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Mail 332 October 18 - 24, 2004






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Monday  October 18, 2004

Recovering. There's a lot of mail over weekend.

Subject: Multicultural Crayons

Check your local teacher's supply bookstore, and you will find something interesting. In the crayons section, you will find the usual assortments, of 8 non-roll, 8 colors, 16 colors, and our old favorite, 64 colors with the built-in sharpener. You will also find...

... better sit down, and put down any beverages...

... "Multicultural Crayons".

That is PRECISELY what it said on the box. "Multicultural Crayons".

What these are is boxes of 8 crayons, an assortment suitable for doing human skin tones in all reasonable colors.

I guess Crayola Corp. knows what sells.

On a related note: The 64-color box contains one that LOOKS like our old friend, but he has a new name. "Laser Lemon". Recall that there was a much-ballyhooed funeral for "Lemon Yellow" a few years ago, when Crayola retired his number? I guess someone pointed out that kids are still drawing lemons to go with the limes in art class...

I saw these in the "Off-Campus Bookstore", an independent college bookstore near the UAH campus in Huntsville AL. I'm working a contract gig there right now.

--John R. Strohm


Subject: Indymedia Seizures

I don't know whether you follow the Register < indymedia_seizure_genoa_connection/  >. Apparently the seized servers are "thought to have included correspondence with lawyers involved in the case against Genoa police accused of grievous bodily harm, falsifying evidence, slander and abuse of police powers, during and subsequent to the 2001 G8 summit." Why the US DoJ took the side of the Italian Government on this isn't clear. Stay tuned... -- "If they do that with marks and grades, should they be trusted with experimental data?"

Harry Erwin, PhD


Subject: Building planets on your Mac.

--- Roland Dobbins


He loved Big Brother now...

Subject: Scientists find way to make us slaves


After reading the comments in about programmers being an endangered species, a subject close to my heart as I've recently been informed that both the replacement for the system I work on and the maintenance of the current system may be given to programmers in India, I began to wonder what the future holds for the hoards of skilled people left without jobs. Revolution? Civil wars?

Then I saw this and realised, if blocking the D2 gene in humans has the same result as in rhesus monkeys, we may become willing slaves prepared to happily do whatever unskilled jobs the new elite requires.

From yesterday's Sunday Times:,,2087-1313556,00.html 

Scientists find way to make us slaves. Lois Rogers, Medical Editor

Experiments conducted on rhesus monkeys have shown for the first time that animal behaviour can be permanently altered, turning the subjects from aggressive to "compliant" creatures. The scientists did so by blocking the effects of a gene in the brain called D2, which cut off the link between the monkeys' motivation and perceived reward. Humans have an identical gene.

The work shows how the monkeys could be made to work enthusiastically for long periods without the need for a "treat".

Best wishes, and I hope you're feeling better soon

Paul Dove

Well I was until I read that...


Dr. Pournelle,

From: "Global Warming Bombshell" 

QUOTE In the scientific and political debate over global warming, the latest wrong piece may be the "hockey stick," the famous plot (shown below), published by University of Massachusetts geoscientist Michael Mann and colleagues. This plot purports to show that we are now experiencing the warmest climate in a millennium, and that the earth, after remaining cool for centuries during the medieval era, suddenly began to heat up about 100 years ago--just at the time that the burning of coal and oil led to an increase in atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide. . . . Now comes the real shocker. This improper normalization procedure tends to emphasize any data that do have the hockey stick shape, and to suppress all data that do not. To demonstrate this effect, McIntyre and McKitrick created some meaningless test data that had, on average, no trends. This method of generating random data is called "Monte Carlo" analysis, after the famous casino, and it is widely used in statistical analysis to test procedures. When McIntyre and McKitrick fed these random data into the Mann procedure, out popped a hockey stick shape!

That discovery hit me like a bombshell, and I suspect it is having the same effect on many others. Suddenly the hockey stick, the poster-child of the global warming community, turns out to be an artifact of poor mathematics. UNQUOTE

Will this finally put a stake in the heart of the "global warming" hysteria? We could wish!

Robin K. Juhl (

Probably not; they are immune to data.

