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Mail 376 August 22 - 28, 2005






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Monday  August 22, 2005

Subject: Bachevich in the Washington Post

Another point in my opinion worth making is the sheer cost of the project. If a small fraction of the cost of this unwinnable war had been spent on financing private initiatives for space access, then we would have SPS and the beginnings of space colonisation now. And we need it. Oil production worldwide has already peaked. Several strategic minerals are on the verge of running out. I am no expert, but I estimate that if we don’t get up there within the next 25 years we are on our way back down to the primeval slime.


Ian Campbell


Subject: Islamic Democracy on the march

The Kuwait Times April 28. 2005 “Why is our government trying to create problems out of nothing?” former oil minister Ali Ahmad Al-Baghli asked the Minister of the Interior in an address to the majlis today.

“The Interior Ministry, which is responsible for implementing death sentences by hanging, recently started importing ropes for this purpose from Egypt, after England stopped manufacturing them. The rope is specially made for hanging, and not only the executioners, but also the men who tie the rope around the neck of the con-demned man, are carefully trained for the job."

According to the former Minister problems began three months ago, when the last public hanging was held in Kuwait City, and the neck of the criminal who was hanged was badly cut by the rope.

That is why the Interior Ministry sent a delegation to buy new ropes in Egypt. They personally examined the rope before signing a contract worth 16,000 Dinars. The problem is that, after it was brought to Kuwait, they found that this expensive rope wasn’t good enough for ‘human use.’

“This raises a very pertinent question" according to former Minister Al-Baghli . "How can these expensive imported ropes not be good enough for hanging, when every day we see weak Asian labourers hanging themselves from tree branches with ordinary Kuwaiti ropes used to dry clothes? He suggests the Interior Ministry assigns the task of hanging criminals to Asian labourers living in Jleeb Al-Shuyoukh, as in his opinion :

" It appears that they have more experience in such matters, and what is more, their ropes can be bought cheaply from any cooperative society.”

A spokeman for the Interior Ministry will reply by letter in a subsequent edition of the Times.

Thanks to Russell Seitz for finding this...


Maas: The Breaking Point.


---- Roland Dobbins

The more one learns about oil, the better: there must be alternatives to what this costs.


Looking at this article makes me want to cry, Dr. Pournelle....


NASA can't keep Hubble in repair any longer, and NASA can't put humans on the moon again anytime soon (if ever). [And today apparently I can't type.]

To quote:

"Planetary scientists are using the Hubble Space Telescope to scout out sites for potential human bases on the Moon.

"Previous missions have observed the Moon at a range of wavelengths. But none have boasted Hubble's sharp resolution at ultraviolet wavelengths - it can identify spectral features just 50 metres across over swathes of lunar terrain."


"In particular, the team hopes to be able to identify a mineral called ilmenite - or iron titanium oxide - which has previously been found in lunar soil samples. "It has properties which would be useful in constructing a lunar base," Hapke told New Scientist.

"It contains oxygen, which could be extracted for breathing, as well as hydrogen and helium absorbed from the solar wind. Heating the mineral would release the gases, which could then be used as a power source for the base, says Hapke. Iron in the mineral might eventually be used to produce construction materials, such as steel, for lunar buildings."

But will we ever again get our act together so that identified resources can be put to use?

Charles Brumbelow

We could have a Moon Base even at NASA prices for far less than the Iraqi War has cost. Of course Gore would not have given us a Moon Base either.


Subject: Fighting Tom DeLay.

Fighting Tom DeLay.


-- Roland Dobbins

And thus perishes the West. For the costs of those studies, if those contracts had been awarded to, say, Scaled Composites and XCOR, we could have flying hardware and a fly-off competition. But no, NASA needs paper. ========

Soviet Germ Factories Pose New Threat.


- Roland Dobbins

One more damned thing to worry about, while the Army and Navy are distracted in the Middle East.


Criminalizing Speech.


- Roland Dobbins

The Revolution always devours its own. Now even Cohen is concerned. And on it goes. But we were born free.

Liberalism is a philosophy of consolation for Western Civilization as it commits suicide.


Subject: Second Hand Quotes

From Larry Siegel by way of WSJ Opinion Journal email, Dr. Pournelle:

"...reader Larry Siegel...pass[ed] along this anecdote:

"I don't know if this fits with anything, but I though you might enjoy it.

"In 1973 I was a graduate student in public health at Berkeley. On a fairly regular basis there was an attempt to poll student attitudes on various issues of the day. When I was going to class I noticed a rather large poster board sitting on an easel next to the elevator.

"The poster board had a photo of a masked and gowned doctor holding a fetus over a large garbage can with the obvious implication that he was about to drop the fetus in the can. Just below the photo was a question with several sheets of paper soliciting responses from whomever cared to jot something down. The question was "How does this photo make you feel? Being Berkeley, the first response was "I feel the guy emptying the can should make as much money as the one who fills it." The comments went downhill from there."

And the Opinion Journal response:

"Nah, it doesn't fit with anything."

Thought you might enjoy it, since you live in that area -- relatively speaking.

Charles Brumbelow

Liberalism is a philosophy of consolation for Western Civilization as it commits suicide.


Through the Eyes of a Suicide Bomber

from http://www.frontpagemag.com/Articles/ReadArticle.asp?ID=19110


For example, a Muslim rapist I know wanted to become a suicide bomber, having become convinced that the West was rotten to the core, deficient in moral worth, because it took the word of a mere woman against his.

 Roland Dobbins

Well, we are always wondering why they hate us. Of course if we didn't bring them inside the gates, it would hardly matter. Gibbons was premature in his rejoicing over the West's final defeat of the barbarians...


From Way back in the days of the Summers debates, from another conference, a point worth remembering:


>>But Mr. Summers [President of Harvard] was wrong to imply that these differences render any
>>individual woman less capable than any individual man of becoming a
>>top-level scientist<<

I can't imagine that Summers implied that no individual woman could become a top-level scientist. [And of course he did not. JEP] He's certainly aware that there have been female top-level scientists.

So much of the silliness of discussions of male-female differences could be avoided if one asks whether the point he is making is true of height. If it is, then it is no argument against there being a statistical difference or the possibility that this difference is rooted in hereditary difference. (A seven-foot-tall woman is seven feet tall. The height difference is that far more men are seven feet tall. The same is true of mathematical and scientific aptitude.)



The utility of the "is it true of height" question applies to many discussions of heredity and group differences.



This week:


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Tuesday,  August 23, 2005

Subject: Satnav fingers bungling burglars 


>>Two London men have been jailed for burglary after the satnav system in the vehicle used for the blags stored the addresses of every house they hit.

Amusing enough, but it is a reminder that there is little privacy left in our lives whether you are nasty or nice.

Kind regards, Nick Peach

Still in all it couldn't happen to nicer guys...


Subject: Mac Tip


I don't know if you've installed Tiger, but here is something you're sure to like:

1. go to the Finder. Under the file menu select "New Smart Folder". 2. A Finder window will appear (or the current Window will change) with lot of options. Ignore them all, but change one of the popup menus to "Last Opened" and then select "Today" from the popup just to the right. 3. In the upper right corner select "Save". Save it anywhere you like ("Saved Searches" is the usual default) but be sure to click "add to sidebar".

Now you have a hot list of everything you've worked on today. Obviously, you can filter this search in various ways, or create one a similar "This week" list.

The Apple Mail program has similar capabilities built in as "smart mailboxes".

Chuck Bouldin


Subject: Bachevich in the Washington Post

Another point in my opinion worth making is the sheer cost of the project. If a small fraction of the cost of this unwinnable war had been spent on financing private initiatives for space access, then we would have SPS now. And we need it. Oil production worldwide has already peaked. Several strategic minerals are on the verge of running out. I am no expert, but I estimate that if we don’t get up there within the next 25 years we are on our way back down to the primeval slime.

