know that I was not the only one to ask her to tell us more. Of course, I believe Mr. Heinlein had planned Grumbles as a nest egg project for her.

She was kind enough to send me computer print-outs of her "trip reports" which later came out as the non-fiction book, Tramp Royale.

Eventually, she moved to a retirement community in Florida, though she remained very active.

Her passing is another milestone to me, the end of an era.

It has been a little over six years since the correspondence stopped, but Virginia Heinlein has never been off my mind entirely. She encouraged me in my own writing. I got to send her a copy of my first published novel - and one of the cover blurbs compared my work to Robert Heinlein's.

But now I will not hear from her again in this life. And the world will be less rich without her in it. She was a gracious and kind lady, a remarkable and accomplished woman, and a pleasure to "talk" with. I have missed her letters.

It is my most sincere wish that she is walking the Glory Road with Robert Heinlein once again.

Adam Niswander Phoenix, AZ --

A few points. I added the [Mrs.] because Ginny insisted on it. Robert had been married twice before, once in the Annapolis Chapel. Little to nothing is known about his first marriage. I happen to know the USNA classmate who was best man at that wedding.

 The Heinlein Journal (
), which had the cooperation of Ginny Heinlein, had a long article about Leslyn, Robert's second wife whom he divorced after World War II. Ginny always insisted that it be known that she was not the cause of the divorce, nor did she date Robert until after the divorce. 

Theirs was a complete partnership, and Robert rather proudly displayed mementos of Ginny which he had in prominent places in his office. They were the first things you would notice when he conducted you in there, and they remained after he moved from Colorado Springs to Carmel, and after he converted from an IBM Executive Typewriter to computers.

My parents live across the street from Mrs. Heinlein's house. Interesting note: you knew about her death before the larger community of Fleet Landing did.

I was fairly sure that she didn't need people barging into her life, so my greetings to her consisted of an occasional wave; I never formally met her.

All of which is a roundabout way of saying, I wonder if today's female pilots and astronauts know that their pedigree goes back through Podkayne and Hazel Stone to Virginia Heinlein. In much the same way that JOs are often given an unofficial intro to Low Intensity Conflict (Lord, I love that term) by John Christian and Skilly.

Lux aeterna dona, Domine....

Rod McFadden

You missed a pleasant experience by not meeting her. 

I first met them in 1960, when I was in aerospace; Robert came to several technical conferences where I was presenting papers, and I often saw them in Colorado Springs when they lived there (at 1776 Mesa Ave. Broadmoor, Colorado Springs). It wasn't generally known -- indeed Robert swore me to secrecy -- that there was a rather elaborate system for converting the living room at 1776 into a guest suite. I found that out one night when we were snowed in and I couldn't get to my room at the Broadmoor Hotel. There's a long story that goes with that night, and one day I will tell it; Robert always told people that story when I was around, and insisted that it proved that Ginny was a far better engineer than he was. (Or than I was, for that matter.)

 After they moved to Bonny Doon Road, Bonny Doon (near Santa Cruz, California) we stayed with them several times: they were famously good hosts, and enjoyed being sure there was nothing you might conceivably want that they hadn't already put in the guest suite. That all stopped when they moved to the smaller place in Carmel, of course. Robert died there.

I never visited her in Florida, but I gather that she fit in nicely: she always liked Navy people, and I think a little regretted that she hadn't stayed in after World War II. She was a chemical engineer and while the Navy wasn't promoting women to Admiral in those days, who knows? Instead she married Robert, and in their first year they lived in a trailer so small that she had to lie down so that he could pace, which he did while writing. They always expected children, but they had none.

After Robert died she wouldn't leave their house in Carmel, not even to go to the Post Office, having all her groceries delivered, for months, until friends drove up and literally forced her to go out to dinner and meet some people at a Tor House (Robinson Jeffers) party; then she got right back into her more usual mode, and was reasonably active in the Navy retirement community in Jacksonville. She spent the last part of her life fighting intellectual property pirates. Rather effectively, too.

If there's any justice in this universe, they are together again.