Subject: Social Security

I don't have anything against personal savings, but how do you transition from the pay as you go system to a investment based one without dramatically raising the social security taxes? All of the money currently being taken in is being spent for social security or medicare and the boomers are just beginning to retire.


You do it slowly, by restricting the investment portion to a small percentage gradually rising. You're going to have to bail out the system anyway. Meanwhile, you raise the benefit age to 70 over a period of some years: but those for whom it is raised will have investment accounts from which they get early benefits.

Coming down off a Ponzi scheme is costly no matter how you do it. See Hamilton's work in the Washington Administration.


Subject: Chinese "Research Capsule" Crashes into a House

Dr. Pournelle:  , although the house owner reportedly said "The satellite landed in our home. Maybe this means we'll have good luck this year.''

Regards, Rick Hellewell


Subject: Fred on everything


Speaking as a shrink, I must say that Fred's got a good grip on things, as usual:  (2004-10-10)


But it sure puts money in the therapists' pockets, no?


Subject: they are watching you but not me>>>>>>>>>>

The new Homeland Security Bill has passed. Things will be different now. Internet surfing will be tracked by the FBI with a non-intrusive method. The FBI says you will not notice anything different. Click below (or cut and paste into your browser) for a demonstration. 







This week:


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Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Subject: You might be amused  

Brice Yokem



Subject: Betty Hill, RIP.

-- Roland Dobbins

Very interesting...


Subject: Important: Basic Computer Security for "Aunt Minnie"

Dr. Pournelle:

I was reading your Oct 18 column in Byte magazine, where you talk about "The New Vulnerabilities" with computers.

In additon to your excellent (as usual) analysis, I read reports that home computers are the most 'hacked' systems. Many home computers are being used, without their owner's knowledge, as mail spamming sources. Or they have keystroke loggers silently sending personal and financial information back to scammers. Or they are infected with spyware/adware (scumware).

I've been working on a simple "Aunt Minnie" checklist of simple steps that can be taken to protect your computer. There are only four things that need to be done: Firewall, Updates, Anti-Virus, and Scumware protection. And I included some basic 'safe computing' recommendations.

I believe that if users do these four things, they will be protected against most attacks. There is no foolproof protection (other than unplugging the power cord), but these steps will help immensely. Here is the link: 

These steps have worked for me. And I'm sending them to my family and friends. I suggest your readers do the same.

Regards, Rick Hellewell


Then I get mail like this:

Subject: i need your advice

hello my name is ashley f. i am 16 years old and i need your advice recently i have been writing alot of stories (i have finished them all) and i really enjoy writing its my favourite thing!! I dont study english at school but i did pass both my english exams. My parents and friends have read my stories and they say i have great talent and i would like to become a writer and persue it as a career. could you give me any advice on how to become a writer and how to get my stories published. thankyou for your time please email me back i would really appreciate it if you could give all the information you have thank you ashley f. (not real address)

I have directed her to and I am not sure there is much else I can do...


Mr. Pournelle:

I am wondering if you could help me or direct me to someone who can. I am looking for OCR software with an English interface and capable of working with an English operating system (Windows XP). The software needs to be able to scan documents done in Chinese (simplified and traditional), bring the document into a word processing format for further manipulation.

I have been seeking help and looking for information on the internet but have had almost no luck at all. When I found your web page I felt that this is an area of your expertise and that maybe you could direct me further.

Thank you for considering my request.

Blessings, Mark ( )

Not my cup of tea, but my readers will know if anyone does.

Jerry & Mark,

I would try Iris who are at: 

If you are setting a system up to do OCR the first thing to deal with is the error rate. This is one of the reasons that businesses don't scan documents and run an OCR program to replace typists. The error rate can be as much as 15%. This doesn't sound like much until you think about how much a single wrong word can change the meaning of a paragraph. It was found that it was necessary to proofread the file after the OCR program had finished work. Most typists can type faster than a proofreader can scroll through a file and correct the errors.

That said, I would set the system up using the Chinese version of Windows and Iris and then translate the resulting file. Iris will create an Office file that translates easily when moved. It would still need to be proofread by a competent Chinese reader.

