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Monday  August 29, 2005

The Associated Press/TOKYO By HIROKO TABUCHI Associated Press Writer

Japanese house-sitter robot hits stores

AUG. 23 9:13 P.M. ET Worried about leaving your house empty while you go on vacation? Japan has the answer: a house-sitter robot armed with a digital camera, infrared sensors and a videophone.

Stores across Japan started taking orders on Thursday for the Roborior -- a watermelon-sized eyeball on wheels that glows purple, blue and orange -- continuing the country's love affair with gadgets.

Roborior can function as interior decor, but also as a virtual guard dog that can sense break-ins using infrared sensors, notify homeowners by calling their cellular phones, and send the owner's cell phone videos from its digital camera.

It debuted in department stores this week, but supplies are limited. The robot is on display in a half-dozen shops, though many more are taking orders.

"We've had robots before that were just toys, but the Roborior can actually be put to practical use in the home," said Takako Sakata, a spokeswoman for the department store chain Takashimaya.

Such technology doesn't come cheaply. Takashimaya will sell the machines, developed by Japanese robot maker Tmsuk Co. Ltd. and electronics company Sanyo Electric Co. Ltd., for $2,600 each.

"We received a lot of inquiries after the demonstrations," Sakata said. "Our initial plan is to sell 2,000 robots."

Tmsuk has already produced a four-legged security robot called Banryu, which is about the size of a large dog and sells for $18,000.

(There is also a housecleaning robot, but it doesn't do windows.)


A Robot That Could Hit A Wall

Scooba may mean nothing to you today, but by the holidays, chances are you'll crave one. Scooba is a sibling to Roomba, the robotic vacuum cleaner beloved by reviewers -- BusinessWeek recently gave it a design award -- and consumers, who in three years have bought 1.2 million units. Scooba, set to go on sale this fall, doesn't just pick up dirt. It also washes, scrubs, and dries tile, wood, or linoleum floors, all in one pass. Price: about $399.

Roomba, Scooba, military vehicles called PackBots, and more; all are creations of iRobot, a Burlington (Mass.) outfit that in 1990 sprang from Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Scooba isn't all that iRobot is getting ready to sell. It's also preparing an initial public offering of stock to be led by Morgan Stanley (MWD ) and JPMorgan Chase (JPM ). Key terms of the deal -- price, amount of equity offered -- have yet to be estimated, and iRobot execs are keeping quiet. So it's too early to judge whether the IPO is worth a bid. Just the same, iRobot's registration statement includes plenty of data for investors to suck up and crunch.

Francis Hamit is reminded of Heinlein's Door Into Summer... We have one of the floor cleaner robots, which is an animated ball; I wrote about it. One problem. Husky Dogs believe they are entitled to play with balls. Any ball they find...


Subject: Caesar, Brutus, and HBO

Dear Dr. Pournelle,

I have not had the pleasure of seeing the new HBO series, but form your comments and those of the rabid Caesarians at AncientWorlds.net I look forward to its eventual airing on German television. However, I must take issue with your reference to "Brutus (who may well have been his son)." This is a tale which arose long, long after Caesar's death and has no basis in anything resembling fact. Certainly, Suetonius, who was given to repeating any gossipy tale he had heard about his subjects, makes no mention of it; I am not sure if it appears in Plutarch or not.

Note that Caesar was only 15 years older than Brutus (not more than 19 by the generally unaccepted long chronology) and is unlikely to have begin his affair with Servilia until sometime in the 60s BC. Which is not to say that he might not have had a paternal attitude toward young Brutus, perhaps taking the teenager or young man under his wing as "the son he never had". His cry, "Kai su teknon," if he said it at all, was metaphorical, not a statement of acknowledgment.


David Levinson

Perhaps I was overly strong in saying "may well have been his son"; perhaps "has been said to have been," or even "areguably"; although in fact I suspect your interpretation is the  proper one. Caesar had a well known (including well known to Brutus) affair with Brutus's mother, and certainly advanced the career of the young Brutus.

On the other hand, young Romans of good family came of age at 14 and many fathered perfectly legitimate children at 15; and Caesar's relationship with Servillia endured over a long time. As heir-presumptive of Marius, Caesar was a dangerous person to know during the rule of Sulla, and most of what we know about his youth prior to the incident with the pirates is speculation. But I am merely arguing, and I will accept your correction.

You'll still like the series, or at least the first episode. It starts with Caesar in Gaul, and there is none of the "Consulship of Julius and Caesar" and the ending of the trial by lowering the flag on the Janiculum, and we have not met Clodius; and the Cataline conspiracy and Cicero's hour of triumph is long over. Cicero appears as a young man who so far has had only one short speech in Senate, but it was a pretty good one. I suspect the screen writers are familiar with the novel Turn Back The River, still one of the best bits of historical fiction of the time (told from the viewpoint of Claudia, sister of Clodius).

A Latin purist would no doubt argue with the pronounciations used. I spent my entire working career in commercial sign painting and I really enjoyed all the art work in the series. I didn't think the type style used for Rome itself was especially 'Roman' but that's another quibble.


I can think of a hundred quibbles, but given that I expected something awful I found it wonderful. The characterization of Caesar is in my judgment the best I have seen since Claude Rains in Caesar and Cleopatra.




Subject: Letter from England

I spent the last week in eastern Scotland, first walking in the hills and then taking a study tour from the University of Nottingham on the archaeology and history of the area. I'm planning to write a short paper on "Symbolic and Episymbolic Evolution During the Picto- Scottish Transition" for the course. I'm extending some insights of Jablonka and Lamb (2005. Evolution in Four Dimensions: MIT Press.) in this. They suggest that there are four types of biological evolution-- genetic, epigenetic (similar to genetic but not involving DNA transmission), behavioural, and symbolic, and note that genetic and symbolic evolution have much in common, both involving 'texts' in some form. I split their symbolic category into symbolic (involving symbols, texts, oral traditions.) and episymbolic (involving how symbol streams are translated into behaviour). Jablonka and Lamb note that development is normally channelized so strongly by genetic and epigenetic mechanisms that most genetic mutations have no effect on the body or behaviour. On the other hand, there are developmental mechanisms for releasing this channelization under stress, so that the accumulated variation can be expressed. If a variant then is appropriate to the changes in the environment, the channelization mechanisms then return into operation to lock in the variant.

My conjecture is that the similarity between genetic and symbolic 'texts' extends to the control mechanisms. That is, episymbolic social control mechanisms hide much of the variation present in symbolic texts in good times, but in bad this social control is released, allowing the community to change and adapt rapidly based on the variants preserved in their symbol systems, texts, and oral traditions. I intend to explore the Picto-Scottish transition, when eastern Scotland was under pressure from the Vikings, from this perspective.

There was an editorial in the Guardian on August 26, titled "Yes they get good results but by God are they bored", <http:// education.guardian.co.uk/gcses/story/0,16086,1556789,00.html> , criticising the current UK educational approach of teaching a limited syllabus and testing it to death. (If you've ever been through military training--it's the same approach.) I get them at age 20, and by then their curiosity and enthusiasm have been burnt out of them-- making it very hard to recruit research students. Employers complain that the graduates of this system lack the skills they need in the workforce. In America, colleges try to emphasise life-long learning skills, but the UK Government really doesn't get it.

My reason for mentioning this is that the University of Nottingham is shutting down their study tour programme after next year. The programme receives some Government funding, and the Government is now insisting that the courses be taught according to the approach I describe above. The school has done student and staff surveys and have discovered that the kinds of people who enjoy being involved in continuing education--either as teachers or learners--simply won't stand for it.

Current stories on Iraq:

Criticism of the draft constitution as unworkable. <http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/4193690.stm>  <http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/4194214.stm>  <http://www.guardian.co.uk/Iraq/Story/0,2763,1558602,00.html>  <http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,7374-1755427,00.html

The Foreign Office warned of a rise in extremism from the war in Iraq a year ago. <http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2005/08/29/ nterr29.xml&sSheet=/news/2005/08/29/ixhome.html>  <http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,22989-1755168,00.html>  <http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/4192188.stm

Exam board used secretaries and other staff to mark exams: <http://education.guardian.co.uk/gcses/story/0,16086,1557161,00.html>

Extended pub hours and related stories--another fiasco in the making. The run-up to this has been rocky, with one unexpected side effect being the disappearance of small venues offering live music. <http://society.guardian.co.uk/drugsandalcohol/story/ 0,8150,1558455,00.html>  <http://society.guardian.co.uk/drugsandalcohol/story/ 0,8150,1558475,00.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


Subject: Army Contract Official Critical of Halliburton Pact Is Demoted

Hello Jerry,

"Blood and treasure":

Army Contract Official Critical of Halliburton Pact Is Demoted By ERIK ECKHOLM

A top Army contracting official who criticized a large, noncompetitive contract with the Halliburton Company for work in Iraq was demoted Saturday for what the Army called poor job performance.

The official, Bunnatine H. Greenhouse, has worked in military procurement for 20 years and for the past several years had been the chief overseer of contracts at the Army Corps of Engineers, the agency that has managed much of the reconstruction work in Iraq.

For the rest, see:



John Welch

I post this without comment because I now nothing more than you see. Sometimes people deserve demotion. Sometimes they don't. On this one, I plead ignoramus...


Subject: Oil


It will be interesting to see what the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina is for oil prices, or fuel oil and gasoline in the USA. This will disrupt oil production throughout the gulf, and something like 30% of US production funnels through New Orleans in one way or another. The hurricane is currently veering very slightly to the east, but it will be a close thing for N.O.

BTW, let me give a big endorsement for "Hubbert's Peak : The Impending World Oil Shortage" by Kenneth S. Deffeyes. He is a hard- headed petroleum geologist who tells it like it is, and (amazingly) makes the subject not only interesting but he puts real humor in the book. This book is a real contender for book of the month, I think. We are in for a rough decade or two as we sort out this energy mess; our national failure to create an energy policy will now hurt us badly.

On Bush and Iraq. I think he is evil, and incompetent, too. However, the issue that we have to deal with goes back to a bumper sticker that I saw during the first Gulf War, "War is not an energy policy". An energy policy is what we need, not this tepid nonsense that just passed is mainly a profits guarantee for oil companies that does nothing to address the root issues.

