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Mail 329 September 27 - October 3, 2004






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Monday  September 27, 2004

As usual there is a lot of good mail over the weekend.

Dear Dr. Pournelle,

The Discovery Channel is featuring Burt Rutan Sunday, Oct. 3, at 9:00 EST. Black Sky:The Race for Space.

Also, asteroid Toutatis passes near (<1,000,000 miles) on September 29. 

Sincerely, Randy Storms

And of course I'll be out in Mojave for the first X-Prize attempt.


From another discussion group, relevant to today's VIEW, in response to a remark that Americans have not traditionally been IQ snobs:=

This USED to be a part of the American collective psyche.

In Hedrick Smith's book THE RUSSIANS, written in the 1970s, he tells the story of an official Soviet banquet for some visiting Americans. After all the self-congratulatory speeches were over, one of the Americans stood up and suggested a round of applause for the help, who had prepared and served the meal, and would have to clean up after it. The Russians were totally nonplussed. This was something that would never have occurred to them. Yet to Americans, even high-status Americans of the sort who ended up at foreign banquets, the thought was a natural one. Most of them would, after all, have worked their way through college doing menial tasks.

That's all in the past tense now. American citizens no longer do menial tasks for low pay -- ever, at any point in their life cycle. Well, high-status or aspiring-high-status ones certainly don't. Any high-school senior with an ounce of ambition nowadays looks around for an internship -- with some legal or financial firm, for preference -- and spends his summer that way. There is a chronic shortage of summer help at Long Island resorts. American kids just won't do it. Pretty soon, if not already, that Hedrick Smith anecdote will be as incomprehensible to Americans as the plot of La Traviata. They'll be with the Russians.


When I first went to the University of Iowa I had the GI Bill for tuition, and it would eventually pay me enough to pay my rent; and the landlady understood that so she was willing to wait for the lump sum I'd get when the GI Bill finally kicked in, as was the Registrar willing to wait for tuition. However, I had to eat.

Part of that was taken care of by the existence of a gas ring. With the gas fire at its lowest possible setting, and a coffee can lid over the fire ring, I could keep a pot of stuff simmering without boiling over, and sometimes it would go weeks without being emptied; just add fresh anything from the supermarket, a little meat and lots of turnips and carrots and potatoes. One could stay alive on that.

But there was another institution called Reich's Café where you could get a "board job". This meant one hour waiting on tables for one meal off the menu. Meals were served by other students as if you were an ordinary customer, so there was unlimited bread and butter. Tips were yours to keep, and I generally made about a dollar an hour in tips, which, in days when cigarettes were .50 a pack and pipe tobacco about the same for a couple of days' supply, was not bad. But now the Minimum Wage Act has made those jobs illegal. Sure, Reich's only hired students (an IQ test? Anyway, they had more control over students than transients) so this wasn't work for the left side of the Bell Curve -- but it was a way for upward bound kids to experience what work for wages was like.


And there are plenty of jobs that need doing that don't even require "skills" in any meaningful sense, merely showing up and doing simple things one is told to do.

It amazes me that IQ snobs who are sure that "dumb" means IQ 100, will entrust their *children* to nannies who obviously have much less mental horsepower than that. (Thus, in River Oaks (where the rich folk live in Houston), schools see kids from elite dual-income families who arrive with little more cognitive preparation than a poor Hispanic kid, because those kids were in effect raised by the same kind of Hispanic woman that bears/raises those poor Hispanic kids.)


This is an on-going discussion.

Subject:  Why we need to abolish schools 

===== Tiomoid M. of Angle JD MBA

-'For forms of government let fools contest;
 That which is best administered is best.' -- Alexander Pope



In the interests of accuracy:=


one of your readers deliberately, then you apparently inadvertently, helped the Republican Party line on your site this weekend. I know you are likely to vote for Bush and don't care for Kerry's politics, but for more legitimate reasons than those I raise here.

First, Jim Woosley states, "His actions in 1972 directly contributed to the death and suffering of Americans and Vietnamese civilians in Viet Nam. And his words and actions (and those of his supporters and fellow Democrats including Mr. Moore and Dr. Dean) are contributing to the death and suffering of American soldiers -- and civilians -- and Iraqi civilians in Iraq today." I about 10 years old when Vietnam finally ended, and as I've studied that war, I've got conflicting feelings myself. Primarily, if you commit to a war, then win it, a mistake we are making now. I have doubts about why we went, and I respect those who opposed the war with conscience (Muhammed Ali is a good example). Those soldiers that returned from Vietnam and spoke against it did NOT contribute to death and suffering. Mr. Woolsey is among the worst type of "patriot", the kind who believes being an American means voicing no dissent. I believe the opposite to be true, that the voice of the dissenter makes America what it is. He should watch the actual comments Kerry made before the Senate, or watch the movie about Kerry which shows his comments in full.

Second, you state of Kerry, "He is after all more liberal than Ted Kennedy." Perhaps that was a tongue in cheek statement, but it wasn't clear. In any event, it simply continues a misinformation put out by the Republicans that they know to be untrue. A simple check of the facts will show that the statement is based on a single year's voting record (this year), disregarding his career voting record which puts him much to the right of Kennedy, just as a similar examination puts Edwards as one of the most moderate Democrats.

Of course, Kerry would be far too liberal for you in any event, but just because this administration says something, that doesn't make it true. They are the masters of falsehood thru technical truth, and make Bill Clinton look like George Washington.

bryan broyles

Well I would be astonished if anyone thought I was neutral in the upcoming election, and it's quite unlikely that I will vote for Kerry; I would be much more inclined to vote for Edwards than Kerry.

On the other hand, I do like to be fair, and I do care about truth and accuracy.

On the Viet Nam remarks, the country is not going to agree. I met Jane Fonda a couple of times and she is charming (many actresses are); at the time I was debating Tom Hayden and she was still (apparently happily) married to him. She said in the Green Room before the debate that she didn't understand political issues (the debate was over Viet Nam and was held at USC; both Hayden and I were being paid) but Tom was very smart and did understand them. Since that time her anti-war efforts have been remembered as quite controversial. In Kerry's case the situation is less clear, and I have no strong opinions on whether his activities helped prolong the war. 

Understand: given that Viet Nam was a campaign of attrition in the Seventy Years War AKA The Cold War, long isn't necessarily bad: we were diverting the strength of the USSR from other targets, and they sent a remarkable amount of materiel at great cost for USAF to destroy. I wanted to win and get out, Allard Lowenstein wanted to get out no matter what, and as Allard said to me during a televised debate "Bundy and his people want to lose it and stay in." That floored me; yet while it's certain that Bundy and the Morganthau foreign policy realists did not know it, staying in while giving the USSR the illusion they could win was precisely the right strategy. It was only when we got out and failed to support our former allies that Viet Nam fell; until that time we chewed up USSR armor, rolling stock, and highway transport that could have been going to build the USSR economy.

Regarding Liberal and Conservative, the American Conservative Union lists the lifetime voting records of both Ted Kennedy as 3 and John Kerry as 5 (out of a possible 100), so it is technically correct that Kennedy is more liberal than Kerry, but it is not a distinction with much in it. The Americans for Democratic Action rank Kerry just a bit more favorably than Kennedy -- 92 as opposed to 90 according to one source, and 90 as opposed to 88 according to another -- but again there is not much in it.

But given that Bush caved to Big Government neo-Jacobinism and National Greatness; that his father inflicted the onerous and unconstitutional Americans with Disabilities Act on us, and Bush II gave us the ridiculous No Child Left Behind act as his contribution to messing up education, it's pretty hard to rate him as a conservative. The difference is that Bush thinks well of conservatives if he doesn't act much like one; Kerry doesn't like conservatives while doing many of the same things. I suppose it is a measure of my judgment that I think it may be easier to win Bush away from Washington Imperialism and reducing the states to administrative clients than Kerry. I freely admit I might be wrong.

Just as Bush has involved us in a needless war that turned to disaster. But: he did so thinking he was advancing the national interest. Allbright got us into the Balkans wars where we acted counter to our own interests: it can't possibly be a good idea to work to reverse the results of the two Turkish Sieges of Vienna. I trust Bush to work in what he thinks is our national interest even if he gets it wrong. The Wilsonians over in the shadow State Department seem to promise that we will only use our military when there is no national interest.

It may be supreme optimism on my part to think that Iraq has taught a valuable lesson and Bush has learned it. Fukuyama in the Summer National Interest seems to believe so. We will see.

Left to me, I wouldn't have either of these two chaps as President. Bush listened to the wrong people, and has yet to throw them out on their ears, and surrounding yourself with persuasive fools is not a good thing to have done and ought to be punished; while Kerry says he would have acted differently only he wouldn't only he would but he'd be doing it different only --- I can't make out what Kerry would do. He says Bush lives in a fantasy world while telling us quite seriously that once he is elected the international community will flock to help bail us out, once Kerry charms them and explains at length why they ought to do that. And he remains surrounded by people who got us into Kossovo and other disasters.

But that's another story.

I have said repeatedly that the Iraq mess was a failure of American intellectualism in general, and a test of the Jacobin view of human nature. Apparently that experiment needs to be run every couple of generations. Read Burke Reflections on the Revolution in France for an early example of trying to teach that lesson.

Subject: One solution for Iraq

Dear Jerry:

One way to clean up the security situation in Iraq would be to buy up all of those surplus weapons Saddam left laying around. It would be a billion or two of those reconstruction dollars well-spent. Not only does it dry up the supply for the terrorists and insurgents, it also puts cash into the hands of ordinary citizens, which aids the economy. Pay a bounty of 50 bucks for an AK-47 and a hundred for an RPG -- no questions asked-- and the level of violence will decrease markedly at all levels. The recovered weapons would be destroyed, of course. Some people will make it their business (pun intended) to find all the large caches of weapons and turn them in. Yeah some undeserving people will get rich, but isn't that the American way?

Sincerely, Francis Hamit

Good Idea!

Subject: Iraqi Weapons Buyback buffy willow


Sorry to disappoint you and Francis Hamit, but it has been tried. For a variety of reasons, it was a dismal failure. 

-- Dave



Subject: Sir Richard Branson Is My New Hero

Note the name of the first ship of its class!


"Virgin Boss in Space Tourism Bid"

Virgin boss Sir Richard Branson has signed a #14m agreement which will see his company take passengers into space.

The British entrepreneur is having five "spaceliners" built in the U. S. by the team behind the SpaceShipOne vehicle.

The California-based rocket plane became the first privately developed carrier to go above 100 km in June.

Sir Richard says it will cost around #100,000 to go on a "Virgin Galactic" spaceliner, and the first flights should begin in about three years' time.

Sir Richard revealed his new venture at a briefing held on Monday at the Royal Aeronautical Society in London.

"We've done quite a lot of research; we think there are about 3,000 people out there who would want to do this," Sir Richard told the BBC.

"If it is a success, we want to move into orbital flights and then, possibly, even get a hotel up there."

The deal is with Mojave Aerospace Ventures, the company set up by aviation pioneer Burt Rutan and Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen to exploit the technology developed for SpaceShipOne.

