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Mail 357 April 11 - 17, 2005






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Monday  April 11, 2005

Subject: your latest column

Dear Jerry,

I just read your latest recommendation of Jane Jacobs and I couldn't agree more.

I have been reading your columns since the good old days of Byte magazine, which I miss very much, and I wanted to tell you how much I enjoy your writing. I especially admire your open mind and breadth of interest.

Even if you get lots of mails, I decided you should hear it again from an old reader from Germany.


Dirk von Below



Classification: UNCLASSIFIED

Dr. Pournelle,

Following the discussion about bloggers with great interest, since I am one.

I had an "Instalanch" once, and got several thousand visitors in a couple of days. Not quite your traffic! Your recent mention of my blog brought over a hundred folks in the next few days.

The angst over female bloggers to me is very funny--I have been mistaken for one. My wife is a bit bemused over that. Best Lady Writers I've seen are "Sgt Mom," who writes at http://www.sgtstryker.com/  <http://www.sgtstryker.com/>  , "Feisty Christina" of http://feistyrepartee.blogspot.com/ <http://feistyrepartee.blogspot.com/>  , La Shawn Barber of http://www.lashawnbarber.com/ <http://www.lashawnbarber.com/>  (whom you can now see on MSNBC), "Middle Class Mom" of http://middleclassmom.typepad.com/  <http://middleclassmom.typepad.com/>  , Susanna of http://www.bias.blogfodder.net/  <http://www.bias.blogfodder.net/>  , "Little Miss Attila" of http://littlemissattila.mu.nu/ <http://littlemissattila.mu.nu/>  , "Miss Patriot" of http://www.misspatriot.blogspot.com/ <http://www.misspatriot.blogspot.com/>  , Rachel Lucas of http://www.blueeyedinfidel.com/ <http://www.blueeyedinfidel.com/>  , "Romeocat" of http://romeocat.typepad.com/ <http://romeocat.typepad.com/> , Michelle Malkin of http://michellemalkin.com/ <http://michellemalkin.com/>  , and "Raven" of http://andrightlyso.com/ <http://andrightlyso.com/>  . There are plenty I've missed!

Why does it seem that "Wonkette" (http://www.wonkette.com/ <http://www.wonkette.com/>  ) is always invited as the representative of female bloggers at conferences? Skanky sex and politics. I much prefer La Shawn Barber and Michelle Malkin!

Robin K.

I fear I know why I will never be an A list "blogger": I never go looking at such things. Ah well. We have a fair number of readers and I always seem to find the answers to the questions I ask. ..

Subject: Dvorak: The Camera is the Film


- Roland Dobbins

And quite an interesting article it is, too.


In the following I really don't know who is putting on whom...

Subject: Watching the Detectives.


- Roland Dobbins

It might help if I knew more about Second Life...

Subject: What is Second Life...

Mr. Pournelle:

Thanks very much for the link to my blog entry, "Watching the Detectives". I'm Second Life's official embedded journalist, for which I write a blog called New World Notes. For some background on the world and what I do in it, here's a link to notes for a talk I recently gave in Austin:


You might also be interested in this presentation I gave at New York Law School last year, documenting political conflict in Second Life:


The short summary could be, "Second Life is an early Beta of the Metaverse."

Hope that provides a little background for you and your readers!

-- James

So. Now we know.


Subject: Our allies, the Turks.


- Roland Dobbins


Subject: Public School "Educators" Circle The Wagons

As an ex-Tennessean and lifetime educator, you may find this interesting, Dr. Pournelle:

"...members of the Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association...which includes about 400 public schools statewide, repeatedly have rejected making any changes to its rules and don't support allowing home-school and private school students to participate."

http://tennessean.com/education/archives/05/03/67794851.shtml?Element_ID =67794851

Although Tennessee public schools are quite happy to receive the tax dollars paid by parents of home schooled children and private school children (as well as tax dollars from those with no children in school at all, of course) they apparently do not want those children on their athletic fields, either as individuals participating on a public school team or as members of a private school team unless said private school team is operating under an assigned handicap.

"On Monday, the TSSAA Board of Control voted by a 6-3 margin to institute a 1.8-multiplier to determine where all Division I non-public schools will be classified beginning with the 2005-06 school year.

"As a result of having to multiply their fall enrollments by that 1.8 figure, several Midstate private schools currently residing in regions or districts with Sumner County High Schools will likely be moving up in classification."


Did the public schools, in their infinite wisdom, really wish to send the message that a private school student is worth almost two public school students? That is what they seem to be saying...

My comments and not those of my employer.

Charles Brumbelow

See also View


Subject: Howard Dean's formula.


- Roland Dobbins

The Dean's Dilemma?


Subject: The Mobile Infantry is ON THE WAY! (Seen on Slashdot)

Heinlein's Mobile Infantry powered suits are ON THE WAY!


They're using a "bio-cybernic" system to control a motorized exoskeleton, using what sounds like EMG sensors on the skin and an onboard computer to process EMG data and control the motors. Supposedly, the motors respond to the nerve signals slightly faster than the actual human muscles do.