Chuck Bouldin


Subject: Mr. Brumbelow's query


I don't recall the first story. The second is Sturgeon, Microcosmic God. The third is Jack Finney, The Woodrow Wilson Dime. The fourth is Fredric Brown, The Waveries.

Matthew Joseph Harrington

So that takes care of all of them. Although Sturgeon's Ether Breather is pretty close on the fourth also.


Subj: The Chalabi Comeback


="Chalabi has emerged as a central figure in the effort to improve infrastructure security," says Gen. David Petraeus, the overseer of Iraqi Security Force training and one of the few officials willing to risk offending the foreign policy mandarins in Washington by going on record about the matter. In particular, Mr. Chalabi is credited with obtaining additional Iraqi funding and focus on the effort, resulting in what one U.S. observer calls "the highest crude oil exports in anyone's memory."=

I hope I'm not being sacrilegious, but -- "The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone."

Rod Montgomery==monty@sprintmail.com

I doubt with the same meaning...


Herrnstein, Murray, and Race

When the late Richard Herrnstein and I published The Bell Curve eleven years ago, the furor over its discussion of ethnic differences in IQ was so intense that most people who have not read the book still think it was about race.

I can vouch for this. My Junior year in high school, in 1996, my Advanced Placement History teacher stated outright that the book was an attempt to justify racial eugenics. This was not his only "quirk."

Sadly, it took me a few years to realize just how nutty that particular teacher was.

-- Chris Hamilton -- chris at wyattoil.com

I know of no work by Murray I cannot recommend, and The Bell Curve is necessary reading for anyone who wants to think about modern society. It is not about race. It is about a very real development.


Subject: Comparing Blogging systems + Quick FrontPage BlockQuotes + theSecond Amendment

Hi Dr. Pournelle,

I'd just like to add a few comments about the possibilities of blogging systems. It helps to consider "blogging systems" as a subset of the larger "content management systems" (CMS).

Some enterprising souls have put together a website dedicated to comparing the various CMS types, with a summary of the requirements and facilities: http://www.asymptomatic.net/blogbreakdown.htm

It looks to me as if your requirements would be pretty simple, since Chaos Manor is primarily text-driven, understandably. This means that you can get away with not using a database backend, for example, there are some PHP-only systems such as Pivot, or even pure Perl (Bloxsom).

I tried Pivot and liked it, but I went for WordPress since I wanted to get used to MySQL databases, and had the facilities. It is quite basic, and supports two main document types: Posts and Pages, the former being for diary entries, the latter for static pages. There is the ability to upload other file types for use e.g. photos, but it does not include a "gallery" feature as a full CMS might. Comment handling is flexible, with the ability to screen out most "comment spam" and force commenters to log in with real email addresses. Moderation is also available for all comments, or those with many links (as the spammers send).

Currently, Posts appear in Descending date order, newest first, as presented from the server. There is a request open to make this a settable feature, but currently the only way (without hacking the code) is to specify it in the request URL. This is an example link to my own site, with the optional parameter (the ? onwards) you need to change the sort order: http://stereoroid.com/?order=asc

WordPress has themes, one of which I seriously customized: I don't think it gives normal users the option to change the theme. I hadn't thought about it before - it's my site, I get to set the font. 8-)

I hope that's useful..?

brian thomson dublin, ireland subscriber since c. 2001

PS: about indenting text in FrontPage, in case no-one else has replied: when I used it, I simply used the normal "Increase Indent" button, which is the same as the one in MS Word. Or keyboard shortcut Ctrl+M to Increase, Shift-Ctrl-M to decrease. This inserts/removes the "blockquote" tags (I just tested it). You can then modify the Style for "blockquote" formatting, to change the font for blockquotes on that page. (Applying that globally would take stylesheets, of course.)

PPS: I have to say I find the idea of armed civilian militia, guarding the Mexican border, as slightly archaic. Perhaps it's just my European viewpoint that sees a difference between the Right to bear arms - which makes sense - and taking Civilian law into your own hands, as those border patrols were doing. You may all scoff at we Euro-peons who submit to disarmament by our respective governments; but you can be sure that if it becomes necessary to raise arms, against our governments, we will find willing arms suppliers..! Until then, I don't want a hair-trigger deadly weapon anywhere near my home, where it's more likely to offer harm than protection, if the statistics from the USA are reliable... 8-/



Who would ever have thought this would happen?







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Tuesday,  August 30, 2005

Subject: Hurricanes and Phishing

Dr. Pournelle:

The latest natural disaster in New Orleans area (hurricane Katina) is an opportunity to help others. Many people need help, and relief organizations are poised to help.

And the phishers are also poised to help.

If past disasters are any indication, your readers can expect to see spam/phishing mail that will happily take your money for “Hurricane Katina Relief”. All they need is your credit card number, PIN number, etc.

Readers are well-advised to be cautions with unsolicited mail with this type of plea. And messages with attachments purporting to be pictures or news about the hurricane should *not* be opened, as they will contain worms or viruses.

Readers should only contribute to reputable organizations. I’d recommend the Red Cross, there are others. The Red Cross has a web site at http://www.redcross.org/ (note that it’s not a ‘dot com’). Type in the link in your browser, then donate from there.

Caution always with unsolicited email – don’t open it, don’t reply to it, just delete it.

Regards, Rick Hellewell


From another conference. It was pointed out that in the 19th Century and early 20th if you had been asked what nation would be dominant in the 21st Century, the answer would have been, overwhelmingly, Germany. So what went wrong?

Germany really only had one problem: Nazis.

Without the Nazis and WWII, it's easy to argue that the Germans would have been the world's first nuclear power. They probably would have gotten to the moon in the 50's. They would have dominated Europe politically. With a strong Germany at its throat, the Soviet Union would never have become the powerhouse it was.

The Nazis stand as the world's foremost "accident of history." It's like one of those Star Trek episodes where the crew visits an alternate dimension. One thing has gone wrong, and it has ruined all of history. Well, we're in the crap Star Trek dimension, not the good one.


I find that hard to argue with.


Now this is an interesting case: http://tinyurl.com/b8uy8  (NYT link)

A 22-year-old man traveled from Nebraska to Kansas and married a 14-year-old girl, with their parents' blessing, according to the article. They have one child. He has now been arrested in Nebraska.

Maybe the family didn't have much of a chance anyway, and the prosecutor shouldn't feel too bad about breaking it up by sending the father to jail. Then again, I'm always reminded of Will and Ariel Durant by this sort of thing. He was 26 and she 13. It's not every marriage that lasts 80 years and where the partners produce an 11-volume of history of civilization between them. (Will Durant outlived Ariel by just one week.)

For a long time, I have thought that it is interesting that we live in a society that strongly encourages premarital sex for the young, but denies them the humanizing institution of marriage. Some of the problem has to do with college, I think. College is incompatible with family.

It's an interesting system. College degrees stand in for IQ tests because employers can't or don't know how to use them. Most people take relatively little benefit from college, and probably later high school years as well. But everybody assumes that the system is working because they were personally so much more mature at 22 than at 17. And because the people without college degrees that they know tend to be so dumb.

Then again, I've always harbored a deep suspicion that handing a person a book and telling him that there will be a test on the material in a week is just as effective as any course -- certainly for the very intelligent, but probably for the just normally intelligent too. On the other hand, that probably just means that I'm crazy.


Roman boys and girls came of age at 14.

And see below


Dear Jerry:

Spotted this one as I was headed for bed. I am absolutely appalled by this. What the Hell were they thinking?

Francis Hamit


Ye gods.


Subject: Creative Commons

Dear Jerry:

Creative Commons is a scheme to undermine traditional copyrights put forth by Lawrence Lessig, and supported by, among others, Cory Doctorow, Joi Ito and all those other people who find the idea of getting permission and/or paying for using someone else's creative work all too uncool and boring. In principle if someone actually wants to let people use their work without checking first, why they may of course. It's a free country.. There is nothing wrong with the idea. However, considerable social pressure is applied to enable these schemes and make them a virtual mandate.

I am sure that those who agree to them haven't really thought through all of the implications. Not only does this undermine the entire idea of receiving reasonable payment for work already done, but also the author or artist's moral right to control the use and disposition of their work. There seems to be some kind of fad for "remix" or putting your own interpretation on someone else's work. A real world example of this would be someone rewriting one of your books as a musical comedy without your permission. (You begin to see the potential for nonsense?) Author's control is always essential, even when fans are indulged. You may recall that George Lucas tolerated Fanfic in the Star Wars melee, but that love stories between Luke and Princess Leia was verbotten. For reasons which eventually became clear. .

I may be a little bitter about this. It is one of the things that makes the conversation about actually enforcing the copyright law we have so difficult. Lessig keeps trying to change the laws he doesn't like by creating legions of the ill-informed to promote his agenda, when the way to do this, if it is desirable , is to lobby the Congress. The Internet makes it very easy to do these things, which does automatically, perforce, means that they should be done.


Francis Hamit


Subject: creative commons and Dvorak missing the point

The trouble with John Dvorak is his deliberate trolling when he doesn't understand something. It is like he has turned into a second rate shock-jock in old age, he regularly misses the point/his target and gets on his hobby horse & charges up the valley of death.

One point of view of the Creative Commons Licence comes from Mike Brotherton who has a Sci-Fi novel published by Tor called Star Dragon which I may have totally bypassed if I had not seen it first online:

"There are legitimate uses for Creative Commons that this humbug is missing. For instance, I've released my first novel Star Dragon online under CC. It's a real, published novel, still available in hardback and paperback, by Tor, a major U.S. publisher of science fiction and fantasy. No one can distribute my book under "fair use" copyright law, because it wouldn't be, and certainly commercial distribution is right out. The publisher has agreed to try it in a promotional effort, the idea being I will make more sales than I lose. Early tech adopters like Cory Doctorow and Charlie Stross have been doing it, too (and while I've gotten great reviews both sell a lot better than me, but are more advanced in their writing careers).

One additional thing. The humbug would claim that in many instances Creative Commons does nothing that isn't already done by existing copyright, except be trendy. Well, don't overlook trendy, I say. Many younger people on the internet these days have a clue what Creative Commons means, and know little to nothing about copyright. They may respect something labelled Creative Commons, and that's worth something. Also, it's nice to see that certain material is expected to be taken, and the author's permission is explicit and clear. It's possible to end up in court with legitimate fair use when the author and the user disagree about what that means.