The other setup issue is that I would avoid loading multiple language sets. OCR is easily confused and doesn't need to have multiple language sets on the work computer.

Stephen Walker

That would have been my initial thought as well. I have my mss. typed rather than scanned.





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Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Subject: Changing from social security to investment for retirement

You described a slow transition to move from social security to personal investment. I once wrote an article about this for an Australian magazine, News Weekly. It's at . Your transition actually gets a few people caught in the works and doesn't clean up until their demographic has moved off the board a generation later. That article describes a better approach with an age structured phasing out, with age related income tax cuts and social security entitlement, with the cut off ages moving slowly apart until everybody has switched.

Unfortunately there is a problem with the comparison you made between the returns on investment and social security. You gave good advice, but only for individuals for so long as everybody else doesn't try to invest. If everybody tried it the investment returns would come way down. It would still be worth it, but only because of the waste of the transaction costs of "investing" through government and the gain of genuine new productivity from real private investment.

Of course, you still have to make sure that the government doesn't tax away the gains and give a free ride to people still doing it the social security way. Here in Australia the government has a whole load of hidden taxes on private superannuation, so that it's a really bad deal for individuals.

In Australia there are moves to push people into private investment, i.e. from government intervention. That just makes the private channels wasteful, allowing them to put up their own take - it isn't really private, but government regulated and enforced investment through controlled corporate channels that started out as private options.

Also, we here have different demographic problems. Even with greater returns from investment, they can be swallowed up by the increased real prices of services the retired need. That's because there is still going to be a smaller base of working age people providing those services, a Ponzi scheme effect that is covered at the moment by an expanding population whether the retired have their own funds or not. So we still need to look at the demographics.

Of course your advice is still sound, provided you keep it to just a few people. Then they would get the improvement, but other people would find they had less than they used to.

Yours sincerely,

P.M.Lawrence. GST+NPT=JOBS

I.e., a Goods and Services Tax (or almost any other broad based production tax), with a Negative Payroll Tax, promotes employment.

See  and the other items on that page for some reasons why.


Subject: Saving Social Security


I'm not particularly versed in economics, practical or otherwise, so take my comments for what they are worth.

In order to begin the shift toward investment of part of social security, wouldn't the logical first step have been to stop raiding those funds for current expenditures not related to social security? Given that the current policy (directly contrary to the stated intent of this administration) is to spend the money taken in as general funds, wouldn't that exacerbate the gap between income and payments? If that is true, wouldn't a better long term approach involve starting with truly segregating the funds, then moving to a small percentage of the funds being invested, with that percentage growing at a flexible rate depending on results?

Of course, the proposal of the administration isn't simply investing the funds, but making them individual investment accounts. This would have the upside of segregating the funds, but has far more of a downside. First, it's almost inevitable that the funds would eventually be like other retirement funds, that is, you can withdraw them for education expenses, or home purchases, etc... If that's true, eventually you will have a group of retirees with no cushion at all. While I'm not much of a socialist, I don't think the US is prepared for that, so money would be allocated (directly or indirectly) to take care of these individuals. Second, there doesn't seem any benefit to making the accounts individual rather than investing generally other than that it looks good politically ("It's YOUR money!").

So, I guess I'm for converting SSI to a real retirement fund through investments, but I don't like the current proposal as it seems more like a political ploy than a method of fixing the problem.


I have no information that says that retirement funds can be withdrawn for other purposes. Once again, the amounts are tiny; and the obligations remain no matter what is done. Social Security is a Ponzi scheme. It strips money from working blacks to give to whites (black men don't live as long as white men; neither live as long as white women), transfer money from the young to the old, and has been largely a general tax with a lot of hype about benefits. There is no "trust fund".

My own proclivity would be to set up something like TIAA/CREF for everyone and let people opt into that, but of course that would destroy Social Security instantly.

The fact is that the system is a mess, and neither side is being terribly honest about that.

No Congress is going to abandon Social Security, or take away benefits from current recipients. There will need to be a phasing up of the retirement age, and taking some of the silly "disability" benefits out of the program since they aren't even in theory part of a retirement scheme -- I know several people who are "disabled" in their 30's but who don't seem to be unable to function and I have not been looking for them -- and other adjustments no matter who is elected.

