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Mail 371 July 18 - 24, 2005






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Monday  July 18, 2005

Still in Seattle. Home tomorrow. Discussions continue.

Subject: Response to Steve Setzer and Scouting

What the ACLU tries to do is even up the balance. Watch for the issues where they come in on both sides--they do sometimes. That's when the two sides are even.

I read the link <http://www.pinetreeweb.com/bp-varsity10-1.htm>  that Steve Setzer posted and found it interesting. As a scout leader, I always tried to remember that the primary goal of scouting was to develop character. I like the German Army's definition of character-- initiative and a sense of responsibility. I understand that the German Army looks for principled rebelliousness in choosing officers-- kids often encounter injustice in their everyday life and school, and if they don't try to do something about it then, they're unlikely to try to make things happen in war.

I could go on a bit, but I'll just summarise--I think the Scouts _can_ be good at building character, and we need it.

-- "The data (or the marks when teaching) are sacrosanct--they tell us what actually happened." Harry Erwin, PhD http://osiris.sunderland.ac.uk/~cs0her

That has not been my experience with the ACLU in the past decades.  They are unrelentingly anti-religious in ways that are not justified by the law and which serve no useful purpose. For 200 years it was traditional to have non-denominational blessings and religious participation in public events, with particularly important public building dedications and the like having a Roman Catholic priest or bishop, a Protestant minister, and a rabbi all having some small part in large cities. Smaller communities might have only a minister. Religious displays in public squares during holidays were part of American life for 200 years and more. The fresh new rights to have those closed down in favor or Rudolph and Frosty have served no purpose I can appreciate.


Subject: Felony assault.


----- Roland Dobbins


Subject: The Structure of Your Website

Mr. Pournelle,

I have been a fan of your book and works for decades. I have been a reader of the blogosphere for over six years. To date, I still detest, hate and utterly despise the layout of your site; discouraging as it does, retrieval of information, searches and links.

Perhaps this sort of layout was to-die-for back in 1999; after another semi-annual visit, I conclude that whatever you have to say is just not worth the horrendous effort of having to find it.

I really, really would enjoy reading what you have to say; perhaps you should just stick to print.

Yours, etc., Clayton Barnett

Alas this tells me little about what I can do to fix the problem. If anything. I certainly do not intend to do the reverse presentation with latest first.

I have thought of reorganizing but I am not sure how to do that.


Subject: Return of the wolves.


-- Roland Dobbins

The Children of the Night...


Subject: Creating the Enemy.


-- Roland Dobbins

Suicide of the West, Part Fortyfour


Subject: Fixing Iraq

I have to say that I admire you for trying to shift conversation back to a productive subject instead of the Karl Rove circus. I would suggest that Iraq has a pretty reasonable pathway to getting "fixed" and provide this for your consideration. The ultimate solution is for Iraq to have a government and armed forces that are able to handle the insurgents and the terrorists piggybacking on the conflict. I don't think anybody really minds much if a free Iraqi government buys some arms from the US along the way. Those patriots who actually give a damn (and I count you among them) but do not have a security clearance and a need to know the inside reports need to look for several progress markers and question our elected representatives if they are missing.

1. Is there a viable, on schedule pathway for the Iraqi political establishment to take over their own affairs? current status: Mostly OK. We've got an elected transitional government, they've gotten reasonably close to hitting their deadlines so far but seem to be having a bit of trouble with a final constitution by October of 2005 which is the next scheduled election.

2. Is the Iraqi military getting better? current status: Very Good. I like to think of the Iraqi problem of troops melting away under pressure like the US retreat at Bull Run I, which some wags in the army called the Big Skedaddle. News reports clearly show that the current Iraqi forces are no longer running away in large numbers. No more "Big Skedaddle" for them. The troops seem to be fine but officers take a lot longer to create than simple soldiers. The cure for that is time and a supporting US officer corps to help out in the meantime as advisors and mentors for the local talent.

3. Is the military situation getting better? current status: Mixed, with some optimistic signs. Our inability to stop car bombs is frustrating but to do that we would need to be able to do hold and clear operations which take more troops than the current US force structure can sustain in Iraq. While we did not have reliable Iraqi troops to add to the mix, the Coalition had been doing search and destroy sweeps instead of hold and clear which has the advantage of requiring fewer troops at the cost of not solving the underlying problem of an insurgency coupled with terrorists. The optimistic signs part is that recently we have switched over to hold and clear and at a current pace, I would expect combined forces to have finished that phase by 2007 with intermediate troop reductions starting even prior to that.

Can we wait for Iraq to finish its constitution? Can we keep enough troops in country in order to let the military finish the hold and clear cycle of operations and let Iraqi troops replace us? Can we stand another thousand dead until the job's done?

What's your opinion?

T Michael Lutas

I think if we will stay the course we can install a government we can live with over there, and it will be better than what they had. It will be flawed and those who want to will be able to point to those flaws and call our efforts a failure - and WILL.  The Western Press will deem anything we do over there a failure, and will show how their favorite political people would have done it better.

Iraq will be better off. Whether the USA will be is not so clear to me.


Subject: WSJ - Information Security Articles

Dr. Pournelle:

Today's (7/18/05) Wall Street Journal has a special section on the various threats to personal and corporate data. It's not just the viruses and worms and spyware, but other threats that are out there. Readers who are interested in informaton security subjects are advised to grab a copy of the paper at their local newstand.

Some of WSJ's content is available for free on the "Interweb". These links are working today: http://online.wsj.com/public/article/0,,SB112128442038984802-w4qR772hjUeqGT2W0FIcA3_FNjE_20060717,00.html  (or http://tinyurl.com/cxfv2 ), there are other links on that page. It's not clear if all the articles are available on-line, whichi s why spending US$1.00 might be a good idea.

Regards, Rick Hellewell


Subject: IP Issues -

Dear Dr. Pournelle,

I have been following with interest your recent coverage of Intellectual Property issues. With the recent Supreme Court decision re Grokster, this has become a mainstream issue with those of us that publish blog's or write software. I recently stumbled across a growing resource of information on IP issues. http://techlawadvisor.com/induce/  has a growing list of contributors commenting on IP issues.

In particular I was somewhat disturbed by the recent ruling in Australia that linking to copyrighted work could be construed as illegal. Not so much the person that actually published the links, it was fairly obvious he intended to facilitate distribution, but the fact that the ISP was deemed culpable.

This could have a seriously negative effect if ISP's decide they must begin to in effect censor every web page they host.


*Robert B. Porter

If a man neglects to enforce his rights, he cannot complain if, after a while, the law follows his example. - Oliver Wendell Holmes

“Entia non sunt multiplicanda praeter necessitatem”


Subject: Selling the EPA.


--- Roland Dobbins









This week:


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Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Subject: Iraq on the brink....but, of what?

Dear Jerry:

Saw an item on Yahoo where Iraqis are forming neighborhood militias to protect themselves from suicide bombers. Both Shiite and Sunni are doing this, so this is either the first step towards law and order or towards civil war. If one accepts that most of the violence is imported by foreign jihadists, then maybe a few lynchings will get the point across that blowing up the neighborhoods is not helpful. Maybe not. I am reminded of a saying from that part of the world. "Me and my brother against my cousin. Me and my cousin against the world." Maybe we need to accept that this is still a very tribal society and work within that paradigm instead of trying to superimpose our own notions on these people.

On a related note, the Chinese are making gains in the world oil market by small acts of kindness. They build roads for third world countries, and they don't preach about the superiority of their system. Strictly business.


Francis Hamit

well  _  yes. I think I Said This before we went in. IRAQ as a Nation did not exist until the Brits created it from the ruins of the Turkish Expire after WWII, when they wanted Mesopotamia and conned Wilson into setting them up in the ME.   The French got some provinces and Britain got others and the USA got the bill.

Mr. Lutas wrote, "The ultimate solution is for Iraq to have a government and armed forces that are able to handle the insurgents and the terrorists piggybacking on the conflict."

My questions are, "Isn't that what Iraq had in, say, 1999 or even early 2003? Isn't Saddam being tried for 'handling' insurgents?" I question this being the only useful criterion.

James Reynolds



This sounds plausible, and is easy to look for.

>>>Subject: counterfeit ATM cards
 >>> >>>Dear Friends, >>> >>>Approximately a year and a half ago, I noticed there was $350.00 >>>missing from a personal bank account. >>>After I contacted bank officials, I learned that my PIN number had >>>been videotaped and that my ATM card had been "counterfeited." >>> >>>I recently have discovered how this entire process is accomplished, >>>and am forwarding it to you for your immediate attention; you may be >>>able to prevent this >>>scam from Imagine my surprise when I opened this >>>website, which I researched suspecting that the information I >>>originally received was cyber-folklore. >>> >>>URL: http://www.utexas.edu/admin/utpd/atm.html

Mike Morris

New to me but sounds plausible


Subject: Seeing that you're in Seattle...

Jerry, a press report mentioned that "Microsoft is hosting a Longhorn Labs event for technology enthusiasts and industry influencers [this] week in Redmond. The event is timed to coincide with the company's official press and reviewer briefings for Longhorn Beta 1, which is still on track to ship by the end of the month."

Shouldn't you stay to participate?

That is the kind of thing I used to do but I will let the younger journalists have the pleasure. I am just glad to get home. I will get the Beta when it comes out.


I have much mail about The site. I will look at the suggestions. Mostly I Need a better search and link system. I will Not allow direct posting, although I have thought of doing that for subscribers. But it is too dangerous and would be too much Work for me.  Formatting mail is a problem since I get mail only in plaintext for security.  The biggest problem is linking related mail and comments to make coherent topics. There is much redundancy but I cannot do much about that,

Blogging and Content Management Systems (CMS) have come a long way in the last year or two. They're finally ready for prime time. Obviously, they'll require a pretty radical change in your work habits. But I think it might be worth your time to look a few of them over.

In blogging software, I've used MovableType and it was pretty straightforward. But they changed their licensing recently. The very popular sucessor to MT is WordPress http://www.WordPress.org

For full content management, I see Mambo http://mamboserver.com/ and Drupal http://drupal.org/ mentioned very favorably on my webhost's forum http://forums.site5.com

I recommend visiting the CMS Matrix http://www.cmsmatrix.org/  to have a quick look at a few. And when you want to actually try one on your site they're not all that terribly difficult to set up.

I don't see any chance of retrofitting your existing content to a new system. I suppose it's not strictly necessary.

I think you might find being able to edit from any computer handy on occasion. And there may be organization features that you'll find useful.

Having said all that, since I read your site nearly every day, I find the current layout Good Enough. But a CMS is worth serious consideration, methinks.

Drake Christensen

I will look at that.

Sanity in the media? Maybe someone working therein is finally seeing the light, Dr. Pournelle:


"Take, for example, the other day while I was watching a TV talk show dealing with politics. I suddenly had a revelation, an epiphany if you will. "Why," I asked myself, "am I watching this, wasting my time like this when I could be doing something much more useful, certainly something more fun?"

