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Mail 373 August 1 - 7, 2005






BOOK Reviews

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Monday  August 1, 2005

I added considerable mail to the Sunday night batch. I will be at SIGGRAPH in the morning, but I doubt you have seen all the weekend mail, so start there; it's good.

Dear Jerry: Splendidly light and strong as carbon fiber or rod polymer reinforced America's Cup sailcloth may be, it has no place in an aerodynamic fix for the Shuttle tank's foam shedding.

One of the many counterintuitive facts I learned during my interaction with Doug Osheroff is that though the foam insulation is famously cold on the liquid hydrogen tank side, its exterior is so heated by high mach number air flow that the urethane melts on the outside.

The same thing would happen to whatever polymer film might be used to skin it.

 Russell Seitz

But is that true of carbon fiber? Surely it doesn't get to the melting point of carbon/carbon?


Subject: A system you might not think of not trusting

Dr. Pournelle,

This article on Wired points out vulnerabilities in hotel backend computer systems. It seems that the geniuses made the entire system accessable over the cable tv network, so the same system that bills you for your minibar can also be used by a snoop in another room to look at your bill or control the web-tv style internet terminal in your room, among other things.


It's another reminder to never trust any electronic network that you have not personally secured or secured by someone you absolutely trust.

Sean Long

I always carry a small router, and recommend anyone else do the same; thus I hide behind that when connected through a hotel portal to the Internet.


Subject: IG Report on Iraq Reconstruction

Dr. Pournelle, Thought you might find this an interesting read. It is the latest report by the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction. It is written in beautiful bureaucratese and does not paint an altogether pretty picture. Anyway, enjoy.


Matt Kirchner

Indeed. Thank you.


Subject: Cold winters

Dear Sir:

Your post of the newspaper clipping re. severe winters aroused my curiosity, so I did a bit of rooting around to see if I could find some confirmation. Here are links to two of the sites I came across. http://www.st-andrews.ac.uk/~dib2/GE1002/Lecture1.html  and http://homepage.ntlworld.com/booty.weather/climate/histclimat.htm  This second link contains a wealth of chronological information and seems to be quite well documented.

Very truly yours, Paul Bloom

Thank you. I do question some of the data points, but I haven't had time to look into their background. The important point is that weather and climate have been more variable in the past; we seem to have had an extraordinary period of stability, which we may now be leaving. That may be due to man made effects, but the mechanisms are nowhere near obvious.

I don't think we understand the situation well.


Subject: A Dark and Stormy Night ....

Dr. Pournelle:

The eagerly awaited results of the 2005 Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest, named after the author of the phrase immortalized by Snoopy in the "Peanuts" comic strip.


According to the site, Mr. Bulwer-Lytton also originated the expressions "the pen is mightier than the sword", "great unwashed", and "the almighty dollar".

The winner is one Dan McKay, from Fargo ND ... who is a 'quantitative analyst for Microsoft Great Plains'. There is no indication that he is in charge of the Microsoft Help text.

Regards, Rick Hellewell

Bulwer-Lytton's novel VRIL is a very thoughtful science fiction work, and while a bit out of date remains readable. I once met a girl named Avril whose father was an English professor; and indeed that was the origin of her name.







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Subject: "They Sing the Comet Electric"

Dear Dr. Pournelle,

Wired reported a group that made predictions about the shooting of Comet Tempel I that were more accurate than those by NASA. The article is at http://wired.com/news/space/0,2697,68258,00.html?tw=wn_tophead_4  .

The article also published name-calling by the establishment. I recall two other "crackpots" from history. One said that unsanitary conditions and lack of sterility were causing deaths in hospital operating rooms. Current medical practices show that crackpot was correct.

Another, an English hobbyist, built a wooden chronometer trying to win a prize for finding longitude at sea. He was denounced by titled scholars. He persevered, found and corrected some bugs, and eventually won a prize. I saw his later work and final working model on display in the Greenwich Royal Observatory, now a museum, in Greenwich, England.

The predictions about Tempel I, referenced in the _Wired_ article, are at http://www.thunderbolts.info/tpod/2005/arch05/050704predictions.htm .


William L. Jones

wljones (at) waymark (dot) net

They laughed at Mervin Cosnovitch too. (And they're still laughing). Not all crackpots are right. But yes, Semmelweis certainly was.


Subject: Illegal Immigrants....

We DO live in exciting times, Dr. Pournelle:

"A renegade band of Mexican military deserters, offering $50,000 bounties for the assassination of U.S. law-enforcement officers, has expanded its base of operations into the United States to protect loads of cocaine and marijuana being brought into America by Mexican smugglers, authorities said. "The deserters, known as the "Zetas," trained in the United States as an elite force of anti-drug commandos, but have since signed on as mercenaries for Mexican narcotics traffickers and have recruited an army of followers, many of whom are believed to be operating in Texas, Arizona, California and Florida."


And these may be legal immigrants, or even USA citizens.

Charles Brumbelow

Now here's a howdy do...

Subject: Shuttle problems

Dr. Pournelle,

I’ve been reading about the shuttle ET foam problems and one solution jumps out at me. I was hoping you or one of your readers would shoot it down for me so I would know it for the crackpot idea it really is.

My solution would be to cover the bottom halve of the shuttle with foam, thus giving the shuttle a cushion against strikes from the tank foam falling off. Yes I know this doesn’t fix the problem, but let’s face it, we are only talking about 20 or so more flights. The foam itself could flash off during reentry.

The Pros:

* Technology for applying the foam exists and is understood pretty well. * You do not have cryogenic temperatures on one side of the foam liquefying air causing the foam to popcorn. * Foam coming off of the shuttle surface during launch would not be catastrophic (provided it does not damage tiles during separation. * It would have to cost less than the billion or so trying to fix the tank (again for only 20 or so launches, that’s only 500 million dollars per tank).

The Cons:

* NASA contractors would implement it.

* Does not fix the root cause.

* The thickness of the foam on the shuttle could cause aerodynamic trouble.

* The additional weight could be a problem.

* The foam flashing off during reentry could cause additional aerodynamic trouble.

I would be interested in any responses your readers might have.


Terry Goodrich

Mechanical Engineer


Well outside my area of expertise...




I concur about both past and present versions of Franklin Ascend.

At the moment, I'm just using a word file of long-term objectives supplemented with written notes in my Franklin planner. The problem is that the word file does not enforce daily routine checks of priorities and cannot be used efficiently for reprioritization.

I also had trouble with trying to coordinate between Palm OS schedule coordination software, Ascend, and Outlook, with Outlook as the primary E-mail client and Ascend as the primary task/schedule client; very often the three-way synchronization would end up with most tasks duplicated, some multiple times.

FWIW, of course.