They are calling the system HAL, for "hybrid assistive limb". Their target is elderly and disability patients. Their current prototype is HAL 3. HAL 4 is in progress, and HAL 5 is on the way. (Somehow, I get the feeling that someone chose the acronym first, and then fit the words to it.)

"The HAL 4 and HAL 5 prototypes, which will also be demonstrated at Expo 2005, don't just help a person to walk. They have an upper part to assist the arms, and will help a person lift up to 40 kilograms more than they can manage unaided."

My take on this? This is a Japanese group, so mecha - giant war robots - are probably not far behind. The hard part is the control system. Once you can sense the wearer's intentions, track them in closed loop, and actually make something a human can walk in, you can scale the motors up to any size you like. They've solved the control problem. And humans, especially science fiction fans, are notorious for doing things just for the fun of it.

Some years back, I saw an interesting demo. This was at a RoboFest in Austin, thrown by The Robot Group. This guy had figured out how to interface EMG sensors to MIDI. The demo used a professional dancer. The guy was dancing, triggering drum machine notes off of various muscles arm muscles, dancing and providing his own beats for the dance. Incredibly impressive - and definitely both artistic and musical. (That last part is HARD to pull off, even by conventional tastes.)

--John R. Strohm


I WISH my mother could see me now, with a fence-post under my arm,
And a knife and a spoon in my putties that I found on a Boer farm,
Atop of a sore-backed Argentine, with a thirst that you couldn’t buy.
    I used to be in the Yorkshires once
    (Sussex, Lincolns, and Rifles once),
    Hampshires, Glosters, and Scottish once! (ad lib.)
                            But now I am M.I.

That is what we are known as—that is the name you must call
If you want officers’ servants, pickets an’ ’orseguards an’ all—
Details for buryin’-parties, company-cooks or supply—
Turn out the chronic Ikonas! Roll up the ——1 M.I.!

My ’ands are spotty with veldt-sores, my shirt is a button an’ frill,
An’ the things I’ve used my bay’nit for would make a tinker ill!
An’ I don’t know whose dam’ column I’m in, nor where we’re trekkin’ nor why.
    I’ve trekked from the Vaal to the Orange once—
    From the Vaal to the greasy Pongolo once—
    (Or else it was called the Zambesi once)—
                            For now I am M.I.

That is what we are known as-we are the push you require
For outposts all night under freezin’, an’ rearguard all day under fire.
Anything ’ot or unwholesome? Anything dusty or dry?
Borrow a bunch of Ikonas! Trot out the —— M.I.!

Our Sergeant-Major’s a subaltern, our Captain’s a Fusilier—
Our Adjutant’s “late of Somebody’s ’Orse,” an’ a Melbourne auctioneer;
But you couldn’t spot us at ’arf a mile from the crackest caval-ry.
    They used to talk about Lancers once,
    Hussars, Dragoons, an’ Lancers once,
    ’Elmets, pistols, an’ carbines once,
                            But now we are M.I.!

That is what we are known as—we are the orphans they blame
For beggin’ the loan of an ’ead-stall an’ makin’ a mount to the same.
’Can’t even look at their ’orselines but some one goes bellerin’ “Hi!
“’Ere comes a burglin’ Ikona!” Footsack you —— M.I.!

We’re trekkin’ our twenty miles a day an’ bein’ loved by the Dutch,
But we don’t hold on by the mane no more, nor lose our stirrups—much;
An’ we scout with a senior man in charge where the ’oly white flags fly.
    We used to think they were friendly once,
    Didn’t take any precautions once
    (Once, my ducky, an’ only once!)
                            But now we are M.I.!

That is what we are known as—we are the beggars that got
Three days “to learn equitation,” an’ six months o’ bloomin’ well trot!
Cow-guns, an’ cattle, an’ convoys—an’ Mister De Wet on the fly—
We are the rollin’ Ikonas! We are the —— M.I.

The new fat regiments come from home, imaginin’ vain V. C.’s
(The same as your talky-fighty men which are often Number Threes),
But our words o’ command are “Scatter” an’ “Close” an’ “Let your wounded lie.”
    We used to rescue ’em noble once,—
    Givin’ the range as we raised ’em once,
    Gettin’ ’em killed as we saved ’em once—
                            But now we are M.I.

That is what we are known as—we are the lanterns you view
After a fight round the kopjes, lookin’ for men that we knew;
Whistlin’ an’ callin’ together, ’altin’ to catch the reply:—
“’Elp me! O ’elp me, Ikonas! This way, the —— M.I.!”

I wish my mother could see me now, a-gatherin’ news on my own,
When I ride like a General up to the scrub and ride back like Tod Sloan,
Remarkable close to my ’orse’s neck to let the shots go by.
    We used to fancy it risky once
    (Called it a reconnaissance once),
    Under the charge of an orf’cer once,
                            But now we are M.I.!

That is what we are known as—that is the song you must say
When you want men to be Mausered at one and a penny a day;
We are no five-bob Colonials—we are the ’ome-made supply,
Ask for the London Ikonas! Ring up the —— M.I.!