Ian Campbell

We certainly could have bought near independence from the Middle East for a lot less than the war has cost.


Subject: Re: 2 Illegal Immigrants Win Arizona Ranch in Court Importance: High

Dr. Pournelle:

I, for one, will lose no sleep over the reported loss of the Douglas, Arizona ranch to the two immigrants. As I previously commented on another blog (http://www.photios.blogspot.com/), the defendant was convicted of being a felon in possession of a firearm when he "captured" the immigrants, and the suit was won by default judgment.

If you don't show up to defend yourself in a civil proceeding, you will lose and the pleadings of the Plaintiff will be taken as true. End of story; the party's over.

If Mr. Nethercott had appeared at trial, even pro se (representing himself), he could have objected to the testimony and other evidence of the Plaintiffs and probably, at the least, kept the damages down to a more reasonable amount. Also, the Plaintiff would have had to prove to a Texas jury by a preponderance of the evidence that events occurred as they said. Not always an easy task.

Then they would have had to prove their injuries, by the same standard, and convince the jury of the monetary value of their damages. Even then, the verdict would have been subject to a motion for remmittur after the trial.

Even if the Court had entered judgment against him for the same amount ($850,000.00), he could have appealed the judgment as not supported by the evidence and most likely would have won his appeal.

But he was a no show and got slammed. The rest was just another execution on a valid judgment. Nothing at the least out of the ordinary.

Morals of this story:

1. If you have felony conviction for assault, don't get caught in Texas in possession of a pistol where there is probable cause that you pistol whipped someone; and

2. If you get sued, and you aren't judgment proof, you better file an answer and defend yourself.

Keep up the good work,

Lee Keller King (evil trial attorney)

I can comprehend your point without your rejoicing. If the nation had acted in a rational manner, none of this would have been thought needed. The fact remains that the outcome is monstrous, and encourages the people to look for leadership that will redress those grievances.

Subject: But Caesars have their own agenda!


Caesars often have their own agenda. And a major part of that agenda is building up the nation state at the expense of the individual.

The Roman caesars expanded the empire at great cost to the Roman people. Rome became a place of bread and circuses, Roman citizenship came to hold no privileges but the privilege to pay taxes. Slave and then freedmen labor depressed the labor market for citizens.

Caesars are emperors and emperors build empires. Empires treat people like cogs in a machine, the machine known as The State. Caesar never cares about the people. The people are only a means to promote the State.

The US doesn't need a caesar. We already have a caesar. What this country needs is a republic. We used to have one. I hope we get it back some day.

-- Joe Schembrie

But of course. Did you miss my point?


Subject: Liberals vs. Conservative vs. ?

Just browsing through your "Current View" stuff today, I found myself really puzzled as to what you were really saying. I am not at all sure if I am a liberal or a conservative in your viewpoint. I seem to have distinct affinities for some of the traits you ascribe to both sides. I much prefer a rule of law than a rule by consensus. On the other hand, I like the idea of living in a community small enough to achieve a consensus and move forward with tasks that is favored by most, if not all the community.

Confusion is I am feeling right now. Are the people of the religious right "conservatives" or something else? They certainly seem to worship the current conservative leadership, and so do a lot of other people, at least out in the more rural areas around here. Okay, I am in Central Texas, perhaps that exaggerates the issue. On the hand, you live in California, and everything out there is exaggerated.

I get more confused when you equate "conservatives" with State's rights. The current bunch of conservatives in Washington seems to feel that they can poke their nose into everything from stem cell research to abortion to education, claiming the moral high ground and grinding any local issues under their jackboots. For example, here in Texas, the governor just issues an executive order that 65% of the education budget for all schools in Texas will be spent on 'classroom based instruction." Might sound good on the surface, but what they heck does it mean? And how will affect sports, arts, and music programs? Heck, how will it affect things like budgets for transportation and vocational education and ... well you get the picture.

The "Conservatives" around here seem to be on the same frequency as the 'Liberals" - whatever they do not like is nothing more than a target for suppression. Be that stem cell research, Mark Twain in the school libraries, or whatever. The Liberals are just as silly, branding incidents as 'hate crimes' because two drunken assailants hurled racial and sexual slurs at each other while they tried hard to beat each other's brains out. Personally, I do kind of think that smacking someone's upside the head with a piece of pipe is a much more serious crime than calling someone a slang term for Mexican. Go figure...

In general I tend to agree with your thinking, but every time you start talking about liberals and conservatives, it is like you are speaking a foreign language. I mean, most people out here could care less whether someone is liberal or conservative - we care more if they are good neighbors, co-workers, or even (gasp!) good freeway drivers.

Whatever kind of government would take to get those nustcases (Liberals and Conservatives I suppose) to go away and leave people alone? I do believe it would get my vote. At the very least, such a government would spend more time chasing the nuts around than bothering the vast majority of us who just want to do interesting things with our lives.


I fear I am unable to tell everyone everything I know at each opportunity, but surely you have got the idea by now that I am not one who thinks the modern day neo conservatives are anything more than ideologues who have hijacked the name conservative? They are Jacobins who mostly never lost the elitist tendencies in Leo Strauss and Leon Trotsky; there is little of conservatism about invading Iraq, or going abroad to seek monsters to slay.

I speak a foreign language to you because, sad to say, modern education is so awful that we have no common language of discourse; while true conservatism is a set of principles, but not axioms; it is not an ideology, but a frame of mind. It is the frame of mind that says, I see my neighbor is in trouble, and I shall go help him; not the frame of mind that says I see my neighbor is in trouble, and there must be many like him; let us change the government so that his troubles are taken care of.

But I agree completely: many of those who call themselves conservative are thieves who have stolen the name; and many who call themselves liberal are in fact holding on to principles from long ago, preferring freedom and individual action to systematic tinkering with the mechanisms of government.

The primary conservative principles are reluctance to try systematic "fixes" whenever problems arise; a thorough disbelief in the notion that every social problem has a "solution" through some government policy or action; and a distrust in leaving things to themselves (which is what distinguishes us from our libertarian friends). As to states rights, I believe in consent of the governed, and the way to have most people governed by laws they consented to is to devolve powers down to as low a level as possible. I do not begrudge my libertarian friends the right to form communities governed by a very few Draconian laws, nor of my religious friends to form communities that censor what is sold in bookstores and which fine stores for being open on Sundays. I would not care to live in either of those communities. My own preference would be a community that frowns on a number of vulgar public acts and may even have laws against some of them, but doesn't get around to enforcing most; and that censors what is put on public display for sale, but doesn't much mind what is sold in the back room of the book store. But then I describe Studio City for most of the time I have lived here.

I don't care if the Blue Belly Baptists require you to paint your belly button blue every Wednesday afternoon on the grounds that the Great Lord of All has so commanded, and they are enforcing His Will; but I would object to having to live in their community, and I would greatly object to having to live there without knowing about their peculiar rule. Yet I can conceive of many places where I would most decidedly not care to live and to which I would prefer BlueBellyLand. In general my temperament is leave people alone, and if a lot of them want to have religious festivals in the public square, or to leave the lights in City Hall lit in a cross on Christmas Eve, then I certainly will not send the police to stop them. My temperament is to believe things will never be perfect, and that when one attempts to bring about perfection the results are usually not what one wanted; and to prefer the evils I know to new ones. Which doesn't mean I am against technology (look at my record for heaven's sake!) or even against all changes. Just that I suspect technology itself will bring about changes we will have trouble adjusting to, and adding to that the destruction of marriage and the family and the whole notion of the self governing community will not make adjusting to the modern world a lot easier.

And that is about enough of my rambling.




This week:


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Wednesday, August 24, 2005

For those of you who have blogs or other public venues (the Corner, Chaos Manor, Ron's blast faxes, etc.), it would be quite cost effective in time to promote the Border Police initiative. Basically they need 600000 signatures for a petition to force the creation of a dedicated border force, one that isn't bound by various nonsense (like the Special Order in LA that forbids asking about the immigration status of a criminal alien).


