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Monday  June 20, 2005

Last week we had a discussion of the Jedi, Republic and Empire, and other such matters as seen in the Star Wars saga, Episode III. That continues below. The general discussion began earlier.

"It appears to have taken the Empire 16-18 years to build the first Death Star, which is shown being laid down. But it only needed 5-6 years to lay down and bring the replacement to operational status."

Dear Dr. Pournelle:

This is not the first place I have seen that query but--knowing that you spent considerable years in "the business" yourself, I figured you'd be mildly amused by my speculations...

First of all, we have no way of knowing that the structure seen at the end of Episode 3 is in fact the actual operational system of Episode 4. Without any sense of scale, we don't even know if it's a full-scale engineering development model! It could easily be (1) a mockup, (2) a fatigue test article, or (3) a flyable brassboard, as well as the real thing.

Even if it is the final product, we know from our own experience that structure, while cheap and relatively low-tech, takes the longest to build: in the missile world, the rocket motor cases (spun castings on those programs I worked, for the most part) were the "long-leadtime items". In the aviation world, it was tubular castings for landing gear. In shipbuilding, they build most of the hull up long before any of the innards get put in. In the tank world, it's the drop-forged turrets. So--from that perspective alone--it makes sense that the original Death Star would consist mostly of structure for most of the construction period.

Note that the Death Star MK II is described by the Emperor as "fully operational" despite missing large portions of its structure: presumably it was immobile, locked into orbit and incapable of traveling to another system, but still perfectly capable of blowing enemies out of the sky...

I also suspect that the "rocket science" parts of developing the Death Star were (1) power, and (2) beam collimation. It's clear that focusing a beam of sufficient power in a single burst remains beyond the capabilities of the Empire: thus, they use the non-optimal solution of multiple, lower-powered beams which are then focused into a single beam of higher combined power.

One imagines that--at the outset--it was difficult to find sufficiently large power plants to power even the federated beam architecture shown: we can thus imagine that multiple, smaller power plants--perhaps several per sub-beam--were originally used in the developmental phases of the program. Later, it became possible to us a single, larger power plant (similarly, the first nuclear-propelled CVN, the _Enterprise_, used eight nuclear power reactors, while the _Nimitz_ class used two much larger ones). One imagines the trade studies involved: "Significantly lowered vulnerability: greater power density and thus output, but lacking in graceful degradation."

Then, during test and evaluation, it was noted that thermal dissipation was insufficient in ripple-fire mode: rather than reduce the operationally-permissible rate of fire (and thus breaching the mandatory specification), it was decided to solve the problem by introducing a small, auxiliary thermal exhaust port...

Very respectfully,

David G.D. Hecht


The second Death Star was really the first one after massive repairs. The first one was damaged rather badly but not destroyed. Also, the first of a series always takes more resources than the rest, as subsequent ones already have the blueprints and R&D done, as well as difficulties in development and construction worked out.

Brice Yokem


Re: So That's Why The Bad Guys Couldn't Hit Anything!! Further Star Wars Musings


Lucas does give one clue in Episode IV that I had previously missed until I watched it again this weekend with my youngest son. When Luke and Hans are dressed up as storm troopers and pretending to be escorting Chewbacca, Luke makes the remark “I can’t see a thing in this helmet!”

“Aha” thought I!. “So that’s why the storm troopers could never hit the good guys! Poor ergonomics design!” And no doubt regs kept them from taking off the helmets.

Perhaps the same people who designed the storm trooper helmets also designed the helmets for the guys flying the tie fighters. This could help explain the high kill ratios on these fighters. The poor devils just couldn’t see well enough to fly. You’ll notice the good guys all had helmets that permitted a wide angle of vision.

Mike Cheek


Well, I must have seen a different version of Episode 3 than several of your correspondents... I have to disagree with several points from last week.

(First, minor disagreement) From Hal Colebatch: "Incidentally, how did the Emperor cross space to rescue Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader from the lava-flow in only a few minutes? "

I saw this as being artistic license. In the earlier scenes, Yoda and Obi-Wan talked, and then Obi-Wan left. He arrives on the Lava Planet (can't remember the name right now), and starts fighting Anakin. Then we see Yoda fighting the Emperor. So, in the time it took Obi-Wan to get to the other planet, Yoda went ~3 blocks to the Senate? No, Lucas was just having fun juxtapositioning these scenes for dramatic effect. Of course, that also leads to the conclusion that Palpatine KNEW what would happen to Anakin ahead of time, and did nothing...

Now, the stuff that really annoyed me.

From Mark & Elena Gallmeier on Saturday

"Their previous function in the (multi-cultural) republic was revealed to have been that of political commissars."

That isn't what I saw at all - it is obvious from Episodes 1-3 that their function is a combination of Elite troops and mediators. Their main function (pre-Episode 2) as representatives of the Republic was to end conflicts - one way or another. The presence of a Jedi was enough to completely distract the Trade Federation forces in Episode 1, and from various "man on the street" reactions in the films, the Jedi usually stopped fights just by being there.

"It seemed only natural the republic's military adhered to Palatine. "

Argh... No, what happened was that the Clone Troopers had pre-programmed commands. If Commander Cody had had any ill-will towards Obi-Wan, would he have returned his lightsaber? A further proof was that the Jedi that were paying attention realized that the attitudes of the Clone Troopers had changed completely after the command was given (a bit too late to defend themselves, unfortunately...)

"Lucas failed to persuade me that things would have been any better for the larger society had the Jedi defeated Palatine and the Sith. In the wake of an alternative victory, I could easily imagine 'worse' in the form of a massive intensification of the Jedi 'guardianship' into totalitarianism, all in the name of 'defending democracy' "

OK, I have to agree there - In fact, that is specifically what Lucas was trying to portray! That really is the whole point of the "restoring balance to the force" bit - the Jedi were already in place as a state religion (one that only the elites could join...), and by these actions they were converting themselves into a theocracy. Having defeated one ruler, they would have become defacto the rulers of the Republic.

"As it was, the larger society appear to have opted out for local neutrality modified by passive cooperation with force majeure, as Lando Calrissian was shown to have done as leader of his city in Episode V."

The way I perceive it, Cloud City was a prime example of the edges of an Empire. It starts off as a small frontier town, which is successful until it attracts the attention of the Empire. Then, they let in a force of troops (under threat - that small city couldn't do much with a Star Destroyer sitting there...) and proclaim their "neutrality" - which really wasn't neutral at all, as Lando handed over Han and the rest, and then actively channeled Luke into Vader's confrontation. Finally, of course, Vader explicitly states what will happen - by the end of the movie, he has proclaimed that the Empire will be leaving a garrison behind - effectively transforming the city into a member of the Empire. Most local governments fall into 2 categories - those already in the Empire, and those the Empire doesn't care about.

"Or was only the Emperor defeated? Given the actual history now shown, would society and particularly the Empire's large surviving fleet and army truly accept the Return of the Jedi?"

That is something that is really glossed over in the books and comics set after "Return" - they portray the remaining Empire ships as being either scattered remnants, or willing to defect... But the important part is that with the Emperor gone, there is no unifying force (as it were...) keeping the various races and factions together.

John D. Ballentine III


Mark, in his letter about Star Wars, wondered if the Empire had really lost at the end of Episode VI.

Which reminds me of this bit that was circulating on one of the newsgroups way back when, a "deleted final scene."

After the singing Ewoks transition to the triumphal choir, and the credits start to roll, the music fades, and there's an all-too-familiar mechanical/asthmatic wheeze.

"So, Lord Vader, they bought that deathbed redemption schtick?"

"Hook line and sinker, my master."

"Eeexcellent. Everything is proceeding exactly as I have forseen." <E-vile laugh>

I don't by any means buy all of David Brin's analysis of the Star Wars series, but he does make some valid points. The Jedi do not seem to be the "perfect gentle knights, sans peur et sans reproche" that we'd been led to believe by the original movie. There's much about them that's quite distasteful and unpleasant. They had become warrior-priests enforcing a status quo that much of the galaxy was becoming increasingly disenchanted with.

-- Mike Van Pelt

Hadn't seen David Brin's analysis. I suppose I should look for it.



Now for something a bit more serious.

It's a small issue, but I was disappointed to see you repeat the oft-repeated line that defense spending was languishing under Carter, and was turned around under Reagan. In fact, the budget under Carter began rising significantly (3.8 percent in 1979 and 3.0 percent in 1980 in constant 1972 dollars) before admittedly jumping even further under Reagan (5.1 percent in 1981, 6.9 percent in 1982, even more later). The Carter increases aren't as robust as those under Reagan of course, but they looked good compared to the cuts that had ruled in the rest of the 1970s (large cuts every year except a .4 percent increase in 1975).

Carter was a well-intentioned disaster as President, but this is one bum rap that he repeatedly gets, yet doesn't deserve. A side effect of the current movement to beatify Ronald Reagan, I assume.

Here's a link to my source (Statistical Abstract of the United States, 1984 edition). I'm sure there are others out there as well.



Mike Broderick


Dear Dr. Pournelle:

As a moderate who turns to your web page for rational, fact-based conservative ideas and opinions (I'm still looking for a liberal counterpart--I guess I shouldn't be surprised that it's hard to find one), I found myself somewhat dissapointed to see you repeat the line that the Democratic congress of the 1980s went on a spending spree in refusing Reagan's budgets and passing their own. Completely aside from the fact that the Republican party controlled the Senate for quite a few of those years, the claim that congress significantly exceeded Reagan's budget requests is based on a misunderstanding of the budget process.