This week:


read book now











This week:


read book now



Building machines

And there is this:

Re: Hamit, posted Thursday, January 23, 2003

I am very doubtful of Francis Hamit's reasoning with his "Principle of Least Effort." It takes no account of computers. Least Effort means something very different, when it is mediated through a machine. For example, in an automobile, Least Effort means continuing down the freeway at seventy miles an hour. On the internet, Least Effort means choosing one querying system which has direct or indirect access to as nearly everything as possible; and is sufficiently easy to use; and then sticking with it. That is likely to mean a metasearch engine of some kind. Certainly, a businesslike library manager is likely to realize that metasearching technology can pay for itself. On the internet, when money changes hands, there is likely to be an auction engine. There does not seem to be any particular difficulty about incorporating an auction engine into a metasearch engine. About the most painless way an institution can cope with budget cuts is to adopt a computer program which reduces billings to outside suppliers. It's not like having to fire someone.

As for ultimate availability of materials, here we have to make a distinction between academic and nonacademic libraries. Academic libraries are naturally patronized by academics, who are likely to be in seach of the writings of other academics. Now, the vested interest of academics rests overwhelmingly in being published, not in collecting royalties, and when they get around to thinking about it, they want their writings to be freely available to the general public. A journal can move up a notch by opening up its access. Individual authors put their wriitngs on their own websites. The name of the game is to be cited. Various learned societies are deciding to bypass and supersede the commercial second-string journals. In every field, the most prestigious journals are of course those sponsored by the learned societies. However, especially in the sciences, there are lower-tier journals published by firms like Thomson and Reed-Elesvier. The issue here is that science research is very perishable, and the author wants to get published before he is "scooped." A corollary is that the publication tends to be in itself trivial. Great sections of science have become a heavy industry, running on the assembly-line principle, and generating assembly-line journal articles with increasing numbers of authors for each article. Within a year or so, the novel substance of all these papers will be consolidated in standard handbooks. The result of this cancerous hypertrophy of publication has been a free gift to the commercial publishers. The learned societies, however, are developing somewhat more appropriate web publications. What actually happens in science is often that an experimenter builds a highly automated apparatus, and then begins methodically feeding it every material he can think of. The appropriate web publication solution is to let the experimenter publish an initial article, describing the apparatus, and then, indefinitely many linked daily supplements covering the same experiment with different inputs. Eventually, of course, he will reach the limits of what can be measured in that apparatus, at which point he will either start over with a new experiment and a new publication, or he will attempt to formulate a generalized law explaining the results. This last would probably warrant a new trip to the referees. Under this system, the publisher is not obliged to print thousands of copies of something no one will ever read, and it becomes feasible for the learned society to take the business over. One of the curious things about the commercial journals in an academic library is that they show remarkably little sign of wear and tear. A bound volume, containing the works of literally hundreds of authors, which has sat on the shelf for twenty years, still looks shiny-new. The ending of this farce is bound to have disastrous consequences for the commercial publishers.

What the commercial academic publishers have been traditionally paid for is not content, because in academic publication, the authors and the readers are substantially the same people. The publishers have been paid for running a sort of information clearing house, which is technologically obsolete with the rise of the web. The new model scientific clearing house is something like an open source project's website. So I think most of the revenue Hamit is looking at is a) pertaining to someone else, and b) likely to vanish in the near future.

Incidentally, there were a series of articles on this sort of thing in Lingua Franca magazine before the magazine folded a year or two ago.

I gather Hamit places his faith mostly in the mentality of cost-plus contractors. However, the propensities of cost-plus contractors are well known, and even the federal government, the great sugar daddy, is sticky about cost-plus contracting these days. Too many procurement officers have been cashiered for signing off on five-hundred-dollar toilet seats.

One should also remember that corporate projections are a species of advertising literature, on behalf of top management. They are professionally overoptimistic. No CEO ever projected that his company would be bankrupt, and himself in jail. It happens, though.

(Continues next week)

Re:: Lomborg

My litmus test for this kind of thing is whether someone wants me to do something I wouldn't be doing anyway. For example, most of the credible proposals for conserving energy are highly decentralized, and tend to decrease one's reliance on strangers far away. Furthermore, there seem to be a reasonable assortment of proposals which pay off at a good solid ten percent (stuff like geothermal heat pumps and telecommuting), better than the stock market is likely to do, post crash. So why not? Suppose that everything Lomborg says is true. What then? It still doesn't make the middle east politically stable. If we have to craft a new energy supply anyway, and the maximum conservation route (solar cells on every roof, etc.) is both reasonably priced, and practically sabotage-proof, why not? The debate about Lomborg seems an essentially sterile question.