I'm talking about the time we waste on the nonsensical. The time we waste dealing with the lack of civility, politeness and courtesy in our public debate. Is it just me, or have you also noticed the increasing amount of screaming, caterwauling and insults in the media these days? Have you noticed the bitterness and rancor that is growing exponentially?"

My comments and not those of my employer.

Charles Brumbelow

Reading my web site is more fun and edifying

Dear Dr. Pournelle,

I read the email from Clayon Barnett commenting on the structure of your web site. I have to say I agree his comments were less then helpful. I too have wished for a more navigable solution to your content. But as my parent's and life have pounded into me, "Don't complain unless you can offer a solution."

So as an observation the Yankee in me has to say, "Don't fix what taint broke!" And while I would like a more structured approach to your content I cannot immediately offer a solution. Your site is indeed good enough for your needs and most of your readers. I have grown used to it over the years and now I am able to navigate it just fine.

I have thought very carefully on how to improve your 'chaos' driven approach, and while numerous tools exist that may help such as Word Press http://www.wordpress.org  or others, the real show stopper in my estimation is your use of your time. What you have now works for you, from anywhere, with almost any type of connection. Anything that replaces it must at the least make it easier and not harder, without sacrificing what you already have.

And porting your existing content into anything else strikes me as a monumental task in and of itself. So while I agree more structure would be nice, please don't be hasty! As you often say in your columns, "It's good enough" until something better comes along. Perhaps an appeal to your readers for thoughts and suggestions?


Robert Porter

If a man neglects to enforce his rights, he cannot complain if, after a while, the law follows his example. - Oliver Wendell Holmes

“Entia non sunt multiplicanda praeter necessitatem”


Dear Dr. Pournelle;

Every couple of months someone writes to you about the horrid, eye-searing design and layout of your site. This latest complaint by Clayton Barnett in the Monday, 7/18, mail is another one of these tiresome bleats. "Oooh, it's so hard to view your site when I remember to come here every six months or so."

Tough beans, pal.

Compared to sites larded with Flash and other junk, designed by what looks like ennui-bloated Goths, yours is a marvel of clear presentation.
It loads fast, presents information quickly and concisely, and delivers what a content-driven site should.

There have been times when I'd have liked a better search function at your site, but I've usually managed to find what I was looking for. I've been stopping by once or twice a day for more than eight years now and enjoy the discussions, revelations, and opinions. Don't let the attention-deficit dilatants get you down.

-- Pete Nofel

I would willingly pay for a good search engine to insert here, if that would make things a bit easier. And some system of subject tagging that didn't involve making linked list bookmarks, which is time consuming. I confess the parchment affectations are personal preferences.

Talin did a pretty good design using Cascading Style Sheets, which I probably ought to have spent more time trying to understand since he's a sharp cookie. The big problem is wondering if I will be able to develop the right habits for using a new system.

I will never have unselected and unedited comments here: if people want to talk to each other, there are many places for them to do so, and this isn't one of them. On the other hand I do pick mail I find interesting in the belief that others will share at least some of my preferences; and at least if mail is here then someone other than the writer thought it interesting...



Agree with your assessment of Wilson, self-important prevaricator who should be kept away from anything approaching an official position for the rest of his life.

Agree with your notion that who named Plame just isn’t important. I knew some CIA people when I was in Europe, and they were active. Everyone in my golf group in Brussels knew who was CIA and who wasn’t, and it just didn’t matter. Nobody who was in deep cover was telling anyone they were CIA, and nobody who told anyone they were CIA was in deep cover. This is simply a case of Dems seizing a slender opportunity to get rid of Rove. That’s their real and only goal.

Disagree with your notion that we shouldn’t have gone to war. Hussein was the obvious target of a sweeping effort to alter the status quo of the middle east, which if not undertaken would simply mean endless and increasingly powerful attacks on us from all Islamic directions. We truly have harmed the power and resources of the terrorists, and we truly have made remarkable impacts on the middle east in terms of democracy and modernization. You are right that we cannot now leave, but one day we will be able to. But it would have been irresponsible for Bush to do nothing beyond Afghanistan, and of all the choices beyond Afghanistan, Iraq was the most sensible. The right thing to do is often the hardest thing, the most unpredictable and dangerous thing, but it is still right and still should be done.

Unless, of course, the religious people are correct-- that this is ordained, that Isaac and Ishmael will always have enmity betwixt them, etc etc… and judging by the endless, mindless and bloodthirsty anti-Semitism that has plagued the world for thousands of years and still burns brightly in the Arab heart, I can’t help but wonder if there’s a larger reason for the hatred than simple geopolitics.

Dave Perkins Houston, TX

But was Iraq the right one to invade? Secular, Nasty, but deterred...  But I am not infallible and on this one I do Not know. I do know we must not simply cut and run Now.



As a PR flack for a number of very small companies in the PC world, I hesitate to approach you with contrarian political views. On the other hand, as an African observer and traveler and a former information officer for the nuclear industry, I would like to pint out one of the fallacies in the whole Wilson/Plame mess. The amount of yellow cake that would have had to be exported from Niger is in multi-ton quantities. They would have to travel by several shiploads and would be very hard to hide. I don’t know if you are familiar with Niger, but there are few places in the world as remote or inhospitable. They have no contact with any ocean, and transporting those quantities by air is not an option.

Anyone with a little intelligence would have known from the start that the idea was ridiculous, but it ended up as a statement of fact by our President, who apparently lacked the intelligence to make that decision. Who went to do what at what time and was outed for whatever reason is not the question, what is important is that our government put a small miserable country at risk for reasons unknown.


Sincerely Peter Brown Future-Works

That point is well taken. It would take a lot of yellowcake and he had no refineries. I thought of that at the time. But surely someone in PSAC thought of it?

And see below



In the Seattle area there is a radio talk show host, Bryan Suits, who is an Army guy who recently spent a year in Iraq (he's in the Reserves and he was called up). He has nothing good to say about the Stryker, and I put a great deal of stock in what he says.

On the other hand, through your web site I found a blog of a person who was actually part of the Stryker Brigade and he was a fan. I believe he said that if a Stryker rolled over an IED or other mine, the armor on the Stryker is sufficient to save the crew from harm, and that is no small thing.

I was interested to read that the Mobile Gun System variant on the Stryker mounts the 105mm cannon originally from the M1 Abrahms tank. You recommended a book on the M1 as your book of the month a few years back, and I read it; according to that book, the guys who actually drive the M1 thought the 105mm could kill anything, so they didn't feel the upgrade (to the 120mm) was needed. (They felt that since the 105mm can kill anything, and you can carry more 105mm rounds since they are smaller, the 105mm was a better deal.) I've also read that the Stryker is a bit top-heavy; does a 105mm cannon really work well on a Stryker?

Your readers collectively know everything, and I'd be interested in seeing comments, pro and con, on the Stryker. If you would also be interested, please post this letter on your site.

Here is the Wikipedia entry on the Stryker.


-- Steve R. Hastings

And see below.


Microsoft reaps what they've sown:

Morning Jerry,


I'm getting tired of Bill Gates whining about finding quality staff - when he and his ilk are largely responsible for the problem.

By shifting resources off shore and supporting H1B visas they are eliminating entry level positions in IT, and depressing the salaries of those remaining, thus reducing both the attractiveness of the career and the potential candidate pool. Further, by having a centralized location in Redmond, they limit themselves to candidates who are willing to live in the area.

There's some simple solutions to this perceived problem:

1) Severely restrict (or better yet, eliminate) H1B visas. Only those jobs for which there is no qualified US Candidate should be open to an H1B, and a desire to pay sub-par wages should not be used to as an excuse to hire from overseas. American IT is not a jobs program for the world. 2) Repatriate entry level (and other) development positions to the United States. See comment above. 3) Focus scholarship and research funding on US Citizens to ensure that critical talent remains in the United States, and base those scholarships and grants on merit, not politically correct social engineering efforts. 4) Open facilities in diverse areas of the country to take advantage of depressed job markets (Denver comes to mind). If they can build a distributed team with offshore resources, they certainly can build one that's only a timezone or two away.

And lastly they need to realize that not everyone wants to work for Microsoft. They must start marketing the company and it's advantages to candidates, rather than sitting back and waiting for people to come hat in hand and beg for a job.

Best regards,


I'll wait for comments on this one.


Subject: More on Search Engine Related IP issues -

Dear Dr. Pournelle,

Now in Canada making a cache of a copyrighted work is enough to be actionable. Bill C-60 in Canada's legislature would make most search engines liable for copyright infringement. I know I saw references to this on your web site recently, and I agree, it bears some thinking. I am hoping we don't step on ourselves. IP rights do need protection, but where do we draw the line?

In Canada: Cache a page, go to jail? <http://news.com.com/In+Canada+Cache+a+page%2C+go+to+jail/2100-1028_3-5793659.html?tag=st_lh


Robert Porter

another one I'll want Comments ON


Subject: ISP call to action - 

Dear Dr. Pournelle,

I believe you predicted the following. Looks like the FTC is about to step in to force ISP's to begin policing their own networks. The "Zombie" threat has grown significantly enough it is now on the Fed's radar. I cut the entire article below but the original link is here:



Robert Porter

* *

*Internet service providers face mounting pressure to keep their networks free of pests--not only for the benefit of their customers, but also for the good of the Internet in general.*

In the next few months, ISPs in the United States will begin receiving reports on the zombies, or PCs open to control by hackers, that lurk on their networks. The data will be sent out by the Federal Trade Commission, which said in May that zombies have become such a serious problem </Feds+to+fight+the+zombies/2010-1071_3-5715633.html?tag=nl> that more industry action is required.

Analysts said that if service providers resist the call and take a hands-off approach, people could lose their trust in online activity--and the consequences of that could be severe.<snip>


Subject: Section 421. Protection of identities of certain United States undercover intelligence officers, agents, informants, and sources

Dear Jerry:

Someone put this link on Romesko this morning. It is the operative law in the Plame leak.




Which is pretty much as I recall it. You have prove knowingly and intentionally. Not easily done. The point of the law was to stop some publications that were intentional leaks.


Subject: "We do not let a president determine ad hoc what a battlefield is."


--- Roland Dobbins

And that one needs considerable thought, doesn't it?


An Alternative to Outlook

Hi Jerry,

I enjoy your work very much. Thank you.

I read that you had a corrupted Outlook .pst file. This happened to me every month it seems and it is hard to fix. I gave up and found Barca, an email and calendering program from Poco Systems ( www.pocosystems.com ) and it is wonderful. It does everything Outlook does and much more. Can be tweaked with so many options. Never crashes, no corruption. Just a delight to use. Inline spell checking, has its own HTML rendering engine, no viruses.

If you just need email and no calendaring they also offer Pocomail. Also wonderful.

Thank you again for the enjoyment you give me. I am going to subscribe.



Larry Doolittle Production Solutions Associates

I think I have never heard of this program and I probably ought to look into it for the column as well as here...


Subject: Letter from England

Things are getting interesting here.