It is frequently claimed, for example, that Reagan proposed a 773 billion dollar budget for FY 1983, and that congress went and passed an 808 billion dollar budget--4.5% higher. This is very misleading: in fact, the Reagan White House proposed a budget that it ESTIMATED would cost 773 billion. All budget proposals are estimates, based on guesses as to economic growth, interest rates, unemployment, and so forth. The Reagan-era budget estimates were consistently based on guesses about the economy that turned out to be wildly optimistic (the exception, of course, being FY 1984, where economic growth hit something like 6%--exceeding hopes). There is no question that the majority of Reagan's budgets would have cost more had they been passed than was estimated by the Reagan White House.

The real question is whether Reagan's budgets would have cost more had they been passed than the ones subsequently passed by congress. We can certainly never know for certain, but about a decade ago the House Appropriations committee (admittedly not the most unbiased organization in the world) estimated that had all the Reagan budgets been passed, the total US debt at the end of the Reagan administration would have been about 30 billion dollars higher (that is, for all intents and purposes, the same).

One can argue all one wants that the budgets passed by congress during the Reagan administration were spending money on the wrong things--you'll get no argument from me!--but it is simply inaccurate to argue that congress went on a spending spree in general; it turns out that in REAL dollars annual federal spending increased more slowly under Reagan than under the previous three presidents!

See http://www.huppi.com/kangaroo/5Debt.htm  for more details.

Thank you for your time, and on a friendlier note: keep up the good work (both on the computer and fiction fronts)!

J. Edwards

On this I am going to have to defer to people with more economic capabilities than me. I can (and have done so) pass examinations to establish me as an expert in economics, but I am not sure there is much "science" to the subject.

In any event, Reagan inherited an era of limits, national malaise, a debilitated military, and inflation coupled with unemployment to produce a misery index of 20 or so.

That changed. More over, I recall in the 1980's negotiations with the liberal Democrats over what they would "charge" in order to allow the military budgets needed to defend the realm. Some of that was built into the budgets sent to Congress in the hopes that this time the deals would stick. Instead the budgets were famously "Dead on Arrival" and new entitlements, which start small but grow quickly and are off future budgets, were added. Those of us trying to get military and space technology investment were told we couldn't have such things.

I have been persuaded, perhaps falsely, that actual revenue of the US rose as a result of the tax cuts. Perhaps I have been persuaded in error; if so, that conclusion needs fixing, but it is not one I give up lightly since the people who persuaded me stand pretty high in my estimation.






This week:


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Tuesday,  June 21, 2005

Subject: FW: cool website for those times of needed distraction

> http://www.eyesofnye.org/

Steven Dunn

It's certainly cool, not to say flashy. Too much so for me I fear; I gave up trying to find actual content. But it's cool.


Subject: Letter from England

On Sunday, I manned a booth for a bat conservation group at a conservation fair near Durham. This was held in a sheep pasture--a working sheep pasture--so you had to watch where you walked. We had a couple of common pipistrelles with us (the smallest and most common bats in England) and next to the bat habitat, we had a plastic box with live mealworms (Tenebrio sp.) for them. The kids would come by, look at the bats, spot the mealworms and say 'maggots!', and I would use that as the lead-in for my mealworm spiel.

I'd open the box, take out a mealworm, and say "These aren't maggots; these are mealworms. They're clean. We feed them to the bats. They're salty and crunchy, and they wiggle as they go down." I'd present it to my mouth, palm it, chew, and swallow. (Some of the parents would spot the trick.) Then I'd show the mealworm to the kids again and tell them that graduate students in research labs that used mealworms would sometimes have mealworm-eating contests after a half dozen beers. Next, I'd talk about feeding the worms to the bats--how you have to present them head-first to the bat because the worms didn't want to be eaten, how the bat would grab hold and start chewing it down head-first, and how you had to let go quickly once the bat reached the other end as the bats often kept chewing. (Both of us at the booth had been bitten that way.) It was gross, but it was fun, too.

There were a couple of heavy thunderstorms during the afternoon. It was very hot and muggy, and people from the North of England aren't used to that. See <http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/north_yorkshire/ 4109692.stm> , <http://www.guardian.co.uk/weather/Story/ 0,2763,1510184,00.html> , and <http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/ 0,,2-1661496,00.html>  for the national stories. The Government is thinking about banning public smoking like Ireland has. <http:// news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/4104088.stm>  <http:// observer.guardian.co.uk/politics/story/0,6903,1509843,00.html>  Since I'm asthmatic, I personally wouldn't mind, but I wonder whether it would work. Smoking is banned in European airports, but they don't do anything to enforce the ban in most countries, so I suspect it will be more of the same.

The National Health Service is taking the usual flak: MRSA <http:// observer.guardian.co.uk/uk_news/story/0,6903,1509846,00.html>  <http:// www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2-1661517,00.html>  and staffing problems <http://society.guardian.co.uk/NHSstaff/story/ 0,7991,1510424,00.html> .

I picked up Jablonka and Lamb, Evolution in Four Dimensions, MIT Press, 2005. They look at evolutionary theory in a more general context of genetic, epigenetic, behavioral, and symbolic inheritance, each with its own dynamics. It challenges a lot of the old orthodoxies, although the anti-evolutionists will not find it comforting, either. Report later.

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

Harry Erwin, PhD




From another conference:

Study: Extra Folic Acid May Help Memory http://www.latimes.com/services/site/premium/access-registered.intercept 

[Thanks to Laird for this. I take 1200 mcg. a day. I take a lot of stuff like this, since unpatentable medicines don't generally get tested and are pretty inexpensive. It looks like at least one of these substances will pay off.]



5:02 PM PDT, June 20, 2005

WASHINGTON — Taking large amounts of folic acid improved the memory of older adults, Dutch scientists reported Monday in the first study to show a vitamin pill might slow the mental decline of aging.

The research adds to mounting evidence that a diet higher in folate -- a B vitamin found in grains and certain dark-colored fruits and vegetables -- is important for a variety of diseases. It's proven to lower women's risk of devastating birth defects of the brain and spinal cord, and research suggests it helps ward off heart disease and strokes, too.

As people age, some decline in brain function is inevitable. The Dutch study tested whether otherwise healthy people could slow that brain drain by taking double the recommended daily U.S. dose of folic acid -- the amount in 2.5 pounds of strawberries.

The study divided 818 people ages 50 to 75 to take either a vitamin containing 800 micrograms of folic acid a day, or a dummy pill, for three years.

The folic acid protected users' brains, lead researcher Jane Durga of Wageningen University reported Monday at a meeting of the Alzheimer's Association.

On memory tests, the supplement users had scores comparable to people 5.5 years younger, Durga said. On tests of cognitive speed, the folic acid helped users perform as well as people 1.9 years younger.

The witches' brew I take has about 1200 mcg folic acid as well. The FDA minimum dosage recommendations were responsible for retarded children in those who stayed with the dosages some years ago: they were far too low for pregnant women, and probably too low for normal adults. This was back in the days when the FDA hated the idea that someone might be taking something without their approval or a company might be making money selling something the FDA hadn't tested in their inimitable and slow way. The result was horrible tragedy but I have yet to see any apologies from those busybodies.

I have never seen any signs that fairly large amounts of folic acid (such as are found in the B-100 formula supplements) do any harm; if any of my medical readers have evidence on this I would love to see it since I do take quite a lot of it, Alzheimer's being one of the things I really fear.

And see below


Subject: 110/220 chargers

Hi, Jerry.

I can sympathize with your Italy trip difficulties regarding your 110v only charger, and have a recommendation. We are planning a trip to Germany, and I was on a shopping expedition to find a replacement for my old style 12 hour charger, which overheats the cells if not unplugged when done. It was purchased before the newer "quick charge" units were available at reasonable prices.

I recently purchased a "generic" charger which included 4 2200mA AA cells at WalMart for less than twenty bucks with tax. It appears to have a switching power supply rated 100 - 250V 50/60Hz. I have not tried to disassemble it, but the light weight augers for such. It is labeled "Digital Concepts" model CK1404 1 hour charger. As I recall, the mains voltage was indicated on the back of the package, but not obviously so.

I was initially attracted to it for the light weight as well as the dual voltage, as the charger and cells weighed less than two packs of 4 AA's. The 1 hour moniker is misleading, however. When one reads the minimal instructions (which were, of course, not accessible until after purchase due to the anti-shoplifting packaging, grumble grumble . . .) only 1800mA cells are charged in one hour. Higher capacity cells take proportionally longer. Otherwise the unit is great, shutting off when the cells are charged to prevent overcharge. I have three sets of four myself, and have not yet managed to run out of power before a depleted set is recharged (Nikon Coopix 2500).

I realize this is relatively expensive for a 1 - 2 hour charger, but the convenience of dual voltage using only a cheap round to flat adapter is worthwhile. In fact, in a related vein, my wife's new keyboard (Rolland FP2) uses a similar power block, very light weight and dual voltage, hardly gets warm when operating. Her Yamaha keyboard has a ~5lb power brick which runs quite warm when in use and a bit warm even when the keyboard is off. Yes, I know she should unplug it after use, but . . .