This is a leverage point in the sense that a little effort here (buying a coffee cup, getting some signatures, etc.) is worth 10X the effort spent on blog ranting. I sent them $100. Certainly the issue is more important for the future of the US than the Iraq War...for the standard of living of the average American is more dependent on the outcome in the deserts of California than the deserts of Iraq.



From another conference, in which a paper on Russian atrocities in Berlin were denounced:

I'm afraid I don't quite follow the logic of this analysis.

(1) The very harsh treatment inflicted by the victorious Soviets upon the civilians of Berlin and other parts of Germany---mass rapes or even killings---is pretty well known and documented. I vaguely recall reading somewhere an estimate of around 2M German civilian deaths, almost entirely in the last few months of the war.

(2) On the other hand, this harsh treatment wasn't particularly surprising, given the extremely brutal nature of the war on the Eastern Front. Considering that the Nazis had slaughtered many, many millions of Russian civilians during their long occupation of Soviet territory, it's hardly a shock that the Russians later slaughtered them right back when they had the chance.

(3) Anyway, unless I've missed something in my readings of Marx/Lenin/Stalin/etc., there's no particular connection between Marxism/Communism and drunken mass-rape. As Derbyshire pointed out a few months ago in a book review, apparently some of the ignorant Khmer Rouge peasant soldiers used to cut open the bellies of pregnant women, then dry the unborn fetuses and use them as magical charms called "smoke children." Yet I'd hardly argue that Communism should be accused of fostering support for making magical "smoke children." Similarly, I'd suspect that drunken and vengeful Russian or Central Asian soldiers would have behaved much the same way even if they'd been fighting under the banner of e.g. "Godless Capitalism."

(4) But apart from all this, what's the point? The Communists all pretty much died off years ago, so there's no one around to denounce on these matters. Admittedly, there is still the Hereditary Communist God-Emperor of North Korea, but I suspect that both Marx and Lenin would have anyway had serious doubts about whether a Hereditary God-Emperor can really be a proper sort of Communist. Or maybe Chevron could have used the Rape of Berlin argument against that Chinese Oil company in their bidding war for UNOCAL instead of raising their share-price bid by a few nickels, though I doubt it.

In this day and age, I think denouncing Communists for their past atrocities is a little like standing on a street corner shrieking at the viciousness of the German Anabaptist rebels, doubtless true, but a little strange and pointless nonetheless.

If there are actually significant political groups today in America publicly advocating Stalinist Communism, I'll gladly admit my error in this matter.


Of course it depends on the atrocities as to which ones may be forgotten...

Subject: Here's why I go to Uganda so often

Children of war in Uganda

Today’s headline on MSNBC


Tracy Walters


Siberian permafrost melting - a Russian perspective



Chuck Redman

Interesting. I have no way of evaluating this either; but it seems more reasonable than the panic.


Row about Grissom's Mercury suit?


-- Roland Dobbins

It's the government and NASA. Why ever would anyone expect them to do the right thing? Assuming you can figure out what the right thing is. They scrapped a lot of that stuff, and it's certainly worthless now. Incidentally, they do not seem to be concerned with telling us just who was the human factors moron who approved pure oxygen at high pressure for the test that killed Grissom. But you wouldn't expect them to, would you. Fire in the spacecraft...


More Federalism in action:

No appeal.


-- Roland Dobbins

Emanations and penumbras I suppose.






CURRENT VIEW    Wednesday


This week:


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Thursday, August 25, 2005

Subject: Famous last words. "It's not that difficult."


 Suborbital space only requires the spaceships to reach three times the speed of sound, or Mach 3. But for orbital flights, they must reach Mach 25 and be able to withstand the intense heat of re-entry into the atmosphere.

But that may not be such a big hurdle, says Jim Benson, founder and CEO of SpaceDev of Poway, California, US. SpaceDev helped develop and build SpaceShipOne's "hybrid" motor, which burned liquid laughing gas and solid rubber. He says the company had to scale the motor's thrust up by a factor of 1000 to prepare for the SpaceShipOne flights.

To get to Mach 25, it has to scale up its most powerful motor by only a factor of four - to provide a total of about 454,000 kilograms of thrust. "It's not that difficult," he says.


I forget the ISP of their hybrid engine (Space Development says "comparable to solids or lox/kerosene, http://www.spacedev.com/newsite/templates/subpage3.php?pid=185 ). LOX-kerosene ISP tends to below 300 at sea level and under 375 in vacuum ( http://www.friends-partners.org/partners/mwade/props/loxosene.htm  ). Assuming air drop at 40,000 feet or so a value of 350 isn't unreasonable, assuming that one can achieve combustion stability.

Note that there is a list of space related papers available on this site here.

From the rocket equation m1/m0 = exp(-dv/g/Isp) ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Talk:Tsiolkovsky_rocket_equation   )we can find the mass ratio needed. A short essay on the rocket equation with explanations of the terms is found at http://www.jerrypournelle.com/slowchange/SSX.html.

M1/M0 = e^(-25000/32.17/375) to a first approximation, but we have to account for drag. From the surface the total delta-v is about 30,000 but since this is a launch from altitude we can take out some of the delta-v consumed by drag and guess that the total delta-v needed here will be 27,000 (which is a generous estimate and likely to be low). That gives us a mass ratio of about .106, or a structure-plus-payload of about 10% of Gross Liftoff Weight (GLOW) of the air dropped vehicle. Assuming 4 passengers at 300 pounds each including protective equipment, we are at 1200 pounds of actual payload, and assuming that is about 1% of the total GLOW (the rest being tanks for the oxidant, pumps to get the propellant into the combustion chamber, seats, windshields and portholes, wings, landing gear, electronics, and so forth, we come to a first guess of about 120,000 pounds for the air dropped vehicle.

That's assuming everything works properly, and the engine can achieve an average ISP of 375. It's in fact more likely to get an average ISP of 350, and the actual delta-v more like 28,000 feet per second even with an air drop. That gives us about .084, and GLOW for the air drop of about 144,000 pounds. None of this is beyond achievement, so the only real unknowns are how scalable are hybrid engines. George Koopman tried large hybrids and never managed to get combustion stability. So far as I know, the SpaceShipOne engines were blowdown, and I know of no pumps in development, but there may be.

I sure hope that "it's not that hard".


Subject: How To Get Fired Buffy Willow

How to Get Fired

Hi Jerry,

Michael Graham, a host at WMAL radio in DC, was let go after he refused to appologize for his comments about the Council on American-Islamic Relations. A sad tale indeed...


I started my on-air conversation about the unique, tragic relationship between Islam and terrorism on the day of the second London subway bombing. No one at ABC Radio objected to my comments.

I repeated the comments on Friday. Again, no problem. Same thing on Monday. Tuesday, I spent my entire three-hour show – at the request of ABC management – talking about modern Islam as a terrorist organization.

And for that, I was suspended and fired. What happened? How did the words that were insignificant one Thursday suddenly become unforgivable the next?

It was all about CAIR. Late that Monday they sent out press releases, called advertisers, complained of my "hate radio" to ABC. By Thursday, ABC had capitulated and suspended me, and CAIR immediately sent out a press release insisting ABC hadn't gone far enough and I had to be fired. Eventually, I was.

Meanwhile, more listeners stood by me, not a single advertiser pulled their ads, and I had more positive press coverage than Hillary at a National Organization of Women convention. In a business that depends on listeners, advertisers and publicity, you'd think we'd be talking bonuses, not termination.

But this is the trick to getting fired while doing your job well. All you have to do is offend members of those special castes we have declared un-offendable. No other groups will do.


As you would say: "But we were born free..."


Rod Schaffter

 Of course had he done the same thing but from the opposite side (commenting on Israeli practices) he would probably have achieved the same results.

