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Mail 358 April 18 - 24, 2005






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Monday  April 18, 2005

Subject: IMPORTANT - Security Updates and Google Satellites (catchingup)

Dr. Pournelle:

As I catch up from a visit to Oceanside:

1) Microsoft's "Patch Tuesday" was last week. There are several updates that are important to install. Some of the vulnerabilities fixed have public exploits already released. The MS "Automatic Updates" will fix some of the problems, but there are also MS-Office updates. To fix those, you have to go to the Office Update site manually (look for "Office Family" on the "Windows Update" pages, which you can find on your Start, Programs menu). Recommend installing all appropriate updates. (Note that the Office updates might require your Office CD, although there is an option to get a larger update package that doesn't require the CD. I always copy the Office CD to the hard drive, and install from there; the installation is actually faster that way).

2) Firefox has some newly fixed vulnerabilities; exploit code is 'public', visiting a "nefarious site" can get you infected with remote controlling software. Current version is 1.03. Firefox is supposed to have an automatic update check (in the "Tools, Advanced" screen), but I've never gotten it to work. Recommend that Firefox users shrug off any complacency or superiority and ensure they install the 1.03 updates. (Also applies to Mozilla users.)

3) Identity theft is becoming a big problem. Best way to protect yourself is to get a free credit report (in western and mid-west states of the USA) via www.annualcreditreport.com <http://www.annualcreditreport.com/>  (that site also has info on how to request by phone). Then make sure the credit report has accurate info; close inactive accounts, etc. Also, regular monitoring of your bank/credit statements (via web, if available) will alert you to improper charges (but be careful about that web checking at public 'hot-spots' or public computers; there might be keystroke logging software to capture your login info).

...and for a bit of fun

4) the new satellite images available via http://maps.google.com <http://maps.google.com/>  has resulted in a new Google game: finding interesting things in the satellite image. There are many web sites that are cataloging "Google-Sats" places. One is here: http://www.shreddies.org/gmaps  ; others abound. And there are some interesting missing sections of the sat images.... "Area 51" seems to be blank, for instance....

Regards, Rick Hellewell

And now for another important matter:


Subject: Trade Deficit - The beginning of the End (Simon Enefer London)

Dear Mr Pournelle,

I am a huge fan of your books and I am eagerly waiting for the next installment of the CoDominion series!

I felt I had to comment on the various mails regarding the US Trade deficit. I think that your contributors (And if I may say yourself) have missed just how dangerous the deficits (Fiscal and more importantly Trade) are and what they signify.


The US Dollar is current the world main currency of trade in everything from Oil to aircraft. If confidence in the value of the dollar collapse because the US maintains a Trade and fiscal deficit that is unsustainable then the International financial community will lose faith in the Dollar. The economic effects of this would be nothing short of catastrophic.

If your readers think that this is alarmist then consider that there are precedents for this.

In the 1920's when Winston Churchill was Chancellor of the Exchequer he set the Sterling/Dollar exchange at too high a value as a confidence building measure. This failed and participate the 1929 crash (Because assets where being transferred into the new trading currency, so creating an asset bubble) and lead directly to the Great Depression.

Already their have been rumours in the financial markets about Far Eastern countries reducing their Dollar holdings (The most recent was a rumour concerning the South Korean Central Bank). At some stage unless the Trade deficit is reduced, major holders of US debt (Mostly Far Eastern Countries) will be forced to sell, or be left holding assets that have a fraction of their current value.

What makes this deficit even more dangerous is that a straight devaluation of the Dollar or forcing the Chinese and other Far Eastern countries to allow their currencies to float will make little difference. How much would the value of the Dollar have to fall to make US goods competitive with goods produced in a country with wage costs a fraction of that in the US and were this is almost no government regulation, free unions etc.

The US cannot even invest its way out of this by buying Chinese companies and repatriating the profits to the US. The level of foreign ownership of Chinese companies is restricted by law (For example no foreign bank can own more than a 20% stake in a Chinese Bank).

So unless there is a major slump in US demand a dollar asset collapse starts to seem inevitable.


When Britain and France intervened in Suez in 1956 it was a model military campaign, destroying (With Israel help) the Egyptian Airforce and regaining control of the Suez Canal. Then the US Government said that it would withdraw its financial support and the intervention was over. There is no point in winning a war if your country is not financially independent.

The US greatest strength has always been its industrial and financial strength (Every US visitor to France and the rest of Europe should be asking, "Was that building, road etc built with Marshall plan money").

That strength has now disappeared into history. The US is still the World's leading military power and may continue to be so for many years. It is a wasting asset without the technological, industrial and financial muscle to back it up.

What happens when the US wants to intervene in say Iran? Well if your the Chinese or South Korean foreign minister you mention to your US colleague that may be the US shouldn't do that as your country receives substantial oil supplies from Iran. If the US attacks Iran we will no longer lend your country the money to buy our products and you boss loses the next election because "its the economy stupid".

Any Great Power’s strength ultimately depends on its ability to project power. In an industrial age the ability to do that depend on industrial and financial independence and strength. The US is rapidly losing both of these key powers.


If or when the point comes that the US has to face this new truth I feel it will be far more traumatic experience than was faced by Great Britain. At least us Brits had the comfort that we were losing our dominant position to a country that had been a faithful ally and friend in our hour of greatest need. I fear that the US will not have that comforting thought to hold onto.

The effect, on what is the most patriotic country I have ever visited is terrifying to contemplate. If the trauma of losing its leading position on the world stage is combined with a major recession or worse a rerun of the Great Depression, the effects could be of a similar order to disturbances in the sixties and early seventies. The unifying ideal of the US (At least to an outsider) has never been the US Constitution, the Bill of Right or even its democratic institutions, but rather it has been the belief in the American Dream. For me it this ideal is seemed to as central to America as Roman's belief in there Cities destiny to rule the known world, every present and pervasive until it for no definable reason it is falters, never to be regained. The ideal that if you work hard, you will succeed, whether or not it has always been true has been the powerhouse behind US success in almost every field. If this single unifying ideal is lost, even if for only a few years during a transition period the effects on the US social and political scene would be profound.

Causes of the US Decline?

I feel that all of the factors that other contributors mentioned will have impacted on the US economic performance, but I feel the greatest cause of the US decline is your Nations own success. By winning the conflict of ideals between capitalism and communism the US forced regimes in countries like China to adopt a more capitalist model. Combine the huge untapped resources of initiative and desire to succeed with new freedom and an almost unstoppable force is created. If you have ever read the edition of James Blish "Cities in Flight" with the Spengler appendices you will see the irony of this result, instead of the US become like Russia, the converse is now coming true.

The reaction of George Bush Junior to 9/11 in hindsight is not surprising. Instead of investing in hi-tech industries and forcing China et al to play by the US rules, he embarks on a crusade. Liberate the Middle East, starting with Iraq and recreate the conditions that lead to the end of the Cold War (As well as settling some unfinished business). A laudable idea, but evens if it succeeds, how will the US benefit? Yes in the longer term, the ground will be cut from the Islamic Fundamentalists, but despite the tragedy of 9/11 they could never fundamentally challenge the US position of dominance, the same cannot be said of China.

I am sure that there are ways that the US decline could be stopped even reversed. The development of new technologies in energy generation, space or other fields would seem to be the best route. However, to benefit the US must protect this new intellectual wealth long enough to rebuild a manufacturing base to take advantage of it. The problem would then arise, why build "X" in the US when it can be built in China or the Far East or India for a fraction of the cost. Private industry does not work that way unless it is forced to; after all it is a C.E.O. task to maximise profit. One solution might be a Manhattan Project (Or Projects), funded, and to an extent controlled by Government to establish a new position of dominance and have the economic strength to defend it. However to use Rugby term it would be "against the run of play".

If the US follows the UK path then, politicians will start to expound the importance of free trade (tell that to the Chinese) and the services sector (What about India?).

In case anyone think I am being anti-American. In answer I can only say that the UK is a lot further down the road that I fear the US is on.

In the last few days the last major UK owned car manufacture Rover-MG became bankrupt, after its management had sold all its intellectual property rights (Including engine designs) to Shanghai Automotive who where then expected to buy and run the company. Not surprisingly the Shanghai Automotive declined, after all they had most of what they wanted and would be able to be the rest for a fraction of the cost when the company went bankrupt. In desperation (We are in mid-election) the UK Government offered a £100 million loan, it was turned down (Just as well as it was against EU rules anyway).

Now 5,000 Rover workers and many thousands of employees of Rover suppliers are out of a job!

The four directors paid £10 for the company five years ago and now have a combined pension fund of £40 million.

And to think that only 100 years ago the UK controlled some of the nicer parts of China.

How the wheel turns

Simon Enefer


I will let that settle in a bit before commenting.

Let's clear up a point

Subject: Debtor Nation


I can't say I disagree radically with your analysis of things [about trade], though I am slightly less pessimistic than you seem to be today. One thing that stuck out for me in your note, perhaps a niggling point, was that becoming a debtor nation on Clinton's watch. My recollection was that it happened under Reagan. A quick Google search led me to this site <http://tinyurl.com/9sglm> which places it in 1985. I can't vouch for the site and don't think the question deserves deep research, as it doesn't materially affect your argument. Thought I should note it though.

Jim Hanley

As to when total debt to foreign countries exceeded money owed us, it hardly matters whether it was under Reagan, Bush, or Clinton; and in fact you can make a case for it happening at any point since there are many not obvious factors, including "credits" we have from places that will never pay them back (as I recall the only country that ever paid its World War I debts to us was Finland), debts we don't recognize and aren't going to pay, who owns what when speaking of international corporations, etc., etc.

The point is that somewhere along the line this ceased to be a temporary matter brought on by the costs of the Cold War and other such security matters, and became an accepted fact, not an emergency to be dealt with, not even a problem.

I think I took the statement about it happening in the Clinton years from Access To Energy, a newsletter that usually takes the trouble to get things right; were it all that germane to my points I'd have looked for other source. I don't care when it happened: I do care that no one seems to think it important.

And see below




This week:


read book now



==Continuing the Trade discussion

Subject: Brin on trade balance

Dr. Pournelle, on the trade deficit and liklihood of a currency devaluation, David Brin made an interesting comment last month:


I note that nowhere does Brin disagree with the doomsayers, nor attempt to measure the downside, nor offer any way out, he merely points out that we Americans do appear to have bought something quite valuable for part of the coming cost - just maybe not valuable to *us*. I'd appreciate hearing your take on all this.

-- Andrew Piskorski


I do not often comment on Dr. Brin's views.

He makes several good points. We have been extraordinarily generous in buying stuff we don't need from foreign sources.

We also exported the capability of making the stuff, while neglecting to improve our own capability to make better goods at lower prices. And finally, we exported our attitudes and beliefs: our position on DDT kills about one million people a year: three Tsunamis a year, due to our pigheadedness on DDT, which was itself brought on by our silly use of the stuff wholesale and everywhere rather than indoors and in small quantities. So because we over-used DDT we decided to ban it for the world, and we enforce that ban for all. This is one example: I could give others. And we claim the right to export our form of government and do that by force of arms, on the grounds that this is the only way to preserve our own security.

We have not been building good will by doing all this. On the other hand, Brin's point is that we sell debt, and golf courses and buildings, as the Japanese once did, and the Yankee horse traders won out in the end.

He does not point out, but I do, that all these assets can be restored to American ownership by the stroke of a pen. There are some advantages to being the most powerful military nation on Earth.

Gold cannot get you good soldiers, but good soldiers can always get you gold.

==From another physicist:

Subject: US trade deficit

Jerry, for what it's worth...

I remember concerns about the Japanese and Saudi's buying US real estate I think in the early to mid-80's, as a consequence of our trade deficit.

The following is ad-hoc, off the top of my head, perhaps not well considered, I'm certainly no economist but I do know something about process in general, should be taken with an appropriately-sized modicum of salt, is is probably worth less than the paper it isn't printed on:

I'm not sure that balance-of-trade, or even continuous-trade-deficits, are the principal determinant here. Certainly not as the sole factor. Consider that a "trade deficit" as the score is currently kept means that we are transferring money (a symbol) to another country in return for a commodity (real property/resources). This may become an issue but other factors must be in play for it to become an issue (note that some or all of these factors are in play, but...)

1. What is the value of the commodity purchased compared to domestic production?

2. Does the real commodity increase economic productivity by some measure?

3. Is there an after-market value of the real commodity?

4. How is this analysis affected by the differential value of money as a symbol?

This statement incorporates several complex metrics -- relative valuation of the debtor/debtee country currency, time variation of the relative valuation of the debtor/debtee country currency, relative valuation of the debtor/debtee courntry currencies compared to a defined standard currency (a stable third currency or a weighted average of all currencies broadly traded), and relative valuation of the debtor/debtee country currencies to a defined standard commodity (e.g. a 1-lb loaf of standard bread, a 1-lb steak, 1 troy oz of .999 gold, 1 barrel of standard-grade Saudi crude FOB the Arabian Gulf, some trade-or-consumption-rate-averaged-value of the above, etc.)