Thanks for your weekly column in BYTE, online edition.

Richard Colvin Alamogordo, NM

Actually the one that came with the Olympus camera is small, light, and 110-220. Alas I didn't take it with me last trip. I sure will in future! Thanks for the kind words.


More on the Death Star!

An alternate view on the Death Star construction timeline

Jerry, I had no problem accepting the Death Star in the closing scenes of Star Wars III for the same reason that I had no problem accepting what would later become Leia's diplomatic ship (helmed by a much younger Captain Antilles) flying around a few scenes before.

The reason is simply this: There is no external, arbitrary scale to indicate the passage of time, no subtitled numbers like "Year 15 of the Galactic Empire". This means that there is no means by which we can measure how much time elapses between any two scenes at the end of of the movie, except where one or more characters overlap and doesn't look noticeably older -- which is why the baby princess was recently born when she was presented to her adoptive mother. And I defy anyone to prove that Vader looked any older at the beginning of Episode IV than he did at the end of Episode III. <grin>

The Death Star would have taken a few years to build, yes. This isn't a problem because Vader doesn't walk out of the operating theater/garage where they made him better, stronger, faster than bef... Wait, wrong character, wrong series, wrong medium even. As I was saying, Vader doesn't walk directly out of the operating theater and onto the command deck where they show him the nascent Death Star. It could easily have been a few years later after putting down much rebellion and knocking many heads in for the Emperor.

Now I did initially object to them setting up Princess Leia's ship for the next episode -- because there are so many starships that they must be relatively cheap and because governments don't make Big Important People fly around in old birds (warbirds and military personnel are another matter entirely).

So why would Leia be running around in Dad's old starship? Well, probably because Dad had a new one by now and the economy wasn't nowhere near good enough since the Empire started taxing everyone out the wazoo for Dear Old Dad to buy his little princess a new starship of her own, especially with the price of hyperdrive fuel these days! Much more sensible to give her the keys to his old classic when she graduated from the Imperial equivalent of High School. Or maybe by then it had been replaced and transferred to the State Department, making it legitimately a diplomatic vessel as Leia claimed.

But why would Antilles still be piloting her? One doesn't usually pilot Air Force One and then go to work for some other, lesser job, does one? I'd have thought they'd keep those guys on deck until they retired or screwed up royally. If they kept the ship in the family, it would be a nice sinecure for him to ease off into retirement with.

Let me say that I could be wrong about all this -- I've only seen the movie twice, after all. But this was the conclusion I came up with the first time I saw the film, and it survived the second viewing.

Okay, that's entirely too much thought and too many words written about somebody else's fictional universe. I should go put some time and energy into my *own* fictional universes instead.

--Gary Pavek

 ================ "Too many people simply give up too easily. You have to keep the desire to forge ahead, and you have to be able to take the bruises of unsuccess. Success is just one long street fight." -- Milton Berle (1908-2002)

Yeah but it's fun to play in other people's yards. And less work...


Ill-organised observations on Knighthood and the Jedi:

The Jedi are referred to as knights. But "Knight" has become a very ambiguous term for us.

In Roman and European, including British, history, Knights were minor nobility, a sort of "hinge" between peers and common people. In the early modern period, Francis Drake was made a knight but his contemporary Shakespeare was not. Later it was a title frequently bestowed on outstanding British Naval officers, judges, etc. who were "professionals" rather than nobles.

In the myths of King Arthur etc., the Knight Errant was an idealistic figure who combined warrior ferocity with chivalry and tenderness. This is defined in a peculiar way with Don Quixote. Here knighthood was not a grade of nobility but something outside it. Even a Prince or King, for example, might not be a knight unless he had passed a series of tests. Nor was this confined to mythology. On Malta the Knights of St John, headquarterd near the Grand Harbour and later at Valletta, and the old Maltese nobility with Norman titles, headquartered at Mdina in the centre of the island, apparently lived separate lives and each rather looked down on the other.

Modern British knighthoods are given to political figures etc. but even fifty years ago were considerably less degraded than they are now. As late as 1939 Commodore Henry Harwood was knighted for beating the Graf Spee. The knighting of Mick Jagger marked the end of British Orders being taken seriously for the foreseeable future. Still I have met some British-created Knights who take the obligations of their Order seriously. In the time between leaving Mexico and joining the US Texas also created Knights.

There are also the Hospitalar Orders of Knighthood - the various Orders of St. John, St. Lazarus etc., of varying authenticity. Some of these continue to do charitable work of the noblest kind. It would take a large book to set all this out in detail.

This is a roundabout way of saying that "Knight" has a complex of associations, but does retain an idea of something like "dedicated and idealistic warrior." The Knight was not meant to be politically very powerful, but to combine physical and moral strength and authority and is sometimes a loner. The term is used in this sense in The Lord of The Rings for the Dunedan, but also for Denethor's guards.

The Jedi seen to have departed gradually from this Knightly ideal - not, by the time of Revenge of the Sith, very far, but they are starting to become a political power in their own right, as the Knights Templar did (the fact the Jedi have their own "Temple" may give them some association, conscious or otherwise, with the Templars). It is easy to imagine the next generation of Jedi, if left to their own devices, becoming dictatorial and tyrannical.

They also seem to have become compromised in that they have done nothing to put a stop to slavery on Tattooine or to Jabba's gangster-dominion. Do they have a policy of only intervening when things have come to a certain pass? (Actually, the slavery on Tattooine does not look too bad, as slavery goes. Young Anakin Skywalker has a good deal of freedom). Maybe things on Tattooine aren't bad enough for their intervention - though perhaps if they had intervened there it would have prevented disaster later. (Would the Jedi have invaded Iraq to overthrow Saddam Hussein? Would they have been compromised if they had not done so?)

With their numbers drastically thinned in Attack of the Clones, the Jedi by the end of Revenge of the Sith have dwindled to two, and with the death of Yoda in Return of the Jedi to Luke alone, though with the repentance of the dying Anakin Skywalker their number presumably increases to two again for a few moments. It does not seem much of a "Return" for the Order as a whole, important as Anakin's salvation is. At the end of the series Luke is apparently the only surviving Jedi. Is he interested in training successors? There is no indication that he is so interested except that, unlike his father, he has no female to distract him. Perhaps what is needed is a redefinition of what Jedi knighthood actually means. And perhaps we in this galaxy could do worse than redefine it ourselves.

Hal Colebatch

Indeed. I like that. J. E. Pournelle, Kt. C. St G K, Chev SLJ...==========




David K. M. Klaus thinks you'd be interested in the following tvnz.co.nz article.

Brothel takes council to court:


Here's a message from David K. M. Klaus:

"Brown's lawyer, QC Barrister Gerard McCoy, says the area is too restrictive and the legal challenge is the first to local government powers since the prostitution law reform act was introduced.

"'It inverts a central principle of the act, namely that sex workers ought to be able to practice in a safe, open and secure environment,' says McCoy.

"The Prostitutes Collective is supporting those claims, saying the bylaw denies the very rights given to sex workers by the new act.

";It immediately takes away the personal choice, autonomy and dignity of these individuals,' says McCoy.

Amazing. How...Heinleinian.



Subject: Was it worth it?

From Jim Woosley


Whether This War Was Worth It In Analyzing Iraq, Consider the Effects of Having Done Nothing

By Robert Kagan Post Sunday, June 19, 2005; B07

Serious scholars still debate whether the Civil War was necessary, never mind the more obvious "wars of choice" such as World War I, the War of 1812, the Spanish-American War, the Korean War, wars in Vietnam and Kosovo, and the Persian Gulf War. To a certain brand of American isolationist, even World War II was unnecessary and counterproductive. So there is nothing remarkable about polls showing Americans wondering whether the recent Iraq war was "worth it." It is a great American myth, voiced by John Kerry last year, that the nation goes to war only when there is no question about the necessity of going to war. There's always a question. Even if the Iraqi insurgency disappeared tomorrow, George Ibrahim al Washington became president of Iraq and every liter of Saddam Hussein's onetime stockpile of chemical and biological weapons suddenly appeared in the desert, historians would still spend the next century debating whether the war was "worth it."

Wars remain subjects of debate not just because their "necessity" is in doubt but also because their results are mixed. <snip>

One problem is that we always know what did happen as a result of war, but we never know what didn't happen. <snip>

To assess whether the Iraq war was worth it requires seriously posing the question: What would have happened if the Bush administration had not gone to war in March 2003? That is a missing but essential piece of the current very legitimate debate. We all know what has gone wrong since the Iraq war began, but it is not as if, in the absence of a war, everything would have gone right. <snip> The most sensible argument for the invasion was not that Hussein was about to strike the United States or anyone else with a nuclear bomb. It was that containment could not be preserved indefinitely, that Hussein was repeatedly defying the international community and that his defiance appeared to both the Clinton and Bush administrations to be gradually succeeding. He was driving a wedge between the United States and Britain, on one side, which wanted to maintain sanctions and containment, and France, Russia, and China, on the other, which wanted to drop sanctions and normalize relations with him. The main concern of senior officials in both administrations was that, in the words of then-national security adviser Samuel "Sandy" Berger, containment was not "sustainable over the long run." <snip>

It is entirely possible, in short, that if the Bush administration had not gone to war in 2003, the United States might have faced a more dangerous and daring Saddam Hussein later on and felt compelled to act. <snip>

Robert Kagan, a senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, writes a monthly column for The Post.

