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Mail 374 August 7 - 14, 2005






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Monday  August 8, 2005

Harry Erwin's Letter From England:

Subject: Letter from England

Generally another quiet week. Robin Cook died--one of the few UK politicians of any party with real integrity. See <http:// news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/4127676.stm>  <http:// politics.guardian.co.uk/labour/comment/0,9236,1544700,00.html>  <http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,60-1725624,00.html> .

The UK Government is considering the use of treason charges against preachers who support terrorism <http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/ uk_politics/4130454.stm> <http://www.guardian.co.uk/attackonlondon/ story/0,16132,1544724,00.html>  <http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/ 0,,22989-1726134,00.html> . Like most Americans with UK ancestry, I'm descended from men and women who were executed for or even actually guilty of treason, so I feel a certain amount of concern. It's not accidental that treason is discussed specifically in our Constitution <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Treason>  <http://www.usconstitution.net/ const.html#A3Sec3>  <http://www.usconstitution.net/ constnotes.html#A3Sec3> --aside from the issue of one man's terrorist being another man's freedom fighter, in England it was a charge frequently used to suppress dissent, as it may be intended here. During the American Revolution, it often went both ways, depending on whether the colonial government was in revolt or Tory.

They're starting to bring the bomb plotters to trial <http:// news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/4130494.stm>  <http://www.timesonline.co.uk/ article/0,,22989-1726151,00.html

Comments on events: <http://www.guardian.co.uk/Columnists/Column/ 0,5673,1544798,00.html>  <http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/ 0,,22989-1726157,00.html>

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

Thomas Cromwell's Parliament made it a treason to deny the King his titles; which is how they executed Sir Thomas More. But if one is taken with a bomb or bomb makings is that no levying war on the United States (or United Kingdom)?


Down Nostalgia lane:

Subject: The end of Complex 13.


-- Roland Dobbins


Subject: Aloha, Apartheid.


-- Roland Dobbins


Subject: USS Liberty

Just looked at this: http://home.cfl.rr.com/gidusko/liberty/ and wondered what you think?


I am told that this matter was settled, it is all an accident, and anyone who questions it further is anti-Semitic.





This week:


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Tuesday,  August 9, 2005


Your IQ's gone up - now we can execute you


A CONVICTED murderer spared from Death Row because he was judged to be mentally retarded could now face execution after his IQ was found to have risen by at least 15 points.

Daryl Atkins, 27, who had an IQ of 59 in 1998, scored a historic victory in the United States Supreme Court three years ago when judges ruled that executing mentally retarded criminals was unconstitutional.

His legal campaign helped spare dozens of prisoners from Death Row.

Now, however, he could face death by lethal injection after he recorded a higher test score of at least 74, placing him just above Virginia's threshold of 70.

Dr Evan Nelson, who tested Atkins in 1998 and 2004, wrote in a report last year that "his constant contact with the many lawyers that worked on his case" gave him more intellectual stimulation in jail than he got during childhood. <snip>

Hoo Haw.




This week:


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Wednesday, August 10, 2005

 This will be catchup day. It will be Short Shrift, but there is a LOT of mail that needs attention and posting.

Star Wars Revenge of Sith translations

Dear Jerry,

A friend sent me this terribly funny page by a fellow in Shanghai who purchased a bootleg "Revenge of the Sith" DVD. It had been dubbed in Chinese, with English subtitles. HOWEVER, the subtitles are not transcribed from the original English dialogue, but are an English translation of the Chinese translation. "Revenge of the Sith" translates as "The Backstroke of the West" My favourite malapropism is that "The Jedi Council" translates to "The Presbyterian Church".


I was surprised that one of the Imperials didn't say "Your bases are now belong to us. :D

Cheers, Rod Schaffter


Computers for Kids and Bombs on Planes.


Thirteen schoolchildren in Berks* County are charged with the felony of computer trespass. It is alleged that they bypassed the security on the Apple iBooks that their school had issued them with and then used the iBooks for inappropriate purposes. They discovered the administrator password that they needed to commit this crime on a sticker attached to the computer when it was issued to them.