But this is hardly new, nor is it a government action.


Subject: Whither Millicent? Well, PayPal had troubles...

I was thinking about Millicent, the fractional-payment method that DEC tried to set up, and how some services (like Google AdWords) were allowing a few forms of fractional-cent transactions, but we didn't have anything quite like Millicent out there.

Thence this review in Reason:


Which seems like a starting point for a discussion, probably for jerryp.com rather than the column.


Alex Pournelle,
Director, PC and LAN Practice,
Tech/Knowledge (www.t-k.com)
VP Business Development, Location Connect (www.locationconnect.com)

An interesting subject indeed. I can say I have never had anyone from Paypal send me anything having to do with content of this site. I had the links to the beheading videos (but I have never made any charge for anything here, this being a "public radio" model as far as paying for this place be concerned).

When Millicent looked real, John Dvorak and I started to form up a joint web site that would have cost a dime or so per access, perhaps with other special pages that would cost more. The business plan looked good; but we never found a way to collect the money, and eventually gave it up. We did think -- and still do think -- that there are a fair number of people who would pay a dime a week to watch and hear us argue and agree and recommend and disrecommend...


I invite further discussion.


Subject: Dropouts a drain on economy

Jerry P:

While I know you know better, your response to the posting " Dropouts a drain on economy" needs to contain realization and acknowledgement of the problems. It is not just the teachers, but primarily the parents and the legal system which handicap teachers and school administrators, that result in underperforming schools. Students who attend school without parential motivation toward education will not learn to read or otherwise learn things which they need to learn. When students are disruptive in class, the whole class suffers and legal restrictions on corporal punishment, even to taking a kid by the ear to the principal's office, cause a loss of respect for the institutions, teachers, and administrative staff. Students who enter school, without fundamental abilities and attitudes that we had as kids, will not advance and are likely to interfere with the ability of their fellow students to advance. It is the Blackboard Jungle, not only in slums but in other areas. The parents who care will try to get their kids into private schools, charter or otherwise, and to give the school administration the ability to control their kids, in loco parentis. Good reading programs fail without good students.

Charles Simkins

Well, yes and no. The centralization of education in the US makes it work as did the Soviet system of agriculture, with equal effectiveness.

But the inability to read will surely produce "bad students" whatever you started with. You can blame it on "bad students" and poor protoplasm, but our experience has been that ANY kid can learn to read (barring really serious disabilities that are confined to under 5% of the student population); and it seems reasonable to believe that kids not taught to read will not be "good students" when their natural reader classmates do learn. A fair number of kids will learn to read given any rational instruction system; but there are a lot more that require teaching that is hard work, and teachers like anyone else will seize upon "diagnostics" as an excuse for why the kid didn't learn. It was the child's fault, not the teacher's.

And for 95% of the "dyslexia" cases that is just plain wrong. IT WAS THE TEACHER'S FAULT THAT THE KID DID NOT LEARN TO READ.



 Now the teacher may in fact be expending a lot of effort ("working hard") using the tools she was given in education school, and the FAULT may be in not realizing that the stuff she was taught was worthless and counter productive and a different approach will be needed; so we can mitigate that statement that IT WAS THE TEACHER'S FAULT THAT THE KID DID NOT LEARN TO READ to some extent. Most teachers mean well, and break their hearts, and drop out of teaching for many reasons.

But in rural Florida in the 1920's, for example, 95% of all kids could read at the end of First Grade. What teachers have achieved, teachers can aspire to.


"Overall, I think he was doing a good job . . . "


- Roland Dobbins

   (The juxtaposition of this and the previous letter was purely fortuitous)


I never thought I'd see NASA astronauts lobbying for -Thiokol-.


-- Roland Dobbins

Needs must when the devil drives...


Nigerian scammers get violent, or is he simply faking disappearance/ death?


-- Roland Dobbins

I eagerly await the rest of this story. The moral of the story so far is DO NOT RESPOND to any of those schemes. But we all knew that.


The following is worth reading, in my opinion.

Thank you

Peter Schaeffer


Subject: The Iceberg Cometh - http://harpers.org/TheIcebergCometh.html

The Iceberg Cometh

Can a nation of spenders be saved?

Posted on Monday, August 1, 2005. Originally from June 2005. Sources <http://harpers.org/TheIcebergCometh.html#>

If we can believe what we read in the newspapers, the American economy, formerly believed to be as unsinkable as the Titanic, appears to be steaming toward an iceberg. Most of the experts and nearly all of the navigational aids point in the direction of catastrophe—a $666 billion deficit in international transactions last year, a 24 percent increase over the prior year; a federal budget deficit of more than $400 billion; a dollar that has lost more than a third of its value against the euro since 2001. Not too long ago, America was the world’s largest creditor; today it is the world’s largest debtor, our solvency dependent upon the benevolence of foreign banks. Meanwhile, belowdecks, the cost of maintaining our rapidly rising number of elderly people threatens over the next few decades to overwhelm the federal budget. A respected credit agency recently noted that by 2026, barring a change in our fiscal policy, U.S. Treasury bills—once the world’s de facto gold standard—will be classified as junk bonds.

How do we save the ship? Even if the American people mend their spendthrift ways, will our politicians be able to confront the necessity for restraint? To speak to these questions, Harper’s Magazine brought together three of our nation’s most notable economic thinkers and charged them with charting a new course toward financial safety.

I have great respect for Mr. Schaeffer's economic judgment.


Subject: "State of Fear" and Global Warming and Eugenics

Did any commentary regarding Michael Crichton's "State of Fear" appear in Chaos Manor during the recent discussions of global warming, Dr. Pournelle? I thought there had been, but could not find them by searching.

In any event, he has posted an interesting excerpt from the book, entitled "Why Politicized Science is Dangerous", at his web site:


The excerpt addresses the theory of eugenics as a forerunner of the junk science behind the current global warming fright. In the book, but not in this excerpt, he alludes to "PLM" (or is it "PML" or "MPL") -- the alliance between politicians, lawyers, and media which manipulates the public by keeping it in constant fear of something. Shades of "1984"!

The book is heavily footnoted and contains lots of charts and other supposed documentation but I've done no research to validate or refute his scientific evidence as presented therein, and my background is not such that I have a feel for the truth or lack thereof of this evidence. Would be interested in knowing the opinion of someone who has read the novel and can speak to the accuracy of its backdrop.


Charles Brumbelow

There was in fact considerable discussion, including Russell Seitz on the Crichton/Benford disputes. You can find much it on the Global Warming Summary Page.  I suggest you start there. Crichton is an MD, and is very articulate. I haven't myself read the book carefully -- I should but other things eat my time -- and I would welcome a really good review.


Subject: Think Dark & Keep Those Military Bases

Interesting commentary from Peggy Noonan, Dr. Pournelle:


Some quotes:

"The federal government is doing something right now that is exactly the opposite of what it should be doing. It is forgetting to think dark. It is forgetting to imagine the unimaginable."

"When you think dark, you're often and inescapably thinking with your gut, a vulgar way of referring to a certainty that lives somewhere between your spirit, soul and intellect. Your gut knows things your brain can't assert as fact because they're not facts, not yet. It can take guts to listen to your gut."

"...if you'd been a novelist on Sept. 10, 2001, and dreamed up a plot in which two huge skyscrapers were leveled, the Pentagon was hit, and the wife of the solicitor general of the United States was desperately phoning him from a commercial jet that had been turned into a missile, you would have been writing something wild and improbable that nonetheless happened a day later."

***** Here I add that Tom Clancy, in his novel "Debt of Honor" (or possibly its followup "Executive Orders") had a terrorist crash a fully fueled 747 into the Capitol Building in the mid-1990s -- some five to seven years before 911. *****

"So we are imagining America being forced to fight for its survival on its streets. How does this get us to base closings? On the day the big terrible thing happens there will of course be shock and chaos. People will feel the need for protection--for the feeling of protection and for the thing itself. They will want and need American troops nearby and they will want and need American military bases up and operating to help maintain some semblance of order. The very presence, the very fact of these bases will help in the big recovery. That's what all these bases are going to be needed for. To help us survive a very bad time.