For example (probably oversimplified) if Country A maintains a trade deficit compared to Country B of 1%/moth of total net trade between the countries, and Country A's currency is inflating at a rate of 1%/month relative to Country B, the effective trade deficit is wiped out by devaluation of Country A's currency on arrival in Country B.

Thank You Mr. Heinlein for the Economics Lesson in Expanded Universe and I Wish You Had Written That Book On Fiscal Theory.

5. How does Country B deal with the currency surplus? (Real Estate in Country A as per my first note? Domestic business expansion? Trade deficit with Country C? etc.) How is this answer affected by the variable answers to Question 5?

6. How do the relative regulatory burdens of Country A and B (and C and...) affect the above analysis as regards production costs, value of maintaining a trade imbalance, etc?

When considered on a global basis, the trade balance is a complex dynamic balance in which promises to pay of varying worth (currencies which are being shuffled in value relative to each other) chase commodities of both fixed intrinsic value (cost of production) and market-derived value (supply and demand, which may for example dictate that product X is worth less than the production price in Country B, yielding negative market-derived net value) against a backdrop of variable median local wages as fixed by comparative currency valuation, variable median local wages as fixed by local purchasing power, variable overhead and profit structures, variable cost and value of employee benefits, health care, government oversight and intervention, profit/loss structures, mechanisms for exercise of ownership control, corporate cooperation (price-fixing) and competition, corporate hooliganism and fraud, government hooliganism and fraud, independent activist hooliganism and fraud, value of security protections against hooliganism and fraud, terrorism and counterterrorism, and probably even more factors I can't think of off the top of my head.

Bottom line: Is a trade deficit a bad thing? Not necessarily. Is it a good thing? It's less likely to be a good thing than a bad thing, but again, not necessarily? Is the US trade deficit a bad thing? On balance, probably. Does it mean the end of US society as we know it? Probably not without other factors (again, some of which are probably in play, but...)

Jim Woosley

==I keep coming back to this: if you make good stuff at low prices you win. If you don't and you continue to consume, you go broke. The story of the working man who worked much of his life then went on a spree with his savins (or married a gold digger who did that) is a very old story indeed. Perhaps being a government helps. But in some of those stories the working man turned robber.

==and another view:

Subject: Off-shore outsourcing of work & education


When outsourcing of jobs to low wage countries is debated, a common prescription given to stem the flow is the improvement of the educational system in the US. Greenspan has said this in recent appearances before congress. It is a common theme in your blog. I don't dispute that there is plenty of room for improvement in the US system of education, and that having a pool of appropriated trained and skilled labor is certainly important to retaining the industry we that we still have. However, I have trouble reconciling this proposed solution with current trends in outsourcing.

What we are now seeing is the migration of jobs that used to be considered high skill, white collar work, e.g., software development and engineering. I personally see little evidence that companies are forced to go overseas because a shortage of skilled programmers or engineers in the US. I see plenty of evidence to indicate that companies want to go overseas largely because they can obtain near equivalent labor at substantial discounts. It isn't a skills shortage in the US that is driving the offshoring movement, it is simply the existence of a surplus labor pool willing and able to work at substantially lower wage rates. A friend of mine who manages a group of offshore programmers told me this about 3 years ago: "There is simply no way even a cracker-jack developer (in the US) can compete with the low wage structure there (India)."

When it comes to intellectual activities like programming or engineering, there is no reason why the most gifted subset of American brains should be any more capable that the most gifted subset of Indian or Chinese brains, if those brains are properly nourished and trained. The reality is that higher education is mostly labor intensive, rather than capital intensive. Go to the average US University today, and you will still find that the principle tools used by the professors are the classic ones: books, chalk, and a chalk board. (OK, maybe PowerPoint is starting to replace chalk and chalkboard.) With good teachers, you can turn out good engineers or programmers just about anywhere. All the teachers need is a building, some books, and some computers. The point is that, even if we improve our educational system, the best we can hope for in the long term is parity of intellectual capability. The dilemma is this: How does one offset a 5:1 or 10:1 advantage in labor cost, when a 5:1 or 10:1 advantage in intellectual capability can't be achieved or sustained?

Economists still seem willing to cite the principle of "comparative advantage" to reassure us that outsourcing of jobs is OK, that it is just another form of free trade what will be mutually beneficial to both trading partners. Perhaps they are right, and in the long term, things will evolve to something that is mutually beneficial to all. But in the long term, all of us will be dead. In the short term, the transition could still be very disruptive or damaging to US society! More ominously, what if the economists are wrong. Where will our comparative advantage lie if large numbers of jobs that formerly provided middle class lifestyles suddenly begin to provide McDonald's like wages? I am struggling to see the answer.

C. Pawlisch, Minnesota

== which bring us to


Subject: Sweat ship.

There are a number of technical problems with this, not least amongst them the facts that high-speed microwave SP service isn't readily available just anywhere, and even if it were, the motion of the ship even when 'at rest' on the ocean (plus the water-vapor in the air, etc.) would cause problems for the microwave link, but it's still a heinous concept, IMHO:


-- Roland Dobbins

We have no monopoly on brains; and our education system is broken. Perhaps the bright kids will educate themselves and fix it.

Pareto and others have shown there will always be classes; the public education system is supposed to prevent the classes from becoming castes. It appears to serve the opposite purpose now.

==But for a more optimistic view:


Subject: The educational sky is not (necessarily) falling...

My case in point: “Teach for America”. It’s possibly the most competitive post-baccalaureate service program in the country. (This year there were 17,000 applicants for 2,000 open positions.) There’s a recent NPR piece here:


From personal observation, I can assure you the situation is the same here at Penn (where I’m wrapping up a Classics degree I should have gotten 30 years ago) and I’m told the situation is the same at the other Ivies. The willingness of the young people here to make commitments like “Teach for America” is truly wonderful to see. These are by far the “best and brightest” our educational system produces (I study with them almost every day and yes the competition is, if not cutthroat, certainly vigorous).

For the next school year TforM will have 3400 teachers in the field reaching 289,000 students at a cost of $38,500,000. If I’m not mistaken that works out to just over $11,323 to train and place an enthusiastic new graduate from a top university. (Teacher pay comes from the local school districts.)

So check TfM out at:

http://www.teachforamerica.org/flash_movie.html <http://www.teachforamerica.org/flash_movie.html

There’s an interesting personal experience article from the early days here:


(It comes with a strong condemnation of the credentialing process which I’m sure your readers will love.)


-Bill Colsher

==I do not believe that anything can defeat the credentialism now entrenched in law, and teacher unions exist largely to protect the incompetent and represent the interests of teachers; not of students. But there are here and there some bright spots. And despair is a sin.

== and Mr. St. Onge is optimistic:

From: Stephen M. St. Onge                                      Subject: The Trade "Deficit"
http://www.fatsteve.blogspot.com/                       saintonge@hotmail.com

Dear Jerry:
        Try as I might, I can't get worried about the trade deficit.  Mr. Efener  argues well (http://www.jerrypournelle.com/mail/mail358.html#Monday), but I think his case is funamentally flawed.
        He says: "In the 1920's when Winston Churchill was Chancellor of the Exchequer he set the Sterling/Dollar exchange at too high a value as a confidence building measure. This failed and participate the 1929 crash (Because assets where being transferred into the new trading currency, so creating an asset bubble) and lead directly to the Great Depression.
        Already their have been rumours in the financial markets about Far Eastern countries reducing their Dollar holdings (The most recent was a rumour concerning the South Korean Central Bank). At some stage unless the Trade deficit is reduced, major holders of US debt (Mostly Far Eastern Countries) will be forced to sell, or be left holding assets that have a fraction of their current value."
        Well, the yen was once 320 or so to the dollar, and now it's about 100.  So Japan lost about 2/3 of their investments.  Where's the world-wide depression?
        The reason it didn't happen is, Britain in the twenties owed gold or dollars to the U.S.  Under the rules of the gold standard, when Britain lost gold, deflation was supposed to take place, hammering down British prices until they were competitive on the world market.  The British govt. declined to do this.  The U.S. govt. spent some years trying to prop up the pound by loaning Britain money with which  it could pay its debts to the U.S.!  This only increased British debt to the U.S.
        But the U.S. is indebted overseas in dollars.  The Federal Reserve can print an unlimited amount of them.  That could cause several problems, but we can't go bankrupt unless we make a deliberate decision to do so.
        By the way, the reason the U.S. runs a trade deficit with the Far East is because the countries there all believe that exports are good, and imports are bad (hmm, where else have I heard that ;-D).  If they want their trade surpluses, they inevitably end up with dollars.  If the Asian countries dump them, the dollars will end up in some other foreigners' hands, but in the end, there's only three things you can do with greenbacks: spend them in the U.S.; invest them in the U.S.; use them to paper your walls.  Investing them in the U.S. is what's happening now.  How does it hurt us, if the rest of the world continues to sell us stuff for dollars, and then throws them away instead?
        Enefer: "What happens when the US wants to intervene in say Iran? Well if your the Chinese or South Korean foreign minister you mention to your US colleague that may be the US shouldn't do that as your country receives substantial oil supplies from Iran. If the US attacks Iran we will no longer lend your country the money to buy our products and you boss loses the next election because 'its the economy stupid'."
        Hmm, what happens I think is that the President says, "Go urinate up a rope.  You refuse to sell goods to us, and you immediately throw a large part of your economy into a crisis.  But it won't be all bad.  With mass unemployment, you won't need to import so much oil anyway, so our attack on Iran won't bother you as much."
        Again, Efener misses the point that France and Britain during the 1950s were dependent on U.S. dollars, the supply of which we controlled.  The U.S. is not dependent on Korean autos or Chinese textiles.  It would sting a bit if they were suddenly cut off, but not that badly.  But Asia's loss of the U.S. as a market would be a catastrophe for them.
        As for the loss of the American Dream that Mr. Efener worries about, three words: 'The Great Depression.'  Our spirits survived that, they'll survive the hypothetical problems he posits, in the unlikely event they ever happen.
        The U.S. has been in a balance of payments deficit since the 1950s.  For half a century, there have  been predictions of imminent doom.  Somehow, they never happen.  Back in 1988, Japan was supposed to be about to surpass us (http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0679720197/qid=1113886964/sr=1-1/ref=sr_1_1/104-4512575-8891160?v=glance&s=books).  Funny how their economy collapsed instead, while ours got stronger.  And despite all this talk of being a debtor nation, the U.S. was a debtor nation until the Great War.  Our economic strength was financed by foreign borrowing.  Somehow, that didn't lead to disaster either.
        China may become a threat to us, assuming its social strains don't tear it apart (see e.g. http://rconversation.blogs.com/rconversation/2005/04/vietnam_first_i.html), but if China does threaten us, it won't be because we owe a debt we can repudiate or pay at will with worthless paper.

==The yen remained at 360 to the dollar for a very long time. I had reason to know that value once, when I won a very large sum of yen at a poker game. But that was a long time ago.

I point out there is a difference between borrowing to buy tools or acquire skills, and borrowing to go on vacation trips or buy frivolous consumer goods. The Boeing Company used to finance the purchase of tools for aircraft mechanics: you bought your tools, the company deducted from wages, but the tools were yours (workers took better care of their own tool than those issued by the company; odd that). The company credit union was happy to loan money for home improvements. It frowned on loaning money for vacations.

And some numbers

Just a quick follow-up on an earlier note.


The data below are from the Bureau of Economic Analysis.  They document the patterns of trade by end-use of commodities for 2004.  The bottom line is that over 40% of the U.S. trade deficit last year was due to a deficit in consumer goods.  The number is almost two-thirds if you count automobiles as consumer goods (though not all are, of course).  Overall, there is more total trade (exports plus imports) in capital goods and industrial materials, but the net flow of goods seems to indicate that, to a large extent, the US is borrowing today to fund current consumption.


If the numbers showed a lot of capital goods being imported on net, then I would not be very concerned as this would be consistent with the notion that the U.S. is a good place to invest and produce.  In fact, a trade deficit of that nature would actually be good for US workers.  This is not the case for 2004, however, and I suspect the data from earlier years looks similar.


These figures are worrisome.


in millions of $

All Goods

Foods, Feeds, & Beverages

Industrial Supplies

Capital Goods

Automotive Vehicles, etc.

Consumer Goods

Other Goods

Exports 2004








Imports 2004
















Net Exports
























Total Trade


















Kerk Phillips


===and a question

Do you think the current account deficit is more urgent or more important than the fiscal deficit? That is from the point of view of keeping the economy humming. China seems to be stuck with supporting the $US by continuing to buy lots of bonds. Its alternatives include massive losses from pulling the rug from under the $US and, of course, giving the US the excuse to expropriate enemy property by attacking Taiwan (which is one, totally neglected, reason why it won't attack Taiwan any time soon).