First, the fallout from the bombings. My take hasn't changed--the attack was a leaker and was successful due to its small size, careful planning, and the use of homemade explosives to avoid the need for a large support team. The biochemist in Egypt has turned out to be innocent, but the master bomber apparently got out of the country the night before, and he and his support team are the ones I really want to catch. The foot soldiers received training in Pakistan, but that may be a side issue. <http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/south_asia/4693001.stm>  <http://edition.cnn.com/2005/WORLD/europe/07/18/london.attacks/index.html>  <http://www.guardian.co.uk/attackonlondon/story/0,16132,1531453,00.html>  There's concern here in Europe about further attacks, particularly in Denmark, Italy, and France and failure to anticipate this one <http://www.nytimes.com/2005/07/19/international/europe/19intel.html?
hp&ex=1121832000&en=e12d7b07ff2d99f6&ei=5094&partner=homepage>  <http://www.guardian.co.uk/worldlatest/story/0,1280,-5150506,00.html> . Blair is trying to keep the local Muslim community calm and seems to be succeeding. <http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/4695275.stm>  <http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/4694441.stm>  <http://www.guardian.co.uk/attackonlondon/story/0,16132,1531397,00.html

The problems with failed asylum seekers don't end: <http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/4693551.stm> .

The National Health Service is taking flak on a number of issues, including rationing <http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/4693587.stm>  <http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/4694291.stm> , and low standards of care <http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/4620011.stm>  <http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2-1699194,00.html> .

Consequences of university underfunding: <http://education.guardian.co.uk/
universitiesincrisis/story/0,12028,1530973,00.html> . Pay me now or pay me later--it will cost more later.

An observation--once students enter university, their performance is up to them. <http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,591-1696114,00.html> . I seriously doubt the exams regime here is character-building.


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

Harry Erwin, PhD <http://osiris.sunderland.ac.uk/~cs0her/>


Subject: Gen. William Westmoreland, RIP.


--- Roland Dobbins

His late career is a textbook example of an honorable man placed into an impossible situation with inadequate support from ambivalent superiors.

When I was younger and knew less I hated him for what was happening in Vietnam. Now I would respect him, and reserve more of my anger for people like Robert McNamara.

Vietnam-Era Commander Westmoreland Dies - Yahoo! News



The Viet Nam War was a long campaign of attrition in the Seventy Years War. If your strategy is containment, you must contain the enemy.



Mathematics is a man's game. A gender gap appears early in life, blossoms with the onset of puberty and reaches full bloom by mid-adolescence. It indelibly shapes women's prospects for doing significant mathematics. In this account of cognitive sex differences, Prodigy shows how sex-differentiated ability in 15 year-olds accounts for the exiguous female representation at the highest levels of mathematical research. A female Fields Medalist is predicted to surface once every 103 years.


Enjoy, --Griffe

La Griffe du Lion

And see below




This week:


read book now


Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Fly me to the Moon....

Subject: Proof that the moon landings were all faked.

Proof that the moon landings were all faked.


Go to http://moon.google.com/  and select the highest resolution. All will will become clear.

John Edwards

Well that makes it all clear indeed...


Subject: Here Come da Borgs aka the Six Million Dollar Man

Enhancement of human capabilities by implants and/or nano technologies has been a fairly common theme in science fiction for years, Dr. Pournelle -- "Oath of Fealty" is one title which comes to mind. Have we learned anything from those stories?

I suspect that serious enhancements in this manner will require significant prescreening to maximize the potential, and rich/sacrificing parents will not be all that is needed.

A downside is...what happens when supportive/interactive external technology fails -- which it certainly will? Current analogous situation is when the battery in one's calculator dies halfway through the exam. (I never had a slide rule battery die, but I never mastered getting the decimal point in the right place after I had the "significant digits" either.)


And on a somewhat related subject -- eugenics works fine. If you doubt this, look at the dog you walk daily or consider the ears of corn you can buy at the local grocery store. It is politically impossible in the United States for humans to use it on their own species except in the most subtle ways (such as smart people breeding with other smart people or smart women screening for smart sperm donors). When it is practiced on humans blindly, such as the intense intermarriage among European Royals, negative reinforcement becomes conspicuous. [You might be a redneck if you go to family reunions to meet new people to date.]


My comments are unrelated to my employment.

Charles Brumbelow

It is only very recently that marriage partners were chosen by romance and the couples themselves; eugenics and finances ruled with arranged marriages (and enforced fidelity was intended to generate both love and well-bred issue). Of course some tribes enforced marriage among cousins, resulting in many cases in wealth (inheritances were in the family, obviously), intelligence (in some cases), hereditary diseases (recessives tended to be paired) and stupidity (like intelligence, dependent on various factors).

Now exogamy rules. Long live hybrid vigor...

But humans certainly did consider breeding for a very long time. Even in the lower classes, parental approval was usual for marriages; one might be restricted in choices by geography and poverty, but within those restrictions the hopes were for the "best" marriage that could be arranged. See Jane Austin's fairly accurate descriptions of the English upper middle and upper classes for details...


Subject: And then we wonder where they come from...

My question is this: Is the father taking this position because taking any other position would require him to disavow his son? Or is this just that the son is indeed the son of the father?


"Atta's father praises London bombs"

"The father of one of the hijackers who commandeered the first plane that crashed into the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, praised the recent terror attacks in London and said many more would follow."

--John R. Strohm

You expected him to denounce resistance to Western Crusaders?


Subject: Site search

I laughed at the first post slamming you for not having the ability to search your site. Tools to do so are already available -- try Google with the domain set to 'jerrypournelle.com'. Yes, it takes a bit more work, but not enough to complain about. Your site already shows up under regular searches. If it is too much for people to use the advanced search options then Google will be happy to sell you their 'pizza box' search engine. Plug it in, add some 'ignore me' flags to certain directories, add a search box to the top area of each page and you're in business.

Brad Glass


Subject: Northgate OmniKey 101 Lives (sort of)

Hi Jerry!

We purchased several of the new Northgate OmniKey 101 keyboards in 1997 for $85 each for resale on Avid systems. All failed and we replaced them with KeyTronics keyboards. The new Northgate closed before we could return the OmniKeys under warranty. I can guess why they closed. Hopefully, the Avant from CVT is better.

I managed to find two of the OmniKey units here in storage and got curious before trashing them. After resetting one several times by holding down the Esc key during boot up, that keyboard actually works. The other one didn't fare quite so well. Disassembling it and cleaning it didn't help. Five of the keys had failed. Several others were slow to respond. I managed to pull off the keycaps off the letters and function keys, but in the process I entirely ripped the Esc keyswitch out of the PC board. Oops! Replacement Alps keyswitches are not available, except by purchasing another keyboard, such as a Focus 2001 at a swapmeet, or by cannibalizing another one. For the time being, that keyboard is dead.

The rambling was to let you know that the working OmniKey 101 functions quite well on a current model PC with USB, by connecting it through a UPS-102 PS/2 to USB converter, which we picked up in Walnut, CA. This converter has a PS/2 keyboard port and a PS/2 mouse port and an internal IC, capacitors, and resistors to handle voltage, current, and scancode issues. I used an AT to PS/2 converter cable to connect the keyboard to the USB converter/adapter. There are various versions of this converter/adapter available online priced between $10 and $44. I paid $12 but didn't pay for shipping.

The OmniKey 101 lives and I have plenty of spare parts if it dies. Unfortunately, the software only runs in Win 95 and still has trouble working even with that. Since I don't use macros and don't remap keys, who cares about the software! I just wanted a new functional OmniKey 101 to replace this mushy two year-old $14 Logitech I'm using. I can type faster and longer again, as you can tell by this e-mail.


Douglas Barcon Diamond Bar

Wow. I long ago changed over to Ortek MCK142 Programmable Keyboards, of which I have about five just in case. They work with any version of Windows. I have also given up my campaign to get the Control Key put next to the A and the CAPS LOCk put on a key switch or behind the keyboard; I now stuff foam rubber under the Caps Lock key so that it can be activated only by a well intended blow, which is to say, I almost never want need or use it. But I can if I must.

The Ortek keyboards have the same snap and feel of the old Northgates which I loved so much  


Subject: Niger and yellowcake

Peter Brown's comment on yellowcake is worth considering, but there are two more points that need to be factored in:

Iraq did send representatives to Niger to talk. Nobody disputes that. Niger's exports are listed in the CIA Factbook as uranium ore, livestock, cowpeas, and onions. Was Saddam looking for cowpeas?

http://www.cia.gov/cia/publications/factbook/geos/ng.html <http://www.cia.gov/cia/publications/factbook/geos/ng.html

Also, Iraq may have been looking to ship yellowcake to a third location other than Iraq. A lot of interesting nuclear trading was going on in this area prior to Pakistan's Kahn getting a dime dropped on him.

Tom Brosz

All true, and none of it covered in Wilson's analysis, which seems to have been his travel daybook. (Continued below)


From: Stephen M. St. Onge                                      Subject: Niger Uranium sales
http://www.fatsteve.blogspot.com/                       saintonge@hotmail.com

Dear Jerry:
        Peter Brown says (http://www.jerrypournelle.com/mail/mail371.html#Wilson): "Anyone with a little intelligence would have known from the start that the idea was ridiculous, but it ended up as a statement of fact by our President, who apparently lacked the intelligence to make that decision."
        Taking the last point first, I would really like to see the "statement of fact" by the President about . . . well, it isn't clear what Mr. Brown thought the statement was about, except that it apparently had something to do with Niger.  I recently put together a monster blog post (http://fatsteve.blogspot.com/2005/07/updated-linkfest-plamewilson-spins-out.html) about the Plame/Wilson affair, and I didn't come across any "statements of fact" about Niger by Bush.
        I did come across the CIA factbook about Niger, though, which says that Niger's #1 export is uranium ore (http://www.cia.gov/cia/publications/factbook/geos/ng.html#Econ).  Niger also exports livestock, cowpeas and onions, all bulk commodities.  I thus suspect it wouldn't be as ridiculous as Mr. Brown thinks.  I also came across several links (http://powerlineblog.com/archives/007149.php#007149, http://wwwbelgraviadispatch.com/archives/003989.html, http://www.cia.gov/cia/public_affairs/speeches/2004/tenet_georgetownspeech_02052004.html, http://www.globalsecurity.org/intell/library/congress/2004_rpt/iraq-wmd-intell_chapter2-e.htm, http://wwwbelgraviadispatch.com/archives/004011.html) in which CIA sources explain that at the time, they thought Niger could supply such quantities of uranium to Iraq.
        Perhaps Mr. Brown is correct, and there was no chance that Niger Uranium could be smuggled to Iraq.  But in the face of the massive intelligence opinion to the contrary, I'd like to see a little evidence, rather than bare assertion.


>> People for the American War << {{in View, now corrected. JEP}}

I think you meant "Way".

On the other hand, I remember when, during the Carter administration, some Americans were touring a Polish factory. One of them asked what happened if the manager didn't meet his production quota. "We shoot shoot him," replied the translator. The Americans were taken aback, of course, but finished their tour of the factory. As they were about to drive off, the translator came running after them, shouting, "Fire him! Fire him!"