Putting some of the funds in a genuine investment pool has a big upside, and the downside is no different from doing nothing: the system will need new infusions of taxes no matter what we do, particularly if birth rates continue lower while life expectancies rise.

In my case Social Security is a bit of a joke; I earn enough that I am still paying taxes and they take away much of the "benefit" I get; on the other hand, it does pay my medical insurance. That turns out to be a bit odd too: my Kaiser payments went from $350 a month to well over $1,000 a month the day I turned 65; my alternative was to let YOU make my medical payments for me. I'd have been willing to continue to pay the $350, but I wasn't given that choice: it was zero (you younger people pay my premiums for me) or a ridiculous premium far in excess of the actuarial requirements. But that's the law.

I wrote 30 years ago that nothing was easier to foresee than the age cohorts in the US; even with an S-100 system and early BASIC I could make a good model of what was happening, and then play about with productivity and employment coefficients. If I could make reasonable predictions with such crude stuff, professional economists must have been able to do better. But nothing was done, nor will anything be done. Social Security will continue to be a Ponzi scheme bailed out from time to time by infusions of taxes. Surpluses will go into the general fund.





Los Angeles Times October 20, 2004

Is Iraq Better Off? Ask The Iraqis

By Steven E. Moore

John Kerry is playing the prophet of doom in the most important foreign policy initiative of our generation. In Pennsylvania, Kerry described Iraq as "the wrong war, wrong place, wrong time." In New York, he opined that murderous cleric Muqtada Sadr "holds more sway in suburbs of Baghdad than Prime Minister [Iyad] Allawi." In Columbus, Ohio, the senator claimed to have a more accurate perspective on the situation in Iraq than did the interim prime minister, whose favorability rating of 73% among Iraqis, it's worth noting, is higher than Kerry's 48% favorability rating among Americans in the latest polls. Kerry, of course, has never set foot in Iraq.

I was there from July 2003 to April 2004, conducting about 70 focus groups and a dozen public opinion polls and advising L. Paul Bremer III, then the civilian administrator, on Iraqi public opinion. Whatever you might hear from Kerry, Michael Moore, the mainstream media and anyone else to whom defeating President Bush is more important than the fate of the Iraqi people, those who know best what's going on in Iraq — the Iraqis themselves — are optimistic about the future.

Iraqis consistently say in nationwide polls that the situation in their country is improving. In polls over the course of the summer, for example, more than half of Iraqis said their country was on the right track. The vast majority of Iraqis — 72% — see the same benefits in democracy as Americans do: the hope for peace, stability and a better life. Most polls show that 75% of Iraqis want to vote for their leaders rather than have clerics appoint them.

In a recent speech, Kerry charged that Saddam Hussein's brutality "was not, in itself, a reason to go to war." Iraqis disagree, as should any supporter of human rights. Nearly 55% of Iraqis say that toppling Hussein was worth the price of the current difficulties. These figures are easy to understand when you look at another set of numbers. In an Op-Ed article circulated this year among the more than 200 independent newspapers now published in Iraq, an Iraqi democratic activist observed that Hussein tortured and killed as many as 750,000 of his own people. Iraqis don't understand the debate about whether Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. To them, Hussein was a weapon of mass destruction.

UNICEF, hardly an apologist for the Bush administration, estimates that 5,000 Iraqi children a month died of starvation and malnutrition while Hussein siphoned funds from the U.N.'s oil-for-food program to build his palaces and enrich French politicians.

Americans are only now learning of the extent of Hussein's corruption of this humanitarian program; the Iraqis have known about it for quite some time. When asked to rate their confidence in the U.N., Iraqis gave the organization a 2.9 on a scale of 1 to 4, with a 4 meaning absolutely no confidence. In contrast, more than 60% of Iraqis tell pollsters that the Iraqi government has done a good job since the June 28 hand-over.

