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Mail 352 March 7 - 13, 2005

 

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Monday  March 7, 2005

Column deadlines.

An Asian view:

Subject: They Made a Democracy, and Called It Peace.

http://atimes01.atimes.com/atimes/Front_Page/GC08Aa02.html

- Roland Dobbins

======

Subject: You predicted it first--ICE AGE

Dr. Pournelle,

You first predicted that humankind might have already staved-off being slaughtered by an ICE AGE, in one of your science fact articles you wrote back in the 1970's. Your article contended that by burning wood and coal, we accidentally saved ourselves. Your view is now backed up by another article in Scientific American March 2005, by a climatologist studying anthropogenic impact on the environment. I thought you might like to know. Now, onward with a THOR orbital-based, defense and Orion spaceships!

Sincerely, Mitch Haegel

============

Subject: ozone depleted by sun flares

Dr. Pournelle,

It looks like solar flares are more destructive to the ozone layer than previously known, and its not accounted for in depletion models.

This article brings it up, but refuses to take the next logical step by questioning current models. Theyre keeping their heads firmly in the sand.

http://www.livescience.com/forcesofnature/050301_ozone_thinning.html 

Sean long

Ain't science grand

Subject: Global Warming or?

Dr. Pournelle,

Here are a pair of articles from the Space.com website that appear very interesting. The first raises the question of how heating may have caused the breakup of West Antarctic ice sheets:

Antarctic Ice Shelf Retreats Happened Before http://www.terradaily.com/news/antarctic-05c.html 

"'We know that rising air temperatures can break up ice shelves but there has been a suspicion for some time that the role of the ocean may have been underestimated. This is some of the first evidence that a shift in ocean currents can actually destroy ice shelves. In this case it's possible that a preceding warm period may have primed the ice shelf to disintegrate when the ocean currents shifted."

Water, water, water everywhere... where is this in the climate models? Ocean currents? Who would have thunk?

Secondly, another article of even more far reaching scope:

Scientists Discover Why The North Pole Is Frozen http://www.terradaily.com/news/arctic-05d.html

"A sudden fall in average world temperatures 2.7 million years ago caused the Arctic Ocean to freeze and Europe and North America to become covered in ice. The reason seems obvious: the cold temperatures caused ice to build up."

and:

"According to the research, the most important change during the period was a 7C (13F) increase in the difference between summer and winter temperatures within just a few centuries.

The summers became warmer and the winters cooler, causing more water to evaporate from the sea into the atmosphere during the summer. The air became more humid and snowfall increased. When Winter set in, the sharp decrease in temperatures enabled ice to build up.

But what brought about this difference in temperatures? The researchers are the first to find evidence showing that this was caused by the stratification of ocean water, due to an increase in freshwater. This means that water mixed less than previously, forming layers of different densities in different strata and at different depths.

When spring came, the layers closest to the surface began to heat up. Since the water did not mix, the temperature of those layers continued to rise, and increasing amounts of water evaporated. During the summer months, this effect intensified, as higher temperatures increase stratification; in winter, however, the water began mixing again, and temperatures dropped more than in previous years."

Short time scales again. The significance of oceans again ... water in the air... where in the climate models is this? How do they figure water evaporation from something as large as the oceans? And how to factor in differing salinities and currents?

Food for thought, not irrational "fix the CO2" knee-jerking. On the other hand, I am also hopeful the "fix the CO2 Knee-jerking" is causing the environmentalists to reconsider their position on nuclear power.

Good healing with your finger. I recently had to get stitches in one arm after a fall down the basement stairs, so I sympathize.

-- Oliver Richter

 

==========================

From: Stephen M. St. Onge 
     subject: The Case for Speech Codes
 
 
Dear Jerry:
 
        No, I'm not kidding -- or at least not much.  A case for restricting freedom of speech on campus, here: http://www.techcentralstation.com/030105B.html.
 
Best,
     Stephen
 
DELENDAM ESSE SAUDI ARABIA!

==========

Another disaster for all Western pension schemes, perhaps on the order of the long-term effect of the campaign against tobacco...

Jim

http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story2&u=/ap/20050307/ap_on_he_me/heart_stents 

AP Drug-Coated Stents Transform Heart Care

Mon Mar 7, 2:05 AM ET

By MARILYNN MARCHIONE, AP Medical Writer

ORLANDO, Fla. - New research comparing rival brands of drug-coated, tiny mesh tubes called stents finds they are equally excellent at keeping heart arteries open, and that one may be better for diabetics.

These devices, which slowly leach medication into blood vessels to keep them from squeezing shut after procedures to remove blockages, have revolutionized heart care so much in the last few years that studies now are aimed at finding which ones work best for which patients - not whether they work at all.

They are vastly better than the plain old metal stents that were standard just a few years ago. Results on the new ones are so good that more and more patients are being successfully treated with them and avoiding a more drastic alternative - heart bypass surgery.

And see below

=================

 

 

d

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TuesdayMarch 8, 2005

Got the wind up...

Subject:  Anti-wind farm report dismissed

Dear Dr Pournelle,

I bet this story will not get much media coverage (it hasn't so far):

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/4300723.stm 

Best wishes, Simon Woodworth.

Anti-wind farm report dismissed

A report from the world's biggest wind power producer denouncing wind farms as too expensive and inefficient has been widely dismissed in the UK.

Money would be better spent targeting energy efficiency to combat greenhouse gases, the German Energy Agency said.

It comes as UK wind power grows at the fastest rate in the world, with the government aiming generate 10% of energy from renewable sources by 2010.

A government spokeswoman said the UK was in a different position to Germany.

'Wind penalty'

The report by the German government-backed agency says it will cost Germany 1.1bn euro (700 million) to link its wind farms to the national grid - which it must do if it is to reach its target of 20% of energy coming from renewable sources by 2015.

With more than 15,000 turbines, the nation has the most wind farms in the world.

But, says the report, almost the same cuts in carbon dioxide emissions - at nothing like the cost of wind power - can be achieved by installing modern filters at existing fossil-fuel power plants. <snip>

For what may not be entirely rational reasons, I have always disliked wind farms. I love the old farm waterpump windmills -- we had one for the stock watering trough at our farm in Tennessee when I was growing up, and it Just Worked. We didn't care when the water was pumped as long as enough was pumped, and it was easy enough to rig a level gauge that would turn off the pump when the trough filled. Saved gasoline (we didn't have electricity) which was rationed, and saved having a field hand -- or me -- having to pump the water manually, because there was usually enough wind in a 24 hour period to fill the trough.

But I find the wind farms on the road to Phoenix, and out by Mojave, and near Livermore to be ugly, and they kill a lot of birds, apparently. And at one time a mill took about as much energy to produce as it would generate in a year or two but I gather that is no longer the case.

As a distributed form of energy generation where the energy is used near where it is generated windmills make sense, but to cover whole sections of land with them seems wasteful. As I said, I may not be entirely rational here.