-- Robert Bruce Thompson

fixed. That guy Freud had some good ideas, didn't he?

Arggh. How did my fingers enter "shoot" twice without my brain telling them to?

Ah well, I feel better now...


SUBJECT: War: Thugs vs Meter Maids (who cares who wins?)

Here is an indisputable reason meter maids should be armed. What a gunfight it would have been! I'm laughing like hell just picturing it.

There are so many classic kop actions in this. This event should be an American Civics lesson.

1. The meter maid was "only following orders"

2. The Thugs refuse to comment about it.

3. The Thug Union says it has no idea what happened but supports its members "100%."


John Nichols

I love it...


Subject: James Doohan, RIP.


- Roland Dobbins

Farewell, former cannon cocker. And see below for tribute from Scotland


Bill Moyers

Thought you might find this of interest.... Note particularly the discussion about Bill Moyers which appears just below the photograph.


"Only a few weeks before the 1964 election, a powerful presidential assistant, Walter Jenkins, was arrested in a men's room in Washington. Evidently, the president was concerned that Barry Goldwater would use that against him in the election. Another assistant, Bill Moyers, was tasked to direct Hoover to do an investigation of Goldwater's staff to find similar evidence of homosexual activity. Mr. Moyers' memo to the FBI was in one of the files.

When the press reported this, I received a call in my office from Mr. Moyers. Several of my assistants were with me. He was outraged; he claimed that this was another example of the Bureau salting its files with phony CIA memos. I was taken aback. I offered to conduct an investigation, which if his contention was correct, would lead me to publicly exonerate him. There was a pause on the line and then he said, "I was very young. How will I explain this to my children?" And then he rang off. I thought to myself that a number of the Watergate figures, some of whom the department was prosecuting, were very young, too."

Charles Brumbelow

He may have been very young, but he seems early on to have become the Chief Ethicist for the Liberal Wing of the Democratic Party.


Subject: How the CIA Missed Stalin's Bomb.


-- Roland Dobbins

Even more interesting is that they didn't: Possony got a medal for determining when they would detonate their first nuke, in 1949; but his estimate was not believed. Later he had to go to extraordinary lengths to convince people that the Soviets were up with us and possibly ahead in the development of fusion (thermonuclear) weapons. (In fact their first H-bomb was pretty well a bomb; ours was a "device" that needed a monster airplane to carry.)

The Air Force was prepared to believe some odd things  http://www.phoenixfiles.rumormillnews.com/brumac3.html as an example -- but prior to the Soviet detonation of their A-bomb in 1949 no one was prepared to believe that Stalin could build such a weapon before the early 50's.

The OSS was shot through with Soviet agents and Communists. Donovan knew this but couldn't do much about it. Anti-communists were not enormously popular in those times. Buckley's novel The Red Hunter about McCarthy gives more of the flavor than most.


One last item on The Rove Flap:

Re: Rove Flap

You and your correspondents' criticism of Wilson for having falsely indicated in his op/ed article that he saw the forgeries is unfounded. Wilson's op/ed article expressly indicated that he did not see the forgeries:

"As for the actual memorandum, I never saw it. But news accounts have pointed out that the documents had glaring errors -- they were signed, for example, by officials who were no longer in government -- and were probably forged." < http://www.ratical.org/ratville/CAH/WStL.html#p1

Furthermore, Wilson's report is attacked purportedly because he was sent to Niger at his "wife's behest." While the senate intelligence committee's report indicates that Wilson was recommended by his wife, the decision to send him was not hers. Nepotism is nothing new, a fact from which our current President undoubtedly has benefited. Moreover, Wilson was qualified to make an investigation (not necessarily a definitive investigation). Wilson had good relations with the prime minister and a former minister of mines from Niger (page 39 of Committee report on prewar intelligence re Iraq) < http://intelligence.senate.gov/iraqreport2.pdf >. He also had French contacts, which is relevant since Niger's "two uranium mines--SOMAIR's open pit mine and COMINAK's underground mine--are owned by a French-led consortium and operated by French interests." <http://www.state.gov/r/pa/ei/bgn/5474.htm > Finally, Wilson's report regarding his investigation was delivered orally to the CIA, and he had no control over how the written report was presented. So, a difference of opinion about the content/conclusion of his report is not surprising.

This thing may end up similar to President Clinton's screwup with Monica Lewinsky. Clinton's affair with Lewinsky was not illegal, and likely Rove and Libby did nothing illegal by outing Plame (the knowledge and intent requirements). However, Clinton's, Rove's, and Libby's actions were, nonetheless, wrong. Similarly, Clinton's testimony under oath was less than candid, to be kind. Similarly, Rove apparently testified that he did not discuss Wilson's wife with reporters prior to Novak's article (not surprisingly, I have not been able to locate a transcript of Rove's grand jury testimony, so this is based on leaked reports). If this is an accurate description of Rove's testimony, it also is less than accurate.

Is this going to bring down the President? Of course not. But, it is a legitimate issue of public concern. Especially since Bush refuses to disassociate himself from Rove and now indicates he will act against the leakers if their actions were illegal (implicitly indicating that he will not act if Rove and Libby are not convicted). Bush was elected over Gore, in part, because citizens felt he would take the moral high ground. He should do so here. I cannot believe that it was mere coincidence that Rove outed Wilson's wife only two days after Wilson's op/ed article. < http://www.dkosopedia.com/index.php/Plame_Leak_timeline >

René Daley

Thank you for your first paragraph: it was my impression that Wilson mentioned the documents in the Op Ed piece as part of his evidence that he knew the whole story was false, and that he gave the impression that he was the one to find and condemn those documents; certainly the one time I watched an interview with him I got that impression from him, and that impression undoubtedly colored my conclusions. I know that TV interviews are not always a reliable indication, although in this case they did let him do a good bit of his own talking, a luxury many are not permitted.

If I have given the impression that I thought Ms. Plame acted improperly in recommending her husband as the proper expert for that mission, or that she had final approval of who would be sent, my apologies: I never meant to convey that, because I don't think it improper at all. Indeed, had it been me sending someone over there to investigate the situation, I might well have chosen Wilson, who speaks excellent French, had at least been to Niger, and would presumably have some acquaintance with arms control and clandestine armaments. Moreover, it is my impression that the Agency did not disparage his report -- but did not conclude from it that Saddam had never tried to buy yellowcake, concluding rather that it was at most ambiguous.

It was after Wilson surfaced as an opponent of the Administration through his Op Ed article in the Post that anyone would pay any attention to him at all, and the little scenario I made up was predicated on that. OF COURSE that was the reason his wife's name came up in an interview at that time. Of course it was not coincidence that it happened after Wilson surfaced as an open political opponent. The question is how her name came up, and I contend my view is far more likely than yours. Mine is fiction but very plausible fiction; no one in the White House need have had the slightest knowledge that Valerie Plame was anything but an analyst working openly at Langley who recommended her husband for the mission. It is not usual for people at the White House level to have, or want, information on sources or covert agents or covert operations. It has been my experience that political agents work very hard not to acquire such information lest in the strain of a debate or a press interview they reveal something they should not.

 I know I have always tried to keep my campaign operatives (and myself) free of information I would not want published in the Times, because the pressure of campaigns and politics in general is such that such information often gets out. What I don't have is any plausible scenario in which someone like Rove would even know that Plame was a covert CIA agent; or, knowing that, why anyone with any political sense at all would knowingly and deliberately blow her cover, such as it was (she openly went to work at Langley so anyone recognizing her going into the building would have an easy enough inference that when she told people she "worked for the government" she meant the Company). It doesn't take much political smarts to know that such a petty act has very little upside and a very great deal of downside, and you are speaking of people who have a lot of political smarts.

Joe Wilson was an irritant, not a mortal threat, and all that was necessary was to give him a bit of air time to let him become even less of a threat. He may have been a good diplomat but he does not come off much better than the other 6-day wonder, whose name I have forgotten; the chap who was Clinton's anti-terrorism expert and accused the Bush Administration of not paying enough attention to him, and said that if they had just gone to the meetings he proposed, well, yes, that wouldn't have stopped 911 but it would have showed they cared, or something like that. Wilson is of a piece with that chap, and hardly worth committing a crime over.

As I said, my scenario is fiction, but it is plausible.

There is no story here, and the emphasis that it is getting is a sign of desperation.



CURRENT VIEW    Wednesday


This week:


read book now


Thursday, July 21, 2005

The Boy Who Cried Wolf, as re-written for the modern age


Mike Z

An interesting update to Aesop... Of course no one has read Aesop now.

And perhaps it is incorrect, but it needs to be read along with the other traditional wisdom of Aesop. One also needs to understand that sometimes there are wolves; and we treat those who believe so rather shamefully. Having grown up a Cold Warrior...



This is clearly a phony... We all know the moon is made of GREEN cheese, not yellow...

Brice Yokem



On Stryker:


I was an Armor officer for 7 years (followed by 5 as a Signal officer before I got out). Unless the Stryker is a lot heavier and wider than I think, firing a 105mm gun over either flank of the vehicle may roll the silly thing.

Admittedly, my days as an armor platoon leader was on the M60A3 series, which was lighter than M1 series. Even so, there was one occasion at Grafenwoehr where we issued a lot of training HEAT ammunition. The lot, IMO, was defective due to too much propellant. Some rounds wouldn't chamber and those that did packed a hell of a punch. Those rounds had a trajectory as flat as the training sabot round. My gunner almost got a black eye when we fired one ourselves due to the tank itself recoiling. (That's a normal occurance for a Sheridan gunner firing the 152mm duel purpose HEAT round, but unheard of in an M60.)

IIRC, the Germans in WWII had a similar problem with some of their armored cars that carried 75mm guns.

-- Mark A. Flacy Any opinions expressed above are my own. Any facts expressed above are, ummm, facts. "The nice thing about standards is that there are so many of them to choose from." -- Andrew S. Tanenbaum


Dear Dr. Pournelle,

The development and deployment of the Stryker armored vehicle has been closely followed at Free Republic by a group that includes a substantial number of active and retired military, some in the hardware development community. Their tongue-in-cheek self-designation was "Stryker Brigade Combat Team Tactical Studies Group (Chairborne)."

My summary "take" on the vehicle, from reading numerous articles and discussions, is that, while there will always be those who think we should only be using heavy armor (M1s and Bradleys), many have been won over, and those in the field seem to like it. Stryker seems to be filling a needed niche between Humvees and trucks, and heavy armor. The Stryker detractors' best argument is that we should have resurrected and used the largely retired tracked M113 APCs instead, at great cost savings. Stryker proponents say that a tracked vehicle would have been much less stealthy (due to noise) and much slower, and thus not nearly as effective in the field.

For those who want to read more, many articles, many with great unofficial discussions and commentary from the military folks, are available on FreeRepublic at this URL:


Thanks for all you do,

Jim Riticher


Disadvantages of Stryker:

Wheeled vehicles don’t have the off road mobility of full track vehicles. They can’t cover rough terrain nearly as fast.

