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Mail 369 July 4 - 10, 2005






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Monday  July 4, 2005

Happy Birthday America

There is a very great deal of mail over the weekend; I'll get more up tomorrow.


An Interchange from another conference:

> It's so much more satisfying for the Jellybys to make believe that Africa's woes are the responsibility of those "eight (white, terminally uncool) men" who lead the G8 countries.

Japan is not white.

And that's important, as the economic success of Japan in particular (and Asia in general) is the single most important verbal bludgeon/wedge issue to use at dinner parties if a Live 8 discussion breaks out. I always chuckle when the very same people cluck about the "threat" of free trade with Asia while tut-tutting about the poor in Africa.

The economic illiterate can only see economics as zero-sum -- either the pooooor Africans who are poor because we are rich, or conversely the developing/developed Asians who are getting rich because we are getting poorer. Idiots, both.


It is important to note that economics and trade are not automatically zero-sum games. At the same time, I think some of us may be permitted to mourn the loss of manufacturing capabilities in the US. But that's for another discussion.


The tyranny of therapism

The authors of One Nation Under Therapy question the notion that uninhibited emotional openness is good for our mental health.
By Christina Hoff Sommers and Sally Satel

In 2000, five Canadian psychologists published a satirical article about Winnie the Pooh entitled 'Pathology in the Hundred Acre Wood'. At first glance, say the authors, the hero of AA Milne's 1926 children's classic appears to be a healthy, well-adjusted bear; but on closer and more expert examination, Pooh turns out to suffer from attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder, binge eating, and borderline cognitive functioning ('a bear of very little brain'), to name just a few of his infirmities.

Pooh's friends are similarly afflicted: Rabbit fits the profile of narcissistic personality syndrome; Owl is emotionally disturbed, which renders him dyslexic; and Piglet displays classic symptoms of generalised anxiety (a diagnosis that is admittedly difficult to dispute).

The Canadian spoof makes a serious point: the propensity of experts to pathologise and medicalise healthy children en masse has gotten way out of hand. The past decade has seen a cascade of books and articles promoting the idea that seemingly content and well-adjusted American children are emotionally damaged. <snip>




Subj: Bush&Co. - ideology or not?

Krauthammer's "Neoconservative Convergence" piece says G.W.Bush, Cheney, Rice and Rumsfeld are practicing a neoconservative ideology of "democratic realism" while speaking an equally-but-differently-neoconservative ideology of "democratic globalism".

My own reading of the situation is somewhat different from the notoriously-neoconservative Krauthammer's reading. The distinction Krauthammer makes, between what Bush&Co. expansively say and what they much less expansively do, is important; but Krauthammer's *explanation* of that difference is not the only possible explanation.

Like all ideologues, Krauthammer does not consider-and-reject, he merely *ignores*, the possibility that someone, and especially someone who has the conservative attitude, might not have any ideology at all, but rather might have conservative principles instead.

The major rhetorical problem of the Bush administration, as I see it, is that Bush&Co. have been captured, not by the whole current corrupt Zeitgeist of the American ruling elite, but by that part of that Zeitgeist that assumes, as a first principle, that *everyone* must have *some* ideology. Bush&Co., consequently, feel compelled to emit the sounds of that available ideology that is closest, as they see it, to what Bush&Co. really do believe -- while at the same time, *not* in fact *being* ideologues, Bush&Co. do not feel compelled to *act* according to that ideology.

One problem non-ideological conservatives have, not only in communicating with their opponents, but also in communicating with each other, is that non-ideological conservatives do not have recourse to an all-encompassing ideology to force a superficial a-priori coherence on their stated positions, much less to force superficial coherence between stated positions and actions. Conservative principles are always in tension with each other, and with the particular nuances of each individual situation to which a conservative responsible for acting must apply them. "Any informed conservative is reluctant to condense profound and intricate intellectual systems to a few pretentious phrases; he prefers to leave that technique to the enthusiasm of radicals" (Russell Kirk, _The Conservative Mind_, page 7). See also Kirk's explication of Edmund Burke's "determination to deal with circumstances, not with abstractions" (_TCM_ page 39).

Rod Montgomery==monty@sprintmail.com

Well said. Well said indeed.




This week:


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TuesdayJuly 5, 2005

It is seriously COLUMN TIME and thus short shrift:

Subject: Microsoft/Gator a hoax?

More on Claria/MS rumored purchase

This is sure starting to look like a hoax.

From Good Morning Silicon Valley, Silicon Beat reports that Magdalena Yesil, who is on the board of Claria (representing US Venture Partners) says that there is no deal. According to SiliconBeat:

"I sit on the board, and I would know if there was such an offer," she told us, "and I haven't heard of such an offer." She said the company has a board meeting at 1:30pm today. About an alleged deal, she repeated: "That is significant enough that I would have known about it." We'll try McFadden again this afternoon.

Alex Eckelberry

from http://sunbeltblog.blogspot.com/2005/07/more-on-clariams-rumured-purchase.html 

I missed the primary story, but this ought to put minds to rest...


Subject: Ethanol


Just finished reading "Burning Tower", and greatly enjoyed it. When's the next one?

American ethanol production yields only 10% more output energy than input energy.


Since ethanol starts out partially oxidized, it is inefficient (by volume, or weight) as a fuel and also produces more "carbon dioxide/kwh" compared to gasoline (if you choose to worry about CO2). But there is no "common sense" lobby to protect us from State/Federal congressional pandering.

Chris C

"Power corrupts and PowerPoint corrupts absolutely." - Vint Cerf


I recently mentioned to Roland that sometimes very long URL's require me to do a lot of work before I can go to the site and see what the story is (his subjects being always clever but not always descriptive); he made no reply but we now get them all with a Tiny URL. My thanks. The URL doesn't always warn you what the story will be (but then the full long long long ones don't either), but most of you have been here long enough to form an informed view of the kinds of things Roland is likely to recommend. As I get time I replace the Tiny URL with the real one. Herewith a mixed but interesting bag:

Subject: Angst of a Stagnating Germany.


-- Roland Dobbins


Subject: Law and order, Texas-style.


---- Roland Dobbins

Houston swimmer's rescuer ends up in jail




This guy rescued a swimmer - then disobeyed officers. So they arrested him. We're all safer now.




Subject: Literary Warrior.


---- Roland Dobbins


Subject: We've taught our proxies well.


- Roland Dobbins

It is the Guardian, after all...


Subject: Intellectual property laws kill?

I've no idea as to the veracity of this man's claims . . .


---- Roland Dobbins

Nor I, but I have seen the FDA do similar things. The busy-body state simply cannot leave things alone. My personal view is that the FDA ought to have the authority to require truth in labeling -- if the bottle says snake oil then there must be oil from snakes inside -- and even to require warnings, e.g. "The FDA believes this stuff is worthless, and probably will give you halitosis and chilblains, and you are mad to ingest it" -- but beyond that have no enforcement powers at all. That includes prescription drugs. If you have the money and want to buy it, the fact that is is not "approved" for the purpose for which you will use it should be irrelevant. Why pay tribute to the medical profession unless you want to? Yes, I know, most citizens are too stupid to take care of their own affairs, and we only consult them about running other people's business never allow them to run their own; that's democracy for you.

Regarding the drug laws, I still do not understand why, if it took the XVIII Article of Amendment to the Constitution to make the Volstead Act which forbade the manufacture and sale of liquor in the US allowable under the Constitution, and that Article was repealed, precisely what Article allows the Federal Government to forbid drugs in general?  The States may do so, and the States may even make Interstate Compacts to which the Federal Government is a party to forbid sale and import and even use of drugs if they wish; but when and where Congress got the authority to forbid people to take drugs has never been explained to my satisfaction. It appears to be a emanation from a penumbra.

I am appalled to find myself in agreement with Noam Chomsky in this matter, but assuming the facts are as stated, I guess I am.


Subject: How the Air Force Got the ICBM.