Not to be outdone by a mere schoolmaster's accidental stupidity, the TSA hit back at once. An airliner with 141 people on board was very sensibly diverted to a remote part of Houston Hobby Airport when some passengers found a note that said there was a bomb on board. The passengers were not allowed to disembark for an hour. Some of them would like to know why there was this delay. Others would like to do horrible things to the TSA.

* "Berk" is a shortened form of the Cockney rhyming slang phrase "Berkley Hunt" which has passed into common usage. The Berkley Hunt was, until foxhunting became illegal, a notable organisation devoted to the killing of foxes.

John Edwards.


Luddites or reasonable people with justified fears, Dr. Pournelle?


"The 700,000-member General, Municipal, Boiler makers and Allied Trade Union is demanding the European Commission outlaw radio tags in ware houses. Not on merchandise, but on workers.

"The stated fear is they'll be tracked every time they take a break or head for the rest room. The unstated fear: Every movement becomes trackable. Employers, using the information gathered by ever-present radio waves, could see which warehouse worker really is most efficient and prioritize hiring, firing and overtime accordingly."

Charles Brumbelow


Insufficient data. I know that efficiency experts were hampered by union rules back in the 30's and 40's. Comments welcome.


Subject: Mortgaged to the House of Saud.


-- Roland Dobbins

I am less than a fan of Robert Scheer, but perhaps he has a point?


Subject: DTV.


--- Roland Dobbins

Participatory Culture....


Subject: New way to store information on Hazmat

There's a story at The Register, http://www.theregister.co.uk/2005/08/09/papyrus_nuclear_waste/ , telling how the British are printing all the documentation about the waste products from the research reactors they're dismantling and storing it in conditions as similar as possible to those in an Egyptian tomb. After all, the papyrus has lasted for thousands of years, so there's a good chance that this will too.

-- Joe Zeff

Prime Technology....


Subject: Eminent Domain and Native Americans

Thought of an individualized approach to the problem of eminent domain being used to benefit developers, Dr. Pournelle. Bury a few family members in the back yard; special rules apply to cemeteries. This is even better if your ancestors are native Americans or if you can persuade a few Native Americans to be buried there. Of course this brings its own set of problems if YOU as the owner later want to develop the property.

Charles Brumbelow

That ought to do it.

Actually, the healthy publicity of the US Supreme Court saying this was not a Federal matter and one ought to look to your state for protection here has been quite beneficial. And it is NOT a federal matter, in my judgment.


Subject: Federalism at work?


--- Roland Dobbins

This one is definitely worth following up, and the questions raised are important; I'll try to get back to this when I have a few minutes.

On a related matter:

Subject: "We can help you LEGALLY!"


-- Roland Dobbins

The mind boggles.


Subject: Pool of Siloam found?


- Roland Dobbins

So John wasn't just being symbolic, and boy is there egg on the faces of some revisionist Biblical interpreters.


Subject: Harry Erwin's Letter from England

Dear Jerry,

Like many of your readers, I always enjoy the insightful links Harry Erwin supplies in his "Letter from England" for the British perspective on world events, and, recently, in depth coverage of the events in London. One problem I used to have was that many of the links appeared broken. Recently in examining the links closely (not as they appear in the letter but as the appear on my browser's address line after clicking on them) I discovered the key to following every link. Something in the process sometimes occasionally plants extra space characters in the link. For instance the first of the two links in this paragraph:

Comments on events: <http://www.guardian.co.uk/Columnists/Column/0,5673,1544798,00.html    <http://www.guardian.co.uk/Columnists/Column/%200,5673,1544798,00.html>  > <http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/ 0,,22989-1726157,00.html <http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/%200,,22989-1726157,00.html> >

Shows up in my browser address line (IE 6.0.2900.2180.xpsp_sp2_gdr.050301-1519) as:


Which gets a "Site not found" response. Look closely, and you'll see that there was a space in the original URL after the slash after the word "Column", and that somehow in the linking process this has become "%20" in the browser window. If you edit out the "%20" the link works fine. Don't know where in the process of Harry's letter to your site to my browser this occurs, but it's a simple fix to see all Mr. Erwin's links. Don't know how many of your other readers this affects, but I hope any that were as frustrated as me can find some relief.