They can’t pivot in place.

It isn’t practical to use the very heavy armor you find on a tank, or a gun with very heavy recoil.

Tends to be topheavy, especially with add-on armor. Think SUV extreme, with all that that implies.


Better fuel economy than full tracked vehicles.

Faster on roads. That’s where the fight is in Iraq.

Less vulnerable to IEDs. With an 8 wheel vehicle you can blow off several wheels and deflate the rest and it can still move away from the ambush area. All you have to do to immobilize a tracked vehicle is break the track. Also, the Stryker is higher off the ground and doesn’t trap the force of the blast under itself the way a tracked vehicle does.

Quieter. This isn’t a big deal when the enemy is thousands of yards away, but in a city fight it can be important.

Relatively maintenance free compared to full tracked vehicles, especially when used on roads. Bradleys (for example) wear out fast escorting convoys.

About the 105mm gun:

IMO, the 105mm tank gun is impractical for use on a topheavy, lightweight vehicle. In the M60A3 MBT, the recoil effect causes the tank to rock and I can imagine on a much lighter vehicle it could even break things with repeated firing. It makes me think of the 152mm gun on the M551 Sheridan. I wonder if you could actually tip one over if you were sitting on soft ground and fired it out to the side.

Finally, if one accepts the premise that the Stryker is the vehicle of choice for city fighting, then you don’t want a gun that can’t rotate within it’s wheel base. We fight in too many areas with narrow streets, and that is where you have a problem with the M1 MBT. City terrain can prevent rotation of the turret, which prevents use of the only weapons that are fired from behind armor, the main gun and coax MG. We should use a weapon on the Stryker that fires a low velocity HE round (short barrel) with a shattering effect for use against buildings. Sort of a grenade launcher on steroids, with a coax MG.

About tracks:

Some people have suggested a new form of rubber track, which has noise and wear advantages over the current ones. My take on this is that a break still immobilizes the vehicle and it would be harder to repair in the field.

Steve Crandell


Pros and Cons of STRYKERs

Dr. Pournelle -

The Oct 2004 issue of Technology Review had an excellent article http://www.technologyreview.com/articles/04/11/talbot1104.asp?p=1  on the information shortcomings the US Army encountered in Iraq. The center of the article concerns the battle for Objective Peach, the access way for the Baghdad Airport. A single armored battalion ( 69th Armor, 3rd ID) tangled with 3 brigades of Iraqis and came out on top. The following quote is apropos:

"Whereas U.S. tanks could withstand a direct hit from Iraqi shells, Iraqi vehicles would go up like a Roman candle when struck by U.S. shells, Marcone says. Sitting in an office at Rand, Gordon puts things bluntly: If the army had had Strykers at the front of the column, lots of guys would have been killed. At Objective Peach, what protected Marcones men wasn't information armor, but armor itself."


Jim Martin


Subject: gender differences in math ability

Dear Jerry Pournelle,

I read with interest the comments and article by La Griffe concerning the rarity of women at the highest levels of mathematical attainment.

It happens that 513 US citizens received a PhD in mathematics in 2004. Of these, 166 were women, or 32%, the same percent as the previous year. I’m not sure how this relates to La Griffe’s analysis (if I read his analysis correctly, it suggests more than 80% of PhDs in math should go to males).

I remember the large poster on the wall in the math department (at Reed College, circa 1978): IBM’s Men of Mathematics. It was a time-line showing many famous mathematicians. I found this endlessly fascinating to read (there was a lot of detail in the poster). One thing I noted: only one mathematician listed was female: Emmy Noether, of course. It was duly noted that she was “fat, rough and loud”, and that her colleagues in Germany referred to her as “Der Noether” (using the masculine article).

I have always thought that gender differences in mathematical ability reflect culture more than biology. The academic mathematical culture is an old culture, and largely an Old World culture; and there is still some sexism in that culture, if unconscious or rarely expressed out loud. May I suggest that this is evidenced by the comment of La Griffe that “feminists, in order to support their androgynous fantasies, encourage able young women to enter technological fields even when their interests lie elsewhere”. The truth of the matter is that few students, male or female, enter college intending on majoring in mathematics, and what active efforts there are to recruit women into this major are meant to overcome the lingering cultural bias against women in mathematics. As a mathematics instructor, I myself have been told (as recently as the 1990s) by women that they were told they didn’t need to take four years of mathematics in high school, because they were female. Engineering and mathematics are punishing majors for even able students, and a subtle lack of encouragement can go a long way to sorting out majors.

Cheers, and much thanks for your always-interesting blog.

Chris Lang

Indiana University Southeast

Griffe's reply is below


Subject: BBC: 'Scotty' beamed back to Scotland

"A Scottish council has revealed plans to erect a plaque in memory of the late Star Trek actor James 'Scotty' Doohan. "Scripts of the sci-fi series reveal that his character, Montgomery Scott, was born in Linlithgow in 2222 and that his parents still lived there. "West Lothian Council plans to erect a plaque in the town in memory of the Canada-born actor who died, aged 85." http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/scotland/4703419.stm 

Dr. Pournelle:

I thought you might find the above interesting. According the the article, Linlithgow is also the birthplace of Mary, Queen of Scots.




Subject: Fred is at it again....

Saw the "Fred on Everything" bookmark in my favorites list, so I checked in, Dr. Pournelle. He's at it again with his current column titled "Of Knowing And Not Knowing -- Elvis, Haldane, And Excessive Self-Assurance"


A couple of quotes:

"I wonder whether the rigidly scientific approach to the world explains quite as much as we think it does (and we seem to think it explains everything)...."

"....Trouble comes when the sciences overstep their bounds. It is one thing to study physical phenomena, another to say that only physical phenomena exist. Here science blurs into ideology, an ideology being a systematic and emotionally held way of misunderstanding the world. A science is open and descriptive, an ideology closed and prescriptive. A scientists says, in principle at least, "Give me the facts and I will endeavor to derive a theory that describes them." The ideologist says, "I have the theory, and nothing that does not fit it can be a fact." Having chosen his rut, he never sees beyond it. This has not been the way of the greats of science, but of the middle ranks, adequate to swell a progress or work in a laboratory...."

Thought you would enjoy this if you haven't seen it.

Charles Brumbelow



Fred understands science:


It's a point that we see all sorts of people missing these days: absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. But then, I like the way Fred puts it even better.


I find Fred rather refreshing in this age...

Note, incidentally, that miracles, by definition, are not repeatable phenomena and don't claim to be science at all; by definition, a miracle defies normal scientific explanation, and the investigators who look into the miraculous are meticulous in trying to find an alternate "normal" explanation. The lengthy discussion of the phenomena in "The Exorcist" was of course fiction but Blatty had the procedure down cold.

Years ago I did an essay called "The Voodoo Sciences" in which I pointed out that novelists and fictioneers need only be plausible, lawyers need only evidence and are free to ignore that which does not fit their theory of the case (and are supposed to get you to ignore facts that don't fit their theories), and scientists need data and are supposed to account for all the data, not just the more convenient facts.

I also noted that the "social sciences" are, under those definitions, either fictioneers or lawyers; no social "science" that I know of even attempts to fit in all the data.

It won me no points with the "social scientists" when I pointed out that most of what they are so highly paid to teach in the universities has no more real basis than Voodoo, and the fact that they have the largest number of majors, to the detriment of both the real humanities and the real sciences, may not be a good thing was not popular in sociology departments....

And see below


Subject:  re Today's View

In re "Recommendations to Attract More Women and Minorities into Science, Engineering, and Technology" -- my question is, why is this a significant question? Do we get Green Stamps for every woman and "minority" that we attract into science, engineering, and technology? Can they be Traded For Valuable Prizes?


Timoid M. of Angle


From another discussion:


As you know, I am an intense critic of this administration's fiscal, monetary, currency, and trade policies. However, exaggerating the case against the current President serves little purpose and may ultimately distract attention from more critical issues. Indeed, I would argue that the current budget deficit is only at the mild yellow stage and does not warrant the hysteria it regularly gets. By contrast, the current account/trade deficit is way beyond the red flashing alarm stage and is mostly ignored.

The generally liberal Brookings Institution (along with the Urban Institute) sponsors the Tax Policy Center (TPC) (www.taxpolicycenter.org). The Tax Policy Center publishes a wealth of papers and statistics about the budget, taxes, tax policy, etc. As you can see at
  the national debt peaked at 108.6% of GDP in 1948 and bottomed out at 23.9% of GDP in 1974 (inflation helped in this period). The national debt then peaked again at 49.4% of GDP in 1993 before Clinton fixed it. The Clinton low was at 33.1% of GDP in 2001. Of course, the Republicans have since run the national debt up to 37.2% of GDP in 2004.

While there is little good to be said about this, the national debt is clearly not at critical levels (yet). Note that in all cases, I am using "Debt Held by the Public" rather than the total debt which includes interagency holdings (accumulated Social Security surpluses and other funds). Much of the public debt is actually held by the Federal Reserve system which arguably should not be included. Removing the Federal Reserve debt holdings reduces the actual national debt considerably further.

A quick comparison of the U.S. with other countries (see http://www.oecd.org/dataoecd/5/51/2483816.xls ) points in the same direction. While the raw numbers differ from the TPC data because of differing methodologies, the trends should be clear. The current U.S. national debt is somewhat under the OECD average and well below Euro area indebtedness. The same statistics show the critical indebtedness of Belgium (90.1% of GDP) and Italy (97.8% of GDP) both of which may fail (default) over the next few years. Sadly Italy can't live with the Euro because the Euro has priced Italy out of world markets and can't live without the Euro because servicing Italy's debt would be unbearably expensive if the Lira was restored.

Essentially the same thing(s) can be said about the budget deficit. While it is large, it is far from critical. Take a look at the TPC data at http://www.taxpolicycenter.org/TaxFacts/Tfdb/TFTemplate
.cfm?DocID=200&Topic2id=20&Topic3id=23  . According to the Washington Post ( http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/07/13/AR2005071301617.html  ) the deficit may be as small as 2.7% of GDP (other sources give 2.9% of GDP). At 2.7% of GDP, the deficit is at or below the defect for all but two years from 1975 to 1994. The OECD data (same URL) support this theme as well. The projected U.S. deficit is slightly below the Euro are average of 2.8% of GDP and well below the OECD average of 3.2% of GDP. Note that France (3.0%), Germany (3.5%), and Italy (4.4%) are all projecting larger deficits.

By contrast, the U.S. current account deficit (see http://www.oecd.org/dataoecd/5/46/2483884.xls ) is at absurd levels (6.4% of GDP). No really big country has ever generated a deficit this large. We are way out into untested waters. Argentina and Indonesia both collapsed with considerably lower current account deficits. The U.S. won't immediately implode from its current account deficit. However, the ultimate day of reckoning may not be pretty.

Thank you

Peter Schaeffer

The statements above are in need of two addendums.