And finally, even Dvorak is clueless when it comes to copyright. He says you have to add "Copyright 2005" to something to copyright it. You don't. It's automatically covered (you can still do the paperwork and register it, but in principle you don't). So here's a guy writing an article related to copyright who doesn't know the law, criticizing Creative Commons under the assumption everyone already knows the copyright laws."

You might want to consider reading the creative commons licence itself. This is the groklaw version: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/ 

There is slight biased article followed by some fairly balanced replies at groklaw about Dvorak doing his usual missing the target by a whole hemisphere:


You probably will want to miss the rabid but amusing replies on slashdot.org:


Andrew Orlowski has taken up reviewing some of the responses to his first article:


Followed by the slashdot.org "corrections":


-- Ben Baylis (ben@velvetbug.com)

Do you think I am a megalomaniac ? Just give me a ZX81, and I'll control the world !

I do not read slashdot as I have never found it worth the time invested. I confess I do not understand all the furor of this creative commons thing: in fact I don't understand what it is.  Is this a voluntary association? A proposal for legislation? What is the enforcement method?

Writers have sold and given away certain rights and retained others for a very long time. Beam Piper gave to me (but me exclusively it is not transferable nor something I can license to others) permission to write stories in his universe, and his publishers and estate have recognized that. I intended to do that at one time but I probably will not.

Many writers have given fans permission to write fan stories set in their universes. Many fans have written stories in the Falkenberg universe, some quite good; I have never given permission and sometimes I have sent pro forma letters reminding them I have not given permission but that is to protect rights.

So I do not seem to grasp the purpose of Creative Commons; and no one has yet explained it to me in any way I understand. How is this different from copyright law and carefully drafted releases of rights?


Subject: Francis Hamit on Creative Commons

Dear Dr Pournelle,

Mr Hamit's efforts to receive proper compensation for his copyrighted works are admirable. I'm not one of those who despise copyright - as a fan of the GPL I would be a fool to do so. Like you it seems to me he is "fighting the good fight" on that matter.

His description of those who advocate a Creative Commons licence however is another matter. As an engineer trying to complete a law degree precisely to better informed on what rights I have to my ideas (and the best licence for their expression), I bitterly resent being told that I "haven't really thought through all of the implications." On the contrary.

But that's just common abuse. What really ticks me off is that many of the outcomes he decries are to me, positive. There is no place in the Common Law for example, for any notion of "moral rights of the author". Such rights are strictly a Roman (Civil) law notion, and a recent invention at that, only lately grafted onto common-law jurisprudence by such international conventions as the TRIPS agreement.

It is not a thought crime to deprecate such "rights". I'm even familiar with some of the examples he quotes - the George Lucas Star Wars "extended" universe for example is divided in various levels of canonicity, with the films at the top, through games to various licenced books at the bottom. The games especially, necessarily depart from a unified vision because LucasArts is required to allow users to choose a light or dark path.

Fanfic doesn't rate a mention on the Wikipedia site dealing with Star Wars. I might add that one reason no-one gets sued is that in many jurisdictions they can't be sued. The most one could get from a suit over such matters is an "accounting for profits" and what is free can't be clawed back. In such places fanfic is simply a derivative work - since there is no common-law moral right of authors, and no copying of expression, there is no basis for a copyright suit. At least until patents on literature become law.

The CC licence is under attack frequently by a crowd I have come to think of as "the usual suspects". John Dvorak is prominent among them. For anyone who wants a thoughtful discussion on the implications by people who are neither ignorant nor fanatical, start with this response to Dvorak by Joe Gratz, who as Groklaw pointed out is a law graduate himself:


Excerpt: "...Dvorak worries that Creative Commons licensing might limit users’ fair use rights. This is a misunderstanding of the license. The very first substantive paragraph of every Creative Commons license says, “Nothing in this license is intended to reduce, limit, or restrict any rights arising from fair use, first sale or other limitations on the exclusive rights of the copyright owner under copyright law or other applicable laws.” How any license that so prominently and so explicitly preserves users’ fair use rights could pose a threat to those rights is difficult to imagine."

Anyone who wants to see a really committed CC advocate in action need look no further than any of the Groklaw columns, like this one:


Pamela Jones licences all her material using CC. Contrary to Mr Hamit's assertion, not all CC advocates are so bored by licensing requirements as to despise them. PJ is not afraid to look up licensing terms and pay for material where required. I'm holding in my hand a (paid for) copy of a French article on European legal affairs I need to translate for her, which cost her a considerable sum in Euros.

Regards, TC

-- Terry Cole System Administrator, OU Physics

 Once again, I fail to understand just what is the controversy here? Clearly a misunderstanding on my part, but if an advocate of "Creative Commons" would like to explain it better I'd be interested.

Subject: Creative Commons

Francis Hamit wrote:
> Creative Commons is a scheme to undermine traditional copyrights
> put forth by Lawrence Lessig, ...

Hi Jerry

That is pretty much the opposite of my understanding.

Creative commons is a set of licenses that you can use to give away a subset of your copyright rights. It relies on the copyright laws to work.

Let's say that I write an essay and I want to give readers blanket permission to reproduce it so long as it is unedited and retains my copyright and license stipulations. I can choose an appropriate license and release the essay under that license. There are a variety of licenses to suit different levels of permissions that people might want.

By using a boilerplate license, I'm (hopefully) less likely to include errors that might make the license unenforceable.

It doesn't weaken anybody else's rights, it just allows me to selectively give away some of mine -- and gives me good control over what rights I want to retain.

I don't know who is making Mr Hamit may feel pressured to release his work. That is, of course, unfair. So, while I like the idea of Creative Commons licenses, I certainly don't support anybody being pressured to use such a license.

Much more info available at http://creativecommons.org/ 


Michael J Smith

 [emphasis added by ed]

I have been to that web site and came away less informed than when I entered. It seems to be full of hype and short on definitions. That may be a failing on my part. But I have yet to be told how it accomplishes its goals. Is this something to be proposed to legislatures? Voluntary compliance (which like an oral agreement in general isn't worth the paper it's written on...)

It is probably a failing on my part, but I do not grasp the subject.


Subject: Creative Commons

Francis Hamit has the gist of it on Creative Commons, albeit from a very negative viewpoint. CC can be useful in cases where a person wants to make their material available for reincorporation into other works on specific, universal terms. In my opinion CC works best for computer code (it can be thought of as an algorithmic approach to choosing an open source license).

I think it would also likely work well for, say, someone creating online textbooks if the motivation was wide distribution rather than profit. I think that homeschoolers, for example, could pool their resources virtually this way and create a website filled with homework and tests that other homeschoolers could use freely, licensed under a Creative Commons approach.

Hard cheese for textbook authors, of course.

Steve Setzer

Leaving me in as much confusion as ever. It might help if their web site had less flash and more information.


Subject: Creative Commons

Creative Commons is a set of standard PERMISSIONS for other people to use your copyrighted work.

Basically by using this form


They can show you a license that you can you use to grant the permissions you want to give.

That is the technical explanation and it is simple as that.

But the motives of the people behind this are not so simple. In general they view the current term of copyright as extremely damaging to our culture and only serves the interest of big media corporations. They took the concepts from Stallman and open source software and made set of license that work for text, and other traditional media. These licenses are the core of the creative media. (For example a Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivative license

Whether you agree with this or not; Creative Commons, like open source, take advantage of copyright law to permit reuse of a copyrighted work rather than restrict the use as normally done.

The whole movement is based on convincing people to contribute their works under a creative common license.

One of the hopes is that a critical mass will be reached that it would be more advantagous to use a work under a creative common license and contribute back than try to make a new work out of whole cloth.

The other hope that the mass of works under the creative commons will allow people that are more than just what the author would be able to do by himself.

Rob Conley

It must be me. I find their "license" enormously confusing, in part because I don't see any clear statement of the point of it all. Nor do I understand the difference between "commercial" and other such uses. If someone writes a story in the Falkenberg universe and posts it on a web page, is that commercial? Suppose he requests donations? Sell subscriptions on the public radio model as I invite here? Charges a fee for access to his page, of which my story is a small part? What is commercial?


Subj: Creative Commons is *voluntary* dammit!

I have great respect for Francis Hamit, and I sent him money to support his efforts to defend the rights of authors.

But his description of "Creative Commons" at http://www.jerrypournelle.com/mail/mail377.html#creative is far different from my understanding thereof.

My own understanding is that creativecommons.org provides a collection of licensing patterns, in the same way that the Free Software Foundation and the Open Source Initiative provide patterns for software licensing at http://www.fsf.org/licensing and http://opensource.org/licenses/ , plus explanations of why each of the patterns might be more or less appropriate for particular purposes.

Now, I'm not a published author, and maybe if I ever became one, I'd see immediately what Francis Hamit means by "considerable social pressure is applied to enable these schemes and make them a virtual mandate." As things stand, I have no clue. But I find it very hard to understand why promoting an agenda by lobbying Congress is preferable to trying to generate public support for that agenda -- especially if that agenda consists more of promoting *voluntary* use of existing copyright law in particular ways than of getting that law changed.

The rest of this note contains wannabe/aspiring-creator thinking, so if you're not interested in that sort of thing, or find it annoying (as I understand some published authors do), I won't be offended if you don't bother reading further.

I am creating a shared simulated universe. If successful, my platform will support the creation of a variety of artistic works, which I fancy will have certain distinctive characteristics I've not seen in other works.

Now, one way to approach the publication of my creation would be to reserve all rights to myself, and either create all content myself or rigorously vet and individually license all others who might want to contribute. I'm nowhere near creative enough (not to mention young enough) to do it the first way, and I too well remember Dr. Pournelle's reports of his dissatisfaction with the rate of return on his investment in his "War Worlds" series to be enthusiastic about trying the second way. If what I'm trying works at all, my *automation* will give me all the control I want or need over the way other contributors' contributions interact with my own.

A "creative commons" license seems to me to give me my best chance to succeed.

