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Monday  November 14, 2005

911, Again

What happens when a world class physics professor does an in depth, independent study into the collapse of the World Trade Towers? Read the article at http://deseretnews.com/dn/view/0,1249,635160132,00.html 

or review the original research paper at http://www.physics.byu.edu/research/energy/htm7.html

Hint: If you're a fan of President Bush, you're really gonna hate this article...

Regards, Charlie

I am neither an uncritical supporter nor a fanatic detractor of Bush, but I don't have to be either to question these papers. I will have a longer analysis another time, but begin with this:

The probability that the buildings were brought down in the pattern in which they fell is 1.0. Every explanation of the way they fell turns out to be a low probability event -- but the probability that one of those low probability explanations is true is one, because the buildings did fall in the improbable way that they fell.

Now: is it more or less probable that a dozen people were able to plant explosives -- at least a hundred pounds per building, and likely a lot more -- without being observed; that they were so expertly placed as to work perfectly, given the high level of expertise that it takes to do this; that despite the damage done by the fires, the preplaced explosives worked just right as planned; that someone wanted the buildings to fall straight down instead of toppling; that the wires and primacord connectors to the explosives survived the fires and went off in the proper sequence at the proper time; that the hijackers knew where the preplanted explosives were and struck the buildings in just the right places so that the buildings began to collapse at the floor where the airplane hit in both the main buildings; and that someone wanting to bring down the buildings and having the ability clandestinely to plant these explosives and their detonating circuitry and the primacord to link them in the right patterns would then take the trouble to hijack airplanes and use up good agents in order to hide the fact that explosives had been planted --- is all that more probable than that the darned things fell due to fires, and that jet fuel fanned properly with a chimney effect is just a lot hotter than we thought it would be?

Professor Jones says his is a simple and elegant explanation. I would not have said so. He posits a near perfect conspiracy, with no one observing the planting of the explosives and the stringing of wires: and this is simple and elegant? Perhaps so, but three can keep a secret if two of them are dead. And in this case if all those who planted the explosives died in the fires and crash, it was a very large sacrifice of trained agents willing to die for the cause.

Not, I think, so likely.

There are plenty of anomalies in the 911 building collapses, and having them fall in the way they did is a low probability event (apparently; I will accept the professor's word on that). But they did fall the way they did, and I don't find it more likely that the complex sequence of events that would have had to happen had there been hidden explosives took place. And see below.


Five questions non-Muslims would like answered.


--- Roland Dobbins


Goliath cited?


- Roland Dobbins


The future of Europe.


-- Roland Dobbins


Subject: Question

(3) Why is only one of the 47 Muslim-majority countries a free country?

According to Freedom House, a Washington-based group that promotes democracy, of the world's 47 Muslim countries, only Mali is free. Sixty percent are not free, and 38% are partly free. Muslim-majority states account for a majority of the world's "not free" states. And of the 10 "worst of the worst," seven are Islamic states. Why is this?

Would you not consider Turkey to be a Muslim Country, and being a Democracy (or close enough) it is free, right?

Brice Yokem

Turkey is a special case: it is not free to adopt an Islamic Republic constitution because the Army is pledged to keep the nation secular. On the other hand, if they did adopt such a constitution, it would slide down into the Not Free category...


NYT on Google Print.


-- Roland Dobbins

A not unreasonable discussion, but leaves out the key question: what right has Google to index my books, serve them up in snippets, and collect advertising revenue which they keep and don't share with the creators of the material they are using to attract eyeballs to their advertising.

And see below


Harry Erwin's Letter from England

Subject: Letter from England

I just finished responding to reviewer comments on a grant proposal. It looks like it's in the upper third, but in the UK that only means it has about a one in three chance of being funded--so that's what I've been busy on for the last week or so.

France seeks to extend crisis law: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/4434576.stm

New anti-terror plans: http://www.guardian.co.uk/terrorism/story/0,12780,1642233,00.html

UK Government considering a curb on speeding to cut CO2 emissions:

The Automobile Association is dubious about "whether speed enforcement for environmental rather than safety reasons should be an offence for which motorists get points on their licence."

I've reached the point where I'm not very concerned about global warming. If it results in the Sahara becoming wet again, I'd think it not a bad thing. I also believe nuclear power is the best long-term solution if we want to stabilise the CO2 level.

I'm currently reading Penrose, 2004, the Road to Reality. He makes a good argument that the initial state of the big bang was an extremely special low-entropy state. (My math and physics is about thirty years out of date, but I still have an extensively annotated copy of Gravitation, and I used to read papers on supersymmetry and string theory for fun.)

Jerry, what's the story about the LA Times?

-- "Truth is the intersection of independent lies." (Richard Levins, 1966) Harry Erwin, PhD

See below on Penrose.


Not sure I understand the question. The story is


in the LA Times about the use of conservator laws in California to rip off the aged.

Penrose is always interesting. I have met him several times. Once Poul Anderson, Bob Forward, and I took him to dinner in a Berkeley beer joint. Great evening.


Subject: Pirates and 9/11

Dear Jerry:

On Pirates: I seem to recall that several years ago when there was a problem in the Gulf area with people going after oil tankers that some British mercenaries were engaged as ship security. These gentlemen, who were former SAS, brought with them a full compliment of deadly toys. American flagged vessels were sometimes given detachments of Army Rangers, complete with light observation helicopters, which were armed. This was done quietly, I suppose, to keep public knowledge and protests to a minimum. Pirates are such a problem in the South China Sea that there is an international anti piracy center in Kuala Lumpur which coordinates information and countermeasures. So far, the pirates seem to be in it for the money not a political or ideological cause.

The Cruise ship countermeasures, especially the sound weapon, indicate that the problem is viewed seriously and, were it my detail, there would be part of the crew trained in armed response, with light automatic weapons and shotguns. The incentive to resist would be high since crews of freighters captured by pirates are usually murdered and the ship and cargo disguised and quickly sold. With the rise of terrorism, private firms looks less to government and more to themselves for protection, which makes high level private security services a growth area.

As for the WTC conspiracy theories, they fail in the face of the countermeasures taken by the Security Directors of the tenants. Most of them , like Rick Rescorla, were very pushy about inspecting even the parts of the building they didn't occupy and holding regular evacuation drills, even though that tended to create inconvenience and bad publicity. Rescorla was the Security Director at Morgan Stanley, a professional soldier who James B. Stewart wrote about in a book called "The Heart of a Soldier" which I recommend highly. Morgan Stanley had very few people lost on 9/11 thanks to Rescorla's planning. He died there, making a final check for stay behinds when that tower collapsed. He was one of about half a dozen high level Security Directors killed that day. There were also a number or ordinary uniformed security guards who died as well.

With guys like Rescorla on the property snooping around there was very little chance that anyone could have planted explosives in the building and not have had it noticed by one of them. Such buildings are patrolled hourly at every level by people who are paid to notice anything different or out of place.


Francis Hamit

And for more on the physics of the Tower Fall, see below.


Survivor bias.


-- Roland Dobbins

Liberalism is a philosophy of consolation for western civilization as it commits suicide. Remember this useful phrase. ========

Fifth columnist.

[sorry, couldn't resist, heh]


--- Roland Dobbins

From the fury of the Northmen,
Good Lord, deliver us.





This week:


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- Roland Dobbins

Also known as self-determination of nations, local autonomy, and consent of the governed.


Roger Penrose

I've only met Roger Penrose once, when one of my supervisors, Karl Pribram, invited him to speak at a neuroscience conference. We talked about air travel and what airlines to avoid. As I recall, in his lecture he suggested there is a relationship between consciousness and the measurement paradox, involving gravity.

I think consciousness involves seeing the future to choose one's current behaviour. As long as the world doesn't care what you're doing, you can do that using a implicit process that converges quickly. If the world does care (as in the social behaviour of advanced primates), the interaction between your predictions of the consequences of your behaviour and that of others becomes chaotic, so that your vision of the future affects your choices which affects your vision of the future, etc. (Think poker...) There are at least three possible mechanisms for coping with this that I've thought about. The first is an actor-critic system, but that has the weakness that it can't cope with changes in goal values, and even half-ounce bats can do that. The second is an explicit prediction of the future using a forward model of some sort. Digital systems take this approach, but have *serious* computational problems with large state spaces. (This is why I suspect strong AI won't happen except as a partnership between a wet brain and a computer. The wet brain looks into the future for the partnership.) The third is an explicit prediction of the future using some sort of analog model, like a resistive grid, so that the assessment can be done quickly in parallel. The striatum of the basal ganglia looks like it may have the appropriate connectivity and physiological properties, but I can't figure out how avoidance states are encoded. Goal states are easy--there are a number of possible mechanisms, but avoidance states turn out to be hard. The striatal afferents appear to be excitatory projections from a number of areas, particularly the prefrontal cortex, and dopaminergic projections from some output areas of the basal ganglia. Both probably work together to code goal values and the current state. Local collaterals within the striatum are GABAergic, but actually appear to be facultative, rather than inhibitory. There may be electrical synapses as well, but that doesn't solve the problem. What I would want to represent an avoidance state would be a clamping of the cells representing that state to the potassium reversal potential, and I don't see how that is done.

By the way, this is the system that gets seriously screwed up by cocaine.

-- "Truth is the intersection of independent lies." (Richard Levins, 1966)

Harry Erwin, PhD


Steve Jones


I knew Steve briefly -- he was still doing postdoc work at Vanderbilt and Fisk, having finished his Ph.D. at Vandy the year before I started the graduate program there. Though I doubt he would remember me.

He is best known for his work in low-rate fusion of deuterium from trapped water in geological subduction zones yielding the helium-3 observed in volcanic gases; it was the impending publication of his paper on this subject that forced Pons and Fleishman into early publication of their original paper on cold fusion in electrochemical cells... However, Steve's paper has stood the test of time considerably better than theirs.

That said, check out his web site at http://www.physics.byu.edu/research/energy/ , where you will find that he is also active in early American archaeology; however, at earlier verions of the connected web sites (this is not so apparent now) I had picked up the impression that his interest is in the "alternative" archaeology necessary to the explanation of Mormon legend.

In the bottom line, Steve has no particular experience relevant to the forensic analysis of a modern building collapse. Skimming his paper, his argument seems significantly less relevant to the collapse of the twin towers than to the collapse of building 7. And he may well have taken some comments in the post-mortem report too seriously. For example, I doubt that there was much "vaporization" of steel going on in any even; while the oil fires were undoubtedly not above the boiling point of steel, neither would a cutting explosive yield vaporization temperatures, and vaporization is not necessary to cutting; the relevant parameter for explosive collapse is the absolute yield strength in plastic flow, which does not require vaporization or even physical melting.

The bottom line is the overall building inertia. Unless the building were literally knocked over by the force of the initial impact, the only force directing the collapse is gravity, which operates downward. The only other way to apply a transverse force is by a torque, which would result from differential collapse due to, e.g, the impact side of the tower "giving" before the rest of the tower does. However, the mount of "give" would be rougly equal to the height of the plane chassis -- call it 20' out of 1,000', or about 2%. So the maximum deviation from a linear downward collapse should be on the order of 20' on the side of the impact.