I have always wanted to keep good military posts like the Presidio as bases for the garrison army; enclosed closed posts, gated posts, with military people and their families living on base; precisely to save civilization just in case.

Think dark, indeed.


Subject: Regarding your "Warning for Windows 2000 Users"

Dr. Pournelle:

It seems that a ZOTOB worm variant is harmful to Windows XP users. Despite Microsoft's previous claim that XP users are safe, some using Service Pack 1 were also vulnerable. According to the link below, SP1 users who enable file and printer sharing, and those who enable the guest user account are vulnerable to one or more ZOTOB clones.


This could be a problem to Earthlink users, because (as of this summer) their software was not compatible with SP2. I do not know if this has been addressed / fixed by Earthlink.

Best regards,

Bill Kelly Houston, TX

P.S. I subscribed! I felt guilty about coming daily and not contributing financially.

I know nothing about this. Anyone?


Subject: Terrorism database

Found this terrorism database and thought you and your readers would find it interesting.


--Gary Pavek


Subj: Ugh! Blogging software! Nooooooooooo! Please noooooooooooo!

If http://www.michellemalkin.com/ - style reverse-chronological-order blogging software is "the wave of the future" then we have Yet More Evidence that Civilization is Doomed! Doomed, I say!

Great Ghu, if it ain't broke, why fix it??

Rod Montgomery==monty@sprintmail.com




CURRENT VIEW    Thursday


This week:


read book now


Friday,  August 26, 2005

Subject: Just read your testimony to congress

Dear Jerry,

Followed the link from yesterday's mail to your testimony to congress in 95. That was excellent. We could not agree more and that is after I worked at KSC for 11 years on shuttle.

So why did they not take your advise? I was busy trying to make it in my transition to silicon valley at the time and wasn't paying attention.

Phil Tharp


Subject: NASA Can't Fix Hubble; Now They Can't Replace Its Functionality Either

More excitement from "The Final Frontier", Dr. Pournelle:


Some quotes:

"The vision of the James Webb Space Telescope, the future successor to Hubble, should be dimmed to cut cost overruns, say the astronomers forming the telescope's Science Assessment Team."

"The limitation to the vision would result from polishing the telescope's mirrors only once instead of twice - saving $150 million and six months' labour."

"And unlike Hubble, the JWST cannot be serviced once in space, since it will operate from a far more distant location, 1.5 million kilometres from Earth."

"However, JWST scientists say ground-based observatories with large mirrors will be able to use adaptive optics fill any gaps in the observing of the optical spectrum. This software compensates for the blurring of light from space caused by turbulence in the Earth's atmosphere. Some think the approach could allow ground-based observatories to surpass space telescopes one day.

"But [Robert] O'Dell [Hubble project scientist from 1972 to 1982] says this claim has been made for 30 years. "When we first started arguing to build the Hubble Space Telescope, people said you don't need to because adaptive optics are just around the corner," O'Dell told New Scientist. And a 2001 report by the US National Research Council said the JWST should be the top priority for all ground- and space-based astronomy."

"Mission managers are also looking at other ways to rein in costs - the JWST is on track for a lifetime cost of $4.5 bn instead of the planned $3.5 bn. They will test the telescope looking up instead of down in a vacuum chamber, for example. This will cut down on the infrastructure that needs building for the test and will save three months in the schedule. Budget difficulties are also likely to push back the launch, aboard an Ariane 5 rocket, to 2013."

So we are going to reduce the capability of this potentially wonderful tool for exploration and discovery to save....$150 million. Out of a projected total of....(drum roll here) $4.5 billion! And we are going to simplify and reduce testing on an extremely complex device which will be too far from earth to service when -- not if -- things go wrong.

As John Stossel says in his television commentary lead-ins "Give me a break!"

Personal opinions unrelated to my employer.

Charles Brumbelow

Do you reckon this is related to the previous mail?


Subject: The Telemarketer

The Telemarketer

The phone rang as we were sitting down to dinner. I answered it and was greeted with, "Is this William Wagenhoss?"

This didn't sound anything like my name, so I asked, "Who is calling?" The telemarketer said he was with The Rubberband-Powered Freezer Company or something like that. I asked him if he knew William personally and why was he was calling this number. I then said, off to the side, "Get really good pictures of the body and all the blood."

I turned back to the phone and advised the caller that he had called a murder scene and must stay on the line because we had already traced this call and he would be receiving a summons to appear at the local courthouse to testify in this murder case.

I questioned the caller at great length as to his name, address, phone number at home, at work, who he worked for, how he knew the dead guy and could he prove where he had been about one hour before he made this call. The telemarketer was getting very concerned and his answers were given in a shaky voice.

I proceeded to tell him we had located his position at his work place and the police were entering the building to take him into custody. At this point, I heard the phone fall and the scurrying of his running away.

My wife asked me as I returned to our table, why I had tears streaming down my face and so help me, I couldn't tell her for about fifteen minutes. My food was cold, but oh-so-very enjoyable.

Greg Brewer

Pity we can't do that to spammers.


Prudence, competence, and evil. These are in response to my essay

Subject: Bush is evil ?

Sure he is. At the very least he didn't bother to think hard, or to listen to all the experienced people the government employs who are pretty good at thinking hard about such things. Is someone who doesn't bother to check out the safety record of a car his kids will ride in evil - when it is easy to get the safety numbers from the insurance companies, etc? Certainly.

Blatant irresponsibility is evil. If Bush were a civil engineer, we'd already have put him in prison. It's not just Iraq, either: his fiscal polcies are the most irresponsible you've ever seen. Frankly, I can explain him pretty well as a mole, out to damage the US as much as possible.

Gregory Cochran

P.S. and would this imaginary friendly, sort-of stable Iraq be worth a trillion dollars to us? Of course not. The whole adventure was misbegotten.


"If the end result of the war is a stable, moderately religious, government friendly to the US in Iraq, then yes, it was worth it despite the terrible costs (which are far heavier on Iraqis than on us)."

But we also need to consider if this result could have been achieved without war. South Korea, Thailand, Taiwan, and Chile went through phases of nationalist dictatorships, and now they're western-style democracies. Whatever one may think of Putin, freedom and democracy have certainly improved in Russia since the days of Stalin -- yet without US intervention on Russian soil.

In the modern era, the evolutionary trend of government appears to be from one-man rule to collective leadership to democracy, all in the name of seeking legitimacy in the eyes of the populace.

This trend seems to be happening in Iran, where the transition has been from the Shah to the mullahs to a youth movement which pushes toward democracy.

On the other hand, if the Greatest Democracy in the World goes in and bombs your country, just how much legitimacy does modernism and democracy retain in the eyes of your people?

If we invade Iran, we may in fact set the clock back as far as social progress is concerned.

As for Iraq, Saddam was in his dotage anyway. History would have taken its course. It always does. But now we've killed a hundred thousand Iraqis, and created a huge insurgency which is cross-pollinating with terror groups. All this, and a 'democracy' which will institute medieval muslim law. Just because we couldn't wait.

Bush may not be evil, but he is a cause of evil. And isn't it the liberal way to excuse the evils caused by their policies with the refrain, "We meant well!"

-- Joe Schembrie


Subject: Is incompetence evil?