----- Roland Dobbins

General Power also held on to the ground support mission although most USAF officers didn't want it and didn't want to be in TAC Air because it was a career stopper. "Never give up a mission," he said. So the Army lost USAAF and gained the dubious advantages of an "Independent" Air Force. Now it's true enough that an Independent Air Force concentrating on winning Air Superiority is important when the ranges of aircraft are long; but that doesn't mean that this Air Superiority Air Force knows or cares how to support the field army which has to actually take the ground and hold it.

The Marines famously have great Air/Ground cooperation. US Army/USAF cooperation is less well regarded...


Subject: U.S. Armor in Operation "Iraqi Freedom".


---- Roland Dobbins


Subject: Footprints rewrite history of first Americans


According to this -


- the Indians may not have been the original settlers of the Americas. This find reinforces prior evidence that the Indians displaced earlier human colonizers.

This kind of thing is bound to stir up political fallout. I'm thinking of the law that gives Indian tribes a say in the study/nonstudy of archaeological remains.


Apparently the Mexican government isn't quite as sentimental about such things as the US.

BURNING CITY and BURNING TOWER assumed there were people in the Southwest 14,000 years ago, and that they had been there long enough to have legends, although the lordkin knew they were wanderers who had found a home by conquest. All this was sort of based on alternate theories of settlement; but of course we took most of the old myths and treated them as true (magic really did work, at one time, before the manna got used up)... It makes for good stories. We did try to get most of the archeology right, given that dragon bones tend to vanish when the dragon dies...


Test Seeks to Measure Students' Web IQ


Associated Press Writer 5.7.2

LONG BEACH, Calif. -- Students apply to college online, e-mail their papers to their professors and, when they want to be cheeky, pass notes in class by text-messaging. But that doesn't necessarily mean they have a high Internet IQ.

"They're real comfortable instant-messaging, downloading MP3 files. They're less comfortable using technology in ways that require real critical thinking," says Teresa Egan of the Educational Testing Service.

Or as Lorie Roth, assistant vice chancellor of academic programs at California State University puts it: "Every single one that comes through the door thinks that if you just go to Google and get some hits -- you've got material for your research paper right there." That's why Cal State and a number of other colleges are working with ETS to create a test to evaluate Internet intelligence, measuring whether students can locate and verify reliable online information and whether they know how to properly use and credit the material. "This test measures a skill as important as having mathematics and English skills when you come to the university," says Roth. "If you don't come to the university with it, you need to know that you are lacking some skills that educated people are expected to have." A preliminary version of the new test, the Information and Communication Technology Literacy Assessment, was given to 3,300 Cal State students this spring to see how well it works, i.e. testing the test. Individual scores aren't being tallied but campuses will be getting aggregate reports.

Next year, the test is expected to be available for students to take on a voluntary basis. <snip>


Explaining Differences in Twins New York Times, 5.7.5 http://www.nytimes.com/2005/07/05/health/05gene.html 


Identical twins possess exactly the same set of genes. Yet as they grow older, they may begin to display subtle differences.

They may start to look different, develop different diseases or slide into different personalities. Women who are identical twins may differ in their fertility or in the age at which they reach menopause.

These discrepancies are usually attributed to ill-defined differences in environment.

But a whole new level of explanation has been opened up by a genetic survey showing that identical twins, as they grow older, differ increasingly in what is known as their epigenome. The term refers to natural chemical modifications that occur in a person's genome shortly after conception and that act on a gene like a gas pedal or a brake, marking it for higher or lower activity.

Identical twins have the same set of epigenetic marks on the genome when they are born. But differences in the epigenome emerge as the twins grow older and become greater the longer they live apart, say a team of researchers led by Dr. Manel Esteller of the Spanish National Cancer Center in Madrid.

Their report appears in today's issue of The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

"This is one of the most fascinating things I have read," said Dr. Nancy Segal, a psychologist who studies twins at California State University at Fullerton and the author of "Indivisible by Two," a forthcoming book on twins. "By giving us a handle on something specific, it opens up many new avenues of inquiry as to why twins are different."

There are two possible explanations for Dr. Esteller's findings. One is simply the well- known fact that epigenetic marks are lost as people get older. Because the marks are removed randomly, they would be expected to occur differently in two members of a twin pair.

A second possible explanation is that personal experiences and elements in the environment - including toxic agents like tobacco smoke - feed back onto the genome by changing the pattern of epigenetic marks.

Dr. Esteller believes he is seeing both processes at work. The evidence for the second process, he said, is that twins who reported that they had lived apart the longest also had the greatest differences in their epigenome. <snip>




This week:


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Wednesday, July 6, 2005

Column Time: Short Shrift


I think Bork would have been a pretty good justice. Here is the text and a link to a piece from the Wall Street Journal this AM.

While I don't agree with all his views, he does make a great point about the court:

"justices have weakened the authority of other institutions, public and private, such as schools, businesses, and churches; "

-- --Dave



Their Will Be Done

By ROBERT H. BORK July 5, 2005; Page A20

What do the nomination of a replacement for Sandra Day O'Connor, constitutional law, and moral chaos have to do with one another? A good deal more than you may think.

In Federalist 2, John Jay wrote of America that "Providence has been pleased to give this one connected country to one united people -- a people descended from the same ancestors, speaking the same language, professing the same religion, attached to the same principles of government, very similar in their manners and customs . . . ." Such a people enjoy the same moral assumptions, the cement that forms a society rather than a cluster of groups. Though Jay's conditions have long been obsolete, until recently Americans did possess a large body of common moral assumptions rooted in our original Anglo-Protestant culture, and expressed in law. Now, however, a variety of disintegrating influences are undermining that unanimity, not least among them is the capture of constitutional law by an extreme liberationist philosophy. America is becoming a cacophony of voices proclaiming different, or no, truths.

Alexis de Tocqueville observed that "If each undertook himself to form all his opinions and to pursue the truth in isolation down paths cleared by him alone, it is not probable that a great number of men would ever unite in any common belief. . . . [W]ithout common ideas there is no common action, and without common action men still exist, but a social body does not."

Contrast Tocqueville with Justices Harry Blackmun and Anthony Kennedy. Blackmun wanted to create a constitutional right to homosexual sodomy because of the asserted "'moral fact' that a person belongs to himself and not others nor to society as a whole." Justice Kennedy, writing for six justices, did invent that right, declaring that "At the heart of [constitutional] liberty is the right to define one's own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life." Neither of these vaporings has the remotest basis in the actual Constitution and neither has any definable meaning other than that a common morality may not be sustained by law if a majority of justices prefer that each individual follow his own desires.

Once the justices depart, as most of them have, from the original understanding of the principles of the Constitution, they lack any guidance other than their own attempts at moral philosophy, a task for which they have not even minimal skills. Yet when it rules in the name of the Constitution, whether it rules truly or not, the Court is the most powerful branch of government in domestic policy. The combination of absolute power, disdain for the historic Constitution, and philosophical incompetence is lethal. <snip>


Subject: Life in the Worker's Paradise

This article is a bit long, but worth the read. Part one of two, so more to come tomorrow, I guess. It's pretty depressing. Things are seriously wrong in North Korea. Everyone (except the ordinary North Koreans, who have been taught they live in paradise) has known that for quite a while, but it's still numbing to realize the full extent of the mess. Of course, they have a nuke or two and no oil, so regime change imposed by a US invasion is not going to happen anytime soon. When things do change, I'm afraid that Iraq is going to look very orderly by comparison. A Sunshine policy with leaders that created and maintain this mess seems pretty distasteful to me, but I don't know what the alternative is. Sometimes the only option is to do nothing and cringe.

Kerk Phillips


NORTH KOREA Glimpses of a Hermit Nation A decade after a massive famine, North Koreans are still struggling. In Chongjin, deprivation spurs change. First of two parts

By Barbara Demick, LA Times Staff Writer

His day begins at 4:30 a.m. The 64-year-old retired math teacher doesn't own a clock or even a watch, but the internal alarm that has kept him alive while so many of his fellow North Koreans have starved to death tells him he had better get out to pick grass if his family is to survive.

Soon the streets of his city, Chongjin, will be swarming with others doing the same. Some cook the grass to eat. The teacher feeds it to the rabbits his family sells at the market.