And, just as I'm happy to have the benefit of the Free Software Foundation's lawyers' work on the GNU General Public License, to check that the words of which the license is made really implement the notion of "Free Software", I can imagine that authors who grant Creative Commons licenses might be happy to have the Creative Commons lawyers checking that the licenses in that collection really implement the ideas *they* want implemented.

Of course Mr. Hamit, Mr. Dvorak and any other authors so inclined are at complete liberty to ridicule my licensing choice, or even to lobby for legislation to cripple it -- "for my own good", perhaps? -- just as successful capitalists are at complete liberty to ridicule the choices of prospective new entrants into their markets, and to lobby for legislation to erect barriers to new entrants -- "in the public interest", of course.

As for the "Creative Commons License: Public domain" tags that so incense Mr. Dvorak: I can see why someone who finds the Creative Commons notion annoying would find those tags annoying. Their purpose is to inject a little advertising, for a set of ideas the author or distributor of the material wants to promote, into what would otherwise be a purely utilitarian lack-of-copyright notice. Their purpose is to prompt someone reading the notice, who hasn't heard of "Creative Commons" before, to ask "What is that?" and maybe Google up an answer. I wonder whether Mr. Dvorak really doesn't understand that? Or are his fulminations just another aspect of *his* campaign to ridicule Creative Commons? (Sinister Covert Purpose theories are *so* easy to conjure, don't you think?)

Are some of the Creative Commons advocates "over the top"? I don't doubt some are, though I've not really bothered to read much advocacy. Richard Stallman, the Father of the Free Software movement, is most certainly somewhat ... obsessive. And so what? As for those who are *really* Far Out, like the Civilization-will-collapse-if-I-can't-remix crowd: was it not Mr. Niven who said, "There is no cause so noble that it will not attract fuggheads?"

Is a Creative Commons license the right license for *every* work? Hell no!

But does that mean that it's *wrong* for every work? Or that someone who thinks it's right for *his* work is deserving of ridicule, or ostracism, or accusations of being mentally deranged, or In the Service of Sinister Forces?

Rod Montgomery==monty@sprintmail.com

I think this is a "Let's you and him fight" situation for me, so far.

Regarding worlds and bibles: I made enough out of War Worlds and There Will Be War (two different series we did simultaneously) to pay most of Mr. Carr's fees; what I got out of that was the services of an intelligent man who would never have worked for me as a "personal assistant" or secretary (and I could hardly blame him) but who was content to be an editorial consultant.

Robert Asprin, as I understand it, did well enough out of the Thieves World anthologies (I never contributed but he had a stellar cast in the first couple of books, and some pretty good regulars); but I am not familiar with just how much "good enough" is in the context.

In any event the anthology market is languishing now, and that includes shared world anthologies. I make no doubt I could, with enough work including personal contributions, get a maximum of $20,000 out of another War World  original anthology, of which I would get half with which to compensate myself and pay someone to do the administration and editorial work (the rest going to the authors of the stories).

Mr. Carr worked with beginning and aspiring writers in War World, and developed some pretty good authors, but that was in part a labor of love and in part an investment; in any case I would not have time to do that. Note that War World stories can't really be sold outside the War World anthologies; it's not because my license prevents it, but because who would buy them? My anthology buys first rights (the only way we can get a decent advance), and later anthology rights are just plain hard to sell.

I might also be able to do another There Will Be War for somewhat less per volume. (There Will Be War only paid for reprint rights, although some stories in the anthologies were first printed there.) With enough work and time investment I might be able to keep TWBW going, but it would take time I don't have, and require someone like John Carr, whose fees would consume just about all of my share; and I just don't have the time or the creative energy. My contributions to those were not trivial even if Mr. Carr did the majority of the work including administration.

If "creative commons" is a set of predefined license agreements I cannot see that it does any great harm, nor all that much good either, and I really do not see what all the shouting is about, either pro or con; or why either Dvorak or Hamit pay it much attention. Clearly Francis Hamit pays more attention to such matters than I do, and he has done yeoman service for all of us in this business; but so far I find it hard to see why Creative Commons is anything to pay attention to at all.

This is probably a failing on my part.

And see below



Subject: It's not unusual


 August 30, 2005


Storms Vary With Cycles, Experts Say

 By KENNETH CHANG <http://query.nytimes.com/search/query?ppds=bylL&v1=KENNETH CHANG&fdq=19960101&td=sysdate&sort=newest&ac=KENNETH CHANG&inline=nyt-per

Because hurricanes form over warm ocean water, it is easy to assume that the recent rise in their number and ferocity is because of global warming.

But that is not the case, scientists say. Instead, the severity of hurricane seasons changes with cycles of temperatures of several decades in the Atlantic Ocean. The recent onslaught "is very much natural," said William M. Gray, a professor of atmospheric science at Colorado State University who issues forecasts for the hurricane season.

From 1970 to 1994, the Atlantic was relatively quiet, with no more than three major hurricanes in any year and none at all in three of those years. <snip> In 1995, hurricane patterns reverted to the active mode of the 1950's and 60's. From 1995 to 2003, 32 major hurricanes, with sustained winds of 111 miles per hour or greater, stormed across the Atlantic. It was chance, Dr. Gray said, that only three of them struck the United States at full strength.

Historically, the rate has been 1 in 3.


"We were very lucky in that eight-year period, and the luck just ran out," Dr. Gray said.

Global warming may eventually intensify hurricanes somewhat, though different climate models disagree. <snip>

Jim Woosley

Yet there are articles about Katrina and Global Warming all over the newspapers.


From August 30, 2005 Current Mail:

A 22-year-old man traveled from Nebraska to Kansas and married a 14-year-old girl, with their parents' blessing, according to the article. They have one child. He has now been arrested in Nebraska.

Roman boys and girls came of age at 14.

In 1915 the man who was to become my paternal grandfather was a 22 year old "hired hand". The farmer for whom he worked had a beautiful 14 year old daughter. Being a gentleman, William T. Smith of Hughesville, Missouri asked Ora to marry him and then sought her father Otis' permission.

They had eight children, nine grandchildren and lived to see three great-grandchildren. I suppose I ought now be thankful there was not a headline hungry State Attorney General in office in the State of Missouri in 1915. Failing that it would be that I would not be.

What was that about "husband high"?

File under "no rest for the wicked, as they expend effort endlessly"

Petronius The Arbiter Of Taste

"Boredom accounts for ninety-per cent of history. The other ten-percent is too boring to study"

Careful lest you be arrested for advocating child molesting; or for that matter, perhaps they will dig up Mr. Smith and his father in law and have their bones cast in the river by the common hangman. They can do the same with Mr. Durant. Did you expect The State to mind its own business?

Incidentally, if the Full Faith and Credit clause protects anyone... Was not the marriage legal in the state where it was performed? In both cases? (But see below)


Subject: Looting


Dr. Pournelle,

Perhaps I'm naive, but I was under the impression that the police are not allowed to steal from private businesses? No?


Mark Achord

When I was a lad there was a tornado in Tupelo, Mississippi, and one of the first headlines I can remember (I must have been about 4 at the time) was about National Guard and Army bayoneting and shooting looters. I didn't understand it, and my father had to explain the headline to me: what looters were, and why it was the job of the Army to stop people like that.

But that was in the 30's and it would not be politically correct now.




- Roland Dobbins

Oops indeed. It's pretty awful so why am I laughing...


Subject: 2nd Ammendment Comment

Afternoon Jerry,

I couldn't let the sideswipe at the 2nd Amendment by one of your 'enlightened' European correspondents to pass unchallenged. The 'conventional wisdom' that arms in the home are more likely to be used against you, than used against an intruder, has been repeatedly debunked. If you readers (or you) are interested, I'll be happy to provide detailed references refuting those erroneous statements.

What prompts me to write is a more basic issue - it's MY choice, not the government's or anyone else's business if I own a firearm. Our own life is our one incontestable possession, and defending that life is a fundamental right - not a civil right, a human right. Your correspondent has the right to not own a firearm - that's his business. Yet he has no right to tell a college student that she has to accept what happens when a rapist breaks down the door, a driver that they have to 'call the police' when a carjacker sits down beside them, or a wife that she can't defend herself and her children from an estranged husband when he arrives at 2 in the morning and grabs a butcher knife.

In the best case, police response is 12 minutes...assuming that the phone lines weren't cut, that the criminal gives the victim time to call the police, and that E911 works and sends the response to the correct address. More often the police prevent a second murder by catching someone after they commit the first one. Don't even mention restraining orders - someone bent on committing a capital crime, doesn't give a hoot about ignoring a piece of paper that the Police (according to a recent Supreme Court decision) aren't even obligated to enforce.

Take a look at the statistics: The states (and countries) with the most restrictive firearms ownership laws have the highest, and rising, crime rates. The violent crime rate in Great Britain has grown so far, so fast since confiscation occurred that there's now a growing call to return the human right of self defense to the subjects of the crown. The states with shall-issue carry laws have enjoyed lower, and declining violent crime rates. A good friend of mine comments 'An armed society is a polite society'.

When Washington, D.C., New York or California has the same violent crime rates as Wyoming, Montana, Colorado, or New Hampshire, then the control advocates might - just might - have something to talk about.

Until then, how dare they tell me that I have to be a victim. How dare they!

Best Regards,


"A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed."

I see that from the Brits and other Europeans so often I don't notice any longer. We can also keep and arm bears... I am a bit astonished that Britain, where yeomanry was important in winning and keeping civil liberties -- the barons didn't dare be too oppressive, and remember Robin and the Greenwood -- has allowed itself to be so thoroughly disarmed. Actually it's the Brits who are disarmed. The invaders are armed well enough.




This week:


read book now


Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Creative Commons Licensing: A More Useful Essay

I hope this is more useful than my previous post on Creative Commons. It's certainly more comprehensive. While you know most of this material in general, I hope that I've "put it together" in a form that will bring new light to the topic of Creative Commons.

This rock is very long, though, so I won't feel offended if you either cut it to pieces or simply file it away without putting it up on the web. But I hope it helps you sort out the pieces.