This site (http://www.visi.com/~jweeks/wtc/)  has the following description of the 7 World Trade Center collapse:

This is the 7 World Trade Center building. It collapsed late in the afternoon on September 11, 2001. This building was not hit by aircraft, nor was it significantly damaged in the collapse of the main World Trade Center towers. Its collapse remains a mystery to this day, and it is the only steel frame building to collapse strictly due to fire. The building was evacuated that morning, and firefighters made the decision to let it burn and focus their efforts on recovery of victims from the collapse of the twin towers. Seven World Trade Center was somewhat unique in that it was built above a Con Edison power substation, so it had a complex series of braces in place of support pillars in the power substation area. It is believed that this bracing was only marginally sufficient to support the building, and these braces bent due to heat of the fire, leading to failure of the building as a whole.

No complex conspiracy theories are required.

As to explosions or fires in the basements of the buildings, which way does jet fuel flow after the tank is ruptured?

Bottom line, I'm quite astonished that Steve Jones came up with this. It is an area in which he has no experience or particular training, and his arguments hinge on the apparent similarity of the puffs of "smoke" as the collapse occurs compared with equivalent photos of an intentional implosion. This is not a proof, and I don't think it stands as a plausibility argument.

I would be willing to be proved wrong, but I'm not uncertain.

Jim Woosley

[Emphasis added]

Thanks. I hadn't realized the odd construction of Tower 7; that explains a lot. As you say, once the collapse starts, gravity is all the force there is. And see below


Subject: Alex's Page

I was just reading that old entry about Word 97 on Alex's Page (http://www.jerrypournelle.com/reports/alex/alexpage.htm)  and wonder if he ever learned the workaround. For all versions of Word from and after Word 97 this will clear up this and similar (hidden format) types of problems for an individual document, although it won't make the original cause show up OR go away.

1. Open a new, blank document. 2. In the new blank doc, modify the Normal style to however you want the text to appear in the problem document (font, spacing, etc. etc.). 3. Open the problem document and press Ctrl-A to highlight the entire document, then press Ctrl-C to copy the entire document. 4. Go back to the new blank document, and click Edit--> Paste Special, and in the pop-up menu that appears, click on (and this is the critical point!) Unformatted Text, then click OK. 5. Go back to the problem document and close it without saving or modifying it. 6. You should now be looking at your nice, clean text in the new (formerly blank) document. Try your spellcheck; it should work just fine. Click File--Save As and save it in the same location as the original problem document, using the exact same file name. It should overwrite the problem document with the new, clean copy. If you had any styles other than Normal applied within the document, you will have to re-apply those styles, though that usually takes less time than repeatedly manually checking the spelling & grammar.

I have been through many different Word issues (in Word 97 to Word 2003) in my years at large law firms, deservedly known as heavy users of word processing/text editing programs. I admit to a strong love/hate relationship with the various apps in MS Office (all versions), as I have been supporting my family for years on fixing people's problems in their files & documents for these apps, especially Word and PowerPoint.

Valerie Milewski

That sure takes me back. Alex's Page was a feature here at one time, long ago. Since I never take anything down it stayed up, and the Word 97 problem remained. We haven't used Word 97 for a very long time.

If you're cruising the site for good old stuff, Reports is a good place to look... And even that page need revision. There's a lot of good stuff on this site, but I admit it's sometimes hard to find.


Subject: Republican Party policies: why they're unpopular, and how they could improve


Ross Douthat and Reihan Salam in the Weekly Standard have some painfully acute observations about why Republicans can't just stay the course and expect to then stay in power:

"Therein lies a great political danger for Republicans, because on domestic policy, the party isn't just out of touch with the country as a whole, it's out of touch *with its own base* ... you can't have an 'ownership society' in a nation where too many Americans owe far more than they own."


I hope somebody in the Republican Party is actually reading this. Heck, I'd be happy if somebody in either party was.

--Erich Schwarz

The problem is simple: Congressional districts are set to be Republican or Democrat, and they almost never change hands. The only election is the primary. Primary elections don't get much turnout, so the people who can turn out the vote dominate the primaries. This is labor unions and liberal organizations in the Democratic districts, and either religious right, or people with money, in the Republican. Indeed, money dominates the primaries in both parties. The result is that once one has won a primary, there is no need to move to the center to appeal to most voters. There are clearly exceptions but in general this makes for politics of division. The notion of a man of the people who represents all the people is silly -- although it is possible. There are issues we all agree on, like immigration. Unfortunately none of the political parties cares. The money people want open borders and that is what we will get. I have no idea of how to get out of this, but it might start with districts that really are compact and contiguous and respect local political boundaries. This will never happen since the Courts got in the act and helped set up weird districts set aside for black and other minority voters.


Subject: Nurses and patients

Jerry P:

Your comment about the nurses and patient ratios was good. But the important thing, I think, is that the rich and middle class have private medical coverage, many insured in some form. The poor have government medical programs, called emergency rooms, at public hospitals. There they come in with often life threatening conditions and where they get good service, in comparative terms, but often leave and never return without correcting the problems. It is extremely expensive to provide this service since preventative health care is usually cheaper than health care subsequent to a serious condition. At least that is what doctors tell me. The point is that as tax payers we subsidize some of the most expensive treatment. Of course these are people who wash dishes in the restaurant you frequent, who pass among us with communicable diseases that they can't afford to have treated; can't afford to take off time at work for; and often don't realize that they are spreading disease due to lack of health awareness. There lies the vector for a pandemic of the future. Government funded health care from the emergency room will not stop that one. And the governor meddles about with nurse to patient ratios, which he knows nothing about in any case. It is often the loudest politicians who know the least about real problems. Yes, we need more nurses, but we need a lot more attention paid to public health in general, and in particular for those among us who are largely invisible but who provide a whole host of services that touch our lives, and personal health.

Charles Simkins

In California the emergency rooms are filled with illegal immigrants. This costs California about 6 billion a year. Of the 8 billion deficit in California budget at least 7 billion is due to illegal immigrants.

You will never have good public health when there is an infinite supply of people who stay outside the system. The US Melting Pot worked very well to make citizens of immigrants from many places; but it does require some time, and it does require that people assimilate, not remain apart in their own communities. And it does require that everyone works toward citizenship; which illegal immigrants do not do.

Amnesty never works, because it tells those who did go through the assimilation process that they were suckers, and tells future illegal immigrants that they too will one day get amnesty; just come and wait.

This can't go on.

As to nurse to patient ratios, these were established by politicians who know nothing about the process either, and the governor was trying to adjust legality to reality. There is no chance that most hospitals will comply with the older regulation which the governor tried to ameliorate, and if the regulations are strictly enforced many hospitals will simply go out of business. This cascades to overwhelm the successful hospitals, and it goes on and on.

Way to go.


Subject: Light vs. heavy rifle rounds


Dear Jerry:

John Edwards wrote (http://www.jerrypournelle.com/mail/mail387.html#Dust) :

"On a related topic, I wonder if the weapon designers decision to go for a small light round was unduly influenced by Viet Nam. Much jungle shooting is necessarily spray and pray as the enemy can always find cover from view which is not the same as cover from fire. For this duty the amount of ammunition that can be carried is paramount and justifies a small light round."

Actually, it wasn't influenced by Viet Nam at all.

Before WWI, the armies of the world tried to get rifle rounds with good accuracy at extreme range. Long story short: they succeeded, almost all adopting rounds of 7 to 8mm, with bullets of 9-13g at around 750-900mps muzzle velocity (here after known as "full-power" rounds.)

Then the actual war came, and the damned enemy all eventually stopped getting up and slogging forward in step, holding formation. The inconsiderate SOBs ran forward in irregular groups, used cover, and otherwise inconvenienced all but the best of long-distance marksmen -- and even they mostly got their thousand meter hits with the aid of surprise.

Instead, most hits were at fairly short distances. The German strusstroopen, leaders in the tactical revolution, used carbines extensively, and hand grenades. The submachine gun was invented. The U.S. Army issued pump shotguns, and planned to issue the Pedersen Device, which enabled a Springfield to fire .30 caliber pistol ammo full auto. Combat was driving people to short, light, weapons with a high rate of fire.

Between the wars, various people concluded that in future wars long-range rifle fire would seldom be used by most infantry. And they were correct -- a study in the fifties showed that the median range for rifle shots in the Korean War was 100 meters, with almost all at 300 meters or less. And studies of wound ballistics showed that the existing rounds were overkill as far as lethality was concerned. Short, light weapons with high rates of fire looked better than ever. The problem was physics. Recoil momentum is a constant (it's the momentum of the round, plus the net downrange momentum of the propellent), while recoil energy is a non-constant, inversely related to weapons mass. Until a fundamental breakthrough in recoil control is made, the recoil energy of full auto rifles using "full-power" cartridges makes them uncontrollable and unduly punishing to the user, unless they mass around nine kilograms (the BAR started out around 7kgs, and was made more massive later).

So a new cartridge was needed, and by the mid thirties, people were working on "intermediate-power" rounds. This would enable the a 4.5 kg weapon to fire full auto with good control and acceptable accuracy out to at least 300 meters. Germany adopted the first one during WWII, the Sturmegewehr 44. The Russians were impressed, and developed the AK-47. The British worked up a 7mm intermediate round for a 'bull-pup' design rifle proposed around 1950.

But the U.S. had won the war, so it must be the fount of military knowledge, and there were lots of people in the U.S. Army who set their faces against intermediate power rounds. And they insisted that the new rifle have a traditionally shaped stock, one with a drop behind the barrel that causes muzzle rise in full auto fire (straight stocks were considered ugly). So the U.S. designed the 7.62mm round and forced NATO to adopt it. Then they produced the M-14 to fire it, a a drop stock rifle that could fire full-auto, and take a 20 round box magazine. Then they tried it in combat, and found, surprise! the laws of physics were the same in SE Asia as in the rest of the world, and a full-auto M-14 was uncontrollable (well, the Army could have used the M-14 action in a straight stock, and issued cartridges that fired less massy 7.62 caliber bullets at lower velocities, but no one was willing to do that).

Meanwhile, various operations research people had looked at the various intermediate power rounds, and concluded that an even smaller round, at an even higher velocity, would have even less recoil and acceptable kinetic energy, making possible rifles around 3.15 kilos. The Army wouldn't even look at the idea, but Curtis LeMay would, and SAC wanted some new, light weapons for air crew and air field guards. And a guy named Gene Stoner had developed a new, lighter 7.62 NATO cartridge rifle for a company named Armalite. Lemay knew the operations research people and some Armalite executives, and told Armalite that version of Stoner's rifle, firing a high velocity 5.56mm, would interest the Air Force very much. And lo!, the M-16 was born. And as more troops were sent to Viet Nam, it was the only game in town if you wanted a rifle that was controllable full-auto.

In retrospect, 5.56 millimeter may be too small. British and U.S. studies have indicated that rounds around 6.8 to 7mm would be optimum for battlefield performance. But no one who makes decisions on caliber is ever particularly influenced by battlefield perfomance. It's a law of military organization. So the best we can probably hope for are 5.56mm rounds with improved penetrating capacity.