Jim Woosley

The problem I have is with task management. Most calendar programs work reasonably well, but they do not work well with task management and priority. The old Ascend was wonderful that way, and being able to have NOTES attached to each task was really useful.

Oh well. I am off to Siggraph now.


Subject: Likely Story

Somehow we've got to start attacking this notion that they're going to save money with this new approach. There is NOTHING to back up their assertion. We all know this will cost more than they have in their budget. Mankins all but admitted that last week.


 "The existing components offer us huge cost advantages as opposed to starting from a clean sheet of paper," the new administrator of NASA, Michael D. Griffin, told reporters on Friday.



Subject: I can't wait until the TSA get these!


- Roland Dobbins

With baited (not abated) breath I wait..


Subject: Tasing the streaker.


-- - Roland Dobbins

I am sure we are all ever so much safer now that this vicious criminal has been shocked into compliance with the dress codes.


Subject: Secret Signals in Lotus Flowers.


--- - Roland Dobbins

The Indian Mutiny and the British Imagination by Gautam Chakravarty

Five little chapatis


Harry Erwin's Letter from England

Subject: Letter from England

I just got back from a short course on the archaeology of Wessex. We explored the Avebury and Stonehenge landscapes and discussed the nature of the societies that built those monuments. At Stonehenge, we started by walking to the Greater Cursus and followed that east to the line of king's barrows. We then picked up the ceremonial avenue and followed that back to the main monument, perplexing the tourists. (The tutor for the University of Nottingham's Green Man course was taking this one for fun, and he and I joked that we should have been in costume. If you've ever seen the uncut version of Wicker Man, something like that...) After that, we jumped the line and saw the monument. A most enjoyable academic holiday.

No real news--just lots of speculation on the bombings. Some people with a bit more sense than the police are trying to calm the Muslim community down <http://edition.cnn.com/2005/WORLD/europe/08/02/ london.bombings.searches.reut/index.html>  <http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/ uk_politics/4736969.stm>  <http://www.guardian.co.uk/attackonlondon/ story/0,16132,1540937,00.html> . The blood continues to flow in Iraq, and there's fear in London: <http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk_news/story/ 0,3604,1541103,00.html> . The Italian justice system seems to be of some concern: <http://www.guardian.co.uk/attackonlondon/story/ 0,16132,1540818,00.html>  <http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/4739191.stm

-- "The data (or the marks when teaching) are sacrosanct--they tell us what actually happened."

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


Subject: In The Interest of Good International Relations?

I was curious about Saudi history, in light of their government transition. I went looking and Google fed me this tidbit. Hmmm... and it wasn't even in "Fahrenheit 911" - looks like something Michael Moore might have dreamed up. Gotta love that "Patriot" Act. With laws like this, who needs a Moore film?



<snip> Secret Saudi History ________________________________

Tuesday, August 12 2003 @ 10:17 PM EDT

"I smiled at my own joke, but the clerk's smile disappeared. 'Ask again,' he hissed, 'and I will call security to remove you from the building and have you barred as a security risk ..'"

By Sarah Whalen*

"I'm sorry," the clerk at the U.S. National Archives says: "You can't see the Saudi Arabian documents." I'm surprised. All the National Archive's documents are already reviewed and then declassified or removed. In theory, whatever's there is no longer secret.

Until 9/11.

"It's part of the Patriot Act," the clerk averred, referring to Public Law 107-56, the hastily-passed legislation entitled, "Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act of 2001."

"The U.S. State Department records you requested are indeed declassified and theoretically available. But they also may contain information that terrorists can use, like names and addresses and information of U.S. citizens." I gave a blank look. "So?" The clerk's brow furrowed with concern. "A terrorist could come into the National Archives and try to steal their identities or target them for assassination."



AND this from a long previous conversation, but I think the message is clear

The attempt by the Bush admin to promote a pro-American, proto-democratic client state in Iraq has actually created a pro-Iranian, proto-Islamic failed state. That is both a moral and political disaster for the US and the RoW (Jihadists and Ayatollahs excepted). The US should leave Iraq ASAP and hope that the whole mess sort of blows over or peters out. Further intervention will only do more harm (Hippocratic oath should prevail).

The only hope for progress in the region is the ineptitude and iniquity of the jihadists.

The “leading idiots” are impossible to punish. Those “following idiots” for whom the penny has dropped should be in an advanced stage of self-punishment. The rest are incorrigible to reform.


I am not sure I agree, but it is a defensible view.




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Wednesday, August 3, 2005

Subject: Report from on the road-- Francis Hamit

Dear Jerry:

Our hotel has a free email connection, so I thought I'd give you an update on how it went in Federal Court last Thursday. Basically, very well.

I did feel like I was crashing an all-lawyers party, since I was the only freelance writer who showed up to speak. There was an amendment to the settlement becuase Thomson Gale sold rights to Highbeam in November and to Amazon in April. This caused someone to propose that, for those articles so infringed, that those writers in Category B who had articles so infringed be moved, for those articles only, from Category B to Category A which pays ten times as much. The joker in that deck is that those accepting that deal also grant a non-exclusive license to continue to use those works.

On the plane there I was going over my various documents and did some simple arithmetic. Thomson Gale, per a recent article, services 60,000 public libraries in 60 nations. That does not include their sales of articles to other libraries, to corporate intranets, or to Lexis-Nexis and Factiva and Dialog.

So let's take that as just one market and add in the fact that Kern County Library pays about $20,000 per year for their subscription to one Gale database. They are part of a larger consortium to save money, but let's take that as an average, and multiply that by the 60,000 libraries. That's 1.2 billion dollars a year in revenue, of which the publishers get between 30 and 70 percent, depending on their deal with Thomson Gale. (The lawyer there for Thomson Gale was seen to visibly wince when I mentioned this to Judge Daniels.)

Now let's take the 20 million full-text articles in that Gale database and divide it into 1.2 billion dollars. That is $60,000 per article per year in revenues. Yeah, I didn't beleive it myself and did the numbers several times. This is the revenue stream the publishers and the aggregators and database providers are trying to keep from the freelancers whose rights have been infringed.

They are trying to buy some of these for as little as five dollars each. Those in Category C will get only a maximum of $60.00 per article, those in Category B a maximum of $150 per article...and that includes the right to keep using the work. Forever.

Judge Daniels shut down attempts by Plaintiff's lawyers to keep me from speaking based on the fact that I've opted out of all this. "I want to hear what he has to say" he said. So I gave him that and a bit more and asked for permission to submit some additonal material. His stack of paper on this, as he said, is already inches growing rapidly to feet, but he allowed it. So I've more to prepare. When I get back.

I am troubled by the fact that no one was there from the so-called writer's organizations that have their names all over this thing. They left it to their lawyers. I find that a bit dismaying, as I do the lack of enterprise by the media. This should be a very big story. No one was there except for a Ms. Trotsky who is a member of both the NWU and the ASJA and thought I gave a good presentation, as did one of the Plaintiff's lawyers, who was kind enough to say that it was better than most lawyers would have done.