First, the current U.S.
budget deficit is structural. In other words, we are running a substantial deficit at a point in the business cycle where we should have surpluses or only a minimal deficit. When the next recession hits, the deficit will explode. See http://www.oecd.org/dataoecd/5/51/2483816.xls
"Cyclically-adjusted general government balances" for some details.

Second, the modern day linkage between fiscal profligacy and the Republican party is profound. Sadly, I think this accounts for a major portion of the political fortunes of the Republicans as well. Third, the data for Canada shows how seriously befouled country can redeem itself when it tries. Note the rise and fall of Canada's debt as a percent of GDP.

Peter Schaeffer


Subject: J.K. Rowling, "Luddite fool"?


-- Roland Dobbins

. . . functions placed at low levels of a system may be redundant or of little value when compared with the cost of providing them at that low level.

-- Saltzer, Reed & Clark, "End-to-End Arguments in Systems Design"






CURRENT VIEW    Thursday


This week:


read book now


Friday,  July 22, 2005

Subject: Voodoo redux

You said on 21 July 2005; "It won me no points with the "social scientists" when I pointed out that most of what they are so highly paid to teach in the universities has no more real basis than Voodoo, and the fact that they have the largest number of majors, to the detriment of both the real humanities and the real sciences, may not be a good thing was not popular in sociology departments...."

Synthesizing your _Voodoo Sciences_ article and La Griffe's love of the normal distribution curve may be useful. If Universities are pressured to increase their funding, the one positive control they possess is the rate of admission. As the population mean for g stubbornly refuses to comply with SCOTUS decisions, more and more students are drawn from parts of the bell curve closer to the mean than the upper percentiles. The Universities are taking their money, they have to do something to please their customers.

The most noticeable effect of drawing further to the left on the bell curve (still above the mean, for the present) is that a huge number of college students are unable to do college math. Not just first year calculus, but intermediate algebra is avoided like the plague. So what do you major in if you can't do simple math? The sciences are obviously out, the humanities are competitive and all appearances aside you have to have talent to get into the fine arts (at which point you may blindfold yourself and sling paint at dancing naked midgets.) To get into any serious music program you have to start practicing at age eight. The only place left to put the lower end applicants is in the social sciences, at which point begins the terrible effects of positive feedback on these disciplines. As Greg Cochran might say, it's not the subject, it's the students. Make linear algebra a prerequisite for Intro to Sociology and I'd bet my lunch money on your complaints disappearing.

As for updating the design of your web page, I'd like to point out that Chaos Manor loads like lightning when using the cli/non-window/text-only browser Lynx. Many web sites are unreadable, and quite a few fail to display anything when viewed with Lynx. I normally run Firefox under either Windows XP or KDE on Slackware (my first Linux distro back in 1995) but like to read content heavy pages using Lynx.

-- ben capoeman

Interesting point. It is certainly the case that very few social scientists have any actual understanding of statistical inference. Some, like Murray and Herrnstein, know the subject well; but most social scientists, faced with actual calculus of probability as opposed to tables and cookbooks, would have no idea of how to proceed. Alas, this is getting increasingly true of "ecologists" as well. Rufus King at the University of Iowa had some real mathematical pre-requisites for the study of ecology in his classes. I suspect that is no longer the case.

My collaborator Steve Barnes was telling me that his daughter wants to go into the sciences. I told him to see that in high school she gets the full mathematical courses including introduction to calculus. Calculus and statistical inference were probably the subjects that made me the most money of all those I studied in college. Yes, of course, I get paid for writing, and have for some time; but I didn't learn how to write in college. I did learn enough math to be able to do operations research.

And see comments below by a professor of social science


Subject: Great Deloder worm analysis.


-- Roland Dobbins


Ciao Jerry,

Just a minor quibble with Chris Lang's comments, that you might want to pass on to him. Professor Lang includes:

"It happens that 513 US citizens received a PhD in mathematics in 2004. Of these, 166 were women, or 32%, the same percent as the previous year. I’m not sure how this relates to La Griffe’s analysis (if I read his analysis correctly, it suggests more than 80% of PhDs in math should go to males)."

Professor Lang did misread me. Though my analysis is concerned mainly with the highest reaches of mathematical talent, I did address the simply good but not extraordinary in the first Q of the Q&A. There, I indicated, consistent with the Project Talent data, that the 95th percentile of mathematical ability is about 36% female and the 99th percentile, 29% female. These percentages bracket the 32% of PhDs awarded to women.

Regards, --Griffe

La Griffe du Lion http://www.lagriffedulion.f2s.com


Subject: social science

I am a bit befuddled by your statement:

“I also noted that the ‘social sciences’ are, under those definitions, either fictioneers or lawyers; no social ‘science’ that I know of even attempts to fit in all the data.”

Undoubtedly this is because I am a social scientist (economics) and want to think of myself and my chosen discipline as being at least somewhat scientific. This may be a self delusion, I admit, but isn’t it possible to be scientific when studying society?

As I understand it, the scientific method involves gathering evidence (or data), forming a testable hypothesis, testing that hypothesis with replicable experiments, and using the results to reformulate the theory – iterate. Social science is blocked by the inability to conduct replicable experiments and relies on natural experiments where it is virtually never the case that “all else is the same”. Social sciences have been forced to develop statistical tools to control for the differences in observable and unobservable variables across data points, but the basic ideas of ceteris paribus is the same. There are many “hard” sciences which face the same constraint; meteorology, geology and astronomy come to mind.

Is your criticism that it is impossible to conduct real social science, or that practitioners choose not to abide by the scientific method?

If it’s the latter, you may well be correct in describing the majority of social scientists. Most of them would not know the scientific method if it bit them in the ass (maybe not the best metaphor there). To some “science” means advocacy. That said, many social scientists are not advocates and do examine the data in as critical and scientific a way as the subject matter allows.

Kerk Phillips

I have never said that all "social scientists" are frauds, and I understand that economists claim to be more scientific than other branches of social science. On the other hand I have never seen an economic analysis of, say, tariff, that includes the "externals" such as the costs of welfare, anomie, and the like that often accompany free trade. It is true that some economists actually make an effort to differentiate between their models and the real world, but there are enough who will go on television to give their predictions and prescriptions without noting that their families just went broke in the stock market and they need the publicity for their latest book and thus are appearing as expert futurists. It was, after all, an economist who came up with the wonderful headline in the Futurist in about 1975: "Why We Have To Go Broke Fast!" as a prescription (he was an advocate of  "appropriate technology" as if anyone would be for inappropriate technology). (I think Carter took it seriously.) And I recall some of Carter's economic advisors being concerned about nuclear wastes in a post Ice Age environment...

Pareto used to say that if political theorists since Aristotle had spent as much time examining how men behave as in writing about how they ought to behave, we might now have a genuine social science.

Your statement is fair enough, though: I agree there are some academic social scientists who actually try to be scientific. Not many, and some of the worst offenders are the "political scientists." I have degrees in that subject, but I don't call myself a political scientist. Theorist, perhaps. Philosopher, perhaps.

"Is your criticism that it is impossible to conduct real social science, or that practitioners choose not to abide by the scientific method? "

Well, yes; that was certainly the main thrust of what I said 30 years ago in The Voodoo Sciences, I call to evidence that most "social scientists" have never studied real mathematics and statistics, but instead have "taken" Math for Social Scientists 201, which consists, if the textbooks can be believed, of cookbook exercises on how to use Student's T to determine "significance" and memorization of the definitions of mean, median, mode, and standard deviation. The differences between sample measures and estimates of population values is explained, if at all, in footnotes or "optional" sections of the text. As to actual calculus, differential equations, and the other tools of the "hard" sciences, you will generally not find them present at all. The social scientists "took" math, but like some vaccinations it didn't take. Or so I have found.

Clearly there are exceptions. I try to call attention to them as I find them. Herrnstein and Murray certainly knew what they were talking about -- and I was present as a Dean of the Social Sciences, at a meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, denounced their book The Bell Curve by beating up on straw men and discrediting statements they had never made, then admitted, in public, that he had not read the book he was reviewing and had no intention of reading it. Social science, perhaps not at its best, but rather typical, would you not agree?

"... you may well be correct in describing the majority of social scientists. Most of them would not know the scientific method if it bit them in the ass (maybe not the best metaphor there). To some “science” means advocacy. That said, many social scientists are not advocates and do examine the data in as critical and scientific a way as the subject matter allows."

I cannot disagree, but I do note that the spokesmen for most social scientist organizations and groups tend to be advocates. Federation of American Scientists, Science for the People -- of course they tend to act as if they are hard scientists. I recall one chap often called on to speak for the sciences. He is no longer part of Federation of American Scientists, but he was for years, and although his degree is a BS in political science, he spoke about the physics of "Star Wars" back during the days of those debates. And of course never failed to identify me as "a science fiction writer". Poul Anderson was usually referred to as "a science fiction writer" although his degrees were in physics, and he could, I suspect, have made a pretty good career in physics had he chosen that route.

My point is that in all that time I never heard one single scientific organization stand up and say "that isn't science and those people don't speak for us, and they are not speaking as scientists when they do speak." Perhaps that's expecting a bit much.

I like to think that I too merit the designation "scientist", or at least have done so sometimes, and even now I do try to separate advocacy from education. Not always with success, I suppose.

But our campuses are filled with budding young "social science" majors, most of whom cannot comprehend most of the tools of science, and many of whom don't know what such tools as differential equations and calculus of probability, and functions of continuous and discrete variables, actually are. And certainly don't believe that as scientists they are expected to account for all the data, nor merely the evidence that supports their conclusions...

Or do you disagree?

Discussion continues below


The Mac Marches on!

Subject: 400,000 switch.


-- Roland Dobbins


Subject: Personal outsourcing.


-- Roland Dobbins

Off shore your life!


Subject: The Wahabi bomb.


--- Roland Dobbins

Now there's one to chill your bones...


Subject: Renewable energy.


- Roland Dobbins

Well, sort of... Back to the future? It's what I grew up with...


Subject: The (over)exercise of power.

I can't decide if this is meant to be taken seriously, but I fear it is:


--- Roland Dobbins

A rather dull journalist stuck for a story, I think.


Welcome the USA


Somehow I doubt that this will increase tourism to the US or be effective against terrorism.

--Pål Steinar Berg

I will say that my last trip to England had few unpleasantries or surprises.


Subject: structure of website

Dear Dr. P.,

Don't worry about changing the structure of your website. It's just too big to bother changing it now. Would take too long. Not improve anything. And what would it accomplish? It would still not please those self involved know-it-alls who sneer at it. Why bother?

The only thing I could think of that might help would be to add a topic index tree on the side, but it would take a lot of time, would take away time from your fiction and therefore, is not worth it. Maybe someone would volunteer. Maybe your critics could volunteer. But the task should come with a single overriding rule: the changes should add *nothing* to your workload. You must still be able to deal with the site as easily as you can now, without wasting a lot of time learning to jump through hoops..

And it must not change the reading experience, for those who merely read it...