Best, Stephen M. St. Onge


From France:


Last Saturday, the attempt of the MRAP (officially: an anti-racism association) to show their strenght in Paris has been a fiasco: about 1.000 people only, and they did not succeed in provoking a clash with policemen (a testimony tells that they were filming policemen while provoking them in the hope to get something to complain about).

This fiasco has decreased a lot the tensions, and since the media keep repeating that "the situation is slowly returning to normal"), and that these riots had nothing to do with Islam but were only the consequence of despair in front of French racism. Some have noticed that the comparison with Lebanon in 1970s is much more adapted than the comparison with Gaza: it had been the same denial in front of reality, the same weakness, the same... which were decisive in the war. But censorship is so much applied in France that it's completely impossible to know what happens really.

Last night, Chirac has promised a lot of money and affirmative action for "jeunes" (= Muslims), and to fight "discrimination". He has also employed the term "territoires", that many people have understood as an acceptation of the control of suburbs by Islamists (acceptation of "Millets"). A cartoon (in English) is a good summary: http://drybonesblog.blogspot.com/2005/11/holy-toledo-1994.html

The "funny" thing is that now French are complaining about the image these riots could have given of France outside, and about the precision of the reports by journalists in USA (in France everything is hidden). This is somewhat surprising when we remember how Kattrina was presented here, and when we see the very precise listing of all problems existing in Irak and Israël repeated day after day by the official press (AFP).

Some bloggers have written that even Libération (2nd French national newspaper) is publishing calls for war by this first page: http://phnk.com/blog/images/libe-emeutes.png Title: "Banlieues : Les femmes à vif" "à vif" means litteraly not protected by the skin, and is used about people when they are so nervous they could go to fight. Subtitle (bottom left) : "The mothers and sisters of the young muslims of the cités tell about their daily life of angryness and frustration and tell their approval of rioters". It's a way of saying that ALL people from Cités are guilty (which is untrue), and to increase resentment in other people.

Optimism is not the dominant feeling: polarization has increased a lot, as is shown by Libération, and I can't see how it could be reduced now.

A bientôt,


Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away Philip K. Dick


Potentially millions of hosts compromised by Sony rootkit ( priority one).


-- Roland Dobbins

And see the Hellewell warning letter in View. This is serious stuff, folks.


And people thought I was over-reacting when I suggested boycotting Sony, let alone bringing criminal charges.

-- Robert Bruce Thompson


You were spot-on. Look at the visualizations of rootkitted host distributions (based upon the 'phone-home' component's DNS queries):




Roland Dobbins


The TSA remains a huge boondoggle. The smirking, leering trolls "making our country safe" are a bigger disgrace than our federal prison system. I fail to see how removing my rockports & suspenders makes air travel safer, especially when...

TV Stations Get Their Reporters On Planes -- Repeatedly -- Without Proper ID


Robbie Walker


G'day Jerry,

I don't know if you have heard about the counter terrorist raids in Sydney and Melbourne last week, but we seem to have nabbed the world's stupidest terrorists.

Picture it,

You got the explosives.

You got the detonators.

You've rigged up your suicide vest.

You're all set to blow away some infidells and start banging those virgins in paradise.... but mom wont let you!

http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/common/story_page/0,5744,17248964%255E5001561,00.html <http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/common/story_page/0,5744,17248964%255E5001561,00.html>

Mommies boy suicide bombers, tell me the World's not crazy?

"Can we do the attack before 7pm? Mom doesn't like me going out late."

Best Regards,

Chris Papalia.

Perth, Australia.


Subject: Interesting Take on Darwinism vs. Intelligent Design

From Lee King

Dr. Pournelle:

From the blog of Scott Adams, the creater of "Dilbert":


Intelligent Design, Part 1

To me, the most fascinating aspect of the debate over Darwinism versus Intelligent Design is that neither side understands the other side’s argument. Better yet, no one seems to understand their own side’s argument. But that doesn’t stop anyone from having a passionate opinion.

I’ve been doing lots of reading on the subject, trying to gather comic fodder. I fully expected to validate my preconceived notion that the Darwinists had a mountain of credible evidence and the Intelligent Design folks were creationist kooks disguising themselves as scientists. That’s the way the media paints it. I had no reason to believe otherwise. The truth is a lot more interesting. Allow me to set you straight. (Note: I’m not a believer in Intelligent Design, Creationism, Darwinism, free will, non-monetary compensation, or anything else I can’t eat if I try hard enough.)

First of all, you’d be hard pressed to find a useful debate about Darwinism and Intelligent Design, of the sort that you could use to form your own opinion. I can’t find one, and I’ve looked. What you have instead is each side misrepresenting the other’s position and then making a good argument for why the misrepresentation is wrong. (If you don’t believe me, just watch the comments I get to this post.)

To make things more complicated, both sides have good and bad arguments lumped into them. If you make a good argument on your side, I respond by attacking your bad argument instead. If it were a debate contest, both sides would lose.<snip>

I've said much the same things. Clearly some evolution has taken place. Clearly there is a universe which may or may not have a purpose. Clearly there is no current scientific method for determining that purpose if there be one. Clearly science is the best weapon we have for understanding how things work.

And clearly children will be contaminated beyond belief if anywhere in the country there is a school teacher who suggests that the Hand of God might guide certain events, and all those teachers need to be rooted out and sent to the salt mines. How we ever survived as a nation with all that talk about Divine Providence from the Framers and the Patriots, and all that religious stuff put out by chaplains to the military is beyond me.


Subject: Steve Jones, 9/11, and conspiracies

"...where you will find that he is also active in early American archaeology; however, at earlier verions of the connected web sites (this is not so apparent now) I had picked up the impression that his interest is in the "alternative" archaeology necessary to the explanation of Mormon legend..."

A quick look a those "archaeology" links will show that Dr. Jones' interests in conspiracy and fringe are not unique to his building collapse analysis. The group to which he's scientific advisor believes there to be a grand academic conspiracy to hide, destroy, steal, and deny any artifacts or "proofs" that contradict accepted history (sound familiar?). Example of such "proofs" consist of Egyptian hieroglyphs in the U.S. Southwest, ancient "European" artifacts in Illinois, etc...

That's not even Mormon-ized alternative archaeology. That stuff is the purest of fantasy - very much akin to space-aliens building the Egyptian pyramids, Egyptians building Cahokia mounds, Native Americans being the lost tribe of Israel/Atlanteans/[insert supposedly missing peoples here], or other similar works of fiction.

The headings are interestingly "Archaeometry" rather than "Archaeology" also. Wouldn't be surprising for a physicist.

For those that might not know "Archaeometry" is that application of physical and biological sciences to issues related to archaeology. For example radiocarbon dating, metallurgical analysis of artifacts, isotope or other chemical analyses of materials or residues are all under the heading of "archaeometry".

..."History of the Ancients" it isn't...

I'm sure Dr. Jones has perfectly valid credentials in some things, but it's pretty obvious that he likes a good conspiracy in whatever form...

Scary thing is - there's plenty of folks out there willing to believe such nonsense whether it be the U.S. gov't covering up the "real" cause for the towers' collapse (or according to some I've heard - actually blowing them up to get us into a war) or wanting to think that the pharaohs were running around prehistoric Colorado...

Since his paper seems to be stirring at least some small discussion, thought I'd give him another bit of context for people.


--J. Scott Cardinal

All news to me. Thanks.


Subject: thoughts on pirates

Dr. Pournelle,

I have been reading about these Somali Pirates and their mysterious "Mother Ship" with interest. Having grown up on stories of swashbuckling pirates, their real incarnation is no doubt fascinating to many of us. What I wonder about the whole thing is why we cannot deal decisively with them once and for all. I have no knowledge of naval tactics, but it seems to me that one destroyer from a western navy should be able to sail in there with impunity and simply destroy this vessel and all of it's partners. I wonder why no one

has done so. Is freedom of navigation on the high seas not vital to U.S. National Interests (epecially those particular seas)? Would not any American Destroyer Skipper be simply chomping at the bit to be given the chance? If they are anything like your average American Infantry Battalion Commander (with which type I am much more familiar) I would guess that they would be. I understand that your son is a Naval Officer. Perhaps he can shed some light on the subject? Thanks and keep up the good work.

Matt Kirchner Baghdad, Iraq


Subject: RE: thoughts on pirates


It is every Naval Officer's dream to take on and capture/kill pirates. I can think of few conflicts where the good guys versus bad guys could be so clear. The challenge is not being labeled a pirate yourself.

 The pirates in question are apparently operating out of Somalia. Like any parasite, they come out in the dark and slink back into their hiding place.

Technically Somalia is a sovereign nation. Gaining permission to enter their territorial waters is impossible. I don't want to potentially expose any current operational planning, but I'm certain the Joint Task Force for Horn of Africa is looking at the issue very closely.

Love, Phil Pournelle



The greatest degeneration.


- Roland Dobbins

<snip> How is it, I ask you, that millions of American parents became convinced that it was normal and healthy to treat their kids like pagan princes and princesses, indulging their licentious desires and hedonistic impulses? And make no mistake about it, this isn’t Beaver Cleaver and these students don’t journey to paradise to play pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey or bobbing-for-apples . . . it’s more like the forbidden apple.

Let’s be blunt, one way a daughter could frame this is, “Hey, Mom and Dad, can I go to Cancun for spring break (or to celebrate, or some other occasion)?” But translated that often means, “Hey, Mom and Dad, can I go to Cancun, where I’ll most likely have sex with some libidinous boy you don’t know from Adam – maybe even with lots of boys – drink, smoke, and perhaps even do drugs?” That sounds crazy but is, in essence, accurate. Crazier still is that the parents’ answer is often “yes.”<snip>




This week:


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Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Darwin's tortoise.


- Roland Dobbins


Reopening a discussion on the future of copyright and royalties. You can find previous material from about a year ago on the Copyright page, and the new discussions will be copied to there at an appropriate time.

I begin by copying something from above:

NYT on Google Print.


-- Roland Dobbins

A not unreasonable discussion, but leaves out the key question: what right has Google to index my books, serve them up in snippets, and collect advertising revenue which they keep and don't share with the creators of the material they are using to attract eyeballs to their advertising.

Follow with this long item from Dr. Andrew Burt, an SFWA official in charge of anti-piracy matters. The discussion topic on the SFWA closed discussion forum is "Doomsday," and some mean that quite seriously.

Beware the "Universal Internet Library"

by Dr. Andrew Burt, Chair, Copyright Issues Committee, Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, Inc.

There are three levels of "Doomsday Scenario" for the royalty-based method of author payment based on the existence of three factors relating to how we use technology to read books. All but one of these is now in place, with the final nail poised. This means authors and society need to think about other ways to compensate authors at the same amount of income.

The three levels of doomsday would see an estimated 80%, 99%, or 99.99% decrease in royalties paid to authors. (Note: Authors earn their dinner money via royalties -- payments of a few cents per book sold.)