-- Cecil Rose

Thank you for the feedback. I am glad to see that at least some readers find Dr. Erwin's letter as interesting as I do. We'll see what we can do to stop this linkage error in future.


Subject: Virginia Postrel on 'Economic Sociology'.


- Roland Dobbins

The American Sociological Society broke free of the economists' professional society back around the turn of the 19th-20th Century. It was changed to American Sociology Association after a few years when acronyms got into wider use. It has always claimed to be a "science" but there are few examples of scientific behavior on the part of sociologists. This isn't without exception. Holloway at Columbia, Charles Murray, George Lundberg all stand out as scientists rather than "social scientists"; but most sociology is Voodoo Science. (Alas there is a tendency toward voodoo in the parent economist profession as well).

Few students of sociology acquire any tools of science or scientific analysis. The number who have any understanding of statistical inference and the assumptions of statistical thinking -- who could read Savage's The Foundations of Statistics with any possibility of comprehending even one chapter -- is very small. They don't learn statistical inference (beyond "taking stat courses in the sosh deparment", i.e. cookbook courses in how to calculate means and standard deviations without any comprehension of what those mean, and how to do correlation coefficients without comprehension of what a correlation actually implies). They don't learn differential equations. They are encouraged to "have the sociological experience" whatever the heck that means (and I didn't make it up; a prominent sociologist tried to tell me what you would get from a major in sociology).

There was I think a recent essay on the origins of sociology. I'll try to dig it up.


Subject: NYT - Debunking the Drug War 2005-08-09.pdf

This might be of interest, Dr. Pournelle.... FWIW, he's singing my song.

To quote:

"America has a serious drug problem, but it's not the "meth epidemic" getting so much publicity. It's the problem identified by William Bennett, the former national drug czar and gambler.

"Using drugs," he wrote, "is wrong not simply because drugs create medical problems; it is wrong because drugs destroy one's moral sense. People addicted to drugs neglect their duties."

"This problem afflicts a small minority of the people who have tried methamphetamines, but most of the law-enforcement officials and politicians who lead the war against drugs. They're so consumed with drugs that they've lost sight of their duties."

Some would say we've learned nothing from Prohibition. IMHO that is incorrect, we've learned a great deal. Specifically, we've learned that criminalizing any behavior creates opportunities for wealth and power for politicians, government employees, and those who would organize and market that behavior. We've also learned that such criminalization gives government an additional set of restraints and controls to apply to all the citizens.

Charles Brumbelow

One might expect the sociology departments to have views on this, but I haven't seen any that make much sense.


Dr. Pournelle, I have to admit I am a little confused about your answer on Monday's mail. How did Cromwell's Parliament have anything to do with Thomas More's execution? As I recall, More was executed by Henry VIII and Cromwell's Parliament came after the reign of Charles I a hundred years later.


Thomas Cromwell, Wolsey's successor. (See Ann of the Thousand Days; it's pretty good.) The Cromwell family were not unimportant people even before Henry VIII. Wolsey was both a Cardinal and Lord Chancellor. "If I had served my God half so well as I served my king, He would not leave me to die in this awful place." Not the best last words...

Oliver Cromwell would have been several generations later. I believe Thomas Cromwell is still buried in his original tomb. Oliver's remains were dug up and thrown into the Thames by the common hangman. Macaulay lamented that they "threw into the Thames the bones of the finest prince who ever ruled England." The Irish have a somewhat different opinion of him...


Subject: School Diversity and Xenorxian Overlords

'If I can be candid, some parents and students within District 603 have been less than welcoming of our growing Xenorxian immigrant community. Without "pointing fingers," this has too often led to unnecessary incidents of misunderstanding and vaporization.'

See http://iowahawk.typepad.com/iowahawk/2005/08/see_you_in_sept.html 

- Kevin Cheek

Very important. Zero Tolerance for insufficient sensitivity to Xenorxian customs...