Subject: Wind farms

Jerry

Wind Farm: A white elephant surrounded by dead birds

Regards John Edwards

I have to say that's close to my thinking...

 

=========

Subject: DEMOCRACY

http://atimes01.atimes.com/atimes/Front_Page/GC08Aa02.html 

I have to take exception to this article. First, anyone can make a 'projection', but if we have to wait until 2050 to find out if it is true, well, people have short memories.

Second, population decrease, or slow growth, is a trait of industrialized societies, which are not necessarily democratic.

Third, how much of this is due to birth rate and how much is due to emmigration? The former soviet republics have had their economies ground up like hamburger, which is why they failed. Now that the damage is done, the restrictive emmigration policies are lifted and people escape to where things are better.

Brice Yokem

Rousseau famously said that population statistics were a measure of the happiness of a populace. Edmund Burke had a somewhat different notion. One thing: the US, which is apparently a democracy, can't reproduce fast enough to keep the population stable. It's only immigration that keeps us from having a dwindling populace. Why? Are our people unhappy?

===

Subject: What Iraq's checkpoints are like

From The Christian Science Monitor, perhaps we need to think about the human factors of the common case (just someone out for a drive, not a bomb, etc) in how we set them up?

"As an American journalist here, I have been through many checkpoints and have come close to being shot at several times myself. I look vaguely Middle Eastern, which perhaps makes my checkpoint experience a little closer to that of the typical Iraqi. Here's what it's like."

http://www.csmonitor.com/2005/0307/p01s04-woiq.html?s=u

Ronald Pottol  

-- Plato seems wrong to me today.

That airport road is particularly frightening.

==========

TEMPLE U goes Satanist?

Subject: Temple University Sued for Hauling Christian Student to Psychiatric Ward

Dr. Pournelle,

I think you will find this interesting. The trial is just getting underway.

Ron Mullane

http://www.academia.org/campus_reports/2001/february_2001_5.html 

Temple University Sued for Hauling Christian Student to Psychiatric Ward Lawsuit: Administrators Banned Protest of Sacreligious Play Then Assaulted Student

by Dan Flynn

Eighty years ago the Soviet Union developed a novel method of dealing with dissenters: it labeled them insane and committed them to mental institutions. A Temple University student contends that his school resorted to these very tactics in response to his objections to a school-sponsored performance of a play that depicts Jesus as a promiscuous homosexual.

Michael Marcavage filed suit against Temple University in December 2000 for a an incident in which he alleges that University officials censored an event he had organized, roughed him up, and involuntarily committed him to the psychiatric ward of the school's hospital. His only offense, he claims, was to organize an event to counter a play that mocks Christianity.

The civil rights suit was filed in the U.S. District Court in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania and contends that the plaintiff's First, Fourth, and Fourteenth Amendment rights were violated. The defendants in the suit are Temple University, its vice president for operations, William Bergman, and its managing director of campus safety services, Carl Bittenbender. Attorneys for the plaintiff include lawyers for the American Family Association's Center for Law and Policy.

The controversy began in the fall semester of 1999 when Marcavage learned that the play Corpus Christi would be staged on campus. The play, which generated a great deal of controversy when it ran on Broadway in 1998, portrays Jesus as a homosexual who indiscriminately beds his disciples. As a Christian, Marcavage decided to protest the play, which he considers blasphemous.

"It was very upsetting that my classmates would be mocking who I believe to be God," the then Temple University junior asserted.

Marcavage had nearly 1,000 fliers posted around the Philadelphia campus and announced that a demonstration would be held. Marcavage recalls that subsequent conversations with school officials convinced him that a protest would be counterproductive.

"I didn't want to bring negative attention to this play or to this university," Marcavage maintains. "Rather, I chose to use this as an opportunity to show students who the real Jesus is." Showing his peers "who the real Jesus is" included organizing a counter-event to Corpus Christi, instead of a protest. The prospective counter-event was to consist of gospel singers, speakers, and the presentation of a Biblically based play about the life of Christ called Final Destiny. This pro-Christian play would be performed by members of the Temple University chapter of Campus Crusade for Christ..

Although Corpus Christi was performed without incident , school administrators blocked Final Destiny and the accompanying speakers and gospel singers.

Marcavage contends that University officials initially agreed to provide a stage for the Christian group's event, but then retracted their promise at the 11th hour. When Marcavage offered to foot the bill for the program, school officials informed him that they would not allow him to hold his event.

During a contentious meeting on November 2, 1999-less than a week before the planned event was to take place-Temple vice president William Bergman called Marcavage into his office to inform him that the university was not permitting him to hold his program. Following a discussion, a disgusted Marcavage retreated to the restroom, threw water on his face, and asked God for direction about what to do next. God, however, had little to do with what then happened. A bizarre series of events transpired that ended with Marcavage-a dean's list student who had served as a White House intern with a security clearance in 1998-being detained in a psychiatric ward.

Marcavage's suit states that Temple Vice President "[William] Bergman pounded on the [bathroom] door and demanded that [Marcavage] come out." Marcavage then opened the door and was physically forced by Bergman to return to his office. "Once back in Bergman's office," the suit details, "Bergman, suddenly and without warning, pushed [Marcavage] down into a chair. Alarmed and afraid by Bergman's use of force, [Marcavage] told Bergman he wanted to leave. Bergman said no." Marcavage then asked to use the phone, a request that was also rebuffed. Realizing that these officials had no right to keep him against his will, Marcavage attempted to leave. The legal brief reports that the "Plaintiff then arose from the chair and was tripped to the floor by Bergman. As Plaintiff raised himself off the floor, he was forced onto a couch and held down by Bergman and Bittenbender. Plaintiff's repeated pleas to be released were refused."

Uniformed Temple Police then arrived and were ordered to handcuff Marcavage, who "was then carried out of the building and placed into a police car." The police refused to divulge to the student why he was being arrested or where he was going. "Shortly thereafter, Plaintiff was taken to the Emergency Crisis Center at Temple University Hospital against his will." The Christian student was then held in the psychiatric ward for more than three hours. Doctors examining him concluded that nothing was wrong with him and finally released him at 3:15 p.m.

Bill Bergman disputes the charges. "We treat everyone fairly at Temple," the Temple vice president explained. "We vehemently deny the allegations." Although he refused to elaborate further, Bergman pointed to the American Family Association's involvement in the suit as evidence that it lacks credibility. When asked if he also contested the assertion that school officials had Marcavage committed to Temple University Hospital, Bergman repeated his denial. Documents from the hospital, however, contradict Bergman's account. Bergman's deputy, Carl Bittenbender, did in fact sign the paperwork to have the then 20-year-old junior placed in the hospital against his will.

In signing the form to have Mr. Marcavage involuntarily committed, Carl Bittenbender checked-off boxes claiming that the Dean's List student had "inflicted or attempted to inflict serious bodily harm on another" and had "attempted suicide and that there is reasonable probability of suicide unless adequate treatment is afforded."