At 10 a.m., he eats a modest meal of corn porridge. A late breakfast is best as it allows him and his wife to skip lunch. Then he goes with a hand cart to collect firewood. He has to walk two hours from Chongjin, mostly uphill, to find a patch that has not been stripped bare of vegetation.

"There is no time for rest. If you stand still, you will not survive," said the teacher, a lean, soft-spoken man with salt-and-pepper hair who could be described as elegant if not for his threadbare trousers and his fingernails, as gnarled as oyster shells from chronic malnutrition.

Later, if it is one of the rare evenings when there is electricity, he might indulge in reading Tolstoy. More often than not, he collapses for a few hours of sleep before the routine is replayed for yet another day. <snip>


Francis Hamit has been fighting the good fight on the copyright suits; the Authors Guild and some of the other organizations have in essence settled for pittances and money for the organizations and lawyers at the expense of the writers. And all this happens when I have less time than I have had in years. Naturally. Francis deserves the thanks of every free lance writer in the country:

Subject: An update on the Copyright Wars.

Dear Jerry:

The big lawsuit for copyright infringement was filed last month and we should have all of the eleven defendants served later this week. There will be some media coverage, so I wanted to give you a heads-up. One effect of the filing has already shown up. You can't get those articles at the Public Library anymore. Just a citation that says they are copyright restricted.

Well, the whole point of Francis Hamit Electronic Publishing was to provide an alternative channel for distribution of my articles through Amazon.com . Recently Thomson Gale invaded that channel as well. I was able to convince Amazon to take down their competing product, but it was that act that made them a co-defendant on the suit --- and if we sued them, then we had to sue the rest.

The link below gives more details. I am also filing, at my own expense, a brief opposing the settlement in New York that would pretty much reverse the Tasini decision and deprive freelancer writers everywhere in the nation of their electronic rights. I'll send you a copy if you like, once the lawyers have massaged it. It has to be filed by next week.

People have told me that such actions are not "career enhancing" but someone has to take a stand here. I've always been noted for having more guts than brains, so I'll do it and pay the costs, actual and implied. On the other hand, some company on such a quest is always welcome. Anyone who wants to join me should step up now. We don't have much time.


Francis Hamit


It has been my experience that the point of  "class action" suits is to make as good a deal for the lawyers as possible, but there is seldom any consultation with the people whose rights are affected unless they (1) know about the deal, and (2) opt out. Usually what happens is that you learn you were part of a class years later when you get a certificate good for a discount on a product you weren't going to buy anyway.

And see below


Subject: Well done NASA

Well done NASA


We used to be afraid of comets. Now comets are afraid of us. Well done NASA.

Regards John Edwards


Subject: Felt Denied Being 'Deep Throat' to Jury


Felt Denied Being 'Deep Throat' to Jury

From NewsMax.com

A new book about "Deep Throat" by Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward says W. Mark Felt denied being the Watergate source during a 1976 grand jury appearance, according to USA Today.

The book, "The Story of Watergate's Deep Throat," says Felt hastily withdrew his denial when a Justice Department official reminded him he was under oath, according to the newspaper, which said it obtained a copy from a Virginia bookstore that mistakenly put copies out for sale.

The book is due in stores next Wednesday.

According to USA Today, the book says Woodward suspected that someone at the Post was leaking information about his sources to the Nixon White House. No leaker was found.

The book also identifies the garage where Woodward and Felt, a high-ranking FBI official, conducted their clandestine late-night meetings. The garage is "behind and underneath" 1401 Wilson Boulevard in the Rosslyn section of Arlington, Va., Woodward wrote.

I expect he is glad of the Statute of Limitations...



Mr. Krauthammer neglected to point out President Bush's (41) foray into Somalia. The realism behind such a move had escaped me at the time. It still does.

The evil side of me, however, has always wondered if that was done to provide a sure-fire foreign policy failure for the following Clinton administration. I don't have words to express how angry that would make me if that suspicion was true.

-- Mark A. Flacy
Any opinions expressed above are my own. Any facts expressed above would imply that I know what I'm writing about. Sometimes, I do! "Walking on water and developing software to specification are easy as long as both are frozen." -- Edward V. Berard.


Subject: Why there are so many amputees in Iraq

Dear Jerry:

My late father was a U.S. Army surgeon who retired in the middle of the Vietnam War, about six months after he did a three week tour as the Army Medical Corps Inspector General in Vietnam. He was on his last assignment , working at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research. I have his final report. Even then the Army medics were looking for ways to increase survivability in the field. Dad had previously been Chief of Surgery at Brooke Army Medical Center at Fort Sam Houston, where he helped Basil Pruett establish the now famous Army Burn Unit.

His report is too extensive to reproduce here of course, but a couple of things stand out in my memory. One was a new operation caused by the M-79 grenade launcher. The grenade armed itself in mid flight by centrifugal force. It wasn't armed until it had flown about 15 feet. Short of that, it was just an extra large bullet. Some of the M-79s fell into VC hands, so that some American soldiers were getting shot with them.

Dad happened to be there when one such wounded soldier was brought into the ER. When the xray revealed what had caused the wound, they cleared the room and built a sandbag bunker around the soldier. One doctor, one surgical technician and an EOD guy did the operation. There was no way of knowing how far along the arming device was and it could have exploded at any minute. Very tricky. My father wa willing to do it, as was every other surgeon there, but the guy who got the job was the former commander, who had just been relieved over things that didn't have anything to do with his skills as a surgeon. He was risking his eyes, hands, and future medical career. It was successful. The patient lived , but was crippled as a result.

So my father put him in for a Soldiers Medal along with the other two guys...but he was still out of the Army. allowed to resign "for the good of the service" rather than face a Court Martial.

The reason that we have so many amputees in Iraq is that between body armor and better medical techniques more soldiers are surviving their wounds. The Army now has a "Combat Lifesaver" program where someone on every squad is trained to treat the wounded. Evacuation is quicker, facilities are better. I your war in Korea , about half od them would have died and about a third in mine, Vietnam. So this is actually a good thing, but it is also the reason they just had to add a billion dollars to the VA budget --- that, and so many veterans my age loosing their civilian health insurance.


Francis Hamit


Subject: Chaos Manor: interesting snippet re pi

FR: Henry Wyckoff <henry_wyckoff@hotmail.com> RE: Chaos Manor: interesting snippet re pi

I'm not sure whether this is proof that (a) the human mind has not been totally enfeebled in the face of technology, or (b) that we have too much time on our hands.

Man recites pi from memory to 83,431 places Japanese counselor breaks his own personal best


Henry Wyckoff -- "Life is like a complex number: it is both real and imaginary"


Subject: 155mm guns of today's navy


 LRLAP is a 155mm GPS-(global positioning system) guided gun-launched projectile capable of precision fire support at ranges up to 83 nautical miles.

The LRLAP Guided Flight-four (GF-04) gun test marked the longest successful guided-projectile test in history. The LRLAP, fired at the San Nicolas Island test facility at the Naval Air Warfare Center, Weapons Division, Pt. Mugu, Calif., (NAWC-WD), flew a guided trajectory to an impact location more than 59 nautical miles down range.

Rich Pournelle
 XCOR Aerospace


Hearing about the San Marcos brings back a much more pleasant memory:

Over ten years ago, I went scuba diving in the San Marcos. Once a year they would allow scuba divers in the river, to clean up accumulated trash. It's a neat spot, there is the water fall, and below the water, underneath the falls, there is a large outlet of an underground river. The water is cold, and the current is powerful, and the outlet is pitch black. But the water is crystal clear. Near the outlet was a large rock.

Being a big guy, with a powerful kick and a resistance to cold beyond most folks, I was able to make my way to the mouth of the entrance, and grab onto a large boulder. It took everything I had to go against the current, especially with all the drag from the air tank, spare regulator, etc. But I made it to the rock and held on. And then I just stayed there, staring into the darkness. I was never actually in the entrance, I wouldn't have done that even if I could. I'm uncomfortable being underground and cave diving of any sort is _not_ on my wish list. Nor was I able to do anything except hold on and breathe most of a tank of air. Which didn't last too long, not more than ten minutes as I used up a lot of the air just getting to the rock.