Subject: Global warming and USA Today


This article gives a good overview of the current state of global warming political science.


It covers mostly familiar ground concerning the "hockey stick" and those who object to the it's methodology.

The article is a followup to a mistaken reference to a USA Today piece as reporting settled fact.


The engineers who read thomasnet (the web version of the Thomas Register) objected, which seems to account for the followup article..

Regards, Charles Lipari


I'm delighted to learn that despite being at Columbia, I have some scientific credibility, but a sociologist I ain't. I'm a physical anthropologist, specializing in fossil hominids and human brain evolution. My only sociological insight is that the species is nuts.

Best, Ralph L. Holloway Dept. Anthropology Columbia University

My apologies. I read several items by Dr. Holloway a while ago and was impressed enough to recall his name if not his department.


CURRENT VIEW    Wednesday


This week:


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Thursday, August 11, 2004

You may find this amusing. Go to the broken link first.


 A PROBLEM OF FAKED ADDRESSES (Bear with me, it's long but there's a point.)

I received the following without explanation. There was an email return address. Searching all my address books discovers absolutely no entries for Al Nichols.



Al Nichol

First, I presumed some spammer has been faking my return address? Or on something more serious. I sent a note: "Let me assure you, Mr. Nichol, if you are reading this, I don't have you in any address book that my search and destroy robots can find."

That was probably a mistake, although I did send it to a valid address. But then I noted that Outlook told me it had converted my reply and the copy of the message to plaintext. The message was in html, which seems a bit strange for a message of this kind. I am now beginning to look into this, but I fear it's yet another kind of phishing expedition: there may be a web bug in the original message. I'll look.

. . .

But in fact there is not. The only html in there is formatting. The message header has nothing odd about it either. So it's not a phishing expedition, but it does server as a warning that something of this sort could be used as one.


Curiouser and curiouser. I now have:

I sent Mr. Nichol a copy of his letter with an inquiry asking if he would like to explain. What I got was

-----Original Message----- From: [ Al Nichol]

] Sent: Thursday, August 11, 2005 10:50 AM
 To: jerryp@jerrypournelle.com Subject:






To which I can only reply:

Sir: I presume you are the victim of a spammer who has spoofed my mail return address. Since I don't have the mail headers or copies of whatever it is that is annoying you, there's not much I can do about it.

Anyone can spoof a return address.

Since I don't know the nature of the messages you are getting, I don't know if they are phishing, an attempt at identity theft, or simple spam. Since we have no reason to correspond, one action you might take is simply to put in a rule deleting any mail that purports to come from my mailing address. That way you will never see it.

Sending angry letters to me provides me with material to write about in my columns, but it isn't likely to do you much good.

Best wishes,

Jerry Pournelle
 Chaos Manor

I put all this up mostly as illustration of a problem with the Internet. There being no way to verify the return address of an email, it's never safe to assume that an annoyance originated with the person it's supposed to have come from. It's also a fairly good way to frame someone, and I may use that in a novel. Send some sexual harassment email faking the name and return address of a colleague -- say a rival for promotion -- to the office virago in hopes that it will result in a formal complaint. Even better, if the mail generates a reply to the faked address, investigators may find copies of the original in the reply, and how could one prove one had never sent the email in the first place? Or bait someone in hopes of starting a "let's you and him fight" crisis. The possibilities have not been explored in fiction (or I haven't seen the explorations).


Subject: No enemies to the left.


-- Roland Dobbins

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

-- Albert Einstein

A rather juicy story, and your explanation of why so few have heard of it is probably quite accurate. There are no enemies to the left among the liberals. (Although I have a friend whose sister was expelled from the Troyskyites for left deviationism. When told of that my first remark was "My God, how?"


Subject: More DMCA insanity.


--- Roland Dobbins

 The law is a ass, a idiot...


Subject: Why?


 Roland Dobbins

Because they can?


Subject: Lux.


- Roland Dobbins

A long and rambling review of a Risk-like game that seems to be taking over the Kingdom of the Geeks. It is said to be addicting. Since I don't need another addiction I have avoided it. You are hereby warned.