These claims made by Bittenbender are at odds with his own handwritten statement, however, which only noted his opinion that Maracavage exhibited "irrational," "agitated," and "confrontational" behavior. There is nothing about Marcavage hurting or threatening anyone. Nor is there mention of Mr. Bittenbender witnessing a suicide attempt. Bittenbender only claims that Marcavage locked himself in the bathroom. "I felt that he was going to hurt himself" and "may be suicidal," was his characterization of events. Yet, Bittenbender's subjective claims that he "felt" that the broadcast journalism major might be a danger to himself or that he "may" be in a suicidal state are quite different from claiming that the patient being committed had "attempted suicide" and "inflicted or attempted to inflict serious bodily harm on another."

This contradiction may prove to be the University's undoing in court. Above the boxes that Bittenbender checked on the form is a warning in bold capital letters: "Any person who provides any false information on purpose...may be subject to criminal prosecution and may face criminal penalties including conviction of a misdemeanor." The suit alleges that Bittenbender did just what the form warned him not to do.

Marcavage, who has no history of mental illness and shows no outward signs of being anything but a normal student, displayed no bodily evidence of any suicide attempt. No complaint was filed claiming that Marcavage attempted to harm any specific person. Nor is it clear how Bergman or Bittenbender could deduce how a suicide attempt or any mental breakdown was taking place on the other side of a locked bathroom door.

The mental status exam conducted by doctors at the hospital told a different story than the boxes checked off by Carl Bittenbender. The two doctors who examined Marcavage cleared him of any mental health problem. Although the examining doctor noted that Marcavage was "Tense" and "Sad," the evaluation described the 20-year-old junior as "Calm," "Cooperative," "Coherent," "Healthy," and "Mild." The examining physician noted that there were "no apparent grounds" for holding Marcavage and released him at 3:15 p.m., ending the ordeal that began more than five hours earlier in William Bergman's office.

Marcavage contends that administrators at the public institution had mocked his religion prior to the controversy. Some were aghast that anyone would object to Corpus Christi. When Bittenbernder asked Marcavage what he planned to do if it rained during his proposed counter-event, Bergman answered, "They believe God is on their side." Both men erupted in laughter. The suit contends that anti-Christian bigotry served as the motivation for their actions.

While Marcavage claims that one official acting in a personal capacity acknowledged that mistakes were made and expressed regret, he has been unable to rectify the injustice that occurred to him. When he attempted to file a police report against his alleged abductors, campus police informed him that Bittenbender was their boss and that they couldn't do anything about the complaint. They refused to file a report.

As its name implies, Temple was founded as a religious institution. "It saddens me that Temple University has been constantly trying to forget its past," Marcavage notes. "The University's attitude toward Christians is poor. They even attempted to tear down their own temple." Despite his troubles, Marcavage continues to attend Temple. He is scheduled to graduate this spring.

"What had gotten Michael a ticket to the psychiatric ward was his religious beliefs and opposition to a play," proposed attorney Michael Fahling. "How utterly chilling it is that something like this could happen at a major university by top-level officials."

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, nor prohibiting the free exercise thereof.  And Pennsylvania was founded to protect crazy dissenters like Quakers, so the state constitution will have something to say. But the experts always know best. They have the credentials. And the police power.

Temple was a great University at one time. Mourn.

Of course it's a scientific truth that all Christians are irrational and that's close to nuts to begin with.

"Tense" and "sad": if some goons had hauled me away to the psycho ward I would probably have been a lot worse than tense and sad. Is one permitted self defense when being kidnapped?

Turn the other cheek. Obey the powers that be.

Perhaps these University goons are fortunate that they chose a Christian and not a Sikh or Moslem as their victim.

====

Subject: Cato on Martha

http://www.cato.org/research/articles/reynolds-040309.html 

Martha's Mistrial: The Insider Trading Accusation Came from a Cowardly Press Leak from a Congressional Committee

Regards,

Steve Erbach Neenah, WI

P.S., I'm reading "The Mote in God's Eye" to my wife, 14-year-old son, and 6-year-old daughter. My wife, Janet, has done a fair amount of crocheting lately. While I've been reading "Mote" she crocheted a Siberian tiger that has been named Admiral Kutuzov as a tribute to your novel.

Fixed her wagon. Pretending she was a citizen. Of course they never indicted her for insider trading because she wasn't an insider.

============

Subject: Global Warming or?

Dr. Pournelle,

Here are a pair of articles from the Space.com website that appear very interesting. The first raises the question of how heating may have caused the breakup of West Antarctic ice sheets:

Antarctic Ice Shelf Retreats Happened Before http://www.terradaily.com/news/antarctic-05c.html 

"'We know that rising air temperatures can break up ice shelves but there has been a suspicion for some time that the role of the ocean may have been underestimated. This is some of the first evidence that a shift in ocean currents can actually destroy ice shelves. In this case it's possible that a preceding warm period may have primed the ice shelf to disintegrate when the ocean currents shifted."

Water, water, water everywhere... where is this in the climate models? Ocean currents? Who would have thunk?

Secondly, another article of even more far reaching scope:

Scientists Discover Why The North Pole Is Frozen http://www.terradaily.com/news/arctic-05d.html 

"A sudden fall in average world temperatures 2.7 million years ago caused the Arctic Ocean to freeze and Europe and North America to become covered in ice. The reason seems obvious: the cold temperatures caused ice to build up."

and:

"According to the research, the most important change during the period was a 7C (13F) increase in the difference between summer and winter temperatures within just a few centuries.

The summers became warmer and the winters cooler, causing more water to evaporate from the sea into the atmosphere during the summer. The air became more humid and snowfall increased. When Winter set in, the sharp decrease in temperatures enabled ice to build up.

But what brought about this difference in temperatures? The researchers are the first to find evidence showing that this was caused by the stratification of ocean water, due to an increase in freshwater. This means that water mixed less than previously, forming layers of different densities in different strata and at different depths.

When spring came, the layers closest to the surface began to heat up. Since the water did not mix, the temperature of those layers continued to rise, and increasing amounts of water evaporated. During the summer months, this effect intensified, as higher temperatures increase stratification; in winter, however, the water began mixing again, and temperatures dropped more than in previous years."

Short time scales again. The significance of oceans again ... water in the air... where in the climate models is this? How do they figure water evaporation from something as large as the oceans? And how to factor in differing salinities and currents?

Food for thought, not irrational "fix the CO2" knee-jerking. On the other hand, I am also hopeful the "fix the CO2 Knee-jerking" is causing the environmentalists to reconsider their position on nuclear power.

-- Oliver Richter

 

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Wednesday, March 9, 2005

Subject:  Michael Marcavage

You may wish to research Mr Marcavage a bit more; for example, see:

http://citypaper.net/articles/2005-02-03/cover2.shtml 

Marcavage never uses slurs to describe homosexuals; rather, he turns the word homosexual itself into a slur, using it as a sort of branding. He is a deliberate speaker, careful as any politician. But if he is diplomatic with his words, he uses them to advance a militant agenda.