Well I would love better indexing. Ah well


Hi Jerry,

I've never written in before, but I thought this was just downright amusing.

TSA screener raps about terrorism


Keep the faith brother

Walter Killam

"I'm afraid you'll have to overlook it Fred, you knew the job was dangerous when you took it!"

Super Chicken (Henry Cabot Henhouse III)



Subject: OS/2, RIP.


--- Roland Dobbins


Subj: IEEE Spectrum: Engineering EverQuest

This is about the internals of the EverQuest engineering team and server complex:


=On the day of EverQuest's release in March 1999, gamers flooded the 45-megabit-per-second cables connecting to Sony's server farm. Along Interstate 5, in the heart of San Diego, you can still see the scars of that deluge; they're the remains of long trenches in the pavement dug as part of a frantic push to add more lines to the Sony facility.=

Alas, it's lighter on tech details than I would have preferred.

Rod Montgomery==monty@sprintmail.com


The Economist
25 St James's Street, London SW1A 1HG
Letters Jul 14th 2005

Life is cheap
SIR – Reacting to your report that it costs 5,000 pesos ($93) to hire an assassin in the Philippines, Tom Young assures us his wife can have him put away for a maximum of 2,000 pesos (Letters, July 2nd). In a global context, this is still extortionate and inflationary. It may interest CAFTA enthusiasts to know that in Guatemala's Zacapa province, the lowest bid I have heard reported is 25 quetzales ($3.30).

Russell Seitz Cambridge, Massachusetts


Subject: Finding Tatooine?


-- Roland Dobbins


Subject: It's not just the US Supreme court that has gone insane.

Dr. Pournelle:

Here's an interesting article from the Times Online:


A handful of people bought the new Harry Potter book before the official release date, through an inadvertent error at a retail location. Now the Canadian Supreme Court has ordered those people not to read the books that they own.

quotes from the article: The supreme court of British Columbia issued a court order preventing anyone from “displaying, reading, offering for sale, selling or exhibiting in public” their books.

and a little further in: Korieh Duodu, a media lawyer for David Price Solicitors and Advocates, said: “I have never heard of such a wide-ranging order. One sympathises with the reader from a non-legal point of view, but property rights often trump civil liberties. There is no human right to read.”

I like that last sentence.

Arrin Withey

Just saw this so it's a bit out of date, but Ye Gods





This week:


read book now


Saturday, July 23, 2005

More on the suicide of the West

Robert J. Samuelson: The End of Europe

Wednesday, June 15, 2005; A25

Europe as we know it is slowly going out of business. Since French and Dutch voters rejected the proposed constitution of the European Union, we've heard countless theories as to why: the unreality of trying to forge 25 E.U. countries into a United States of Europe; fear of ceding excessive power to Brussels, the E.U. capital; and an irrational backlash against globalization. Whatever their truth, these theories miss a larger reality: Unless Europe reverses two trends -- low birthrates and meager economic growth -- it faces a bleak future of rising domestic discontent and falling global power. Actually, that future has already arrived.

Ever since 1498, after Vasco da Gama rounded the Cape of Good Hope and opened trade to the Far East, Europe has shaped global history, for good and ill. It settled North and South America, invented modern science, led the Industrial Revolution, oversaw the slave trade, created huge colonial empires, and unleashed the world's two most destructive wars. This pivotal Europe is now vanishing -- and not merely because it's overshadowed by Asia and the United States.

It's hard to be a great power if your population is shriveling. Europe's birthrates have dropped well below the replacement rate of 2.1 children for each woman of childbearing age. For Western Europe as a whole, the rate is 1.5. It's 1.4 in Germany and 1.3 in Italy. In a century -- if these rates continue -- there won't be many Germans in Germany or Italians in Italy. Even assuming some increase in birthrates and continued immigration, Western Europe's population grows dramatically grayer, projects the U.S. Census Bureau. Now about one-sixth of the population is 65 and older. By 2030 that would be one-fourth, and by 2050 almost one-third. <snip>

Liberalism is a philosophy of consolation for Western Civilization as it commits suicide. And see below on European Union.


Kenan Malik: Is this the future we really want? Different drugs for different races
 The Times Online guest contributors Opinion
http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,1072-1658766,00.html  5.6.18

A US GOVERNMENT advisory panel recommended this week that a drug which helps to treat congestive heart failure should be granted a licence. Its decision is controversial because BiDiL will be the first racially-targeted drug. When tested on the general population it proved ineffective, but when given to African-Americans, to whom it will be marketed, it appeared to cut death rates from heart failure by 43 per cent.

The BiDiL debate gets to the heart of one of the most explosive issues in medicine. Does race matter in medicine? Or should it be colour-blind?

The New England Journal of Medicine has argued that "race is biologically meaningless" and that doctors should be taught about "the dangers inherent in practising race-based medicine." Others disagree. The psychiatrist, Sally Satel, believes that in medicine "stereotyping often works". In her Washington drug clinic, Satel prescribes different amounts of Prozac to black and white patients because, she says, the two groups seem to meta bolise antidepressants at different rates.

So who is right? As with much else in debates about race, the answer is both sides and neither. Different populations do show different patterns of disease and disorder. Northern Europeans, for instance, are more likely to suffer from cystic fibrosis than other groups. Tay-Sachs, a fatal disease of the central nervous system, particularly affects Ashkenazi Jews. Beta-blockers appear to work less effectively for African-Americans than those of European descent. <snip>

We insist that heredity is meaningless, even if we have to let people die to prove it. Liberalism is a philosophy of consolation for Western Civilization as it commits suicide.

Malik wrote:

"On one side, so-called race realists think that population differences are so important that all medicine should be colour-coded. "

I've not seen anyone make such an argument.


Nor I.


Subject: States Trying to Blunt Property Ruling


Federalism at work:



Precisely. We should not rely on the Feds to protect our rights in the states. What the Feds give they can take away.


Subject: The Waste of Ethanol


Study Says Ethanol Not Worth the Energy

By MARK JOHNSON, Associated Press WriterMon Jul 18, 8:53 AM ET

Farmers, businesses and state officials are investing millions of dollars in ethanol and biofuel plants as renewable energy sources, but a new study says the alternative fuels burn more energy than they produce. <snip>

But researchers at Cornell University and the University of California-Berkeley say it takes 29 percent more fossil energy to turn corn into ethanol than the amount of fuel the process produces. For switch grass, a warm weather perennial grass found in the Great Plains and eastern North America United States, it takes 45 percent more energy and for wood, 57 percent.

It takes 27 percent more energy to turn soybeans into biodiesel fuel and more than double the energy produced is needed to do the same to sunflower plants, the study found.<snip>

The researchers included such factors as the energy used in producing the crop, costs that were not used in other studies that supported ethanol production, said Pimentel.<snip>

[Thanks to Jim Woosley]


Subject: RE: social science

You wrote:

Well, yes; that was certainly the main thrust of what I said 30 years ago in The Voodoo Sciences, I call to evidence that most "social scientists" have never studied real mathematics and statistics, but instead have "taken" Math for Social Scientists 201, which consists, if the textbooks can be believed, of cookbook exercises on how to use Student's T to determine "significance" and memorization of the definitions of mean, median, mode, and standard deviation. The differences between sample measures and estimates of population values is explained, if at all, in footnotes or "optional" sections of the text. As to actual calculus, differential equations, and the other tools of the "hard" sciences, you will generally not find them present at all. The social scientists "took" math, but like some vaccinations it didn't take. Or so I have found.

Clearly there are exceptions. I try to call attention to them as I find them. Herrnstein and Murray certainly knew what they were talking about -- and I was present as a Dean of the Social Sciences, at a meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, denounced their book The Bell Curve by beating up on straw men and discrediting statements they had never made, then admitted, in public, that he had not read the book he was reviewing and had no intention of reading it. Social science, perhaps not at its best, but rather typical, would you not agree?

I do agree, which may explain why I spend so little time interacting with social scientists outside my own field (which is, of course, completely scientific). I do think things are changing slowly, at least in academic circles, where I hang out. The younger and more productive assistant and associate professors in political science and sociology these days understand and use mathematical models and rigorous statistics. Much of this rigor is not passed on to students, of course. And the departments still have a full complement of political advocates, particularly in the full professor ranks. Students who want scientific rigor in the social sciences can get it, but they are often put in different "tracks", or sometimes entirely different majors, so that the rest are not scared off and enrollments don't decline.

I have a colleague who sat on a committee designing a master's degree in development several years back. When they began discussing curriculum he listed among the prerequisites courses in differential and integral calculus along with a mathematical statistics course. The political scientist in the group complained about the calculus requirement. He replied that calculus was necessary to understand statistics. Her response was, "You don't need calculus to understand statistics. I understand statistics and I don't know calculus!" To which he replied, "I know both calculus and statistics. Who is in a better position to judge?" Such frank statements are rarely appreciated. The degree never got the calculus requirement.

Of course, the use of mathematics is a necessary but not sufficient condition for scientific inquiry. People with excellent tools of inquiry can ignore evidence and build models to support a predetermined position, if they are so inclined.

So, there are many social "scientists" who refuse scientific inquiry, probably a sizable majority. The "hard" sciences have their share of non-scientific advocates as well. Note the discussions on global warming in this forum, for example. The problem seems, therefore, to be one of degree.

I don't know the reasons for this state of affairs, but it might be that the "hard" sciences are expected to produces tangible payoffs and advocacy rarely produces anything new that is useful. Mere advocates are therefore pushed aside by legitimate scientists who produce useful theories & evidence. The social sciences could be this way if there were an expectation of a tangible benefit. The fact that virtually all social scientists are employed by universities undoubtedly has much to do with this. If there are no outside job opportunities to impose these expectations, the usefulness of a social scientist's output will be judged solely by other social scientists and, since legitimate science is hard work, advocacy is the result.

Kerk Phillips

(Continued next week) ================


Subject: A Bit More from England

We may have him: <http://www.guardian.co.uk/attackonlondon/story/0,16132,1532950,00.html>  <http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,22989-1702411,00.html

UK Treasury raid on bank accounts: <http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2-1702377,00.html> . I actually have one US account that would be in that category.

Four-fold increase in violent crime in the UK since 1997: <http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/4700575.stm

Bird flu: <http://edition.cnn.com/2005/WORLD/asiapcf/ eut/index.html>  <http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2-1702222,00.html

Clarke and terrorism. <http://www.guardian.co.uk/terrorism/story/0,12780,1532968,00.html>  I wonder how this might apply to 'freedom fighters'.

UK curfew zones illegal <http://www.guardian.co.uk/crime/article/0,2763,1532975,00.html>  <http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2-1702444,00.html> . A breach of human rights...