I agree with you that President Bush is not evil, but I don't think that justifies the invasion of Iraq. If President Bush's motives for invading Iraq were evil, we'd still be losing 2 troopers a day. The real question, as you point out, is whether the cost of the conflict (in human and monetary terms) is justified. The answer, likely, is no. Amongst President Bush and his senior advisors (Cheney, Rice, Powell, and Rumsfeld), only one had any military experience. It is likely not a coincidence that the one person with military experience (Powell) advised President Bush that the United States would be buying Iraq if we invaded. Despite this prescient advise, President Bush decided to invade Iraq without a plan for what to do next. I keep hoping that President Bush pulls a rabbit out of the hat and that Iraq will emerge as a stable, friendly country. I desperately want to be wrong here, but I keep thinking about the fact that he authorized an invasion of Iraq without a clear idea of what to do next. Although he got us into this mess, I don't think he knows how to get us out.

René Daley

These are representative. For my answer, see VIEW.


Subject: Zotob Worm Authors Arrested

Dr. Pournelle:

Noticed that there were two arrests, in Morroco and Turkey, of the alleged creators of the Zotob worm. The reports (on just about any news site) indicate that Microsoft helped out the FBI in identifying these guys. The FBI release http://www.fbi.gov/pressrel/pressrel05/zotob_release082605.htm said:

"Arrested in Morocco was Farid Essebar, 18, a Moroccan national born in Russia who went by the screen moniker "Diabl0." Arrested in Turkey was Atilla Ekici, aka "Coder," a 21-year old resident of Turkey. Both individuals will be subject to local prosecutions."

So, while the Zotob worm was released within a day or two of the notification of the patch, the arrests took only about 8 days after the release of the worm.

Regards, Rick Hellewell


Subject:  Charles Murray - Inequality Taboo

Dear Dr. Pournelle,

Charles Murray, co-author with Richard Herrnstein, of "The Bell Curve" has written an article in "Commentary" and thought the readers would be interested. See:

 -- Cheers,

Art Russell

Just about anything Murray says is worth paying attention to.





This week:


read book now


Saturday, August 27, 2005

Subject: On assassination

>>The notion that a head of state has King's X exemption from being assassinated is likely a royal development and something much wished by >>heads of state,,

Ah, but assassination is the perfect tactic of an asymmetric warrior.

Bush offs Castro,Kim Jong-Il offs Bush, Cheney offs Chavez, Muqtada Al-Sadr offs Cheney... the honor guard at Arlington will be busy And surely it all sounds a bit too like Don Michael settling all family business ?

Besides, I understand you're a Catholic... was there a secret qualification to the Sixth Commandment saying it could be ignored if it conflicted with United States foreign policy ? American exceptionalism, indeed.

Regards, Alan Perlins

Come now. If any war is justified, then the means are justified; and so would be measures short of war. You cannot believe that it is just to bomb cities into submission but unjust to target a single individual if that will obviate the necessity of bombardment.

War is hell; and the means of war are breaking things and killing people. It is necessary to apportion out glory to those who engage in war; but it is well to remember what is being done. It may be just to loose and atom bomb on Hiroshima, but surely if Truman could have accomplished the surrender of Japan by special forces taking out Tojo and the Emperor, that would  be preferable?

An afterthought: there was a time when war was the business of kings and professional armies. Frederick the Great said that the burghers in the towns and the farmers in the fields should neither know nor care when the State was at war. Surely for most of us having the war be a family affair of assassinations of those who enjoy the enormous perquisites of office and the vast pensions from having held office would be preferable to sending our own sons into the meat grinder?

I am sure Frederick's grenadiers would have thought so. Richard Coeur de Lion personally cut off the head and right arm of Saladin's champion, and Saladin wisely led his son away from the battle, surrendering the town rather than allow his son to face the Lion of Normandy; I am sure much to the relief of the Saxons forming Richard's shield wall.

And see below for a clarification


Subject: Science Fiction Quiz....

Trying to recall the titles of some old science fiction, Dr. Pournelle. Maybe you or your readers can help.

Fair warning: I first read these in the decade or so beginning in the late 1950s (which only means they were not written more recently than that).

First, a novelette published as part of an Ace paperback double book (flip it over and read the second story). Plot line involved humans in a primitive environment dueling with supersized insects -- bugs larger than today's jungle animals. Wrap-up was that the humans climbed to a mountaintop which had a different climate and the insects were the sizes we see around us.

Second, a short story (in a paperback book collection) wherein a scientist developed a line of small reptiles with a quite short life cycle. Over generations they developed intelligence to where they could communicate with him. He would tell them of something he wanted and in due course they would invent it. He would then patent it and make bunches of money to support his research. Climax was a pending atomic war, he requested and they invented and impenetrable force field which saved him and them.

Third, another short story in a paperback collection, this one involving travel between parallel universes. A guy gets a strange dime in his change when buying a newspaper at the newsstand near his subway entrance/exit. (Say a Truman dime in a world where Roosevelt was the one so honored.) He was a coin collector and thus noticed this dime easily, and laid it aside as a curiosity. One day by accident he picked up the strange dime and used it to pay for a newspaper, which transferred him to a parallel universe where his too familiar wife and humdrum job were replaced by the woman he almost married and an exciting job he almost took. In due course the exciting new life became boring, so he sought and finally found a Roosevelt dime in his change and used that to change back to the other universe.

***** I've always wondered about the wives and their alternate husband -- if any -- in this story.... *****

Fourth, and last for this time, a short story in another collection concerning creatures from outer space which eat electricity and were lead to Earth when they picked up the first radio signals. The story predates personal computers, but even in those times most of the world depended upon electricity to some extent.

Thanks for any help.

Charles Brumbelow

Never read the first, don't remember the third although I am pretty sure I read it at one time. The second is Sturgeon, Microcosmic God (I am certain of the title, a little less than certain of the author, but I'd bet reasonable sums) and the last is Sturgeon also, Ether Breather and a second story Butyl and the Ether Breather.


Subject: Insect story

The story about the huge insects is "The Forgotten Planet" by Murray Leinster. The story has been re-released in "Planets of Adventure", from Baen Books.

Dave Bernat


Subject: Assassination

We have to be careful about assassinating foreign leaders. For example, the stated bases for our invasion of Iraq included the attempted assassination of former Pres. Bush in 1993:

Whereas the current Iraqi regime has demonstrated its continuing hostility toward, and willingness to attack, the United States, including by attempting in 1993 to assassinate former President Bush . . . http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2002/10/20021002-2.html

If the U.S. can justify the invasion of a country based on an attempted assassination attempt made ten years earlier, then any country whose leader was assassinated by U.S. assets can likewise justify an attack on the U.S. This probably isn't much of a problem for the U.S. since we're currently the 800 pound gorilla.

Rene Daley

Now, now. I never said I approved. I merely said we ought to think about this: it's a conditional. If a war be just, then the means are justified, and means short of mass destruction are certainly to be preferred to firebombing of cities. Surely that is clear? But I never said that short of justification for war it's all right to go about removing heads of state.

I didn't think we had casus belli for the Iraq wars -- either of them. I did think we had just cause for going into Afghanistan.

But while I am vain enough to count my opinion highly, I am not deceived into believing myself infallible. Poul Anderson once had a story called "State of Assassination" that would be worth reading on this score now. Undeclared assassinations! Horrors!

I do think that Venezuela, being closer to home, is a matter of more concern than Iraq.  That doesn't mean I am ready to invade. Or start shooting their president. I'd still rather invest the money in nuclear power and other energy sources.

And more


Subject: was it worth it?


A few comments, for what they're worth.

1. ...is it worth it? And the answer to that lies in what one believes will be accomplished.

The answer to that also lies in what one believes will be avoided. Ex post facto, the absence of WMD in significant quantity is used by the left to justify the "Bush lied" theory. A priori, nobody in the US or elsewhere believed that the WMD didn't exist, precisely because Saddam was doing everything he could to obscure the true picture. Was the threat of Saddam passing Iraqi WMD to Al Queda sufficient to justify the invasion? That is a judgment call, but please note that the regrets of not acting included the risk of a nuclear attack on a major American city. Forgetting the moral imperative and considering only politics, the shellacking that Bush is taking now based on two troopers a day is nothing compared to the political fallout of allowing a nuclear attack on the US.