I wish myself could talk to myself as I left ’im a year ago;
I could tell ‘im a lot that would save ’im a lot on the things that ’e ought to know!
When I think o’ that ignorant barrack-bird, it almost makes me cry.
    I used to belong in an Army once
    (Gawd! what a rum little Army once),
    Red little, dead little Army once!
                            But now I am M.I.!

That is what we are known as—we are the men that have been
Over a year at the business, smelt it an’ felt it an’ seen.
We ’ave got ’old of the needful — you will be told by and by;
Wait till you’ve ’eard the Ikonas, spoke to the old M.I.!

Mount—march, Ikonas! Stand to your ’orses again!
Mop off the frost on the saddles, mop up the miles on the plain.
Out go the stars in the dawnin’, up goes our dust to the sky,
Walk—trot, Ikonas! Trek jou the old M.I.!


Subject: Save Toby.


--- Roland Dobbins

Hmm. Rabbits are cheap, and certainly legal to eat, and probably tasty. I wonder how much == but no, of course not.







This week:


read book now


Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Subject: "It's part of our lexicon."


- Roland Dobbins

The times, they are a' changing. And closely coupled:

Subject: Tell us something we -don't- know.


------ Roland Dobbins


Subject: Installing Linux on a Dead Badger.


--- Roland Dobbins

Wow. Open Source has really gone a long way.


Subject: Every child left behind.


-- Roland Dobbins

You may expect to see a very great deal more of this in future. Teaching the young can be a very rewarding experience except when it is made impossible. The lawyers and various shakedown rackets have made it impossible. Why is anyone astonished?

We have sown the wind. Now we reap.




This week:


read book now



Subject: Overclocked white boxen cause for Windows problems?

A blogger posits that overclocking is the heart of many Windows problems http://blogs.msdn.com/oldnewthing/archive/2005/04/12/407562.aspx  as first reported at Ars Technica.

Furthermore, he alleges the overclocking is done by the sellers of the white boxen.

Last time I assembled a PC with an Intel mobo, I looked at the settings and found it was extraordinarily difficult to overclock. I don't think Intel sees any advantage in overclocking. Therefore, I will assume (but be eager to hear otherwise) this is confined to non-Intel motherboards.

-- The TSA is a test. It is only a test...... "Find out just what people will submit to, and you have found out the exact amount of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them; and these will continue until they are resisted with either words or blows, or with both. The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress." Frederick Douglass, August 4, 1857.

John Bartley, K7AAY, PDX OR USA, Opinions mine.

I have never recommended overclocking. With Intel CPU chips it is very hard to do because the multiplier is locked. We can do it here because we often get Intel engineering samples, but I seldom do it. AMD systems are more commonly overclocked by gamers, who purport to see (and sometimes do see) some advantages other than bragging rights. I have never seen overclocking make a bit of practical difference in anything I do, although for graphics editing it might be useful. If you want to overclock you need to pay lots of attention to details, like power supplies with very low ripple, really good quality memory, and of course cooling. I don't recommend it: the results aren't particularly worth it.

Of course we also see overclocking of lower rated chips to get them up to the higher (and more costly) speeds. Again I hardly recommend that.


From a correspondent:

Society: Family Life: Sold on Work

[First, the summary from CHE. Sorry about the formatting, but it's an important article.]

[A glance at the March/April issue of "Society": Social expectations of women and their work

[American women are spending more time at work and having fewer children, both of which are fine, says Neil Gilbert, as long as that is what they really want. But some women may have been sold a bill of goods, warns the professor of social welfare at the University of California at Berkeley.

[For many women, working outside the home is not an economic necessity, so they may be motivated by the perception that employment is freeing and personally fulfilling, he says.

[Paid work "is widely associated with the virtues of personal empowerment, achievement, and self-realization, particularly by public-opinion makers -- professors, journalists, authors, artists, and pundits -- whose jobs tend to provide these benefits," he writes. "But the joys of work are not evenly distributed."

[The elite few for whom paid work does impart joy and independence, he says, perpetuate the myth that such is the case for everyone. But "for most wage labor, the independence that comes with a paycheck is accompanied by obedience to the daily authority of supervisors, submission to the schedule and discipline of the work environment, deference to the demands of customers, and susceptibility to the vagaries of the marketplace," he writes.

[While the expansion of employment opportunities for women is one of the "major social accomplishments of recent times," he says, and many women prefer a work-oriented lifestyle to a child-oriented one, others would rather have more children and spend more time at home with them.

[Those women should not be overly influenced, he says, by the current social expectation that women and men will both work full time while sharing child-rearing duties equally -- an expectation that has been "more influential in the socialization of women than men."

[The article, "Family Life: Sold on Work," is online for subscribers. Information about the journal is available at http://www.transactionpub.com/ ]

Symposium: Women and Conservative Politics FAMILY LIFE: SOLD ON WORK Neil Gilbert

I'm shocked, shocked...