SpaceShipOne is one of more than twenty craft vying for the $10m (#5.7m) Ansari X-Prize, which rewards the first team to send a non-government, three-person craft over 100 km (62 miles) into space, and repeat the feat in the same carrier inside two weeks.

The Virgin boss was flanked at Monday's announcement by Rutan, who has already collaborated with Sir Richard on Virgin GlobalFlyer, a jet plane designed to fly non-stop around the world without refuelling.


THE VIRGIN SPACESHIP The vehicle will have room for five passengers A week's pre-flight training will be required Three-hour trip; three minutes of weightlessness Flights to leave from Mojave Desert, initially Tickets to cost about #100,000, perhaps less


"Virgin has been in talks with Paul Allen and Burt throughout this year and in the early hours of Saturday morning signed a historical deal to license SpaceShipOne's technology to build the world's first private spaceship to go into commercial operating service," said Sir Richard, who founded the Virgin Group of companies.

Commentators said it was a logical next step for someone to come in and move the SpaceShipOne technology into the commercial flight business.

David Ashford, director of UK-based Bristol Spaceplanes Limited, another X-Prize contender, said space was finally being opened up for ordinary people.

"The price will come down -- there's no doubt about that," he told BBC News Online.

"The X-Prize has succeeded in doing what it set out to do. The original idea was to break the mould of thinking -- to break Nasa's monopoly on space policy. Space tourism should have happened many years ago."

Mojave Aerospace Ventures has been asked by Sir Richard to produce a bigger version of SpaceShipOne. The VirginSpaceShip (VSS) will carry five passengers compared with the two-passenger capacity currently offered by SpaceShipOne.

The final design for the maiden ship, the VSS ENTERPRISE, should be signed off in 2005.

The vehicle will then have to be built and tested before beginning a scheduled space service.

"Every passenger will have a spectacular view; they will have considerable windows and luxurious seats," Sir Richard said.

"Initially, they will take off from the Mojave Desert near Los Angeles. It will be a three-hour journey. Passengers would have about a week's training prior to taking off."

The Virgin Group has interests in a range of businesses, including trains, finance, soft drinks, music, mobile phones, holidays, and cars.

Globally, Sir Richard is probably best known for his Virgin Atlantic airline and for his speedboat and ballooning adventures.

He said many of the group's existing pilots would be in line to take the controls of a VSS vehicle after the necessary training.

Story from BBC NEWS:

Published: 2004/09/27 08:38:31 GMT



Subject: Scaled lands a deal.

---------- Roland Dobbins

=Not trying to throw cold water on the idea, but I do not think those hybrid engines will EVER be man-rated. You can't test them, and so far as I know there have never been two test runs with the same performance. Ever.

Subject: man rated rocket engines

Dr. Pournelle,

I agree in part about your assessment about man-rated hybrid engines... If they can figure out the nozzle erosion issue, I'd be happy to be a passenger regardless of a plus/minus variation in thrust. Random thrust vectoring is bad though.

As a reasonably compensated test pilot however, the current engines used in the Rutan effort seem ok to me. That's what test pilots get paid to do. Passengers on the other hand, ought to be able to expect a somewhat linear flightpath even if the top speed or altitude isn't guaranteed. Thrust variations for a space tourist application not involving orbital rendezvous is not a big problem. Random thrust vectoring = Bad. Solve the nozzle erosion problem and lots of other questions get answered. Fail to solve it, and you're stuck with compensating with expensive/heavy flight control stability augmentation workarounds. It's still solvable, but the weight and cost penalties might be just as prohibitive as failing to get a commercial certificate for flight.

I do hope the FAA will be reasonable when it comes to flight certification for commercial passenger flight... The type of flight testing a new airliner or corporate jet must endure prior to certification is costly and potentially unlikely for a new "cheap" class of small sub-orbital spacecraft. The govt won't do it without a lot of prodding and some heavy horsepower behind the threats, but it would help move things along if they decide an adult signing a liability waiver really means what he says he means, and allow commercial spaceflight with a somewhat higher chance of fatal consequence.

It's still probably safer than crossing the street, but "Think of the children!" is a way of life for govt. regulators and they won't give up easily.

Sean Long

Well, random thrust vectors that cause extreme yaw may be a bit of a problem, even for test pilots.





Subj: IETF anti-Spam group disbands over Intellectual Property uncertainties 

=Opinions finally began to coalesce around Microsoft's Sender ID proposal, a combination of the company's own Caller ID for Email and a separate technology called SPF. But many open-source groups criticized Microsoft's licensing terms and the company's vagueness about pending patents that could have given Microsoft a claim on Sender ID technology. In its current form, critics said, the proposal could have given Microsoft patent control over part of the Internet's basic infrastructure. Shortly after America Online Inc. announced it wouldn't be supporting Sender ID, MARID finally rejected the proposal.=



Subject:  Fukuyama article

Please see here for an interesting analysis of the Fukuyame / Krauthammer differences.

John F. Gothard

Thanks. Now if I could find a copy of the article itself on line. And see VIEW


Another cost of PCness

Catching illegals is deemed unfair. Our grandparents would not have believed the world we live in.


---------------------------------------------------------------------------- -------- 

Oakland halts DUI checkpoints after Hispanic leaders complain

OAKLAND, Calif. The Oakland Police Department has halted its use of D-U-I checkpoints after the city's Hispanic leaders complained that the roadblocks were ensnaring too many illegal immigrants.

D-U-I checkpoints allow police officers to demand drivers' licenses and proof of insurance. City leaders agree the roadblocks are an effective way to get drunken drivers off the streets. But Hispanic community leaders and City Council President Ignacio De La Fuente complained that the checkpoints were making life miserable for illegal immigrants who aren't licensed to drive but otherwise obey the law. Police Chief Richard Word has ordered a month-long moratorium on the checkpoints while the department drafts new guidelines. But City Councilmember Larry Reid says stopping the D-U-I checkpoints threatens public safety.


Subject: Googling for fun and profit!

Hackers use Google to access photocopiers,39020345,39167848,00.htm

--- Roland Dobbins


Subject: Mt. St. Helens Information

Because I thought you might find this of interest, I wanted to let you know that my favorite volcano is back on the air! That's right, the Mt. St. Helens VolcanoCam is as of today again operational after over a year in process being replaced. This comes right in time, as the dear old gal herself is showing some signs of hefty activity again. The Forest Service has cancelled all climbing permits due to increased activity over the past couple of days. After a flurry of teensy tiny quakes under the lava dome that started up late last week was beginning to die down, suddenly a large number of larger quakes began happening in the same place. So far today, you can count 20 shallow quakes in the crater, only one of which was smaller than 2.0 on the Richter scale. The largest was 2.6. Check out:  < >

The VolcanoCam is at: 

Note that if the picture is black it's probably because it's night at MSH. The weather may also interfere with the daytime view (today was beautiful seeing, but tomorrow might be different).

My personal web page has a "Volcanoes Etc" tab where I try to put things of interest in this vein:








This week:


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Hello Dr Pournelle,

I think the bell curve is not an accurate reflection of intelligence distribution. I think a power curve would be a better representation of distribution. There are a tiny few people that are profound geniuses, a larger handful that are "just" geniuses, a sizable chunk that are above average and a broad plain of people who are average with a tiny minority of uneducable people at the tail end. I also disagree with the notion that half are below average, this is only true if the distribution of intelligence is symmetrical, and I don't think that it is. I suspect that a vast majority of people fall into the avarage category.

Furthermore I question whether sorting is necessary. This situation is generally self correcting, people are able to make decisions for themselves, even young people will gravitate to those areas where they excel when they are given a choice.

I think I agree with your education and training assessment (4 & 4,1), I disagree that lower IQ people can make use of education less than higher IQ people; sprinters, joggers and walkers can all cover the same ground, it just takes some longer than others. I am concerned that sorting people by IQ will create a caste system where it is not needed or helpful. Culling is best left to herds.

Question 1, is it the function of education to drive the economy? Question 2, is it the function of education to determine vocation? Question 3, even if not everyone takes advantage of the benefits of education, who should own that choice? I would say the parent first, the student second, an angaged third party third, random lot fourth, and a nameless faceless soulless bureaucrat a profoundly distant fifth.

A healthy republic should provide equal opportunity to all citizens and let them rise or fall of their own accord. Furthermore, people tend to rise to the expectations placed on them, why not place sufficiently high expectations that they rise high enough above meritocracy that they can at least see what opportunity looks like. The best example of this that I can provide is that of Cincinnatus that Machiavelli discusses in the Discorse, C was a farmer, pulled from his field and made dictator to command an army to defend a city. Note: I have not yet read the Livy account of this incident, so I am hoping to learn that there is more to this story.

I would suggest that most ANY housewife could do the job that professional educators fail at every day. It is a gross disservice to all children to assume that educating children is a difficult task; time consuming and demanding of attention, but not especially demanding of "expertise".

Skip Frizzell

To begin: while the actual distribution of IQ is slightly skewed toward the top (in part because those at the very low end don't live long enough to take IQ tests), so that the mean, median, and mode of the population statistics are note quite equal as they are in the mathematical normal curve, the differences are small enough that for all practical purposes "half are below average" is a true statement.

Regarding education vs. training, I remain convinced: you will not make IQ 85 students into CalTech students no matter how long you try and no matter how badly both student and teacher wants it to be so. It just doesn't happen. Wishing doesn't make things so. On the other hand, all our experience is that just about any child of IQ 85 and above can learn to read; and it is the expectation that many cannot that has destroyed the tradition in our schools that all normal children learn to read in first grade.

Cincinnatus had been a general before returning to his farm; he was called out, commanded the army, won, and returned to the farm. George Washington thought of himself as a farmer first and a general second, and the presidency as "splendid misery". Alas, it is not the case that just anyone can go out and lead armies or run countries.

On the other hand, what's being done in schools by the credentialed is a crying shame.

Subject: In re: Oakland halts DUI checkpoints after Hispanic leaders complain

This reminds me of an article I heard recently on NPR: the horrible truth that a recent MX-US border crossing crackdown at high-traffic points is working so well, that the illegal crossers are taking longer walks through more desolate parts of the desert -- and that means more of them are dying of thirst before they reach safety.

I find this very sad (I take no pleasure nor find satisfaction in the death of others), but it seems to me that the proper response is not to _cancel_ the crackdown, as some would have it. Rather, we should publicize to our friends South of the Border the fact that long walks in the desert are bad for your health.

Rob Pierce


Subject: My recommendation: "The End of Oil" by Paul Roberts


I usually end up missing about one of your columns each month so you may have already commented on this, but The End of Oil by Paul Roberts is excellent and eye-opening. His bottom line: We don't so much have an energy crisis as a huge politico-economic crisis (but we still have an energy crisis).

As a result of this I finally took on a project I've always wanted to do -- build a solar heating panel as an engineering experiment. An old college text Solar Thermal Processes was my guide. My 6' x 10' air-medium flat panel was based on 'almost-free' used glass of that size and heats to an idle temperature of over 230 deg F with 75 deg F outdoor air temperatures and clear skies. A used clothes dryer blower drops this to a steady state output of 125 deg F after about 45 minutes (from ~10 am to ~3 pm). It was a fun project and I have learned a lot!