Polling in Iraq is done much as in any developing country. Interviews are conducted face to face by highly trained Iraqi interviewers. For a 1,500-person sample, for instance, 75 qada (the Iraqi equivalent of precincts) would be chosen at random, with interviews conducted in 20 randomly chosen households in each.

Though difficulties abound, the cooperation rate is usually more than 80% — much higher than in the U.S. Iraqis are amazed that, for the first time, somebody cares about their political opinion, and they frequently want interviewers to interview cousins and friends.

From 20,000 to 30,000 insurgents, many from outside Iraq, are trying to prevent Iraqis who want democracy from achieving it. Kerry has said he would begin withdrawing U.S. troops six months after his inauguration. Iraq's autocratic neighbors are vigorously supporting the efforts of extremists to derail Iraqi self-government. Hastily withdrawing U.S. troops for political reasons would be a mistake for which we would pay for decades.

A look at the nightly news confirms the finding that six out of 10 Iraqis are worried about security, but what's being given short shrift are the strides being made and the intensity of Iraqi optimism.

Steven E. Moore is a Sacramento-based political consultant.


Subject: The stuff dreams are made of - Grazing the Nanograss

I'm amazed that I have not seen mention of this in Chaos Manor. I've see echos of it in the CoDominium and the First Empire stories as well as the Mote in God's Eye.,11280,96480,00.html 

This is quick link 49480 if you'd rather go to yourself. I think that Bell Labs has hit another home run.

Regards, Pete Wityk

I try to keep up with everything...

Thanks! Astonishing. And see below.


CURRENT VIEW    Wednesday


This week:


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Thursday, October 21, 2004

Jerry, You may already have thought of this, but imagine nanograss on a surface such as a wing. I'd imagine that the boundary layer could be manipulated, maybe nanograss can adapt to the streamline for reduced drag. At the least it should be a good measurement tool (beats solving Navier-Stokes equations!). Thanks for posting the link!!

Thanks, Jim Laheta


Dr. Pournelle, I recently got my first pair of prescription eyeglasses (and had to go right to bifocals); my first thought on looking at the Computerworld article on nanograss was that 'active' eyewear was now possible. Many times every day, I have to switch between my 'computer' eyeglasses with a ~2 foot focal length, my 'normal' eyeglasses with the distance correction, and my reading-only glasses. An active system should determine what I'm trying to focus on and configure the lenses to correct my vision at that distance. Add in the 'zoom' function, and I wouldn't need to carry my 7x50s again.

Regards, Frank D. Sauer

Indeed the possibilities are intriguing...

Subject: Nanograss continued

Regarding Mr Laheta thoughts about putting nanograss on wings; your esteemed colleague, Sir Arthur C. Clarke, has already been there. See "Childhood's End", chapter 5, where private fliers use, "The more subtle forms of boundary layer control." He used the true artist's trick of not specifying more implementation details than necessary ( not that you've ever done that ;-). But this is certainly one means of accomplishing Sir Arthur's vision. So, hold off on that patent application. Prior art!

Regards, Peter Wityk




Subject: interesting article found on technologyreview.. not the original source. 

There's an article you are sure to find interesting..


And in fact I tend to agree: if we had better schools adapted to our people, we wouldn't have to worry about outsourcing. But we would rather be PC and pay the education establishment than fix the problem. Maybe decimation of the educrats would work?

Subject: Maybe decimation of the educrats would work?

You said "Maybe decimation of the educrats would work?" If I remember decimation was 1 of 10. If it has to be done wouldn't you want to sweep a little more thoroughly?

Ramesh Nayar

I thought one in ten to encourage the others...


We need a program resident on our machine that will tell us what is wrong with our internet connection. Is that too much to ask for?

Walter E. Wallis Palo Alto

We sure do. It wouldn't be that hard. In my case I had so much wrong that I'll get a section of the column out of it.







CURRENT VIEW    Thursday


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FridayOctober 22, 2004

Subject: MagBeam Propulsion

It seems you got some impact on space science 

Michael Lund Markussen Denmark

Thanks for calling that to my attention. Hoo Hah!