Subject: Briefing Book Baloney.


- Roland Dobbins

But Jimmy Carters is so sincere! How could he be wrong? Or for that matter, lose an election to Ronald Reagan? I mean, the Iran Hostage Situation could not possibly have had anything to do with that election? The 'era of limits' and 'national malaise' were such popular themes, why would any voters reject them? Who would want to WIN the Cold War when it was so much better to negotiate the surrender of the West in the era of limits and national malaise? Surely George Will is the evil person who kept Jimmy from a second term!


Subj: ARTILLERY: FireFinder Falling Apart From Heavy Use

 ARTILLERY: FireFinder Falling Apart From Heavy Use

=August 11, 2005: The United States is wearing out it's 1970s era FireFinder mortar finding radar, because of heavy use. ...=

Rod Montgomery==monty@sprintmail.com

So it's back to spotters and radios?


Dear Dr. Pournelle, regarding the link: http://www.softlab.ece.ntua.gr/~sivann/pub/swf/may02-smilepop-soapbox4.s <http://www.softlab.ece.ntua.gr/%7Esivann/pub/swf/may02-smilepop-soapbox4.s>  wf

the 404 Error message which pops up from the sliced link (the "wf" fell on the next line and not in the URL) is almost as entertaining as the URL itself which I presume you were intending to post: http://www.softlab.ece.ntua.gr/~sivann/pub/swf/may02-smilepop-soapbox4.swf <http://www.softlab.ece.ntua.gr/%7Esivann/pub/swf/may02-smilepop-soapbox4.swf>

which is the Flash movie about e-mail chain letters. Thanks for a double laugh... James Siddall jr

The broken link
continued to talk to you
but you didn't listen



CURRENT VIEW    Thursday


This week:


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Friday,  August 12, 2005

We are still cleaning up and I am spending several hours a day in the Monk's Cell, so it is still Short Shrift season here...

Maybe this is from the lighter side, Dr. Pournelle, maybe not....



"Ever wonder whether that spouse, friend or co-worker on the other end of the phone is really paying attention? The "Jerk-O-Meter" may hold the answer. "Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology are developing software for cell phones that would analyze speech patterns and voice tones to rate people -- on a scale of 0 to 100 percent -- on how engaged they are in a conversation."

Wonder if the technology could be applied to radio/television speeches? If so, what would it tell us about politians and the ben Laden's of the world?

Charles Brumbelow


Subject: pfish & spam

I have come to think that the anonymity of the internet is more trouble than it is worth. At least once a day I find something that got filtered that shouldn't. That means every time I sign on I have to sift 2 or 3 screens of crap looking for relevant stuff. I have no idea how e-bay or paypal really communicate with their customers.

Walter E. Wallis

You know, I have no idea how they communicate legitimately either.  There needs to be a way to verify senders. I do not know what it is. I would pay for a service that intercepted my mail, verified the senders and passed that along to me, and then sent me the rest in a bundle once in a while like Harry the Mailman in Lucifer's Hammer on Happy Trash Day...


Galaxies 2x the size we thought?


--- Roland Dobbins

What else don't we know that we used to know for sure?


Subject: The Black Family: 40 Years of Lies.


-- Roland Dobbins

Well, we all know what the problem is. Moynihan said it a very long time ago, but he was ignored. Liberalism cannot accept that idea have consequences and that their well intentioned actions can have horrid effects.


Subject: Neo-Liberalism

In Australia we have a wonderful institution - compulsory student unionism. All university students - numbering nearly 1 million - are compelled to pay money to student unions which spend it on rat-bag extremist politics, a variety of clubs and societies (you're a 45-year-old with a family, scrimping and saving to re-qualify yourself. You have to pay money not only to political groups you may find repugnant, but sporting clubs you never use, etc), and privileges for student politicians. It is pure Mussolini Corporatist-State-style fascism. I have been writing articles wherever I can recently criticizing this, and as a result am being attacked as ... can you guess? ... a NEO-LIBERAL!