Anyway, I am doing Civil War research for the next two weeks and we're not back until mid-month. The new date for the Fairness Hearing is September 27th at 10 AM, and it would be very useful if some other writers would show up and speak. This judge doesn't like repetition, so there is no point in me going back, but, if we are actually to have fairness, some other people need to step up and speak to this.


Francis Hamit

Mr. Hamit is doing a service for all writers. It is probably a doomed effort. The lawyers seem to have cut a deal which enriches them and gives their clients little to nothing; but that is the way things work now.

However, as Mr. Thompson notes below, Francis could improve his math skills a bit...


The following addresses a number of subjects:

Dear Dr Pournelle:

Given your rather hostile response to my satiricle comments regarding Neo Jacobites, I've stayed away from your sight. However; after the latest shuttle launch, I couldn't resist the temptation to check in to see what you and your fellow paleocons were up to. I see you have an interesting and amusing solution to the problem of the shuttle's external tanks shedding insulation. I would be happy to donate one of my condoms to the effort, but the NASA technicians will have to trim it to fit.

The ongoing problems with the shuttle naturally inspire you to renew your proposal for SSTO spacecraft. Thanks to your prodding, I actually did some math which confirmed that although the mass ratios are huge, an SSTO vehicle using current propulsion and structural technology is theoretically feasible. However; the continuing problems with the shuttle's external tank insulation and thermal protection system highlight the key problem with SSTO. Can you build a vehicle that has a high enough mass ratio to reach orbit and still be robust enough to survive reentry and landing?

My suspicion is that the answer to the above question is no. However; the success of SpaceShip One demonstrates that a vehicle using a dramatically different design philosophy than has been prevelant at NASA might be able to be light enough to reach orbit and survive reentry. NASA's approach to the reentry problem has been inspired by two sources, the design of reentry vehicles for nuclear missiles and your beloved DYNOSOAR project. RV's for missiles were designed to minimize drag in order to maximize their accuracy. Because of their relatively small size, it was feasible to equip them with enough structural mass to survive the heating. The DYNOSAUR concept is far more sophisticated, but once again the fundamental goal was to minimize drag. This approach was first intended to allow the vehicle to fly a complete circuit of the earth using a rocket that was capable of boosting it to only suborbital velocities. When more powerful boosters became available that could launch the DYNASOAR to orbital velocity, this approach was retained to give the vehicle cross range capabillity. While this design philosphy makes perfect sense for a reconsance/strike vehicle, is it really neccessary for a vehicle that is simply an orbital cargo truck? I think not, especially if you get smart enough to use an equitorial launch facillity which would reduce the DeltaVee requirement and simply launch timing.

Your proposal for X-prizes makes perfect sense. Unlike a normal government developement contract, X-prizes would inspire independant groups to experiment with various design philosphies. SSTO types like yourself might be able to purchase SSMEs and external tanks at scrap prices. A tank with seven SSME's bolted to its butt would reach orbital velocity with perhaps a few tons of payload. Of course you'd have to figure out how the crew would survive peak accelerations of tens of gees and I seriously doubt if even my condoms would be able to survive the heat of reentry.

You might want to check out the concept for an orbital launch system that has been proposed by ATK industries. This proposal forced me to reconsider by disdain for any concept that calls for a winged first stage that launches horizontally. ATK's design uses turbojet propulsion to take off and gain altitude just like Rutan's White Knight. However; it uses a mass injection system that allows the turbojet engines to boost the vehicle to Mach 3 and an altitude well in excess of 100,000 feet. At this altitude, aerodynamic loads are low enough to simplify the vehicle seperation problem. ATK's proposal calls for the first stage vehicle to launch a multistage rocket. However; since the mass ratio equation is an exponential function, it is obvious that the altitude and velocity boost imparted by the first stage vehicle might make it possible to build a single stage vehicle that could then reach orbit and survive reentry.

Another approach to the launch problem is offerred by the understanding that the ultimate goal of any reusuable launch vehicle is to make space flight relatively affordoable. While it would be nice to send people into space for a few hundred dollars a head which is the price of a coach ticket on an airline, meeting the price of transporting overpaid executives on private business jets which works out to tens of thousands of dollars per executive trip would have a profound effect on the economics of space developement and exploration. The hybrid rocket motor technology used by SpaceShip One offers the possibillity of building a core vehicle that is reuseable but uses expendable hybrid propulsion modules to boost into orbit. A shift to LOX rather than the NOX that Rutan and Bensen favor would probably be needed to get the ISP high enough to make the mass ratio tolerable. However; if the LOX tank and complex and expensive pumps (powered perhaps by a turbine with a hybrid gas generator?) were part of the reuseable core vehicle, the expendable hybrid fuel/motor modules could probably be mass produced at a reasonably small multiple of fuel costs. The resulting vehicle could then be reasonably cost effective while retaining the operational simplicity of discarding rather than trying to recover the hybrid modules.

You of course continue to maintain your pessimism regarding Iraq. My own opinion is that while the picture isn't rosey, it is far from hopeless. The situation would be far better if the French hadn't coerced Turkey into refusing us permission to bring the Fourth Infantry Division in from the north. The addition of those highly mobile and heavilly armed troops would have allowed us to force the Iraqi army into an organized surrender rather than allowing them to disperse. Iraq would also have remained more stable if Teddy Kennedy hadn't succeeded in imposing peace time procurement rules on the Iraq aid package. Rapidly pumping a few tens of billions of dollars of aid into the economy would have been a much more effective and cheaper technique to pacify the country than the PaleoCon approach of deploying an occupation force of half a million troops. As grim as the situation seems, the fact that so many of the insurgents are foreigners suggests that contrary to the Paleocon mantra, Iraq is not fundamentally incapable of evolving into some semblance of a democratic republic.

My basic disagreement with the PaleoCons is that they fail to provide any reasonable alternative strategy to address the threat of radical Islamic countries and/or terrorists aquiring WMD. Contrary to the rantings of useless idiots like Ambassador Wilson, Saddam Hussien hadn't abandoned his hopes to aquire WMD. He had sanitized his country suffeciently that the UN inspectors probably would have certified him as being in compliance if the US had allowed those inspections to continue. The likely result is that the sanctions would have been lifted which would have allowed Saddam to generate enough cash flow to begin rearming. The US would have had no choice but to accept this because the alternative would have been an Iraqi military that was too enfebled to deter much less survive an attack by Iran. Given the eagerness with which the Russians, French and Germans sold military hardware to Iraq in violation of sanctions when Oil was less than $20 bucks a barrell, can you imagine what they would be willing to sell Saddam now that oil is at $60 a barrell?