From another correspondent:==

'Break, Blow, Burn': Well Versed New York Times Book Review, 5.3.27 http://www.nytimes.com/2005/03/27/books/review/027JAMESL.html 


BREAK, BLOW, BURN By Camille Paglia. 247 pp. Pantheon Books. $20.

CLEARLY designed as a come-on for bright students who don't yet know very much about poetry, Camille Paglia's new book anthologizes 43 short works in verse from Shakespeare through to Joni Mitchell, with an essay about each. The essays do quite a lot of elementary explaining. Readers who think they already know something of the subject, however, would be rash if they gave her low marks just for spelling things out. Even they, if they were honest enough to admit it, might need help with the occasional Latin phrase, and they will find her analysis of individual poems quite taxing enough in its upper reaches. ''Having had his epiphany,'' she says of the sonnet ''Composed Upon Westminster Bridge,'' ''Wordsworth moves on, preserving his solitude and estrangement by shutting down his expanded perception.'' Nothing elementary about that.

She flies as high as you can go, in fact, without getting into the airless space of literary theory and cultural studies. Not that she has ever regarded those activities as elevated. She has always regarded them, with good reason, as examples of humanism's perverse gift for attacking itself, and for providing the academic world with a haven for tenured mediocrity. This book is the latest shot in her campaign to save culture from theory. It thus squares well with another of her aims, to rescue feminism from its unwise ideological allegiances. So in the first instance ''Break, Blow, Burn'' is about poetry, and in the second it is about Camille Paglia.

One measure of her quality as a commentator is that those two subjects are not in the reverse order.<snip>


What in the world might they mean by "screening would-be parents to eliminate child abusers"? Do they propose to "screen" couples that produce babies the old-fashioned way as well? (That would actually do some good...)


At 3:56 PM -0400 4/12/05, PC wrote: >Sex selection for human embryos backed by report
> http://www.newscientist.com/channel/sex/mg18624933.700  
> * 02 April 2005 >
> LET them choose boys! Or girls! That's what parents in the UK should
> be free to do, according to a parliamentary committee. Its
> controversial report calls for a relaxation of the rules on the use of
> reproductive technologies and human embryo research.

> > The report recommends that parents on IVF programmes be allowed to use
> pre-implantation genetic diagnosis to select the sex of a second or
> later child for "family-balancing" reasons. It is also unfair for IVF
> clinics to screen would-be parents to try to exclude child abusers, it
> says.

Reckon things have gone about as far as they can go...


Subject: Intel Posts $10K Reward For Moore's Law Mag  

I wonder how long it will take for someone to find this…




Subject: Environmental Heresies  

Stewart Brand, the environmentalist and publisher of the Whole Earth Catalog, has written a new article for MIT's Technology Review. He focuses on how environmentalists must start to understand science. He urges them to acknowledge the fallacy of the Population Bomb and endorse nuclear energy. I don't think all of his positions are scientifically defensible, but I welcome any attempt to insert sanity into the environmental debate.

Environmental Heresies http://www.technologyreview.com/articles/05/05/issue/feature_earth.asp 

Beth Macknik

I'll take all the good news I can get...

Of course the Population Bomb predicted that we'd all be dead before 2000


And related:

Something to do when it rains

Wonder if this is where the Warming Crowd got their numbers.




Subject: Fact or fiction?

You need to check out this link. Turn on your speakers. It would be funny, except that it is so close to being reality.


Guitar Man












CURRENT VIEW    Wednesday


This week:


read book now


Thursday, April 14, 2005

Subject: Mr. Heinlein was right again


<snip> Infusion of Young Blood Revives Old Muscles By Robert Roy Britt <http://www.space.com/php/contactus/feedback.php?r=rb>  LiveScience Senior Writer posted: 16 February, 2005 1 p.m. ET

Old and tired muscles might repair themselves just fine if it weren't for the old blood running through the aging human body, a new study shows.

It's not quite a recipe for the fountain of youth, but the work could lead to methods for healing wounds in the elderly and tackling some diseases.

This page was linked from:



Hang in There: The 25-Year Wait for Immortality

Ker Than <http://us.rd.yahoo.com/dailynews/space/sc_space/byline/

  Special to LiveScience LiveScience.com <http://us.rd.yahoo.com/dailynews/space/sc_space/byline/

"I think it's reasonable to suppose that one could oscillate between being biologically 20 and biologically 25 indefinitely." -- Aubrey de Grey

Time may indeed be on your side. If you can just last another quarter century.

By then, people will start lives that could last 1,000 years or more. Our human genomes will be modified to include the genetic material of microorganisms that live in the soil, enabling us to break down the junk proteins that our cells amass over time and which they can't digest on their own. People will have the option of looking and feeling the way they did at 20 for the rest of their lives, or opt for an older look if they get bored. Of course, everyone will be required to go in for age rejuvenation therapy once every decade or so, but that will be a small price to pay for near-immortality.

So all I have to do is hang in there until I'm 100...