Subject: More on the Indymedia Seizure

See <

 >. -- "Truth is the intersection of independent lies." (Richard Levins, 1966) Harry Erwin, PhD



Hello Dr. Pournelle,

Too bad about your trip to Japan. Maybe next time.

Windows Secrets has a good review of personal firewalls that might be of use to some of your readers. ( ) Interestingly, they recommend dumping the Windows firewall, calling it "woefully inadequate".

Best wishes,

Clyde Wisham

**** "He can compress the most words into the smallest idea of any man I know."-- Abraham Lincoln ****

Actually I don't trust any software firewall to protect the machine it is running on. Use a router. But I have never recommended the Windows firewall.

Subject: Brain Dead

Jerry P:

With respect to the National Review article, this is an example of smoke without a real fire. Medical professionals, doctors with degrees, insurance, and all that implies, made a judgement call that the patient was brain dead. Now at some point qualified medical professionals will evaluate the case, but at this point there is little of value for the National Review or anyone else to comment on the case. A guess would be that the Montrose County coroner was miffed at not being kept in the loop, and probably he is technically right, we don't know. But writing a magazine article, with pretentions of good judgment, without a real medical determination being rendered qualifies as a good 30 second sound bite; AKA load, shoot, aim. The problem will remain, and good journalism would seem to require, that the medical/legal determination of homicide would be a good starting point for the story. The allegation of murder has not been ajudicated. I predict that we will not see an article in National Review if the judgement of the doctors is vindicated.


I more or less share your view, but I worry still: harvesting someone is a pretty extreme thing to do. And I would not at all mind seeing this go to a Grand Jury for disposition. I think it is well to be cautious in these matters. This is a very slippery slope indeed.

But now I see,1299,DRMN_21_3251460,00.html 

Coroner review

October 13, 2004

The Coroner Protocol Review Committee met and reviewed the case of the death of Mr. William Rardin. The members of the committee are as follows:

Coroner Protocol Review Committee Members:

? Michael Dobersen, MD, Ph D., Coroner, Arapahoe County ? Thomas Henry, MD, Coroner, Denver County ? Thomas Bak, MD, University of Colorado Health Sciences Center ? Mark Randall, Chief Deputy District Attorney, Jefferson and Gilpin County ? Diane Balkin, Deputy District Attorney, Denver County ? Patricia D. Brewster, Chief Executive Officer, Donor Alliance ? Sue Dunn, Vice President of Organ Operations, Donor Alliance

Others Present:

? J. Adair Prall, MD, Neurosurgeon, Littleton Adventist Hospital ? Robert Breeze, MD, Neurosurgeon, University of Colorado Health Sciences Center ? D. Nikki Wheeler, Director of Communications/PR, Donor Alliance

Documents Reviewed In Reference to the Rardin Case:

? Montrose Memorial Hospital Chart ? St. Mary's Hospital Chart ? Donor Alliance Case Chart ? Supplemental Documents:

Montrose County Coroner's Office October 4th Press Release Colorado State Statute 12-36-136 Guidelines for the Determination of Death American Academy of Neurology Practice Parameters: Determining Brain Death in Adults Neurology 1995; 45:1003-1011 Determining Brain Death in Adults Donor Alliance Standards for Brain Death Determination St. Mary's Hospital Manual Patient Care Standard: Brain Death Determination St. Mary's Hospital Apnea Testing of Intubated Adult Patients St. Mary's Hospital Patient Care Organ and Tissue Donation National Organ Transplant Act- 1984, Title 42 United States Code (USC), Part H-organ transplants, Section 274e October 18, 2001, Donor Alliance Coroner Protocol Mark Young's October 4, 2004 Press Release

Prior to making its findings and reaching its conclusions, the committee reviewed all of the listed documents, considered statements made by Mark Young to the media and to members of Donor Alliance. The committee also relied on the following: conversations committee members had with the doctors that were involved in the medical care of Mr. Rardin, comments, expert opinions, and conversations with Donor Alliance personnel, and conversations with you.

The Findings of the Committee:

1. No homicide occurred. Mr. Young should reconsider his finding and amend the death certificate to reflect the accurate and irrefutable cause of death as a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head, and the manner of death as a suicide.