Based on the situation at the time, I said -- reluctantly -- that I didn't see any other alternative, other than finding a higher priority target, and I didn't know of any. That part of the situation hasn't changed.

2. The second question is, what were the alternatives? Politically, of course, that means Mr. Gore in 2000 and Mr. Kerry in 2004 -- neither of which alternative gives me great confidence in the future. I'm certain that both would have avoided some of Mr. Bush's sins of commission -- but at the price of not doing anything constructive for the defense of the US, and the consequences of their sins of omission would be more disastrous for the Republic than anything Bush's team has done improperly.

3. And in response to Mr. Bush's fiscal policies as criticized by Mr. Cochran: I believe that those policies were necessary to avoid a severe recession and extremely high unemployment in the days after 9/11. However, I do regret that Mr. Bush and his supporters appear to have developed a taste for deficit spending. And I don't know what effectively can be done at the federal level about gasoline pricing over the past year, or about the trade deficit at China -- which is probably still fallout from the Clinton years.

Jim Woosley

Some more good sense from Dr. Woosley.

The alternatives have never included either paleo conservatives or libertarians. Goldwater was the last near-libertarian candidate; Reagan was hardly a paleo conservative but he was closest of anyone since Calvin Coolidge.

I very much regret that the neo Jacobins who hijacked the name conservative decided to invent "big government conservatism" and sell that madness to the people where there is not a single conservative molecule in the package. Real conservatism -- even "neo" type -- I would suppose sees government as desirable, but would not violently quarrel with Jefferson's notion that governments govern best when they govern least; and that tax money is money taken by force, and must not be spent in idle schemes. Even Hamilton would have agreed to that much. Hamilton's notion of "big" government included canals and roads and highways, "infrastructure" investments, but that was hardly what the neocons mean by "big government conservatism". See Tocqueville for details: the greatness of America was that we managed to do many necessary and proper things through associations, not by government, thereby accomplishing the goals without building structure, and allowing participants to feel needed and important.

But we are not offered those alternatives by either party. Bill Buckley and the National Review people once understood that. Alas, alas.



CURRENT VIEW     Saturday

This week:


read book now


Sunday, August 28, 2005

Subject: Re: On assassination


My main point was probably expressed too flippantly. It was simply that the US has no particular advantage when it comes to a war of assassinations. On the offensive side,a 5-man team can achieve as much as the 82nd Airborne. From the defensive aspect,Nancy Reagan and Jackie Kennedy would, I presume, agree with the proposition that US Presidents can be murdered if someone is sufficently motivated. Why wage war using tactics that eliminate your advantages ?

On the ethics point, jus ad bellum, as I recall, requires proportionality. This would, in my personal rulebook, preclude the elimination of Chavez, since the dangers of leaving him in power are largely economic. But as I read your later comments, I suspect we largely agree on this.If there is a demonstrable case for war and a well targeted bullet can achieve the objective, then I certainly have no problem saving the blood and treasure. State-ordered murder as the routine next step after a stiffly worded diplomatic note is my sticking point, and I see that's not the proposition in question anway.

Regards, Alan Perkins

Well -- yes. Once again, a conditional is not a declarative. Given casus belli, then the means to victory are justified. If operations against a head of state are more effective than mass bombardments, then --

As for instance, if it was legitimate to go to Iraq to remove Saddam then the air strike targeting him personally was legitimate. Etc. A conditional does not assume the premise nor advocate the consequence; it merely states the relationship between them.


Subject: They can't blame -this- one on the internal combustion engine.

They can't blame -this- one on the internal combustion engine.


- Roland Dobbins

Indeed! Which is not to say that we should not be careful here.


Subject: Teen pregnancy

Good evening Mr, Pournelle, the simplest thing would be shifting high school hours later in the day to cut teen's unsupervised time. Another would be asking media and advertisers to stop wallowing in sex (If they ever think seriously about this, you may see the stockholders with torches and pitchforks from your house.). Wages that would permit single income households would help a lot, but don't hold your breath for it. Adding to sex education curricula might help, I think teaching diaper changing would help a lot, with real smelly, squalling babies.

Tim Harness.


Subject: Organization

I consider myself to be of at least average intelligence (all right, I consider myself to be a good deal above average intelligence, but for the sake of the current argument I'll settle for average). I came to this website in search of an article my son-in-law told me about: a discussion of the political poles of liberal and conservative and how most people don't fit comfortably in either. I perused the current offerings and found much of interest (including the Jingoism discussion) but not the article for which I was searching. I used the "search" feature, inserting the words liberal, conservative and both at the same time. The search engine informed me that my search for " did not produce any results. I seems to me that any ordinary implementation of a search feature would have turned up my article (even with a great deal of dross) on those search terms. So I conclude that the search engine is either broken or that all political references such as liberal and conservative have been purged either from the engine or the archives. This doesn't seem very likely to me either, so I'm choosing to conclude that perhaps the website is needlessly complicated where the definition of complicated includes inherent bars to finding desired information. I would be the first to defend your right to present your website in any form you choose or not at all for that matter, and even more your right to avoid having to wade through the morass of undocumented features that most new software entails. Perhaps one of your fans in the spirit of public service would offer services to recast the site in a more user friendly form...perhaps that soul would be more likely to undertake the overhaul as a form of self-promotion if proper recognition were provided. At any rate, from the point of view of a visitor, it would be nice to be able to find what has gone before as well as the current viewpoints.


John A. Thomas
Pensacola, Florida on the eve of Hurricane Katrina's landfall, hopelfully elsewhere.

Actually the Pournelle axes (which was a dissertation in Political Science rewritten to be in popular form) are found at http://www.baen.com/chapters/axes.htm as well as somewhere on this site. I found that in a search on Google on Pournelle Axes as the first hit, but of course you need that key word axes. Political Spectrum and Pournelle on Google will get you that one plus http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Political_spectrum which is brief  but not badly done and has some references.

I will agree, it's harder to find on my site than through Google, because it has been mentioned many time, and the search engine turns up a lot of hits.


Subject: Calif. AG Wants Warning Label on Fries

The law makes more business for itself.

Will it now be "hate speech" to ask a customer, "Do you want fries with that?"

But we were born free?

Hey, maybe I can get the contract for the new french (freedom?) fry warning labels?

File under: lemons to lemonade, render unto Caesar, "The Crazy Years" etc.

Petronius The Arbiter Of Taste


LOS ANGELES - Potato chips and french fries could soon come with a warning label in California if the state's top attorney prevails in a lawsuit filed Friday against nine fast food chains and snack-food makers.

Attorney General Bill Lockyer asked for a court order requiring McDonald's, Burger King, Wendy's, Frito Lay and other companies to warn consumers that their fries and chips may contain acrylamide, a chemical the state says causes cancer.

At least one of the companies disputes that, saying there is no evidence the substance is carcinogenic.

"In taking this action, I am not telling people to stop eating potato chips or french fries," Lockyer said. "I know from personal experience that, while these snacks may not be a necessary part of a healthy diet, they sure taste good."

But consumers should have the information needed to make informed decisions about their food, he said.

Acrylamide, a byproduct of chemicals and high heat, has been found at low levels in several foods. The lawsuit focuses on french fries and chips because they have more acrylamide than other foods, according to the Attorney General's Office.

Frito-Lay spokeswoman Lynn Markley said there was no scientific evidence that acrylamide causes cancer. She said it was counterproductive for the state to sue the companies when California regulators are setting standards for the chemical under Proposition 65, a state law that requires companies to notify the public about potentially dangerous toxins in food.



Subject: Missing Music Producer Found, Hospitalized

No Nigerians were found.

File Under "Silly Season, HollyWeird"

Petronius The Arbiter Of Taste


LOS ANGELES - The nearly weeklong search for a Grammy-nominated producer ended Friday after a resident spotted the man sitting naked in a backyard creek, washing his jeans.