Steve Setzer

Creative Commons Licensing: A More Useful Essay

SUMMARY: Creative Commons (CC) applies "free and open source software" principles to creative art. (A) Ordinary copyright law means you can't re-use another author's work in your own work without permission (also known as a license), unless the copyright has expired (work is now public domain). (B) On its face, CC makes it easy for an author to grant certain blanket permissions while keeping the copyright in force. In other words, legally speaking CC gives society some of the benefits of public domain while the author retains some control over the work via copyright. (C) The details, motivations, and unexpected consequences of CC are where things get convoluted. (D) CC is both a legal object--a set of written license templates which are legally enforceable--and a social construct--a set of interpersonal assumptions and obligations, not all of them written down but all of them enforced socially. (E) Francis Hamit is definitely worth listening to.

Those with experience in law, pre-law or political science will find the "Background" sections familiar.

** BACKGROUND: A "license" comes out of the common law of property. If you invite a guest into your house, that guest has a _license_ to be there. A trespasser has no license to be on your property.

A license is _not a contract_. The guest did not offer you consideration and neither of you is under any binding promise.

A license is _personal_ and _non-transferable_ (although I think the scope of the persons who can be granted a license at one time is probably large--think of inviting everyone to a "block party").

A license is almost always _revocable_. You can expel the guest from your home at any time for any reason or no reason at all. You can do so even if you said the license was perpetual. A few licenses aren't revocable (basically, a license to come onto property in which the licensee also owns certain types of interest is not revocable at common law).

A license can be _conditional_. You can tell someone "the party ends at 10:00" as he arrives; when 10:00 rolls around, the license expires and the guest is legally required to leave even if you don't remind him. You can, of course, expel him earlier than 10:00 because the license is still also revocable.

** BACKGROUND II: A copyright law assigns a bundle of rights to the author of a creative work. The rights are similar to the rights of owners of personal and real property. Calling them "intellectual property" is a useful shorthand, but they're not _quite_ the same as traditional property.

In the US, if Congress hadn't enacted Title 17 of the US Code, all written and recorded works would be in the public domain under federal law, although individual states might pass copyright laws.

** BACKGROUND III: When copies were difficult to make, explicit copyright licenses were rare. An exact copy of a book or newspaper was simply sold to the reader. In concrete terms, I didn't get a written license from Tom Clancy to read "The Hunt for Red October" but the filmmakers had to get a specific license to make the film. To the extent I had any license, it was implicit and tied to my copy of the book.

** AUTHOR RIGHTS AND LICENSING: In principle, the author has all rights to print copies of his own work and to make derivative works (translations, movies, sequels, etc.). He can license those rights to others (e.g. the film example). This is true whether the authored work is a book or a computer program.

In the book world, these licenses are usually one-offs (e.g., you license Universal to make a movie from "Lucifer's Hammer" and Paramount can't make one). Ordinary readers are not granted any such rights; I can't publish a Japanese translation of "Lucifer's Hammer" or film my own movie of it. In the software world, shrink-wrap licenses similarly grant end users only the right to run and use the program.

** SOFTWARE COPYRIGHTS AND LICENSES: Software shrink-wrap licenses are conditional licenses, and are also revocable licenses. Because most shrink-wrap licenses are in the form of End User License Agreements, they take on contract-like features and may not be as easily revoked as common law licenses.

** FREE AND OPEN SOURCE SOFTWARE: Free and open source software licenses vary in details but are intended to promote the re-use of code, or in other words the creation of derivative works. For example, Microsoft re-used nearly all of the BSD Unix networking code in creating the TCP/IP stack in Windows. Free and open source software licenses otherwise act much like shrink-wrap licenses. They are certainly conditional; it's an open question whether they are revocable, although in a practical sense, an author trying to revoke the license of some widely used product like Perl would be on a fool's errand.

** CREATIVE COMMONS: CC is both "free and open source software licensing made easy for non-lawyers" and "creative art licensing based on free and open source software principles". Originating from the free and open source software movements, CC recognizes that digital artworks (images, novels, music files) have more in common with software programs than they do with real estate or even with printed books. CC participants believe it helps creative artists adapt to the new realities of a digital age, and unleashes the creative energy of artists who can't participate in the older, analog-world publishing and recording industries. They may be right.

There is not one CC license; instead, CC is a set of licenses and choices. You as an author specify the rights you want to license publicly and the rights you want to retain (for personal use or for more traditional licensing methods). It's great for free software/open source software developers.

The intent of many CC promoters, however, is to get artists, writers, and musicians (in addition to programmers) to use CC licenses for digital creations. Contrast that with the current approach favored by professional artists and publishers, that of publishing digital works using Digital Rights Management (e.g. restricted music files, locked PDFs, Microsoft Reader files). Digital Rights Management can be thought of as preserving the "book purchase" or "shrink-wrap" model for digitally-distributed creative works, while CC is trying something different.

CC, based on free software and open source traditions, inherits the mores and social pressures to conform that go with that culture. Authors who try to participate in CC with a few works may find themselves under social pressure to place the rest of their canon under CC, in order to be "good citizens." Fans of certain wide-open CC licenses may snipe at authors who do "the bare minimum" in their CC licensing. Basically, CC-savvy readers will strongly and publicly express opinions against authors who don't measure up to their sense of "moral rightness" in licensing.

** NON-REVOCABILITY: All Creative Commons licenses are expressly irrevocable, according to creativecommons.org. There are practical problems anyway with trying to revoke that kind of public license. On the other hand, irrevocability certainly flies in the face of traditional licensing theory (see above).

Francis Hamit is entirely right that using a CC license is an extremely serious step. Assuming that CC's irrevocability clause holds up, CC licensing _irretrievably_ makes your material available at zero cost to whoever wants it and makes your material available for reuse, possibly in ways you the author don't want it used by persons you don't want touching it.

As the Baen free library shows, zero-cost copies can actually drive sales of printed books and also of related works. But artists should recognize the risks of CC and the eternal loss of control of one's work.

If an author is okay with all that, he should go for it! Creative Commons is an interesting experiment and worth pursuing to see where it goes. But no artist should bend to pressure to use Creative Commons just because some "uber-geeks" think he should.

Steve Setzer

Thank you. Long perhaps, but now I understand what this is about.



Subject: Rebuild New Orleans?

The Army Corp of Engineers has a lot to answer for over the years in their constant search for projects to keep their staffing levels above four engineers. Louisiana needs to take advantage of this disaster and redirect the Mississippi into the Atchafalaya Basin.

This piece, written several years ago


"The area that has since been drained by the canal system includes most of the present metropolitan area of New Orleans, including almost all of Orleans Parish (except the most eastern portions of that parish), the northern half of Jefferson Parish to an area just south of the cities of Westwego and Gretna, the northeastern corner of St. Charles Parish, the western portion of St. Bernard Parish, and the northern tip of Plaquermines Parish. Today, the series of canals and pumping stations continue to keep the land dry. Throughout the rainy season (which is nearly 3/4 of the year), they pump massive quantities of water out of the area into Lake Pontchartrain. In spite of this, the wetness of Louisiana proves, from time to time, to be too much for the pumps, and floods occur. However, not since 1927 has New Orleans flooded because of the height of the Mississippi or the lake. Added to the pumps' strength is the Bonnie Carre Spillway, built by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in St. Charles Parish. Through this spillway, floodwaters of the Mississippi can be diverted into Lake Pontchartrain, sparing the city of New Orleans from river floods. Most of the floods of the 20th century have been due to sustained periods of heavy rainfall and hurricanes. Yet, as beneficial as this system is to the city, inevitably it will spell New Orleans' doom. The levee system that has been built along the river, coupled with the canal system to keep the interior of the city dry, prevent the land from being replenished by the annual spring floods. As a result, the land will continue to sink until eventually there will be nothing to stop the waters of the Gulf to rush back upon the fragile land. In addition, the fresh water that is pumped into the brackish wetlands surrounding the city is creating an ecological disaster. When the Bonnie Carre Spillway is used in order to spare the city of New Orleans from floods, the consequences to the coastal estuary system is profound. As a result, in order to save itself from the waters surrounding it, the city of New Orleans is slowly destroying its own environment. The final death knoll of the city may very well come from the river itself. Scientists and environmentalists know that the Mississippi is trying to change its course that will bypass the city in favor of the shorter route to the Gulf through the Atchafalaya basin. So far, the Corps of Engineers has prevented the river from doing this. But, one day, it will happen, perhaps following a direct hit from a hurricane. As late summer and early fall approach every year (hurricane season), New Orleans stands with the threat that it will lose its own lifeline. No canal system and no levee system will prevent the disaster that will follow."

When I heard New Orleans was below sea level I couldn't understand why it was built. This site explains why it came to be.

C Stillings

But not what will happen next.


Subject: 22 year-old marrying 14 year-old

Dear Dr. Pournelle,

I believe that you have missed an important point of the story. The article you posted may not have explicitly mentioned this, but the man impregnated the girl at 13 before they were married. The marriage occurred afterwards.

Here is a link from msnbc.com that I read a month ago: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/8716780/ 

If the sexual contact had occurred solely after marriage then I think this would be a very interesting legal argument. However, since it appears to me that the marriage may have just been an attempt to avoid prosecution (or possibly a shotgun marriage), I see nothing remarkable about the man being prosecuted for statutory rape.

And it does appear that "full faith and credence" is being given to the marriage. The legality of the marriage is not in question. But the criminal acts that occurred prior to that marriage are being punished.

Thank you for your time and consideration, Matt Wilson

Well I suppose it changes perspectives. And the Republic is certainly better off for having the man in jail, and the girl on welfare, and her child, I suppose, raised in a creche by public authorities. If a boy perhaps he can be brought up to be the first of a new breed of Janissaries. And the prosecutor can be re-elected. It's the business of Nebraska, not mine, and of course Kansas is that awful place where they don't teach evolution.


Subject: 18th Century Climate Change

Dear Dr. Pournelle, While reading J. Hector St. John de Crèvecoeur's Sketches of Eighteenth-Century America, I came across a passage that might be relevant to your comments about the long-term nature of global warming. He writes,

She [Nature] is irresistable; I mean the uncertainty of the snows in the winter and the dryness of our summers. It is astonishing how variable the former grows, much more so indeed than formerly; and I make no doubt but that in a few hundred years they will be very different from what they are at present. That mildness, when interrupted by transitory frosts and thaws, will become very detrimental to our husbandry. For though the quantity of snow may diminish, yet it cannot be entirely so with the frost. [emphasis added]

You pointed out that during the Revolution, the Founders could count on freezes hard enough to allow cannon to be dragged across river ice. As cold as that was, it seems it was colder still in the living memory of older inhabitants. I recall reading (where, I'm afraid I don't remember) that Jefferson interviewed aged inhabitants of Virginia who could recall snow persisting much later in the year than it did in Jefferson's time. It could well be that the warming began in the early 18th century.