China will of course act entirely in its own and its leaders' interests as they conceive them but there seems to be solid evidence that they are preparing for a float of the Yuan (renminbi - which should it be JD, or Jason or Ben or..?) or at least a managed revaluation and partial float. They are apparently training their future currency traders on three main currencies in a small way.


See below


Comments on the current BYTE column:

A Beaut...

Hell Jerry,

Every now and then you bang out a priceless paragraph!

Like this one:

Peter Glaskowsky suggests that given my proclivity for keeping old machines for special purposes, I should just have a shelf of laptops stood on end like books. One might be labeled "Taxes and Accounting." Others might be "Chaos Overlord," "Q&A," "Railroad Tycoon," "This Means War," "Privateer," etc. That almost sounds tempting.

I feel you've been brightening up a bit recently after a stretch in a rut. Interesting rut, but deep.




Subject: Comment on "The Way We Were"

Hi Jerry,

Good article as always, Jerry. I can remember setting up my Dad's first mailing list program on a Kaypro 10MB computer ages ago. I can, in part, go you one better with a 2K bit core memory board removed from service in 1985 (it was getting hard to find repair parts for that ancient computer, so it was replaced with a Modicon 584 PLC -- a relay ladder logic computer running 4- or 6-ganged, 4-bit-slice processors in a kind of custom, interpreted, symbolic-electrical assembly language).

You: "If there's significant new software requiring faster machines with more memory, I haven't heard about it."

You might consider the rapid rendering of NTSC video - for home movies - a strain for most computers. My G4 iMac needs about a minute of DVD rendering per minute of video -- G5's are faster. But we are quickly approaching the era of HD video editing. That will take some horsepower, I think.

That's the only exception that I can think of...


-John G. Hackett

Agreed: I thought I had said that video editing is an exception to the "you won't notice if you upgrade" rule...


Roland recommends you read:

Subject: Cracking 128-bit WEP in three minutes.


-- Roland Dobbins


Subject: Even Monkeys Wouldn't use a Mac.


--- Roland Dobbins

Subject: Aliens among us . . . a long time ago?


---- Roland Dobbins


Subject: Laocoon a forgery?

------ Roland Dobbins

This link may no longer be valid alas...

Subject: Holographic storage.


-- Roland Dobbins


Subject: Hyde speaks out.


------- Roland Dobbins


Subject: $17M.


---- Roland Dobbins

You can always find things to spend other people's money on, so that you feel a warm generosity and tell yourself what a good person you are.

And an observation by Harry Erwin:

Subject: The Effectiveness of Torture

We were discussing Bayesian analysis in my network security class today, and my co-instructor pointed out that torture is only effective if a knowledgeable individual is more likely to make a true statement than an innocent a false statement. He also pointed out that giving juries evidence about the past criminal history of an accused reduces the reliability of both conviction and acquittal. These turn out to be cases of the base rate fallacy.

-- Harry Erwin, PhD "If you can't be a good example, then you'll just have to be a horrible warning." (Catherine Aird)

Compelled testimony is effective only if independently corroborated. Jeremy Bentham did an analysis of compulsion to testify against oneself and concluded that it was justified, and effective; but in general it was defeated by the pathetic fallacy, which he called the old woman's argument: "it's hard on the defendant to be forced to tell the truth..."==

Which brings us to Martha Stewart and Sandy Burglar Berger...


My article "Pre-emptive Executions: Economist Steven Levitt contends that abortion reduces crime rates. The numbers tell a different story" in the May 9th issue of The American Conservative debunking the theory promoted last week in the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times is now available online for free at: _http://www.amconmag.com/2005_05_09/feature.html _

. Best wishes,

Steve Sailer

_www.iSteve.com_ (http://www.iSteve.com)


TSA limits number of books on airplanes?


What's most frightening isn't that they're banning books, it's that individual screeners have the authority to make arbitrary judgments on both banning and permitting objects without regard to published standards. So you never really know what will be allowed from day to day, airport to airport, or even screener to screener. And of course, it's a crime to possess banned item when going through security (regardless of criminal intent). Put them together....

I find it amusing that we darn near need a passport to take an airplane anywhere inside the country, yet Bush just vetoed a requirement to have one to cross our borders.

We have done more to destroy ourselves than the terrorists could ever have imagined.





"Do something you like. Forget about the pay, for Christ's sakes. Regulate your style of living to fit your income. Just have fun in your job, that's the main thing." ~ General Chuck Yeager




This week:


read book now


Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Continuing a discussion on trade


The current account deficit, by far, is more serious. The current U.S. budget deficit is regrettable. However, it is not wildly out of proportion with historic deficits and is not notably larger than the deficits of several European countries (I won't even mention Japan). Nor is the total public debt at the flashing red level. By contrast, the current account deficit is way into the danger zone. No country has long sustained a deficit comparable to the U.S. today without serious consequences. Yes, I know that any number of Pollyanna's say "this time it is different". I have some pets.com stock for them to buy.

The U.S. budget deficit is around 3.6% of GDP, well below the highs of the 1980s and 1990s. The public debt is under 40% of GDP, hardly a threat to our nation's economy. By contrast, France and Germany are both around 65% of GDP and several countries (Belgium, Italy) are at or above 100% of GDP.

This is not to say that the U.S. budget deficit is virtuous or even minimally justifiable. Running large deficits, to provide tax cuts to the wealthy isn't morally acceptable, in my opinion. To do so, in wartime, with Americans dying half way around the world is even worse...

The only justification (if there is one) is that the economy would be doing worse without the tax cuts, deficits, etc. This is simply latter day Keynesiasm and at least partially true. In my youth, Keynesiasm was the economic ideology of the left (and still is in some parts of the world). It became a right-wing religion when "supply siders" discovered they could use the "deficits don't matter" mantra to justify tax cuts for themselves.

Of course, any number of liberals have pointed out that temporary tax cuts targeted at lower income groups would have been more effective in stimulating the economy (marginal propensities to spend) and would not have locked the Federal government into a long-term deficit structure. Of course, they are quite correct.

The trade deficit is far more of a threat to America's (and the world's) well being. Simply stated, it is absurd for the "richest nation in the world" to live substantially beyond its means and expect other, poorer, nations to pay its bills. Aside from the moral issues, the world simply won't keep buying America's debts forever. When the music stops, the resulting "adjustment" will be at least somewhat traumatic. I am not predicting a replay of 1929. However, a downturn of the magnitude of 1982/83 is at least possible. To eliminate the current account deficit, U.S. interest rates will have to rise enough reduce investment/increase savings by 6% of GDP.

Even if imports fell and exports rose by a total of 6% of GDP, consumption would still fall substantially. In real life, the trade adjustment won't be immediate, so the consumption decline may be even greater. However, the reality is that the U.S. faces an unavoidable and major reduction in private consumption as a percent of GDP.

It is hard to say when any of this will actually happen. The nature of bubbles is that they are always larger and longer than any rational person would expect (Keynes - "Markets can remain irrational longer than you can remain solvent").

Of course, the budget deficit and the trade deficit are not unconnected. Raising taxes to eliminate the budget deficit would cut the trade deficit in half. In real life, the impact would probably be considerably greater. Raising taxes would probably sink the economy and stop asset (read house) price inflation. The combination of economic weakness and asset deflation would bring savings back into vogue. So the actual trade impact would be considerably greater than the tax hikes themselves. Note that it is not realistic to expect Americans to actually save money. However, equity extraction would cease and many folks would pay off their credit cards. Net that savings rate would rise.

By the way, China is not the "problem". China's trade surplus with the U.S. is less than 25% of the total U.S. deficit. It is not clear if China is running a major overall trade surplus or not. Of course, other Asian countries tie their currencies to the RMB and that is an issue that the U.S. must address sooner or later.

Thank you


and see below

====And from the Wizardess

It seems WASPs can't cut it anymore.

From the daily news feed from the Association of Computing Machinery: ===8<--- a.. "La Vida Robot" Wired (04/05) Vol. 13, No. 4, P. 122; Davis, Joshua The third annual Marine Advanced Technology Remotely Operated Vehicle Competition was remarkable in that the winning entry--which beat well-funded competition from MIT and other vaunted institutions--was designed, built, and operated by four Phoenix high schoolers with minimal funding. Furthermore, the students were all undocumented Mexican immigrants who grew up in poor communities. Carl Hayden Community High School computer science teacher Allan Cameron, sponsor of the school's robotics program, organized the team representing the school in the underwater bot contest. Lorenzo Santillan developed the vehicle's mechanics, while Cristian Arcega addressed power supply and thrust vector issues; Oscar Vazquez applied his ROTC training to his duties as crew leader and helped secure funding for the project from local businesses; and Luis Aranda handled the pickup and release of the robot. The machine was a frame of PVC pipe equipped with lights, propellers, cameras, a laser range finder, pumps, a microphone, depth detectors, and an articulated pincer, and weighed 100 pounds. The bot, which the team christened Stinky, was required to execute seven underwater exploration tasks revolving around the surveillance of a sunken submarine mock-up. The vehicle was capable of hovering, spinning in place, and angling up or down, and earned the team awards for design and technical writing, as well as the title of overall contest champion.


Fascinating, eh? Says something more about our school students than usual. It seems to show that "real Americans" are lazy and complacent compared to even illegal aliens let alone people of other nations. No wonder we placed a meager 17th in the recent computer Olympics.



Subject: From Seoul to the Bosporus.


---- Roland Dobbins

Interesting update on modern Turkey


And the number one reason why we will never be rid of SPAM

Subject: re: Spam. Forget email and go to a password protected text box

It’s your only hope as things now stand.

Every spammer in the world probably has you address by now. Smart people will beat dumb filters every time. The general email (the personal mailbox) problem is solvable with simple technology that could be implemented tomorrow by Microsoft, Thunderbird etc: http://bellsouthpwp.net/j/i/jimober/traffic_light_email.htm  I’m not saying that is THE solution. Still, the fact that A solution exists proves the big boys could fix it if they wanted to. They don’t want to because anti-spam is big business for everybody, business that goes away if the spam problem is ever solved. See below:

But you are offering an open solicitation for feedback. You need a password protected text box.

Here are the top 5 reason the spam problem will never be solved….

The Big ISP reason:

We here at Humongous Online really and truly welcome our low cost competitors like Inergate. It's just that they are on a dirty network that generates lots of SPAM. Because we here at HOL pride ourselves on SPAM fighting to protect our members, we are forced to block their network and it's incoming email. We know that makes their email system worthless. (Who wants email that can't get though to HOL). But it's their fault for keeping costs down by being on a dirty spamming network. While you are here, let me show you why it's worth an extra $10 a month to use our service instead of their spamming network.

The Big software company reason:

We here at Microcrud Associates know what a threat SPAM is to your company. That is why we are announcing today a whole new line of spam fighting products.

The Big anti virus company reason:

Malicious code in attachments to SPAM could crash your whole company network for days. We here at McNorton have hundreds of people continuously fighting that threat. In fact we see it as our number one business. Won't you let us protect your company as we have done for so many others. For only 20 dollars per computer per year you too can have the peace of mind that so many others enjoy.....

The Big SPAM expert reason:

Yes I know how big a problem SPAM is. Remember I wrote the book on the subject and for $2,000 a day plus expenses I'd be more than happy to come to your company and show you how to fight SPAM.

The Big Network administrator reason.

Sure you can outsource me but do you really want some kid in Bombay, making a buck an hour, who can't even pronounce the company name, defending us against SPAM? Do you know what viruses in SPAM attachments can do to this company? Do you know how much time would be wasted on junk mail. I have some studies here.....

Why do we have spam? Follow the money. Spam is a profit center for everybody who is anybody.


I have to go work now. Comments invited. And see below



CURRENT VIEW    Wednesday


This week:


read book now


Thursday, April 21, 2005

On Spam, Robert Bruce Thompson says:

Subject: The spam problem

It's solved now, as far as I'm concerned. There are probably several thousand spams a day directed at my various email addresses. I see perhaps only two or three of those in an average day.

For me to see a spam message, it has to make it past three filters, each of which is probably 90% to 95% effective:

o First, the great bulk of incoming traffic is blackholed before it ever gets near my inboxes. Greg or Brian could give you an exact figure, but I'd guess probably 90% of the inbound messages are trashed this way, which probably accounts for 95% or more of the spam before the server ever sees it.

o Second, of the 10% of messages that get past the first filter, SpamAssassin running on the mail server eliminates probably 90% to 95% of those that are spam.

o Third, of the few spams that get past the first two filter, Mozilla Mail's spam filtering kills probably 90% to 95% of the remaining spam messages.

So, if 5,000 spam message per day are sent to my addresses, the server blackholes probably 4,650 of those, leaving only 350 to reach SpamAssassin. Of those 350, SpamAssassin deletes, say, 315, leaving only 35 to reach my inbox. Of those 35, Mozilla Mail filters out 32, leaving only 3 that actually end up in my inbox.