Okay: Necessary pre-conditions for the "Doomsday" scenario (AKA "end of the royalty-based system of paying authors"):

1) It's shown to be okay to loan/rent digital copies of books, instead of having people buy their digital copies. (Check. Google just announced this service.)

Since author royalties are calculated from copies *sold*. Any money you get from rentals is fine, but there's no law that says a place has to pay you for rentals -- they can buy a copy then rent it out and they keep all the rental income. Blockbuster doesn't pay a royalty to Paramount for renting a copy of Wrath of Khan.

Libraries loan print books out for free, so there's no law against it. Someplace could loan out digital copies for free, too; no law against it. (It might be a bad business model, but that's never stopped Enron or thousands of other companies from forming and causing problems.)

2) It's shown to be okay to provide access to digital books by the page, rather than by the whole book. (Check. Amazon just announced this service.) Apparently no law against it.

3) People reading mostly digital copies. This is not true today, of course, but digital paper and digital ink are in production. It's only a matter of time.

(If it's not some ebook device -- which seems unlikely since we've had many -- then "no later than" the date when ordinary paper is a digital thing. 5-15 years is my guess.) So, the problem below is NOT a problem today, but COULD BE a problem in the future if we aren't careful. (And let's not say "publishers and Amazon and Google will look out for authors' best interests..." If you believe that, I've got this swamp land... :-)

How these converge to cause a problem:

Key data item: How many books need be sold to meet demand?

Answer: It depends on the demand curve, but in the first week after release a book might sell 20% of all copies it will ever sell.

(That's the high water mark. A slow, steady selling book might hit a peak of 10% of all copies sold in one week, or 5%, or 1%. Those only make this calculation worse, more doomsday-ish, so let's work from the conservative 20% case.)

Let's work with some numbers. Let's say a book released today, in print, call it "Revenge of the Foo", is ultimately going to sell 50,000 copies. It sells 20% of that in the first week, 10,000 copies. In the second week, maybe it sells 8000 copies. 3rd week, 7000 copies. Etc.

Money, the fun stuff: Suppose the author gets $1 in royalties per copy sold. Author earns $50,000 in royalties over the life of the book.

Problem #1: If you rent books for one week (as Google proposes), then the world only needs 10,000 copies of the book to meet the world demand, which is in that first week (or whenever the peak sales week is). In the next week, those copies are checked back in and available for other renters. The rental place doesn't need to *buy* more copies, so the author has been paid for all copies they'll ever be paid for. Everybody else borrows one of those 10,000 copies in some week or other. (Pays the rental company if they're not free, but the author isn't by law entitled to any rental income.)

Thus: If the book only -sells- 10,000 copies instead of 50,000, because reading demand is met via rentals, the author is only guaranteed royalties on 10,000 copies.

That's an 80% reduction in royalties. Author earns $10,000 instead of $50,000. (If the author hasn't locked in other arrangements to get paid via non-royalty means. But I wouldn't count on "rental income" as being one of them.) (And remember, that was assuming the high water mark was at 20% copies needed in one week; a slow, steady seller might peak at 10%, meaning an even worse $5,000 in total royalties to the author.)

Problem #2: Shorter rental periods. There's no law that says a rental period has to be one week. With a digital copy, you could rent it "as long as you have the book reader device open for reading." That could be one hour while someone reads, then it checks it back in when the the screen saver kicks in or when they close the book. Check a copy back out when they open the book.

               I ran some numbers using the math called "queuing theory" and calculated that with lending periods that short,
               you could satisfy reading demand of 100 copies with 1 copy.

(Think about it for a second. If one week's maximum demand is 20% of all copies, one day would be around 1/7th of that, which is about 3% [let's call it 5% to err high], and in any one -hour- that's around 1/24th which is .2%, but let's call it 1% to err high.)

Thus: The author only needs to get paid for the sale of 500 books, ever, for them to be loaned out on an hourly basis to meet the peak reading demand in any one hour.

That's a 99% reduction in copies sold (500) and royalties. Author total royalties from sales, ever: $500.

(Again, that's if the author hasn't made other guaranteed payment arrangements that aren't royalty based; but don't peg your hopes on rental income, since they aren't required by law to pay you for rentals.)

(Why doesn't this work today? You can borrow from a library, yes, but each library has to buy a copy, and it takes you time and money to get to the library. If your local one doesn't have a copy, you can't easily drive across country to get another. An online library has none of those physical limits: One library can serve the world, no driving time, and it takes like one microsecond to check a book back in. The Internet increases the speed of certain activities from walking/driving speed to "the speed of light." So you can't really have one physical library to meet the world's demands, because of the cost of moving your body to that library; but you -can- with the Internet, because the cost is near zero and it happens almost instantaneously.)

Problem #3: Access by the page. If Amazon can -sell- books by the page, surely Google could -rent- them by the page.

How many copies would Google need to buy to satisfy the world's maximum reading demand?

If there are 300 pages in a book, any *one* page will be rented out for 1/300th the time the whole book is rented out. Let's err high and call it 1/100th, 1%.

It takes, say, one minute to read one page. But I can loan out page 1 of copy#1 to one person, page 2 to someone else, page 3 to a third person. If two people want to read page 1 at the same time, I need to buy two copies of the book.

1% of the number from problem#2 means that means Google could -buy- a mere 5 copies of this book and satisfy the reading needs of the world.

Sounds fishy? Well, really, in any one minute, on the whole planet, how many people -are- reading page 42 of Revenge of the Foo? It's not a giganto best seller, so five people in any one -minute- reading just page -42-, well, 5 probably isn't that far off.

Thus: Number of copies that need be -sold- to meet reading demand? 5. Author total royalty income: $5 instead of $50,000.

What does this all mean? It means that there's a significant chance that royalty income won't be how authors get paid.

This could happen suddenly (DVDs took off in just a year or two), so it means we should all think about how we -would- like to get paid that $50,000 for Revenge of the Foo.

The law doesn't say we have to get paid for rentals, so it'd be a head in the sand thing for authors to say "Oh, I'll be okay, I'll get paid from rentals."

Publishers would get whacked by this too. But (a) they're not the most forward thinking about technology, nor the most rapid to react to changes, so they could get really beaten up by this, which would be bad for authors; and (b) what solutions publishers (or Google, etc.) come up with will be to -their- advantage, and only to authors' advantage to the degree it helps them. (Um, duh. They look out for themselves. Authors are a means to a financial end. Pay authors as little as possible to maximize profits.)

So we should be looking out for -ourselves-.

I don't have the answers. When I first raised this issue among authors a couple years ago, we talked about some possible avenues, like licensing, patronage, lump sum payments, but they all had severe drawbacks.

There was a lot of (I think non-productive) arguing about how it couldn't happen. But, now that preconditions #1 and #2 have been met, and #3 is ever closer, I hope we can spend more time talking about how we'd like to get paid in a changed world, so we're ready for it.

So I throw open the debate floor with this question:


==End of Dr. Burt's analysis.

I take this quite seriously. It is not a model of the future: something will be found to compensate writers and artists. But it is a serious threat. Comments invited.

Larry Niven's take is simple: This will lead to the return of patronage, a system that dominated the arts for a thousand years. Patrons have clients. Artists and writers will be reduced to clientage. Again.

 Extensive discussion of Holly's situation vis a vie Google Library/Google Publisher today on her weblog: http://www.hollylisle.com/writingdiary2/
 Jim W

Gives an account (alas in blog style so it's very difficult for me to figure out what happened to start the thread) of Holly Lisle's situation regarding Google. The advertising revenue is being paid apparently but not to the creator of the work. I hate blog style presentations, and I may have the story wrong. I like to see things go from beginning to end...

See below


Subject: SONY Rootkit and unintended consequences

I work for a state government agency, and just received word from our IT dept that some our servers and workstations have been infected with Sony's rootkit DRM by employees listening to their legally purchased cd's while working. This was discovered because the DRM was trying to send information to Sony's site about systems and usage statistics. Essentially, Sony's DRM has hacked a government agency's IT infrastructure.

I may be mistaken, but I seem to think that there are some laws on the books that might make compromising a government agency's systems a *criminal* rather than a civil offense?

I suspect this has happened at other government (state or federal) agencies, as well. Could this also be considered IT espionage since Sony BMG as well as the company that wrote the software are foreign (i.e. not U.S.) companies?

Wouldn't that be interesting....?

(name withheld for obvious reasons)


Subject: The West vs. The East in The World Economy

An interesting thread, Dr. Pournelle, with the major meat in the lead posting:


To quote:

"...The following is a recently completed go around with companies in Canada, Europe, USA & China. This particular product is made to international standards and manufactured in all four countries.

"USA company #1: Yes, we will produce the product to your drawing, but since changes will have to be made to the CNC program surcharges will be included. Quoted price was 61.5 % higher than the published price in the manufacturers "retail" list price. The distributor cost is normally 40 % off retail list.

"USA company #2: Our engineering Dept. will prepare a production drawing based on your drawings and specs. This drawing would be sent to me for approval. Once the drawing was signed off as approved, the item would be produced in their facilities and since the drawing was signed off would be available to them for sale to their customers, which in fact they would become my competition. The price quoted was 75% over the price that they invoice me for the standard part."


"Chinese company: The company we selected had excelent quality reports from current customers, and also a reputation for meeting delivery dates. We ordered one of the standard items for quality checks, price 17% less than what I am paying for the same product out of the USA. In order to perform a quality inspection here one operation was omitted. The outside diameter has a 1 in 12 taper while the bore is straight. Our prime concern was concentricity between the bore and O.D. diameters and the accuraccy of the taper. The bore tolerance was 6.000" +0.000" -0.002", the O.D. small end of the taper tolerance was 6.693" +0.000" -0.001". Concentricity between the two diameters was 0.0003", while the bore and O.D. were each in the middle of the tolerance. Taper was measured over a distance of 1.9685" with an error of +0.00007" at the larger end. All measurements were performed in a bearing manufacturing lab here in Canada.

"This company offered an aggreement that stated the product would be made to my drawings and considered as a proprietary item. We spoke with others in the USA and Canada that this company has been producing for, and there have not been any instances where this agreement has not been upheld.

"They quoted prices only 4.5% over the price of their standard product that is the same item as everyone else in producing, and I purchase it landed in Canada. That cost is still 1.3% less than the best price of the first three sources for the standard product."

Helps one understand the origins and growth of the "rust belt" doesn't it?

Charles Brumbelow

Of course the US companies pay health, OSHA, EPA, and other regulators. One suspects the China company is not equally burdened.


Subject: Book publishing

Dear Jerry,

I was reading today's mail and noticed the statement in Dr. Burt's mail that authors get about $1.00 per book sold. If I'm going to pay $8.00 for a paperback and $24.00 for a hardback, then I would expect the author to get at least 1/2. After all, the rest is just paper. I know that there are editors involved, and I've seen more than one example of a famous author that wrote a book that badly needed editing, but that is a far cry from the fellow that actually creates the work. In any case, it would seem to me that the electronic world provides an opportunity to make more money. Perhaps by subscription. I get to read whatever you write each year for a fee. Perhaps you could do something tricky such as a canary trap where my version has slightly different wording (computer generated of course), then the next guy's. You could track the big leaks.