And see below


Subject: Reagan Budgets

Hi Jerry,

According to The Statistical Abstract of the US(1987) page 293 (page 143 of this pdf):


Federal Income:

1980: $517 billion

1985: $734 Billion (42% increase)


1980: $591 Billion

1985: $946 Billion (60% increase)

These numbers are unadjusted for inflation, but it is obvious that there was a disproportionate increase in spending during this period.

Unfortunately I'm going to sound like a Liberal (oh the SHAME!!) when I point out that $119 Billion of that increase is due to increased military spending-taking that out, the rest of the budget grew by 40 % over the same period.

As an unnoted (so far) paleo-Conservative, I must say that 40 % was still too much, and the increased defense spending was money well spent, particularly in hindsight

Take Care, Rod Schaffter


Subject: Reagan and Laffer

" I have been persuaded, perhaps falsely, that actual revenue of the US rose as a result of the tax cuts. "

First, you have to adjust for inflation, as I think everyone would agree. Next,. you have to realize that reveneue just about always goes up over a few years because of economic growth : the question is whether revenue went up faster than usual during Reagan's term. Now if we wanted to do a better job of analysis , we'd have to take into account the fact that Reagan and Congress re-raised taxes several times after the initial cut (not just formal raises in income tax, but bracket creep and higher SS taxes) , that the initial state of the economy when his term began was not under his control, that there are plenty of important factors influencing economic growth that are not controlled by any President, or for that matter even understood by humans...

From what I can find on the net, the real increase in federal tax revenue during Reagan's administration was lower than the preceding 8-year period, also lower than the following 8-year period. Probably more important is economic growth: it was higher in the 1980s than the 1970s, higher in the 1990s than in the 1980s.

Gregory Cochran





This week:


read book now


Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Is the Gulf Stream Turning?

Starting last Sunday I got a series of messages from Henry on possible futures of the Gulf Stream. Rather than present it all piecemeal I asked him to do a full report:

Subject: Climate Surprise Report


Here's a short report, what I've gathered so far about what's going on with the Gulf Stream. Caveat: This is put together by a reasonably well informed intelligent layman - a science writer, not a scientist. Given that the scientists won't yet go on the record or give hard numbers pending publication, though, I think this is a worthwhile heads-up.

(This is all supposed to show up in _Nature_ sometime in the next few months. No preprints to be had for love nor money, yet.)

(There never are; Nature won't publish previously published materials. JEP)

Executive Summary: The Gulf Stream is a massive warm-water ocean current that has a direct effect on the climate of northeastern North America and northwestern Europe, keeping both significantly warmer than they'd otherwise be.

There is evidence that the Gulf Stream has in the past partially shut down and/or changed its flow pattern, significantly affecting regional climate, and that such changes sometimes have taken place very quickly, in just a few years.

There have been reports over the last few years that the Gulf Stream is beginning such changes. There are recent strong indications that the changes have progressed to the point where North Atlantic regional climate consequences - colder winters, shorter growing seasons - are a significant possibility within the next year or two. (Climate changes outside the immediate region are also likely, but are far less directly predictable in both nature and distribution.)

Recommendations: Closer monitoring of the situation, more direct communication of near-term trends and probabilities to the policy level, and contingency planning against possible near-term adverse consequences in agriculture, energy, etc.

(I also strongly recommended that early awareness of these impending changes be leveraged to avoid the policy process becoming driven by panicmonger-inspired media frenzy...)

Background: The Gulf Stream is a massive warm-water ocean current, tens of times larger than all the world's rivers combined, that starts in the Gulf of Mexico, runs up the US east coast as far as the Carolinas, then heads off across the Atlantic to where it eventually splits, part curling back around toward the south, part continuing to the northeast where the large volume of warm water it delivers significantly warms the climate of the north Atlantic region.

A major driver of this northern branch is huge downward flows of cold higher-density ocean water off Greenland. Cold dense water drops to the ocean floor and heads south, pulling warmer surface waters north. Over the last few years, there have been numerous press reports that these "downwellings" have been faltering; in the last month there have been reports that the last known major downwelling has essentially shut down. My first off-the-record-pending-publication (OTRPP for short) data point: Total downwelling has now dropped by "an order of magnitude" over the past few years, IE downwelling is now in the very approximate neighborhood of one-tenth what it was. This is, I am told, unprecedented over the time we've been measuring this.

My second OTRPP data point is that the northern branch of the Gulf Stream is now very weak and disorganized, also to a degree unprecedented since measurements began. I have no numbers or independent confirmation for this.

My third OTRPP data point is that overall Gulf Stream velocity and volume are down as it separates from the continental shelf and heads off into the Atlantic, again to a degree unprecedented since measurements began. I have no numbers or direct independent confirmation for this either, although the next point tends to support this.

One characteristic of the Gulf Stream is that as it exits the Gulf, runs up the US continental shelf to the Carolinas, then heads across the Atlantic, its flow tends to be strongly linear and coherent. At some point well out into the Atlantic, it transitions to turbulent flow - in other words, the current starts to thrash about throwing off loops and vortices.

My fourth OTRPP data point is that the Gulf Stream is "going turbulent" farther upstream than seen since measurements began, an indication of reduced flow and/or increased resistance to flow. There is some independent confirmation of this point in publicly available Gulf Stream surface flow information - in the 2 1/2 year weekly flow map (Jan'03 through May'05) at http://www.deos.tudelft.nl/altim/gulfstream/gif/anim_7_long.gif  the transition from linear to turbulent flow tends to happen between 70 and 60 degrees west longitude, never less than several hundred miles out from the US coast. In the yesterday-plus-four-days-predicted flow map at https://www.navo.navy.mil/cgi-bin/animate.pl/metoc/223/84/0-0-17/2  turbulent flow is starting around 75 degrees west, right off the US coast, several hundred miles upstream of anything seen in the previous two years data.

I am told that what this all adds up to is that the northern branch of the Gulf Stream is shutting down now, with climate consequences likely as soon as this winter. An informed guess of the likely effects - I won't characterize it as more than that - is a return in northwest Europe and northeast North America to the sort of winters seen from the fourteenth through the eighteenth centuries, when the historical record shows at various points the Hudson freezing over solidly enough to transport massive cannon from Fort Ticonderoga, the Thames freezing over in London, the brackish polders of Holland freezing over, and a variety of bad weather, short growing seasons, and crop failures.

Keep in mind two things:

One, this shutdown is not necessarily where the system will settle into a new stable state - it may only be a temporary phase en route to further unpredictable changes. It may even be only a temporary glitch preceding a return to the state of affairs we've enjoyed the last two centuries. We simply don't know now, though we should have a pretty good idea in a couple of years.

Two, these changes will also have climate consequences outside the immediate region, although what and where aren't nearly as predictable. Regional crop failures well beyond the usual weather variations are a generic possibility to keep in mind in contingency planning, pending more reliable and specific scientific predictions.

...and now you know what I know so far.

Henry Vanderbilt hvanderbilt@mindspring.com

Alterations in the Gulf Stream will dwarf most other climate effects. More when we know more.

Well, I've yelled "wolf!" now. Good of you to loan me your megaphone. It'd be nice if this indeed turns out to be a temporary glitch - embarrassing, but nice.

I've already told my Mom in New England to stock up on firewood early this year, FWIW.

One interesting possibility, though: If what's left of the Stream is going turbulent as soon as it breaks away from the continental shelf off the Carolinas, northwestern Europe is hosed; they're losing their branch entirely. The US midatlantic and southern New England states might actually end up warmer, as more heat gets dumped into the region between Hatteras and Cape Cod instead of heading out across the Atlantic. Maine and points north could still be SOL, though. An amateur WAG, of course.

One thing I extracted from our friend, though, is that total flow and velocity are down even before the Stream breaks away from the continental shelf. His sources specifically wouldn't give numbers on that. My vague impression is that the recirculation into the South Atlantic off Africa is supposed to keep the southern branch of the Stream going. But if the Stream breaks east off the shelf further south, or even mostly/entirely shuts down, the northeast could be in for some significantly colder winters. Boston, meet Minneapolis...

interesting times




And More On The Jedi:


I've been reading with some interest and amusement the debates about the Jedi.

IMHO, one point missed in the discussion is what it means for Anakin to be the "Chosen one who will bring balance to the Force." Apparently, nobody knew -- Mace Windu even says so at one point, and the whole prophecy seems irrelevant to Darth Sidious and his machinations.

The obvious thesis is that Anakin's redemption, 'foreshadowed' by Padme's dying comment to Obi-Won, is the moment at which the prophecy is fulfilled.

What does this mean? Again IMHO, it means that the Sith have -- obviously -- gone too far in one direction, but that equally obviously the Jedi have gone too far in the other direction. In the case of the Sith, there is a definite aspect of creative chaos -- destruction and death as a carefully constructed work of art. However, the Jedi have apparently been settled with the equal tyrrany of obsessive order, and as many of your correspondents have already commented, have been sitting themselves up to become a benign dictatorship in their own right in the interest of peace and security. They deny themselves love -- or any emotion -- because it is a path to the dark side; but the noble emotions are also paths to a place of greater peace and happiness than the Jedi would allow themselves to experience. Of "... these three, faith, hope, and love," they have denied themselves all but faith, and hence have denied themselves "the greatest of these, love."