Hal Colebatch

Amusing for us, perhaps not so for you. Liberalism is a philosophy of consolation for Western Civilization as it commits suicide. I see no evidence refuting this.

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


Subject: The long march through the institutions continues . . .


--- Roland Dobbins


Jerry, I had never before seem such dramatic examples of target fixation as this Java applet.


Focus on the white-shirted players, and count the number of passes of one white-shirted player to another.

---- Ken Mitchell


Interesting article, Dr. Pournelle.


"Hare began by talking about Mafia hit men and sex offenders, whose photos were projected on a large screen behind him. But then those images were replaced by pictures of top executives from WorldCom, which had just declared bankruptcy, and Enron, which imploded only months earlier. The securities frauds would eventually lead to long prison sentences for WorldCom CEO Bernard Ebbers and Enron CFO Andrew Fastow.

"These are callous, cold-blooded individuals," Hare said.

"They don't care that you have thoughts and feelings. They have no sense of guilt or remorse." He talked about the pain and suffering the corporate rogues had inflicted on thousands of people who had lost their jobs, or their life's savings. Some of those victims would succumb to heart attacks or commit suicide, he said.

"Then Hare came out with a startling proposal. He said that the recent corporate scandals could have been prevented if CEOs were screened for psychopathic behavior. "Why wouldn't we want to screen them?" he asked. "We screen police officers, teachers. Why not people who are going to handle billions of dollars?"

Bob Lewis, writing about the Fast Company article at http://www.issurvivor.com/ArticlesDetail.asp?ID=522  suggests that Boards of Directors might screen for psychopathic characteristics and then eliminate from consideration those candidates WITHOUT such attributes. Specifically....

"In the modern world of business, if boards of directors were to apply the Psychopathy Checklist to CEO candidates, many would use it to identify those best suited for the job. They'd use it, that is, to systematically exclude candidates exhibiting capabilities for empathy, compassion, remorse and guilt. While conventionally regarded as useful personality traits, they can interfere with the successful operation of a modern publicly held business."

Something to consider as the nation worries about China and oil prices and Iraq and Iran and North Korea and....

Charles Brumbelow

Emphasis added by me. I suspect that's what would happen. Liberalism is a disease that puts the heart above the head. Modern capitalism solves this by replacing the heart with a cash register. (I realize this is an over simplification...)


Subject: Math and Sociology

Dr. Pournelle,

I'm a bit unusual. In my sometimes misspent youth I tried things that other people didn't.

My academic career was, shall we say, varied. I started grad work in physics in the 1970s. A few years into that I discovered I didn't much like bureaucratic physics. I also noted that employment opportunities for physicists were dropping dramatically at the time. So what did I do? Well, you should know that at the time I was still in my 20s and filled with youthful idealism. I thought switching into social psychology was the way to go.

At first it seemed like a natural. Everyone welcomed me with open arms.

My first surprise in grad school was the faculty dropping the statistics course for me. They said I didn't need it. They were right. Well into the second semester, some of my fellow grad students came to me with some of their statistics homework. They were getting to standard deviations. I had at that point forgotten when I learned about standard deviations. It might have been in high school. It certainly was by early college.

I also remember the time a clinical psychology professor hired me as a math/computer consultant. He was sure he was getting real differences between two experimental groups -- he just couldn't prove it statistically. I looked at his study and results. What I did was break the variables into three groups and plot them along X-Y-Z axes. Presto! The differences between groups came out clear as day. The professor hadn't thought of a three axis rotation.

Realizing that employment opportunities were dropping in social psych, I switched into software development. That turned out to be a wise decision.

I do respect people in the soft sciences. I did learn a good deal about people and how they interact while doing that bit of grad school. But they should realize that their field is still, in many ways, in its infancy. I think they'd do better to get out into the larger society. They very definitely need to learn more mathematics as well.


Chuck Divine


Speaking of capitalism:

Subject: The FCC and The Future of DSL Services

Dr. Pournelle,

In his weekly column entitled "The Gloves Come Off," Robert X. Cringely commented on the recent FCC action blocking independent ISPs from wholesale access to telephone companies' DSL circuits.