"According to the Scriptures, it's the government's job to enforce God's law and to uphold his law, and the Bible talks about how, I don't want to really get into this it'll make me sound like I'm crazy but it does talk about how [homosexuals] are to be put to death. The wages of sin is death. But I want to make [it] clear that I'm not advocating the [independent] killing of homosexuals. I'm saying that the government's duty is to uphold God's law. I know that's harsh, but we have all broken the law, God's law, and we need to be held accountable."

DP

I fear my response to this is "so what?" That's not a crime, nor is it insanity. I never suspected for a moment that I wanted him as a house guest. I am fairly certain the Dean of Students didn't like this chap, and I suspect if I had to have dinner with either of them I would prefer the Dean to the student. That doesn't give the University officials the right to physically restrain someone, hold him until the campus police arrive, and take him in chains to the psycho ward.  You can hear people saying that sort of thing on many street corners. I doubt he will get his version of Christian Sharia adopted by any legislature in the US from a local city council up to and including the Congress. It's not a crime to advocate such laws.

His pre-Enlightenment views do seem bizarre today, and his chances of persuading many (including me)  to accept them are nil, but this doesn't warrant sending him to the madhouse.

Of course if we decide that people can be hauled off to the booby hatch for thoughtcrime, we will have no shortage of people to be hauled. Either you have rule of law or you do not.

Greetings, Dr. Pournelle,

You said:

> It's only immigration that keeps us from having a dwindling populace. Why?
> Are our people unhappy?

Actually, it's because American and Canadians are better off and better educated (Canada has the same problem). Studies of populations around the world have consistently shown that as women are better-educated, the number of children they have falls off. Countries with good, universal education of women have much lower birthrates than countries where women aren't educated.

Charles

Actually I said all that and more in A STEP FARTHER OUT some years ago; but it still doesn't explain why the West is declining so rapidly. THE LONELY CROWD predicted all this, of course.

==============

Subject: Method of clearing Van Allen belts? buffy willow

Exciting discovery: RF generated by atmospheric lightning is what clears out the mid-altitude hole in the radiation belts around the Earth, the several-thousand-miles-up gap between the inner and outer "doughnuts" of intense charged particle radiation.

Implicit in the article is that such holes in Earth's radiation belts could also be created artificially at selected altitudes.

Manned geosynch stations, anyone? Very SFnal. Or just clear out the whole thing as a hazard to navigation...

http://www.nasa.gov/home/hqnews/2005/mar/HQ_05070_radiation_belt.html

Henry Vanderbilt

I would think hard before doing that. We may need them. Project Argus showed that you can do a lot of things you wish you hadn't...

===========

Subject: [MEDIA ALERT] Jerry, VB developers outraged

Jerry ... I've read and enjoyed your column since the early Byte days. I remember you were a users and supporter of Basic over the years. In fact, I recall your series of articles on your experiences migrating one of your wife's apps from one version of Basic to another. With that in mind, I thought you would be interested in the following media alert. Best ...

*** MEDIA ALERT ***

Developers and IT organizations with heavy investments in VB6 code are hopping mad over Microsoft's decision to end support for VB6 at the end of this month.

Microsoft is trying to force developers to migrate to .NET, which so far has not attracted many Visual Basic developers. In fact, most VB developers are moving to C# and Java!

Literally trillions of lines of program code have been developed in VB6 and earlier versions. All of that code and the knowledge it embodies is headed for the dumpster thanks to Microsoft's decision.

http://msdn.microsoft.com/vbasic/support/vb6.aspx 

Some of the industry's most influential developers have started a petition to encourage Microsoft to keep VB6 alive. An excellent blog post on this movement and a link to the petition are here:

http://tinyurl.com/4vqb3 

A detailed FAQ on the subject is here:

http://classicvb.org/petition/faq.asp 

Please consider covering this matter, which is very important to IT shops and literally millions of developers.

Thanks!

Albert Presnoe TechFlack PR

It is important. It's also astonishing. Microsoft BASIC changed the computer world, and VB was another step in that revolution. Abandoning it seems a very bad idea to me.

That was my first reaction, but on reflection I had it confused with earlier compiled BASICS; anyway, see below.

Subject: Wind Farms

Land use by wind parks is actually rather minimal, the parks in CA just happen to be in places where the land was unused prior to plant construction. There is no reason you can't stick the towers in the middle of a grainfield and continue producing crops. You lose about 1% of cropland with the currently standard (50% of market) 1.5MW turbines, as the turbine size continues to increase (a 5MW turbine is now operational) this percentage will go down.

There are huge (factor of 2) economies of scale in constructing windparks rather than putting up individual wind turbines in distributed locations. Also, unlike Texas or the Dakotas, CA does not have abundant and widely distributed wind resources, the geographic pockets where existing wind turbines are placed are virtually the only economic wind resource areas in the state.

The windparks in Mojave/Tehachapi and in Palm Springs are not representative of current technology, they are an artifact of the successful improvement of wind turbine economics by a factor of 8 over the past 30 years.

Aesthetics ... I actually like dams, powerplants, and windparks, but ... You could think of windparks as a visual blight which improves other vistas thru reducing smog. Of course, at current electricity market penetration (~0.7% in U.S., ~5% in CA) this isn't a big factor (especially if you look at the total energy market penetration).

Birdkill: Wind turbines kill far, far fewer birds than either automobile or building collisions. This would still be true even if we saturated the grid with wind power (200,000MW, 20%).

Cost: Wind competes attractively with gas on this measure if the cost of capital is the same. It'll be a no-brainer in a few more years as turbines get bigger and domestic gas gets scarcer. Of course, hydro, nukes, and coal are all cheaper today...however, coal prices are dominated by rail transportation costs and this price is going to go up because the capacity is needed for higher value goods and new capacity will be far more expensive than the current rates reflect.

Stability, reliability, and transmission costs are the real roadblocks to wind power.

Ben Pedersen

Thank you for a rational assessment.

 

 

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Thursday, March 10, 2005

Subject: stents

Not quite clear what your correspondent, Jim, has in mind when he writes and links the following:

Another disaster for all Western pension schemes, perhaps on the order of the long-term effect of the campaign against tobacco...

Jim

http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story2&u=/ap/20050307/ap_on_he_me/heart_stents   

If he is suggesting that this is a bad thing, he's very, very misguided. These devices are changing the face of treatment for heart disease. They are expensive, you bet. The cost pales when compared with the cost of even a single MI, both in dollars and cents and in human suffering. I'd suggest that the pace of change in Medicine is equal to, or perhaps exceeds, the pace of change in the computer industry.