The Topanga Canyon resident found a distraught Christian Julian Irwin saying he feared he was being pursued by Nigerians who had contacted him in an Internet scam, sheriff's Capt. Ray Peavy said.

Peavy said there was no evidence anyone was actually pursuing the 48-year-old producer, who has worked with Carly Simon, David Bowie <http://search.news.yahoo.com/search/news/?p=David+Bowie>  , among others.

Irwin was taken into custody because he was deemed mentally incompetent and possibly dangerous to himself, Peavy said.

Well that's a relief.


Subject: Proposed Reorganization of Chaos Manor

Hi, Jerry. The "blog"-style of reverse chronological order is ideal for diarist who writes short comments, intended for readers who stop by frequently throughout the day. Glenn Reynolds' "www.instapundit.com" is a perfect example. Rarely does Glenn write more than a paragraph, and usually short ones. His blog is more in the "news headlines" genre, where the newest stuff HAS to be at the top of the page.

Your style, on the other hand, is more essayist than diarist; your comments are longer, more involved, and always more in-depth than Reynolds'. I doubt that the majority of your correspondents drop by more often than daily, not hourly; we read your page for content, not headlines. Your style _needs_ to be different, because the purpose is.

It's your site, and it needs to be done your way, but for whatever weight my "vote" counts, I'd say leave Chas Manor alone. It's fine. Take the time that you might spend on a redesign and write fiction. How about a new Jannisaries novel?

------------------------------------------------------------------- Ken Mitchell Citrus Heights, CA ken@creativemindssacramento.com

  "No government ever voluntarily reduces itself in size. Government programs, once launched, never disappear. Actually, a government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we'll ever see on this Earth." Ronald Reagan Oct. 27, 1964 http://www.opinionjournal.com/extra/?id=110005180

Actually I am working on the next Janissaries even as we speak...



The first story was The Forgotten Planet by Murray Leinster. I am holding a hardback reissue in my lap as I type this.



Subject: The Invasion Of The Chinese


Here is a man who made a counterintelligence breakthrough, exposing an organized spying operation of enormous proportions. His reward? He was fired from his job. This really, really makes me confident about the management of Sandia labs.


Rather than fire him, his boss could have asked for some organizational cover. But no. He took one of our most successful cyber-cointel guys off-line.


You are astonished?



This is something like a story I saw in Analog decades ago, but cheap silicone has done it again: a lady caught a flasher on her cell phone's camera, showed it to the cops then posted it on-line. "I hope his mom sees it," one commenter posted.




Dear Jerry:

Has it ever struck you that as teachers have been required to take more and more "education" courses to get and remain certified the quality of our educational system has tumbled, and that the more sex "education" is taught in grammar, middle, and high schools the higher our rate of teen pregnancy has become?


Tim Loeb

Actually I had made that observation..


Asia Minor: Causes of catastrophe

1453: The Holy War for Constantinople and the Clash of Islam and the West. By Roger Crowley. Hyperion; 304 pages; $25.95. Published in Britain as "Constantinople:

The Last Great Siege, 1453"; Faber and Faber; £16.99 The Mechanism of Catastrophe: The Turkish Pogrom of September 6-7, 1955, and the Destruction of the Greek Community of Istanbul. By Speros Vryonis junior. Greekworks.com; 664 pages; $75

WHATEVER befell the Queen of Cities, 553 summers ago, it was evidently a turning-point in world affairs. But to paraphrase Lenin's question, who exactly prevailed over whom?

The bare facts are not in doubt. On May 29th 1453, a 21-year-old Ottoman sultan, later known as Mehmet the Conqueror, took the ancient capital of the Byzantine, or eastern Roman, empire. By blockading the Bosphorus, spiriting ships into the supposedly impregnable Golden Horn and pounding the walls with cannon, Mehmet fulfilled the dream of many previous besiegers, going back to the early Islamic era. Constantine XI, the last Christian emperor, died in the defence.

In Turkish history books, the conquest of Istanbul is presented as a heroic feat by a visionary leader, who cast aside the caution of his elders and opened a brilliant new chapter in history. It is argued that the city was badly depopulated, and the civilisation it had spawned had become moribund: only after a change of master was the great conurbation on the Bosphorus able to rediscover its natural role as the epicentre of a world empire.

For Constantinople's defenders and their Greek or philhellenic heirs, the "fall of the city" was a tragedy whose sharpness has never ceased to be felt: the end of a civilisation whose art, architecture and world view were deeply infused with Christian doctrine and Hellenic thought--with spectacular aesthetic results, whatever you might think of Byzantine politics.

A comparatively dispassionate--yet still gripping--view of the drama of 1453 is offered by Roger Crowley, an ex-teacher with a pedagogue's gift for anticipating queries and injecting life into an old, if perpetually fascinating, story. One of the hardest questions, as he suggests at the outset, is how to describe the warring parties. Were they "Greeks" and "Turks" in the modern sense? Of course not, because the nation-state had not been invented. On the attacking side, the best troops were Slavic; so, it seems, were at least half the genes of Mehmet; his feisty commander, Zaganos Pasha, was of Greek origin. The defenders included Venetians, Catalans and above all Genoese. It is less misleading, Mr Crowley argues, to define the belligerents in religious terms: on one hand, a "Christendom" whose split between a Catholic West and Orthodox East had fateful results; on the other, the realm of Islam, whose passion for holy war had been reinvigorated by the arrival of the Ottomans in Anatolia.

The book mixes intriguing details of military history with rich references to the religious imagery that influenced both parties. It describes how morale on the defending side was fatally affected by apparent portents from heaven--such as the incident when a famous icon of the Virgin Mary, revered as a protectress of the city, fell into the mud during a procession. Odd meteorological phenomena, apparently linked with a volcano thousands of miles away, were seen by both sides as omens.

But for all the power of religious symbols and rhetoric, the conflict between the Christian and Muslim worlds was not as total, or as simple, as the discourse of the time might suggest. Notionally Christian powers were willing to ally with the Ottomans against their fellow Christians. As for Mehmet, he selected a conservative (ie, anti-Roman) theologian as patriarch and reaffirmed the prelate's authority over all the empire's Christian subjects. Before 1453, it seemed that the Orthodox Christians of Constantinople might yield some doctrinal ground to Rome in order to secure military aid from the Catholic West. But the monastics, and above all the people of the city, rejected compromise, even if this refusal sealed their military fate. After 1453, the Ottoman rulers played an important part in making sure that their Christian subjects remained on an eastern Orthodox, rather than Roman Catholic, track.

So whatever it implied, the Ottoman victory in 1453 did not mean an end to the practice of Orthodox Christianity either in the great city itself or the wider region. A more nearly terminal moment came almost exactly five centuries later. In September 1955, at a time of tension over Cyprus, well-orchestrated mobs ran amok through the Greek churches, shops and cemeteries of the city, desecrating, looting, maiming and in a few cases killing. Speros Vryonis, a Greek-American scholar of Ottoman history, has devoted many years to documenting this episode--along with the diplomatic legerdemain that was used to limit its consequences. The most upbeat thing about this sobering book is the fact that two Turkish scholars--albeit American-based ones--have endorsed it.

In diplomatic theory, modern Istanbul should have been spared this kind of horror. The Lausanne treaty of 1923, a founding document for the modern states of Turkey and Greece, had exempted Istanbul from the Greek-Turkish population exchange. During the early 1950s, and for a brief halcyon period in the early 1960s, Greek Orthodox businessmen with deep roots in the city were thriving once more. But in the end, modern statehood proved more harmful to Greek-Turkish and Christian-Muslim co-existence than traditional theocracy (including Ottoman theocracy) had been. That is thought-provoking for anyone who assumes that over time, the world is becoming more secular, and from a secular viewpoint, more "sensible".








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