CURRENT VIEW    Thursday


This week:


read book now


FridayApril 15, 2005

Subject: Letter from England

The politicians are dancing in the streets <http://www.guardian.co.uk/cartoons/stevebell/0,7371,1460401,00.html> , but meanwhile a terrorism case collapses. See: <http://www.theregister.co.uk/2005/04/14/wood_green_ricin_case/> , <http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2-1570083,00.html> , <http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2-1570085,00.html> , <http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2-1569915,00.html> , <http://www.guardian.co.uk/terrorism/story/0,12780,1460204,00.html> , and <http://www.guardian.co.uk/terrorism/story/0,12780,1460369,00.html> .

Note that in this article, Krugman explicitly avoids including the UK NHS in his argument, even though its costs are comparable with those in France and Germany: <http://www.nytimes.com/2005/04/15/opinion/15krugman.html>  (registration may be required). My experience is of poor service, lost referrals, long lines for anything not handled at the clinic, and young doctors who couldn't be bothered by anything involving quality of life or age.

-- Harry Erwin, PhD, Senior Lecturer of Computing, University of Sunderland. Computational neuroscientist modeling bat bioacoustics and behavior. http://osiris.sunderland.ac.uk/~cs0her


Subject: Today in History 15 April 1952 : First Flight of YB-52

Subj: Today in History 15 April 1952: First Flight of YB-52


== The first prototype was given the designation "XB-52" and the second the designation "YB-52". The second prototype was given a "Y" code, which would normally indicate an evaluation machine, rather than an "X" code as was appropriate to its experimental status, because the Air Force had scrounged funding for it from their Logistics Command, which was not formally allowed to fund experimental aircraft.

The XB-52 was rolled out on 29 November 1951. The rollout was done late at night and with the aircraft bundled under tarps to help maintain secrecy. Unfortunately the XB-52 suffered a catastrophic failure of its pneumatic system during ground testing that caused extensive damage to the trailing edge of the wing that sent it back inside the factory for lengthy repairs before it could perform a flight.

The YB-52 was rolled out on 15 March 1952 and actually performed the first flight, on 15 April 1952, with Boeing test pilot A.M. "Tex" Johnson and Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Guy M. Townsend at the controls. The flight lasted a little under three hours, with takeoff from Boeing Field in Seattle and landing at Moses Lake, in central Washington. ==

And they're still flying! Well not *that* one, but still... .

Rod Montgomery==monty@sprintmail.com

And my first aerospace job was associated with the B-52. The old ladies areally are older than their pilots now. I worked with Townsend on the ejections seat designs. And knew Tex Johnson.


Subject: Slippery Slope Argument Proven Right?

Dr. Pournelle:

It appears that you don't have to be in a "persistent vegetative state" to be denied food and water, at least in some states. Weren't we promised by the "Right to Die" folks that Terri Schiavo's death wouldn't lead to a "slippery slope?"


MATTERS OF LIFE AND DEATH Granddaughter denies feeding tube to grandma 81-year-old not terminally ill, comatose, nor in vegetative state


Posted: April 7, 2005 7:33 p.m. Eastern

By Sarah Foster


© 2005 WorldNetDaily.com

In a situation recalling the recent death of Terri Schiavo in Florida, an 81-year-old widow, denied nourishment and fluids for nearly two weeks, is clinging to life in a hospice in LaGrange, Ga., while her immediate family fights desperately to save her life before she dies of starvation and dehydration.

Mae Magouirk was not terminally ill, comatose nor in a "vegetative state," when Hospice-LaGrange <http://www.wghs.org/wgh.html>  accepted her as a patient about two weeks ago upon the request of her granddaughter, Beth Gaddy, 36, an elementary school teacher.


Read the entire story at:


Lee Keller King mailto:leekellerking @hotmail.com

I don't know the particulars of this case, but there will be many others. The temptation to let the old, disabled, and helpless go to rest in peace so that the rest of us can get on with our lives is very great. Perhaps it is even right. But of course from old disabled and helpless to young disabled and helpless is a very short step. And from there to "useless" is not very far. And from "useless" there are roads everywhere.

Perhaps that is the proper path. What do the useless matter anyway? Why waste resources on them? Rich nations can bash down curbs to make life easier for wheelchairs. We used to be that rich, not all that long ago.


Subject:  Follow-up to Paper Generator--"Scientific conference falls for gibberish prank"

Three grad students generated a paper, submitted it to an academic conference, and it was accepted for presentation. I have a PDF of the below article in the event it is pulled from the net. This information courtesy of an Australian blogger Tim Blair.



Jeremy Stribling said that he and two fellow MIT graduate students questioned the standards of some academic conferences, so they wrote a computer program to generate research papers complete with nonsensical text, charts and diagrams.

To their surprise, one of the papers - “Rooter: A Methodology for the Typical Unification of Access Points and Redundancy” - was accepted for presentation.

“Rooter" features such mind-bending gems as: “the model for our heuristic consists of four independent components: simulated annealing, active networks, flexible modalities, and the study of reinforcement learning” and “We implemented our scatter/gather I/O server in Simula-67, augmented with opportunistically pipelined extensions”.