2. The actions of Mr. Young were based on a lack of information and an inappropriate understanding of the medical and legal issues involved. His actions were reckless when, despite ample and competent evidence to the contrary, he rendered the ruling and completed the death certificate indicating that this death was a homicide due to the removal of Mr. Rardin's internal organs by an organ recovery team. It was also irresponsible for him to then release these findings to the media, without appropriate factual confirmation and determination.

3. These actions have served to undermine the public trust in the organ donation system, as well as the public trust in the health care, coroner and criminal justice systems.

Rardin Case Summary:

At 6:10 p.m. on September 26, 2004, William Rardin shot himself in the head with a .22 caliber gun. He was transported to Montrose Memorial Hospital where it was determined that he was mortally injured. After consultation among hospital doctors, he was transferred to St. Mary's Hospital in Grand Junction.

William Rardin was admitted to the emergency room at St. Mary's Hospital at 9:50 p.m. At 10:15 p.m. Mr. Rardin was admitted to the intensive care unit at St. Mary's. A determination of brain death was made at 11:45 p.m. on September 26, 2004 by a critical care specialist — a medical doctor that is experienced and qualified in the care and evaluation of critically injured patients. The attending physician, who was involved in the care of William Rardin, also examined the patient. The attending physician is an experienced neurosurgeon.

The standard tests performed in this case included clinical observations of the absence of brain stem reflexes, as well as standard apnea testing. These tests are routinely used in the evaluation of brain death not only in Colorado, but throughout the nation.

After the determination of death was made, Mark Young, the Montrose County Coroner, was advised. Mr. Young released the body and granted permission for organ donation to Donor Alliance at 1:20 a.m. on September 27, 2004. His only restrictions were to "not touch the head" and that there be no eye donation.


It is very clear that William Rardin committed suicide and died as a result of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head. A review of the medical records makes it clear that prior to organ recovery, the statutory and medical criteria for brain death had been met. This was done in accordance with accepted medical standards. The criteria for the determination of death, including brain death, are not ambiguous in Colorado.

One week later, on October 4th, 2004, Mark Young announced in a press release that he had ruled the death a homicide due to the "removal of his internal organs by an organ recovery team." He stated that all of the information would be turned over to the district attorney's office for review and to determine whether criminal charges should be filed.

This action was not only unfortunate, it was irresponsible. Mark Young's ruling was not supported by the wealth of information documented in the medical charts as well as the cumulative experience among all of the professionals directly involved and those readily available to him throughout the state. Contrary to a statement in his press release, Mr. Young did not consult with the District Attorney prior to his ruling that the determination of death did not meet accepted medical standards.

Mr. Young references financial costs in his press release. To whatever extent Mr. Young may have been motivated by a concern over the attendant costs for hospitalization and transport, he chose a wholly inappropriate manner of addressing this issue. A determination of a cause of death should in no way be influenced by this factor. Had he discussed this aspect fully with representatives of the various facilities and organizations, any questions he might have had could have been answered.

Mr. Young conceded that he rendered his opinion after reviewing a fraction of the medical records (less than 10 pages out of over 220). He did not consult with any of the attending physicians, the physician that declared death, or the District Attorney.

Although he is the elected County Coroner, Mr. Young is not a medical doctor. He also conceded that he had no prior training or experience in the declaration of brain death. He indicated that he was learning about brain death through the internet commencing on or about September 28, 2004. The committee understands that Mr. Young had a conversation with a neurosurgeon regarding a "hypothetical case." That neurosurgeon was not directly involved in the case, nor did the neurosurgeon have the benefit of reviewing any of the medical records related to Mr. Rardin's case.

Dr. Rob Kurtzman, the forensic pathologist who performed the William Rardin autopsy on September 28, 2004, stated, on October 4, 2004, that his post-mortem examination revealed "damage to the brain typical of a gun shot wound to the head. The changes in the brain were not compatible with sustained survival and are typical of individuals who have been declared brain dead." He also stated that Mr. Young was present at the autopsy and had no questions regarding the cause of death.

Not only was Mr. Young incorrect in his conclusion regarding the cause of death, his actions seriously undermine the best interests of the citizens of our state, and caused undue distress to Mr. Rardin's family.