I can live with that.

-- Robert Bruce Thompson thompson@ttgnet.com http://www.ttgnet.com/thisweek.html  http://forums.ttgnet.com/ikonboard.cgi

Note: Mr. Thompson and I use the same ISP, and thus the first stage of his filter is the same for him and me. EXCEPT: I still have an old Earthlink account. I use that for local access when I am in dialup territory. I probably ought to arrange simply to have all mail to me at my Earthlink address forwarded here, but I don't; and I am not sure that forwarded mail will be subject to the same filters as regular mail to Rocket/Mazin. Earthlink intercepts a lot of junk, but I have to look at it because periodically it will try to filter out mail to me on some of my conferences and backlists, and I have to tell it to let that through. This takes considerable time but not more than once a week.

Second, to run SpamAssassin on a mail server would mean running a Linux mail server here. I have thought of that more than once, and it's partly sloth that keeps me from doing it. One day I'll set something up, but note that SpamAssassin has already gone over my mail and starred it; that with 5 or greater stars is simply deleted. That with less gets through. I don't dare set that lower: unlike Bob Thompson, I really need to get  number of press releases and spam-appearing announcements.

InBoxer is about as good as Mozilla Mail for sorting out the final piles. Spam isn't that big a deal with me UNTIL I AM ON THE ROAD: it is the endless stream of spam coming through dialup connections, or even through high-speed connections but being filtered by LiasBetta, the TabletPC, that enrages me. Much of my CPU time is eaten while that goes on, and it is then I get dark thoughts of serving long pig dinners to spammers. Eat some more stew. It's your son. Well,  part of him anyway.

This is one reason I am contemplating (and in fact will almost certainly get) a very high speed laptop of the desktop replacement/high speed gaming variety. Otherwise LisaBetta is all the computer I need on the road.


Once more on China and hostile trade:


Some disjoint thoughts on Chinese political economy, for what they’re worth. I’d organize them better, but I’m off in the morning for a long-delayed camping trip and I need to finish packing things.

Chinese Government and the Masses

The Chinese Government and the General Populace seem to have an informal contract: the government will deliver increasingly higher standards of living and maintain close to full employment, and the people will forego democratic input and remain peaceable. Depressing the value of the RMB is one way to maintain full employment and importing foreign technology is one way to raise the standard of living. For the short-run this strategy seems to have been stable and may well be sustainable for some time to come.

Inefficiencies and Inequality

Maintaining full employment in many provinces means propping up state-run factories that a free enterprise system would shut down. State support of inefficient enterprises, particularly of state-run enterprises in the interior of China, creates all sorts of perverse incentives and only postpones the inevitable. These factories are not getting any more efficient while the burgeoning private sector is. In the long-run these firms will be forced to shut down and if this happens all at once (due to a fiscal collapse, for example) then huge numbers of workers will be suddenly unemployed. The costal provinces in China were largely ignored by Chinese central planners and had a much smaller state-owned presence when the post-Mao reforms were begun. As a result the state-owned sectors there are now quite small relative to the rest of China and the threat of job loss from state-owned enterprises is small. In the interior and the northwest the state-owned drag on economic growth is huge and this has lead to huge differences in standards of living across China. Income inequalities across Chinese provinces today are five times as big and the income inequalities across US states or EU members. To put this in perspective, if the US had similar regional inequalities and California maintained the same standard of living it has today, then Mississippi would have local economy like that of rural Mexico.

China and Technology

China can continue to grow rapidly by importing technology for only so long. Eventually, the Chinese will run out of technologies to copy and will be forced to discover new ones just like every other technologically advanced country. This process is naturally much slower and means that the government will be forced to renege on its implicit agreement with the Chinese people. Given the huge inefficiencies that still plague the Chinese economy, technological slowdown is likely to occur well before standards of living come close to those of the US and Western Europe. What happens then? The biggest fear for the government is that this leads to widespread civil unrest and the worst case scenario (from their point of view) would be the overthrow of the government. Surveys of the population routinely find that they view the biggest problem facing their country is corruption and this cannot bode well for those in power should they lose it. What form a post-communist government in China would take is anyone’s guess, but the rising nationalism one sees in China today should give one pause. A nationalistic fascist China with a standard of living equal to that of Mexico would command an economy larger than the US and the EU combined. That is a scary thought.

Kerk Phillips


The Chinese nomenklatura have powerful motives for staying in power: what else would they do for a good living?

I am not convinced by the notion of eternal progress; but it is pretty clear that the dismal science of economics is influenced by technologies we already have: there is enough to eat worldwide. Distribution is another matter. So is storage and preservation. And didn't I say all that in Strategy of Technology in 1978?


And see Steve Stirling on this below


Subject: Global warming...

Hi Jerry,

Elizabeth Kolbert wrote the first of a three part series appearing in The New Yorker. She says there is now a consensus among scientists that global warming is not only for real, but the consequences will be dire in the coming decades. The following is an interview with Kolbert about this series:




Don Barker, Senior Editor

PC AI Magazine

 I have not read this yet but I will wager that:

1. The consensus is among theorists, and leaves out a great number of people with perfectly good credentials who don't agree;

2. The consensus doesn't include the cause or the remedy;

3. There is a wide disparity if you look for the mechanisms of dire consequences.

I'll read it when I get a moment.


From Burt Rutan

[This is very long, but I include it for obvious reasons]

I had a very interesting private meeting with Mike Griffin yesterday.

Anyone interested in how NASA might be run under the new administrator should definitely read the information below. Very good stuff herein.

Look for some very big early changes at NASA….the building was on fire as I arrived……really!


Prepared Statement of Dr. Michael D. Griffin: "The Future of Human Space Flight"

Testimony of Michael D. Griffin

Hearing on the Future of Human Space Flight Committee on Science

Rayburn House Office Building Room 2318 16 Oct 2003


Justification for the human space flight program is discussed in terms of the importance of U.S. leadership in this historically inevitable expansion. The need for a steady funding and a long-term commitment to the space flight enterprise is discussed. Technology hurdles and suggested intermediate milestones are identified.

Mr. Chairman:

Thank you for inviting me to appear before the committee in this rare opportunity to discuss the vision, the goals, and the future of human space flight.

Allow me to begin, if I might, with some "truth in advertising". I am an unabashed supporter of space exploration in general, and of human space flight in particular. I believe that the human space flight program is in the long run possibly the most significant activity in which our nation is engaged. For what, today, do we recall renaissance Spain, King Ferdinand, and Queen Isabella? Unless one is a professional historian, the memory which is evoked is their sponsorship of Columbus in his voyages of discovery. For what, in five hundred years, will our era be recalled? We will never know, but I believe it will be for the Apollo lunar landings if for anything at all. And this is entirely appropriate. Human expansion into space is a continuation of the ancient human imperative to explore, to exploit, to settle new territory when and as it becomes possible to do so. This imperative will surely be satisfied, by others if not by us.

We know this, if not with our logic then with our intuition. We are all the descendants of people who left known and familiar places to strike out for the risky promise of better places, in an unbroken chain going back to a small corner of east Africa. Concerning the settlement of the American West, it has been said that "the cowards never started, and the weaklings died on the way." But this has been true of every human migration; we are all the descendants of those who chose to explore and to settle new lands, and who survived the experience.

The late Carl Sagan, and others, have argued that this biological imperative is soundly rooted in evolutionary biology. The divergence of a species throughout the broadest possible environmental range is a form of insurance against a local catastrophe. Sagan argued that human expansion into the solar system is the important next step in protecting the human species from known and unknown catastrophes on a planetary scale. The fossil record which has been unearthed in recent decades certainly gives credence to this view, revealing evidence of multiple large scale "extinction events" throughout the history of life on Earth.

However, to be important is not necessarily to be urgent, and it may be argued that we have many difficult problems in greater need of immediate attention and resources than is human space flight. But even recognizing this reality, space flight is sparingly funded. In round numbers, FY2003 U.S. budget outlays were approximately $2.1 trillion, while the U.S. population is just under 300 million, yielding an average liability of $7000 per person, or about $20 per day for each man, woman, and child in the nation. With the NASA budget at $15 B/year, the civil space program costs each person in the nation about $50/year, or less than 14 cents per day. A really robust space effort could be had for a mere twenty cents per day from each person! I spend more than that on chewing gum. We as a nation quite literally spend more on pizza than we do on space exploration. So I don't think we are overspending on space. As wealthy as the United States may be, it is certainly true that we can allocate only a very small fraction of that wealth to the development of human space flight. But we must allocate that fraction, and we must spend it wisely. I don't think we are doing enough of either.

"This new ocean" - to use John F. Kennedy's famous phrase - has recently become accessible to us, albeit at great cost and difficulty. But despite the difficulty, it will be explored and exploited, it will be settled, by humans. The only questions are, "Which humans?", and "When?" While the answer to the first question will eventually be "all humans", I am parochial enough to believe that those from our nation should be in the vanguard.

Much in the news lately is the budding Chinese space program, which came of age yesterday with its first manned launch. The United States required only eight years to progress from our first manned space flight to the first lunar landing, and that while simultaneously developing the technology to do it. A committed nation could now achieve such a goal much more expeditiously. How are we going to feel when one of the Apollo lunar landing flags is returned to Earth and displayed in a museum - in Beijing? Do we really want a world in which the human space flight programs of other nations are on the rise, while ours is in decline? We are the sole factor in determining whether such a future comes about. No other nation can surpass us in human space flight unless we allow it to happen.

So, recognizing that others may differ, for me the single overarching goal of human space flight is the human settlement of the solar system, and eventually beyond. I can think of no lesser purpose sufficient to justify the difficulty of the enterprise, and no greater purpose is possible.

With these thoughts in mind, I offer the following in response to the questions posed by this committee in its formal invitation to appear.

* What option should NASA pursue in human space flight?

Accepting my premise that the proper goal of a publicly-funded space program is to enable the human settlement of the solar system, it becomes immediately clear that the relevant possibilities are few in number, and that we have not recently pursued any of them.

The geography of the solar system shows us the way. Suitable and useful destinations for humans are limited in the near term, given technologies reasonably foreseeable in the next several generations. They include the moon, Mars, and certain near-Earth and main-belt asteroids. That's about it. Certain waypoints or "parking places" - not physical destinations but features of the orbital geography of the solar system - are also useful, including low Earth orbit (LEO), geostationary orbit (GEO), and possibly the lunar Lagrange points. We, and our grandchildren's grandchildren, will be fully and gainfully occupied learning to reach, survive in, and exploit these places to our benefit.

It has been drolly observed that, "if God had wanted us to have a space program, he would have given us a moon", and I believe the truth underlying this witticism is correct. Development of permanent lunar bases on the moon, only three days away, will teach us much of what we need to know to press on to Mars. And in the slightly longer run, I believe the asteroids will be found to have immense value as a source of raw materials, as well as being of great scientific interest.

So, to me, the proper sequence for exploration is the moon, then Mars, and then the asteroids. It must be recognized, of course, that any such sequence is for initial program planning only. Once begun, exploration and exploitation of the moon will continue for centuries or millennia, just as it will for Mars and beyond.

The waypoints - LEO, GEO, and others - should be developed as necessary to enable the exploration of the moon, Mars, and asteroids, and not as programmatic goals in and of themselves. For example, a LEO space station such as the present International Space Station (ISS) is of very little use in developing a lunar base, especially during the early phases of such development. Thus, in a human space flight program focused on "settling the solar system", construction of a LEO space station would not be an early priority.

Similarly, there has been considerable discussion concerning the utility of the lunar Lagrange points as transportation nodes for a lunar base. While I think the idea has considerable merit, it is merit that attaches mostly to the longer term, when a fairly robust space infrastructure has been put in place. In the early years, the best way to get to the moon is as directly as possible, and similarly for Mars.

* What is the U.S. likely to gain by pursuing this option, and why can such gains not be obtained in other way? Specifically, please describe why these gains could not be achieved by means of unmanned missions. What are the implications of the option you suggest for the future of the unmanned program?

One may search in vain for an argument justifying, in any immediate way, the danger, difficulty, and expense of human space exploration. I believe we have all heard enough about technological "spinoffs", stimulating education, maintaining the high-tech industrial base, conducting astronomical or geological research, developing space-based power systems, harvesting space resources, and so on ad nauseam. Such arguments are most annoying because, while they are true - the claimed benefit does exist - they are irrelevant. No thinking individual would undertake a multi-generation program of human space flight to achieve any of these objectives, or any other similar collateral benefit. Any such goal can and should be achieved more directly and efficaciously merely by allocating to it the resources judged to be necessary for its accomplishment. We do not need a human space flight program to stimulate our children's education, or for any similar reason. A more global rationale is needed for an enterprise that will occupy our attention for generations to come.