I LOVE it!


Subject: A Black Letter Day...

Hi Jerry,

I enjoyed your thoughts today, as always. You might find a new book by Richard Florida, "The Flight of the Creative Class," relevant to your musings. It discusses a variety of post 9/11 policies that have not only damaged the United States’ capacity to attract top foreign students and scientists, but our ability to keep our own best students and scientists. The causes, according to Florida, include nonsensical visa requirements, slashes in government R&D funding, a global perception of a growing U.S. intolerance (fueled by the religious right), and the horrible state of our K-12 educational system.

He offers a number of possible solutions, including substantial changes to our immigration and educational systems.

Best wishes,


Don Barker, Senior Editor

PC AI Magazine


Subject: Libertarians and conservatives

>> Are we likely to change? Will be bring back freedom? What party speaks for liberty? And yes, I know the answer to that one; but every time I get near Libertarians their first move is to denounce conservatives as fools and idiots. <<

I think that's unfair. I'm a radical libertarian, but I have never denounced you as a fool or an idiot, nor ever come close to thinking of you in those terms. It is true that we have fundamental disagreements, and even perhaps that our differences greatly outweigh our similarities. But I respect your opinions even when I don't agree with them.

It's unfair to paint all libertarians with the same brush, unless you are yourself willing to be grouped with everyone who considers himself a conservative.

-- Robert Bruce Thompson thompson@ttgnet.com

I should have said organized Libertarians. As for instance the time I was invited to a big Libertarian dinner party, at which all the speeches and all the jokes were at the expense of conservatives. Sure made me feel like being part of the movement.

Niven said once Libertarianism is a vector not a position, and on that I agree; but I haven't entirely given up normal politics with a view to actually electing someone.

The problem is that the Republicans run conservative govern imperial/socialist. The Democrats run socialist and govern worse. I am no great fan of George Bush, and his father fired every friend I had in the Reagan White House as a reward for Regan's loyalty to his vice president; but Kerry would have been worse, God help us.

There is no party that wants to cut the budget, enforce the immigration laws, bring the troops home, and cut the entire scope of Federal interference in our affairs: yet not all that long ago there was one, called the Republican Party, that actually wanted to abolish the Department of Education. And had they not run the only man Clinton could beat in 1996 we might still have such a party. But Dole was entitled to run, knowing he would lose, knowing he would fail miserably. God knows why.

If the Republicans could return to their senses I wouldn't much worry about crooks. There are crooks everywhere. It's the busybody nanny state that says Civil Servants are better than crooks, and better to spend four times as much on bureaucrats and regulations than to have anyone stealing anything that worries me.

Crooks we can jail, but Das Buros immer stehen.

And see below


Perhaps I ought to just stop:

Subject: your blithering babbling

Dear Sir

I have read your works starting in 1972 when I was a sophomore in college...One of my favorite literary characters is Colonel Falkenberg and CD 42nd Marines......

I love the universe you created with The Mote In God's Eye and King David's Spaceship, my copies both falling apart from being read and read again...so,

I was on your web page and read your blog on the trade deficient and what we could try to do save ourselves, then you said what you thought was the problem.......

the schools are there for the professors? the big problem are the unions? are you a libertaian or just stupid?

the percentage of American workers today in the unions is the lowest it has everbeen...with such low numbers, where is their power? But what the hell, there is always Wal-Mart to crush any idea of a union so I guess Wal_mart can keep locking the illeagal immigrints inside the store at night....toys for children, made by children..... our corporations are selling us down the Yangtze River..not our unionsk, not our schools, its the freaking corporations that are generating the trade loss....

I live in syracuse, ny, once home of Carrier...they had a factory that was still making money, but they closed it so they, the corporation, could make more ....what should the workers do? become indenturesd servents to the corporations? are you going to bring up the teacher's unions in our schools? please................ the problems in the schools are not from the teachers not doing their jobs, but the parents and the adminisrtators not doing thiers.....we all know about the violence in our schools, and please remeber it is a small number of schools dealing with this, but as you know, it makes the news

what can be worse for a school is to have students in a classroom who don't care and who do their best to disrupt the teaching experience for everyone else in the room, or even the entire school...and heaven forbid if you try to get these students out of your classroom

as you can see, I tend to think of myself as liberal conservative, or is a conservative liberal?

I still read what you publish and enjoy it....the fiction at least

Dennis salenski syracuse ny

Perhaps everything has changed since last I looked, but it is my understanding that many administrators belong to teacher unions, and in fact often dominate them since they have the released time (paid for by taxes) to do the work required. As to disruptive students, I would have thought the schools might actually campaign for the ability to expel the unruly and move the others to places where they cannot do any harm; but I don't see much of that happening.

What are your remedies? Given your view of my observations, what do you propose?

Incidentally I am well aware that labor unions as such are not large: in fact most labor union members work for the government. There is an irony in that, is there not? Somehow we have policies that have made it difficult to impossible for us to make THINGS, and our unions mostly represent the tax absorbers rather than the tax payers. This is a distinct change from the days when the Pinkertons dynamited my wife's father's house (the house was owned by the mines) for organizing a miner's union. See John Dos Pasos for more; MidCentury is still quite readable.