The only strategy that has been embraced by the PaleoCons is to simply withdraw our military from the middle east as well as our support of Israel in the hope of appeasing the Islamicists. Given Islam's hitory of militarism, conquest and conversion at the point of the sword, I suspect that such an approach would only embolden them. The likely result would be the complete radicalization of the middle and the forcible occupation and conversion of Africa. The Europeans would no doubt get down on their knees to placate this renewed, Islamic empire while Idia would probably result to using nuclear weapons to defend itself.

Finally, Popular Science recently had an article on proposals to reverse the Greenhouse effect. Two that caught my attention were to fertilize a barren area of the Antarctic ocean to stimulate plankton growth which would sequestor carbon from the atmosphere and building a giant sun shade at the Earth Sun Langrangian point to reduce solar radiation. Building the Ocean Thermal systems that you described in A Step Further Out and deploying them in the tropics would do far more to stimulate plankton growth and sequestor carbon. Solar Powere Sattellytes deployed in Geosynchronus orbit would be much cheaper than the Langrangian sun shade and they could be used to provide power as well as reduce solar radiaton.

Pauline Crawford

Addressing your points more or less in the order they are made, with the understanding that I am not anything like a spokesperson for the people who call themselves paleo conservatives, and I certainly differ with most of them on many issues:

SSTO is preferable for operational reasons, presuming it can be made to work properly. USAF tested the concept in HAVE REGION, in which cross sections of a theoretical SSTO were built and tested for strength. The conclusion was that sufficient strength with adequate mass ratio for at least 1% GLOW payload was achieved with existing materials.

Having said that, I point out that I am hardly opposed to some kind of first stage in a two stage to orbit system, and I would be happy to see the concepts reduced to hardware. What we need, as I have repeatedly said, is more flight date. All our payload calculations are 3rd decimal place theory, while all our data are second decimal place numbers; we do not know if the payload for a 600,000 lb GLOW SSTO ship is positive or negative, and estimates range from negative to 12,000 pounds (about 2%) to orbit. We won't know until we fly such a ship, and I would not at all be astonished to see that the first tail number does not make orbit. The second might. As Max Hunter said when we proposed SSX (of which DC/X was a scale model) we need to fly these things, find out where they are overly strong and bore holes in them to lighten the structure, tweak engine designs, and so forth; that is why this was and is proposed as an X vehicle, not, as everyone seems to insist on building, a design prototype. The original X-3 Stiletto was designed to take off from a runway, go supersonic, and return. It did that. It was not a prototype for anything, but from building it we learned how to build the F-104 Starfighter, an airplane that dominated military aerospace for a decade.

I would be extremely happy to see a series of X projects properly designed as such: the best SSTO candidate we can build, one or more TSTO systems, etc. All together would cost less than NASA wastes trying to fix Shuttle.

Two stage systems come in two varieties, recoverable and expendable first stages (I am assuming the first stage is reusable in any event.) Each concept has operations problems. Expendables limit your launch sites and azimuth (you have to have a safe place for the debris to fall). Recoverables also have limits on azimuth and launch locations but those are not as severe. There are also two concepts in recoverable first stages: boost for velocity and altitude, and lift for altitude only. The White Knight / SS1 concept was altitude only. This gets one past atmospheric drag and sea level ISP limits, and that is worth a good bit. Air lift/ air drop altitude only first stages make sense, and may be the right way to go. We will not know until we build some SSTO and TSTO ships and test them, and I have been trying to get the X projects going again since the Council I chair first proposed that in about 1986.

Your economic observations are applicable but that has been discussed elsewhere and often. The goal is to get space access for more people than just corporate executives and those Touched By The Hand of NASA. No one supposes that this will happen in the first ships, just as air travel remained expensive and limited for a long time. The question is what one is working towards.

Rutan's Space Ship One clearly has no path to orbit. His latest sub-orbital proposals may. Space Ship One was designed purely and simply to win the X-Prize, and did so. The re-entry system could not be used at high Mach numbers nor is there any thermal protection. As to hybrid engines, I have followed their progress with decreasing enthusiasm since George Koopman proposed them to the Council I chair, and engaged by respected friend Phil Chapman to work up the case for them. They remain theoretically attractive, but every time they are used there seem to be problems, and nearly all flight and static tests have shown chugging and other problems of combustion instability. I would bet you reasonable sums that composites have no primary role to play in orbital flight; which does not preclude continued development, but I would prefer to see engine development X projects in expander engines using propane or methane and LOX, both well understood materials. I point out that hybrids with LOX forfeit one of the stronger theoretical advantages of hyprids (no cryogenics).

Incidentally, I do not think the proponents of hybrid engines would appreciate their engines being called "expendable" since they are not dropped in flight. I agree that we probably need a word for recovered  but not reused components. SS1 employed hybrid engines that come in modules; the used engine is removed and another inserted. I do not think the used ones have been recycled although there is no reason why they could not be. I do point out that the concept has the disadvantage that the engine can never be tested before flight. I am no fan of hybrid engines; once again this is not a matter to be settled by debate. If hybrids with sufficient ISP and reliability can be built I will cheer; I just don't think that will happen.


Regarding Iraq and what to do, and a national strategy:

Your arguments for the invasion echo the new NeoConservative line, and while many of my paleo conservative colleagues find them risible, I find them nearly persuasive. Not sufficiently so that I would have been in favor of the invasion had they been made at the time (they weren't; we invaded under a different rationale); but not unpersuasive now. The real question is, to whom was Iraq under Saddam a threat? And I would argue "Not to the people of the United States"  I continue to advocate a foreign policy of being friends to liberty everywhere but guardians only of our own. I would have favored the Afghanistan invasion. I would have opposed the Iraqi invasion on the grounds that there are worse monsters if all we want to do is go abroad seeking monsters and dragons to slay; the criterion ought to be threats to the United States, and Iraq didn't pose much of one.

We have spent $300 billion in Iraq. I am quite certain that there are many ways we could have spent that much money that would have made the US far safer than invading Iraq made us. Larger navy (how will they get at us if we control the seas?); better border security (even the liberals believe that for $40 billion over 5 years we could pretty well eliminate the illegal alien population); if they can't invade us by sea or air, they have to get into the US some other way, and billions of dollars is real money; one can accomplish a lot of border control with that kind of money, and do it without blunting the fighting edge of the Army and nearly destroying the National Guard and Reserves.