-John G. Hackett

P.S. Regarding your column today: What's the technology you feel will replace LCDs in the future?

Interesting story. Thanks. And a very good question, but I may be the wrong one to ask. Let's see what readers thing will replace LCD...


-Subject: Monday, 9/27/04 - Education post


I have read your blog from time to time with interest, but have never seen fit to mail a comment until now. Your post on education of this date either reflects extreme disingenuousness (which I do not believe) or just being out of touch with the great sea-change going on in education. {NB: By "education" here I mean only public education; private education is not germane to this discussion, as it has always gone on, and will continue among groups who see fit to organize a proprietary educational system to advance their own needs, agendas, or ideology- or all of the above}

Several points:

1) Concerning your list of "assumptions," this list could just as easily be taken as the outline for an educational philosophy, or even a framework for the implementation of a system of education. Those who are driving public education today, however, would regard your "assumptions" as antediluvian ideology.

2) Your list of Assumptions probably bore some resemblance to the public system, and the expectations of the public when I started teaching, although vocational education (training) was already on the wane. I started teaching in the public schools (high school, same school, 9-12th grade, 32 years) in 1970, retiring two years ago. The system I began teaching in bore much more resemblance to the public system of the previous half-century than it does now, and the present changes began to move into really high gear around 1985-1995.

3) The primary assumption driving public education today is the wholly destructive one that assumes that all children are capable of the same performance. When this is stated in public, it's usually something like "All children are capable of excellence." Persons who exercise ordinary sense would say, yes, this child might be capable of excellence in differential calculus, while this other one might, at the same age, be capable of excellence with a box of 24 crayons. However, that is not at all what is meant. The public schools exist in a state of Procrustean denial when any fact that might demonstrate that their is any difference in students' abilities is simply ignored. As the joke by the great Tom Lehrer goes, "Not only do we not discriminate on grounds of race, creed, or color, but also on grounds of ability." That is now merely a fact, and the pressure on teachers to inflate grades is intensifying everywhere.

I could write a book about this, but I probably won't; it's moot now, anyway. The left, who are busily molding the public schools into an institution that reflects their ideology is rapidly destroying any basis of individual merit. With the right-wing, that wants the privatization of education anyway, that's just fine, too. The more quickly the public schools are discredited, the sooner they can grab their vouchers and run off to Phillips Exeter, a parochial or Hebrew school, or the Wahabbist Terror Academy in the strip mall down the street. I could bemoan all this, but I've witnessed it happening, like the tide going out, and all that is past me. What we see must run its course.

John Avelis Jr.

I have run your letter, but tell me what it is that you are disagreeing with me about?

Of course I know the egalitarians and Jacobins regard the whole notion of human diversity as antediluvian, only at the same time they insist on "diversity" as a good and insist we never judge between the cultures of cannibals with human sacrifice and Victorians or modern Americans. I never said the establishment agrees with me; I only stated what I believe is easily proved by actual data as opposed to philosophical assumptions.

And since I believe in science, I would think that once the assumptions are clear, many things are obvious, so of course " this list could just as easily be taken as the outline for an educational philosophy, or even a framework for the implementation of a system of education." I have never doubted it.

Since I have repeatedly said that our education system is heading us for a Dark Age, I would have thought it obvious I don't agree with what's going on: and that I don't expect those who control education to agree with me or accept my premises.

I would have thought your third point is what I said: that so long as one insists in "No Child Left Behind ", i.e. that all children are capable of much the same above average performance, you are doomed to fail. My point was that the left side of the bell curve is perfectly capable of doing useful, valuable, and honorable work, and of good citizenship as well; but as you go down the left side of the bell curve you find increasingly greater need of training and increasingly less ability to use "education" in the usual sense in which the term is used.

Indeed, I am unable to see where we much disagree. Please enlighten me.

(4). It is easier to teach an IQ 115 to become a skilled lathe operator than to teach that same skill set to an IQ 85. On the other hand, the IQ 85 trainee can learn to do the job quite well.

(4,1) Higher IQ people are more likely to get bored with skill tasks. This doesn't mean they can't do them. Sometimes higher IQ people will make careers in jobs that want training rather than education because their job isn't their life, and they use their smarts for other things: sports, hobbies, families, civic participation, etc.

Hi Jerry,

Long time fan, love your Web site and books! I have a couple quick comments on your early thoughts about higher education. First, as the author of twenty five popular textbooks, a former assistant professor of Information Systems, and now a full time online business instructor (--see my Web site below for details), I have a fair amount of experience with educating and training students.

There are some interesting implications in your Point (4): “Education and training are two different procedures. Education is broadly useful as learning how to learn; well educated people can generally change skill sets fairly easily, and thus need less training to become proficient at many skilled tasks.” First, and most important, the conventional wisdom is that teaching “concepts” is more effective because students can then apply these general principles to specific situations (i.e., learn to adapt known concepts to specific situations). Surprisingly, it turns out that studies done in physics show that students are better able to extrapolate from specific “applied skills” they have learned to other situations than those that were taught the general concepts. Humans, it turns out, are much better at

Don Barker



Oh, I don't disagree that going from the concrete to the general is usually the right way to teach. I did that all the time in my classes; in political history I would usually have them start with Fletcher Pratt's BATTLES THAT CHANGED HISTORY as a concrete framework for the development of political thought before giving them Parkinson's Evolution of Political Thought, and only then would I give them original sources like Plato and City of God and Machiavelli and The Federalist. People think better with a framework.

For me mathematics was fairly easy until I got to things that cannot be visualized like the curl of a vector; at that point I began to wonder if I was up to the math needed for being an engineer. Fortunately I seem to have been able to master matrices and linear algebra and statistics, and no one ever had to fly anything with hardware I designed...

The evidence for more than one type of intelligence is fairly strong. Evans (2004) discusses a two system model, consisting of heuristic and analytic intelligence. Sternberg (1985) has proposed a triarchic model, with practical intelligence, adapting to, reshaping, and selecting particular environments; experiential or creative intelligence, concerned with orienting to and dealing with novelty; and componential intelligence, concerned with effective information processing and metacognition. In addition, the secular increase in IQ scores over the last century or so suggests that most humans have become more skilled at analyzing information. Hence, I question an analysis that limits half the population to skills-based trades. For one thing, I suspect most people are quite good at one or another sort of intelligence, and by potentially limiting the possibility of advancement to just people with a specific kind of intelligence, we're ignoring a reality where all forms of intelligence make a contribution to society.

 -- "If they do that with marks and grades, should they be trusted with experimental data?"

 Harry Erwin, PhD

Well, we can quarrel about what is and is not "intelligence" and the pervasiveness of "g" without that changing the conclusion: an education system that requires extensive use of abstract reasoning is leaving out a lot of people -- many children will be left behind. And so will the society that insists on doing that.

Aristotle says injustice consists of treating equals unequally, but also of treating unequals equally.

I follow many of these debates in another conference with some of the people developing the concepts, and so far as I can see, much of the disagreement is over terminology.


Subject: All children CAN perform above "average"

Certainly all children can perform "above average": it's just a matter of where you define the average to be. Given what I've seen of public education, average is defined low enough that most every child could do better than *that*.

Remember that the education folks that define the average are not overly burdened with mathematics ...

Mason Shaar










This week:


read book now


Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Subject: The Neocon War Drums On Iran


With luck no one is dancing to this tune.

Subject: unexpected headline

Not a headline I expected to see these days... Airline security?

Passenger attacks pilots with axe

Bo Leuf



Dear Jerry:

I came across this while looking for something else. Thought it might fit into your education dialog.

Regards, Francis Hamit 

I haven't yet read all of her essay, but I would say she misrepresents what Murray said The Bell Curve; still, it's an interesting view, and I certainly agree, illiteracy is a major problem' once that is take care of some of our other difficulties may in fact vanish.


Subject: Remarkable Photos

Jerry, the first photo you posted of the Spaceship 1 is remarkable.

Think about how close you managed to get to that vehicle.

It's documentary evidence, of a sort, of what can happen when people step free of the nanny state.

Ken Burnside

Indeed. See what free men can do.

Subject: The Legacy of Lawrence


If you want to understand Iraq see the movie Lawrence of Arabia.

Winston Churchill made up the nation of Iraq one afternoon in 1922 in Cairo. In the recent best seller "A Peace to End All Peace" there is a chapter called Winston Takes Charge. Churchill wasn't the Prime Minister or even the Foreign Minsister. He was only the Colonial Minister because his reputation was still suffering from the Gallipoli disaster.

Yet Churchill took it upon himself uninvited to solve the post war Middle East. He went to Cairo and held meetings with interested parties. At the time it was recognized that Mesopotamia had three demographically distinct regions - the Kurds in the north, the Sunnis in the middle, and the Shi'ites in the south. Oil was a consideration but not a large one. Oil was largely only a suspicion.

The Kurds wanted a separate Kurdistan and the Sunnis and the Shi'tes also had nationalistic aspirations. These ideas were in the air at the time. The British government had advocates on all sides of the controversy but Churchill had left the country and took the initiative and responsibility alone. The decision when it came, was very fast and very private. One afternoon Churchill by himself decided against the three nation solution in favor of the one unified nation solution.

The reason for Iraq being the way it is now is Churchill's essentially solo decision done quickly and without clear geopolitical concepts. It appears that Churchill like almost all Americans and British of the day believed Lowell Thomas' depiction of the Arab Revolt led by Lawrence of Arabia. Thomas claimed that the Hashemites had raised 200,000 troops against the Turks. The real figure was more like 4,000. Churchill apparently wanted to reward the Hashemites with a big country so he formed Iraq out of three areas with distinct identities.

Iraq is not a natural country in the sense of encompassing a geographically contiguous area with a single liguistically and culturally homogenious people. It is intrinsically unstable. Had Churchill had a little better information or taken a bit more time, there might never have been the Iraq we have today. He seems to have designed a nation doomed to civil war.


Patrick Boyle




Jerry asked for comments on a response he received that began:

>>The evidence for more than one type of intelligence is fairly strong.>>

No--it's not--at least not in the sense in which it's invariably invoked.

What those who make the point claim is that these various "intelligences" are sufficiently independent that one may have a low intelligence of one kind and a high intelligence of another. But all evidence demonstrates that a high "g" intelligence (what the average person calls "intelligence") is a necessary condition for all of the claimed different intelligences.

No one doubts that any specific manifestation of intelligence requires additional aptitudes and abilities; a great scientist is not necessarily--or usually--a great composer. But both the great scientist and the great composer require "g" intelligence (and it's rough measure, IQ score) of a high order.

If those who are devoted to bad arguments denying "g" would focus on the various additional requirements of differing manifestations of intelligence (instead of denying the requirement of intelligence), they might find something useful. (I.e., if--instead of trying to show that "g" is not necessary for science or composing--they looked for what made a, say, 140 IQ scientist good at science and a 140 IQ composer good at composing, they might come up with something valuable. But by pretending that a 90 IQ with a 90 IQ's ability at science could have a 140 IQ's ability to compose, they are just wasting time and space.