Bringing "balance" to the force means bringing the freedom to love and hope (and the risks of love and loss) to Anakin. And, in the post-"Return of the Jedi" novels, to Luke and Leia.

And again, it is worth noting that if ANY of the Jedi had given Anakin good advice regarding love, he would never have turned to the dark side to attempt to save Padme -- or been manipulated by Sidious into the sad person who killed her will to live, and almost killed her, instead.

Jim Woosley


Dear Dr. Pournelle,

I have just a minor comment or two regarding the STAR WARS discussion. First, there is a timeline of sorts at http://www.starwars.com/clonewars/explore/timeline/  . It states that Episode 3 begins 19 years before Episode 4. Since Padme is four or five months pregnant at the beginning of the movie, it would make Luke Skywalker and Leia Organna 18 or so at the Battle of Yavin. My nine year old son has the answer to the Death Star at the end of Episode 3. He said "Daddy, it's dumb to argue about when the Death Star was built, because the spacecraft in that movie is NOT the Death Star. It's the prototype." He showed me page 38 of "STAR WARS: The Essential Guide to Vehicles and Vessels" (Bill Smith, Doug Chiang and Troy Vigil, Ballantine Books, 1996). Sure enough, the drawing in the book matches the quick shot at the end of Episode 3. I don't know what the source for a prototype was, but George Lucas has been known to take parts of the books, comics and such of the "Expanded Universe" and put them into the latest movies, so it is reasonable to assume he might have included the prototype. Besides, wise it is to argue with a nine year old boy it is not, especially when right he is.

Quick subject change: are you and Mr. Niven getting a decent payment from Science Fiction Book Club's reprinting of THE MOTE IN GOD'S EYE? I want to replace my old hardback copy and get copies for my children. I'd feel better about buying this edition if I was sure you were getting a decent royalty.

Finally, thanks for the article about folic acid and Allzheimer's. My father in law is still in the fairly early stages and I forwarded the article to my mother in law. Thanks again, as always, for all you do.


Frank Luxem

Sure, SF Book Club pays royalties on time...



Following is a press release. I do not usually post press releases, but some I find worth telling you about.

Just released by askSam: the HIPAA legislative text in a free, searchable askSam database. Not the most exciting reading, but useful for those who need it.

See: http://www.asksam.com/ebooks/HIPAA/ 

The askSam version of HIPAA allows you to search, browse, and analyze the budget text, either on-line or on your own PC.

There is no charge for the software or information.

A press release with more information is available at:      http://www.asksam.com/releases.asp 

We are currently working on other databases. If there is something that would be interesting for you or your readers, please let me know.

All the best from the Swamp,

Phil Schnyder President

In addition to HIPAA, the following are also available in free, searchable askSam databases:

   The U.S. 2006 Budget      http://www.asksam.com/ebooks/Budget/ 

   The Sarbanes-Oxley Act      http://www.asksam.com/ebooks/Sarbanes/ 

   The Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act      http://www.asksam.com/ebooks/IntelReformAct/ 

    The 2005 State of the Union Address      http://www.asksam.com/ebooks/StateOfTheUnion/ 

    The Transcripts from the 2004 Presidential Debates      http://www.asksam.com/debate1/ 

   Selected Speeches from the 2004 Political Conventions      http://www.asksam.com/Convention2004/ 

   "Agenda for America" by President Bush      http://www.asksam.com/AgendaForAmerica/ 

   "Our Plan for America" by Senators Kerry and Edwards      http://www.asksam.com/ourplan/ 
   The Patriot Act      http://www.asksam.com/files/downloads/patriot%20act.ask 

   The 9-11 Commission Report      http://www.asksam.com/911/ 

askSam Systems     


Hi Jerry,

In your comments about repressed memory, you close with

"All of which was a major reason for a Statute of Limitations on crimes. Most of those have been repealed in "the interests of justice" but how justice is served by treating notoriously unreliable data as if it were always true escapes me."

I think much the same can be said of the recent trial of KKK member Edgar Ray Killen.

First, let's be clear: whether or not one agrees with the result of the first trial, double jeopardy is supposed to be illegal. Yet that is clearly what is going on here - with a bit of weasel-wording to make it possible.

Then, forty years after the fact, just what sort of "truth" is one going to be able to find? Even with the best of intentions, who can reliably, objectively remember events 40 years past?

I'd be interested in your opinion: just what is the *real* purpose behind this trial?


Brad Richards

The "real purpose" of trying an old man who was certainly not present at the actual kidnapping and murder is to further the ends of political correctness. The actual effect is one more step toward anarcho-tyranny. Whatever the old man did in those days, he was not present at the scene, and they do not seem to have made a conspiracy case; and after all these years no evidence is reliable. Note who testified and who did not, and the emphasis on the heinous nature of the crimes at which he was not present.

I have no sympathy for the modern Klan, which was reconstituted in the North after Nathan Bedford Forrest disbanded the original Klan. The old Klan was in part the officer corps of the Confederacy, forbidden from holding public office by Reconstruction. It was the removal of that barrier among other things that induced Forrest to disband the original Klan as part of the Hayes-Tilden election deal. The new Klan was composed of people who in general could not get elected to public office. The old Klan had a presence since much of its leadership was composed of people who would have been elected to public office had they not been forbidden by Reconstruction and its writ ran wide; the new Klan enforced decrees that it could not get accepted through other means, and was led by people who could not be elected to office. But that is another story.

Rule of Law means many things; but I note that those who insist on every jot and tittle of the law in contemporary criminal cases where there is little doubt of the guilt of violent offenders can find ways to prosecute crimes that happened a long time ago in a different country. Get the modern criminals off on technicalities; find technicalities to prosecute 40 year old cases. So it goes.

Another time I need to write about RICO and public order and the rule of law.

But there was a point to statutes of limitation, and it has not been refuted.


And continuing an important discussion:

Mercenary Armies, the Roman Republic and Victor Davis Hanson

I'm not sure if you have seen the article by Max Boot which started this, but the paraphrase is Mr Boot feels opening up American military enlistment to foreigners as a sort of "American Legion" is a sensible course of action, given declining enrolment, increasing deployments and so on.

Hanson had conceded the Roman Empire used mercenary soldiers for five centuries, but what was missing in Max Boot's piece was Hansons opinion that this was the wrong thing to do. Hanson has made this argument before in reference to the decline of Classical Greek civilization (Notably in the book "The Other Greeks", as well as "Carnage and Culture".

Here is the link: http://victorhanson.com/articles/hanson062005B.html

Perhaps the key quote in Hanson's argument is here:

Much of the instability of the fourth and third centuries B.C. in Greece was due to the decline of the notion of citizenship and the growth of a large pool of transient professional warriors whose loyalties were entirely predicated on money, not ideas, roots, or belief in the polis.

Certainly an "American Legion" would suffer from this, particularly if they were not indoctrinated into becoming "American" as part of the package in joining the Legion. Given the emergency nature of the proposal, I would guess the Eastern European, Mexican, Asian and African troops flocking to the colours would receive the technical training to allow them to use American weapons and operate alongside soldiers and Marines as soon as possible, without spending time incalculating the values and belief systems of American citizens.

Although the Legion would provide a source of real muscle for "Imperial" adventures, the effect of thes unassimilated troops in occupied territories would probably not reflect well on the United States, and their impact on American garrison towns would probably make them very unpopular at home as well. Large enclaves of frustrated, unpopular but well trained and equipped soldiers would be a festering problem for any sort of society, there are lots of examples in history of mercenary soldiers running out of control; The Free Companies: also known as scorchers, flayers and routiers, towards the end of the Hundred years war; or Condottieri armies in Italy, not so direct as the Free Companies, but able to use the threat of unopposed force for political ends.

Certainly this is one idea which should be vigorously opposed, being the "fast track" to an Imperial America, with all that it implies.

Arthur Majoor

Note that the last Roman emperor was the no-good son of Aurelius (well technically there was the martinet who followed him and was murdered by the Praetorians, then the chap who bought the Empire at auction from the Praetorian Guard, but neither lasted more than a couple of months). After that was Septimius Severus who wasn't Italian, and there never again was an actual Roman as Emperor.


Subject: The Brecht solution

Mark Steyn on the inability of EU leaders to grasp the rejection of the EU constitution:


Steve Setzer

Brecht was in many ways a monster, but that one remark goes a long way toward redeeming him.




CURRENT VIEW    Wednesday


This week:


read book now


Thursday, June 23, 2005

On folic acid and Alzheimer's (see above)

Dear Jerry,

As you have noted, folic acid is remarkably non-toxic. I've seen reports of dosages in the 5000 mcg/day range with no noticeable toxic effect. The concern in the medical community with high doses of folic acid is not toxicity but with the ability of high doses to mask B12 deficiency.

The first symptoms of B12 deficiency is pernicious anemia, with large numbers of immature erythrocytes with low hemoglobin content. This anemia is reversible with B12 injections, but the other symptom of deficiency, peripheral neuropathy, is not. Large does of folic acid, say >1000 mcg/day, prevent the anemia without preventing the neuropathy.

Since impaired B12 absorption is common among the elderly, if large amounts of folic acid are taken, circulating B12 should be checked periodically or regular B12 injections administered since the occurrence of pernicious anemia will no longer signal B12 problems.