When I got down to 500psi, I made sure no one was behind me, and let go of the rock. Oh, man, did I get a ride! That is the fastest I have ever moved under water. Swept away.

The whole thing was over in fifteen minutes, from in the water to out of the water, with nothing much to show for it. And yet that is one of my most satisfying memories. I have relived that episode time after time in my dreams. It was a spiritual experience, I guess.

As to the current events in San Marcos, I can only hope there is more to the story to explain the actions of the police.

Jim Snover

I fear anarcho-tyranny is the actual explanation.



CURRENT VIEW    Wednesday


This week:


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Thursday, July 7m 2005

Due to my trip to Sussex -- and I am glad I wasn't there for the current round of attacks on the English transport system -- I missed this important note:

Subject: Greenland Temperatures (the Medieval Warm Period and the Little Ice Age)

From: Testimony to the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation

William Curry Ocean and Climage Change Institute Director Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution May 6, 2004



Emacs! (R.B. Alley, from The Two-Mile Time Machine, 2000)

Figure 3. The history of air temperature over Greenland during the last 20,000 years. Several abrupt climate events occurred during this interval, including an abrupt cooling 13,000 years ago known as the Younger Dryas event and another cooling event 8,200 years ago. Each of these events was associated with an increase in freshwater delivery to the North Atlantic and with widespread cooling and drying throughout the northern hemisphere. A smaller event several hundred years ago, called the "Little Ice Age," was also associated with freshening of the North Atlantic Ocean. (Illustration by Jayne Doucette, WHOI)

Or was it caused by the sun?

http://www.whoi.edu/institutes/occi/currenttopics/abruptclimate_15misconceptions.html#ocean_6  <http://www.whoi.edu/institutes/occi/currenttopics/abruptclimate_15misconceptions.html#ocean_6>  The "Little Ice Age" refers to a historical period of colder climate that occurred from about 1300 AD to about 1800 AD, well within the present interglacial period. During this Little Ice Age, widespread cooling was observed throughout the North Atlantic region, winters were more severe in Europe and eastern North America and mountain glaciers advanced throughout Europe. The changes in climate at this time caused much hardship and famine. The cold winters associated with The Little Ice Age drove Viking settlements out of Greenland and North America and affected historical events like the American Revolution (remember Washington's troops attacking the Hessians at Trenton, in 1775 and the cold winter endured by his troops at Valley Forge in 1777-78).

The causes of the Little Ice Age are still unclear, but may have been triggered by changes in the amount of solar energy received by the earth from the Sun. The coldest interval of The Little Ice Age occurred during a period of reduced solar activity called the Maunder Minimum, when the Sun was observed to have fewer sunspots. Climate models suggest that changes in the Sun's energy output may have caused a small cooling at that time, but it is still unclear how these small changes in solar activity may have triggered such a widespread cooling.

-Joe Hennessey

The point being that we don't know, and most climate models haven't a clue; and before we spend a lot of money on "remedies" it may be well to understand what the heck is happening.


Subject: Programming Majors

So, should parents encourage their children to major in computer science? Apparently not, or not at least until the US realizes that shipping all of our vital commerce overseas leaves the nation's security at major risk.



Programming jobs losing luster in U.S. 6/19/2005, 7:21 a.m. ET By RACHEL KONRAD The Associated Press

STANFORD, Calif. (AP) — As an eager freshman in the fall of 2001, Andrew Mo's career trajectory seemed preordained: He'd learn C++ and Java languages while earning a computer science degree at Stanford University, then land a Silicon Valley technology job.

The 22-year-old Shanghai native graduated this month with a major in computer science and a minor in economics. But he no longer plans to write code for a living, or even work at a tech company.

Mo begins work in the fall as a management consultant with The Boston Consulting Group, helping to lead projects at multinational companies. Consulting, he says, will insulate him from the offshore outsourcing that's sending thousands of once-desirable computer programming jobs overseas.

More important, Mo believes his consulting gig is more lucrative, rewarding and imaginative than a traditional tech job. He characterized his summer programming internships as "too focused or localized, even meaningless."

"A consulting job injects you into companies at a higher level," he said. "You don't feel like you're doing basic stuff."

Mo's decision to reboot his nascent career reflects a subtle but potentially significant industry shift. As tens of thousands of engineering jobs migrate to developing countries, many new entrants into the U.S. work force see info tech jobs as monotonous, uncreative and easily farmed out — the equivalent of 1980s manufacturing jobs.

The research firm Gartner Inc. predicts that up to 15 percent of tech workers will drop out of the profession by 2010, not including those who retire or die. Most will leave because they can't get jobs or can get more money or job satisfaction elsewhere. Within the same period, worldwide demand for technology developers — a job category ranging from programmers people who maintain everything from mainframes to employee laptops — is forecast to shrink by 30 percent. <snip>

But see below


Another item I missed, on grade inflation:

Subject: Caltech Honors

It's not terribly important but your correspondent "bc" should know that the Honors designation is given at Caltech (there's no such thing as CalTech, by the way) to all who graduate with a GPA greater than 3.0. Given the substantial number of students who never graduate, I would not take it as "prima facie" proof of grade inflation that about half of those who do manage a B average. I can't say anything about Penn.

The shame is that grades should matter at all. As a despised Caltech premed (class of 1976), I had to care about what grades I got, and I knew that if I didn't game the system for all I was worth to get something over 3.5 I could forget about any good medical school even looking at me. Call it my first experience of credentialism -- what I learned was far less important than what I scored. Only if I exceeded a rather high threshold did it matter in whose lab I'd had my real training. So be it. As Joel Norris noted, for the really good jobs (and even medical school these days) the quality of the student matters more than the quality of his transcript.

Regards, Tim Herbst

I have never quite understood the subtle difference between Caltech and CalTech, but I will try to remember; I note that Word Spellcheck flags CalTech but not Caltech. Credentialism is largely due to affirmative action: the only way to prove you made the right choice is through "objective" evidence which is to say credentials. That leads to absurdities like interns with A's from King/Drew (a disastrous teaching hospital) being rated higher than interns from USC/County when it comes to applications for admissions to further graduate work. Of course the evaluators know that King/Drew is a place that the police refuse to be taken if injured on the job, so the manipulations they go through are interesting. (Not that King/Drew cannot produce people who know what they are doing, but it's not so likely, is it?)


  Following may be important.

Microsoft Gator

Hi Jerry,

Here's a followup story about the potential Microsoft Claria/Gator acquisition. The Microsoft Anti-spyware tool is no longer flagging it as adware/spyware.


I guess the fox did get into the henhouse. Given this situation, it makes even more important to run more than one tool - I use Spybot S&D (www.security.kolla.de), Ad-Aware (www.lavasoft.de) and Spy Sweeper (www.webroot.com).





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

Followups appreciated. This is intriguing.

Microsoft Downgrades Claria Adware Detections


Interesting, particularly in light of recent reports that Microsoft is buying Claria. And still more evidence that anyone who trusts Microsoft Antispyware is nuts. I wonder how much longer it'll be until MS ASW doesn't even bother to report that a system is infected with Claria scumware.

If I were still running Windows, I'd sure delete MS ASW and install Spybot and AdAware instead.

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

I never uninstalled mine.


To explore is human

 We, not robots, know what we need from our travels, discoveries.

By Michael Griffin

Within the lifetime of a baby born this Fourth of July ‹ the day NASA's Deep Impact spacecraft collided with the comet Tempel 1 (late on July 3 in the western USA), and also the 1,705th consecutive day of human occupancy onboard the International Space Station ‹ human pioneers will build outposts on the moon and Mars, extract minerals from large asteroids and construct huge space telescopes to map the details of continents on distant planets.

This is the space program NASA will pursue, based on the premise that a robust program of human and robotic space exploration will help fuel American creativity, innovation, technology development and leadership.