Even Gardner acknowledged that the minimum IQ for his "intelligences" is 120, which means that only ten percent or so of the population qualifies for any of his "intelligences". And that's the minimum. Thus, even he acknowledges that "g" is crucial for anything reasonably seen as relevant to "intelligence."




May I suggest another useful area to study: what are the strategies that people with lower IQs use in various fields to match those with substantially higher IQs, what natural or cultivated abilities underly the successful use of these strategies, and how can they be measured.

Is there anything rigorous along these lines already. We all have plenty of observations stored in memory of the energetic optimist with good enough verbal skills who carries his thoughtful analytic colleagues forward to successful and timely decisions, and comparable instances of the special talents being deployed effectively, but I wonder whether it has been systematically studied.









CURRENT VIEW    Wednesday


This week:


read book now


Thursday, September 30, 2004

Subject: flight today 

I caught the discussion on Brokaw this evening. He appeared to be making fun of the roll and how they will never get paying customers when that is a risk. This evening I spell "clueless" B-r-o-k-a-w.

Jim Woosley

Most of the press corps were told by various experts on the ground that the roll was terribly dangerous as it was happening. I thought so too, because I had confused what I was seeing: it looked like a flat spin, which would make Melville the first pilot ever to experience a flat spin upwards. But it wasn't a spin, it was a roll, and 140 degrees a minute isn't all that much for a ship like that. As Melville said, it was rather comfortable.

I am not fond of engines that can give you unexpected torques and variable thrust vectors, and I was, I admit, ready to believe that this was another manifestation of uneven burning in the engines. That may not have been the case: but it is possible, which is one reason I don't care for hybrid engines (I am not all that fond of solids, but we understand pours and molds of solids better than we do of hard rubber.)

It's cool to fly with old tires and laughing gas an ISP of way under 300, but there are a lot better ways to do it.



Mr. Pournelle,

Every time I hear anyone complain about the state of education I recall "Screwtape Proposes a Toast" published in the late 1950's. Lewis eloquently condemns the use of the word "democracy" to further what we would today call outcomes based education. I never see any references to what I feel is a most effective critique, and this puzzles me.


And the text can be found at although it is well worth buying a copy of The Screwtape Letters with Screwtape Proposes a Toast included.


A Letter From Iraq

From: [Wall Street Journal reporter] Farnaz Fassihi

Subject: From Baghdad

Being a foreign correspondent in Baghdad these days is like being under virtual house arrest. Forget about the reasons that lured me to this job: a chance to see the world, explore the exotic, meet new people in far away lands, discover their ways and tell stories that could make a difference.

Little by little, day-by-day, being based in Iraq has defied all those reasons. I am house bound. I leave when I have a very good reason to and a scheduled interview. I avoid going to people's homes and never walk in the streets. I can't go grocery shopping any more, can't eat in restaurants, can't strike a conversation with strangers, can't look for stories, can't drive in any thing but a full armored car, can't go to scenes of breaking news stories, can't be stuck in traffic, can't speak English outside, can't take a road trip, can't say I'm an American, can't linger at checkpoints, can't be curious about what people are saying, doing, feeling. And can't and can't. There has been one too many close calls, including a car bomb so near our house that it blew out all the windows. So now my most pressing concern every day is not to write a kick-ass story but to stay alive and make sure our Iraqi employees stay alive. In Baghdad I am a security personnel first, a reporter second.

It's hard to pinpoint when the 'turning point' exactly began. Was it April when the Fallujah fell out of the grasp of the Americans? Was it when Moqtada and Jish Mahdi declared war on the U.S. military? Was it when Sadr City, home to ten percent of Iraq's population, became a nightly battlefield for the Americans? Or was it when the insurgency began spreading from isolated pockets in the Sunni triangle to include most of Iraq? Despite President Bush's rosy assessments, Iraq remains a disaster. If under Saddam it was a 'potential' threat, under the Americans it has been transformed to 'imminent and active threat,' a foreign policy failure bound to haunt the United States for decades to come.

Iraqis like to call this mess 'the situation.' When asked 'how are thing?' they reply: 'the situation is very bad."

What they mean by situation is this: the Iraqi government doesn't control most Iraqi cities, there are several car bombs going off each day around the country killing and injuring scores of innocent people, the country's roads are becoming impassable and littered by hundreds of landmines and explosive devices aimed to kill American soldiers, there are assassinations, kidnappings and beheadings. The situation, basically, means a raging barbaric guerilla war. In four days, 110 people died and over 300 got injured in Baghdad alone. The numbers are so shocking that the ministry of health -- which was attempting an exercise of public transparency by releasing the numbers -- has now stopped disclosing them.

Insurgents now attack Americans 87 times a day.

A friend drove thru the Shiite slum of Sadr City yesterday. He said young men were openly placing improvised explosive devices into the ground. They melt a shallow hole into the asphalt, dig the explosive, cover it with dirt and put an old tire or plastic can over it to signal to the locals this is booby-trapped. He said on the main roads of Sadr City, there were a dozen landmines per every ten yards. His car snaked and swirled to avoid driving over them. Behind the walls sits an angry Iraqi ready to detonate them as soon as an American convoy gets near. This is in Shiite land, the population that was supposed to love America for liberating Iraq.

For journalists the significant turning point came with the wave of abduction and kidnappings. Only two weeks ago we felt safe around Baghdad because foreigners were being abducted on the roads and highways between towns. Then came a frantic phone call from a journalist female friend at 11 p.m. telling me two Italian women had been abducted from their homes in broad daylight. Then the two Americans, who got beheaded this week and the Brit, were abducted from their homes in a residential neighborhood. They were supplying the entire block with round the clock electricity from their generator to win friends. The abductors grabbed one of them at 6 a.m. when he came out to switch on the generator; his beheaded body was thrown back near the neighborhoods.

WSJ reporter Fassahi's e-mail to friends /2 9/29/2004 2:47:12 PM

The insurgency, we are told, is rampant with no signs of calming down. If any thing, it is growing stronger, organized and more sophisticated every day. The various elements within it-baathists, criminals, nationalists and Al Qaeda-are cooperating and coordinating.

I went to an emergency meeting for foreign correspondents with the military and embassy to discuss the kidnappings. We were somberly told our fate would largely depend on where we were in the kidnapping chain once it was determined we were missing. Here is how it goes: criminal gangs grab you and sell you up to Baathists in Fallujah, who will in turn sell you to Al Qaeda. In turn, cash and weapons flow the other way from Al Qaeda to the Baathisst to the criminals. My friend Georges, the French journalist snatched on the road to Najaf, has been missing for a month with no word on release or whether he is still alive.

America's last hope for a quick exit? The Iraqi police and National Guard units we are spending billions of dollars to train. The cops are being murdered by the dozens every day-over 700 to date -- and the insurgents are infiltrating their ranks. The problem is so serious that the U.S. military has allocated $6 million dollars to buy out 30,000 cops they just trained to get rid of them quietly.

As for reconstruction: firstly it's so unsafe for foreigners to operate that almost all projects have come to a halt. After two years, of the $18 billion Congress appropriated for Iraq reconstruction only about $1 billion or so has been spent and a chuck has now been reallocated for improving security, a sign of just how bad things are going here.

Oil dreams? Insurgents disrupt oil flow routinely as a result of sabotage and oil prices have hit record high of $49 a barrel. Who did this war exactly benefit? Was it worth it? Are we safer because Saddam is holed up and Al Qaeda is running around in Iraq?

Iraqis say that thanks to America they got freedom in exchange for insecurity. Guess what? They say they'd take security over freedom any day, even if it means having a dictator ruler.

I heard an educated Iraqi say today that if Saddam Hussein were allowed to run for elections he would get the majority of the vote. This is truly sad.

Then I went to see an Iraqi scholar this week to talk to him about elections here. He has been trying to educate the public on the importance of voting. He said, "President Bush wanted to turn Iraq into a democracy that would be an example for the Middle East. Forget about democracy, forget about being a model for the region, we have to salvage Iraq before all is lost."

One could argue that Iraq is already lost beyond salvation. For those of us on the ground it's hard to imagine what if any thing could salvage it from its violent downward spiral. The genie of terrorism, chaos and mayhem has been unleashed onto this country as a result of American mistakes and it can't be put back into a bottle.

The Iraqi government is talking about having elections in three months while half of the country remains a 'no go zone'-out of the hands of the government and the Americans and out of reach of journalists. In the other half, the disenchanted population is too terrified to show up at polling stations. The Sunnis have already said they'd boycott elections, leaving the stage open for polarized government of Kurds and Shiites that will not be deemed as legitimate and will most certainly lead to civil war.

I asked a 28-year-old engineer if he and his family would participate in the Iraqi elections since it was the first time Iraqis could to some degree elect a leadership. His response summed it all: "Go and vote and risk being blown into pieces or followed by the insurgents and murdered for cooperating with the Americans? For what? To practice democracy? Are you joking?"



Which is about as grim as it gets.  How true a picture is this? I don't know. It is certainly not what the neo-con neo-Jacobins told us would happen. It is pretty close to what some of us old Burkean paleo-cons expected -- expectations that got us read out of the conservative movement by the egregious Frum --but hoped would not happen.

We are the friends of liberty everywhere. We are the guardians only of our own. When there is a significant threat to our freedom, or we have a solemn obligation to a friend and ally, we will spend blood and treasure to guard liberty anywhere in the world; but not otherwise. We reserve the right to mount punitive expeditions and remove regimes that declare ourselves to be our enemies. We assume no obligation to build nations overseas.


I got the Farnaz letter above from other sources, but here is one source:

Subject: Poynter Online - Forums

Dear Jerry:

Romesko has put up what started as a private e-mail to her friends from an American correspondent ( Arab heritage) in Iraq. It has circulated widely in the journalistic community and is being praised for the unusual insights it gives to conditions there. Well worth reading. People have been asking why it has not appeared as front page news. I suspect that the various gatekeepers at Big Media publications have shied away from this level of coverage for several reasons, including the fact that they are embarrassed by their inability to cover the story properly because it is just too damn dangerous.

There is a big discussion now in that community about whether or not blogs are really a form of journalism. This, written by a professional reporter, has not been edited and homogenized and demonstrates that such personal accounts have their place. Especially now, when all we're hearing from the Bush Administration is Happy Talk and denial.

Regards, Francis Hamit

Dear Jerry:

Ginmar's blog entry today seems to indicate that the troops in Iraq are being denied computer acess by something called "Websense". THey also are suddenly having trouble buying phone cards so thay can call home. Her comments are very much on point. I do wonder if this is some kind of clumsy attempt to control the military vote and/or information for the home front. 


Again: I have many sources in Iraq and I get conflicting reports. Some are not quite so grim as this one. But certainly things are not good there.




Subject: The beginning and the end of Iraq?

Dr Pournelle,

The beginning and the end of Iraq?

Patrick Boyle: “Winston Churchill made up the nation of Iraq one afternoon in 1922 in Cairo.”

Notwithstanding the confession by his grandson and namesake at Churchill did not invent Iraq. What he did do as Colonial Secretary in 1921 was to change the country’s name from Mesopotamia to Iraq, and place the Hashemite King Faisal on its throne.