If he is suggesting that the way we pay for things needs to change, he's correct. I've some thoughts about how we should "fix" the problem. I'd suggest that Universal Health Care isn't affordable, isn't likely to come, and would likely impose a tax burden on us that we are very unlikely to assume. We can debate whether or not "Canadian" health care is workable (or Swedish, or British, etc), but in a practical sense most physicians close to the Canadian border see huge volumes of self-pay or private insurance carrying Canadians...suggesting that the system only works for the healthy patients and poorly for the older, sicker patient.

I'd suggest that another approach is to change the tax structure in the US. One might make health care insurance tax deductable the way morgages are tax deductable. This doesn't solve everyones problems, but sure expands the affordability of health care insurance. (I'd also suggest that we put a cap on the profits made on health care insurance to something like 5%/year. I'm told the Aerospace Industry has had to do this for years.)

Medicare needs revamping, but that is another topic.

Mark

He means that this will make people live longer, and assuming the retirement age doesn't change, longer life is a disaster for pension plans. When Social Security came into effect, the Biblical 3 score and 10 was a bit above the actual average lifespan; Social Security didn't have to pay many old people for very long. People were expected to have the good grace to die at age 70 or thereabouts. After all, we're designed to get out of the way about the time our grandchildren reach childbearing age, and actually to start dieing off earlier unless we can help offspring survive.

The nightmare of all annuity plans is longevity.

======

Subject: polar ozone reduction "duh"

Charged particles trapped by the Earth's magnetosphere eventually hit the atmosphere near the poles, hence aurorae. Now it turns out they tend to reduce stratospheric ozone levels in the process, by forming nitrogen oxides that catalyze ozone back to O2. Temporarily reduce, of course, as ozone is formed anew from O2 by solar UV every day.

So, polar reduced-ozone "holes" turn out to be linked to maxima in cyclic solar storm activity, something that's been going on a lot longer than we've been using spray cans and cooling cars. Yet somehow we've survived... Duh!

http://www.newscientist.com/channel/space/mg18524906.300 

Henry Vanderbilt

As some of us have been saying for a long time. Recall the Year of the Quiet Sun? It was pretty obvious back then. The "ozone hole" has been around a long time; it was discovered during the International Geophysical Year activities, but there are plenty of indications that this was discovery because we looked, not because it hadn't been there.

Subject: NASA business as usual

And on a less humorous note, the T-Space consortium (we both know a lot of the participants) doesn't expect to get a contract from NASA to build new Lunar exploration vehicles. Not because they couldn't build a serviceable spacecraft, but because they couldn't possibly keep up with the paperwork requirements. The two prototype contracts will most likely go to the two established Big Aerospace consortiums, who have decades of practice handling all the paperwork to NASA spec. As for the chances of their building practical affordable spacecraft, alas, NASA has gotten into the habit of paying for process, not results, and modern Big Aerospace is very good at delivering exactly what the customer is actually paying for...

http://www.newscientist.com/channel/space/mg18524903.900 

Henry Vanderbilt

=====================

Subject: - It is safe to do business in Bangalore and the US role in supporting Apartheid in India

Jerry;

It looks as if the internal economic-civil war that has been brewing in India for decades may be about to boil over:

http://sify.com/news/othernews/fullstory.php?id=13687293

My somewhat naive and not completely detached analysis of the situation is as follows:

Off-shored and out-sourced jobs and the capital investment funds they represent are funding a level of racism and apartheid in India that would make the old Boers in South Africa proud.

Years ago, when India 'officially' outlawed the caste system, it was nothing more than a simple reclassification of the underclass. The segments of the citizenry that were underclass at one time are now officially referred to as 'protected classes'. Sound familiar??

Anyway, the legions of 'concerned social activists' have not yet taken on Apartheid in India as a cause celebre. Is it perhaps that it's only wog-on-wog racism and not white-on-wog?

If that's the perception, it should be noted that India was invaded by lighter-skinned tribes from Europe ca. 1500 BC who inter-married with the local tribes and then established the systems of racism and Apartheid that we see today.

The 'ruling class' of lighter-skinned Brahmins represent less than 5% of the Indian population yet control over 90% of the economy and almost all of the universities and and colleges. Additionally, the Indian government is going to great length to supress international scrutiny of their class system and the status of the 'protected classes'.

The raw data and analysis are freely available in the internet, but here is a google link to get you started:

http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&q=india+apartheid+2004 

The '2004' search term is to help ensure that current materials are brought forward. If one wants to look at a particular UN anti-racism conference from 2001, the materials are also easy to find.

Were I (a very long story) still in a position to influence US corporate investment in India, I would certainly be bringing this information to the attention of not only the C level executives, but the investor relations staffs as well. Memories are short of the times when mutual funds and retirement fund managers (CalPers) divested themselves of stocks that were involved in South Africa. It's only a matter of time before this issue created the ripples in the US investment community that it deserves.

Thanks for everything over the years, eagerly awaiting more Falkenberg as well as some follow-up stores from Avalon.

Chuck Kuhlman

Well investing is one thing but be careful. We may be called on to right these wrongs, applying our so very successful affirmative action policies..

Subject: Thoughts on VB6 -

Afternoon Jerry,

Just a couple of thoughts on Microsoft's long-publicized decision to end support for VB6. It was originally announced in 2001 as part of a strategic shift away from COM and other Windows 9x technologies. At the time I was an Enterprise Architect for a Fortune 100 company and involved in formulating the response to the decision. Since then I've been in the same role at two other similar companies. In each case, we planned for the retirement and actively migrated both code and people away from the technology. The truth is that we'd been targeting VB6 for removal from the environment for some time. Those applications tend to be collections of poorly architected, unmaintainable, spaghetti code that simply wouldn't scale. There are exceptions, but they're just that - exceptions.

In all three cases, we elected not to migrate to VB.Net, but rather to C# (Microsoft's stated language of the future), which gave us the added benefit of sharing enough features with Java that we could interchange developers between the two languages. I don't want to reopen the language religious debate - VB.Net has a large following, maintains the lineage back to the line-number days, and is much more robust than VB6 - it's a viable option. Yes, there is a migration cost, just as there was a cost to move from Fortran to Pascal or C, 16-bit to 32-bit APIs, from DOS to Windows, or Oracle 7 to Oracle 8. That's part of the normal evolution of technology.

Regardless, for someone to claim that this was a surprise, or that VB6 as a technology has a legitimate long term future, simply doesn't wash. It's a legacy technology. If folks don't want to continuously renew their skills (on their own time and own nickel), they're in the wrong business, and their jobs will be the first ones sent offshore to someone who is willing to keep up. If a company doesn't want to continuously replace their technology and systems, they're denying reality - change is the only constant. Vendors can either support the past or build the future - but not both, and there's no profit in supporting the past forever. Microsoft has struck a reasonable stance.

Best Regards,

Doug

I expect you are right. I haven't done much programming, and nothing for enterprise or production, in some time. Of course I am on record as wishing the whole computer revolution had moved toward strongly typed range checking languages of the Wirth design philosophy; that way there would not have been any buffer overflow errors and a lot of other security problems.