I would say that if containment worked for Communism it will probably work to contain radical Islam. The West's cultural weapons of mass destruction -- rock music, videos, blue jeans, iPOD, Internet including pornography, etc. -- are quite enough to bring down military jihad Islam over time. So is the picture of Western decadent luxury. Contain them so they cannot expand; defend the borders; and allow the market place to work on the rest. If they choose to keep out Western influences they will end up like Burma and North Korea; if they don't, the Cultural Weapons of Mass Destruction and the promise of earthly delights will have their way on their youth. In either event we give them far less to shoot at. It's much easier to persuade someone to attack troops on your soil than to get them to travel a long way to blow themselves up in order to vent rage on the Internet or a rock band. Even the English case proves my point: is that the worst they can do? (No, but 911 wasn't as bad as many things can be and have been; and that was the worst they could do at the time when we had little warning.)

As to the cost of not having the 4th available in the invasion if you care to look you will find I said so at the time. We had to arm the Kurds and make use of Kurdish militia, exacerbating the centrifugal tendencies in Iraq. I am not myself certain of why we so insist on an indivisible Iraq given that the nation didn't exist before World War One, and was artificial when formed; but perhaps that is an argument for another time. I will agree that it would be a mistake simply to run out now, handing the militant jihadists a victory compared to which 911 was trivial. Had we merely gone in, deposed Saddam, and departed the lesson would have been very different; but we did not choose to do that. Had we gone in, used Saddam's army to set up our own puppet regime and made Iraq into a client state, that would have been proper Imperial conduct (of course I would have opposed that, but at least it would make sense). We have now committed ourselves to invading Iraq not for our national interest but for Iraq's own good, and that may be a larger mission than we can accomplish.

Your fear of Islam taking over Africa's poverty is not my own nightmare. So far the militant jihadists do not seem to be capable of creating and running any kind of modern state. The Taliban in Africa? Hard lines on the Africans, but really --

And why do you assume that the Africans can never resist these invasions? I can tell you from first hand experience that Haille Sellassie had first class troops at his disposal. It's a question of leadership, actually.

Finally regarding Global Warming, I can only hope that the world is catching up with the proposals I made in A Step Farther Out thirty years ago; but I do not think that carbon reduction will have much effect on global temperatures. It may well be worth doing -- this high a CO2 level is an experiment I wouldn't care to continue running if there's an easy way to avoid it -- but until we understand what is going on a lot better, I would prefer to put my money into studies and data collection on climate == and put my real money into ways to make the US more energy independent. Solar power satellites, nuclear power, better research into use of electricity for transportation vehicles -- I can think of much we might have done with, say, $200 billion of the $300 billion the Neocons have spent on the War In Iraq.

And I fear I am not persuaded to adopt Big Government Conservatism, whatever that is, by any accomplishments of the Bush regime. That hardly means I have an love for the Clintons.

 I fear we Old Republic advocates are doomed to watch as neo=Jacobins and Socialists fight it out for control of a new Imperial state. But despair is a sin.



Perhaps you are wiser than I. But I have doubts that your theory that those things you refer to as " the cultural weapons of mass destruction -- rock music ... (etc.)" will in time undermine the jihadists. Exposure to the Western culture (debased as it is) seems not to be working to ameliorate the long-standing warlike core of Islam, it seems to be increasing its existing violent nature. All the London bombers knew the West. So did the 9/11 people. So did Sayyid Qutb, who helped give us the Muslim Brotherhood.

Osama himself is anything but unfamiliar with our culture, and Muslims in this country and throughout Europe danced in glee at the fall of the twin towers. Theo van Gogh in Netherlands was not killed by someone who just walked in from Iran. So the cultural undermining of Islamism, whether of the Salafi variety or the Wahhab or the Shia, seems to not be happening. As you once said, "that turns out not to be the case".

This would seem to bode poorly too for a policy of containment. Containment worked adequately against the Sovunion for many reasons, most of which you know better than I. But one reason is that the Sov's intended to survive any conflict. The jihadi's seem to be unconcerned (at best) with personal survival, and some seek death. That makes certain types of deterrence difficult. Second, we have not yet seemed to be willing to define the situation in the moral terms that Reagan did, that of portraying those who have declared themselves our enemies as being our enemies. Instead we hear "religion of peace" nonsense, which does not square with the historical record. Third, one component of the Third World War was that we made it known, occasionally, that we had a voice too. We had RFE and Radio Liberty, etc. beaming into Poland and Russia and Ukraine, etc. Today, we have Saudi-financed mosques in London and New York and LA, etc. preaching without much hindrance a message of hate and jihad, but Bibles are prohibited in Arabia, converts are killed, and non-Muslims have a tough time just staying alive as far away as Thailand. So long as we give the Muslims a "what's yours is mine, what's mine is negotiable" situation, defeat is a matter of time. Their leaders speak daily of us as their enemies. They seem to believe it and they act accordingly. Perhaps we should do so as well, before they are once again knocking at the gates of Vienna.

Iraq under Saddam may not have been a direct threat to the US, although the term "US interests" has often been morphed to fit as needed. Neither was North Korea, but we saw some action there. Neither was Mussolini's Italy, but ditto. Other examples might be found, our (illegal) support for the Brits prior to our entry to WW2 for example. Some may argue the wisdom of some of these actions, but we've certainly done it before. I like your use of "being friends to liberty everywhere but guardians only of our own". But it has occasionally been stretched a bit. As has "consent of the governed". I'd be in favor of rediscovering both as operation philosophies of government, but then there is the Pearl Harbor record. So perhaps we set the limits further out. Looking at the

Finally, will we EVER see a re-issue of Inferno? My tattered copy disappeared, along with Oath of Fealty and most of my Heinlein works, about three moves back, somewhere along I-40 near Jackson, TN and I haven't found a replacement yet.


Rog Martin

Your point is well made, and I have no definitive refutation: certainly the home-grown jihadists in Britain were subjected to the temptations of the West, and went in another direction.

And yet: I wonder if, absent US and British troops in the Middle East, it would have been so easy to persuade those young people to give up their lives in order to destroy some subway trains and busses and kill a few British subjects, some of them English? What, really, did they accomplish? And what, really, will future recruits see as an incentive to join them?

Perhaps I have unconsciously assumed that if we give up our  quests to find overseas dragons to slay (so long as we don't actually win anything or profit from our conquests) we will also give up the suicide of the west that invites the enemy in, disarms our own culture, and encourages those who hate it. Liberalism is a philosophy of consolation for Western Civilization as it commits suicide. And perhaps that assumption is wrong. I agree, if we do not even attempt to spread the positive message of the West (in addition to the cultural weapons of mass destruction) we forfeit much; but I am not at all sure that sending in the troops is a good substitute.

However: I do think it evident that if we were to build our own civilization and mind our own business, and pay attention to what is going on through use of intelligently managed intelligence services, we can keep the mayhem against us to a minimum. We will never eliminate it all, as we will never eliminate those who get drunk and beat their wives; but we can see that when we interfere the result won't be, as it was when Crook required Geronimo to give up his drunken wife-beating, a long military campaign and the slaughter of settlers.