This does not look promising.

Robert J. Fox

My last look into this convinced me I don't know enough. The telephone companies protest that they were being required to discount the price of the rope that would hang them; and that there was no incentive to invest in new fiber or even better copper technology if they had to then rent their lines at below their profit margins. While this is expected, is the argument invalid?

I have no expertise in this. My views are old. I thought regulated public utilities that gave us Bell Labs were a pretty good deal; I recall I always got dial tone from Ma Bell when in other countries we had to -- well once, I had to call California from Paris to get a call routed back to Marseilles, since the French phone company was either on strike or wasn't working. And getting dial tone in most countries was impossible while AT&T was providing service. And we had Bell Labs, the advanced planning department for the human race. Remember UNIX?

So I have never been as enamoured of deregulation as many seem to be, and I was never sure that Judge Green, the Bell Breaker, did the nation as big a favor as he thought: I thought it inevitable that the communications companies would consolidate, and that what we would have would not be deregulation but a competition of lawyers and lobbyists, none of them with the public interest in mind. At least the old regulated utility concept had a couple of commissioners who thought about the public interest.

So: I invite comments. We have competition between DSL and the cable companies. Neither cable nor Baby Bells nor the "independent" phone companies that charged me $25 for a call from a Houston hotel to California on their "independent" pay phones in the middle of nowhere -- none of those seem to care about public interest. When two capitalists get together they ALWAYS conspire to see how to prevent others from entering the market and competing with them. That's Adam Smith and he was right, right down the line.

Much "deregulation" turned out to be a field day for lawyers.

We lost Bell Labs and there is no institution comparable on the face of the earth. God knows the academic departments with their competition for "peer reviewed publication" aren't discovering the background radiation of the universe, developing information theory, writing UNIX, or inventing the transistor...

Anyway. I invite comment on regulation vs. deregulation in a field of "natural monopoly"; given the coming of wireless, cable modems, etc.


Siberia again

Subject: Siberian permafrost link


Here is a link regarding the Siberian permafrost: http://www.physorg.com/news5769.html 

Regards, Jim Laheta

Which is a UPI report of what New Scientist said. It isn't even a primary interview with the Russians. It's no more a primary source than anything else. And see below





This week:


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Subject: Siberia warming

Dear Dr. Pournelle,

the Siberia warming story piqued my interest, so I decided to dig out the source. The only thing I got (via scholar.google.com) is


Lapshina, E.D., Kirpotin, S.N.: "Natural dynamics of sub-arctic landscapes in the west siberian plain as indicator of global changes of climate". In: Science and Technology, 2003. Proceedings KORUS 2003. The 7th Korea-Russia International Symposium. Volume 4, 2003. pp. 39-45. ISBN: 89-7868-617-6.

Moreover (and the following has all been found on the web):

A Judith Marquand is listed as a member of the School of Geography, Oxford University, but she is not on the staff list of this school. There is someone of that name at the "Oxford Centre for the Environment, Ethics, and Society", which has a defunct homepage (www.mansfield.ox.ac.uk/ocees), and which seems to be based at the Mansfield College, Oxford. No trace of someone with that name on the academic staff list of this college, though.

ISI web of knowledge (portalt.wok.mimas.ac.uk/portal.cgi) lists exactly two publications of "J Marquand" in this area of research, namely

D. Banks, A. M. Adam, V. Bayliss, G. M. Hogg, W. Bleuten, M. Dees, O. V. Karnachuk, K. Le Blansch, J. Marquand: "Environmental Protection in the Tomsk Region of the Russian Federation: A Case Study", Environmental Management, Volume 26, Number 5, November 2000, p. 585.


<same authors>, <same title>, <same journal>, Volume 26, Number 1, July 2000, p. 35-46.

My guess is that the first paper is the abstract for the second one.

According to ISI, none of these papers has been cited by someone else.

In these papers, Marquand's address is given as Holymoor Consultancy, Derbyshire, (probably www.holymoor.co.uk). No sign of someone of that name at this consultancy service, neither in the staff list nor in the publication report.