What the U.S. gains from a robust, focused program of human space exploration is the opportunity to carry the principles and values of western philosophy and culture along with the inevitable outward migration of humanity into the solar system. Is this valuable? The answer must depend on one's worldview, I suppose. But consider a map of the world today, and notice the range of nations in which English is spoken as a primary language, and in which variations on British systems of justice, politics, culture, and economics thrive today. Was the centuries-long development of the British Empire, based upon Britain's primacy in the maritime arts, a misguided use of resources? I believe not.

Consider also that Great Britain's influence, achieved through its mastery of the oceans, was not restricted merely to affairs in the colonies, the new lands. By virtue of its nautical superiority, Britain wielded a dominant influence in the Old World as well, an influence hugely out of proportion to its size and other resources.

Can America, through its mastery of human space flight, have a similar influence on the cultures and societies of the future, those yet to evolve in the solar system as well as those here on Earth? I think so, and I think our descendants will consider it to have been worth twenty cents per day.

In the process of developing and extending human space flight into the solar system, we will also collect all of the ancillary benefits mentioned above, and many more. But I cannot imagine that these benefits can be attained solely through the use of unmanned scientific and exploration spacecraft. While such efforts are incredibly valuable - and I have personally spent the majority of my career in the engineering development of unmanned space systems - it is not credible to believe that they can substitute for human presence in the larger context that I have outlined here. Perhaps the most concise rationale on this point was provided by Norm Augustine in his 1990 "Report of the Advisory Committee on the Future of the U.S. Space Program". In that document, Mr. Augustine points out that "there is a difference between Hillary reaching the top of Everest and merely using a rocket to loft an instrument package to the summit". It cannot be said better, and again, I believe this difference is worth a few cents per day. Others may differ, but that is my view.

To this point, there is no inherent conflict between manned and unmanned space programs, save that deliberately promulgated by those seeking to play a difficult and ugly zero-sum game. But that is not the game at hand. In the context of a civil space program justified primarily in terms of the expansion of humanity into the solar system, it must be understood that "primarily" does not mean "entirely". Certain unmanned space systems having little connection with human space flight will be supported - as they are today - because of their inherent scientific or utilitarian value. Who today wants to return to life without weather satellites, global navigation, instantaneous worldwide communication, or high resolution overhead imaging? Similarly, that portion of our nation's scientific research devoted to using space assets to improve our understanding of Earth's environment, our solar system, and the cosmos beyond, will always, and should always, receive due attention in the allocation of resources. I personally worked, as a much younger engineer among thousands of others, on the Hubble Space Telescope, and will always be proud of having done so.

Human space flight advocates are not making a case that such programs should be deferred in favor of manned programs. On the contrary, the necessary requirements of human expansion into the solar system cannot be met without a greatly increased program of unmanned scientific exploration. This can only be seen as a "win-win" for all those involved in any aspect of space exploration. In the end, it comes down to letting robots and humans each do what they do best.

* What is your estimate of the costs of pursuing the selected option?

The cost cannot be easily estimated, because the task is so open-ended. A better way to think of the space enterprise is as an investment that will yield some benefits in the near term, but which cannot fully mature for generations. The appropriate fiscal policy for such an investment is to allocate to it an amount consistent with both its ultimate value and the sobering reality that it will be a long time before this value is returned. Our present assessment, as a nation, seems to be that the space enterprise is worth about $15 B per year, or as I indicated earlier, about 14 cents per person per day. I think we could spend a little more without wasting the money.

The nation's space program, and in particular its human space flight program, is not presently focused along the lines I have suggested here. We are burdened with a history of several decades of, in my view, misguided policy decisions, the legacy of which cannot be easily or quickly undone. For example, though I struggle to find value in the effort to match its cost, the international faith and credibility of the United States is tied, in part, to the orderly completion of the ISS. We must complete its construction, to include the original seven-man crew capability, and establish a utilization plan for the facility that returns as much value as possible. Yet, we must not mortgage our future to ISS, losing the next two decades as we have lost the last two. If no additional funding can be made available, it will be very difficult to complete ISS and, at the same time, embark on the development of those other systems that are required for a truly valuable and exciting human space flight program.

I would like to see an allocation of about $20 B per year to the U.S. civil space program. This would enable us to begin crucially needed programs to develop reusable space transportation systems, heavy lift launch, crew transfer vehicles, life support technology, and space power and propulsion systems that are needed to establish bases on the moon and Mars.

* How long will it take to achieve the specified goals of your option?

Again, the program I have outlined is not a "goal", it is a way of life, an essentially permanent part of our nation's technical, cultural, political and, yes, budgetary landscape. We will achieve important intermediate milestones, such as a return to the moon, the first landing on Mars, and many other uplifting events. But one has only to fly over the United States from coast to coast to realize that, in a very real sense, the "settlement" of the America is hardly complete, even after five hundred years of European presence in the Americas. The settlement of the solar system can be expected to take a bit longer.

The required time to achieve the intermediate milestones is irrevocably tied to funding constraints. If no new funding can be provided, we will spend the next several years - probably a decade - working our way out of the Space Shuttle and International Space Station dilemmas, even proceeding as expeditiously as possible. It will be difficult, likely impossible, to begin development of (for example) heavy lift launch vehicles and space nuclear power systems while restricting NASA to today's budget levels and simultaneously respecting current obligations to ISS. Yet, these technologies and others are crucial to any permanent step beyond LEO. There is a lot of ground to be made up, but with a $5 B annual funding increase for NASA, I believe one could expect to see the first lunar base within a decade.

What is needed is a different view of spaceflight in the affairs of men and nations than we have so far seen. Space programs in the United States have so far have been just that - programs. They are justified individually, each on its own merits, and have defined goals, funding, start dates and, it is hoped, completion dates. Space activities so far have been largely episodic, when in fact they need to become, again, a way of life.

NASA and the space community generally, whether civil or DoD, receive frequent criticism for the high cost of what we do, the cumbersome pace at which it often seems to proceed, and the not infrequent failures which occur. This may not be entirely unfair; it is my own belief that the nation is entitled to expect a higher standard of performance on space projects than has often been the case in recent years. But we in the space community - the engineers who must execute a multiyear vision one budget year at a time - are, I think, entitled to expect a higher and more consistent standard of commitment by the nation, through its policymakers, to that vision.

As an example of the mindset I advocate, I note that the United States has a Navy, which institution in fact predates our present form of constitutional government. Even in difficult times, we do not debate whether or not the United States will continue to have a Navy. We do not debate the Navy's function; by common understanding, it is the Navy's purpose to provide mastery and control of the high seas for the benefit of the nation. We may debate ways and means of achieving this, but withdrawal from the basic enterprise would be unthinkable. So it must be with human space flight. We are not yet to that point.

* What technical hurdles must be overcome in pursuing the option, and what steps that must be taken to overcome those hurdles? Are there intermediate program goals, and when might these be achieved?

I will comment on specific technical issues below, but before so doing I feel compelled to note that the technical challenge does not seem to me to be the biggest problem we have. We did not retreat from the moon because of technical difficulties, we did not fail to go to Mars because of technical problems, and we have not taken twenty years to put a space station in orbit because of technical matters. In each case the issues are matters of politics and leadership. Without a bipartisan, leadership-driven consensus that a vigorous space exploration program is essential to America's future, we will not have such a program, whether or not there are technical challenges to be overcome. It has been forty years since a Chief Executive has propounded such a vision, and no Congress has ever taken the initiative to do so. If the nation's leaders cannot say that space exploration is important, and why, it will not occur.

And technical challenges do exist. They include both human and engineering elements. We have considerable experience in the microgravity environment, and some practical and effective countermeasures have shown promise in minimizing bone loss, though more work is clearly needed. The most practical long-term microgravity countermeasure may well be to design our spaceships to supply artificial gravity by spinning them to generate a centrifugal force. Planetary surfaces are another matter. We have at present no clear understanding of how the human organism will respond and adapt to fractional gravitational environments such as will be experienced on the moon and Mars. The most difficult issue is likely to be that of cosmic heavy-ion radiation. The human effects of and countermeasures for heavy ion radiation, encountered in deep space but not in the LEO environment of the ISS, have received little attention thus far.

On the engineering side, the first order of business is largely to restore capabilities that we once had, and then to make them more reliable and cost effective. It may not be impossible to consider returning to the moon, or going to Mars, without a robust heavy-lift launch capability, but it is certainly silly. Our last Saturn V was launched thirty years ago, and while I do not necessarily advocate resurrecting an outdated design, this is the class of capability which is needed for the human space flight enterprise.

At the same time, much cargo (including humans) does not need to be launched in very large packages. We desperately need much more cost effective Earth-to-LEO transportation for payloads in the size range from a few thousand to a few tens of thousands of pounds. In my judgment, this is our most pressing need, for it controls a major portion of the cost of everything else that we do in space. Yet, no active U.S. government program of which I am aware has this as its goal.

As I have tried to indicate earlier, it is very difficult to comment on the nature and timing of intermediate program goals and milestones without reference to funding constraints.

For interplanetary flight, something more than chemical propulsion is clearly needed for other than return to the moon or, possibly, the first expeditions to Mars. Nuclear propulsion makes the most sense to me; several options are available, including both nuclear-thermal and nuclear-electric concepts. We once had an operating, ground-tested (though not flight-tested) nuclear-thermal upper stage intended for use on the Saturn V. The program was cancelled thirty years ago, when it became clear that a Mars mission was not in the nation's immediate future. Numerous nuclear fusion concepts potentially applicable to space propulsion exist, most notably those involving electrostatic confinement of the nuclear core, but none of these is receiving more than token funding. There also exist a number of promising approaches to electric propulsion, notably the Vasimir engine concept. In the long run, some form of nuclear-electric propulsion is likely to offer the best combination of efficiency and packaging capability for interplanetary flight.

* What is the implication of this option for the current human space flight program? To what degree does the current human space flight program contribute to or impede the option you suggest? What recommendations do you have for the Space Shuttle and International Space Station programs?

I have alluded above to some of the technical hurdles that we face in a commitment to a permanent program of human space exploration. Broadly, the tools necessary for this enterprise include:

* Heavy-lift launch capability, in the 100 metric ton to LEO class or greater.

* Reliable, efficient, and cost effective transportation to LEO for moderate size payloads.

* Compact space qualified nuclear power systems.

* Nuclear and nuclear-electric upper stage vehicles for application to interplanetary flight.

* Space and planetary surface habitat and human suit technology.

* Technology and systems for utilizing the in situ resources of the moon, Mars, and asteroids.

* Reliable and routine Earth-to-LEO crew transfer systems.

These are the things we would be working on, and would have been working on for decades, had we a consensus that the primary purpose of the nation's human space flight program was to begin the exploration of the solar system. The fact that we are largely not allocating the human space flight portion of the NASA budget to these tasks illustrates more plainly than any rhetoric that our space flight programs are directed to no useful end.

I will repeat only briefly my remarks above concerning ISS; we should do what is necessary to bring the program to an orderly completion while respecting our international partnership agreements, obtaining where possible as much scientific value as we can from the enterprise while accommodating ourselves to the fact that such value is inevitably limited.

Regarding the Space Shuttle, I have previously offered my opinion to this Committee that we should move to replace this system with all deliberate speed. While the Shuttle's capabilities are extensive and varied, it has proven to be extremely expensive to use, unreliable in its logistics, and operationally fragile. It is extremely risky for the crews who fly it because, while its mission reliability is no worse than other launch vehicles, there is seldom any possibility of crew escape in the event of an anomaly. The shuttle has met none of its original goals, despite the best efforts of some of our nation's best engineers to achieve those goals. Neither NASA nor the nation as a whole saw, or could see, these problems looking forward in 1972, when the shuttle program was approved. But, three decades later, I think we must admit to ourselves that it is time to move on.

Witness Biography

Michael D. Griffin is President and Chief Operating Officer of In-Q-Tel, the independent, nonprofit venture group chartered to identify and invest in cutting-edge commercial technologies for CIA and other intelligence community applications.

Mike was previously CEO of the Magellan Systems Division of Orbital Sciences Corporation, and also served as General Manager of Orbital's Space Systems Group and as the company's Executive Vice President/Chief Technical Officer. Prior to joining Orbital, he was Senior Vice President for Program Development at Space Industries International, and General Manager of the Space Industries Division in Houston.

Mike has served as both the Chief Engineer and the Associate Administrator for Exploration at NASA, and as the Deputy for Technology of the Strategic Defense Initiative Organization. Before joining SDIO, he played a leading role in numerous space missions while employed at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and Computer Sciences Corporation.

Mike holds seven degrees in the fields of Physics, Electrical Engineering, Aerospace Engineering, Civil Engineering, and Business Administration, and has been an Adjunct Professor at the George Washington University, the Johns Hopkins University, and the University of Maryland. He is the lead author of over two dozen technical papers and the textbook Space Vehicle Design. He is a recipient of the NASA Exceptional Achievement Medal, the AIAA Space Systems Medal, and the DoD Distinguished Public Service Medal, and is a Fellow of the AIAA and the AAS. He is also a Registered Professional Engineer in Maryland and California, and a Certified Flight Instructor with instrument and multiengine ratings.