The level of fortification of grain products chosen by FDA was determined to be that which assured worst case ingestion of fortificand below 1000 mcg/day. There is some sentiment for fortification with B12 simultaneous with folic acid fortification but this would require high levels of fortification with a very expensive fortificand.

-- Robert F. Doherty, Ph.D. Retired Chemist, USDA

So the remedy here is lots of B12. My B-100 formula in which I get most of the folic acid has lots of B 12. The concern lest there be a masking of anemia may be what caused the FDA to recommend inadequate levels of folic acid for pregnant women a few years ago. The result was some retarded children in families where that probably wouldn't have happened had they not been following the government's recommendations.

As usual my own view is that the FDA shouldn't be in the enforcement business. Truth in advertising: if the jar says "Snake Oil" then by jiminy it should contain oil squeezed out of snakes; recommendations: The FDA believes this is worthless. But the whole prescription bureaucracy seems to me to do more harm than good. Of course the purpose is to protect citizens who aren't as smart as the FDA thinks it is, and who might not pay attention to the recommendations of the FDA so there must be federal enforcement including raids with machine guns on vitamin stores that recommended folic acid for pregnant women. Oops. They don't do that any more.

Subj: B-12 absorption

If "impaired B12 *absorption* is common among the elderly" [emphasis added], is it enough just to bump up the *oral* dose?

Note that your correspondent says that the corrective therapy is B12 *injections*.

If the absorption problem is caused by a decrease in the number of transporter-receptors in the digestive tract, there may be a concentration in the digestive tract above which the available transporter-receptors are all saturated, and increasing the dose taken orally may have no effect on B12 in the bloodstream, no?

Rod Montgomery==monty@sprintmail.com

My own witches brew includes a lot more B12 than is in the B-100 formula. Your mileage may vary, I am not a physician, and I am not advising people to do as I do. In fact what I take will probably kill you. I'm sure it will. It's better with Uncle Sam, etc.


Subject: Takings.

http://tinyurl.com/bnxvj  (CNN)

---- Roland Dobbins


Subject: Born Free....

Cities can seize homes to benefit private developers:


   Copy attached.

Charles Brumbelow


Subject: We have lost our freedoms.

*washingtonpost.com* <http://www.washingtonpost.com/> *Supreme Court Rules Cities May Seize Homes*

By HOPE YEN The Associated Press Thursday, June 23, 2005; 11:43 AM

WASHINGTON -- A divided Supreme Court ruled Thursday that local governments may seize people's homes and businesses against their will for private development in a decision anxiously awaited in communities where economic growth often is at war with individual property rights.

The 5-4 ruling _ assailed by dissenting Justice Sanday Day O'Connor as handing "disproportionate influence and power" to the well-heeled in America _ was a defeat for some Connecticut residents whose homes are slated for destruction to make room for an office complex. They had argued that cities have no right to take their land except for projects with a clear public use, such as roads or schools, or to revitalize blighted areas.

As a result, cities now have wide power to bulldoze residences for projects such as shopping malls and hotel complexes in order to generate tax revenue.

Writing for the court, Justice John Paul Stevens said local officials, not federal judges, know best in deciding whether a development project will benefit the community. States are within their rights to pass additional laws restricting condemnations if residents are overly burdened, he said. <snip>

Carl & Kathi Sanders

The reasoning is to protect local government powers; but as O'Connor notes, it sure hands over a lot of power to those who have managed to lobby the local city redevelopment agency. The CRA when I was in City Hall was considered a great place to be if you wanted to collect perks. It got pretty bad in LA until they got a new administrator who may be making some headway in cleaning up (disclosure: I have some business relationships with Bud Ovram, former City Manager of Burbank, who has that post now).

I haven't read the arguments yet. Needless to say, the Constitutional protections apply to the Federal government which has long since abrogated most of those limits with such things as defining a wet spot in Iowa as "navigable waters" and thus subject to the Corps of Engineers regulations, which amount to a "taking" in that the land becomes useless to the owner. Under Carter a man went to jail for pouring dry sand on his own land. Since the Constitution doesn't restrain the Feds despite explicit language, it is hardly surprising that it doesn't restrain anyone else.

My general inclination is to allow local governments to do a lot of things, since power is usually not destroyed but it can be divided, fragmented, and limited in scope. I need to look at this one more closely.

No more private property:

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A divided U.S. Supreme Court ruled on Thursday that a city can take a person's home for a development project aimed at revitalizing a depressed local economy, a decision that could have nationwide impact.

Under the U.S. Constitution, governments can take private property through their so-called eminent domain powers in exchange for just compensation, but only when it is for public use.

Full story: http://news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&cid=578&e=3&u=/nm/20050623/ts_nm/court_property_dc 

Knocking down slums to build new apartments is one thing. Knocking down perfectly good houses to build a freeway overpass is one step further. Now, if a developer wants to knock down your house and build a shopping mall (which will generate higher tax revenue for the city) all he has to do is convince the local city council. A man's home may be his castle, but apparently the land belongs to Uncle Sam.

Charles Milner -- Harts Systems Ltd

Does it make a difference whether it's Uncle Sam or City Hall? See my VIEW essay.

And see below



On genetics and genomes:

Dear Jerry,

A summary with contents on DNA, The Human Genome Project, human races, and diversity.



Steve Sailer is a neighbor, and he, Cochran, and I are old friends. The subject is a touchy one, of course. But I have seen little to refute the findings of The Bell Curve, and the fact that some NAS members were willing to denounce the book while proclaiming they had not read it and never would said a great deal for me.

On genetics (from another discussion)

A few points:

1) For some genes there are multiple copies on a chromosome (or even on different chromosome numbers). This allows a higher rate of transcription. It also allows different copies of the same gene to be regulated in different ways. So the transcribed region is the same but the regulatory region is different. But if there are multiple copies there are bound to be cases where the transcribed region differs between copies.

2) If we can have multiple copies we can differ in how many copies we have. I'm aware there are variations between people in how long repeat sections are. But some of those repeat sections are within a single gene and some are out in regulatory regions and junk regions (some of the latter are going to turn out to be regulatory regions making little bits of regulatory RNA). Are humans yet known to differ in how many complete gene copies they have? I don't know.

3) Then there is gene silencing. I haven't kept up with this research either. In some cases is it uniform that one parent's copy of a gene is turned off in all cells of an offspring whereas in other cases which parent's copy is turned off differs from organ to organ and cell to cell? I think so. But I'm not sure.

Anyone kept up with this research and know the latest?



i am pretty sure x chromosome inactivation in the cells of females varies randomly. that is, sometimes an x from dad is silenced, sometimes an x from mom is silenced, but you can't have *both* x's turned on.... (i believe they turn into polar body/heterochromatin that's too dense and tight for transcriptional sequences to be exposed to promoters and regulators).



There is also gene imprinting. The idea behind some of them is this: as a male I want my fetus to get more nutrients than the other guy's fetus in the same uterus while the mom wants to suppress my selfishness. So some genes like insulin-like growth factor II are on when inherited from the dad, off when inherited from the mom. Another locus (forget name) soaks up the stuff so it doesn't work: this is turned on if it came from the mom, off from the dad.



The First Race-Based Medicine http://www.nytimes.com/2005/06/19/opinion/19sun2.html 

With the unanimous endorsement of an expert advisory committee last week, a heart-failure drug aimed specifically at African-Americans moved a big step closer to regulatory approval. If the Food and Drug Administration gives a favorable nod, the drug, known as BiDil, will become the first medicine ever approved for a single racial group. Its arrival could be a boon to black patients, who die at disproportionate rates from congestive heart failure. But the history of this first racial medicine raises troubling questions about the impact of patent considerations on how drugs are tested.

The new treatment, a combination of two generic drugs, was first tested years ago in a broad sampling of patients. The results were deemed inconclusive by the F.D.A., and the drug was rejected for use in the general population. Subsequently, seizing on data indicating that blacks in those early studies had been helped by the treatment, proponents conducted further tests exclusively in self-described African-Americans. The results were so striking - a 43 percent reduction in mortality when the pill was added to standard therapies - that the clinical trial was halted early to allow those on a placebo to benefit.

The drug has been enthusiastically endorsed by black medical groups as a tool to help lessen disparities in health care between blacks and whites. The chief caveat is that race is a very crude category upon which to base medical treatments. Two experts on the panel that recommended approval resisted the notion that the drug should be labeled specifically for African-Americans. The panel's chairman justified race as a rough surrogate for underlying genetic factors that might make some people responsive to the drug and others less so. <snip>



I made my way to the below from a FORTUNE Magazine article about a new line of greeting cards whose market target is adulterers:


BUSINESS LIFE An Affair Is in the Cards By Grainger David

Infidelity: Where some see sin, or at the very least a regrettable fact of modern life, Cathy Gallagher, creator of the new Secret Lover Collection cards, sees dollar signs. "This is a market that has been untapped by the greeting card industry," she says brightly. Her $3.99 cards range from Your Sweet Scent to In Too Deep to, simply, Lust. Each comes with its own Gallagher-penned testimonial ("I understand that you are not mine completely and I have to share you ...") and a painterly illustration. In My Weekend Is Over, a couple makes out at a water cooler.