Re PM suggestion that parents be legally required to stay home and supervise children who have been suspended from school: <http://education.guardian.co.uk/classroomviolence/story/0,12388,1532980,00.html

I've worked in an animal research lab that had SCIF-style security precautions to deal with this problem. <http://www.guardian.co.uk 17,1532945,00.html


Harry Erwin, PhD, security engineer and analyst, <http://www.theworld.com/~herwin/>



Subject: More on London Shooting

I wasn't planning on prejudging things, but I felt from the beginning that Israeli police practice is not a good model. Perhaps in Israel, the free use of deadly force to control a non-voting Arab majority population might be tolerated by the political elites, but in England, it's simply not acceptable. Here are some of the news stories: <http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/4711021.stm>  <http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/4711169.stm>  <http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,22989-1706021,00.html>  <http://www.guardian.co.uk/attackonlondon/story/ 0,16132,1534779,00.html> . This will certainly not help things.

On the other hand, I'm more than a bit concerned about those DEBKA stories that suggest al Qaeda is moving to the offensive <http://www.debka.com/article.php?aid=1059>  <http://www.debka.com/article.php?aid=1060> . America is certainly not able to pull troops back from Iraq to reconstitute a reserve. If al Qaeda is doing just that, we have serious problems.

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


From a while ago but overlooked:


Jerry, this article may or may not be of interest, but it does indicate that the UK criminal justice system has a problem: <http:// www.guardian.co.uk/prisons/story/0,7369,1511721,00.html> .

I'm now serving on the local Parochial Church Council. Last night, one of the churchwardens reported on trying to get planning permission for a £5 sign for the gate to show handicapped visitors where they could enter without coming up some stairs. The planners required £95 of paperwork to even consider approving it. We decided to defer applying until we had something significant that we could attach the request to.

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

And that is an Established Church. Ye gods. Liberalism is a philosophy of consolation for Western Civilization as it commits suicide.


Subject: Critiquing the SIOP.


-- Roland Dobbins

I worked on the SIOPs at one time. (Single Integrated Operational Plan, i.e. the strategic war plan of the US during the Cold War.) There were at least 5 such plans to be chosen depending on who had done what to the USA. One of them was the big all out attack that left the USSR pretty thoroughly destroyed. McNamara on becoming Secretary of Defense under Kennedy was given SIOP briefings, and said after seeing SIOP One, "General, you don't have a war plan, all you have is a sort of horrible spasm." The result was the Kennedy doctrine of "Flexible Response" to USSR incursions into Europe. Eisenhower had chosen "Massive retaliation at a time and place of our choosing" as the announced US response to the Red Army rolling west through the Fulda Gap.

Although supposedly highly classified, SIOP One was broadly leaked; since it targeted the entire Soviet leadership including dachas outside Moscow and various underground bunkers, the notion was to make certain that the Nomenklatura understood that whoever won World War III, they would not survive to know it.

To that end, the real heroes of the Cold War, the crews of the northern based KC-135's, had the mission of meeting the B-52's coming north from the US; fueling them over the North Pole; and pumping out every bit of fuel (the refueling tanks were not separate from those supplying the KC-135 with fuel) leabing themselve 3 minutes fuel to break off from the B-52; after which they were dead stick over the North Pole. If they could set down without breaking up, a tanker with empty tanks could float a long time, and they could hope to be picked up by a submarine; but of course the subs had their own missions, and surfacing at the North Pole wasn't a high priority mission for a boomer... All the KC-135 crews knew this, but I never heard of one who didn't scramble during alerts. I met a KC-135 command pilot now with DOD at the Wilton Park conference. He has my salute. Heroes all.

Herman Kahn did not approve of "massive retaliation" after about 1964 because by then the USSR had the means of massive retaliation of its own; after that it became important to develop other SIOPs including war fighting capabilities. Project 75 which I edited in 1964 developed the requirement for greater missile accuracy in order to dig the Soviet missile out of their silos and destroy their refire capabilities before they could be used. That in turn led to the requirement for on-board guidance computers, which led to DOD/ARPA investments in large scale integrated circuits, which is why you can read this now...

Herman Kahn taught us that we must think about the unthinkable. It is not easy, and I expect it leaves scars as well as bad dreams; but we had to do it. And I presume someone is adjusting the SIOPs even as I write this.




Subject: The Fight for Copyright - Francis Hamit

Dear Jerry:

Below is the link to my latest post on The Fight For Copyright blog. As I told you, I will be in Federal Court in New York on Thursday to oppose the "Literary Works in Electronic Databases Litigation" settlement. I sent you the full brief, but broke it down in this latest post.

I've opted out because I have my own cases against some of the defendants, but am going to heard anyway. That's a good thing, but expensive. The "Pro Se" brief I filed actually cost me several thousand dollars in legal fees and I'm taking a very good New York lawyer with me. (The guy is an old friend. He and I served together in Frankfurt, Germany in 1969-70 as NCOs at HQ, USASA Europe. He also used to write for the newspaper I edited there.).

I'm not too proud to ask for a little help here with the money. There are Paypal and Amazon Honors donation buttons on the blog pages and checks can be sent to "Francis Hamit, P.O. Box 5499, Frazier Park, CA 53222."

Having opted out, I'm lucky to be heard. What I will tell the judge is that I am there not so much for myself as for all of those freelance writers who have no real representation and who have been bullied, threatened and marginalized by editors and publishers determined to ignore both law and legal precedent to keep rights and money which isn't and never has been theirs.

I appreciate your moral support. Thanks for putting this up.


Francis Hamit


Francis is doing yeoman work for independent authors, and deserves all the support we can give him.




CURRENT VIEW     Saturday

This week:


read book now


Sunday, July 24, 2005

Subject: End of Europe?

Hi Jerry,

I just had to comment on the "End of Europe" article. I live in Switzerland, which is a good spectator seat.

It is certainly true that the high social benefits are a problem in some countries, but this is an issue utterly unrelated to the constitution or its rejection. The article's attempt to tie these issues together looks more like a journalist coming up empty on deadline, and needing to invent a story.

There is indeed a crisis regarding the EU government. This has come to a head with the proposed constitution. This crisis is simple: the huge gulf between the politicians in Brussels and the European population they purport to represent.

Take a look at the constitution. It is hundreds and hundreds of pages long, filled with glorious sounding language, much of which is gibberish to the average person. Here is an example: "The institutions of the Union shall apply the principle of subsidiarity as laid down in the Protocol on the application of the principles of subsidiarity and proportionality."

Can you get excited about that?

This was drafted by politicians, and presented to the people of Europe as a wonderful gift. Yet I never once saw any articles, TV appearances, or indeed any attempt at all to explain the underlying principles, the importance, the meaning behind the constitution. Just: we did it all for you, isn't it wonderful? Aren't you grateful? The populations of France and the Netherlands expressed quite clearly what they thought of this attitude.

The bureaucracy's reaction to the rejection was: what morons these people are, not to appreciate the wonderful work we have done. This, of course, has further endeared them to the population at large.

The EU government is set at an incredible remove from the general population. Since most of your readers are American, let me cast it in that context: ask yourself how well represented you feel by the politicians in Washington? Then imagine yet another layer of government on top of that! If the EU government wants support from the population it governs, some very fundamental changes - both in structure and in attitude - will be required.

All of which has nothing at all to do with low birthrates and high social costs.


Brad Richards

Indeed. I would have said it had everything to do with low birthrates and high social costs; or rather that there are some not terribly well hidden cause-effect relationships there...


Subject: sound recording of the SE Asian tsunami earthquake

This really is eerie sounding


The sound file is here <http://www.earth.columbia.edu/news/2005/images/tsun_eq.mp3>  .

Clips from the article:

The audio recording of the quake starts out silent. A low hiss begins and the intensity builds gradually to a rumbling crescendo. Then it tails off but, frighteningly, builds again in waves as Earth continues to tremble.

The audio file is sped up 10 times to make it easier to hear. As it was recorded, the sound was at the lower threshold of human hearing, but it could have been noted by someone paying attention.

And this was no small earthquake. It ruptured the planet along 750 miles (1,200 kilometers) of fault. Scientists estimate the Indian plate slipped 33-50 feet (10 to 15 meters) under the Burma microplate. The fault shook for at least eight minutes. A typical large earthquake lasts 30 seconds or so.

Kerk Phillips


Subject: Oops.


-- Roland Dobbins

A corollary to Niven's Law: if you are an illegal alien, do not run from the police when they are after mad bombers who look like illegal aliens. (But perhaps not; apparently he was not an illegal immigrant. More in view on police and police powers, and see next week's mail.)


Subject: Microsoft attempt to patent the smiley-face.

No joke:


-- Roland Dobbins

Well, not quite, but close. I suppose I see the point of the application but just barely; and what's new isn't clear at all. Sure, being able to take :-) (see http://www.computeruser.com/resources/dictionary/emoticons.html )  and turn it into a symbol to be transmitted (I forget how to get a smiley face) might make sense, but just barely. Meanwhile trying to trademark something of the sort isn't new. ( http://www.windweaver.com/emoticon.htm ) You have in fact violated a trade mark in the subject of this letter, or they seem to be saying you are.

Actually I find an embarrassment of riches on Smiley (tm) icons, but I don't dare download any because anyone who would trademark something like that doesn't inspire my confidence, and I am afraid of what their software that accompanies their Smiley (tm) Toolbar would do to my computer...

Microsoft clearly needs some adult supervision in their patent applications office. I am not astonished that they couldn't find anyone in Microsoft to comment on this. The sensible people have better things to do.



Dear Dr. Pournelle:

I looked up the Iraqi constitution at:


Articles 11 & 12 seem to contradict what you have quoted on your website. See below:

Article 11.

(A) Anyone who carries Iraqi nationality shall be deemed an Iraqi citizen. His citizenship shall grant him all the rights and duties stipulated in this Law and shall be the basis of his relation to the homeland and the State.

(B) No Iraqi may have his Iraqi citizenship withdrawn or be exiled unless he is a naturalized citizen who, in his application for citizenship, as established in a court of law, made material falsifications on the basis of which citizenship was granted.

(C) Each Iraqi shall have the right to carry more than one citizenship. Any Iraqi whose citizenship was withdrawn because he acquired another citizenship shall be deemed an Iraqi.

(D) Any Iraqi whose Iraqi citizenship was withdrawn for political, religious, racial, or sectarian reasons has the right to reclaim his Iraqi citizenship.

(E) Decision Number 666 (1980) of the dissolved Revolutionary Command Council is annuled, and anyone whose citizenship was withdrawn on the basis of this decree shall be deemed an Iraqi.

(F) The National Assembly must issue laws pertaining to citizenship and naturalization consistent with the provisions of this Law

(G) The Courts shall examine all disputes airising from the application of the provisions relating to citizenship.

Article 12.

All Iraqis are equal in their rights without regard to gender, sect, opinion, belief, nationality, religion, or origin, and they are equal before the law. Discrimination against an Iraqi citizen on the basis of his gender, nationality, religion, or origin is prohibited. Everyone has the right to life, liberty, and the security of his person. No one may be deprived of his life or liberty, except in accordance with legal procedures. All are equal before the courts.

Best Regards,

Mark Menth

Thanks. I have corrected this, and it is well to have the actual version available. Thanks to all the others who took the trouble to write in correction.









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