Searching for Kirpotin looked dangerous, since I do not know what transliteration is used. The only thing I could dig out of ISI was

Kirpotin SN: "Life forms of organisms as patterns of organization and spatial ecological factors", Zhurnal Obshchei Biologii 66 (3): 239-250 May-June 2005,in Russian.

No citations either on ISI.

Best regards,

Joerg Fliege

 Management Mathematics
Research Group School of Mathematics
The University of Birmingham
Edgbaston, B15 2TT Birmingham U.K.

Thank you. The melting of a region of permafrost that has remained frozen for 11,000 years is an important matter, and one would expect to see it widely reported and investigated, with more references to the scientific literature. Which is not to say it is not real, but until I see something other than a report in New Scientist repeated by the Guardian, I do not think it worth a very great deal of attention. Which is not to say that a less partisan source will not be found; but until it is, I'm not revising my views on global warming.

Thanks again for digging into this for me.


Subject: Plame case, interesting link

Dear Jerry,


-- N. C. Shapero

Well, it is certainly interesting as insight into the mind of a prosecutor. It is less so in relation to the actual case. The statute says

"Whoever, having or having had authorized access to classified information that identifies a covert agent, intentionally discloses any information identifying such covert agent to any individual not authorized to receive classified information, knowing that the information disclosed so identifies such covert agent and that the U.S. is taking affirmative measures to conceal such covert agent's intelligence relationship to the U.S."

and the more relevant clause, which is not discussed by the retired prosecutor, is "having or having had authorized access to classified information that identifies a covert agent". Authorized access to classified information is one thing; authorized access to classified information that contains source data is another, and far more restricted level; and authorized access to actual names of covert agents is a third.

Now suppose you are a White House advisor, and you are told "Yah, Joe Wilson's wife works over there in Langley and she got him the job." You are talking to, say, Rove, and you work somewhere in his advisory staff. You got the information from someone who works for you. All of you have clearances, although neither you nor your subordinates have clearances for source data because you have no need to know that. Rove probably does, because briefings at the level where he works will sometimes contain source data, but I seriously doubt that was the source of his information that Plave worked at the CIA and she was the one who suggested Wilson.

The fact remains that Wilson himself blew her cover when he published his Op Ed about his mission for the CIA. From that point on it was inevitable that someone would discover that he got the job at his wife's suggestion. After all, that wasn't a great state secret.

The moral of this story is that if you have relatives in covert jobs, you need to be careful about going public about your missions for the Company...



Win2K worm warning.


--- Roland Dobbins



Subject: Geology

Dr. Pournelle:

One of the interesting things about your site is the diverse subject range. Perhaps you or one of your readers could ponder something.

In the news recently was a story on how the dinosaurs were affected by extensive lava flows in India. The timeframe was 65 million years ago. Now, in the same 65 million year point, a huge asteroid hit the Yucatan Peninsula. This is approximately an antipodal location.

Does it make any sense that the asteroid hit sent shockwaves directly through the Earth and caused the eruptions in India? There was a picture of one of the moons of either Jupiter or Saturn that had a huge crater on one side, and a badly fractured area directly opposite. Perhaps the same mechanism?

I'm no geologist, so this is merely uneducated observation. Perhaps if there is someone out there who is in a position to know, they would comment.


S. C. Healy

 An interesting speculation. Of course "65 million years ago" isn't precisely "simultaneously"... And see Dr. Woosley's answer in next week's mail.


Subject: New guidelines for TSA?

Perhaps they are getting nervous after shaking down Grandmothers, Congresscritters, Judges and the like?


E.C. "Stan" Field

I am betting on the power and persistence of stupidity and bureaucracy. Abolish the whole thing and start over. It's hopeless with the idiots in supervisory positions. If they are not idiots they have so compromised their good sense in their desperate actions to keep their jobs that they are not worth saving anyway. Is there one person who, having done the kinds of things that TSA people do routinely, you would trust to take your grandchild to Disneyland?

================ ===w








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