According to Margaret Macmillan’s excellent and highly authoritative work* on the Paris Conference that followed the end of WWI and led to the Versailles Treaty of 1919, the new country had come into being two years before Churchill did what he did.

Macmillan tells us that Iraq, or Mesopotamia as it was then called, came into existence in Paris in 1919, when Churchill was not a member of the British Government. In the course of what amounted to a horse-trading session between British Prime Minister Lloyd George and French Prime Minister Clemenceau after a previous three-way settlement involving the French having what is now Syria and the Lebanon, the British having Basra plus the area around Baghdad now comprising central Iraq, and United States having what was than called Mosul, but which roughly corresponds to what is now the Kurdish-controlled area of Iraq, had broken down when it became clear that the Americans had lost interest.

At first, the British were agreeable to the French taking over Mosul in place of the Americans, but then they heard that there might be oil in Mosul. There was no hard evidence of oil yet, but now they wanted Mosul too.

To quote Macmillan...

The conversation on the Middle East was short and good-humoured. “Well,” said Clemenceau , “what are we to discuss?” Lloyd George replied, “Mesopotamia and Palestine.” Clemenceau: “Tell me what you want?” Lloyd George: “I want Mosul.” Clemenceau : You shall have it. Anything else?” Lloyd George: “Yes I want Jerusalem too.” Clemenceau: “You shall have it…” (end quote)

Which leads one to wonder if the three distinct geographical and ethnic/religious regions—Basra (Shi’ites), Baghdad (Sunnis) and Mosul (Kurds)—that were thrown together to made up Mesopotamia, or Iraq, might not all be a lot better off if they were rent asunder again?

At present, the Kurdish area that approximates to Mosul is the only part pf Iraq that is fundamentally peaceful. There is relatively much less trouble in the Basra region than in the central region around and to the west of Baghdad.

If Basra and Mosul broke away from Iraq, there would be three benefits I can see:

(1) All the oil would be in relatively secure hands.

(2) All the military resources, or almost all, of the Coalition could be concentrated on dealing with the troubles of the Sunni Triangle and Baghdad,

(3) By disentangling the multiethnic, multi-religious strands of present-day Iraq, one or perhaps two layers of complexity would be peeled away, making it that much easier to stabilise and make governable each of the three smaller nations that would make up the former Iraq.

There are two issues (among many others) I feel it is particularly important to have addressed before this scheme could be seriously considered.

One is the Kurdistan problem. The Kurdish people live in an area that occupies not just northern Iraq but also parts of eastern Turkey and western Iran, which, taken together, they consider to be Kurdistan, their territory. However the Turks, Iranians, and indeed the Iraqis, have been most unwilling to part with their territory in the form of a gift to the Kurds, or even to see a formal, UN-recognised Kurdistan created in their neighbour’s territory as it would create what they would see as a dangerous precedent.

But now we may have a window of opportunity to silence Turkish opposition at least. Turkey has applied to join the EU. I consider this to be a lunatic proposal for the EU to accept, but in the meantime the negotiations for Turkish membership are likely to drag out over 15 years, and through all that time Turkey will have to be on its best behaviour: democracy, free speech, the rule of law, the military firmly under the thumbs of the politicians and not the other way around as had been the case for so much of Turkey’s history in the 20th Century. If Turkey is to do all this, it will find it increasingly difficult to object to a Kurdistan springing up next door in what was Iraq.

As for Iranian objections, why should we care at the moment? Indeed, a defensive treaty with the new Kurdistan would be logical. And if Turkey is behaving properly, even NATO membership might one day be possible. (Turkey is a member of NATO.)

The other problem is the religious entanglement that straightforward partition would leave in the Baghdad region—especially in the city of Baghdad itself where there is a significant Shi’ite minority. While that remains so, I fear there would continue to be ongoing friction between the religious groups that would feed the present violence, and indeed feeds off that violence too; a sort of positive feedback, of the least desirable kind.

Perhaps the answer would be a population movement timed to coincide with the partition. This sort of action can have terrible consequences, as witnessed by the millions killed in the population movement that happened at the time of the partition of India into Hindu India and Muslim Pakistan. But forewarned is forearmed, they say, so hopefully we could manage things like this better now. In any case the numbers involved are much fewer than was the case in the Indian example.

Now I don’t imagine that either of these issues are trivial or easily sorted.

But is that the first glimmer of light I see at the end of the tunnel?

Jim Mangles

*which for some obscure reason is entitled “The Peacemakers” in the UK but “Paris 1919” in the US

The sad part is that every bit of that was discussed here and elsewhere before we sent troops to Mesopotamia

Subject: The Legacy of Lawrence


If you want to understand Iraq see the movie Lawrence of Arabia. Er, no. Read Seven Pillars of Wisdom by Lawrence. Modern Iraq is indeed an amalgam of Sunni, Shiite, and Kurd but is also an amalgam of countless tribes each of a few hundred people united in Lawrence's time only by their detestation of their Turkish colonial masters but divided by their detestation of everyone not of their tribe. Lawrence's great achievement was to persuade enough them to put aside their other differences and to form an effective guerrilla to attack, and to keep on attacking the Turks. At the great peace conference after the war the imperative for the victorious parties was to agree amongst themselves. Unauthorised promises made by an irregular soldier like Lawrence to a bunch of ragged tribesmen carried no weight against European considerations. For example, the French and Italians were each left the conference with vast areas of sand and all Britain got was the oil and the Suez Canal.


John Edwards




Subject: Skilly would be proud

Baghdad Bombings Kill 35 Children 



Subject: Iraq /3

"Iraq is not a natural country in the sense of encompassing a geographically contiguous area with a single liguistically and culturally homogenious people. It is intrinsically unstable. Had Churchill had a little better information or taken a bit more time, there might never have been the Iraq we have today. He seems to have designed a nation doomed to civil war.

Pat "

Yet in my experience in Iraq I was stunned that the people truly identify themselves as Iraqis and take a pride in their country (maybe this is a result of the war with the Persians?). While I was there, an attempt was made to re-revise the Iraqi flag to that before Saddam decreed the words "In God We Trust" be placed on the flag. A minor uproar ensued. In fact, the police refused to wear the 'old flag' on their uniforms, insisting on the current flag. Then look a the fiasco of the attempt to change to totally change the flag! Almost universal derision throughout Iraq. Even though the Iraqis identify with their region, they still identify themselves as Iraqis. I had floated an idea of a "Southern Confederacy of Iraq" for the Shia areas to influentential southern Iraqis (and the CPA). There was no serious consideration by the Iraqis. In my opinion, if a civil war erupts, it will not be one of schism, but one for domination of the whole country. Failing domination, though, the Kurds will continue to accept semi-autonomy if only to assure the rest of the country's participation in defense against the Persians.

David Couvillon

Interesting indeed. Thanks

I've previously hypothesized that Bush's invasion of Iraq, even though it was a huge miscalculation, may turn out to be a net benefit to the West. Why? Because if it causes the Muslims to rise up in the West much sooner then the response from Westerners will prevent a total demographic catastrophe in Europe.

France would be better off in the long run if the Jihad started next year than in 20 years. Better to crystallize the nature of the fight now before many more immigrants are allowed in and many more babies are born. It is not too late to deport illegals and to cut off all Muslim immigration. In the extreme it would even be possible to start revoking citizenships and deporting Muslims.

The EU mandarins want to ignore the obvious. Well, an insurgency in Europe would so enrage the populace that the mandarins would be forced to take action.





Subject: L.A. Spammer Pleads Guilty

Dr. Pournelle:

A small victory :

"A Los Angeles man who used other people's Wi-Fi networks to send thousands of unsolicited adult-themed emails from his car pleaded guilty to a single felony Monday, in what prosecutors say is the first criminal conviction under the federal CAN-SPAM Act.

In a plea agreement with prosecutors, Nicholas Tombros, 37, faces a likely sentencing range stretching from probation to six months in custody, assuming he has no prior criminal convictions. Sentencing is set for 27 December." 

Regards, Rick Hellewell

Not enough. Not nearly enough. Note what he did and how he did it. Secure your networks!!

Subject: Replacing LCDs in the future?

Your question about replacing LCDs in the future seems to have already started. This article in eweek:,1759,1660949,00.asp 

TOKYO (AP)—Toshiba Corp. on Tuesday unveiled a flat-panel TV that uses a new technology developed jointly by the Japanese electronics maker and the Japanese camera company Canon.

The new TV uses SED—surface-conduction electron-emitter display—which uses beam-emitting technology similar to the old-style cathode-ray tube televisions, and delivers similar clear imagery but onto a flat panel.


Dave Krecklow


On another subject:

Subject: Education at the Right End

I've been reading a lot of what you've been writing lately about education, and how our current system doesn't serve those on the left end of the Bell Curve, but have you considered that it might not be serving those on the right end either? I know it's probably a bit of hubris for me to assume that my problems are related to a general trend in schools, and not the result of specific factors in my life, but honestly, I cannot perceive any value I received from my education either.

And it's not that I did poorly, I got good grades and did well on all the tests they gave us. While it's not impossible my grades were inflated, and maybe even the standardized tests I've taken were weighted poorly, earlier this year I took an IQ test and my score was 143, which I don't think was simply a matter of luck. I don't have any personal confidence in the psychologist who gave me the test, in fact I have severe doubts about his conduct, but I don't believe he was that grossly inaccurate about my IQ. I can't see why he'd lie either, so I'll take it as a given, I'm smart in at least some ways..

The problem is, I just don't see any real benefit from it, basically, I perceive no ability on my part to well, be anything in life. There's just a great void when it comes to doing anything, and sadly, I don't know where it comes from, so I can't fix it. Note, I'm not saying I see no opportunities out there in life, I do not believe in a lack of opportunties so much as I feel an inability to do them. Or even a lack of interest in them. "Sure, I could get a job, do well, have lots of money, but why?" That's a response that goes through my mind when people try to nag me about my situation. That and "You're not helping me by attacking me" but I doubt they perceive that either.

I'm not going to blame school for everything, I know I've had enough other trauma in my life that at least some of it comes from elsewhere, but really, I got nothing out of school, and while I could continue to go to college and get credits, maybe even get a very advanced degree, I don't think it would really be productive for me. Maybe it isn't school, I really don't know, and I'm not sure I've said quite what I really feel here either, but I think I can boil it down to one thing, you bring up a concern about when society fails those on the lower end, but I think there's a need to worry about those failed elsewhere too. What can we do to even recognize those who are being failed before it is too late?

Ah well, thanks for letting me vent in your direction, I just wish I believed a solution was out there.

Please don't post my name or e-mail address with this, I really want to say this, but I've had enough people in my life giving me bad advice that I'd rather not give random strangers a chance. Not worried about spam though, my e-mail program just dumped a hundred into the junkmail folder over night.

PS, I hope the formatting on this is ok, I'm not sure how to make Thunderbird display the final draft, or how it'll appear on your end.

Oh I make no doubt that education suffers for those on the right end of the bell curve: especially when a class is filled with people who don't want to be in the class and are disruptive; and there is one poor girl or guy who wants to learn and could learn and understands this is a way out of the poverty loop.  We need to rescue those!