 Andrew Williamson


Subject: Fukuyama: Has This Man EVER Had An Original Idea?


But then, Friedman shows regurgitation is a workable path towards a Pulitzer . . .

Here the estimable Francis dredges up the simplistic, tired old "Jacksonian" meme long since developed by even by Lind et al. One awaits his new magazine with . . . a yawn. He is right that the neocon movement gave intellectual firepower to the Republican Party. Yet, Fukuyama is a recycler and regurgitator of the thoughts of others.

If a post-43 American foreign policy needs to emerge with fresh ideas about using depleted American power and capital to our best advantage, it will not come from him.



Subject: RE: Movie with Rachmaninov's 2nd?

Hello again,

How about this one? It sounds a bit more like the plot you mentioned. It's called "I've Always Loved You" and was produced in 1946. It's about a gifted young female pianist torn between her egomaniacal maestro and the farm boy she knew in her youth. It features several works by Rachmoninoff performed for the actress by no less than Arthur Rubinstein.



It took several searches but I finally got this hit in Google's newsgroups.


Mike Graben

That's the one. Thanks!!


Subject: Rebuilding New Orleans

http://www.colorado.edu/hazards/o/nov04/nov04c.html <http://www.colorado.edu/hazards/o/nov04/nov04c.html>

Excellent article - estimate 9 weeks to pump the water out of New Orleans before you can review the damage and start rebuilding. Survival training teaches the rule of 3. You can live 3 minutes without air, 3 hours without shelter (depending on climate), 3 days without water and 3 weeks without food. Most people worry about the food and water, neglecting shelter, and die of hypothermia. Luckily it's not cold in the big Easy ... or should we call it the Big Squeegee?

What makes this article so great ... it was written in November of 2004.... considering what might have happend if hurricane IVAN had hit New Orleans.

Big question - you have limited people who can respond to disasters, drive trucks, fly helicopters, etc. Should these people spend their time rescuing people who didn't evacuate when they were told to? Or should they concentrate on rebuilding the levee's so that you can stop the flooding from getting worse and creating even more people who need to be evacuated?

Here's an idea - why don't we bring the armed forces home from Iraq and spend billions of dollars rebuilding New Orleans and Biloxi? At least the locals will be grateful - not to mention they won't shoot at you while you try to repair their electricity grid.

Should our tax dollars help people who didn't buy flood insurance? I pay my premiums - I live near Galveston ... NASA area. I went throught a category 3 when I was young - it's not fun. I'm also smart enough to buy a home thats above sea level - hello people - what were you thinking???

Everyone who knows me knows that I'm a soft touch and always willing to lend a hand (and cash) to people in need ... but I'm also a big fan of "you made your bed, now lie in it."

There are no good answers.

============ Jim Coffey


From: Stephen M. St. Onge                                                   Subject: Computer Problem Solved
saintonge@hotmail.com                                                        http://fatsteve.blogger.com/
Dear Jerry:
        Recently, my new HP notebook stopped recognizing the existence of USB ports.  Fortunately, it was under warranty, and HP fixed it promptly, BUT . . first, to prove it wasn't a software problem, I had to reformat the hard disk.
        When I got it back, it couldn't find my wireless network.  So, I tried the Help files, and of course they were written by the graduates of the school that teaches you how to put everything in, but make it impossible to find if you don't already know the answer.
        So I took it to Circuit City, where I'd bought it, and after some fumbling (at first, they thought it was hardware), they fixed the problem.  Procedure:
Click "Start/ /Click "My Computer"/ Right click/ Click "properties/ Click the "hardware" tab/ Click the "device manager button/ Click the "network adaptors" plus sign/ right click the wireless modem icon/ Click "update driver"/ put the recovery disk into the machine.  A few minutes later and Bob's your uncle. (Well/ when I got home, I had to type in the WEP password, but that was trivial).
        Now, all that's left are the joys of reinstalling everything else the formatting wiped . .


Subject: RE: Rebuild New Orleans?

Land has been raised after a hurricane before:


On one hand Narlens is far larger than Galveston but on the other hand the technology is 104 years improved. :-)

Rob Johnson


Subject: Katrina, Lucifer's Hammer & Climate

Katrina, Lucifer's Hammer & Climate

Those pictures out of New Orleans over the past day or so remind me of post-Fall scenes in Lucifer's Hammer.

There was the Little Ice Age, which lasted from the 13th century until around 1800. Then there was the Little Climatic Optimum which lasted from 1930 to 1960. I was born in early 1958, just after one of the worst winters in then-living memory: until the next record solar max year (1978), I thought my parents were lying when they told me about going out in the evening the winter before I was born to watch the Aurora Borealis. That year, I found out about some of the things that can happen in record solar maximums, such as the aurora borealis being occasionally visible south of the Potomac.

My dad was posted to the Federal Women's Prison at Alderson, WV (closest city hospital then: Roanoke, VA): due to the large amounts of snow that winter, my parents decide it was only a little more trouble to fly down to South Carolina and have me down there. During my lifetime, I've seen much more snow and cold weather here in the South than my parents had by the time they were my age.

Lucifer's Hammer is one of my favorites. I was very relieved when I finally realized that I could indeed be useful in such a situation: I can grow things.

Incidentally, I'm doing my History (M.A.) thesis on Lebanese families in South Carolina who arrived in the state before 1949. Much to my surprise, there were non-Jewish immigrants from the Middle East living in more than half of South Carolina's counties before the 1930 census. (The 1930 census is the most recent one available to the public for genealogical purposes under the 72-year rule.)

I don't have any Middle Eastern ancestry that I'm aware of. I'm just interested in ethnic groups in the South, especially the ones that are predominantly Catholic.


Elizabeth Whitaker

Yeah. The TV looks a lot like we had imagined. It doesn't go clean...


Subject: Foreign Aid for U.S. Citizens after Katrina

Here are a few news links to amuse you...

Perhaps it is just me, but I have only seen two articles from non-U.S. sources that voice a call for aid to those who were devastated by Katrina. One is Hugo Chavez telling the world he is offering oil and money, as well as humanitarian assistance to the U.S. Unfortunately, the State Department claims to have never heard of this offer. The link to this article is at: http://www.forbes.com/home/feeds/afx/2005/08/31/afx2199612.html

The second article is more aggravating, coming in from Thailand. I guess the rest of the world figures we can fix anything, including major disasters like this. Well, truth is, we probably can, but to just assume so!

"It is a crisis that the US must deal with effectively, and we are confident that it can. America’s civic groups, charitable organisations and the great generosity of American corporations and individuals, which react swiftly to bring relief to major disasters no matter where in the world they take place, have sprung into action. The professionalism and dedication of disaster relief agencies has also lived up to their best standard in this hour of need."

The full link to this article is at: http://nationmultimedia.com/2005/09/01/opinion/index.php?news=opinion_18484864.html 

The Germans of course, simply blamed it on Global Warming. http://service.spiegel.de/cache/international/0,1518,372405,00.html 

Perhaps it is the fate of all "empires" to ultimately stand alone in the face of disaster, natural or otherwise. Or perhaps the offers for real aid are pouring into D.C. Maybe, but if so, they are are not making the news. Anyway, sounds like a good Historical SF story, if there are such beasties. :)

Yours, -Paul

You expected gratitude?


Personal arms: picking on the Euros some more

> You may all scoff at we Euro-peons who submit to disarmament by our
> respective governments; but you can be sure that if it becomes necessary
> to raise arms, against our governments, we will find willing arms
> suppliers..!

The Brits didn't want those icky guns around during the interwar thirties, either. Factories were shut down, and production of military smallarms was outsourced to Belgium. They undoubtedly thought they could always find willing suppliers.

Lo! Germany invaded Belgium, and the supply of military arms dried up just as they were needed most. There were no "willing suppliers" waiting in the wings, and the situation was growing desperate.

In response, the British government begged citizens of gun-drenched America to donate arms for the defense of the island. The Evil Loophole NRA, et al., ran full page "GUNS FOR BRITAIN" ads in major newspapers, and America responded as she always has: with overwhelming generosity.



YOU CAN AID by sending any arms or binoculars you can spare

Britain repays this favor, some years later, by confiscating the once treasured heirlooms of kindhearted Americans, and dumping the entire lot into the Atlantic.

Fast-forward to 2005. Britain is shutting down the last of her military smallarms factories, and is outsourcing production to Belgium....

-- Chris Hamilton -- chris at wyattoil.com

Well they didn't want to harm the Americans by returning the lend lease property, which was guns, because we all know that civilized people don't need guns.

Robert of Normandy and his men killed Saracens until their arms were weak from exhaustion, and continued to hold until Tancred the Great rode to their rescue. Harold won in the North and never surrendered at Senlac. Aye, and at Waterloo---  but that was long ago, and the Normans and Saxons are all civilized Brits now, and cannot understand that people might want their weapons returned. Best to rid the world of the evil things.


Subject: Response from the North

From Canada: http://nouvelles.gc.ca/cfmx/view/en/index.jsp?articleid=166879&

“On behalf of all Canadians, I wish to extend our heartfelt condolences to those who have lost loved ones as a result of Hurricane Katrina, as well as our sympathies to those who have suffered great losses and personal hardship,” said Deputy Prime Minister Anne McLellan. “During this difficult time, we are offering our support to our friends and neighbours

Jerry, I think that you will find that despite our political differences, trade disagreements and general irritants, we remain friends and neighbours, and our support in such situations transcends all. We're just waiting to be told what is needed.