Prepared Statement by Michael Griffin 8 May 2003 (part 1)

Testimony of Michael D. Griffin Hearing on the NASA Orbital Space Plane Program Subcommitee on Space and Aeronautics Committee on Science Rayburn House Office Building Room 2318 8 May 2003


Requirements for NASA's proposed Orbital Space Plane (OSP) and its place in the new Integrated Space Technology Plan (ISTP) are discussed. Consideration and adoption of appropriate top-level goals for the nation's space transportation architecture is advocated. The role of OSP relative to the Space Shuttle in support of International Space Station (ISS) is treated. Key OSP design features, especially the issue of a winged vs. semiballistic vehicle design, are discussed. OSP programmatic assumptions are examined, with attention to cost, schedule, and technology development requirements.

Mr. Chairman:

Thank you for inviting me to appear before this committee to discuss this most important issue, that of the NASA Orbital Space Plane (OSP) program, and its relationship to the new NASA Integrated Space Transportation Plan (ISTP).

I will open by noting that, in my opinion, this is not only a most important topic for discussion, it is the single most important subject to be addressed by the nation's leaders in connection with our nation's future in astronautics.

In aeronautics, the air is merely a medium through which one must transit in order to reach a desired destination. In astronautics, both air and space become navigable media, but space also becomes much more: It is itself a destination, a region offering access to an enhanced vantage point, hard vacuum, microgravity, advantageous positioning, and new sources of energy and materials.

But to use these assets we must first reach the destination. The physics of Earth's gravity well are such that once we reach low Earth orbit (LEO) we are, in Arthur C. Clarke's famous turn of phrase, "halfway to anywhere". This hearing, one of many such discussions on the topic, is prima facie evidence that despite the passage of sixty years since the invention of the first vehicles capable of reaching space, the task of reaching LEO -- reliably, routinely, and cost-effectively -- continues to elude us. We are still having trouble taking Clarke's first half-step.

The task is difficult. To reach LEO, we must package the energy required for an intercontinental aircraft flight in a container with the volumetric efficiency of an eggshell, yet which is tough enough to withstand high inertial, thermal, and aerodynamic loads. The stored energy must be expended within a few minutes, and prevented from being expended in a few seconds. Each launch of an expendable vehicle is its maiden flight, an event performed under only the most carefully controlled and limited conditions in aeronautics, yet which in astronautics must be a maximum-performance event. A reusable vehicle must survive a return through an atmospheric flight regime so rigorous it cannot be simulated in even the highest performance wind tunnels; such a vehicle can be fully tested only by flying it "for real".

But while the task is difficult, we have allowed ourselves to make it more difficult than it need be. We have sometimes concentrated so heavily on particular details and "point designs" that we have failed to appreciate that each such design must blend into, and be part of, a broader architecture. We have sometimes become enamored of specific requirements, to the exclusion of broader goals. We have at times over-valued the role of government while failing to pay due attention to the skill and expertise residing in our industrial base. At other times we have done the opposite, leaving too much to the discretion of contractors who, after all, bear no final responsibility for the success or failure of any government enterprise. In some cases we have stayed too long with proven but inefficient technology. In other cases we have designated as "operational" those things which were, at best, operating at the very edge of the state of the art, and possibly beyond it. We accept, without serious objection, a "cost of doing business" in government space endeavors that should shame us all were it to be examined on any sort of rational basis.

We have made most of the mistakes that can be made, mistakes which would have put any commercial enterprise mercifully out of its misery, in favor of a competitor with a better approach. But because the development of space launch vehicles has been almost exclusively a government enterprise, and because the few and only competitors have been other governments, normal market mechanisms are absent, and we continue to muddle along. This does not mean that all of our problems would be solved if we merely turned space launch over to industry, and restricted the government's role to supervising the purchase of tonnage per year to orbit. The contrary fact is true; the government's role in sponsoring appropriate technology and systems development is crucial, if effective launch vehicle technologies and an efficient free market in space transportation are ever to exist. We simply need to do it better than we have so far demonstrated.

In the wake of the Columbia accident, some have argued for restricting, once again, the frequency and purposes of manned spaceflight, or of restricting shuttle launches to orbits compatible with the International Space Station (ISS). One hears it said that manned spaceflight should be restricted to those occasions when human presence is "needed". I cringe when I hear or read such views. Since there was no human spaceflight at all prior to 1961, it is plain to see that we do not "need" to do it. We do it from a fundamental desire, inherent in our genes and in our culture, to explore our environment and expand our presence within that environment. We do it, according to John F. Kennedy's ringing quote, "not because it is easy, but because it is hard". Bearing this in mind, I submit that NASA's role is not to figure out how to do less manned spaceflight; NASA's role is to figure out how to do more of it.

With these thoughts in mind, I offer the following in response to the questions posed by this committee in its formal invitation to appear.

* What key factors should be considered when evaluating human space transportation architectures? Is the proposed ISTP an overly optimistic or overly conservative approach to meeting NASA's needs? What areas of the proposed approach pose the greatest risk? What recommendations do you have to reduce these risks?

The key element of any system architecture is that it be responsive to an overarching framework of goals. When a system architecture - or a specific vehicle - is designed without reference to such top-level goals, the result is a point design that is unlikely to blend smoothly into any larger picture. Rather than being designed to meet a higher purpose, the purpose becomes merely that set of tasks the system can accomplish.

The proposed ISTP seems to lack the required global framework, the desired broader view. Three elements are specified - the Space Shuttle, a new Orbital Space Plane, and a reusable launch vehicle. This latter element, potentially the most important of the three, is hardly a factor in the present discussion because it is being deferred for some unspecified period. What, then, are the questions being asked, for which these three architectural elements are the answers? This discussion is nowhere to be found in the proposed ISTP.

NASA should lead the debate to define and enunciate the nation's goals in space, and following from them, our goals in the development of space transportation - goals which will guide us for at least a generation. These goals should be embraced within the Administration, and shared and supported by the Congress, for in this matter there is no conceivable partisan interest. Properly chosen goals will be shared by the majority of informed stakeholders, and will be broad enough to accommodate the flexibility of timing and funding that future Administrations and Congresses will need and want, without sacrificing their essence.

While others may certainly have their own ideas as to the appropriate goals for the nation in space transportation, I believe they should include at least the following:

* Robust and economical small, medium, large, and heavy lift capability to LEO, to the 100 metric ton level or greater.

* Dependable, available crew transport to and from LEO.

* Crew escape capability from ISS and other space stations yet to be built in other places.

* Reliable cargo transport to LEO, including the capability for automated rendezvous, proximity operations, and docking with pre-existing assets.

* The option, but not the requirement, to combine crew and cargo transport as needed for a particular mission.

* LEO-to-higher-orbit transfer capability.

* Efficient lunar and interplanetary transfer capability for both unmanned and manned missions.

If I may be permitted an imperfect but possibly useful analogy, NASA is the entity in the U.S. government charged with, and best suited to, creating the "interstate highway" to space. This highway needs to be designed to handle shipments both large and small, on known and reliable schedules, safely and economically. The highway is needed because the existing patchwork of separately developed roads is inadequate to serve the future we can envision. Industry can and must share in the design, and must perform the actual construction. But only NASA can enunciate the goals and architect the system.

Against this larger backdrop, the proposed ISTP can only be seen as far too conservative. It is not so much wrong, as it is incomplete. If fully realized, it would leave us with little more capability than we have today to go beyond Earth orbit. It would do nothing soon to reduce the cost of space access. It would saddle us for the next two decades with continued primary reliance on the Shuttle, which is by any reasoned measure the riskiest element in the system. Surely we can do better.

* How might the OSP alter NASA's reliance on, and the flight rate of, the Space Shuttle? Should crew and cargo delivery be addressed by separate systems? If the OSP and a separate cargo delivery capability for logistics re-supply were developed, would it be necessary to continue to fly the Space Shuttle? If so, what missions could not be accomplished without the Space Shuttle? If the Shuttle is required for the duration of the Space Station, is an OSP that performs both crew rescue and crew transportation required?

Given the existing Leve1 1 requirements and their interpretation, the OSP is unlikely to alter substantially NASA's reliance on the Space Shuttle.

The OSP program is specified solely in terms of its requirements to "support" the International Space Station (ISS), where "support" is defined as "supplementing" the existing capabilities of Shuttle and Soyuz. It must support ISS crew rotation on 4-6 month intervals, and system is to be designed to have minimum life-cycle cost. These constraining assumptions, offered without reference to a set of higher goals such as articulated above, will have profound consequences in the generation to come. To see where these assumptions can lead, let us consider the following train of thought.

If the purpose of OSP is to "support" ISS operations by "supplementing" the capabilities of the Shuttle, and ignoring Soyuz for the moment, then clearly the Shuttle must be kept flying, in accordance with the proposed ISTP. Estimates vary, but it is accepted that a viable Shuttle program requires a minimum of several - let us say three or four - launches per year. Thus, in the normal course of events, Shuttle alone can easily accommodate ISS requirements. OSP would then fly only a couple of times per year - if that - to maintain operational currency, or to rotate the vehicle(s) docked at ISS for purposes of emergency crew return. Under these assumptions, OSP is thus needed only when - as at present - the Shuttle is grounded. The OSP system thus needs to be designed to accommodate a peak rate of possibly four flights per year for short periods, and much less on average.

With such assumptions, it will be almost guaranteed that the lowest-life-cycle-cost design is a simple (probably expendable) vehicle with the least capability consistent with completing the tasks envisioned today. A basic semiballistic capsule designed for a few days of independent flight could easily suffice. By choosing this path - and it is inevitable if we accept the Level 1 OSP requirements as written - we accept the requirement to maintain the inherently high cost Shuttle program. Worse, we have as our only Earth-to-LEO transportation systems two designs (Shuttle and OSP) which are wholly incapable of being adapted to the needs of lunar return or Mars exploration, ventures which should certainly be of interest over the intended design life of the OSP. Considered in such a broader context, radically different design choices might be made for OSP. But they are not possible given the requirements as written.

It scarcely needs to be said that it will be extremely hard to justify the development of such a vehicle, at a cost of several billion dollars, for such a limited purpose as OSP will have, given the requirements envisioned for it today. And, indeed, such development makes little sense economically. One could likely obtain several replacement Shuttle orbiters in a "block buy" for the same cost as a new OSP. Further thought in this direction would likely show that the most economical crew return vehicle for ISS would be the Shuttle itself - modified for a 60-to-90 day stay - with four to six crew rotation missions peryear. Following this logic, it becomes difficult to see the path by which reliance on the Shuttle can be ended.

To me, the likeliest result of accepting the OSP Level 1 requirements as written is that a sober analysis will show the OSP to be wholly unjustifiable in economic terms, and the program will subsequently be cancelled in favor of continued use of the Shuttle. Since the Shuttle is not capable of supporting the larger goals that I have enunciated above, or any similarly broad set of goals, I would consider this outcome to be another setback for NASA and the nation.

With regard to separation of crew and cargo, the issue is not "should" they be separated, but "can" they be separated when it is advantageous to do so, as is so often the case. With the Shuttle, they cannot. While the Shuttle's large cargo bay is its most impressive feature, it is also the feature which, in my opinion, results in the greatest increment of risk to the astronauts who fly it. With the cargo bay attached to the crew cabin, the Shuttle orbiter is inherently so large that only a sidemount configuration is possible, leaving the crew with no escape path in the event of a launch malfunction, as with the Challenger failure, and vulnerable to falling debris, possibly including ice, as with the Columbia accident.

If the Shuttle system had been designed with a smaller manned vehicle atop an expendable cargo pod, the overall system would have been much safer. A simple escape rocket would have sufficed to separate the crew vehicle from the launch system in the event of a malfunction, which is of course ultimately inevitable, given a sufficient number of flights. The crew vehicle could have been launched, by itself, on a smaller vehicle or vehicles when no cargo was required. The only lost capability would have been the ability to handle "down cargo", the least-used feature of the Shuttle system. My own view on the value of "down cargo" is somewhat simplistic: It is so difficult and expensive to get payloads to space that, having done it, we ought by and large to leave them there, and design them for that! But, if necessary, I believe that the design of a reusable cargo pod capable of executing an autonomous reentry and landing would pose little challenge.

Comments invited.




CURRENT VIEW    Thursday


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Friday, April 22, 2005

Subject: Arthur C. Clarke's famous turn of phrase, "halfway to anywhere"

The new administrator of NASA Michael D. Griffin doesn't know Clarke from Heinlein. I do hope he can get this right and give Robert A. Heinlein the credit he deserves.

"Halfway to Anywhere" by Jerry Pournelle, April 1974 from "A Step Farther Out".