So the matter is settled; but I am not myself upset that an elected Coroner was disturbed by the events.

Credentialism and "experts" will be the death of liberty.




I have several people sending me things on this:

Dr Pournelle,

Here is a snippet from an Australian e-news site,, quoting and commenting on a portion of a New York Times article that you may or may not have seen.


Frank and fearless media

If you liked yesterday's nod to Media Watch and their coverage of "Out-Foxed", the new doco on the evil empire, try this item by Ron Suskind from Sunday's New York Times Magazine on for size. If you can't be bothered ploughing through the lot, here are the key pars:

"In the summer of 2002, after I had written an article in Esquire that the White House didn't like about Bush's former communications director, Karen Hughes, I had a meeting with a senior adviser to Bush. He expressed the White House's displeasure, and then he told me something that at the time I didn't fully comprehend -- but which I now believe gets to the very heart of the Bush presidency.

"The aide said that guys like me were 'in what we call the reality-based community', which he defined as people who 'believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality'. I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off. 'That's not the way the world really works anymore,' he continued. 'We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality -- judiciously, as you will -- we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors ... and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do'."

The "senior adviser" is presumably Karl Rove. Has John Howard's odious spinner Tony O'Leary already got that framed on his wall? The Parliamentary Library gets The New York Times.

<end snip>

Crikey's focus was on the engagement and treatment of the media by the administration in a small part of the article. Personally I found the entire article revelatory and was struck by the similarity of resonances in our own recent federal election campaign. Although I feel we have not gone anywhere near as far as the USA in those directions, it was disturbing to see the blatant use of right-wing Christian fundamentalism as a political tool to drive the allocation of party preferences to influence Senate outcomes in this country. And on the question of the empire feeding history to the media and commentators, I think it is definitely happening over here as well. Makes me worried for my daughters' futures..


I never pay much attention to "sources" who "quote" anonymous "senior advisors". Why would anyone say a thing like that, and why assume that Susskind (1) heard it properly, (2) quoted it properly, (3) understood what was said, or even had the interview at all since he doesn't name the person interviewed?

There is a sense in which was was said it true, but the notion that any political figure would tell a reporter that "We're an empire now" is bizarre. Who would do that, and for what? "We're an empire" is the kind of statement that is political death. I can imagine the egregious Frum saying a thing like that, and I wish that whoever said it would be named so the guy could be pilloried and fired and got rid of; but I doubt it will happen because I doubt even the egregious Frum is stupid enough to say that to a reporter.


I have heard someone tell me that he heard a senior official to Kerry say that Kerry sometimes thinks he is an aardvark.



This site is a Russian woman's personal site, with this particular part being her history of Kiev. She also has photographs of her visit to Chernobyl which are fascinating. Her English is pretty bad, but the site is worth a visit. 


We've referenced this here before but for those who missed it...


Subject: "Starfleet Academy" - The Beginning -


"Starfleet Academy" - The Beginning 

Air Force Space Command officials stood up a space education and training organization here recently that they said will provide the foundation to creating a new generation of space professionals.

The National Security Space Institute will be the Department of Defense's single focal point for space education and training, complementing existing space education programs at Air University, the Naval Postgraduate School and the Air Force Institute of Technology.

Full story at the link.

Jim Riticher













This week:


read book now




My son Alex was married today.




CURRENT VIEW     Saturday

This week:


read book now


Sunday, October 24, 2004

Subject: Why airlines are failing, #216584 

Jerry, a whole host of somebody’s needs to be dropped from 35,000 feet, sans parachutes.

If it happened. I check the American Airlines web site: they recently lowered the free weight from 70 to 50 pounds, but the excess weight charge is $80, which to a First Class passenger can't be a lot of money. I suspect that Cindy's may have been stuck for something to write about for her gossip column. I'll apologize if the person it happened to shows up. Airlines may be in trouble, but I can't imagine they have gone this far.

Subject: Paul Nitze, RIP.

- Roland Dobbins

I knew him, I worked with him, and I respected him. He served his country well. Farewell.






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