Upper socio-economic groups understand the problems and deal with them one way or another. Those with no resources have a much harder problem.

What is Thunderbird?

Dear Dr. Pournelle,

Thunderbird is Mozilla's email client. I find it easy to use, although I would hate to try to sync POP accounts between machines (in reference to your eternal quest for easy transfers of Outlook PST files).



Subject: What is Thunderbird, you ask?

Jerry -

Thunderbird is the next-generation version of Mozilla's e-mail client, and goes hand-in-hand with the Firefox web browser. I've been using the beta 0.7 version for a couple of months now, ever since I concluded that Internet Explorer/Outlook Express was too hazardous for my mental health, what with all of the recent security scares.

Although Thunderbird has a few rough edges (after all, it is beta), I've been pretty happy with it. There's a version 0.8 out, but I figure I'll wait until 1.0, unless there is some compelling security reason to upgrade sooner.

As a side note: both Firefox and Thunderbird have done away with that rather ugly dinosaur icon present in Mozilla 1.7; the new artwork is mighty "cool". (Grin!)

Following is a link to Mozilla's site, for the benefit of anyone reading this should you post it: 


Bob Shepard




Subject: Branson dumps cyberspace on road to outer space (Reuters)

Branson dumps cyberspace on road to outer space

By Jeffrey Goldfarb

LONDON, Sept 28 (Reuters) - Richard Branson is abandoning cyberspace as he heads for outer space.

Branson, whose privately-owned Virgin Group 1/8VA.UL 3/8 operates a wide range of businesses, on Monday announced plans to launch the world's first passenger service to space in 2007.

But the swashbuckling British entrepreneur's Virgin Media Group on Tuesday revealed it had agreed to drop out of the Internet business by selling its 51 percent stake in Virgin Net to minority partner NTL Inc. <NTLI.O>, the UK cable communications provider.

The Internet service provider, a joint venture that launched in 1996 with Branson wearing a silver space suit as he burst through a polystyrene wall, will retain the Virgin name. <snip>


Subject: Oil oil everywhere

Was Thomas Gold correct after all? Is there more oil under our feet than we ever thought possible? 

From the National Academy of Sciences: 

Loy Myers

Tommy Gold was persuasive the few times I met him. But I have no right to opinions. Possony became convinced that the classical theories of how oil was formed were dead wrong.


Subject: ISDF film clip

>> Fair warning: this is a disturbing video. It shows troops doing what, >> if they were anyone but Israelis, would be instantly labeled acts of terrorism.

Isn't this a bit extreme? Are there problems? sure -- but what happened in the clip is no worse than things US soldiers are doing in Iraq.

These things happen in war. The goal is trying to minimize the impact on civilians -- something the IDF DOES do, and something terrorists by definition DON'T do.

(While one can argue if the IDF is doing enough -- it's a fact that IDF soldiers are routinely killed in battle because the IDF tries to minimize the impact in civilians)



"If you want to build a ship, then don't drum up men to gather wood, give orders, and divide the work. Rather, teach them to yearn for the far and endless sea." - Antoine de Saint-Exupery

I suppose. Some of our people in Korea got accused of war crimes for a lot less. I have said repeatedly that I don't know how to deal with the Palestinian situation, and I am glad I don't have to. Neither does the US. (My suggestion: build a fence along the Green Line or as near to it as possible, set up automatic artillery responses to bombard anyplace from which projectiles fired into Israel from the Territories comes, and turn over the Territories on the other side of the fence to the Palestinians. Settlers have the option of leaving first. I think this would produce "peace" along the lines of the pre-1968 truce. Beyond that I have no suggestions other than that I don't want to be part of it. But I don't want to be part of our activities in Iraq either, and never did.)


Personnel psychologists have looked at the predictive value of various personal traits. The only two that seem to have substantial value across all jobs (that is, are generalizable) are g and conscientiousness/integrity. Others (such as extraversion) have incremental value beyond g in a smaller range of jobs. This is not to say that specialized forms of knowledge are not important. The huge Army Project A is the best single study on this issue. It looks at the relation of different dimensions of the predictor domain (abilities, interests, etc.), on the one hand, with different dimensions in the criterion domain (core technical performance, leadership, etc.).

Research on genius-level contributions points to g as a necessary but not sufficient condition (e.g., see Eysenck or Simonton; also Ellen Winner on extremely gifted children)

Non-g traits may often contribute to performance, but there are none that can substitute for g when it is lacking--not a winning personality, not lengthy experience, not anything.

There are not independent mental abilities that can compensate for g because there aren't any that are independent of g. g is the platform for them all. Gardner's more mental "intelligences" are just different flavors of g. I don't know what the others are, partly because they do not seem to reside primarily in the mental realm and mostly because he has never measured them and echews ever doing so in any psychometrically rigorous way.

Sternberg's "intelligences" have never been shown to exist as independent abilities--at least not with any credible research (including his).

The more complex the activity, the bigger the edge a higher g gives a person. The lower a person's g level, the more critical it is, I suspect, that they have favorable personality traits. Consider retarded individuals, who need to elicit support from more capable people, which they are not likely to do when they are hostile, aggressive, or otherwise unpleasant.



On intelligences:

"The details are a little too complex to go into here (although he Carroll outlines it well in his book), but what he found was that when there were enough tests to analyze, g existed by itself as the higher order factor, but that there were 8 sub-factors (Gf and Gc being two of them) and under each subfactors were about 60 narrower abilities."

You can find a pictorial breakdown here: 

and the full post here (links active in original):

 Note what Linda says about utilities.



The Kurds were doing OK before the War. They have more trouble on their hands now that the insurgency has metastasised.

The Bush admin thought Iraq would be a huge electoral plus - a "career destroyer for liberal Democrats" according to one Republican official who chose not to be named.

Rove okayed the invasion because he thought that an easy victory over an Islamic Arab country would bring out the Sectarian Christian/Ethnic Caucasian vote. And intimidate the Democrats.

The war did not work out according to plan. This is a reflects badly on Rove's competence. His Mayberry Machiavellian malevolence is not in question.



Subject: A chronicle of "stronger security" stupidities (via RISKS Digest)

Subject: Stupidsecurity (via Dave Farber's IP)

Finally, someone is chronicling the stupidity that passes for "stronger security" post-September 11: 

Topics include:

Teacher Arrested After Bookmark Called Concealed Weapon
Big Trouble For Mentioning a Plastic Explosive in the Airport
You Can't Hide In Chicago
Washington Post: Freedom's Light Hidden Under A Security Blanket
Government Asks Court to Keep ID Arguments Secret
Putting a Price Tag on US Visa Stupidity
TSA Cynicism
New York Convention
Barefoot toddlers delay Air NZ flight
Police Delay Departure From Plane to Catch A Dangerous Criminal
Cleveland Air Show In Danger....
It's Fun To See The Power Of Stupidity Turned On Its Sources...
Delete PIN When It Has Become Invalid
Nuclear Power Plants Security Gaps to be Withheld From Public
 Let's Intimidate our Innocents -- That'll Scare the Terrorists!
High-Tech Wallpaper Keeps Wireless Wardrivers Out
HM department of vague paranoia








CURRENT VIEW    Thursday


This week:


read book now


Friday,  October 1, 2004

Subject: Al-sabah newspaper

The below is from the Al-Sabah newspaper in Baghdad. It is an independant paper and interviewed me several times while I was in Iraq (by the editor, who was also the leader of the Iraqi Communist Party). <>

(don't forget to click the 'english' button - blue button at top left of page on the website)

THE SITUATIONS CALM DOWN IN SAMARRA AND INCREASES A TENSION IN SADR CITY Baghdad, As-Sabah, Sept 30, Page 1 The situations in Samarra lean to tranquility as the tension increases in the city of Al- Sadr.Meanwhile , Sheikh Ahmed Naji Jbara the head of the chieftains council in the Saladdin province said that the situations are tranquil in Samara after the negotiations between the council of the city chieftains and the Minister of Interior Falah al- Naqeeb and Ayham al- Samaree the Minister of Electricity .The reports said that the Minister of Interior received large number of chieftains and officials in the city of Samara.Notably, the city witnessed violent clashes that led to the killing of innocent civilian.Meanwhile, the population of the city of Al- Sadr is talking about the continuity of the bombing on some civil sites.The US fighters continued bombing some sites in the city which are the sectors opposite to the dusty threshold in Kasra and Attash district.

IRAQ REGAINS TWO HELICOPTERS FROM JORDAN Baghdad, As-Sabah, Sept 30, Page 1 Iraq and Jordan has agreed on regaining two helicopters were kept in Jordan since the 2nd Gulf War.Mr. Luay al- Iris the Iraqi Minister of Transport said his talks in Amman led to approval of a decision to connect the railways of both countries.After his arrival from Jordan, the minister of transport said that an Iraqi delegation includes experts and specialists will pay a visit to Amman soon, to prepare for this project, referring to the advanced leaps of the bilateral talks realized between Iraq and Jordan in field of promoting transport.He confirmed that the ministry sought to put a new mechanism in the transport field with the aim to reactivate and resume flexible Iraqi- Jordanian land transport .

ARAB AFGHANS TRANSPORT FROM HARAAT INTO DIYALA Baghdad, As-Sabah, Sept 30, Page 1 The Arab Afghans are changing their battle with the US forces from the Afghani arena into Iraq.Some armed groups started to cross the borders via several border points the most important of which are Khanaqin and Himreen hills after they were able to establish Talban Emirate in the Wind district in Kerbala .The Iraqi police forces and the national guard enabled to eliminate some terrorist cells through bold crack downs same to what was happened in the death triangle in Latifiya which is exploited by some foreign fighters for implementing their terrorist acts.Since months ago, the Afghani Haraat appeared in sites situated eastern Iraq specifically the sites between Himreen hills and Tikrit province . This region is distinguished with large number of caves and natural sites helps for hiding and secures free movement for the infiltrators. These roads were used by the smugglers during Saddam reign .Notably, this site witnessed several suicide bombings with the aim to intimidate the youth to stop joining the police.

NATIONAL ASSEMBLY SUSPENDS SESSION Baghdad, As-Sabah, Sept 30, P2 The Provisional National Assembly (parliament) has suspended its Wednesday session scheduled in order to be held on next Tuesday, according to Dr. Hakimet Hakeem the rappateur of the parliament, confirming that this suspension came to allow the parliament members and other Iraqis to perform the holy rituals of Sha'ban , referring that a changing has been occurred on the time table of weekly session, i.e. Sunday and Monday of each week will be specified temporarily to hold committees' meetings, then the parliament will return to hold its session on Tuesday and Wednesday of each week to discuss committees' work papers.As regards the deadline given to Falah al-Naqeeb the Interior Minister due to his non attendance the parliament's session, Al- Hakeem said that parliament discussed this matter coping with the interior system of the parliament that stipulated the necessity of his attendance through seven days from the deadline specified for submitting call memorandum that necessitates the approval of ten parliament members.Al-Hakeem confirmed that the matter is not considered as a flagrant if we put into consideration the memorandum delay for two or three days.