In a discussion with Robert Heinlein You are the one that first said "If you can get a ship into orbit, you're halfway to the Moon."

"No," Bob said. "If you can get your ship into orbit, you're halfway to anywhere."

Now here is what Mr Griffin said.

"But to use these assets we must first reach the destination. The physics of Earth's gravity well are such that once we reach low Earth orbit (LEO) we are, in Arthur C. Clarke's famous turn of phrase, "halfway to anywhere". This hearing, one of many such discussions on the topic, is prima facie evidence that despite the passage of sixty years since the invention of the first vehicles capable of reaching space, the task of reaching LEO -- reliably, routinely, and cost-effectively -- continues to elude us. We are still having trouble taking Clarke's first half-step."

Robert say's it, You put it in print, Arthur gets the credit...

John Dinkel

==Ah well, better Arthur than another...

Subject: After Armageddon--There Will Be War

I just finished rereading After Armageddon--There Will Be War. You should take your opening piece, After Armageddon: New Beginnings, change Challenger to Columbia and update dollars for inflation. You could then republish it. That's sad. I worked on Appollo while I was in college. It was an exciting time. I never dreamed that 35+ years later we would be here.

John Abshier




Dear Jerry:

Read the discussion on trade with interest.

I think it's interesting to note who runs trade surpluses, and who doesn't. For example, Japan and Germany are running heavy surpluses right now... and they aren't doing all that well, are they? Germany hasn't added a single net job in since about 1980 and it gasps and wheezes to get the overall growth rate up to 1%, in the good years. Currently it keeps falling flat every couple of years.

Likewise, the Euro is currently a "strong" currency, and the Eurozone is an economic disaster area. Those countries have been for some time now; the US economy is growing at twice their speed or more, which is why the US share of global GDP is higher now than it was when Reagan was first elected. During almost all that period, the US has been running trade and budget deficits. Apart from 3 years in the late 90's, when did we last have a 'balanced budget'?

China is running an overall trade deficit, and the US was a trade-deficit country all through the 19th century. During the same century, France was a massive exporter of capital, and notorious for its slow economic growth.

"Trade deficit" more or less translates as "import of capital". It doesn't necessarily mean your country is doing well, but when a country is growing rapidly it usually imports more than it exports and invests more than it saves.

Asians save like blazes, and then send the money to the US -- either because it gives higher returns, or has less political risk, or both. The US has an unusually low savings rate, but it grows fast; partly because foreign capital flows in, but even more so because its investment capital is allocated with unusual efficiency and gives a higher return per unit, being less subject to distorting political pressure than most places. Which is why the US total factor productivity grows so swiftly.

And then of course there's demographics, the great hidden factor of economics and politics.

The US is the only large country in the entire world with an increasing fertility rate.

Americans will number 400-450 million by the middle of the century, at which time the total world population will be dropping sharply, on current trends.

The US now has a higher Total Fertility Rate than, among others, Algeria, Tunisia, Lebanon, Turkey, Brazil, and as of last year, probably higher than Mexico and Indonesia, both of which have probably dropped below 2.1 children per woman.

(Most of the increase in the US birth rate is not due to immigration, by the way. About two-thirds of the increase since the low point of the late 1970's has been due to the increased fertility of non-Hispanic whites. That's highly variable by region, and by subculture, too, of course -- for example, regular churchgoers have about three times the number of children per woman that secularists do.)

And China is in demographic free-fall, with birth-rates below the replacement level for nearly 20 years and a population aging many times faster than the US. Its current Total Fertility Rate is probably no higher than Germany's, and in the urban areas (where 45% of Chinese now live) it's almost unbelievably low -- 1 or less. Large sections of the Chinese people have simply stopped reproducing, and the story is the same among overseas Chinese groups, in Taiwan and Singapore.

So I don't think we need fear Chinese competition, in the long run. On current trends the median age of Americans in 2050 will be around 37 -- not much different from what it is now. The median in China will be 44, in Europe 53, and Russia will have virtually disappeared.

Yours, Steve Stirling

And see below


Subject: Rangers Versus Special Forces: Hostage Rescue


The Chief of Staff of the Army asked his Sergeant Major, who was both Ranger and Special Forces qualified, which organization he would recommend to form a new anti-terrorist unit. The Sergeant Major responded to the General's question with this parable: If there were a hijacked Boeing 747 being held by terrorists along with its passengers and crew and an anti-terrorist unit formed either by the Rangers or the Special Forces was given a Rescue/Recovery Mission; what would you expect to happen?

Ranger Option

Forces/Equipment Committed: If the Rangers went in, they would send a Ranger company of 120 men with standard army issue equipment.

Mission Preparation: The Ranger Company First Sergeant would conduct a Hair Cut and Boots Inspection, while the officers consulted SOPs and held sand table exercises.

Infiltration Technique: They would insist on double timing, in company formation, wearing their combat equipment, and singing cadence all the way to the site of the hijacked aircraft.

Actions in the Objective Area: Once they arrived, the Ranger company would establish their ORP, put out security elements, conduct a leaders recon, reapply their camouflage, and conduct final preparations for Actions on the OBJ.

Results of Operation: The Rescue/Recovery Operation would be completed within one hour; all of the terrorists and most of the passengers would have been killed, the Rangers would have sustained light casualties and the 747 would be worthless to anyone except a scrap dealer.

Special Forces Option

Forces/Equipment Committed: If Special Forces went in, they would send only a 12 man team (all SF units are divisible by 12 for some arcane historical reason) however, due to the exotic nature of their equipment the SF Team would cost the same amount to deploy as the Ranger Company.

Mission Preparation: The SF Team Sergeant would request relaxed grooming standards for the team. All members of the team would spend a grueling afternoon at a quality spa ensuring physical abilities would be honed.

Infiltration Technique: The team would insist on separate travel orders with Max Per Diem, and each would get to the site of the hijacking by his own means. At least one third of the team would insist on jumping in HALO.

Actions in the Objective Area: Once they arrived , the SF Team would cache their military uniforms, establish a Team Room at the best hotel in the area, use their illegal Team Fund to stock the unauthorized Team Room Bar, check out the situation by talking to the locals, and have a Team Meeting to discuss the merits of the terrorists' cause.

Results of Operation: The Rescue/Recovery Operation would take two weeks to complete and by that time all of the terrorists would have been killed, (and would have left signed confessions); the passengers would be ruined psychologically for the remainder of their lives; and all of the women passengers would be pregnant. The 747 would be essentially unharmed, the team would have taken no casualties but would have used up, lost, or stolen all the "high speed" equipment issued to them.

John Monahan


Subject: $300B.


-- Roland Dobbins


Subject: "We would resist elimination of the program."


-- Roland Dobbins


Subject: Comments On "The Future of Human Space Flight"

Dr. Pournelle -

To help achieve the vision outlined in "Testimony of Michael D. Griffin" as posted today (2005-04-21) I would gladly pay more income taxes! If I could be comfortable that productive efforts to achieve the vision were what I was buying, an increase in my federal income tax bill of 10% would be a bargain!

Speaking for the nation as a whole, even a 1% increase in the annual federal income tax bills -- if devoted to this cause -- would yield amazing results.

And, last but far from least, a public proclamation of such an increase for such a purpose would reinspire math and science learning such as hasn't been seen in this country for decades.

Thanks for posting this,

Charles Brumbelow


Subject: Unbelievable


The testimony of Michael D. Griffin was not just a breath of fresh air, it was a hurricane! I haven't heard that much common sense from NASA in decades. Why, he might even try to save the Hubble.

It's hopeful. But, as anyone dealing with "out year" budgets can tell you, it is all about money, and we're broke.

Chuck Bouldin






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Saturday, April 23, 2005

Subject: Trade and Trade Deficits

Dear Jerry,

I have enjoyed all the recent mail on trade and trade deficits. I agree with many of the sentiments expressed by a number of contributors. The views Simon Enefer expressed seem well in line with my own feelings on the matter.

One issue lacking in the discussions read so far, unless I missed it or is included in numbers being talked about, is an attempt to account for the full value/cost of the goods in different countries. Costs of US goods include significant costs that Chinese goods currently do not take into account:

- environmental pollution that has huge costs when cleaned up

- safety for workers (there are so many workers, (I wonder how many are injured in industrial accidents and then forgotten about)

- health care for the workers

- health care/retirement for retirees

- infrastructure maintenance (less expensive to build new roads/gas-oil distribution/bridges/dams than replace)

So in addition to the problems Simon outlined, China itself will have huge problems with its internal population as it comes to grips with its leap into industrialization. This may actually act as a mitigation should the Chinese people start to demand the side benefits of their industry, thus eventually driving up the cost of their goods. During the same time, many of the people in our country will be dealing with figuring out how to live with less medical care/environmental quality/worse infrastructure.

I would be fascinated to hear others comment on whether these items significantly alter any of the global-economics being discussed, maybe helping arrive at a balance sooner (decades) or later (century +) before the world economy arrives at a new equilibrium where the mature economies are able to compete in the labor pool again?

Thanks for spending the time to keep an interesting site going!

Bob Petersen


Subject: Riding the free trade raft over the falls

Dear Jerry,

Thought you might be interested in Pat Buchanan's view of free trade and tariffs: http://www.wnd.com/news/article.asp?ARTICLE_ID=43845 

"[The free traders] recoil at tariffs like Lucifer from holy water, but have no idea how to stop the hemorrhaging of jobs, technology, factories and dollars, except exhortation and prayer. For as 19th-century liberals, they believe free trade is "God's Diplomacy." Whoever rejects it sins in the heart. True believers all, they will ride this raft right over the falls and take us with them. This unyielding belief in the salvific power of free trade is, like socialism, one of modernity's secular religions."

I confess to a yawning chasm in my understanding of the world economy...but here comes the "but." How to explain Europe's economy? Are they sliding faster than the U.S.? Or do they have the right idea with their tariff structure?

It seems to me that if we slap a 27% tariff on imports from China then all that will happen is that the amount of money we spend on Chinese goods will be the same, but we'll just be buying less of them at a higher price. Is a 27% tariff high enough for domestic manufacturers to crank back up to produce the same goods at prices that would be competitive provided there's a tariff? Something doesn't compute, here. What jobs are protected by us raising the prices we pay for foreign goods?

Might not a tariff on Chinese goods have a similar effect on America as the short-lived steel tariff that started off Bush's first term? Again, I don't have the first clue as to whether I'm even looking in the right direction or asking the right questions. Have our free trade policies created the Chinese economic "monster?" Heck, immigration seems simple compared to tariffs and free trade.


Steve Erbach Neenah, WI Web log: http://sweblog1.blogspot.com Anti-virus information: www.swerbach.com/security

"Gravity is non-discretionary: all government spending is discretionary." - Michael Cloud

====First, I would not advocate a 27% tariff on anything, and particularly not against a single country. I would advocate a 10 to 15% tariff across the board on ALL imported goods. This should be enough to compensate for many of the regulatory and tax burdens put on domestic manufacture, and give our local manufacturers a chance to compete without so protecting them as to encourage gross inefficiencies.

The Americans With Disabilities Act alone imposes enormous costs on local manufacture; add OSHA and there is ample reason to compensate with tariff protection. We haven't even got to EPA. If we are to have domestic manufacturing capability and industries, they need experienced workers: you can't have "creative destruction" tearing down Detroit if you don't allow even the possibility of competition with countries that consider EPA, OSHA, and ADA to be foreign worker employment acts.

Make no mistake, the loss of our manufacturing capabilities is a serious matter, and it will get worse, not better.


The is one bit of not good, but not bad, news about the US trade deficit. The less the USA exports the less demand there will be from foreigners for the dollars to buy the exports with. Then, those people and bodies who use the USD as a store of value will worry about the dollar falling in price and try to protect their wealth and/or make a speculative profit by switching to another major currency or basket of currencies. Since international exchange rates are determined only by market forces the price of the dollar will fall relative to other currencies. This means that the American people will have to do relatively less work to satisfy their foreign creditors than the foreign creditors expected when they lent their money to America. Also, as the dollar falls it will be easier for Americans to export and harder for them to find cheap imports which will help home industry.

Of course for solid prosperity the USA will have to wait for the Far East to begin to load their industry with anti-pollution regulations while getting rid of their own gender outreach officers, teachers who cannnot teach, and all the other parasites on the body politic.

For an individual I have quite a large sterling cash portfolio. I am waiting for the Japanese to elect a Prime Minister who has the same approach as Margaret Thatcher. Then I will invest it all on Japanese stock. I would much prefer to invest in the USA because it's my culture and I instinctively understand the rules, but the Japanese are much further down the road to sanity than you are. Dammit you are Americans, get you bloody finger out. Today.

Here endeth the rant,

John Edwards


"Gold cannot get you good soldiers, but good soldiers can always get you gold."

I do not believe this is still true. I have on occasion used a variant of this: "Gold cannot get you good science, but good science will always get you gold" which I believe is now true.