Of course, how do you compensate an author for a work like the "Mote in God's Eye" that in today's model just sells and sells verses an obscure short story. One thing that comes to mind is fandom. Aurthors and readers join an organization, the "Science Fiction Lovers of America" in your case, let's say. The readers pony up $100.00 a year. The readers get access to all of the member author's works released that year. Then they vote. And the money gets divided up by percentage. Perhaps some of the reader's membership money gets set aside for previous works.

Publishing is obviously about to go through a strategic inflection point. DRM (Digital Rights Management) sucks and should not be allowed to exist. I reference the Sony root kit. I don't know about the non-SciFi world, but it seems to me that most SciFi readers are pretty decent and that we should be able to come up with a good solution without getting the government involved. And if guys like you and Mr. Niven are only getting a buck or two per book, then publishers are not such a good idea ether.

Phil Tharp,

Mountain View

Publishers receive about 50% of the cover price of a book from the distributor. From that they pay the autho 10% (approximately) of the cover price, or 20% of what the publisher received. They pay for editorial costs, production costs, and generally all or part of shipping costs. They also pay for advances to authors that result in no book (authors are unreliable), and for books everyone thought would fly but which sink out of view. They pay for publicity (if any) and for marketing. In theory an author and a publisher make about the same profit on each sale. That I suppose isn't always true, but it's closer than many think.

That's book publishing. In record publishing the studios make much larger profits, and the authors much less, as I understand it.

It may be that authors can make more selling ebooks direct, but no one ever has so far. And see below



CURRENT VIEW    Wednesday


This week:


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Thursday, November 17, 2005

Subject: Towards a solution on Copyright

Dear Jerry:

The Google scheme to rent copies of books was pitched to publishers, but it is probably a no sale. Traditional distribution models tend to harvest the maximum revenue at each stage of product release, not the minimum. As Eric Frank Russell put it, "One does not flood his own gold mine". There is also a howling false assumption that electronic distribution will supplant print copies entirely. Not so. Electronic means will never match the simplicity and ease of use of a printed book or paper. Even when purchased through electronic distribution, the usual method of actual consumption starts with printing it out. Reading against a light is hard on the eyes. That has been true since the days of microform, which some visionaries also predicted would kill the traditional printed book.

In terms of compensating for the number of actual readers vs copies sold, this is already done in the European Union with the Public Lending Right. It started in the UK but other nations are jumping on this as a way to support lesser known writers. There is a cap on the total amount, so best selling authors don't end up with all the money.

As for shorter forms we see the aggregators and database providers offering online copies of articles, documents, reports, chapters of books and even entire books. They collect money by subscription, but also by sales of single copies. Every article has at least one tracking number and keeping track of what has sold where, under what terms, in no more more complicated than any other online financial transaction.

So we have the means to pay authors. We also have the technology. What we facing is an ideological stance from the so called hacker community that indulges in some very magical thinking rather than the hard realities of the marketplace. Here's a hard truth: Even if you give it away, most of the printed material that can be put online will remain unread. That which actually is read doesn't have to be given away. There is a point at which someone will choose to pay for it.

So what should our pricing model be? Roger Ebert suggested a penny per page for viewing the Web. Overpriced for casual use. On the other hand, I sell old articles at high multiples of that figure, but only to people who feel that they need them enough to pay the price I've set.

The First Sale doctrine applies, by the way, only to physical objects such as books and tapes and only in this country. Electronic copies cannot be rented out legally without the owner's permission. That's because you create a new copy every time you transfer it, whereas the rented book or tape travels from hand to hand and back. Another copy is not made.

Amazon, with its new "Amazon Shorts" program may have a solution that works for everyone. The price point is 49 cents. The author gets 40 percent of that. All the work is previously unpublished and linked with that author's other work also available from Amazon. I like this model a lot better than the vague promise made by Google to share ad dollars that may be attracted to one of their pages. But even that is better than the wholesale theft committed by the publishers who supply the aggregators and database providers, falsely assuring them the rights are properly secured when they are not.

I've come to the conclusion that there will have to be a global conference on copyright to hammer all this out and come up with a system that both compensates authors and allows free commerce in the printed word. What we have now doesn't do either of those things. Compulsory licensing and aggregated micro payments are the answer I think. Everyone gets paid. Everyone pays, but not too much. I learned a long time ago that any business deal has to be fair on all sides to work.


Francis Hamit

We disagree on the future. I think the paperback book is pretty well doomed by electronic devices that already exist. You have not tried reading on electronic paper which is indistinguishable from actual paper with the exception that it can but need not be backlit; but in fact my TabletPC is as easy to read as any paperback book and I can adjust the  font size, not to mention that the author can include cut scenes, illustrations in color, maps, including active maps, all at no additional cost.

Amazon is in active negotiation with both publishers and writers associations. Amazon's active promotion of used books is a great concern, but perhaps something can come of that. Google, although it poses as the good guys, doesn't seem to want to talk to authors or publishers.

I'm not fond of compulsory licensing. It may be that some kind of lending rights as with Europe will be needed. But Dr. Burt's thought experiments need to be kept in mind.

Dear Jerry:

Well, you and I often disagree, so that doesn't bother me. Let me see if I con refine my thinking on that issue. I do not think there is a "one size fits all" model here and it very much depends on the type of content and the intended use. If you are looking up a few facts, then electronic is definitely the way to go. Unless you are making side by side comparisons. Then paper has the edge because you can mark it up and highlight the most important portions. For longer items , just ask yourself how you want to read a novel: hunched over a computer screen or with the book in your lap. Ease of use is always an issue. I used to sell microform equipment to school districts. The big selling point was that you could get millions of pages into a very small space. The big customer objection was that the equipment was hard to use. However, libraries have now become the place where the so celled digital divide is being eliminated. You may recall that during our recent trip back East I posted from a couple of public libraries. Of course that is proactive communication, not passive reading. I know this much; if you have vision problems you may search for sources on a computer, but you will read what you find on paper print outs, even if you don't intend to keep them in an archive. The so called "paperless office" of the 1980s actually increased paper consumption. My own opinion is that while electronic distribution makes a more dynamic and efficient distribution model, paper will remain and essential part of the overall paradigm.

And for all the talk about "multimedia" it is the printed word that predominates on the Web. Technology has once more gotten ahead of the law here, but , as I said, there are ways to treat creators fairly. Amazon, unlike some of the others in the field, seems to realize this and is actively looking for ways to make sure we get paid fairly. Everyone else, from Google to the Creative Commons lobby and the slash.dot crowd just wants to bully us into working for free.

Francis Hamit


You have the wrong idea about modern computers. My TabletPC which is hardly the latest generation even of those is already lighter than a hardbound book, has clearer print, is as easy to read, turns pages at the touch of a button, and can sit on my lap, or an airplane tray, or the arm of a chair, or anywhere you can put a hardbound book. And stays open to the page I am on.

And I can mark it with a stylus that looks and acts like a fountain pen.

Peter Glaskowsky recently wrote to say

I dunno, Jerry, it just seems wrong that you're giving so much play to Dr. Andrew Burt when his analysis is no more legitimate than the work of Steven Jones on the WTC collapses, of which you are properly critical.

Honestly, they're both twisting facts to support preconceived conclusions. It isn't right.

Burt's arguments have been raised before, in opposition to the printing press, the Jacquard loom, the assembly line, and every other technological advance. You've dissected these arguments before, so why aren't you doing it now? Are you just too close to this issue to see it clearly?

. png

I invited him to make the opposition case.

From my perspective, the arguments are:

Copyright is a right, but legal protection for copyright is provided in return for public benefits.

One mechanism for delivering public benefits is "fair use," a limited public privilege to make certain uses of copyrighted material.

My idea of "fair use" is pretty much the same as the common understanding-- using one work to create new original works such as criticism and parody.

I think cataloging is also a fair use. A public catalog of copyrighted works delivers a substantial public benefit.

Google Print is a public catalog combined with a publishing service. We can treat these as functionally independent for the purposes of this discussion. The publishing service is meant to apply only to books that Google knows or reasonably believes to be in the public domain.

Google's definition of "public domain" specifically excludes books published since 1922. Google will only publish these works with the permission of the copyright owner or authorized agent.

It's pretty clear from the case of Holly Lisle and some others that Google hasn't been completely effective at identifying the correct agents. That problem can be solved. Once it is, I think the publishing side of Google Print will be okay.

So back to the catalog service. Even if we stipulate that cataloging per se is a fair use of copyrighted material, we have to know that the cataloging service isn't some kind of back door for publishing copyrighted material. I gather this is your primary concern, and I think the reason I'm not concerned is that I don't see any reason to believe Google is trying to create a back door like this.

First-- Google is claiming this is fair use, and there's a vast amount of case law that limits this sort of claim. If Google goes too far, it will be easy to see, and easy to stop.

Second-- the same technology that would potentially allow someone to reconstruct copyrighted materials from Google's "snippets" can be used to prevent such a reconstruction. It's trivially easy to apply rules that would reduce the exposure of the document below the levels necessary to allow reconstruction.

For example, Google can limit how much of a book can be used to generate snippets. It can also keep track of how much of a book HAS been used to generate snippets, and how many snippets a particular user can get from any book. In fact, Google's own descriptions of Google Print suggest it will do all of these things. This is why you must log in to see more than a very small portion of any book.

But again, if Google's protections turn out to be inadequate, this fact will quickly become apparent, and Google will very quickly be compelled to impose stronger protections. Since the same policies are being applied by the publishing side of Google Print to some copyrighted books under the terms of agreements between Google and publishers, Google's contractual obligations are essentially the same as its obligations under the fair use clause. Even if you doubt Google's commitment to fair use, you have to believe it's committed to these revenue-generating contracts.

Finally, I can also dispense with the direct-infringement argument, which claims Google is not entitled to copy documents by scanning them into its computers even if its cataloging and publishing services are legitimate.

But we all generally accept that copying for purposes of fair use is protected AS a fair use. I mentioned the case of ripping CDs into MP3 files, which is a requirement for listening to CDs on an MP3 player. The legality of this practice hasn't been adjudicated, but the Supreme Court's 1984 ruling that individuals may copy TV shows onto video tape for later viewing is basically the same thing.

Peter Glaskowsky

They intend to create a revenue stream by using their indices of other people's material. They are not even willing to discuss sharing that revenue.

Go back to Eric's thought experiment. (Eris Pobirs came up with this one: They create a set of snippets of the best of Star Trek, or my favorite Stargate Scenes. Any one of those snippets is "fair use". Now they publish that, either as a DVD for sale, or on line with advertising.) Is this fair? It is certainly beyond the intent of those who framed the fair use doctrine, and I can say that with some authority, having been involved in the SFWA negotiations with Congress on the 1976 Copyright Revision.

You have more confidence in Google's bona fides than I do. So far they have not been willing even to speak with SFWA, the Authors Guild, or the Publishers Association.


Subject: A single point against Peter Glaskowsky's analysis 

In all the points Peter raises, he does not discuss the effect of the Web on ease of *distribution* & *collection*, both of which require attention.