Gallagher says she isn't "for" such dalliances as much as she is "nonjudgmental." But she admits the cards aren't for everyone. "I'm sure Wal-Mart isn't going to carry this card," she says. "We're looking at more boutiquey places and hotel gift shops." Gallagher, who has been married for 15 years, says she has never cheated-and neither has her husband. "At least, as far as I know," she adds. "After all, they are called secret lovers."

Ah, capitalism!




Obviously the people in these sects are nuts, but why all he column-inches and law-enforcement activity directed at these tiny polygynous cults and none at the men whose babies are being borne by inner-city girls who have not yet reached their 11th birthdays?




Sect expels 1000 boys so men get more wives

Date: June 15 2005

Washington: Up to 1000 teenage boys have been separated from their parents and thrown out of their communities by a polygamous sect to make more young women available for older men, Utah state officials allege.

Many of the so-called "Lost Boys", some as young as 13, were dumped on the side of the road in Arizona and Utah by leaders of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and told they will never see their families again or go to heaven. <snip>


On Social Security and reality


A few notes for those inclined towards reality.

1. "By 1935, when Social Security was enacted, life expectancy had risen to 61 years. Now it is 77 years"

Actually, life expectancy at age 65 has risen only 5 years since 1935. See http://www.slate.com/id/2113883. The overall increase in life expectancy is principally a consequence of lower infant and childhood mortality.

2. "When politicians talk about raising the Social Security retirement age to 70 in order to "save" the system, they are headed backward and against the tide of human aspirations"

Something about wishes, horses, and beggars comes to mind here. Human aspiration is virtually useless guide to human reality.

3. "What people want is time--more time to enjoy life and learning, to focus on the virtuous aspects of one's nature..."

According to http://www.nytimes.com/2005/06/14/opinion/14tierney.html?  labor force participation has risen by 30% for folks in their sixties, since Chile eliminated incentives for pensioners to retire. See also http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/8304412/  "Why are Americans working longer?" for a short article on the subject. The desire to stay active and economics are factors.

4. "He proposes a savings rate of 14.7 percent (though taking Social Security benefits and taxes into account, a lower rate would suffice for a start). Lifelong healthcare, Fogel adds, could be guaranteed for all by setting aside another 9.8 percent from current incomes."

Taking 25% of current incomes would amount to a reduction in take home pay of over one third. At least Robert Fogel is using numbers that might actually add up. However, the idea reducing disposable income that much, strains credulity. Rightfully or wrongfully most people would choose to work longer rather than give up that much of the potential consumption during their peak income years.

However, there is a vast macro issue. 25% of current incomes would amount to trillions of dollars per year. Where exactly would this money be invested? The current Federal deficit is not even the same order of magnitude. Logically, the savings would have to go abroad (reversing the current pattern of where the U.S. imports savings from other nations). What combination of nations could absorb trillions of dollars in excess U.S. savings?

Note that this is not a hypothetical point. Singapore has a mandatory savings plan along the lines Fogel advocates. As a consequence, the ratio of consumption to income is much lower than the U.S. (see http://www.mti.gov.sg/public/PDF/CMT/NWS_2004Q1_PCE.pdf?sid=165  <http://www.mti.gov.sg/public/PDF/CMT/NWS_2004Q1_PCE.pdf?sid=165&cid=2036> &cid=2036 ). Predictably, Singapore has the highest level of per-capita foreign exchange reserves in the world and the second highest percent of GDP.

This works for Singapore because it is relatively small. Any macroeconomic policy in Singapore will have little impact on the world. The same can not be said for the U.S.

5. "They dumped old defined-benefit pension plans and adopted the new version, which requires much smaller employer contributions and thereby reduces labor costs dramatically."

This is a nice, feel good, left-wing theory. However, there is no long term trend in corporate profits as a percent of GDP. In eliminating defined pension plans, was really so profitable, where are the earnings?

6. "Given the stagnating wages for hourly workers and easier access to credit, families typically managed to stay afloat by working more jobs and by borrowing more."

Given that both mean and median incomes are higher now than in 1982 (when savings were $480 billion), the decline in savings is not a consequence of a lack on income. It reflects a broadly based preference for consumption over savings driven the by the wealth effect. The details support these points. The decline in savings has occurred primarily in higher income groups, not struggling poorer folks. Of course, the wealth effect only those families that have wealth.

7. "From 1999 through 2003, the value of family homes rose by a spectacular $3.3 trillion, but families' actual equity in those properties changed little because mortgage borrowing rose nearly as fast."

Home equity extraction for current consumption is a huge problem/issue. However, it doesn't amount to $3.3 trillion between 1999 and 2003. In March of 2003, Alan Greenspan gave a speech on this subject ( http://www.federalreserve.gov/boarddocs/speeches/2003/20030304/default.htm  ) . The home/ATM machine is tragically large but doesn't come close to $3.3 trillion in that period.

8. "The wages of hourly workers--80 percent of the private-sector workforce--have been essentially unchanged in terms of real purchasing power for three decades (no one in politics wants to talk about that, either)."

And no one wants to use the "I" word either, including the author.

9. "In fact, Ghilarducci argues, allowing the pension system to deteriorate serves a long-term interest of business: avoiding future labor shortages when the baby-boom generation moves into retirement"

Open Borders, not poor older working, is the obviously the corporate labor policy of our time. Another "I" word problem.

The article contains a number of other errors and flaws. Nonetheless, the proposed solution, a national mandatory savings plan is correct. I could point out that a mandatory savings system, is essentially a government mandated 401K plan, which the author so lavishly condemns. However, the biggest problem is that without fantastically high levels of mandatory savings, the dream of widespread early retirement, will by necessity remain just that.



Subject: Tough Man of the Year nomination

Dr. Pournelle:

I nominate this man for the "Tough Man of the Year" award.

"NAIROBI - A 73-year-old Kenyan grandfather reached into the mouth of an attacking leopard and tore out its tongue to kill it, authorities said Wednesday." (see http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/8317484/  ).

Perhaps we should hire him to go after spammers and identity thieves.

Regards, Rick Hellewell







CURRENT VIEW    Thursday


This week:


read book now


Friday,  June 24, 2005

More on Warming and History:

Subject: The Green Alps.


(Spiegel on line) http://service.spiegel.de/cache/international/spiegel/0,1518,357366,00.html

--- Roland Dobbins

Which makes it even clearer that we don't know a lot, and the climatologists are bloody wrong to reject history as "anecdotal".


Another obituary of a remarkable man:

Subject: General Bernard Schriever, RIP. (buffy willow priority one)


--- Roland Dobbins


What a guy. Why do people believe and follow these nuts? Charisma?



Warren Jeffs Indicted in Arizona Jun. 10, 2005

Alex Cabrero Reporting

The Mohave County Attorney in Arizona has a message for polygamists who live along his state's border with Utah.

Matthew Smith, Mohave County, Arizona Attorney: “Twenty-eight year olds cannot have sexual intercourse with 16-year olds in the state of Arizona.”

He's filed criminal charges against Polygamous leader Warren Jeffs for arranging a plural marriage with a 16-year old girl. A lot of people have been wondering if this day would ever come. Now that it has, it's just a matter of finding Warren Jeffs.

Arizona wants him, so does Utah. All this started because a victim in Jeff's polygamous group was willing to come forward to Arizona authorities. That's what Utah needs in order to go forward with charges of its own, but as we know, charging Jeffs is one thing, finding him is something else.

Mark Shurtleff, Attorney General of Utah: "It's gonna be difficult because he's elusive. He hides. He has a lot of loyal people around him to keep him safe."

Any state attorney general can probably tell you one case that's always bugged them. For Utah's Mark Shurtleff that one case just might be Warren Jeffs.

Mark Shurtleff: "I want to charge him, but in law enforcement, we just don't charge people because we want to. We have to have a case we think we can prove, and that requires a witness." <snip>


For a fascinating glimpse in this subculture, I recommend a book I just finished: “Under the Banner of Heaven: A Story of Violent Faith”, by Jon Krakauer. (author of the equally fascinating “Into Thin Air”, and “Into the Wild”). Both Jeffs, Warren and Rulon, are featured in the book, as is the polygamist community of Hilldale/Colorado City on the Utah/Arizona border. This is not the first time that Arizona has attempted to crack down on the polygamists of the Arizona strip (the isolated section of Arizona north of the Grand Canyon). The last time it ended in political failure for the governor and attorney general involved, and little change in the polygamists’ practices.

-- Cecil Rose


More on takings

Mr. President
Senators Shelby and Sessions
Representative Cramer

The Fifth Amendment of the U. S. Constitution reads:

No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a grand jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the militia, when in actual service in time of war or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

In the case of Kelo et al. v. City of New London, 04-108, Justice John Paul Stevens, writing for the majority, said New London could pursue private development under the Fifth Amendment, which allows governments to take private property if the land is for public use, since the project the city has in mind promises to bring more jobs and revenue.

This ruling is an abomination against everything that it means to be an American and to live in America. It is one thing to condemn private property for a bona-fide public use. But to condemn well-maintained private property for the sole purposes of enriching private developers and claiming that the only public use is increased tax revenues is not only un-American, it is a specter that matches the excesses of the communist Soviet empire.

I concur fully with Justice O'Connor in her statement, which criticized the majority for abandoning the conservative principle of individual property rights and handing "disproportionate influence and power" to the well-heeled, when she wrote that "The specter of condemnation hangs over all property. Nothing is to prevent the state from replacing any Motel 6 with a Ritz-Carlton, any home with a shopping mall, or any farm with a factory."