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Thursday, September 1, 2005

It wasn't the Answer to the question I asked , but

Hi Douglas! Here is a link to a page about women pianists in the movies (and a couple of excerpts). Love you! Susan


Eileen Joyce (1908-1991) performed and appeared as herself in the following movies (all filmed in England): Battle for Music, 1943, a story about the war-time concerts and tours of the London Philharmonic Orchestra. Girl in a Million, 1945, Joyce appears in live performance in a concert in the movie performing Franck's Variations Symphonique. Wherever She Goes, 1951, a biography of her life in Australia, Joyce appears in concert at the beginning and the end performing the Grieg piano concerto, and plays the soundtrack. Trent's Last Case, 1952, Joyce appears in live performance in a concert in the movie performing the slow movement of Mozart's c minor concerto, K491.

performed the soundtrack in the following movies: The Seventh Veil,1945, story of a young concert pianist, Joyce performed the soundtrack and her hands are the close-up shots in the movie. Brief Encounter, 1945, soundtrack includes Joyce performing the Rachmaninoff second piano concerto. Men of Two Worlds, 1945, Joyce performed the soundtrack of original compositions by Arthur Bliss. Quartet, 1947, one story is about a pianist and Joyce performed the soundtrack.

Douglas M. Colbary


Peggy Noonan on Looting

Thought this might be of interest, Dr. Pournelle:



As for the tragic piggism that is taking place on the streets of New Orleans, it is not unbelievable but it is unforgivable, and I hope the looters are shot. A hurricane cannot rob a great city of its spirit, but a vicious citizenry can. A bad time with Mother Nature can leave you digging out for a long time, but a bad turn in human behavior frays and tears all the ties that truly bind human being--trust, confidence, mutual regard, belief in the essential goodness of one's fellow citizens. There seems to be some confusion in terms of terminology on TV. People with no food and water who are walking into supermarkets and taking food and water off the shelves are not criminal, they are sane. They are not looters, they are people who are attempting to survive; they are taking the basics of survival off shelves in stores where there isn't even anyone at the cash register.

Looters are not looking to survive; they're looking to take advantage of the weakness of others. They are predators. They're taking not what they need but what they want. They are breaking into stores in New Orleans and elsewhere and stealing flat screen TVs and jewelry, guns and CD players. They are breaking into homes and taking what those who have fled trustingly left behind. In Biloxi, Miss., looters went from shop to shop. "People are just casually walking in and filling up garbage bags and walking off like they're Santa Claus," the owner of a Super 8 Motel told the London Times. On CNN, producer Kim Siegel reported in the middle of the afternoon from Canal Street in New Orleans that looters were taking "everything they can."

If this part of the story grows--if cities on the gulf come to seem like some combination of Dodge and the Barbarian invasion--it's going to be bad for our country. One of the things that keeps us together, and that lets this great lumbering nation move forward each day, is the sense that we will be decent and brave in times of crisis, that the fabric holds, that under duress it is American heroism and altruism that take hold and not base instincts born of irresponsibility, immaturity and greed.

We had a bad time in the 1960s, and in the New York blackout in the '70s, and in the Los Angeles riots in the '90s. But the whole story of our last national crisis, 9/11, was courage--among the passersby, among the firemen, among those who walked down there stairs slowly to help a less able colleague, among those who fought their way past the flames in the Pentagon to get people out. And it gave us quite a sense of who we are as a people. It gave us a lot of renewed pride.

If New Orleans damages that sense, it's going to be painful to face. It's going to be damaging to the national spirit. More damaging even than a hurricane, even than the worst in decades.

I wonder if the cruel and stupid young people who are doing the looting know the power they have to damage their country. I wonder, if they knew, if they'd stop it.


Associated with the hurricane tragety, she also references the need for maintaining rather than closing military bases, the point of her prior column:


I said that this is the wrong time in history to move forward with the wholesale closings and consolidation of military bases throughout the U.S. Terrorism was on my mind, but the incredible tragedy on the Gulf Coast is giving us a new gulf war, one in which we must help an entire region get back on its feet after being leveled by an ancient foe, the hurricane, and what is happening there right now in New Orleans and Mississippi seems tragically illustrative of the fact that local military presence can be crucial in times of grave national emergency.

The importance of local presence is not only practical but also psychological and symbolic. As I write I am watching CNN, which is showing a truck carrying half a dozen soldiers speeding into downtown New Orleans. Good. Thugs are looting and shooting there. Local police are overwhelmed and unable to restore order, and there was Tuesday's report that some law enforcement officers had actually joined in the pillaging. At a time like this the presence of U.S. troops can make all the difference.

I hope Congress and the president are watching, and I hope what they see will have some impact on their decision about whether go forward with or rethink the base closings. It is not wrong to want to save money, rid a highly bureaucratized system of redundancies, and modernize. But timing is everything. We are at an odd time. This is no time for a wholesale shift or a radical retrenchment. They should leave the military base system where it is. They should look to New Orleans for proof of how important a local military presence can prove to be, even in dramas caused not by man but nature.


I'm not sure "Enjoy!" is the appropriate exit from this email....

Charles Brumbelow, CFO

As always a very sensible young lady. I agree entirely


Subject: New Orleans situation

Jim Coffey wrote:
>At least the locals will be grateful - not to mention they won't shoot at you while you try to repair their electricity grid.

Oddly enough, this morning's leading news is that the evacuation of the Superdome was halted because people were shooting at the helicopters.

Now, the question becomes: WHY are those two places not so different.

Kent Peterson urquan@rocketmail.com

"... there was always a minority afraid of something, and a great majority afraid of the dark, afraid of the future, afraid of the past ..." - Ray Bradbury, _The Martian Chronicles_

Indeed. Good question. And in Iraq you can shoot back.





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Friday,  September 2, 2005

Subject: urban insurgency

It was asked, in view, "will they stand and fight, or try urban insurgency?"

They might. The anarchy genie seems out of the bottle, and there are those who will like the idea of freedom to be gangstas in a ruined city. There is news of shooting at helecopters at the Superdome. It will be very interesting if there are sniping attempting to prevent the levees from being repaired.

And too rough a hand trying to pacify things could lead to sympathy riots elsewhere. And if the rest of the economy is coming unglued due to gasoline shortages, with accompanying unrest....

I can imagine a series of events that lead to large swaths, or even all, of New Orleans winding up as sci-fi type 'abandoned areas.'

Mike Juergens mjcom99@hotmail.com


"Given Sarbanes-Oxley, which criminalizes mistakes and makes nearly everyone guilty until cleared and maybe not then, is there any reason to be loyal to the US. or to be honest other than through fear of being caught? Would we not be better off taking Sarbanes - the bill at least -- out in the parking lot and shooting it?"

Sarbanes should be taken out, shot, the remains beheaded then the body should be burned and the ashes scattered to the winds. Hang the head on a pike by the city gates as a warning.

I kid but not much. Sarbanes - not the law, granted, but the auditors and consultants who interpet the law for us - has caused us to abandon industry standard security practices that make the servers we own more vulnerable than before to the most common hacking methods. We have set aside an elderly and potentially hackable database for passwords in favor of a system that consists of a binder printed by the department admin and issued to managers.

But this is 'ok' because system accounts are not 'Sarb-Ox' compliant, and it's okay to push passwords over an unencrypted link in postscript and for local copies to reside on unsecure machines. This is security and we have paid well for it. Do we feel safer now?

Perhaps. We have an enormous amount of paperwork that, while worthless in the practical sense for keeping the servers running will allow CYA in atomic detail should the worst happen.

Jerry you're aware of my evening/weekend job. It is not (yet) a public company but I've been doing preliminary work to make sure that when (or if) we do go public we can be Sarb-Ox compliant. I can't say I relish having to go to the CFO and ask him for a 10% manpower increase to handle the clerical duties when we do go public.

Name Withheld for Obvious Reasons


Subject: For people who've left New Orleans


For anyone who left New Orleans and is wondering what they're going back to, this site is very useful: (site given turns out to be a bad link; see next week's mail).

The site has NOAA satellite photographs that you can examine block-by- block. It takes some doing to get oriented, but you can easily resolve individual houses and even cars in the driveway. These photographs clearly show that some of the maps put out by FEMA and the NY Times about the areas flooded are just wrong.

Hope this is useful to someone.

Chuck Bouldin


> You need to listen to this:

I can't help hearing a politician who knew exactly what risks New Orleans faced in a major hurricane, based on repeated studies, rehearsals, and computer models:


but who undoubtedly put 100% of his political efforts in other directions. Having helped to create a city full of people utterly dependent on government handouts, he acts surprised and upset to discover the city can't survive without government handouts.

It's true that if he had tried to divert welfare funds toward disaster preparedness, he surely would have been voted out of office-- but the fact remains, he was the mayor at a time when he could have done something about it, and didn't.

BTW, something's wrong with the attached pictures. They're very small in relation to their filesizes. Picture746.jpg, for example, appears to be 210x320 pixels (67,200 pixels) but is 156K in size, as if it's an uncompressed JPG. Is there a larger image hiding behind the smaller one?

The original is at


But it's 300K, so it isn't the same file. The others are in the same area:


. png






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Saturday, September 3, 2005

Subject: Microsoft, Google -- such good American capitalists

Article on an employee / non-competition suit between Microsoft and Google.


What I find interesting (I mean, reprehensible) is that the two companies are falling over themselves to promise millions of dollars worth of in-country jobs to the Chinese government, at the same time that (a) they cry and whine for more H1-B visas here and (b) I see an awful lot of American IT people having trouble finding work.

Oh, and don't forget (c), the Butchers of Beijing still imprison religious minorities, use prisoners as slave labor, plot to invade or intimidate free countries like Taiwan and Japan, and are building a nuclear-armed blue water navy to challenge America's freedom of the seas. Such nice, gentle business partners. Such a great environment for American businessmen. Well, I suppose the CEOs and COOs will make a few more billion dollars each, and that's all that matters, right?

Madness, simply madness. "We shall hang the capitalists with the rope they sell us" indeed.

Steve Setzer


Dear Mr. President: When VP Dan Quayle visited the Marina fire after the Loma Prieta earthquake, I criticized him for diverting resources from fire fighting to VIP tending. I said then that, unless there was reason to believe a disaster was being faked, people are better served when executives stay away and trust the news and official reports. Alas, in every significant disaster since then, the Mayor, Governor or President has still had to put boots on the ground lest he be accused of not caring. With the New Orleans disaster, the flyover was ascribed to a lack of concern, and so even as assets were stretched to the limit, the necessary security for a Presidential visit was laid on.