In fair use, as contemplated pre-Web, there was no mechanism that had capabilities within orders of magnitude of the Web that were available to the common citizen. So fair use must be curtailed in using such a distribution medium for copies.

Also, re the Google Snippets issue, what about BitTorrent? It's MADE to stream little bits of a file from many hosts to retrieve a finished product (also to increase throughput, but that's irrelevant here). All that would be needed was a community to desire a document, and to each stream a snippet until the entire work is retrieved, then put all the snippets under a particular BitTorrent name, no?

If I can think of this (and I'm no genius), why hasn't it been addressed by Google et al?

Cheers, and Good Luck in this fight!

Doug Hayden


Subject: Fair Use often isn't fair

Dear Jerry:

The Copyright Act and case law such as "American Geophysical Union v. Texaco" and Lowry Reports x. Legg Mason" defines Fair Use as a very limited taking. One copy for personal use. Commercial users are presumed to seek at least an indirect commercial advantage. In "Texaco" it was the creation of an archive of articles for future use and in "Legg Mason" it was the avoidance of additional subscription fees. That kind of copying is theft, plain and simple. Avoiding a payment is the same thing as stealing another copy. That was the basis of the decision in "NY Times v. Tasini". There are safe harbors for non profit libraries and archives and educational institutions in the law. For public, not private, good.

One of the points we are making in my cases is that while the library, as a public institution, may have a fair use of an article in an electronic database, the for profit firm that provided it as part of a larger subscription does not. They make money from other people's work and should pay them for that use. The issue of "commercial advantage" weighs in the Google case because they get that from selling advertising spots. I'm a Google Print Partner and they have promised to share ad revenues with me from those pages generated by my articles. I also have hopes that the ability to sample the products will increase sales. But all of that was a business decision on my part, made as part of my continuing experiment to determine whether or not electronic publishing works for authors. The deal was not forced upon me but freely chosen.

Electronic distribution holds great promise for creating new opportunities for writers through a process of disintermediation. As someone who is starting a new phase of my career, I've become very aware of the Gatekeeper problem. There is a variation of the Pareto principle here where a small portion of the material submitted is actually something that is seen as a commercially viable product. It would be hard to imagine a play where the actors had to whisper their words to someone before being allowed to speak them to the audience, but that is the situation with most forms of writing. Plays are collaborative works and require the effort and imput of other creators to be realized successfully. To a smaller extent that is also true of written text, which is bought, and then edited to fit into the overall collective work. As with the play, you have to buy the entire production, not just a part.

Electronic distribution does allow distribution of the parts rather than the whole and is eliminates most of the gatekeepers. There is a long standing prejudice against all kinds of self publishing as unmediated acts of ego on the part of the author. This may gradually fall away simply because a successful literary product need no longer be a mass market product and electronic publishing provides a much quicker time to market. The Gatekeepers, such as editors and publishers, cannot help but impose their own visions on work submitted to them. Personal tastes, prejudices, and commercial considerations all play into their decision making processes. Often to the determent of the work in question. Electronic publishing has the potential to provide a more direct relationship between the author and the reader; something unfiltered. (This cannot be taken as an excuse for mechanical sloppiness. Errors in spelling, grammar, and layout distract rather than enhance the reader's appreciation and become the responsibility of the author. But, in recent years these tasks have been pushed back on authors anyway. Mechanically perfect copy is now the expectation of publishers and anything less is likely to be rejected without regard for the merits of the work itself).

Electronic distribution is an efficient way to find niche markets, and as you can see on Chris Anderson's "The Long Tail" web site, the size of such markets equal or exceed those of the old mass market theory of selling. The question then becomes what do traditional gatekeepers bring to the sale of new work? Well, they have the brand. They have the promotional machinery. They have the financial power to support long term projects. Most of that is beyond the resources of almost every author. The current situation is unhealthy. The largest publishers have been convinced by literary agents to delegate initial choice of new work to them. They will accept submissions from no other source. The agents are interested in only what will generate commissions. They are particular. They will handle novels but not nonfiction or vice versa, but never stage plays, short stories or genres they have no liking for. These decisions are based upon where they think the money is. And the process can grind on for years, since each demands an exclusive look and declines to compete for business. Why should they when the sheer number of submissions is overwhelming?

Amazon has taken several new approaches to the problem. (Full disclosure here: I'm a stockholder and also a used book dealer through them as well as a content provider). One is to beef up the catalog of electronic documents. Amazon shorts are original electronic documents which have a promotional aspect. You have to be already published and in their system to participate. They link between your products. These guys sell books. They don't have any kind of cultural agenda beyond satisfying customer demand. They've pretty much taken over the used book market with Amazon Marketplace, which recycles used, out of print books much more than new ones. They also now publish books through Booksurge, the Print on Demand firm they bought earlier this year. Print On Demand solves many problems for niche titles. The books never go "out of print" since they are produced one at a time , as purchased. There are no inventories and therefore no remainders of stock sold cheaply without author royalties. This adds efficiencies to the system. Not that any of this will replace the "Best Seller" mentality that dominates traditional publishing, but it will provide more opportunities for authors and more choices for consumers.

Copyright law has to be adjusted to make sure authors are fairly compensated for all uses of their work. Fair Use exists so far because the payments involved are too small to sue over. A version of the Public Lending Right here would be a more fair solution. Heck, you might even be able to make a decent living as a writer based on the merits of what you produce.


Francis Hamit

=And see below


Subject: Map of apparent infection by Sony's DRM rootkit

It's under the title 'welcome to planet sony'...the maps show a pretty thorough infection.


Doug Hayden



Subject: Citing Wikipedia

I remember you commented that one bad thing about Wikipedia is: you might tell someone to go read an article, and by the time they go someone changed the article.

I am reading that "Harry Potter and the Half-Crazed Bureaucracy" article, and in a footnote the author cites Wikipedia -- with the date he visited it.

That's actually a good idea. You can use the "history" features of Wikipedia to pull up a copy of the page as it was on the cited day!

It's the same thing as noting which edition of a book one is citing, except that on Wikipedia, the "edition" potentially can change multiple times in one day.

I suspect that in the near future a formal footnote convention for citing fast-changing media will evolve--one that includes the date and time being cited--and people researching citations will routinely use a "history" feature to pull up the page.
 -- Steve R. Hastings
"Vita est" steve@hastings.org http://www.blarg.net/~steveha

That should work. I think Wikipedia is a great idea but still under development for implementation. But see below


Subject: US Army Military History Institute Online Archives

The US Army Military History Institute many documents online [many are pdf]. Some digging will unearth primary documents, such as

Pershing's Report on the Mexican Punitive Expedition (Oct. 1916),


Sheridan's Engagements with Hostile Indians, 1868 - 1892.


Home page:


Archives: (an impressive listing)


mike zawistowski



Subject: More Scott Adams on Intelligent Design Controversy

Dr. Pournelle:

The response by his readers to Scott Adams' piece on Intelligent Design vs. Evolution is perhaps more illustrative than the original piece. It seems many read what they wanted to see into his piece and attacked him (or what they THOUGHT he wrote) accordingly. It does not bode well for the state of discourse in our society.

Very truly yours,

Lee Keller King


Intelligent Design Part 2

Interesting but hardly astonishing. The doctrine of atheist humanism is a religion that produces fanatics no less dedicated than some of the less worthy scions of the Church Militant, although few of them wear hair shirts and indulge in penance for their arrogance. The results of atheist humanism are documented fairly well by Lubec's book The Drama of Atheist Humanism, and I refer anyone interested to that.

Of those who claim "Intelligent Design" is "science" I can only say they don't know what science is. The proper claim of Intelligent Design is that there is no scientific explanation for some phenomena, and there never will be; and therefore Intelligent Design is a better alternative hypothesis. Note that this is NOT a scientific claim. It could be in the sense that it can be falsified: this ID claim says that science will not provide a plausible explanation for a number of phenomena, and the production of those explanations is a falsification of the claim.

The Big Science Fanatic position is that it is harmful to kids even to be taught that there are those who think there are limits to scientific explanation, and that they put forth (quite correctly in my judgment) instances of phenomena that science has no explanation for. Big Science answers that they will certainly find such explanations, and until then one should Have Faith that Science Will Succeed.

Now that claim by Big Science may well be right. It may be more reasonable to bet that science will succeed than that it will fail. But it is still an Act of Faith to assert that. And of course the Atheist Humanists go further, claiming that there is no knowledge but scientific knowledge (if you define all knowledge as science then of course that is trivially true) and no understanding but scientific understanding.

All this may be true, but surely there are alternate views? Through history we have always suspected that the heart has understandings beyond the ken of the head. That may not be correct, but surely it is not insane?

Most proponents of Intelligent Design want no more than a brief mention in publicly supported classes that there are alternate views to the reductionist Darwinian view that asserts but does not prove that Darwinian Selection is the only mechanism that can explain the world as we see it. If they seek to say these alternate views are "science" they are wrong; they are alternatives to "science" as usually defined. But it is also unfair and certainly unprovable that "science" is the only route to all knowledge.

As an example: some people believe they have experienced miracles. Leaving out anecdotes of individual experience, we can take some of the certified miracles from Lourdes. By certified miracle, I mean that competent physicians confidently testify that certain cures were accomplished, and that they have absolutely no scientific or medical explanation of that cure. By definition a miracle cannot be studied by science because it is not a repeatable phenomenon. (Were it repeatable it might be magic, but that doesn't seem to work very well as a repeatable phenomenon.) People who have been the beneficiary of a miracle (defined as an event so improbable as to defy normal belief) tend to think they have learned something about the universe that others who have not had that experience do not know.

And of course literary writers have always thought they had understandings that shrinks don't have. But I would be the first to point out that novelists are not writing science.

Science is a systematic way of organizing knowledge to generate testable hypotheses. It has proven to be the most powerful technique we have for understanding the universe. Indeed it is so powerful that many are tempted to think it is the ONLY means for understanding the universe and cannot comprehend any alternatives to that hypothesis.

Now regarding evolution: Sir Fred Hoyle postulates a number of objections to Darwinian evolution as the ONLY means for species differentiation and changes in evolutionary direction. Sir Fred may be off his head, but he is hardly a naive apologist for religious beliefs. Others have pointed out there are holes in the Darwinian explanation. They may be filled by further discoveries or they may not be, but to claim they are filled is incorrect, and to say that even though they are not they will be is an Act of Faith.

And I'm out of time and we haven't even got to the question of epistemology. And see below


Bicultural Europe is doomed.


-- Roland Dobbins

Quite possibly. Jordan has a better future than Denmark? Quite possibly. At least he makes his case plausible.

And See Below


Heraclitus said it first.


--- Roland Dobbins

The Greek historian Heraclitus observed, “A man’s character is his fate.” I’ve always found that to be true. I’d go further though. I think it is as applicable to institutions as it is to individuals.