Andrew D. Todd 

The debate about Lomborg is over things like the Kyoto Protocols that would cost about $150 billion a year to implement. No small sums.







This week:


read book now


Sunday, January 26, 2003

Begin with this exchange:

Hello there,

Just came across your page and figured I would give this a shot. My daughter has a Windows ME computer that has been working for for over a year. All of a sudden we are getting the following error message, and cannot get to the Desk Top at all.

System Error & H80004005 (-214767259)

We have no idea how to fix this as we only see a picture...something that she made herself with the computer draw program. Any suggestions whatsoever? I greatly appreciate your time. Thanks.


It's Alex's fiancť's birthday and I've been a bit busy, so I answered 

"Boot it in safe mode." 

My thought was that clearly there are two machines involved since the one that has the problem couldn't have been the one being used to send me mail. I figured that would probably solve the problem and anyway I sure don't have time to do detailed troubleshooting for every reader. 

I got this reply:

How do I do that?

My reply may have been a bit curt, but they were calling me to do barbeque and after all, it is a Sunday afternoon. Superbowl Sunday at that, although in fact I don't watch professional football. Still, it's a day that many do. In any event, I said 

"Find someone who knows. If you have enough advice to be able to send me email you can surely find someone who knows how to boot in  safe mode"


Alas, that wasn't what was wanted.  The next reply was:

Wow...what a charmer you are.  Thanks

Which left me wondering just what obligations I have here. I would myself have thought that anyone who could manage to find my web site and send me email could find someone who could explain how to boot a system in safe mode. 

So I sent this:

Sir: clearly you are not sending this from the machine that isnít working. You have a system that will access the Internet. Any short search will show you how to boot a machine in safe mode, and if you donít know how to find that out, you probably ought to; itís a technique that will be useful for a long time, and itís in any book I know of on troubleshooting systems.

Explaining how to do that would require that I also explain what safe mode is; Iíd end up telling you to go look at web sites on the subject, because I get about 300 mail messages a day and I donít really have time to write full essays on things that are easy enough to find out on the web or in books easily available on book stores.

I realize that many people seem to believe they have a claim on other peopleís time, and I try to answer all my mail, but really, I donít think I have an obligation to do free detailed troubleshooting for everyone who comes across my web site, nor do I think that would be a reasonable use of my time. It is Sunday. My sonís fiancťís birthday. A day when people often spend time with families.

Now my apologies if you think I have been rude, but I find this conversation a bit strange: somehow I am at fault?

Good evening.

Which I suppose wasn't as polite as I could have been, but it has been a long day. So now I feel vaguely unhappy as if I have been unreasonable, but intellectually I don't see how I have been. I suppose what I ought to have done was simply delete the mail in the first place and not answer it?  Sigh.

But a reader has sent the entire instructions I didn't have time for: see next week.


Fortunately we also get other mail:



Hi there. I just wanted to let you know how much your website helped me. I work for an attorney and had to at the very last minute to restore data from a clientís tape. I downloaded the necessary software but ran into the ordinal 258 problem. I did a search on google and was referenced to your site which had the exact problem I had encountered. The fix that was posted was right on target and I was able to pull the data. I think this is amazing because your site (and another foreign language one) were the only ones in all of indexed cyberspace that had the fix and it saved me big time. I donít even know you Ė but thanks. This truly illustrates the power of the Internet and all of the techs that compile such data.

Richard Lea

Network Administrator

Law Offices of Martin L. Haines, III Chartered

Glad to have been of help.

On an entirely different subject:

Dear Dr. Pournelle,

I have found another reason to enjoy the Internet. In the article at
  Robin 'Roblimo' Miller comments on Microsoft actively distributing GNU/GPL code. Look near the end of the article for the boldface header "A note about Microsoft - and irony". Microsoft was at LinuxWorld pushing free software. I like it.

regards, William L. Jones

Irony indeed....

And an interesting story:

I just finished having a discussion with my landlord (a Liberal) over the coming possible war. With your political experience (under Regan) I think you might find what I said interesting.

Only an idiot wants war, or violence. However, violence on an individual or group scale may be necessary for survival, or self defense. In those cases I reluctantly support it. And If I do it, I will do it very well.