If history demonstrates anything, it is that those nations that make a commitment to exploration invariably benefit. Because of Britain's centuries-long primacy in the maritime arts, variations on British systems of culture and government thrive across the globe. I believe that America, through its mastery of human spaceflight, can shape the cultures and societies of the future, in space and here on Earth, as the great nations of the past have shaped the cultures of today. This future is being purchased for the 15 cents per day that the average taxpayer currently provides for space exploration.

Spaceflight is a continuation of the ancient human imperative to explore, discover and understand; to settle new territory and to develop new ways to live and work. We need both robotic pathfinders and people in our space journeys. As capable as our robots are, a human explorer can move over new territory far more quickly than a robot, assess and interpret the local environment, and make unexpected discoveries. In all other human activities, we complement, but do not supplant, ourselves with our machines. Why should it be any different in space?

As with all pioneering journeys into the unknown, spaceflight is risky. Next week, if all goes well, we will launch seven courageous astronauts on the Space Shuttle Discovery. A successful mission would give us greater confidence we can fly the shuttle safely through its planned 2010 retirement, then move on into a new era of exploration.

It is inconceivable to me that this nation will ever abandon space exploration, either human or robotic. If this is so, then the proper debate in a world of limited resources is over which goals to pursue. I have little doubt that the huge majority of Americans would prefer to invest their 15 cents per day in the exciting, outward-focused, destination-oriented program we are pursuing.

Michael Griffin is NASA administrator.



"Within the lifetime of a baby born this Fourth of July … human pioneers will build outposts on the moon and Mars, extract minerals from large asteroids and construct huge space telescopes to map the details of continents on distant planets."

I used to hope we'd start doing those things in MY lifetime… But THIS time, NASA's 19000 civil servants and 40000 contractors and grantees - every one of them essential, by the way - will do it right, and not waste another 25 years going nowhere. They mean it. Really. Just trust them.

Tom Craver Chandler, AZ


Subject: Faux Programming (see above)

“As an eager freshman in the fall of 2001, Andrew Mo's career trajectory seemed preordained: He'd learn C++ and Java languages while earning a computer science degree at Stanford University, then land a Silicon Valley technology job.”

And so?

Maybe if Mo had learned something real – COBOL, REXX, SQL, CICS, and (dare I say it here?) C, instead of OO-gobbledygook “languages” like C++ and Java, he could find a job.

I’ve been a mainframe developer for twenty-eight years, and, except for a year and a half of semi-voluntary unemployment (I didn’t choose to be sick, but I chose not to be sick and working at the same time), I’ve always had a job. At my current client, there are about 9,000 people in systems on-site, and probably a couple of thousand off-site, mostly but not entirely off-shore (i.e., in India). One thing that I’ve noted is that the monotonous, low-skill grunt work – run a job, look up the error messages in a manual, apply mechanical corrections; lather, rinse, repeat – does go off-shore. OTOH, I’m on-shore, writing the tools that make that possible – and earning a pretty nice chunk of change doing it.

Java was the pseudo-language of the dot-com bubble. When the bubble burst, the jobs went away. As in the previous few years, MIS departments had also burned up their budgets, and then some, preparing for Y2K (whether it was never a problem, or we got almost everything fixed at the eleventh hour, is not the point at issue; the money was spent, how much or how little good it did), the subsequent few years saw a pretty sluggish IT market (9/11 didn’t help either; I know programmers thrown out of work as a direct consequence who are still out of work).

Our views on the American job market, protectionism, etc., are close, but there are some differences; I don’t see any value in hashing those differences out here and now. I will note, however, that no policy will long protect anyone who chooses to learn to engrave arabesques on pet rocks – which is essentially what Mo chose to do.

John W. Braue, III



"Be not as those who serve in hopes of a reward, but rather as those who serve whether or no there be a reward." - Antigonos of Sokho


Stipulating that the story as told is true, it's frightening. If somebody with this guy's track record can get placed onto the watchlist with no recourse, then the rest of us are even more vulnerable.

David Klaus


"Who's Watching the Watch List?" by John Graham Posted on AlterNet on July 7, 2005


Heading for Oakland from Seattle to see my grandkids last week, the Alaska Airlines check-in machine refused to give me a boarding pass. Directed to the ticket counter, I gave the agent my driver's license and watched her punch keys at her computer.

Frowning, she told me that my name was on the national terrorist No Fly Watch List and that I had to be specially cleared to board a plane. Any plane. Then she disappeared with my license for ten minutes, returning with a boarding pass and a written notice from the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) confirming that my name was on a list of persons "who posed, or were suspected of posing, a threat to civil aviation or national security."

No one could tell me more than that. The computer was certain.

Back home in Seattle, I called the TSA's 800 number, where I rode a merry-go-round of pleasant recorded voices until I gave up. Turning to the TSA web site <http://www.tsa.gov/public/>, I downloaded a Passenger Identity Verification form that would assist the TSA in "assessing" my situation if I sent it in with a package of certified documents attesting to who I was.

I collected all this stuff and sent it in. Another 20 minutes on the phone to the TSA uncovered no live human being at all, let alone one who would tell me what I'd presumably done to get on The List. Searching my mind for possible reasons, I've been more and more puzzled. I used to work on national security issues for the State Department and I know how dangerous our country's opponents can be. To the dismay of many of my more progressive friends, I've given the feds the benefit of the doubt on homeland security. I tend to dismiss conspiracy theories as nonsense and I take my shoes off for the airport screeners with a smile.

I'm embarrassed that it took my own ox being gored for me to see the threat posed by the Administration's current restricting of civil liberties. I'm being accused of a serious -- even treasonous -- criminal intent by a faceless bureaucracy, with no opportunity (that I can find) to refute any errors or false charges. My ability to earn a living is threatened; I speak on civic action and leadership all over the world, including recently at the U. S. Air Force Academy. Plane travel is key to my livelihood. <snip>

According to a recent MS-NBC piece, thousands of Americans are having similar experiences. And this is not Chile under Pinochet. It's America. My country and yours.

I know what I will do. If my name is not removed completely from the Watch List in 45 days I will use every resource I've got to challenge the government of a country that I love and have served. In all the press about identity theft, I find myself railing at having my identity as a patriot stolen -- by my own government. This must not stand.


John Graham is the author of "STICK YOUR NECK OUT: A Street-Smart Guide to Creating Change in Your Community and Beyond" <http://www.bkconnection.com/ProdDetails.asp?ID=1576753042&PG=1&Type=BL&PCS=BKP> (San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler, 2005). He is also president of the Giraffe Heroes Project <http://www.giraffe.org/> and a former U. S. diplomat.

Feeling safer already. But we were born free.


This guy is obviously a psychotic. It's a psychosis of degree, though -- probably millions of American blacks daily fantasize about doing what he did. The widespread hatred and loathing borne by American blacks for American whites is one of the great unmentionables here, though it jumps out at you at once if you arrive in the U.S. as an adult.

Jared Taylor told me that in his (suprisingly many) radio & TV face-offs with black "community leaders," he makes a point of asking them: "Do you think all white people should be killed?" The answer (he says) is almost always along the lines of: "No, I don't. But I know people that do."




A racist ex-con confessed that he fatally stabbed a beloved mother of two at a White Plains mall because he wanted "to kill a white person."

"She was not innocent. She was white," convicted rapist Phillip Grant confessed in a chilling videotaped statement to cops that was played in White Plains City Court yesterday - the same day victim Concetta Russo Carriero was laid to rest.

The 43-year-old homeless man told cops he had never laid eyes on Russo Carriero, 56, before he stabbed her in the chest twice last Wednesday on the seventh level of the Galleria mall garage.

"All I knew was she had blond hair and blue eyes, and she had to die . . . I didn't care, as long as she was white," he said.

"I wanted to kill someone who represented the white lifestyle."

Grant said he became a racist after his July 2003 release from Sing Sing, where he spent 24 years for three Bronx rapes and for attacking another inmate with a pitchfork. <snip>



From another conference:

I'm rather dubious about the whole business of libel, since I don't understand how you could "own" your reputation. I might contract with you not to say things about me that are not up to a certain level of verifiability and clarity, but I can't force parties C and D to do the same.