If I’m right, the end result of the Wilson/Plame hoax – described by Christopher Hitchens Hitchens as “the non-commission of non-crimes and the non-outing of a non-covert CIA bureaucrat” – will be how it has exposed this fact: Our major media have been so hopelessly corrupted by partisanship that, either willingly or through credulousness, they have become little more than an agent of the Democratic Party, utterly unworthy of our trust and damaging to our real national security needs.

And if you think that’s strong, the Wen Ho Lee case will resolve any possible lingering doubts that that is the case.<snip>


>> I think Wikipedia is a great idea but still under development for implementation. <<

Which reminds me of people who used to say that communism was a great idea in theory but always turned out badly in practice. The reason that communism always turns out badly in practice is that it's a horrible idea in theory. I think the same is true of Wikipedia.

Although some have described Wikipedia as an open-source encyclopedia, just as Linux is an open-source operating system, there's a fundamental difference. Random people can't make arbitrary changes to Linux, except for their own use. Any change that is to be incorporated into the official kernel passes numerous expert gatekeepers, including eventually Linus Torvalds, all of whom are extremely cautious about making changes. There is no such control on Wikipedia, so by its nature the information in every article is of dubious accuracy and completeness.

Furthermore, although Wikipedia often points out that it has many articles of excellent quality, that is not the proper measure of an encyclopedia. My question to Wikipedia is, "How good is your worst article?" And it is there that Wikipedia crashes and burns horribly. An untrustworthy encyclopedia is no better than an untrustworthy parachute.

I'll stick with EB and other peer-reviewed sources when I want authoritative information.

-- Robert Bruce Thompson

Well I certainly have my reservations about the concept, but perhaps it can be made to work. As I have said in other places, it's most reliable on subjects that people don't have strong feelings about. Sometimes it's pretty good. Other times, well, I amended some entries and within hours my changes were gone to be replaced by something else. I'll stay with 'under development' and add "and not trustworthy until some structural changes are made. I don't know what those changes should be."







CURRENT VIEW    Thursday


This week:


read book now


Friday,  November 18, 2005

Theft and Google

As a person who really wants your job Jerry, I've been following the debate over the Google and Amazon projects with a great deal of interest. Having written over the 1 million words that you recommend, though I haven't yet burned my trunk, the agony of what these folks want to do is clear to me.

If Amazon were making copies of Microsoft's intellectual property available for anyone to see, even if it were only a 'snippet', you could bet your last dime on the army of lawyers that would descend on the Amazon headquarters. If Google were putting up 'snippets' of governmental secrets on their site, you could probably also bet a considerable sum on how many law enforcement officers would be knocking on their door.

I ran across this article this morning

 It was just a simple report of a meeting between Google and some publishers and authors, but one quote from the article brought home the entire debate to me and why it galls me that Google will probably get away with stealing some of the greatest treasures ever presented to man.

"Sanford law professor Lawrence Lessig said there were limits to the monopoly publishers and authors hold over their books."

Now how in the holy heavens does this idiot come up with an opinion like that? How does anyone come to believe that what I create isn't mine and mine alone? Sure, I can GIVE others the right to use or even completely own MY work, but that would be MY choice.

Maybe this is the very heart of what is being debated here - property rights. How far do property rights really extend? I can see limits on tangible property. If I'm trying to harm someone while they are on my property, society has a right to ask me why and, depending on the circumstances, make me stop, even arrest me, even harm me to stop me from harming another. But what limits are there on intangible property? How is society benefited by stealing the works of authors? How does allowing Google to make money on your literary characters enhance innovation? How would preventing them from doing so harm innovation?

I will continue to follow this debate with great interest, but I fear there can be only one outcome. Google and all its money will win primarily because the current judges are of the same ilk as this demented law professor. When that happens, I will probably lay down my pen and stop writing, at least with the intent to publish. I would have given it away if someone would have asked if only for the pure pleasure of seeing the reader's expression as they experience the same or a similar vision to what I had when I wrote it. To have it stolen from me at the point of the law is a violation I do not want to experience, however. Far better not to write it at all than to have it taken from me.

Thanks for all you do and your wondrous web site. I visit it many times per day and am rarely disappointed in what I find there.

Braxton S. Cook

Information wants to be free, and surely you cannot be in favor of a monopoly? (And see below)


Subject: Vatican Official Refutes Intelligent Design

Add this into the mix,
Regards, Bas

Vatican Official Refutes Intelligent Design Nov 18 11:55 AM US/Eastern Email this story <http://www.breitbart.com/cgi/email_story.cgi

By NICOLE WINFIELD Associated Press Writer


The Vatican's chief astronomer said Friday that "intelligent design" isn't science and doesn't belong in science classrooms, the latest high-ranking Roman Catholic official to enter the evolution debate in the United States.

The Rev. George Coyne, the Jesuit director of the Vatican Observatory, said placing intelligent design theory alongside that of evolution in school programs was "wrong" and was akin to mixing apples with oranges.

"Intelligent design isn't science even though it pretends to be," the ANSA news agency quoted Coyne as saying on the sidelines of a conference in Florence. "If you want to teach it in schools, intelligent design should be taught when religion or cultural history is taught, not science."

His comments were in line with his previous statements on "intelligent design" _ whose supporters hold that the universe is so complex that it must have been created by a higher power.

Proponents of intelligent design are seeking to get public schools in the United States to teach it as part of the science curriculum. Critics say intelligent design is merely creationism _ a literal reading of the Bible's story of creation _ camouflaged in scientific language, and they say it does not belong in science curriculum.

In a June article in the British Catholic magazine The Tablet, Coyne reaffirmed God's role in creation, but said science explains the history of the universe.

"If they respect the results of modern science, and indeed the best of modern biblical research, religious believers must move away from the notion of a dictator God or a designer God, a Newtonian God who made the universe as a watch that ticks along regularly."

Rather, he argued, God should be seen more as an encouraging parent.

"God in his infinite freedom continuously creates a world that reflects that freedom at all levels of the evolutionary process to greater and greater complexity," he wrote. "He is not continually intervening, but rather allows, participates, loves."

The Vatican Observatory, which Coyne heads, is one of the oldest astronomical research institutions in the world. It is based in the papal summer residence at Castel Gandolfo south of Rome.

Last week, Pope Benedict XVI waded indirectly into the evolution debate by saying the universe was made by an "intelligent project" and criticizing those who in the name of science say its creation was without direction or order.<snip>

Either there is a purpose to the universe or there is not. If there is not, then we have the problem of deriving purpose to our own existence.  Existentialists say there is now. Existence precedes essence, and does not imply purpose; and thus our lives are absurd. After which Sartre became a communist. Apparently Marxism substituted for purpose. Camus concludes that life consists of doing one's job; but he could not get far behind that statement, and though less alienated than some, remained essentially a stranger in a strange land.

The Old Gods demanded that a man must stand by his master, when once he has given his word. And if only you stand by your master, the gods will stand by you. There is still fire in the old songs, and wonder in the old religions, mostly because they give purpose to life.

Note that the statement from the Vatican Astronomer above does not exclude either purpose or miracles, both of which are pretty well outside science.


Conservation refugees.


----- Later that spring, at a Vancouver, British Columbia, meeting of the International Forum on Indigenous Mapping, all two hundred delegates signed a declaration stating that the "activities of conservation organizations now represent the single biggest threat to the integrity of indigenous lands." These are rhetorical jabs, of course, but they have shaken the international conservation community, as have a subsequent spate of critical articles and studies, two of them conducted by the Ford Foundation, calling big conservation to task for its historical mistreatment of indigenous peoples.

"We are enemies of conservation," declared Maasai leader Martin Saning'o, standing before a session of the November 2004 World Conservation Congress sponsored by IUCN in Bangkok, Thailand. The nomadic Maasai, who have over the past thirty years lost most of their grazing range to conservation projects throughout eastern Africa, hadn't always felt that way. In fact, Saning'o reminded his audience, "we were the original conservationists." The room was hushed as he quietly explained how pastoral and nomadic cattlemen have traditionally protected their range: "Our ways of farming pollinated diverse seed species and maintained corridors between ecosystems." Then he tried to fathom the strange version of land conservation that has impoverished his people, more than one hundred thousand of whom have been displaced from southern Kenya and the Serengeti Plains of Tanzania. Like the Batwa, the Maasai have not been fairly compensated. Their culture is dissolving and they live in poverty.

"We don't want to be like you," Saning'o told a room of shocked white faces. "We want you to be like us. We are here to change your minds. You cannot accomplish conservation without us."

- Roland Dobbins


On the destruction of Europe (and see above):

It’s hard to understand there could exist desperation in a developed nation with a rich history of law and mature notions of its’ own society.

Below is a message that came to me by way of someone I hear from regularly and trust. Though I have no way of confirming the story below entirely, I have been able to confirm that the person telling it has no reason to lie, and that the website of the small Gaullist political party that he was a part of has been taken down.

Names and links have been deleted, given the nature of the threats.

The translation is my own. Please forgive its’ roughness.

«I received a telephone call this evening telling me very clearly that me or my family would not be protected if our identities had been suddenly revealed. The personal information communicated to me in detail by an unexpected "interlocutor", which makes me believe the threat to be authentic. I drew the conclusion that it was a "final warning."

I was also told that as long as I continue my "activities," I would not be able to find a job I have a wife and two children, and I can’t take that kind of financial or personal risk. I have to consider the well being of my family. Our enemies are sufficiently powerful to dominate the media, to prevent the publication of book, or to censure people by other means, including social elimination, all within the powers of the State of Emergency.

 I have two girls. It’s clear that I can’t risk their well being. The MEDEF [association of businesses], the trade unions, and the elites all play into this. I don’t have any illusions about my fate in France and I need to work to sustain my family.

 I’m not Moses. I will not save the French in spite of themselves, and I’m serious when I say "in spite of themselves", because it needs to be understood that on one side that if on a side there is an agreement to organize and impose a Eurabia on us, and resistance to it is scattered, divided, and locked up in strange plans and speeches. Realistically a divided people can’t oppose this enemy. This conflict isn’t just abusive, it’s depressing. I’ve done what I could for 16 years, and like the story goes: the writings will always be there.

The [organization name withheld] is dissolved, all the data on the identity of its members were destroyed to ensure their safety. I thank the few people who tried, in vain, to support it. At this point, it’s finished.

»Yours’ truly, [name withheld]



«J'ai reçu un coup de téléphone ce soir, extrèmement clair qui m'a indiqué que moi ou ma famille ne serions pas protégés si nos identités venaient à être révélées. Les renseignements personnels fournis par mon "interlocuteur" étant suffisamment précis et inattendus pour guère ne me faire d'illusion sur l'origine de cet "avertissement", j'en ai tiré la conclusion que c'était bien un "dernier avertissement" On m'a d'ailleurs également indiqué, que tant que mes "activités" continueraient je ne pourrai pas compter retrouver un emploi. Or j'ai une femme et deux enfants, et je ne peux certainement pas prendre non plus ce risque économique et social pour la survie de ma famille.