On this issue I must join the chorus of voices which ask that the five judges who voted for this abomination -- Justices Stevens, Souter, Ginsburg, Breyer, and Kennedy -- be impeached for this action.

I must also ask that the Senate and House immediately act to enable a Constitutional Amendment which reaffirms the concept of property rights, and explicitly, rather than implicitly, states that it applies to all levels of government within the United States.

It is a sad day that it has become necessary to pass a new amendment to protect the fundamental rights which have historically been protected by the original Bill of Rights.


James K. Woosley

Actually, an Act of Congress would be sufficient. If Congress defines property rights as a civil right, it has that power; and you are not handing the courts more authority. But this is the proper approach.

There is more discussion in other places here. It is a matter of considerable importance.


Unclear on American Campus: What the Foreign Teacher Said



Valerie Serrin still remembers vividly her anger and the feeling of helplessness. After getting a C on a lab report in an introductory chemistry course, she went to her teaching assistant to ask what she should have done for a better grade.

The teaching assistant, a graduate student from China, possessed a finely honed mind. But he also had a heavy accent and a limited grasp of spoken English, so he could not explain to Ms. Serrin, a freshman at the time, what her report had lacked.

"He would just say, 'It's easy, it's easy,' " said Ms. Serrin, who recently completed her junior year at the University of California, Berkeley. "But it wasn't easy. He was brilliant, absolutely brilliant, but he couldn't communicate in English."

Ms. Serrin's experience is hardly unique. With a steep rise in the number of foreign graduate students in the last two decades, undergraduates at large research universities often find themselves in classes and laboratories run by graduate teaching assistants whose mastery of English is less than complete.<snip>

How politically incorrect to point this out!


Subject: suppression of illegally obtained evidence

The fourth amendment provides: "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."

While it is true that the Constitution does not indicate that evidence obtained in a manner inconsistent with the fourth amendment should be excluded at a criminal trial, the exclusion is necessary to give life to the fourth amendment. If evidence was not excluded, then the members of the executive branch would have no reason not to seize evidence in an unconstitutional manner. The only other way way (that I can conceive off-hand) to ensure observance of the protections afforded by the fourth amendment would be to punish persons who seize evidence in an unconstitutional manner. However, this would require a legislative act which defeats a major point of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights - to provide rights that are not at the mercy of the legislature.

Regarding abortion, I agree that there is nothing in the Constitution. However, my biggest problem with Roe v. Wade is based on the separation of powers. In Roe v. Wade, the Court determined when life began. This is a matter the judicial branch had no business deciding. That's the realm of the legislative branch. What happens when we can deliver a baby at eight weeks? Is Roe v. Wade overturned?

V. Rene Daley

The suppression of evidence rule wasn't applied at all for about 80 years. Then it was adopted by the Supreme Court as a Rule imposed by the court's supervisory powers and applied to Federal Courts only and then not as a "right" but as a rule. About 24 state legislatures adopted it as law; the others did not. Then suddenly it was discovered after 200 years to be a "right" inherent in the Constitution. That is absurd to the point of imbecility. Rights are not suddenly "discovered" after 200 years. So a federal supervisory rule was suddenly applied to the states as a right.

That is judicial usurpation and the judges in the matter ought to have been impeached.

As to abortion there is not one word about the subject, and every state, plus Federal law, had provisions on the subject when the Courts discovered emanations from a penumbra.

The argument that the exclusion rule is needed to control the executive was the one made by the court that imposed the rule. It may well be needed. But that does not mean it applies to the States. Some states did apply it. Some did not.

The liberal argument is "we need this, so by any means necessary we will have it." The result is judicial usurpation -- and one's rights hang by the vote of one man on an unelected body. Big deal.


From: Stephen M. St. Onge                                      Subject: Jedi Political Incompetence
http://www.fatsteve.blogspot.com/                       saintonge@hotmail.com

Dear Jerry:
        In thinking about how the political struggle goes in the STAR WARS cycle, it occurs to me that the Jedi are rather like the old Bolsheviks in the twenties.
        Faced with political resistance by the masses, they don't even think of accommodation of some kind.  The "Republic" is supreme, and will be obeyed.  And as time goes on, they hand supreme power to someone who can Get Things Done.  In the end, their supposed tool turns on them, as Stalin did Zinoviev, Kamenev, and Bukharin, with no one seeing what was coming. . . .
        Anyway, that's one way to look at it.

Looked that way to me, too.


Underwater Robot Launched From Bermuda To Cross Gulf Stream http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/05/050528125652.htm

 A small autonomous underwater vehicle, or AUV, named Spray was launched recently about 12 miles southeast of Bermuda. The two-meter-(6-foot)-long orange glider with a four-foot wingspan will slowly make its way northwest, crossing the Gulf Stream and reaching the continental shelf on the other side before turning around and heading back to Bermuda, where it will be recovered in July.

... to relay its position and information about ocean conditions, such as temperature, salinity and pressure, via satellite back to Woods Hole, Mass., and San Diego.

The sort of thing we ought to be doing...


Subject: China's Trade Surpluses With USA

Apparently China has become bored with T-Bills, Dr. Pournelle. So they want to put the next quarter's trade surplus with the USA into something more substantive -- UNOCAL. Who would have thought Beanie Babies and other toys could be worth so much? And now, finally, Congress (and big business) may be noticing....


Charles Brumbelow

And what we ought to worry about; but don't. We do like that cheap underwear and loss of jobs.


Subject: Cognitive psychology and programming

After Addison Wesley decided not to publish my book at a very late stage (so much for contracts) I decided to make it freely available on the net. The file (a 8M byte pdf) can be found at: http://websites.ntl.com/~dmjones/cbook1_0a.pdf  The book's entry in the Addison-Wesley catalog is still in the google cache:

The book contains a detailed analysis of C (well actually just the language, ie no library, but lets talk it up) from a variety of perspectives.

One major new angle is using the results from cognitive psychology to try and figure out how software developers comprehend code. The aim being to try and produce some guidelines that reduce costs (ie, reduce the time needed and bugs created). The book also contains the results of lots of source code measurements (over 400 figures and tables) in an attempt to back up the arguments being made (another unusual feature since most software related books don't publish any figures to back up what they say).

The book assumes that the reader is already familiar with C (ie it is not another "Learn C in 21 days"; it actually requires some prior knowledge; probably why the publisher bottled out, a limited market {ok, so it's got a few more pages than most books and it's in an A4 format}; but of course your readers are a knowledgeable bunch :-).


-- Derek M Jones tel: +44 (0) 1252 520 667 Knowledge Software Ltd mailto:derek@knosof.co.uk Applications Standards Conformance Testing http://www.knosof.co.uk





This week:


read book now


Saturday, June 25, 2005


In 1960 I was a young USAF Captain test flying fighter armaments at Eglin Air Force Base in FL.

I forced Republic Aircraft to change their design of the M-61 Gattling gun on the F-105, and also showed that the USAF did not need a new system they wanted to sell for the F-105.

They saw to it that I was transferred to the Western Development Division/Space Systems Division and assigned to the Missile Safety Office.

You can imagine how a fighter test pilot responded to that.

Shortly after reporting in to SSD there was a dining in for Gen Schriever who had just been transferred to the Pentagon to take over Systems Command.

If you are familiar with the Dining In ceremony that we inherited from our British friends, you know that after dining, it is customary to have a glass of wine and a cigar.

Then the floor is open for toasts from the floor.

I, seated with the Missile Safety wienies, stood up and raised my glass towards Mr. Vice.

He ignored me, so after a bit I sat back down.

But one of the general officers at the head table had noticed me and rapped for silence. Then he turned to Mr. Vice (always the junior officer present) and said: "Mr. Vice, I believe we have a toast from the floor".

Mr. Vice arose and asked if there was a toast?

I stood up in a now dead silent room and said, looking straight at Gen. Schriever, "Yes. Mr. Vice, I propose a toast to manned aircraft "!!!

There was a significant period of dead silence during which it occurred to me that my next duty station would probably be in Greenland ... when suddenly the room erupted and everyone was on their feet and cheering!

The missile safety guys moved perceptibly away from me so that when everyone sat down, I was sort of isolated at a corner ... but Gen. Schriever was looking at me ... and smiling!

He was, of course, the major speaker of the evening, and when he arose he said, " Referring to the fellow who toasted manned aircraft, reminds me of another Dining In where Gen Tooey Spaatz was guest of honor. After dinner Gen Spaatz came over to me and put his hand on my shoulder and said: "Schriever, you should never have gotten into the Air Force"!

" Why sir ?" Schriever had asked.

"Because you've ruined it" Spaatz replied.

For Gen. Schriever to respond with that story to my defiant toast shows what a real gentleman he was.

BTW, next day I was transferred to the Dyna Soar program, the Air Force's first manned space program.

I never heard exactly how that came about, but I think Gen. Schriever may have had a hand in it.

Wm E. Haynes

Lt Col USAF (Ret)


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=And I didn't even know I had a support team!! Seriously, another phishing scam. Be careful.

It might have been more effective if I had not got five copies from staff, support, webmaster, and other addresses...







CURRENT VIEW     Saturday

This week:


read book now


Sunday, June 26, 2005

Travel. No connections.





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