What is ultimately needed is to develop one's own sense of the reliability of information. The current headmaster of my high school thinks that the ability to distinguish good from bogus information on the Internet will be the singly most valuable skill to have in the world of 2025, and he is right.


I agree completely. In a sense this place is a running experiment in trying to get things, if not right, at least not egregiously wrong. Sifting out fact from opinion, and reasoned opinion from prejudice, and prejudice based on previously thought out reasoned positions from sheer superstition (see Life Without Prejudice for more if this puzzles you) is a lifelong task, and it will become more important as time goes on.



CURRENT VIEW    Thursday


This week:


read book now


Friday, July 8, 2005

Subject: Energy Independence Gains Traction In the Mass Media Buffy Willow

Thought you might find this interesting as you've supported/pushed for this idea for years -


Note, especially, that this is a business reporter.

Timothy K. Morris


Subject: Voting Rights....

I agree that forbidding the vote because of a person's sex or skin color is not a good thing, Dr. Pournelle.

But what about requiring that the potential voter be literate? Or at least have some knowledge of the positions claimed by the candidates? Or maybe be alive, a citizen, and a resident of the community in which the vote is to be cast? Would one or two of these be too much to ask?

On the other hand, putting the stock quotation pages of the Wall Street Journal on the wall and letting monkeys through darts at them is supposed to be as good as thoughtful analysis and study for picking stocks, so maybe the same approach works just as well (or just as poorly) for picking government leaders.

On the third (aka gripping) hand, Mr. Heinlein said.... If you are part of a society that votes, then do so. There may be no candidates and no measures you want to vote for ... but there are certain to be ones you want to vote against. By this rule you will rarely go wrong.

If this is too blind for your taste, consult some well-meaning fool (there is always one around) and ask his advice. Then vote the other way. This enables you to be a good citizen (if such is your wish) without spending the enormous amount of time on it that truly intelligent exercise of franchise requires.

From "The Notebooks of Lazarus Long" posted at http://www.dustin.icenter.pl/ruminations/notebooks_of_lazarus_long.htm

(And no, I don't want to discuss copyright in connection with this web site.)

Charles Brumbelow

Well, you invite a lengthy essay. Suffice it to say that not only do I not object to literacy tests and poll taxes, I encourage them. The problem was that they were used in the Old South not as actual literacy tests but as means of discrimination against black voters, and this is so easily documented that I won't bother.

Poll taxes never amounted to a lot but the attempt to pay them and get the proper receipt was another story for blacks. In Virginia, for instance, voter registration was done largely in living rooms of white households. The stories I heard of the experiences of blacks registering were that they were treated politely but coldly, and Virginia wasn't known as a hotbed of KKK activity, but the experience was unpleasant and had an air of menace. In other states things were more openly hostile. And yet, yes, I approve of poll taxes; moreover I would set them if possible at the price of a carton of cigarettes or a bottle of good whiskey: anyone who values his vote at less than that shouldn't be voting at all. Of course there will then be those who offer to pay the poll taxes of those they think may vote for them; and that matter deserves discussion. In any event, poll taxes are now completely out of bounds. I don't think they should be.

I would be very much in favor of literacy tests fairly administered, and had I been writing the Civil Rights Laws I would have created a Federal Bureaucracy charged with administering the voting qualification laws of the various states; that is, allow the states to set the qualifications for voting, but not to be the administration and enforcement agency. That, I think, would have transformed the Old South without destroying Federalism and subsidiarity.

At the same time, representative government requires that there be a chance that all are represented. Once again, to me at least, the answer is clear enough: leave as many matters as possible to local government. Subsidiarity and fiscal responsibility. Leave as much as possible to the states, and encourage the states to leave most to the cities and counties. I would include in that a great deal that people now think of as Federal rights. Probably my most controversial position on this is that I believe cities and counties ought to have the right to ban books and movies. I would encourage them not to do so, or at least to be very careful in exercising that right; but books were banned in Boston for 170 years without destroying the Republic (and indeed BANNED IN BOSTON was often assurance of becoming a best-seller).

I suspect you raised these points to elicit these comments in full awareness of what I would say. Thank you. Discussion continues immediately below the gremlin, and thereafter...


I agree about Poll Taxes Jerry, excepting in two cases. Veterans and Serving members of the Military.

The Veteran has paid his Poll Tax, in many cases, many times over. Perhaps exemption from the Poll Tax should also be granted to Widows and orphans of vets who died in service.

As for Serving members, do I have to say that they are paying their Poll Tax as they go?

For a better America,

Harry Reddington

I can't disagree. There are probably other exceptions. On the other hand, the notion is that if you'd sell your vote for the price of a bottle of Scotch, you probably ought not be voting... And see below for more comments and my replies.


Dear Jerry,

This quote, ""Within the lifetime of a baby born this Fourth of July … human pioneers will build outposts on the moon and Mars, extract minerals from large asteroids and construct huge space telescopes to map the details of continents on distant planets."

I used to hope we'd start doing those things in MY lifetime… But THIS time, NASA's 19000 civil servants and 40000 contractors and grantees - every one of them essential, by the way - will do it right, and not waste another 25 years going nowhere. They mean it. Really. Just trust them.

Tom Craver Chandler, AZ "

which I agree with, reminded me of this quote:"May 2005 - All Manned Missions to Mars! <http://www.astronautix.com/craftfam/martions.htm>  sixty years of studies without end - an objective that is always "20 years from now"? "

at http://www.astronautix.com/ 

which is an excellent site if you have not been there.

I have become resigned to the fact that I will likely see all the men who walked on the moon die before I have the chance to see anyone return. Forget Mars.

Mike Robel


Subject: The Takings Decision

Dear Jerry, > > I thought you might be interested in this -- it's the actual court ruling on > the case (my apologies for the mail bloat if you've already seen a copy). > > -- N. C. Shapero

> What I would very much like is a link to that so I can let others read it
> too.


Either of the two following links should work:

URL: http://laws.findlaw.com/us/000/04-108.html
 URL: http://caselaw.lp.findlaw.com/scripts/getcase.pl?court=US&vol=000&invol=04-108

Both go through the www.findlaw.com site (an interesting site in its own right).

-- N. C. Shapero


Subject: Simple Chaos Overlords Fix for Windows NT/XP

Mr. Pournelle,

I have some information that might interest you.

I recently tried to run my old copy of Chaos Overlords (CO) on Windows XP. Much to my dismay, it didn't recognize the CD. I figured this must be old news, and someone somewhere must have a fix, so I started searching the 'Net. That's when I came across your site and noticed that you had had the same problem. However the post in question was a few years old and no newer resolution was mentioned. I kept looking and still couldn't find any fix. So I broke down, took out a few tools and made a fix of my own.

Luckily, CO was written for Windows, which gives up its secrets a bit more readily than some other operating systems. So it didn't take too long to figure out what was going wrong. Basically, when CO starts, it looks through all available drives for a specific volume name. One that matches this string: "CHAOS_OVERL". Under Win 9x/Me this is the string that gets returned from a call to get the volume name, but the actual volume name is: "CHAOS_OVERLORDS". Under Win NT/XP the same call returns the full volume name sting. Since the volume name check compares the stored string "CHAOS_OVERL" against "CHAOS_OVERLORDS" up to and including the terminating zero in the stored string, the comparison fails. My simple fix is to change the counter byte used to loop the compare from 0x0C to 0x0B, thereby avoiding the comparison with the terminating zero.

If you'd like to do this yourself, and you have any kind of hex editor handy (there's a nice, free, open-source one here: http://www.kibria.de/frhed.html), here's what to do:

1. Make sure you have patched CO to version 1.1 (latest version, as far as I know). 2. Make a backup copy of the file "Chaos Overlords.exe". 3. Open "Chaos Overlords.exe" in your hex editor and go to offset 0x065860, there should be a 0x0C there, change it to 0x0B, save the file.