Nos ennemis sont suffisamment puissants pour dominer les media, empêcher la publication de livre, ou imposer au peuple leur censure par tous les moyens, y compris l'élimination sociale, dans un contexte désormais soumis à l'état d'urgence. J'ai deux filles, les choses sont claires. Le MEDEF, les syndicats, comme l'ensemble des élites étant toutes complices, je n'ai aucun illusion sur mon sort en France et j'ai besoin d'un emploi pour faire vivre ma famille...

Je ne suis pas Moïse, je ne sauverai pas les français malgré eux, et j'insiste bien sur le "malgré eux", car il faut bien reconnaître aussi que si d'un côté règne l'entente pour organiser et imposer l'eurabia, de l'autre les résistances sont trop éparses, trop divisées, trop enfermées aussi dans des conceptions dépassées et des discours, voire des réalités, coupés du peuple, pour représenter une force crédible pouvant faire face à l'ennemi. Ce combat est non seulement harassant, mais aussi déprimant. J'ai fait ma part depuis 16 ans, et comme dit le proverbe : les écrits restent..

[le nom de l'organisation est retenu] est dissoute, toutes les données sur l'identité de ses membres ont été détruites pour assurer leur sécurité. Je remercie les quelques personnes qui ont tenté, en vain, de [le] soutenir. Mais cette fois, c'est bien fini.»


[nom retenu]

This party in question isn’t "ultra" anything, but has conservative views, are proponents of personal liberty, and oppose Israel bashers.

As far as his travails go, one must understand just how easily and readily centers of power, (local or national), can brutally strong-arm people and their ideas simply because they don’t like them, or feel threatened. It’s all done without a pretense of abiding ones’ freedom of speech.

Both France and large parts of Europe appear to have the social exhaustion that has brought them to sheepishness and a resident element of loutishness to permit this kind of thing to go on. All the same, objections to it are tut-tutted for fear of the neighbors seeing. That kind of environment is no different that the type that are ripe to accept dictatorship.

First and foremost the right of free speech needs to be preserved in a realistic manner, not deconstructed into a stupor. You either have your freedoms or you don’t."

[nom retenu]

Liberalism is a philosophy of consolation for Western Civilization as it commits suicide. One of the forms of suicide is the negation of the principles on which Liberalism was founded. For whom and from what does Liberalism liberate?

And see below.


Dear Jerry:

Larry Lessig has such a skewed view of Copyright that I sometimes wonder where he studied law and how he can claim the teach it responsibly. He and his party seem intent on ruling the Internet by the same means that Stalin ruled Russia. Opposing viewpoints are dismissed, or shouted down. There is no dialog here. Copyright is a constitutionally guaranteed property right with a very defined and limited life. Eventually everything falls into the Public Domain. That is apparently not good enough for Lessig and his friends. They want it now and they want it all, without regard to the effort required to create new work; something we can both attest takes years of effort. It only looks easy.

Again I have to ask the question; if copyright is abolished, how are creative people supposed to live? The solutions offered by people like Cory Doctorow not only involve more work, but in different endeavors than your core business. Time in finite and immutable; there is only so much that you are allotted and, that being so, is it not better to spend it doing that which you are best suited for and most productive at?

Irv Muchnick, who runs the Freelance Rights blog that tracks the recent electronic database copyright infringement settlement, recently went so far as to accuse the three "associational plaintiffs"; the three writers organization who intervened in the case (Author's Guild, ASJA and The National Writer's Union) of selling out, not just their own members but every other freelance writer. I can't say he's wrong, although I had a kinder view that they were simply beaten up and worn down by people a lot tougher and more ruthless than they are. Lessig, for all his professed Liberalism, is another sell out. His arguments serve Big Media companies like Google, not those of us who sweat to realize original ideas. He takes an academic view rather than that of someone who actually makes a living from their creativity.

These people talk about "remix" as it were the ultimate act of creation rather than the tired reprocessing of other peoples' work that it is. Apparently the idea of something completely new and original is beyond their ken. Their concern for putting so called "orphan works" online ignores the fact that copies of the original can usually be acquired, and at lesser cost, in the used book market.

So this is an assault against property, with classic Marxist overtones. You will note that they object to paying. The amount is immaterial. They simply don't want to pay for what they use. Again, I ask, "How are we to live?"


Francis Hamit

(For more mail on Lessig, see next week mail.)


Evil Spirit Terrorises School.


-- Roland Dobbins


Subject: The success of Linux as an argument in favor of Intelligent Design.

The comparisons of Linux to Wikipedia are amusing, when you carry them over to the Intelligent Design debate. Linux has, ultimately, a single designer who oversees every aspect of the creation. Wikipedia is done by an infinite number of monkeys with typewriters. Linux is stable, powerful, and a viable alternative to professionally-developed software. Wikipedia is a bad joke.

Obviously I'm not trying to argue that the success of Linux is an argument in favor of Intelligent Design, but it's still ironic.

-- Mike Powers


"It's my only joy for the day."


-- Roland Dobbins

Home owner associations are invariably run by busybodies with nothing better to do. With predictable results.





This week:


read book now


Saturday, November 19, 2005

Subject: Google Library and literary copyright.

As far as I understand, Google Library intents to use the snippets to sell digital books, from which the publishers and authors will get paid.

At least in the academic sector several publishers sees this as huge opportunity to sell more books. See for example:

"Danish publisher signs on with Google Library for selling english language books": http://politiken.dk/VisArtikel.sasp?PageID=408285

Of course academic authors usually does not have to live of their royalties, and the earning potential is much less than fiction, so lost sales due to piracy and lending are less an issue than the potential gain from extra international sales.

Compairing to conventional libraries, at least here in Denmark authors get compensated annualy by the government for each book that the have in the public libraries. Might a similar model be applied to Google Library?

As I understand, even popular authors such as yourself, get a relatively small proportion of the bookprice as paid by the consumer in the bookstore.

At what price per digital book would a digital model be equivalent from the authors side?

A future distribution model could consist of:

1) Authors sign with print publishers for the rights to the printed books, and recieve compensation as they do today.

2) Authors sign with Google library or other online distribution libraries for digital distribution, and recieves a flat fee for DRM protected loans, loss due to piracy and for the right to show short snippets. Furthermore they recieve a fee per book sold in a non DRM protected format (At least I do not buy any DRM protected work - no matter how interesting). A "danish library" model plus a fee from each sale.

3) Anti-piracy efforts under the law continue as it does today - there will always be the need to stop people who wants to profit from the work of others without compensating them.

Wouldn't that put both academic and popular authors in an at least acceptable position?


Bo Andersen, Denmark


Too many wives causes unrest.


-- Roland Dobbins

Be careful what you wish for.


It's fascinating that this should come out of Europe. Matthias Dapfner, Chief Executive of the huge German publisher Axel Springer AG, has written a blistering attack in DIE WELT, Germany's largest daily paper, against the timid reaction of Europe in the face of the Islamic threat. This is a must read by all Americans. History will certify its correctness.

(Commentary by Mathias Dapfner CEO, Axel Springer, AG)

A few days ago Henry Broder wrote in Welt am Sonntag, "Europe - your family name is appeasement." It's a phrase you can't get out of your head because it's so terribly true. Appeasement cost millions of Jews and non-Jews their lives as England and France, allies at the time, negotiated and hesitated too long before they noticed that Hitler had to be fought, not bound to toothless agreements. Appeasement legitimized and stabilized Communism in the Soviet Union, then East Germany, then all the rest of Eastern Europe where for decades, inhuman suppressive, murderous governments were glorified as the ideologically correct alternative to all other possibilities. Appeasement crippled Europe when genocide ran rampant in Kosovo, and even though we had absolute proof of ongoing mass-murder, we Europeans debated and debated and debated, and were still debating when finally the Americans had to come from halfway around the world, into Europe yet again, and do our work for us.

Rather than protecting democracy in the Middle East, European appeasement, camouflaged behind the fuzzy word "equidistance," now countenances suicide bombings in Israel by fundamentalist Palestinians. Appeasement generates a mentality that allows Europe to ignore nea rly 500,000 victims of Saddam's torture and murder machinery and, motivated by the self-righteousness of the peace-movement, has the gall to issue bad grades to George Bush... Even as it is uncovered that the loudest critics of the American action in Iraq made illicit billions, no, TENS of billions, in the corrupt U.N. Oil-for-Food program. And now we are faced with a particularly grotesque form of appeasement.

How is Germany reacting to the escalating violence by Islamic fundamentalists in Holland and elsewhere? By suggesting that we really should have a "Muslim Holiday" in Germany? I wish I were joking, but I am not. A substantial fraction of our (German) Government, and if the polls are to be believed, the German people, actually believe that creating an Official State "Muslim Holiday" will somehow spare us from the wrath of the fanatical Islamists.

One cannot help but recall Britain's Neville Chamberlain waving the laughable treaty signed by Adolph Hitler, and declaring European "Peace in our time". What else has to happen before the European public and its political leadership get it? There is a sort of crusade underway, an especially perfidious crusade consisting of systematic attacks by fanatic Muslims, focused on civilians, directed against our free, open Western societies, and intent upon Western Civilization's utter destruction. It is a conflict that will most likely last longer than any of the great military conflicts of the last century - a conflict conducted by an enemy that cannot be tamed by "tolerance" and "accommodation" but is actually spurred on by such gestures, which have proven to be, and will always be taken by the Islamists for signs of weakness.

Only two recent American Presidents had the courage needed for anti-appeasement: Reagan and Bush. His American critics may quibble over the details, but we Europeans know the truth. We saw it first hand: Ronald Reagan ended the Cold War, freeing half of the German people from nearly 50 years of terror and virtual slavery. And Bush, supported only by the Social Democrat Blair, acting on moral conviction, recognized the danger in the Islamic War against democracy. His place in history will have to be evaluated after a number of years have passed.

In the meantime, Europe sits back with charismatic self-confidence in the multicultural corner, instead of defending liberal society's values and being an attractive center of power on the same playing field as the true great powers, America and China. On the contrary - we Europeans present ourselves, in contrast to those arrogant Americans", as the World Champions of "tolerance", which even (Germany's Interior Minister) Otto Schily justifiably criticizes. Why? Because we're so moral? I fear it's more because we're so materialistic so devoid of a moral compass.

For his policies, Bush risks the fall of the dollar, huge amounts of additional national debt, and a massive and persistent burden on the American economy - because unlike almost all of Europe, Bush realizes what is at stake - literally everything. While we criticize the "capitalistic robber barons" of America because they seem too sure of their priorities, we timidly defend our Social Welfare systems. Stay out of it! It could get expensive! We'd rather discuss reducing our 35-hour workweek or our dental coverage, or our 4 weeks of paid vacation... Or listen to TV pastors preach about the need to "reach out to terrorists. To understand and forgive".

These days, Europe reminds me of an old woman who, with shaking hands, frantically hides her last pieces of jewelry when she notices a robber breaking into a neighbor's house. Appeasement?





CURRENT VIEW     Saturday

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Sunday, November 20, 2005

I took the day off. We will continue with the future of Europe, Sony Rootkits, Copyright problems, and other matters. My column at www.byte.com for Monday November 21 will be on Sony rootkits, Digital Millennium Copyright Act defects, and other such matters. It will be up by the time you see this. Go read it.





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