VICE-PRESIDENT: THERE IS NO RELATION WITH ISRAEL Baghdad, As-Sabah, Sept 30, P2 Rose Shaweiss the Iraqi Vice-President has denied the existence of any former planning aiming to hold ties with Israel. He confirmed to the daily reporter that the circulated news on the Iraqi government intension to hold ties with Israel are groundless.Shaweiss arrived to Basra on Sept 29 and was received by Hassan al-Rashad the Mayor of Basra as well as other Iraqi officials at Basra International Airport.Shaweiss held an expanded meeting with officials as well as representatives of military and civilian departments in the province.Speaking to As-Sabah newspaper, Shaweiss clarified that the policy of Iraqi government is seeking to make the elections success and implement the Iraqi people's just demand.

ID 318 MILLION TO BUILD BRIDGES & ROADS Baghdad, As-Sabah, Sept.30, page3 The ministry of Construction has allocated ID 318 million and 200,000 to build roads and bridges in Baghdad as well as other provinces within the 2005 plan of General Board for Roads & Bridges . The engineer Mustafa Abdul Rahman, the director general of the board said that these projects include building roads and bridges in Shergat, Falluja, Suq Al-Shiyoukh and building main and rural roads in the rural regions.

BORDER FORCES PREVENT LARGE NUMBERS OF IRANIANS & AFGHANIS TO ENTER IRAQ Baghdad, As-Sabah, Sept.30, page3 Different spots of the borders witnessed large numbers of Iranians and Afghanis who try to enter Iraq from Al-Shalamja district and other places from Shat Al-Arab. An authorized source at the southern border forces said that large number of Iranians and Afghanis are trying to enter Iraq without passport from the areas near Al-Fada'na, Um Al-Rasas and Faihan that locate on Shatt Al-Arab banks from which they go to visit the holy shrines in Najaf and Karbala. Eyewitnesses said large number of Iraqis, who were visiting the holy shrines in Iran, is waiting in Shalamaja district to enter Iraq. The source didn't mention the reason behind the rejection of Iraqi forces to let them enter. The source also added that anyone who wants to enter Iraq should have his passport. As-Sabah has learned from eyewitnesses living in Shihan that about 300 Iranians and Afghanis infiltrated into Iraq during the last week.

MINISTRY OF ELECTRICITY HOLD TALKS WITH INTERNATIONAL INSTITUTIONS Baghdad, As-Sabah, Sept.30, page3 The Ministry of Electricity is preparing to take part in the donor's conference scheduled next month in Tokyo. It held meetings with the Jayka institution, coordinated with the Japanese donors and the UNDP (the United Nations Development program) that are related with electricity projects. In addition to holding mutual meetings with the World Bank members. Dr. Mouayad Abdullah, the director general of the Planning and Studies Department at the ministry said that the ministry is seeking on borrowing money from the World Bank with less interest., adding that many delegations from the ministry were headed to Jordan to submit the Iraqi suggestions that concentrating on two important subjects; the first is achieving what has been agreed upon with Jayka institution and the UNDP. Second are the subjects that are going to be discussed at Tokyo conference. Abdullah indicated that the ministry intends to submit many projects include the generating, transporting, and distributing of electricity. In addition to other projects related to improving the electricity all over Iraq.

David Couvillon

Slowly I think we are getting a true picture of what is going on, but it is difficult.



One thing that I'm shocked no one has said anything about from last nights debate, is Kerry's plan of added 2 new divisions to the Army. It's almost as if this comment went over the head of all the talking heads on TV and dismissed it. Me still being in my 20's (allthough barely) tells me that Kerry is considering reinstituting the Draft! This scares me, even though I know that I would be unlikely to be drafted or added to the infantry. It's amazing that there have been a couple articles by Democrats in newspapers lately saying that Bush is considering a draft, when their own candidate outlines a plan that would only work with a draft. What's your take on this?


===== "The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new discoveries, is not 'Eureka!' (I found it!) but 'That's funny...' - Isaac Asimov "

Conscription is not wanted by the military, and would be expensive as well as politically impossible. On the other hand, Machiavelli had much to say about countries that employ armies recruited for the money.

Either way I see no need for a larger peacetime army. Navy, yes; but not army.

We do not need to have a 12 division army to handle a 12 division foreign policy. I would prefer to see an 8 division foreign policy while we keep a 10 division army; with the goal to make the numbers 6 and 8. With a 500 ship navy. And lots of strategic research and x-airplanes.


Thomas Gold on Earthquakes


I Followed your link to Thomas Gold's site and found this:-

In China, in Japan, in the Soviet Union, much more attention is paid to gas phenomena. Japan even has a "Laboratory of Earthquake Chemistry." The US is far behind in this field, not because it does not have the technology, but just because it took a wrong choice some time ago, and now does not wish to change course. But the citizens of earthquake-prone regions will be more concerned with obtaining a warning than to be party to a scientific controversy. Sub-surface gas observations are simple and comparatively inexpensive, such as changes in groundwater levels in water wells, or changes in gas pressure above a water table. It is high time that California and the Central Mississippi region obtained the knowledge and experience in this field that will be necessary to establish a meaningful prediction service. Instrumentation operated by scientists is one aspect of this; public earthquake education and a reporting network is another, to assure the widest possible coverage for the observation of the many phenomena that may be relevant for predictions. One wonders how many such observations go unreported because their relation to earthquakes is not generally known.

For the entire paper go to


John Edwards


Subject: Next Gen flatpannels

Dr. Pournelle,

You mentioned some LCD replacements. Here's another one currently in production: 

and the people doing the research: 

The future applications look interesting.

Ryan Brown


Subject: The Decline and Fall of the Education Mandarins has begun?

Hi, Given what you'd written about the education establishment in the past I figured you might be interested in this particular story. ^_~ 

- S.P.M.


Subject: ST(O) : If all stories were written like science fiction stories

Mind you, I like science fiction ....

Mike Z

Heh. Clever.


Subject: Regular army attitude toward reserves


I got the quote I'm forwarding you about two weeks ago. The officer who observed this and sent it on has spent a good amount of time in Iraq, and is likely to go back soon. This conversation he overheard is pretty indicative of the situation.

Those of us in the regular army have great respect for the sacrifice the reserves and guard are making, as in many ways it exceeds our own, but we don't fool ourselves in thinking they are our equals when it comes to completing the mission. My wife is a reservist and after only two years off active duty she sees the rust when she is doing her two weeks. The IRR soldiers of course have it the worst. The dark humor in this exchange is just part of being in the army.

"the 42ID, a New York National Guard Division has been here training for deployment to Iraq in the next few months. I have heard many quesitons raised about their capabilities and expirience. I can count on one hand the number of Ranger tabs I've seen on their officers, same goes for combat patches.

Last week I worked in the SimCenter as sort of an OC for the 42nd's warfighter. After I finished my shift, I was walking out behind two 10th Mountain NCOs who were also coming off shift. When a soldier from the 42nd passed the other way I heard one of the active NCOs say "dead man walking." Would have been funny if it did not carry so much potential to be true.

After the election, when go after the insurgent strongholds, these are the guys that will be carrying the load."

bryan broyles


Subject: Linux and Chaos Manor (re: column in Sept./Oct. DDJ) 


I was glad to hear that you have finally tried Linux, and it worked for you. I wanted to respond to two points in particular, namely Installation and Aunt Mille/Tille, and Running IE on Linux Makes You Secure.

Linux unfortunately must beat out XP for installation ease by a wide margin, simply because the OEMs pre-install only Windows. That means that Mille _never_has_to_install_Windows_. Thus, Linux *already* has a barrier to entry (see also Linspire CEO latest posting at for more info on barriers to *OEMs* pre-installing Linux, with a particulary insightful look at Dell's MS Discounts, volume shipped, and yearly profits). Additionally, due to the hardware vendors' lack of Linux support, the *hardware* isn't nearly as well supported (though, while the vendors don't support Linux, Linux supports many of *them*). Those are already two huge barriers to Aunt Millie adopting Linux--and just because of the fact that Linux isn't pre-installed!

The second point is important, but short. The simple fact that Internet Explorer is running under Wine on Linux doesn't mean that you're going to be immune (or that the viruses will "starve"). Indeed, people have infected their Wine Windows "installations" from a Windows virus. Indeed, there may one day be a virus that propogates from Windows through to Linux via Wine. Linux provides good protections, but it could still wipe out your data or spy on you without installing itself in a system directory. Well, at least until I can get my first foray into kernel programming finished. :) To be most safe, you should be running native Linux programs and staying away from Internet Explorer and Outlook.

Hope that helps some. If you need help with Linux, I'll see if I can lend a hand. :)


Fascinating. Sorry to be so long on this: your mail got lost.


Subject: KVM switch & kerry

Hello Jerry,

I only disagree about one thing in your discussion of the "debate." What in the world makes you think that Kerry wouldn't cut and run after 6 or 8 months, saying "We have completed our task, now it is up to the people of Iraq."?

In regard to the KVM switch, I have seen several similar switches, most switched by 3 keystrokes, usually scroll lock, scroll lock, escape or scroll lock, scroll lock, up arrow (or down arrow or left or right arrow). a few used scroll lock, scroll lock,and a letter. I can't remember the specific letters they used. Most of these switches were not very good, degrading and/or dimming the screen image and often causing assorted lock-ups or failure of the mouse or keyboard to work on an erratic basis. Someone bought a batch of these at work, we ended up offering to give them to anyone who wanted one, there were no takers. We tossed them and replaced them with a similar switch by Belkin, it has none of the problems I mentioned, so a good switch is certainly possible.


Well, I doubt Kerry himself knows what he will actually do. He can't believe his "plan" is more than hopes.

Scroll Lock Scroll Lock worked just fine, and in fact the video quality is good. I think this 2-unit KVM was originally a Belkin, and I lost the instructions. Whatever it was, it works just fine, and I have a XANDROS Linux and a Windows 2000 attached to it. I needed to transfer some files between them.









This week:


read book now


Saturday, October 2, 2004

This one may break your heart.

Subject: IQ - what happens when you're on the left side of the curve


I have a son with a rare genetic disorder (   <file://> ) Even within this group of kids, the genetic lottery shortened him yet again, as he is more impaired than the typical kid with this syndrome. While it may not be PC, he is "retarded" intellectually and has many physical impairments as well. His IQ can't be tested because he's not really verbal but the best guess is 40 - 60.

OK, that sucks but it is what it is. However, what does suck is what "education" means for kids like him, at least where we live (in Maryland). I don't want to ignite debate over inclusion, mainstreaming, gifted and talented kids being shortchanged because special ed kids suck up resources. A good debate awaits those wishing one.

No, and I'm sorry to have taken so long to get to my point, is that my son needs training, he does not need an education. He needs help in fine and gross motor skills, in toilet training, in how to feed himself, dress himself, pour a cup. He needs his numbers and alphabet, and as much that can be built on that foundation as he is able. He doesn't need to be in his 7th grade history class, in his 7th grade math class or any of the other inclusion things they do. Yes, he gets some benefit from socialization, and that's not unimportant, but he can be disruptive and he doesn't get any of the subject matter, and the time could be spent on the basics he needs.