But in the case of Iraq, my question is over the item called "Sarin".

While I was at Fort Benning in OCS, one of the things we were required to do was to "write a thesis" in order to graduate. It could be on any military topic. I wrote mine on CBR (chemical, biological, radiological) warfare. In my research, I came across some information that I HAVE NEVER SEEN ANYPLACE BEFORE OR SINCE about this subject.

Because of the "hate" that the free world had towards the gas warfare used in WWI, this type of warfare was "outlawed." Contrary to popular opinion, America, according to my research, DID NOT pursue this venue prior to WWII. The Germans did, and had an enormous stockpile of both Sarin and Tobin nerve gas ready to use. We did not discover this stockpile until after the war, when we were rooting around Germany. And we were astounded (according to the retired general who wrote the book I was using from the military library). According to him, we had no idea about this. If Hitler had used this against us, we were totally unprepared and the casualties would have been catastrophic.

Further research by them in German archives told this story. Once Hitler had the product, he personally instructed his intelligence agencies in America to find out where American research was on this weapon. His agents "scoured" all libraries and newspapers trying to find any hints as to our status in this area. They reported back to him that "THERE WAS ABSOLUTELY NO HINT OF ANY RESEARCH OF ANY TYPE ON THIS TYPE OF WEAPON." Hitler then personally decided that because of the ABSENCE of any information in America, this must be such a high priority, secret project of ours that he had to assume that WE HAD THE WEAPON ALSO, and he decided NOT to use these nerve gases against us because then we would use it on him.

Notice, that Sarin, discovered by us in Germany in 1945, is STILL the same product (apparently the end result of advanced insecticide research). And after Desert Storm, we discovered some of this product in artillery shells in Iraq which we destroyed, and apparently knew that Saddam had more. We have been looking for an accounting of this deadly stuff for the past 11 years. And IT IS NOT ACCOUNTED FOR IN THE LATEST U.N. REPORT. This insidious crap is one of those dangerous things whereby "one" little demented idiot could do great damage to a city. THIS is the Weapon of Mass Destruction, which Saddam has shown absolutely no compunction against using, that I think George W. Bush is talking about. The Nuclear problem is, I think, smaller.

America could have been demolished in WWII except for Hitler's paranoia, and error. Thus, no matter what the peaceniks said, America was not going to allow itself to be almost caught short again, and after WWII we have continued to advance in CBR warfare, in secret if necessary, because our countries survival could be at stake.

And its survival just may be. I only support this war in order to get every drop of Sarin, and/or similar items from EVERY Muslim country.

In arguing with my landlord, he stated that we have ALWAYS been involved in and had nerve gases. My information is different. To me, this is a case "what everybody knows or assumes is true, is in fact dead wrong." We came damn close, because of our desire to fight a "moral" war, to getting our butts kicked. I, for one, do not intend to let that happen.

And when you have "die for the cause" whackos carrying this stuff around saying that women, children and babies are legitimate targets, then I would say "Houston, we have a problem."

Enjoy the Superbowl.


Well, I think you exaggerate the effectiveness of war gasses. The main reason the Germans didn't employ war gasses in WW II was that they depended in large part on animal transport, and retaliation by the Allies with gas even in the battle area would have been more devastating to Germany than to the US; at least that is what I was told in military history classes, and I never had reason to question it. I do know we had stockpiles of war gasses, but those probably were chlorine and mustard, and phosgene, not Sarin and other nerve agents. I know I was astonished at the deadliness of nerve agents when I saw them demonstrated.

I don't know what the shelf life of this stuff is. I do know we were at one time working on a two part nerve gas: each part harmless and very stable. When mixed they made something awful.

How far they got with that soup I don't know. 

That question and others are answered as this continues next week.

And we have:

Subject: The Legions

You may find this interesting. I didn't realize one could serve in the armed forces without being a citizen:

Nate Trost

Serving in the US Armed forces is a traditional way to become a citizen. It's a long and honorable tradition. Continued next week


And on a cheerful note:

Possibly the beginning of a real anti-cancer agent, as opposed to a poison that is SLIGHTLY rougher on cancer cells than it is on the healthy human being? 

John R. Strohm 







Entire Site Copyright, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003 by Jerry E. Pournelle. All rights reserved.

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