Damn it, Mr. President. Get back to your control center, monitor the situation and stay out of the way. Those who criticized you for not having shown enough interest or lower-lip-biting caring will not suddenly strew your path with rose petals. They don't like you now, they never did and they never will. You fight disasters, as you fight wars, with the army you have, not the army you wish you had. If anyone dies because rescue efforts were diverted, you bear that blame. No more dog and pony shows or photo ops until the physical needs of the people have been met.

Walter E. Wallis Palo Alto, CA

It's unlikely that many actual resources that could have been deployed were diverted by the President going in there. The big problem is that much of our military force is overseas, we dismantled the Office of Civil Defense -- no one even remembers it now -- and made it into FEMA as a depository for political favor.

Perhaps we can learn from all this.


Subject: Louisiana Army National Guard


Analysis of the Louisiana Army National Guard units which are in Iraq and ones which are still available domestically. to quote".. the unit left behind, the 225th Engineer Group, (Combat), and its four organic Engineer Battalions (Combat)(Heavy), is well suited for disaster relief. Army Field Manual 5-116 lays out their missions and capabilities:"

I have some Katrina related links at


"All products are information. The molecules are secondary." ...........my website: http://www.sophont.com ........................

Redstate.org is hardly a disinterested source, but I won't insist on that. My real point was and is that imperial adventures have high costs. One of those costs is that the military forces are often somewhere else when needed.

But the real disaster was far earlier when the Civil Defense structures were abandoned in favor of a centralized FEMA bureaucracy; just as the Interstate Highway program originally envisioned fully stocked emergency shelters as part of the highway system with shelters at nearly every overpass. They were abandoned because of political correctness: the notion that there might be fallout shelters to protect US civilians was interpreted as an act of aggression and preparation for nuclear war, and the Democrats took away the funding and abandoned the program. Having such shelters in place would have been useful in disasters other than a nuclear war but because they could also be useful in a nuclear war we could not have them at all.

Civil Defense is not the same as a FEMA bureaucracy. Civil Defense was local, and did tests and maneuvers, and didn't rely on the Federal Cavalry to ride in to the rescue. Of course we all know that the citizens are incompetent, with only Federal bureaucrats reliable enough to actually do anything in a real emergency.


Neoconservatism's Berlin Wall.


--- Roland Dobbins



America's Roman Army.


- Roland Dobbins


Given the supposedly large numbers of dead bodies currently floating in the waters of downtown New Orleans and the growing lack of food, water, and public safety for evacuation, I suspect the death toll from disease and hunger might soon begin to rise considerably.

One way of considering this situation is that during a major natural disaster, the combination of a Third-World-type national government (the Bush Administration) with a Third-World type population (much of New Orleans) leads to---surprise, surprise---Third-World-type consequences.

I really do get the impression that Mexico City's government would have done a somewhat better job of reacting to a similar calamity, at least after these several days had gone by. But after all, it's a little unfair to compare our current White House with the notorious Prussian efficiency of Latin America.



What I do not get (speaking as a limited government federalist Republican) is why should it be a federal responsibility to make sure the levees of New Orleans do not break? More generally, why should people who live inland pay for the costs of disasters when hurricanes hit coasts? Shouldn't the coastal dwellers pay for it?

As for budget cuts: I've read that it would cost something like $9 billion to protect New Orleans from the worst case tide surges. So Bush cut some tens of millions from a budget. So what. I dislike Bush. But I'm not going to pin this on him. Clinton didn't build up the levees high enough either.



Subject: Hello from Katrina Disaster Relief


We (HSV-2 Swift) are on our way back to Ingleside, Texas right now at 30+ knots (really fast). Yesterday we delivered food and such to USS Bataan. They had sent their food into shore for disaster relief. We are going to Ingleside to pick up several tons of bottled water, parts, equipment and supplies to support the relief effort. We may then move our base of operations to Pensacola which is closer to the scene of action.

We were off the coast of Louisiana with USS Bataan, USNV Arctic, and several coast guard cutters. There are several other ships including

Amphibious Landing Ships with Marines and supplies on their way. As we closed the coast we could see the damage to the numerous oil platforms out here. The tower and superstructures where the crews lived were gone. There is debris everywhere. We've seen dead livestock floating in the water along with household appliances. It is evident that this is a very large and widespread disaster. People are going to have to be patient, getting a handle on the how much damage has occurred is going to take time, much less have a comprehensive plan in place.

The crew is very motivated and has been working hard. They spent the last two days loading on the cargo, preparing it for shipment via helicopter and then conducting vertical replenishment (VERTREP) via helicopter to USS Bataan. They were working all day in 100 degree heat (115 indexed) early in the morning until 1100 PM last night. They get to do it again today and every day for the foreseeable future. They are glad to do it to help their own countrymen. They are dismayed by the news of lawlessness. What could possibly posses someone to be a sniper against a hospital?

My job is to make sure they get enough rest, drink enough water, and execute the job smoothly and safely. Their own exuberance could cause more harm than good in some cases. They are very experienced, they were onboard for the Tsunami relief operations and understand how flexible we will have to be to make this work. A lot of moving pieces have to come together and the planning is still settling out.

Things are busy. I will write when I can.



(Phillip Pournelle, Lt Cdr, USN) (Continues below)




      We're in Pensacola Florida offloading material we picked up from Ingleside Texas last night.  We've been offloading since we arrived and will head back out to sea again.  My folks are working around the clock to move this material.  We just dropped off 70+ pallets of food and water plus material to support helicopters on the Bataan supporting the effort.  There is a lot of demand for our services and our ship is ready to answer the call.  We are very fast and can get into a lot of places other ships cannot.

       Pensacola is still recovering from the damage it took from Hurricane Ivan and other storms as well as the beating Katrina delivered...  There are navigation aids missing, underwater obstructions and buildings without roofs.  The port and air station are serviceable.  So NAS Pensacola has become a central hub of operations for us.  Unfortunately, the approach to the harbor has some obstructions in the water caused by storms over the last year.  This limits the draft of any ship entering Pensacola to about 12 feet.  Swift's maximum draft when fully loaded is 12 feet...

       (Later) This evening we were underway.  On the way out we spotted several unlighted and/or misplaced buoys.  Our electronic navigation helped us immensely.  I can't think of any ship I've been on that has Swift's maneuverability.  This ship is a dream.

       We have two large deck amphibious ships, USNS Arctic, several smaller ships and coast guard cutters, lots of helicopters and Swift.  There is a carrier and a hospital ship on the way as well as another Amphibious Task Force.

       This disaster is on a large scale.  Like any large scale event it will take time to conduct a full assessment, prioritize tasking, assemble assets, plan recovery and execute.  During the execution phase there will be a lot of adjustments.  Like any large operation there will be friction and confusion.  Patience will be required.  This is not a video game.  The limited view of what I've seen tells me the scale of destruction is rather large.  Any assets propositioned in the area could have been lost during the storm's landfall.  This is going to take time.

       Take care,



P.S. You can publish this on your site.

Thanks. My best to your crew. (More Monday)


Huzzah to Phillip and his crew!

Some of your readers are clearly not remembering the tremendous benefit of having the Mississippi as a navigable waterway, and so they also do not count the cost of same.

Why indeed should someone in Detroit pay taxes to build and maintain the levees? The answer is that the person in Detroit actually depends on those levees for their livelihood as much if not more than the folks in New Orleans. The basic model that must be figured is that it is an artery of commerce, as is the Interstate Highway system.

Some who fancy themselves fiscal conservatives fail to recognize that it is the whole fabric of the nation that must be maintained, not merely the road in front of my house. Investment in the whole fabric is good Americanism, as reflected in the Preamble to the Constitution.

I've been thinking lately that every public institution should, in addition to reciting the Pledge of Allegiance, recite the Preamble to the Constitution. It truly is the game plan of the American Republic, and any law or policy that is introduced or championed by any politician should be measured against that aim.

Anything less is not really un-American, but simple non-American, i.e., ignorant of American principle.

Your radical centrist,


P.S. WE should all chew on it from time to time. I find it gets sweeter and sweeter each time I do so.

"We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America."

In the eighth grade it was a chore to learn, much like Kipling's "If." Now it has seeped into my blood. God bless our Constitution!




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Sunday, September 4, 2005

Dr Pournelle,

May I offer an admittedly cynical response to the notion of reciting the Preamble to the Constitution? As dunc says, this marvelous sentence beautifully summarizes the foundations of the Republic; however, standing alone, without reference to what follows, the sentence can be used to justify almost any political whim as "promot[ing] the general welfare," a potentially dangerous concept, indeed. The Preamble is an introduction, stating the goals of what is to follow. It does not, and should not, have the force of law.

I submit that along with memorization (and even perhaps the suggested recitation) of the preamble, the "Congress shall make no law..." and "The right of the people..." Amendments, i.e., the Bill of Rights, should be memorized also. Perhaps the moribund 10th Amendment would at least cause the writer to understand why fiscal conservatives hesitate in devoting federal largesse to maintaining the "whole fabric of the nation."

James M Reynolds

Thanks. I tend to agree. In the general case much of this work should be done by Tocqueville's "Assciations": Red Cross, Salvation Army, various religious organizations, Moose, Eagles, Masons; and after that the state governments.

But. The Federal Government has over the years usurped the functions of many of these. In part this was Cold War, with Civil Defense coordinating and centralizing local efforts, supplanting the states and in general substituting the Civil Defense structures for the local ones.

Then came the liberals to power, and they were horrified by "Civil Defense". They took out the nationwide shelter system that was to be part of the Interstate Highway system. Then they abolished Civil Defense and put in place the FEMA bureaucracy; a bureaucracy without any of the prestige of Civil Defense, and few traditions and experiences. Some presidents used FEMA as a place to park cronies. Sure, there were plenty of dedicated people, but since the organization was started in part as a reaction to the horror of Civil Defense, there was rejection of many of its previous actions.

And it lost much local support due to the usual Federal arrogance and assertions of superiority.

We are now in an era of that creation == and faced with an enormous crisis. If relieving Iraq from its tyrant is our business, then certainly relief of the Gulf Coast is our business == particularly since the Federal government systematically replaced the local structures that would have dealt with it had they not decided to take on the job.







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