And again: your remedies?


Subject: Trade Deficit

Just some food for thought – no well-organized arguments

The trade account and the capital account have to sum to zero, so a trade deficit is the same as a capital account surplus. That is, we are selling financial assets and buying goods with them. Are these consumption goods or investment goods? I haven’t looked at the official statistics recently, but it would be interesting to know the mix.

Suppose the U.S. were a very safe place to invest, good legal protection of financial contracts (relative to the rest of the world). Then even if the U.S. was not a declining industrial power, the fact that foreigners really want to buy U.S. assets would force a capital account surplus and a trade deficit.

I happen to agree that US policies are doing harm to US competitiveness and harming the average US worker, but I’m not sure the trade deficit is a clear-cut sign of this. Most countries in the world run trade deficits and the net sum of all the trade accounts is negative, even though it out to be zero (unless we really are trading with other planets/dimensions). The way the data are gathered biases the numbers in the direction of trade deficits, though presumably the bias does not change radically over time.

Even countries with lousy economic policies can run trade surpluses. Saudi Arabia comes to mind.

Kerk Phillips

Indeed. And it is a larger subject; one of the problems of dealing with such matters while trying to pay bills and taxes. But the bottom line is that those who can make good and cheap and useful THINGS will do well; while those who sell services will always find themselves in competition with someone closer to the problem (and quite possibly better educated).

I don't fear trade deficits as such: it's buying things with capital, and consumables with savings that disturbs.




This week:


read book now


Saturday, April 16, 2005

I reserve my judgment about the autism issue, but I was sent this review; have any of our readers read the book?

'Evidence of Harm': What Caused the Autism Epidemic? New York Times Book Review, 5.4.17 http://www.nytimes.com/2005/04/17/books/review/17MORRICE.html


EVIDENCE OF HARM Mercury in Vaccines and the Autism Epidemic: A Medical Controversy. By David Kirby. 460 pp. St. Martin's Press. $26.95.

Back in November 2002, when the journalist David Kirby started researching ''Evidence of Harm,'' he couldn't have known how good his timing would be. His book on the contentious issue of whether mercury in vaccines led to an autism epidemic is appearing in the midst of what must be called an autism boom. In the past few months, this unexplained brain disorder -- which skews language and social skills, and can unloose fierce obsessions -- has hit a media trifecta. Television news segments, a magazine cover story and a host of newspaper articles have discussed its symptoms, treatments, effects on families and, most controversially, its apparently soaring incidence.

Why so much autism now? In part, the deluge is cyclical, as journalists discover -- apologies to Yeats -- the fascination of what's difficult. Yet this year's coverage has had a particular note of urgency. Beginning in the late 1980's, the number of autism cases started to take off. The latest estimates are that one child in 166 has some form of the disorder, with effects that range from mild to crippling. These figures have raised vital questions. Is the increase in autism real or the result of revised diagnostic criteria and improved awareness? If the syndrome has become epidemic, is some environmental factor partly to blame?

Kirby, who has contributed to various sections of The New York Times, personalizes this dispute by introducing us to a collection of parents who began to suspect that genetic tendencies might not have induced their children's autism. Brought together by the Internet, this group soon focused on thimerosal, a mercury-based preservative once used in vaccines, including many that were added to the immunization schedule in the early 1990's. When infants received higher doses of thimerosal, it was suggested, the result was an autism epidemic. <snip>

The entire review is worth your attention, and I only snipped it because of copyright. I have not read the book.

Nor do I have enough data to have much right to an opinion on the whole matter; but autism used to be so rare that it was studied among other very rare conditions when I took Abnormal Psychology (in graduate classes in both psychology and psychiatry); it is now seen to be much more common. Some of this is misdiagnosis; I am personally aware of a number of cases in which the explanation of autistic-like symptoms was a fairly simple issue in family dynamics. Smart kids learn fast, and sometimes what they learn (I'll get rewarded with lots of attention from Mommy if I do this) isn't what we wanted them to learn.

Even so, there seems no doubt that severe autism is more common now. Some of that is doubtless due to better medicine: infants are surviving who otherwise would not. It's like cancer increases in the elderly: something is going to get you, and if you didn't die of heart failure... But some of it seems a relatively new phenomenon.

I see once in a while articles in respectable science journalism sources that say mercury is responsible, then others that say it isn't. I don't know. I do know the subject is of concern.

But it's also still relatively rare, and may not be the principle problem of our next generation; not compared to the schools. One allocates resources where one can. Alas.


While we are raising profound problems:


There are major transhumanist issues here. I'm not so sure there will be very many deaf parents who will want to stick deaf genes in the children and even fewer that would move across state lines or to another country to do so. What are your thoughts about "wrongful life" suits? Is living in a community of like-minded people (or just like-eared people) better than being stuck in the larger world. What would Jürgen Habermas have to say about this? But more generally, what are the social consequences of an ever widening proliferation of genetically distinct communities? Will genetic engineering take place so rapidly that these communities will not have time to form in the first place? Maybe not.