Since the industrial revolution the most effective way for a country to grow has been by growing its economy. A couple of years at 6% growth is worth more than Alsace Lorraine. This option was not open in Machiavelli's time. Nowadays Porto Rico, Kosovo, Armagh, Chechnya & Iraq are a net loss.

Having "the world's best military machine" (Albright) still leaves you with the advantage of doing more harm to the other side than you do to yourself, which makes it useful for blackmail, but it isn't a paying proposition. In fact China, by not matching US military expenditure & investing the money instead is doing more to make China a Great Power.

The US could default & the Chinese couldn't send the bailiffs in but then Zaire has done this already & it doesn't make you richer.

Neil Craig

I make no doubt that if we put out minds to it we can find ways to make conquest pay. If there aren't any inhabitants of an area there won't be anyone to interfere with extracting oil, will there? Think neutron bombs. As co-author of The Strategy of Technology I am not likely to disagree that part of having good soldiers involves having appropriate military technology, and that the Technological War is decisive: but there is more to technological war than science. Having knowledge isn't the same as having decisive weapons; and having decisive weapons isn't the same as decisively using them. As we may or may not be learning.

====== =====

On the TSA:

Subject:  TSA Book Limitation


I've read the same report, and while the TSA security guard said something that certainly is unequivocal, it's almost certainly a mistake. Published reports by TSA do note that they are limiting the number of books of matches from 4 to 2, which sounds like somewhere down the line someone gummed the whole thing up. Given the context regarding banning lighters, you see how this likely occurred.

Of course, as I've said before, I have on several occasions inadvertently taken a pocket knife on planes. It functions as my money clip, and when put in the plastic basket with your money, it always passes thru. I don't do it deliberately, as I don't want to lose the knife, but I forget about it, because I always carry it. So, I can get a real and true weapon on board, but now they'll be searching for just enough matches to make a nuisance of myself? Jeez.


Hilarious. These crackerjack security agents, having decided we can carry only 4 books of matches, cannot quite see that if some idiot tries to apply that to books it must be a mistake. Reason no longer prevails. =========

And now the Planet of the Apes revisisted:

Subject: Kreegah, Bundalow (buffy willow)

A Dr. Sue Savage-Rumbaugh, whom I'm guessing is Doc Savage's grand daughter, is starting a research foundation called _Great Ape Trust of Iowa_. This orgaization will be teaching bonobos human behaviors, such as language, music, and art.

I think I saw this movie, and Roddy McDowel and his buddies end up taking over the world with Ricardo Montoban's help.

Interestingly enough the headline refers to the bonobos as Great Apes. If that's the case, they already have some language skills and are pretty good at group dancing... (This is beginning to sound like a Phillipe Jose Farmer pastiche novel.)

Seriously, this will create many issues if they can be taught a language and to do simple (or maybe not so simple) activities. Are these apes then citizens of Iowa? Are bonobos subject to the draft or eligible for welfare (these apes have a trust fund, but what of their brethren in zoos?) Are domesticated bonobos people and feral bonobos animals? Does No Child Left Behind include bonobo children?

These aren't really jokes, but serious questions the will have to be confronted. Insert your own "Jerry was a man" reference here.

> The animals, which have a life span of up to about 50 years, will be allowed > to mate and have families -- and develop cultures that will be studied for > generations to come, Savage-Rumbaugh said.

Which sounds like a pretty good deal to me. I think they should have a human control group, and I'll volunteer to be a member.

David Reynolds



Great apes to learn human behaviors

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) -- Dr. Sue Savage-Rumbaugh sounds like a proud mother when she speaks about her brood of bonobos, eight ultra-intelligent apes that will take part in unique language research meant to shed light on their nature and maybe our own.

The first two bonobos will make the 16-hour road trip from the Language Research Center at Georgia State University to their new $10 million, 13,000-square-foot home near downtown Des Moines later this month. All eight -- three females and five males -- will arrive at the Great Ape Trust of Iowa by mid-May.<snip>







CURRENT VIEW     Saturday

This week:


read book now


Sunday, April 24, 2005


=In Burbank airport on Tmobile wireless.



Subject: Letter from England

Fairly quiet.

Politics: <http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/vote_2005/frontpage/ 4478023.stm>  <http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/vote_2005/frontpage/ 4478473.stm> M <http://www.guardian.co.uk/Politics/election/story/ 0,15803,1469318,00.html>  <http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2087-1582892,00.html

Football: <http://www.bbc.co.uk/wear/content/articles/2005/04/23/ sunderland_leicester_230405_result.shtml>  (the local team)

Education: <http://www.guardian.co.uk/Observer/uk_news/story/ 0,6903,1468996,00.html>  <http://www.thes.co.uk/current_edition/story.aspx?story_id=2021186>  <http://education.guardian.co.uk/gcses2004/story/ 0,14504,1468297,00.html

Israel--I'm glad this isn't my union: <http://education.guardian.co.uk/higher/news/story/ 0,9830,1468513,00.html

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

==========Thanks. short shrift in airport.


Subject: education

I've been stewing for a little while now over the smear job being done on the Governator. Am I the only one who noticed that, when he said anything about teachers having to earn their pay, the teachers' union that's been crying poormouth since before I was born was able to instantly launch a multimillion-dollar media blitz against him? They didn't need to raise money. They didn't have to look around for expert ad campaigners. They had them ready.

Incidentally, on "dyslexia": I have a tentative motto for the public school system:



Matthew Joseph Harrington

I wish You were joking.


Subject: Nasa timidity

Jerry, Am I mistaken or would the original U.S. astronauts and NASA administrators fly the shuttle (with its current safety record and readiness) on a Hubble servicing mission any day of the week and twice on Sundays?


============I don't dare Comment.

My fortune cookie tonight was a keeper:

"Maybe you can live on the moon in next century."

Hear, hear!

Let's see. About 95 years to the next century, plus my current age... well, with the advances in geriatric medicine it's conceivable, and moving to lunar gravity would definitely be welcome by then. I'm game!

--Gary Pavek

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


Subject: SPAM

One of the original design goals behind Sendmail and the SMTP protocol was to allow anonymous message transmission. That goal was soundly met. Trying to fix electronic mail that is being transported over SMTP will require modifications to fundamental portions of the SMTP protocol, something that is unlikely to happen.

Solutions, such as Dan Bernstein's Internet Mail 2000 ( http://cr.yp.to/im2000.html ) could replace the existing protocols, but that will take some time and a great deal of effort. Until then, there is a continued growth in the use of cryptographic software (such as PGP) to help solve the problem. A digitally signed message is no longer anonymous and is easy to test for. If more people would require Email sent to the carry a digital signature then some of the problem could be eliminated. It is also fairly simple for ISPs to create an OpenPGP key pair to go along with new mail accounts and handle the process behind the scenes for their users.

--- Al Lipscomb CISSP


Subject: Saudi democracy

Dear Dr. Pournelle,

The article at http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/7327403/  discusses the state of democracy in Saudi Arabia. Page two of the article has commentary from Saudi women. The Saudi women are clear on at least one point: they know how to live with the restraints of Islam, and they do not appreciate foreigners trying to force change, no matter how good the intentions of the foreigners.


William L. Jones

wljones (at) waymark (dot) net


Subject: Mac in PC - Cross Platform

Hi Mr Pournelle,

For years I'd tried to make Mac emulation on x86 systems. 5 years ago or so there was Fusion, Basilisk etc. for emulation of old 48k Mac systems. Basilisk, the free one (there were also commercial products) was the best one. But "poor" PC systems wasn't able to emulate PowerPC architecture yet at the time. Two months ago I made a search on Google and I saw it was possible of PowerPC emulation on PC's.

With an open project named PearPC http://os-emulation.net/pearpc/web/, PC users are able to install MacOSX on their x86 platforms. And most of the software developed for OSX run without problem. The main problem is speed. It can run the guest environment just 1/40 or so of the host system. With this emulation no one can use OSX environment smoothly. But I think this is very exciting.

PearPC is just one of the similar work. And a decent news I wrote to my magazine came up to my mind. A company called Transitive was working on a piece of small interface software which will be able to translate commands for different systems to all other platforms. Now the company www.transitive.com had finished their job. They gave its name Hardware Virtualization Technology. For now they won't be selling to end users. They have made a agreement with SGI. It comes with SGI Prism.

Linux people emulate Windows software, Windows people do Mac and so on.. I wonder if in a near future the difference between separate platforms disappear.

I know you like Mac systems and thought this may take attention of yours.

Best regards,

Furkan Müderrisoglu


From another conference:

You may already have read it:

Ronald Wright: A Short History of Progress.

It makes startlingly clear what we're all up against. It's very short, great sense of humor, extremely well written. Essentially a review of the now well understood collapse of several civilizations (Sumerian, Roman, Mayan, Easter Island, etc.) and makes abundantly clear what has to be done today and quickly.

It was on CBC's IDEAS for a couple weeks recently. See reviews on Amazon.com.

I just bought a half dozen copies for relatives.



Does Wright lay out a scenario for how to prevent Vernor Vinge's "hard takeoff" nighmare scenario for the transition to the Singularity? That's the big future problem we face.

I'm betting on the "hard takeoff" scenario over Vinge's "soft takeoff" because I see it resulting from an arms race between the United States and China. So we have maybe 30 years to go before artificial intelligences take over. He sees it as coming sooner. I don't know if they will be American or Chinese. I hope American. But which side they are may not matter.

Oh, and I do not expect a mix of American and Chinese AIs because even winning the race by 100 hours effectively means that side (or perhaps only its AIs) win.

I'd love to hear John McCarthy explain how no one will solve AI for the next 50 or 100 years or why Vinge is totally wrong. I realize John thinks the problem of AI is very hard. I hope he's right.

Or maybe Wright explains how to do effective border control and have better immigration and visa policies to keep out the dummies and the jihadis? Or does he explain how to prevent nuclear proliferation? Or how to prevent bioengineering script kiddies from making new organisms that wreck natural ecologies of some importance such as the ocean? Or does he lay out a plan for how to slow aging so that our economies do not stagnate under the weight of supporting aging populations?

(the problems I worry about for the future are rather different than the problems that brought down long lost civilizations...)



Ah, another doomster. Does Wright offer a date? What does he say we're running out of, or what social trend will do us in.

For evidence that material progress is sustainable, see my www-formal.stanford.edu/jmc/progress/ .

John McCarthy


and then there is Jane Jacobs Dark Age Coming . Have a Nice day.


Subject: Shortage of skilled workers in China

Jerry, Love to read your blog. Catching up today as I have been in Singapore for the last 2 weeks and saw the comments about China. I read an interesting articled in The Straits Times about Chinese companies having great trouble finding skilled workers and were outsourcing some work to Malaysia. Thought your readers might find this of interest. Keep up the good work.

Richard Brimage Training LAE


Subject: Hanoi Jane

You've probably seen this already. Have to admire the man's style. I object to the quotation marks around traitor.

Mo. Man Spits Tobacco Juice at Jane Fonda April 20, 2005 7:47 PM EDT Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. (EXCERPT) KANSAS CITY, Mo. - A man spit tobacco juice into the face of Jane Fonda after waiting in line to have her sign her new memoir. Capt. Rich Lockhart of the Kansas City Police Department said Michael A. Smith, 54, was arrested Tuesday night on a municipal charge of disorderly conduct.

He was released on bond and is due to appear in court on May 27.

Fonda covers a wide range of topics in "My Life So Far," including her 1972 visit to Hanoi to protest the Vietnam War, during which she was photographed on a North Vietnamese anti-aircraft gun. She has apologized for the photo, but not for opposing the war.

Smith, a Vietnam veteran, told The Kansas City Star Wednesday that Fonda was a "traitor" and that her protests against the Vietnam War were unforgivable. He said he doesn't chew tobacco but did so Tuesday solely to spit juice on the actress.

"I consider it a debt of honor," he told The Star for a story on its Web site. "She spit in our faces for 37 years. It was absolutely worth it. There are a lot of veterans who would love to do what I did."

When I was at Cannon AFB, New Mexico, in 1973 our squadron Intel had a life-size color photo of Jane Fonda with a NVA AA crew on the wall. It was our dart board.

I noted in her interview on "60 Minutes" a couple of weeks ago she was still engaging in self-justification and self-delusion. She also admitted to being so weak-minded that she became whatever the current one of her three husbands wanted her to be.

Edwin Frobisher, USAF Retired & Vietnam veteran

The only time I met Jane Fonda was when I was asked to debate Tom Hayden at a "teach-in" at USC sometime in the late 60's/early 70's. We met in the Green Room. Hayden was self-absorbed and barely said hello. Fonda was charming. When I tried to discuss the debate topic -- Viet Nam, of course -- she said quickly that she didn't understand politics and never thought much about the subject, but Tom was very smart and convincing and he knew everything important about it. I never met her again.













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