What I meant to say there was that a low level of hostile activities is likely to be around forever, as will be traffic accidents, teens killed on prom night in drunken escapades, children killed by police when someone goes mad and begins shooting at his neighbors and the police while using his own children as shields, and so forth. There will always be such; but they become "terror" crimes only when we become terrified. I suspect that it is a bit harder to recruit people for suicide squads in Britain now: their first team killed itself, their second team was incompetent, and while the death of the Brazilian was regrettable, the no-nonsense attitude of the police may have sent a message. I think Britain would be better off without its attempts to disarm its subjects, but then it has always had subjects, not citizens, and government has always been at the pleasure of the Crown, not from consent of the governed. They seem to find that a congenial way to live, and that is not my business, and certainly they are no threat to us. I do find our relations with Britain an exception (a welcome exception in my judgment) to the axiom that nations have no friends, only enduring interests. I think we have been friends with our Mother Country for a long time, and this is a good thing for us both; but I offer that as a personal observation.

I guess what I am saying in this rambling answer is that our Cultural Weapons of Mass Destruction will do a pretty good job of disarming the jihadists at the level of state activity, and I think we can live with the less coordinated actions of those infuriated by the west. I do note that in general those who recruit the suicide bombers don't get themselves killed; and I note that for all the proximity, motivations, and the rest of its enemies, Israel is still very much alive and kicking.

So, I think, will we be. It may well be that the West needs a Moral Rearmament, but that name seems already to have been taken. Still, teaching our students about the West, and our national history (as opposed to teaching a long list of misdeeds as if that were all of our history) might be a refreshing alternative to sending our soldiers out to spread democracy on the points of their bayonets.

If this is a bit rambling and disconnected, I beg forgiveness; I seem to have a touch of summer influenza.

As to Inferno, we are at this moment at work on a sequel which will be published along with a reissue of the (mostly unchanged) original.


Of course our Cultural Diversity leads to this sort of thing, and perhaps it is already too late:

Subject: Maribel's day in court.


 - Roland Dobbins

And while blowing up a bus is not in the same league as armed police terrorizing children and dragging them kicking and screaming to the jail house over throwing rocks at bad boys, terrorization is terrorization, and the messages are not dissimilar: it will be our way, resistance is futile, and we no longer have tolerance for much of anything. Sir. Have a nice day.

I much like the excuse "that we are only doing our jobs, and it wasn't really our fault that we characterized this girl as a larger and more dangerous monster".

On the other hand, perhaps the good people of Fresno will make use of real democratic institutions to make some changes in their police and local government. That certainly would have happened when I was young. But then in those days we didn't need to make a Federal Case out of everything. Certainly there will be Federal NGO's come to Fresno now, and the locals will have little to say about what happens next.



Subject: Heavy weather.


 - Roland Dobbins

 I have been saying this for years; suddenly it is 'breaking news"?


Subject: $60,000 per article per year?

>> Now let's take the 20 million full-text articles in that Gale database and divide it into 1.2 billion dollars. That is $60,000 per article per year in revenues. Yeah, I didn't beleive it myself and did the numbers several times.<<

Well, when I do the math, $1.2 billion divided by 20,000,000 comes out to $60 rather than $60,000. Quite a difference, and one that significantly affects Mr. Hamit's arguments, even if the rather large assumptions he otherwise makes are accurate.

-- Robert Bruce Thompson

My apologies to all. Apparently my summer flu is worse than I thought; I certainly should have caught that. It does affect the argument, but not, I think, the principle. (and see below)


Subject: The World is Round.


- - Roland Dobbins

The restriction of knowledge to an elite group destroys the spirit of the society and leads to its intellectual impoverishment.

-- Albert Einstein

NeoLiberalism in a nutshell...


Subject: the poor do not know how to be poor


Fred has some thoughts on poverty in America:



I wrote more or less the same thing 30 years ago. Indeed, I know people who do live like kings on "poverty" income. Ah, well. Freedom is not free... (and see below)


CURRENT VIEW    Wednesday


This week:


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Thursday, August 4, 2005


These folks are not waiting for NASA.


July 25, 2005: Russia is now offering cheap ($14 million per shot) satellite launch services using converted ICBMs. After several years of development (mainly of a new third stage) and test firings, the Russian "Rokot" (demilitarized SS-19 ICBMs) are available for use as low cost launchers. The Russian price comes out to about $3,300 per pound of stuff put into space. This is a third of the rate when using a regular commercial launchers. Each Rokot launch can put about 1.9 tons into low orbit. This is sufficient for many commercial satellites, and is especially handy for the increasing number of communications and photo satellites going up. The Russians will have a lock on this low cost market until the end of the decade, when their supply of Cold War surplus ICBM's run out, and equally cheap commercial launchers (in development) come on the market.

From http://www.strategypage.com//fyeo/howtomakewar/default.asp?target=HTSPACE.HTM



The New Scientist is running a special section on dinosaurs. One cute tidbit: during the Cretaceous the carbon dioxide level was five times what it is today:



And all life died, right?



Gamers turn cities into a battleground



Reminds me of Dave MacDaniel's Institute for Temporal Research: they played time travellers who were visiting the XXth Century. This is long before TSA and Homeland Security of course.



With your interest in education Ken's site might be of great interest to you.

Take care, Bill On a bayou in Mississippi


Subj: Terror Birds in National Geographic

Readers of the _Burning City_+_Burning Tower_ series might enjoy this:

http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2005/08/0801_050801_terrorbirds.html  Terror Birds: Predators With a Kung-Fu Kick?

Rod Montgomery==monty@sprintmail.com

I first saw them in Discovery Magazine. Immediately put them in Burning City...

Subject: Re "live long enough to live forever"

Jerry, Mssrs Kurzweil and Grossman should - at the very least - receive an award for book promotion. It seems impossible to turn around without bumping into another review of their book, "Live Long Enough to Live Forever". The latest at http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/printpage/0,5942,15863203,00.html 

...referenced off your site.

One aspect that the book seems to ignore is the renovation of the social landscape that would take place were longevity - or anything close to it - became reality. From a brutally logical point of view, a citizen serves his government best when he works hard all his life, pays his taxes, and dies at age 65 without ever collecting a penny of social insurance. Any deviation from that formula is economically counterproductive for the government. Even extending the life of the average citizen by 10 or 20 years would have a devastating financial impact - and social insurance is already in trouble.

Because of this impact, it is unwise to look to government for assistance in achieving longevity - and indeed, a good case can be mounted that the government is already fighting it, considering the ban on federal funding for stem cell research. Averting longevity breakthroughs may not be the actual reason for stem cell research funding bans; but it is likely a consequence.

Given the current socio-political landscape, I think that we will eventually see life extension therapies, and possibly even immortality; but not soon, and not with the assistance of our government, and not for any but the wealthiest among us. I see instead a world of privately funded research and treatment facilities that skirt the edge of the law.