I read that there are no buildings in Singapore more than 18 years old (20 by now), but most Europeans would be willing to go to war if the cathedrals were razed to make way for shopping malls.


Falling on Deaf Ears http://www.science-spirit.org/articles/printerfriendly.cfm?article_id=467 

To most people, cochlear implants sound like a medical miraclea device the size of a candy corn that can correct the inability to hear. But many in the Deaf community see the technology as a cultural threat, yet another example of the hearing worlds inability to really listen.

by Jenny Desai

When Angie Mucci's daughter Allie was born nearly three years ago, she knew her little girl was special. What she didn't know--and wouldn't discover until a year later, when it was clear Allie wasn't responding to even the loudest noises--was that her daughter is deaf. Just a few decades ago, children with hearing loss as profound as Allie's had two choices if they wanted to learn to communicate: lip-reading or sign language. But Allie and her mom were given a third option: surgical implantation of a "bionic ear," or cochlear implant, that would help Allie hear.

"I am all for giving my daughter every opportunity she has out of life," says Mucci, a twenty-nine-year-old Las Vegas resident who, like an estimated ninety percent of parents with deaf children, can hear. For Mucci, that meant enrolling her daughter in an implant study in San Antonio, Texas, where Allie underwent surgery on her right ear at the age of thirteen months. Before the operation, Allie could hear only sounds that measured at 110 decibels or louder, a sound volume that compares with what you might hear when seated in the front row of a rock concert. With her cochlear implant, and no visual cues, Allie can now detect sounds that clock in at a mere twenty decibels. Mucci is currently scheduling a second surgery, this time on Allie's left ear, with the doctors who performed the first operation.

In a predominantly hearing culture in which the notion of correcting vision with eyeglasses or even LASIK surgery is met with nary a blink, and Miracle-Ear hearing aids for hardof- hearing adults are advertised on national television, Allie's surgery might seem like a no-brainer. But by opting for surgery, Allie and her mother found themselves in the middle of a controversy that has divided virtually everyone it touches into separate camps: hearing and deaf, pro-implant and anti-implant, medical and "civilian." At stake are the complicated questions surrounding what it means to be deaf--not the least of which is whether surgical intervention is a method of correcting a medical condition or whether it's a process that exacerbates an imbalance between a hearing majority and a capital-D Deaf minority, a subculture that fights for the preservation of deafness and the right to define itself on its own terms.

For many hearing parents like Angie Mucci, cochlear implants are a technological aid, a tool to correct the body's inability to hear--and often an obvious option. But what happens when a deaf parent is faced with the choice? Consider the case of Michigan resident Lee Larsen, the deaf mother of two deaf sons whose custody dispute became an internationally publicized Deaf rights case in 2002. Larsen landed in court after school officials claimed she was neglecting her children, and a year later, court-appointed advocate Joseph Tevlin petitioned the Michigan court system to order implants for her two sons, asking, "Is it neglect not to have a cochlear implant when the bulk of the research shows everyone benefits?"

To Tevlin, the question was rhetorical. To the Deaf community, it was heresy--and yet another example of how the hearing world fails to understand what it means to be deaf. <snip>

Issues include just where do the courts come into this picture? Have children rights against their parents when it comes to correcting genetic defects? And so forth. All those who see this is of a piece with the Schaivo case get a star on their papers...


Subject: Libertarian thoughts

I have to agree, in general, with your thoughts on the Libertarian (Capital L here) attitude towards the conservatives. I have found many attractive ideas in the political realm offered by libertarian (small l here) thinkers. However the current political party cannot seem to get in touch with today's reality and offer what it can deliver on. When I go to the party web site (www.lp.org), and read what they feel is important, I wonder why they take up space with plans to eliminate the US Post Office, when there are so many things that need attention first?

I also find their statements of "Separation of Church and State" a bit hypocritical. While I don't endorse a state sponsored church, the idea that a group of citizens, who wish to express their views about government, cannot do so if they have religious views.

A new party with strong libertarian blood along with true conservative goals would be welcome. But I do wonder if the time for talk is long past. Unless people who want freedom actualy start to do something, what will it matter?

--- Al Lipscomb

I suppose you could call me Constitutionalist.

The original Constitution allowed the states to have state churches. They disestablished them by legislative action, which is as it should be; but Congress Shall Make No Law RESPECTING an establishment of religion. That is utterly clear. This is a matter for the states, not Congress. Utah might or might not establish a church given the opportunity; I doubt any others would. But a manger in the public square is not the big problem of this republic.

In fact, short of "endowed by their Creator" it is difficult to understand where rights come from. If by social contract, once again, those are not matters for --


Well, never mind. I was with Kirk during many debates with Meyer and his Fusionists, and we managed to work together. But that was long ago.



CURRENT VIEW     Saturday

This week:


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Sunday, April 17, 2005

A busy day: but not here. There was plenty yesterday.





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