Subject: MS abandons VB!!!

Dear Dr Pournelle,

You wrote ==>

"It is important. It's also astonishing. Microsoft BASIC changed the computer world, and VB was another step in that revolution. Abandoning it seems a very bad idea to me."

Actually, as a non-MS language developer, this is FANTASTIC news. VB has been a blight on the world of professional developers. VB put the capability to develop large, ad hoc programs, in the hands of people without the slightest clue about structured and maintainable code. I know scads of programmers that have been hired to come in and update or make work large, unwieldy, unmaintainable hunks of VB that were thrown together by some typist cum programmer that could draw some screens in MS Studio. Management can only understand what they see so if you can create a screen with some buttons and a combo boxes you must know what you're doing. Right? Beyond that, anyone should be able to see that a language developed by a company to be sold as a product has to be changed on a regular basis to maintain a revenue stream. Great for the selling company, really BAD for developers. New languages are great, rehashes of the same language are bad (can you say J++, or need I say .NET).

The same goes for Excel. If I had a nickel for every time I've had an engineer bring me an Excel spreadsheet and ask me to make it into a real program (integrated with our enterprise system) I could retire right now. The answer is always, give me a spec and I'll can write a program, Excel is not a spec, it's a mass of disparate equations loosely tied together in a very unordered and unmaintainable way. The electronic equivalent of equations on a cocktail napkin but without the relaxing environment.

James Kimble Loveland Ohio

Clearly not everyone thinks VB was a good thing...

 

 

h

Subject: Immigration and birthrate?

Dear Dr. Pournelle,

To those who claim that immigration is necessary to make up for below replacement birthrates, I would question their tacit, unspoken assumption that domestic birthrate is independent of immigration levels. To wit, the higher costs of living (particularly housing) and decreased medical, educational, and other services we've seen in high immigration states may very well be depressing the American birthrate as people postpone or decide against children due to the costs. In support of that, there's the flow of young people from congested states to less congested ones

( http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&cid=676&e=
26&u=/usatoday/20050310/ts_usatoday/youthquakes
shakeupgrayhairedstates  ).

Take care, Richard Sol Los Angeles, CA

============

Subject: NASA business as usual

And on a less humorous note, the T-Space consortium (we both know a lot of the participants) doesn't expect to get a contract from NASA to build new Lunar exploration vehicles. Not because they couldn't build a serviceable spacecraft, but because they couldn't possibly keep up with the paperwork requirements. The two prototype contracts will most likely go to the two established Big Aerospace consortiums, who have decades of practice handling all the paperwork to NASA spec. As for the chances of their building practical affordable spacecraft, alas, NASA has gotten into the habit of paying for process, not results, and modern Big Aerospace is very good at delivering exactly what the customer is actually paying for...

http://www.newscientist.com/channel/space/mg18524903.900 

Henry Vanderbilt

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

So I keep asking, why do these people not go to a different county to do this? Would Japan like to get into the space race? At a substabtial discount? Would Saudi Arabia like to plant a Muslim flag on the moon?

Brice Yokum

You would be astonished at the paper work required to export ANYTHING having to do with rockets and rocketry. No, they can't work for an overseas company, and if they did, they would be finished here.

Subject: Low birth rates & SocSec reform: A modest proposal

Here's a thought: Birth rates in advanced western nations are almost unanimously dropping well below replacement. The general correlation with increasing wealth is well-known.

It occurs to me that there may be a more specific correlation, and were I a grad student in an appropriate discipline I might go to town on this: Could dropping birth rates possibly have something to do with state-funded pension plans that totally disconnect number of productive offspring from degree of old-age support?

Pre SocSec, number of children was a BIG factor in one's chances of keeping a roof overhead and food on the table once too old to work. Now, given how expensive kids are to raise, it may well be a negative factor - I expect the cold numbers would show you're better off putting money into a 401K than spending it on kids., in pure economic terms.

If indeed there is a demonstrable correlation, then the solution is obvious: One's state pension should, to a considerable degree, depend on how many taxpayers one raises. Zero taxpaying children, basic subsistance pension. Then allow for up to, say, doubling or tripling that, depending on your number of offspring who manage to stay out of jail and off the dole...

As I said, a modest proposal. But were I God-King of, say, France, I'd give it *serious* consideration.

Henry Vanderbilt

 

 

g

 

 

 

 

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Friday,  March 11, 2005

Jerry, could you do me a favor and post this for your readers? The subject of what's not likely to get us all into space having just come up (NASA business-as-usual with established Big Aerospace) it occurs to me to mention that there is a budding alternative (new startups going to space for profit outside the established government-aerospace complex - mammals scurrying about under the dinosaurs' feet, if you will) and that we're once again running our annual conference on this alternative seven weeks from now.

The basic info:

Space Access '05, April 28th-30th, the technology politics and business of radically cheaper access to space, at the Four Points By Sheraton Hotel at Metrocenter, Phoenix Arizona, $79 "space access" room rate, 602 997-5900 for room reservations, conference membership $100 in advance, $120 at the door, http://www.space-access.org  for details.

thanks!

Henry Vanderbilt Executive Director Space Access Society

I'll probably be there. I can drive and not have to fight the TSA.

Crumbling infra-structure

Jerry:

Where in hell are we going to get 1.6 trillion dollars? And in five years! http://www.asce.org/  <http://www.asce.org/>

The start of the long slide. Welcome to the third world: http://www.forbes.com/home/technology/2005/03/09/cx_0309wef.html  <http://www.forbes.com/home/technology/2005/03/09/cx_0309wef.html

Chris C

All those who believe in telekinesis, raise my hand. Stephen Wright

1. Maybe you can find out at the Space Access Conference

2. I have no idea. I thought our masters in Washington had a plan: get oil pumping in Iraq and drive the world oil price to $20/bbl and below. Low cost energy is the key to development and has been for some time. Instead, they have driven the price of oil to $50 and above, and thrown into the Two Rivers the money we might have used to develop alternate sources.

I still say: 100 1,000 MW nuclear power plants will cost under $200 billion (I will continue to defend $100 billion in quantity 100, but Mr. Mangles has convinced me that my advisors may be wrong on the lower estimate); with another $100 billion I could get space solar power satellites going as an industrial technology. And finally another $100 billion builds fuel cell technology and the means to make synthetic fuels out of electric power. America could be nearly energy independent and the resulting boom would take care of the infrastructure problem.

But we are in a war and continue our consumer economy as if we were not in a war. We can't keep that up.

Private: Ok, here's what I was trying to say before.
 
From: Stephen M. St. Onge                                      Subject: Michael McCarvage
http://www.fatsteve.blogspot.com/                            http://www.stevesdumm.blogspot.com/
 
Dear Jerry:
 
        So, I see that "DP" thinks Mr. McCarvage's right of free speech need not be defended, because McC. is an anti-gay bigot. (
http://www.jerrypournelle.com/mail/mail352.html#Wednesday)  Well, that's good to know.  Ever since the 1950s, there's been an argument that flat out treason may be preached on college campuses, in the name "academic freedom."  I always wondered if there was anything so heinous it couldn't be said.  At last, we begin to see the line.
 