That should do it. But if you have any questions, be sure to ask away.


p.s. I loved "The Mote in God's Eye" (still think that's one of the best titles for a novel ever!) "Footfall", and "Inferno"; also really enjoyed your BYTE columns over the years (although I was always jealous of all the cool free stuff you got to play with ;-P).

Alas, although I have the original Chaos Overlords disk, I can't install the game; setup pops up a warning window that this requires Windows 95, and goes away. I know there is a way to get a compatibility window set up so that it thinks it is Windows 95, but alas I have forgotten how to make one: that is, once the program is installed I can I am sure tell it that it is running under W95, but my head must be thick today because I don't recall how to get a simple W 95 COMMAND Window going; I tried opening a command window, copying the icon, and giving that copy the W95 property but that isn't allowed.

So I asked Marty, and here it is:

1. Browse your CD and find the "setup.exe" that's in the root directory.
2. Right+click to get the popup menu and select "Properties".
3. Click the "Compatibility" Tab.
4. Click the "Run this program in compatibility mode for:" checkbox.
5. Use the now enabled list box to select "Windows 95".

That should do it.



I am not sure why I became fond of that rather simple game; perhaps it is the name?


Subject: London, the Day After

Apparently the bombs were small (about 10 kg at most) and not all went off. They (or he) used timers on the trains, but the bus blast may well have been unintentional. The attack might have been done by one lone attacker travelling about the tube system, but the planning probably involved a supporting organisation. About 50 civilians were killed and another 80 seriously injured in three trains and one bus, which is consistent with the small bombs. An al Qaeda affiliate has claimed responsibility, and I expect them to be rolled up and out of business within a week. It was their style of operation, but the timing was a bit weird and may have been an attempt to use the demonstrations against the G8 conference to draw the attention of the security services away from London.

Charles Clarke has admitted ID cards wouldn't have made a difference and suggested that civil liberties needed to be curtailed. <http:// news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/4663155.stm> . He also mentioned body scans to get on the underground trains. <http://www.timesonline.co.uk/ article/0,,22989-1685623,00.html

A number of hotels raised their prices in response: <http:// news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/4662809.stm> .

To me it looks like the anti-terrorism squads are doing their job effectively, and this was a leaker. <http://www.timesonline.co.uk/ article/0,,1072-1684970,00.html>  I encountered no sign of hysteria or confusion reentering the UK that evening. In fact, the immigration officer was professional and a pleasure to chat with.

-- Harry Erwin, PhD, Senior Lecturer of Computing, University of Sunderland. Security engineer and analyst. http://www.theworld.com/ ~herwin/


Subject: Reaction to London Bombings

Hi Jerry, thought you and your's might appreciate the sentiment in my wife's reaction to the London bombings, in artistic form: http://members.cox.net/radix42/DontMessWithMomma.jpg  She's released it for unlimited noncommercial distribution so long as the attribution in the image is left intact.


David Mercer Tucson, AZ


Subject: Justification for a literacy test.

You indicated in your response to Charles Brumbelow that you are very much in favor of fairly administered literacy tests at polling places. However, you did not provide any explanation for why you believe this would be a good idea (which you did -- albeit minimally -- with respect to a poll tax). Without any evidence of your justification, I am forced to speculate.

Is your justification meritocratic? People who are able to read likely have had more education/intelligence and are therefore more likely to make an informed decision? I do not agree with this justification, because it disenfranchises people who are less educated/intelligent. People who have less than average education/intelligence have just as much right to have a say in their government as do those with more than average education/intelligence. If these people are denied the right to vote, doesn't this make them less than a citizen? What other rights will society take away from them? Moreover, it punishes the less intelligent/educated who do take the effort to educate themselves by taking away their voice.

Do you believe in a literacy test because people who are literate are more likely to be well informed because they can read about the candidates? This justification may have had some merit prior to radio and television. However, with radio and television we have the opportunity to not only hear commentators' opinions about candidates and issues, but more importantly, we can hear directly from the candidates themselves. Prior to radio and television, only a small percentage of the public could ever hope to directly observe a candidate for national office, so radio and television radically redefined how we as citizens can become informed on issues. Plenty of literate citizens based their decision in prior elections primarily on televised debates (not to mention political advertisements). The ability to read is not necessary to be an informed voter (it certainly helps). I am quite certain that there are illiterate people who are better informed about candidates than many literate people.

These are simply two possible justifications for your position; there are certainly others. Without knowing your justification, I have no reason to alter my belief that a literacy test is not only unnecessary, but also harmful. Since I like having my beliefs challenged (so that I can reexamine them), I would like to know your justification for the imposition of a literacy test. I am not questioning your position regarding allowing local governments to set voting qualifications since that is an entirely different debate.

René Daley

First, note that I specifically would leave things to the states.

Second, I understand your concerns; the usual justification is that a republic benefits from informed voters, and a democracy very nearly requires them: should those who cannot read the ballot arguments for and against measures be voting on them? How important is literacy to understanding?

And in fact you will find that the history of literacy tests is rather mixed and spotty, and of course complicated by Jim Crow uses of them. My proposal, for a Federal service to enforce literacy and other voter qualification tests, would have had minimum impact on the constitutional and political structure of the union while enforcing that part of the Constitution.

Successful constitutions are rare. Ours was working pretty well.

As to radio and television, surely the effects are not unambiguous? I am not at all sure that vote by sound bite is a good thing. You cannot make voters read, but at least you can hope they will if they can read. And see below for a longer reply


Subject: Defunding the Jamboree.


-- Roland Dobbins

The will of the people... This is why the next judicial appointments are important.


Subject: Microlending and alternative currencies.


-- Roland Dobbins

One wonders whether the G8 people ever read anything like this?


Subject: The Google Maps Pedometer.


-- Roland Dobbins

Wow! I just measured the distance of our daily walk. This is really something.


Subject: Faux programming (see above)

Dr. Pournelle,

I've enjoyed reading the discussions over the last couple of years that I have been visiting your site, and have been looking forward to an opportunity to participate in one of the discussions without looking like a buffoon. Thanks to John Braue I now have that opportunity.

John Braue states (without citing any type of authoritative sources) that Java was the "pseudo-language" of the dot com bubble. If this is the case, how does he explain that over 50 percent of all corporate software development projects in the US are now developed in Java? And as far as his interpretation of modern OO languages being "gobbledygook", how does he explain the numerous migration stories out there about companies that have literally halved their IT budget (or more) by porting their software to modern languages and platforms?

I've been developing, architecting and training in the Java language since the late 90's. I have personally trained over 100 "mainframe" developers (COBOL, SQL, CICS) in Java and OO concepts. There are two things that I see constantly in these developers - there is always a group that cannot make the conceptual leap to OO languages and are content to sit in their caves and continue to write their miles and miles of code, and there is a second group that can make the leap. Not only does the second group understand OO / Java, but they actually become better legacy language developers because they change how they think about how software is organized and used.

There will always be development jobs for the legacy language dinosaurs, for no other reason than the sheer amount of dollars invested in legacy applications / platforms insures that there will always be some moldy IBM mainframe sitting around, crunching numbers. But for those of you looking at working in the software development industry that don't care to maintain the same software for 25 years or more, I'd strongly recommend that you take the time to learn the new languages and development concepts. Even if you don't care to use them, you will be a better developer for simply knowing them.


Jonathan House OO "gobbledygook" Architect, Trainer and Mentor.


Subject: " . . . an enemy from within."


-- Roland Dobbins

An important article; one hopes it will have an effect.




This week:


read book now



Continuing the discussion on Literacy and Voting Rights:

I'm sorry Jerry, but I've heard this person's arguments all my life and I’m sick of the society they’ve created. I can't change the society, but I can respond to the buttons this person chose to push.

>> Subject: Justification for a literacy test.

>> Is your justification meritocratic? People who are able to read
>> likely have had more education/intelligence and are therefore more
>> likely to make an informed decision?
>> I do not agree with this justification, because it disenfranchises
>> people who are less educated/intelligent.