(And indeed, we're already seeing a preview of this. Check the USDAs 'Codex Alimentarius Commision' web page at http://www.fsis.usda.gov/regulations_&_policies/Codex_Alimentarius/index.asp  . Briefly, one of the aims of Codex is to limit the maximum dose of all vitamins sold in health food stores to the RDA for that vitamin; and if no RDA exists, then the product can not be sold. I am told this is currently the case in Germany and Australia, although I have not confirmed that. As a person who has found great relief in alternative medication, I can tell you that, at least in my case, vitamins and minerals have worked wonders; and I am dismayed to see them being removed from the shelves.)

We could possibly change this, by eliminating social insurance and mandatory retirement ages; and considering the current state of social insurance, it may well wind up eliminated by default. That will trigger a demand for elimination of mandatory retirement.

When it is in the governments interest to keep you alive and paying taxes, then we will see serious research into longevity research. But until that happens, expect the government to work diligently to ensure that you die at the appropriate budgetary point.

Regards, Charles Worton

Yah. I said long ago that the purpose of the FDA was to make certain none of us lived long enough to bankrupt Social Security. It certainly works that way. Remember when they raided Life Extension with machineguns? Serious business, these people trying to live a long time. Have to protect the government.


Subject: Fred bugged out

Dear Jerry,

A friend of mine happened to react to Fred's column on the arrest of Maribel Cuevas. Here's what she said:

"He's right, although he's attacking the wrong people as being responsible for this stupidity. It's not the cops. The cops are responsible to the community and if this is the sort of stupid policing a community wants, then this is what they'll get.

"In second grade, when a gang of kids used to follow me home from school every day throwing rocks at me, my mother told me to ignore them - don't run, don't look, don't react, even when they hit you. Eventually, they'll get bored. They did. It was scary as hell for me, and I'm pretty sure my Mom would have been happy as a clam to help my Dad do serious damage to their parents for not teaching their kids better, but nobody called any cops and, if by some strange chance I had ended up seriously hurt, they'd have been calling the cops on the PARENTS because they have this rather old fashioned notion that parents are responsible for the behavior of their children because children are, in fact, children and not expected to know any better until somebody teaches them.

"But Fred, he prefers to bang on about whimpy cops and school officials instead of putting the blame where it belongs - on the parents who have brow beat cops and school officials into behaving this way.

"Of course, Fred has also chosen to bug out and no longer participates in this country so, as far as I'm concerned, his opinion on what's going on here isn't worth the electrons that transmitted it."


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

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

Well I would not go so far. Fred's observations are relevant, and the fact that he has chosen to abandon anarcho tyranny (and the land of his ex wives) doesn't make them less so. I forget which of the 39 Articles is on the unworthiness of the administrators of the Sacraments...

  ... tw


$60,000 per article per year.


Don't feel too bad about dropping three noughts. According to the report I read the Judge missed it too. An eminent medical gent. gave evidence in a UK court that in the circumstances in question the odds on two children dying naturally were about 72 million to one. On his evidence the mother was imprisoned as a murderer. Four years later the Home Office had worked out that the correct odds were 200 to one, and the mother was released. As a final injustice the doctor was struck off the medical register on the grounds of serious professional misconduct. Certainly he wasn't very good at sums. Certainly the Crown Prosecution Service should ask him to repay his handsome fee. Certainly the mother is entitled to be compensated. As far as we know he is still a good doctor with medical skills of a high order and we have no surplus of such people.

I am reminded of a TV programme in which our Labour Minister for the Environment was asked about global warning. His answer was admirably detailed but dealt exclusively with the steps to limit CFC emissions. A gift for his Conservative shadow who was also being interviewed? Er, no. The Conservative confined his remarks to highlighting defects in the arrangements to recycle refrigerators. This was a bit unfair as no arrangement whatever had been made for this purpose. In case you haven't already despaired, ten years on, old refrigerators are being piled up in fields to await disposal.

John Edwards.

At least I know that if I get things wrong someone will correct me quickly before there is time to  jail anyone...



CURRENT VIEW    Thursday


This week:


read book now


Friday,  August 5, 2005

First, I got this today; I don't know what it looked like in html because all messages to me are converted to plaintext and if I want to see them in html I have to convert. For obvious reasons I did not convert this, nor did I visit their web links. Anyone who falls for this probably deserves what will happen:

Subject: Visa USA/Better Business Bureau/Call for Action "Cut the Line on Phishing" campaign

Verified by Visa<http://www.visa.com/globalgateway/images/logo_visa.gif> Welcome to Visa<http://usa.visa.com/img/text/ttl_verified_by_visa.gif> <http://www.visa.com/globalgateway/images/spacer.gif> Security Center Advisory!

Visa is committed to maintaining a safe environment for its community of buyers and sellers. To protect the security of your account, Visa employs some of the most advanced security systems in the world and our anti-fraud teams regularly screen the Visa system for unusual activity.

We are currently performing regular maintenance of our security measures. Your account has been randomly selected for this maintenance, and you will now be taken through a series of identity verification pages.

In order to confirm your Visa records, we may require some specific information from you.

Click here to verify your account! <http://www.ctsf.org.tw/.usa.visa.com/visa/>

Thank you for your prompt attention to this matter. Please understand that this is a security measure meant to help protect you and your account.

We apologize for any inconvenience.

Thank you for using Visa.

Copyright © 2005 Visa Inc. All Rights Reserved. Designated trademarks and brands are the property of their respective owners. Visa and the Visa logo are trademarks of Visa Inc. Visa is located at 2145 Hamilton Avenue, San Jose, CA 95125.

Second, regarding security and the notice I put up yesterday (and sent a mail warning to subscribers about), security expert Rick Hellewell says:

Re: Ebay Redirect Spams

Dr. Pournelle:

The message from Peter Glaskowsky about the Iraq Bombing spam: the email message is indeed evil. When you go to that site, you'll get (according to today's diary at the Internet Storm Center http://isc.sans.org ):

"First off, there is an exploit on the page that takes advantage of MS05-001 (Vulnerability in HTML Help Could Allow Code Execution) which is just another cross-domain scripting vulnerability. This allows you to get a file called ppp.hta from their website and is then launched on your local harddrive. This then creates a file called netlog.exe and and this appears to be launched on your local hard drive by using Windows Media Player. Netlog.exe then goes and gets another file called win32sba.exe, which is Robobot variant. Now your system can be used for what ever malicious intent the folks who set this scheme up had in mind."

So the site is evil.

And so is the ability of spammers to redirect you with a valid ebay login. Not only does the spammer get your eBay login user name and password (with the dll in the link), but you also get malware installed on your computer.