        Jew hatred and America hatred, including urging terrorist murder: academically acceptable, even admirable.  Gay hatred:  thought crime.  Nice to have that cleared up.
 
Learning all the time,
 
Stephen
 
DELENDAM ESSE SAUDI ARABIA!


 

I wouldn't say Marcarvage hates gays. He believes he is commanded to condemn them. There's a difference. He is apparently a pre-Enlightenment Fundamentalist, which is a dying breed in these United States. There were far more of them around when I was a lad. Noy my will, but Thine...  But, prior to the Reformation, one's interpretation of the commands of God was subject to considerable tempering by the Church and authority in general. That didn't always result in enlightened practices either, but there would tend to be a consensus, and you were expected to be part of it. Luther ended that with the Priesthood Of All Believers. Every man his own prophet. Came the Enlightenment and neither authority nor the exact words of the Bible became less important over time.

 

 

 

 

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Saturday, March 12, 2005

Subject: Five days to die.

http://www.nytimes.com/2005/03/12/politics/12
detain.html?ei=5088&en=ae93f79c8842cb91&ex
=1268283600&pagewanted=print&position=

- Roland Dobbins

Armies break things and kill people. It is their purpose. One can urge restraint and try to enforce the laws of war, but these things happen. It is one cost of war. The combat warriors want information by any means necessary. Some will make clear their contempt for the non-combat reservists, MP's being a favorite target (recall the movie Up Front). The MP's want to contribute and to earn esteem of  the warriors and show they are not just cops concerned with uniform code violations. That's one scenario. There will be others.

Throughout this war one thing has puzzled me, where were the officers when all this stuff was going on? Certainly one thing a young officer learns is that there are things you don't want to know, but the another is that non-coms will take advantage of that if allowed. Balancing what you know officially, what you know but will never admit knowing, and what you don't want to know is a very difficult task. Junior officers never have it easy, but then the senior ones don't either. The idea is to manage your warriors so that the things they break and the people they kill are the enemies of the Republic, not your own civilians, or each other. That's easier in peace time than in war time. In peace time they aren't supposed to be breaking anything or killing anyone. In war time it works differently.

In war time you need to keep your soldiers being soldiers. Disciplined troops don't make good butchers, and if you need savagery and butchery done you are best off bringing in troops who are not quite warriors, not turning your military machine loose: that lesson was learned in a thousand sieges over the years. Keeping a warrior army in good stead is very difficult.

War is Hell. Attempts to lower the brutality levels seldom work well. Discipline breaks down. If you do not want incidents like this  keep your soldiers home. That can't always happen. The Afghan War was necessary; but note that it was largely a matter of helping allies and clients, not one of occupation. Occupations where there is a substantial part of the population that doesn't want you is never easy. We learned that in the conquest of the Eastern United States,  again as we moved West, again in the Philippines, but we do not seem to have absorbed the lesson well. The conquest of the United States was accomplished by displacing the native population while defeating other would-be conquerors. We never did pacify the Philippines, and sometimes it seems to be touch and go as to whether we will keep all of our conquests even on this continent: But of course that is a matter of loss of will, not of ability.

AND see below.

Subject: The Lords of Parliament have backbones after all!

This is the tail end of a story that has been going for a few days now in the United Kingdom.

http://www.sky.com/skynews/article/0,,30100-13310250,00.html

Tony Blair requested, and the House of Commons passed, a bill giving sweeping new "anti-terror" powers to the government. Among them was the power to detain alleged terror suspects on the Home Secretary's whim, without any sort of review by anyone.

The (unelected) House of Lords traditionally rubber-stamps everything that the (elected) House of Commons passes. I don't know for certain, but I am of the impression that it has been this way for over a century. This time, they said "No, not this bill, not in its current form", and the fight was on.

I'm impressed. There may yet be an England, after all. At the very least, there are still a few Lords in Parliament who take their titles seriously.

The Lords Spiritual and Temporal have lost their teeth and most of them their nerve, but perhaps you are right. Once in a while they surface as the protectors of Magna Charta.

Subject: Life is sure interesting in the UK

Race relations: <http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2-1514714,00.html> . Perhaps, but I remember being bussed to help keep an elementary school integrated. It was the neighborhood school for many faculty at UCR, but it also had a lot of black kids, who benefited from the political concern.

The anti-terrorism bill continues through Parliament: <http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/4324575.stm> .

The European perspective on 'rendition': <http://edition.cnn.com/2005/US/03/06/cia.interrogation/index.html> .

Perhaps there will be one good thing from the election: <http://www.theregister.co.uk/2005/03/07/election_to_kill_id_bill/>

Foot firmly in mouth: <http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A12507-2005Mar6.html>  and <http://www.guardian.co.uk/Iraq/Story/0,2763,1432040,00.html

Dumb and dumber: <http://www.guardian.co.uk/terrorism/story/0,12780,1432057,00.html

The real issue: <http://www.guardian.co.uk/terrorism/story/0,12780,1431561,00.html

-- Harry Erwin, PhD "Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety." (Benjamin Franklin, 1755)

Thanks. For reader information, Dr. Ewwin's summary comes on Mondays, but due to the pressure of getting the column out I didn't notice until reminded. Apologies.

Subject: Road Trip License Tag Game

A most interesting site if you've ever played any of the license tag games on road trips or around town:

http://www.worldlicenseplates.com/ 

Was a surprisingly difficult site to find for some reason.

Charles

=====

Subject: About doctors insisting on things ...

I have had pretty severe asthma my entire life. I was given the wrong medication for years by several doctors (none of whom was interested in reviewing what the previous one had suggested) and I was (in retrospect) allergic to some of it, and I put up with being told "I had to take" a variety of things until it occurred to me one day in the doctors office, wheezing and looking at my blue-ish nail beds, that I was a 6'2" 280 pound powerlifter and the doctor was about 5'8" and scrawny. It really hit me then like a Joycian epiphany -- it had just never occurred to me to tell them "no" and by God I could! I did, the doctor argued with me (and stood on his tiptoes when doing so), I stood, grabbed his shoulder (gently) and lifted him partially off the ground. He had an amazing change of attitude, perscribed an inhaler that worked better than anything that I had ever used (and unless you have ever been unable to breathe you have no idea how amazing it is to do that without a problem), and avoided me from then on out. Obviously, I wound up finding another doctor. I was 19 and had been taking what turned out to be the wrong medications for about 12 years, which did some damage that I still live with. I know that there are good doctors out there -- I have a few right now. But the bad ones lead an unexamined life and I tend to suspect that they do not get any new information other than by accident and required continuing education. I know that this is true in any field, but if one of my folks make any of my supercomputers squawk and keel over, no one dies. A number of people would get very upset, but they would still be among the living. It's a little more serious when people die.