Actually, it doesn't. Those who choose to be less educated choose to disenfranchise themselves. Unfortunately, we currently live in a society where the 50% below the bell curve in intelligence combined with those who choose to be below the bell curve in education are controlling the opportunities for everyone else. The ones who are truly disenfranchised in this society are those who are above average in intelligence and have a desire to learn. The best example of this is No Child Left Behind. A literacy test prods those elected to deal with the issues that matter rather than how they will impress the masses in the lead up to the next election.

>> People who have less than average education/intelligence have just as
>> much right to have a say in their government as do those with more
>> than average education/intelligence.

Those who choose to be ignorant do not have the right to force their ignorant opinions on me just because they are in the majority. As Jerry has noted many times, those below the bell curve in intelligence can still be taught if the right tools are used and if there is an incentive to do so. Those truly non-teachable, either because of mental or physical handicaps or because of a lack of motivation, should not be deciding who gets to make the laws for the rest of us. Government should be for accomplishing those things society truly needs, not for ensuring everyone can make a mark on a ballot.

>> If these people are denied the right to vote, doesn't this make them
>> less than a citizen?

Wonderful non sequitur that has been used to beat up everyone who wants to ensure that government is accomplishing what society needs not what the mob thinks it needs at the moment. Voting and citizenship are only marginally related in that only citizens should be allowed to vote, but voting is not a requirement for citizenship. A person who chooses not to vote is still a citizen, for example.

>> What other rights will society take away from them?

This first assumes that voting is a Right. The 15th, 19th, and 26th Amendments to the Constitution refer to the Right to Vote, but this ‘Right’ is never spelled out in the Constitution itself. All these Amendments do is protect us from having our ability to vote taken away because of race, sex, or (adult) age. There is no affirmative Right to Vote in the Constitution.

Having said that, I do not believe our Rights emanate from The Constitution. In my view it flows the other way. The Constitution is supposed to be a straight jacket on those in the Federal government to keep them from unduly stepping on our Rights. It is supposed to keep them from going too far. This requires a Citizenry that knows and understands their Rights and Responsibilities, what government is supposed to do, and how far it is supposed to go.

Sadly, primarily because of our worsening education system, many Citizens look to the Federal government as a sort of panacea. All manner of things are possible to this wondrous organization if only it is given enough power, money, and time. “If a person with a doctorate in Political Science can understand these issues and vote appropriately then John or Jane (who never graduated High School and who have no intention of learning anything more than they must) can also. Just give us more money and keep us in power for four more years and we’ll show you.”

It also assumes that if we curtail one thing then an avalanche of curtailed Rights will follow. Can anyone say slippery slope argument?

>> Moreover, it punishes the less intelligent/educated who do take the
>> effort to educate themselves by taking away their voice.

This argument eludes me entirely. If a person truly educates themselves, regardless of their intelligence, then a literacy test would ensure they are rewarded for that by allowing them to vote. How does this take away their voice?

>> Do you believe in a literacy test because people who are literate are
>> more likely to be well informed because they can read about the
>> candidates? This justification may have had some merit prior to radio
>> and television.

>> However, with radio and television we have the opportunity to not
>> only hear commentators' opinions about candidates and issues, but
>> more importantly, we can hear directly from the candidates
>> themselves.

How is this even remotely relevant to what the issues are? It might provide the candidates an opportunity to make a few sound bytes for the evening news, but the candidates should not be deciding the issues. By these arguments, viewing a few news sound bytes of how the front running candidates answered some leading questions about issues a news anchor thinks are important should be enough in deciding my vote.

What about truly understanding the issues in the first place? What about reading the record of how the candidates have voted in the past on similar issues? Shouldn’t it be the issues that drive elections not charisma?

>> Prior to radio and television, only a small percentage of the public
>> could ever hope to directly observe a candidate for national office,
>> so radio and television radically redefined how we as citizens can
>> become informed on issues.

Oops, there’s that non sequitur again. How does being able to view a candidate allow us to become informed on issues? Viewing and listening to a candidate only allows us the see and hear how they handle themselves in front of a camera/microphone. This might be wonderful for those trying to make a name in Hollywood, but I seriously doubt it is any kind of indicator for how they would handle the possible need to raise taxes to pay for some new equipment the local school needs. It does explain why more actors are being elected to public office despite never having worked in government in their lives.

>> Plenty of literate citizens based their decision in prior elections
>> primarily on televised debates (not to mention political
>> advertisements).

This is the best argument for literacy tests I have seen in years. It almost makes the case in just one sentence. If a Citizen makes up his or her mind on which candidate to vote for based on a televised debate where the questions are all chosen and screened beforehand or on political advertisements which are curiously devoid of anything factual, then I suppose Americans have the government they deserve.

>> The ability to read is not necessary to be an informed voter (it
>> certainly helps). I am quite certain that there are illiterate people
>> who are better informed about candidates than many literate people.

Once again there is this curious confusion between issues and candidates. Literate people can and do dig into the issues. They learn about all sides of an argument and come to a conclusion about where they stand based on facts and sound reasoning. These are learned traits and behaviors.

A truly informed Citizen cannot be lead around by sound bytes or meaningless commercials that frighten or promise the impossible. They know where they stand and demand to know where the candidates stand. If they can’t find it from the candidates they look at the candidate’s record and make an inference. That is what voting is about. It is not about punching a hole in a card or making a mark on a piece of paper. It is not about choosing the candidate that looks the best in a debate or answers with the right buzzwords during an interview.

>> These are simply two possible justifications for your position; there
>> are certainly others. Without knowing your justification, I have no
>> reason to alter my belief that a literacy test is not only
>> unnecessary, but also harmful.

I would never presume to speak for someone of Dr. Pournelle’s stature. All I can answer is to my own beliefs which are that one very good way to push the country back toward a Republican form of government is to make an effort to ensure the Citizenry truly understands what they are voting for, not who. The candidates should be virtually irrelevant to a voter. Issues should drive the government and those candidates that truly can address those issues should be the ones in office. I don’t believe an illiterate person can make the informed choices needed to get that done.

As for it being harmful, it would only be so to those who like to lead by pushing the buttons that get noticed. The current nonsense about approving the President’s choices for federal judges is an excellent example of this. Both parties are equally guilty in making this an argument about politics and not about qualifications. A judge that is qualified for the office should be confirmed regardless of their political beliefs. It certainly does get the headlines and news sound bytes though to challenge how a judge stands on abortion or on gay marriage, neither of which has anything to do with how knowledgeable the judge is of the law.

>> Since I like having my beliefs challenged (so that I can reexamine
>> them), I would like to know your justification for the imposition of
>> a literacy test. I am not questioning your position regarding
>> allowing local governments to set voting qualifications since that is
>> an entirely different debate.

>> René Daley

Simply put, literacy tests severely curtail mob democracy, something the framers worked very hard to avoid and something the country is currently suffering through. Democracy is not about giving everyone the same thing but about establishing an environment where everyone is not forbidden important things. God help us if we don’t learn the difference – and soon.

B Cook





CURRENT VIEW     Saturday

This week:


read book now


Sunday, July 10, 2005

An interesting take on Madam Justice O'Connor

Subject: "I know it when I see it."


- Roland Dobbins

I remember when I was considered a constitutional law scholar; I fear I haven't kept up.


Subject: Choking on Aid Money in Africa.




--- Roland Dobbins

Throwing money at problems often produces unforeseen results.

Boswell: "Then, sir, you laugh at schemes for social improvement?"

Johnson: "Why, sir, most schemes for social improvement are very laughable things."

A lesson we seem doomed to forget and relearn time and time again.


Subject: Fun: eclectech : the very model of a modern labour minister : a tribute

This one was passed on to me by my daughter.


(Julie Woodman)

 eclectech : the very model of a modern labour minister : a tribute to charles clarke and his id cards <http://eclectech.co.uk/clarkeidcards.php



Subject: The wages of 'tolerance'?


- Roland Dobbins

Liberalism is a philosophy of consolation for the West as it commits suicide. Burnham knew. I would say the wages of enforced "diversity". Tolerance is one thing; aggressive acceptance and suppression of the majority's good sense opinions are another spot of mold in the stew.

Melting pots are fine; when melting is forbidden the result is foreordained.

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