I see about 1000/day of eBay/PayPal phishing emails that use the eBay dll. Very common (searching for the dll name via Google will give you over 2 million links). I believe that eBay should not allow this dll, or more strictly limit it's use.

It's evil.

Regards, Rick Hellewell


Subject: Bonafide Virus Warning

There is a virus going around that is activated by you clicking on a message saying you will get pictures of Osama Bin Laden in a capture or suicide mode. It is a ploy to get people to activate the virus which would harm your computer. It checks out on www.snopes.com <http://www.snopes.com> and www.truthorfiction.com <http://www.truthorfiction.com> as a false promise to get you to click on their site. FYI.



They are getting worse. Be careful out there. NEVER use someone else's links to a "security" site, and never give your security information to some spammer even if you think the spammer is your credit card company, or your bank, or your grandmother, or the President of the United States, or the candidate for President you voted for.

Subject: phishing and scammers --- another trick

As a manufacturing company owner, I receive a number of free (controlled circulation) magazines. Failrly often, I get telephone solicitations to renew or receive a new one. For years (long before Internet life) the renewal process has often included a question like "To prove that we talked, can you tell me the state in which you were born" etc,etc.

Recently when I received a renewal call for a publication I do receive, the final statement was a request for my mother's maiden name --- an instant red flag to me --- an obvious form of telephone phishing, since that is often used as a "secret question". You may wish to pass this on to your readers.

Have a wonderful weekend.

Rich Borglum


Dr. Pournelle:

I've noticed more phishing emails using a newer technique of embedding a graphic image as their phishing text, along with other techniques to obscure the spammer's evil site. At the office, we block over 1000 of these each day. They are the eBay/PayPal messages that tell you your account has been compromised, so would you kindly click on the link to provide them with updated credit card and other information.

I did an analysis of one of these today, and published it on my site here http://www.digitalchoke.com/daynotes/reports/phish-080505.php  (or here: http://tinyurl.com/9awcj  ). It has an example of the message (image) you would see in the email, along with an analysis of this new technique. (No new information in the report; the phishers already know the techniques.)

Readers should be aware of this technique, which can be a bit harder for mail filters to block. Clicking on links in these emails will lead to financial fraud, and installation of malware (evil software) on your computer.

Since "Microsoft Tuesday" is upcoming next week, a reminder to all to make sure that they have enabled automatic updates of Windows and Office applications. Start at http://www.microsoft.com/protect  , or use the Windows Update icon on your Start menu.

Users of open-source operating systems and mail clients are susceptible to these phishing attacks.

Be careful out there.

Regards, Rick Hellewell

(Emphasis added by me.)


Subject: How I would do nation building


20% of small children in Niger are dying due to a 7.5% crop shortage. Under normal conditions 25% don't make it to their 5th birthday. I calculate that's about a 5% chance of dying per year. So it's pretty bad this year.

I don't think that it is beyond the powers of first world nations to make places like Niger a lot better.

What I wouldn't do:
1) I wouldn't start out with a military invasion.
2) I wouldn't send money or easily convertible goods. The worst thing about the skimming that goes on at the top is that it disheartens the aid-givers.
3) I wouldn't concentrate on changing the government. Better government is predicated on better conditions. What they need now isn't Jeffersonian Democracy, and that's the only one we know.
4) I wouldn't have high expectations. What is important is what is doable.

What I would do:
1) I would try to change farming methods: advocate switches to high-yield crops and modern techniques. If Nigers couldn't do it themselves, then there might be people from somewhere else who could be brought in to homestead.
2) I would work on improving IQ with good early childhood nutrition.
3) I'd build sweatshops and buy a lot of their junk to get them started.


My old ecology teacher, Rufus King at the University of Iowa, used to start nearly every lecture by saying three times, "You can't solve famines by feeding people."

I used to try to argue with him. I never won. Differential equations was a pre-requisite for the class so that you could not claim you did not understand when he modeled the systems.

Niger has the highest female fertility in world with 9 babies per woman. Yemen is not far behind them.

A year or so ago I saw a seminar on C-Span by some demographer who said that the fertility decline has reversed in a number of nations including Niger. The idea that fertility is just going to keep declining is a fallacy. Natural selection argues against it.

How can a country that has very low IQs and 9 babies per mother ever hope to improve without changing those two basic facts?

Why would smart farmers want to live in such a place? American farmers would do better in Brazil and some are moving there.


Immigrants need not (and should not) be from the US. Empirical evidence is that one and only one remedy to high fertility has ever worked: wealth. Wealthy people have fewer children. Education of women probably helps but that usually comes only with wealth.

I am tempted to suggest we send Joe Wilson there to gather facts and suggest remedies.


Subject: Africa wants 2 veto seats on Security Council

Germany, India, Japan, and Brazil seem to adequately make their respective cases for inclusion on the Security Council, however even they are prepared to walk before they run by putting off for another day the demand for veto power, yet the African Union demands for itself 2 seats with veto authority and 2 of 5 additional seats, and I have yet to see them put forth a rationale on why their case makes any sense whatsoever.

If there is a plan to make the UN an even more worthless institution, then surely agreeing to such a governance proposal will hasten the demise of the UN. What's holding the Administration back?

Question of the day: Which is worse - UN governance or African governance, or are they equivalent?


-------------------- http://sify.com/news/fullstory.php?id=13911018 

New Delhi: New Delhi on Friday expressed regret over a call by African leaders for two veto-wielding seats on an enlarged UN Security Council that could hurt the chances of other aspirants, including India for slots.

On Thursday, Africa Union leaders spurned overtures from UN Security Council hopefuls India, Brazil, Germany and Japan -- known as the Group of Four or G4 -- to support their plan for overhauling the international body.

Instead, the African leaders meeting in Addis Ababa approved their own proposal for reforming the UN body that called for two permanent seats with veto powers.

Foreign ministry spokesman Navtej Sarna called the African Union's decision "a matter of regret", but added in a statement India would "in close consultation with G-4 members continue to engage African countries with a view to promoting a common understanding."

Under the current set-up that reflects the 1945 post-war balance of power, the council has 15 seats -- 10 chosen by regions that rotate every two years and five permanent veto-holding members which are the United States, China, Britain, France and Russia.

Brazil, Germany, India and Japan have jointly launched a bid to secure permanent berths on the UN Security Council. They had been lobbying furiously for African Union backing for their plan to enlarge the council to 25 members, with six new permanent seats without veto power and four non-permanent seats.

The G4 plan envisions one permanent non-veto seat each for its members and two for Africa, with Africa also getting one non-permanent seat and sharing a second with other developing nations. <snip>


Subject: How schools are destroying the joy of reading.


-- Roland Dobbins












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Column Deadlines



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This week:


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Sunday, August 7, 2005


My Birthday; and column deadlines.




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Entire Site Copyright, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005 by Jerry E. Pournelle. All rights reserved.

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