I should note that I was not in a teaching hospital or a clinic and that all of the folks that my parents sent me to were very expensive specialists.

I have a friend with bad kidney stones who was perscribed a patch for pain control of occasional severe pain. The product was "Duragesic" and the active ingredient was fentanyl (!!!). It is the sort of thing that you give people dying of cancer, not someone with occasional severe pain from regularly occurring kidney stones. She then went through a month of hell, first due to the side effects (which were blamed on her mood swings from going through a divorce but which were actually textbook contraindications) and then the withdrawl. I should mention that this fellow told her that it was non-addictive. She is filing a complaint. He is expensive and allegedly one of the best pain management people in Houston.

You always have to pay attention when dealing with someone who can kill you by accident. Demandinging that they pay attention (at a minimum) also is not at all impolite.

btc

================

In another conference we had this exchange:

There are so many causes for people to take up arms in Iraq its hard to know where to begin. One can start by rattling off a long shopping list of reasons to be cheerless: 

 - individual criminality (Ali Babbas)

 - familial vendettas (Husseins V Alis)

 - tribal turf wars (Tikritis V ???)

 - provincial sectarianism (Shiites V Suunis)

 - national totatlitarianism (Baathists V the Rest)

 - regional jihadism (Wahhabis V the Rest)

 - global do-goodism (USA neo-cons V everyone)

 And then there are just people who are confused and maddened by all the chaos and violence, like the fellow hereunder. There are probably a few of them about, suffereing post-traumatic stress disorder and looking for some scores to settle. No doubt the odd warlord or witchdoctor will emerge to take that kind on-board when the day comes to divvy up several trillion dollars of oil bounty.   What a reason-forsaken mess.

JS

To which I replied:

SO: why was not all this foreseen? But it WAS foreseen. Many of us said this would be the result. As Cochran puts it, most of us put more due diligence into purchase decisions for the family car than the United States of America put into examining the consequences of an unprovoked preventive war against a deterred dictator; into unseating a secular dictatorship in a volatile area of religious conflicts; into destabilizing an area long known to be difficult to stabilize.

I say it was Jacobinism pure and simple. The same arrogance that has infected the Left since its inception. It probably coupled tightly with some right wing desires for empire (there are a few rightist imperials although they tend to be thin on the ground among the educated right) and with a lot of pure greed by some medium wealthy who saw US conquest of oil countries as a splendid opportunity. But where were the thinkers who have the best interests of the nation at heart? Where were their voices?

Incidentally the awkwardness of the above paragraph is the reason I write my dissertation on the impossibility of the Left-Right spectrum for serious use in political analysis. I showed that two variables would map all parties into unique positions, and that would be enough although there are probably more than two active. My two were Attitude Toward the State (hate it == necessary evil == good thing == Powers that be

And rationalism in the Oakeshott sense: from blind trust in the power of human reason down to utter feeling irrationalism. (Nazi and Kropotkin anarchists are down there...) or Jacobin Reason Enthroned. The center of my spectrum at the time I wrote it was Dwight David Eisenhower...

In any event: how did we get into this mess? And is all this a surprise to those who took us into Mesopotamia, or did they know and hide their understandings lest we back away from our clear duty to spread Enlightened Liberal Democracy across the world carried on the bows of our Abrams tanks?

For far less than the cost of this war we could have made ourselves far more secure without provoking new enemies. Some of us pointed that out at the time. Surely there must have been some in Washington not bedazzled by the siren pitch of Chalabi?

 

NOTE: I will be the first to be overjoyed if somehow we get out of this not greatly worse off than when we went in. Of course the best we can hope for leaves us having spent 300 billion dollars or so and a debt that will last for generations. I can hope that when we are asked to leave by the elected government, there will be a decent delay -- pray God a permanent delay -- between our departure and the blood baths; that Algeria will not be the model. We can hope. There is an Iraqi middle class. Sunni and Shiite have lived together in peace if not harmony. But is it realistic to suppose there will not be a bloody conflict over who shall control billions in oil revenue?

We can hope. But to pretend astonishment over horrors is naive and those who do should disqualify themselves from political leadership, the first requirement of which is an understanding of the real world. The real world, Phil Dick observed, is that which doesn't go away when you cease to believe in it.

 

f

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Sunday, March 13, 2005

Subject: Quote of the Day

If builders built buildings the way programmers wrote programs, then the first woodpecker that came along would destroy civilization. Gerald Weinberg

Scott Ross

=============

Subject: VNRs, lazy 'reportrers', and the path of least resistance.

http://www.nytimes.com/2005/03/13/politics/13covert.html?ei=5088&en=2e1b834f0ba8a53c&ex=1268456400&pagewanted=print&position=

- Roland Dobbins

It began under Clinton, and continues with embellishments. Will formal panegyrics be next?

==========================

Subject: "Find out any thing known to Western Civilization"

In the "finding anything on the Internet" bin, a series of links led me to Daniel Patrick Moynihan's famous essay, "Defining Deviancy Down." Worth considering, especially in our discussion of schools.

http://www2.sunysuffolk.edu/formans/DefiningDeviancy.htm 

Just one DPM gem for now:

"The correlation between the percentage of eighth graders living in two-parent families and average mathematics proficiency is a solid .74. North Dakota, highest on the math test, is second highest on the family compositions scale - that is, it is second in the percentage of kids coming from two-parent homes. The District of Columbia, lowest on the family scale, is second lowest in the test score."

Hmm.

Steve Setzer

Indeed. Notice that this has been known, to both Democrats (Moynihan, for example) and Republicans for a long time. But then it has been 22 years since Glenn T. Seaborg and Mrs. Russell Kirk wrote the Presidential Commission report on education, A Nation At Risk,  with the startling but true statement that "If a foreign power had imposed this system of education on the United States we would right consider it an act of war." Since then the school have not improved. Now we have No Child Left Behind.

 

 

 

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IF YOU SEND MAIL it may be published; if you want it private SAY SO AT THE TOP of the mail. I try to respect confidences, but there is only me, and this is Chaos Manor. If you want a mail address other than the one from which you sent the mail to appear, PUT THAT AT THE END OF THE LETTER as a signature. In general, put the name you want at the end of the letter: if you put no address there none will be posted, but I do want some kind of name, or explicitly to say (name withheld).

Note that if you don't put a name in the bottom of the letter I have to get one from the header. This takes time I don't have, and may end up with a name and address you didn't want on the letter. Do us both a favor: sign your letters to me with the name and address (or no address) as you want them posted. Also, repeat the subject as the first line of the mail. That also saves me time.

I try to answer mail, but mostly I can't get to all of it. I read it all, although not always the instant it comes in. I do have books to write too...  I am reminded of H. P. Lovecraft who slowly starved to death while answering fan mail. 

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Entire Site Copyright, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005 by Jerry E. Pournelle. All rights reserved.

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