But the system really wants the kids mainstreamed and included, even if doing that doesn't meet the primary needs of the child. His needs aren't in the education vein and it's an education system. So they push education when what is needed is training. But training is what they don't want to provide.

It's fair to say that in many places, the system really doesn't serve the kids at the extremes of the curve very well. The system says it has the flexibility and skills needed to serve those kids, but in reality, it's one trick pony, and if you don't fit their mold, what they provide isn't what you need.

And to be fair to the public school systems, unless you're very much independently wealthy, the private schools (I'm from the catholic school system of Chicago) can't handle the kids at the left of the curve. They do well with kids on the right. I think it's that training versus education thing coming into play again.

Thanks for the opportunity to vent.

John McGing

We can both agree that the system we have isn't working: and it's not just for the extremes on the left side of the bell curve. Everyone from about 60 through 85 is definitely being exposed to the wrong kind of learning to fit their capabilities. You could also make a good case that the system doesn't work very well for those 115 and above, and definitely doesn't work well for 120 and above, in that 120 and above can make use of far more general principles and abstract concepts -- "education" rather than "training", learning how to learn rather than learning -- than those lower in IQ. There is a counter argument that a republic requires that its future leaders have social contacts with the rest of the population, and thus mainstreaming IQ 115 and above is a good idea; and it is an argument with some appeal.

The case for mainstreaming those on the left side of the curve is much weaker. California used to have special education schools, and special education classes within those schools, as did many other places. This served the kids in those classes in that they were taught things appropriate to their ability to learn; it also served those in the normal IQ range in that they weren't required to sit through instructions and training exercises that benefit only the lower IQ students. This was all abolished in the name of political correctness, and it was a drastic and terrible mistake to do that.

Children can be cruel, and putting children in "dummy school' gives others dramatic reasons to tease them. On the other hand, mainstreaming, while perhaps helping socialize the lower IQ kids while exposing the others to some realities, can be equally cruel.

When I was 5 and in First Grade in St. Anne's (two grades to a room) we had an 11 year old boy in second grade. His family was relatively well to do. Rudy was a nice chap, and for some reason we became friends. But in those schools discipline was pretty severe, and Rudy was often sent out of the class. He was pretty good natured about it, and Sister was fairly intimidating (full penguin outfit with habit and wimple), so there was little disruption.

Rudy was killed in a fireworks accident, the first person I knew to have died. I think the experience of knowing him did neither of us any harm -- but do note he was 11 years old in second grade.

Later in Capleville when I was in 5-6 there was a 15 year old girl in one of the grades (I forget which). But again we had a disciplined classroom situation. With two grades in a room it has to be disciplined.

Somewhere we took a very wrong turn.


Subject: Swedish engineer saves Huygens mission to Saturn's moon Titan 

== In proposing this more complex test with simulated telemetry, Smeds "had to argue with those who didn't think it was necessary," recalled JPL's Mitchell. Smeds was persistent and continued championing the test even after it was initially rejected. In the end, with the backing of Sollazzo and Huygens's project scientist, Jean-Pierre Lebreton, Smeds's plan was accepted because it was easy to do, even though hardly anybody seemed to think it was worth doing. On such seeming trivia US $300 million missions can turn: the simpler carrier-signal-only test, Mitchell noted, would never have uncovered any problems. ==


Adult supervision.


This is in connection with another story in View

<> <> <> <> <>

* Please note, the sender's email address has not been verified. <>

Dear Jerry:

This is from Joi Ito's blog. Apparently this guy may be court-martialed for "disloyalty" Personally I don't see any disrespect for the Commander-in-Chief or other factors that would get him there. He is a reservist and a political activist and may not totally understand the on-duty requirements, but this is comparable to the editorial I wrote in my Army newspaper about the Kent State massacre. Some people were upset, but no one even suggested that I be disciplined for it. So I do have to wonder if the civilians in the DOD are trying, once more, to suppress the opinions of those in the field.


Click the following to access the sent link:

<> Why We Cannot Win by Al Lorentz <> *

SAVE THIS link <> FORWARD THIS link <>

Get your EMAIL THIS Browser Button and use it to email information from any Web site. <>


*This article can also be accessed if you copy and paste the entire address below into your web browser.

Francis Hamit

And see below






CURRENT VIEW     Saturday

This week:


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Sunday, October 3, 2004

 I am off to the desert. This subject needs discussion, and I haven't time this morning.

Subject: That Disloyal Reservist -

I read the article in question (it's fairly short) and was appalled that any serving officer or NCO would not understand the problems with publishing such a thing. The main problem I have with the article is that, without reference to where and what he is doing, it is impossible to fact-check any of his opinions. And that's all they are without hard data - opinions that offer comfort and support for avowed enemies of the United States in particular and western civilization in general. Disloyal, hell, it looks remarkable like treason to me, but I'm probably wrong on that - if LT (j.g.) John Kerry can meet with representatives of a hostile power while still a commissioned officer I guess we should give this NCO a pass, eh?

I wouldn't be surprised if choice passages of this thing were used for recruiting purposes by his "guerillas."

Tim Morris

=I still have not had time to read all this. I do recall we had censorship of mail in most wars.


[Source:  ]

A Report on Mesopotamia by T.E. Lawrence

Sunday Times August 22, 1920 [Mr. Lawrence, whose organization and direction of the Hedjaz against the Turks was one of the outstanding romances of the war, has written this article at our request in order that the public may be fully informed of our Mesopotamian commitments.]

The people of England have been led in Mesopotamia into a trap from which it will be hard to escape with dignity and honour. They have been tricked into it by a steady withholding of information. The Baghdad communiques are belated, insincere, incomplete. Things have been far worse than we have been told, our administration more bloody and inefficient than the public knows. It is a disgrace to our imperial record, and may soon be too inflamed for any ordinary cure. We are to-day not far from a disaster. <snip>

Regards, -Dan



If that wasn't enough to worry about...

TSA's new screening program

"A new airport security system soon to be tested will rely on human judgment"

And we thought nothing could be worse than the Gomer Gestapo's current "We can only follow the rules" mindset.

Air travel is doomed.

J Nichols,8599,708924,00.html 

Spotting the Airline Terror Threat TIME exclusive: A new airport security system soon to be tested will rely on human judgment By SALLY B. DONNELLY/WASHINGTON

Saturday, Oct. 02, 2004 TIME exclusive: A new airport security system soon to be tested will rely on human judgment The most dangerous threat to commercial aviation is not so much the things bad people may be carrying, but the bad people themselves. That refrain heard constantly from airline security experts over the past three years appears to have finally been heeded by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). Aviation sources tell TIME that the TSA plans to address the problem by launching its own passenger profiling system. The system known as SPOT (Screening of Passengers by Observation Techniques) relies more on the human dimension in detecting threats, and is to be tested at two northeastern airports starting later this month.

"This is a radical change to aviation security," says Sgt. Peter DiDomenica, the Massachusetts State Police officer who developed the racially-neutral profiling program in place at Boston's Logan Airport, on which SPOT is based. "This is a very subtle but very effective program."

Unlike the TSA's recently announced program to use computer databases to scan for suspicious individuals whose names occur on passenger lists, SPOT is instead based squarely on the human element: the ability of TSA employees to identify suspicious individuals by using the principles of surveillance and detection. Passengers who flag concerns by exhibiting unusual or anxious behavior will be pointed out to local police, who will then conduct face-to-face interviews to determine whether any threat exists. If such inquiries turn up other issues of concern, such as travel to countries like Afghanistan, Iraq or Sudan, for example, police officers will know to pursue the questioning or alert Federal counter-terrorism agents. <snip>

If the system is any use it will look as if it were doing racial profiling, for the simple reason that terrorists are more likely to be Arabs or black Muslims. Note precisely what I said before writing me in indignation.

Subject: Education, Training, IQ... and Robots!

Hi Jerry,

I am looking forward to your planned essay on education, training and IQ. I wonder if you have had a chance to review Marshal Brain's website at  - robot-driven career obsolescence certainly starts at the left side of the bell curve.

He poses a number of sobering questions, and makes some interesting projections based on the economic imperatives that companies are faced with when confronted with human versus machine costs. In short... the machines are coming; the only quibble is the date they arrive. The trick is to make that a good thing, and not a calamity.

On a completely unrelated note - any chance of Mote making it to the big screen sometime soon? I'm sure there is a large pool of anxious fans waiting out there, and as LOTR showed, you can DO movies of this scale now, and do them right!



Have not seen it. I will try to look. Off to the desert. No news on MOTE and Hollywood.

Subject: The State of the Computing Industry 

"... It seems to me that the computing industry is in denial of how bad the attacks on our PCs and our lives have become. ..."

Be careful out there.

Best wishes, Clyde Wisham

**** "Always listen to experts. They'll tell you what can't be done, and why. Then do it."-- R. A. Heinlein ****

Could be!

Subject:  Why we need to abolish schools

===== Tiomoid M. of Angle JD MBA

----------------------------------------------------------- 'For forms of government let fools contest; That which is best administered is best.' -- Alexander Pope


Hi Jerry,

One thing I thought I learned in my life was that conservatives did not foolishly over-estimate the capacity of government to make all things better for all people. That government is best which governs the least, and all that. How in the world did the Republicans let themselves be put in a strangle-hold by the Neo-Jacobins (your term; I kind of think the 'con' bit is quite appropriate). It does seem to go against the grain.

According to <a href=" ">this, </a> these wunderkinder thought they had the keys to building utopia. A little humility, and a little analysis of history would have saved a thousand lives (and counting), and a couple hundred billions. It would also have left us with a somewhat higher regard in the rest of the world than we have now, and significantly more options. None that are on the table now are going to leave us in a stronger position in the war on terrorism than we were before the invasion.

People say it's easy to complain and point fingers, but we are there, and the question remains, what do we DO now? What makes me so damn angry is that we shouldn't have been stuck trying to answer that question, and I'd like to see some accountability on the part of the folks who dropped us in this little briar patch. There's folks in the cabinet whom I do not want to see within a thousand yards of a goverment building... can we get a court to issue restraining orders on account of their abusive relationship with governmental authority?

So what's my great idea for a way out of this mess, you ask? Quietly declare our objectives met and get the flock out of Dodge. Revert to 'speak softly and carry a big stick' (in the words of Fred Reed - stay home on Saturday night for a change), and rustle up another 200 billion to spend on energy independence.

Where you and I differ is which administration is most likely to come anywhere near this objective. I think a second term for Bush is a mistake. Have there been any clues that anyone in this administration has gotten so much as a whack across the knuckles for this, or for spending us into stratospheric defecits? Remind me, who is twising Bush's arm into allowing all of this nation-building and willy-nilly spending? A split government, with Kerry balanced by a Republican congress would probably wind up being much more.... how you say.... conservative than a unified party government has shown itself to be.

End of rant,


My problem is that there are plenty of Enlightened on both sides, and Kerry looks to be one of them; as opposed to Bush who was convinced by them. I still see Albright in the wings, and Clarke who thought that if Bush held a meeting with him every day 911 wouldn't happen, and the others. Devils I know on BOTH sides. Sigh.





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