picture of me


Mail 389 November 22 - 28, 2005






BOOK Reviews

read book now

Permanent Link to this Page

emailblimp.gif (23130 bytes)mailto:jerryp@jerrypournelle.com

CLICK ON THE BLIMP TO SEND MAIL TO ME. Mail sent to me may be published.

LAST WEEK                                     NEXT WEEK


Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat Sun

Highlights this week:


  If you send mail, it may be published. See below. For boiler plate, instructions, and how to pay for this place, see below.

line6.gif (917 bytes)

This week:


read book now


Monday  November 21, 2005

Begin with Harry Erwin's Letter From England.

Subject: Letter from England

It looks like the UK may be getting out of Iraq: <http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/4432480.stm

Mitterand and Maggie, something about a threat to use nukes against Argentina:

Shooting of woman PC: <http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/bradford/4453726.stm>

Late-night and early morning drinking laws: <http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2087-1880088,00.html>
 <http://www.sunderlandtoday.co.uk/ViewArticle2.aspx? SectionID=1107&ArticleID=1261185>

Education 'reforms': <http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/education/4450638.stm>

Cost of top-up fees: <http://www.thes.co.uk/current_edition/story.aspx?story_id=2026130

Cost of Rover bailout: <http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/west_midlands/4452938.stm

Cost of Olympics to double (now we know why the congestion charge more than doubled): <http://www.guardian.co.uk/Observer/business/story/ 0,6903,1646392,00.html

No jet for Blair: <http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2087-1880086,00.html>  <http://news.independent.co.uk/uk/politics/article328188.ece

Glacial lakes overflow: <http://www.guardian.co.uk/Observer/international/story/0,6903,1646656,00.html

UK handling of bank fraud (this is typical): <http://www.guardian.co.uk/Observer/cash/story/0,6903,1646618,00.html

The local chaplaincy is caught up in row over flyposting. The chaplaincy poster was put over a local bar's poster, and was soon covered over in turn. Local enforcement tends to be spotty and arbitrary--St. Paul would not have been surprised. <http://www.sunderlandtoday.co.uk/ViewArticle2.aspx? SectionID=1107&ArticleID=1261173

-- Beware Outside Context Problems--Harry Erwin, PhD

The next theme will continue the problems of Europe.

The Writing on the Wall.


-- Roland Dobbins


Subject: Islamo Fascism

I submit the only real counter to global Islamo-Fascism is a return by the West to the faith of its fathers. A committed and dedicated minority fueled by religious and thus cultural zeal will always overcome a spiritually drifting society that is wrapped in the benefits and softness of its own golden material age.

If we fail to return to the core values that gave us our spine, I feel we will try to counter Islamo-Fascism with our own secular equivalent resulting in a spiraling cycle that will include: surrendering first our basic rights to natural security concerns, then the destruction of our material benefits and prosperity, and finally, worn down and demoralized by reactionary responses, we will be defeated in detail as we will have undermined our most basic strengths.

Paul Milford, Texas

Crusades. God Wills It! But in fact no such thing will happen. Claremont will not come again.

Frances Fukuyama thought that with the fall of the USSR we had reached The End of History, and all that was left was to chronicle the spread and consolidation of liberal democracy -- even as liberal democracy was collapsing in the United States, becoming a persecuting religion in the schools and universities, and thus losing its soul. Once liberals read John Stuart Mill and loved freedom. N0w they read Rawls (actually at two generations removed; Rawls is well nigh unreadable by those unconvinced) and deny tenure to anyone who doesn't subscribe to the politically correct version of events.

There is little fervor for anything. The warriors need a faith, and most have one, but the cynicism that infects the west is all pervasive. There is little worth sacrificing for; little to win fervor or dedication; not even freedom itself. Warriors do not die for a standard of living. And those who have no cause they will die for will generally lose to those who do.

Despair is a sin.

A return to the old ways is not likely.

The drama of atheist humanism plays itself out again. If you don't care for Lubec's Drama of Atheist Humanism, try Cohen's Pursuit of the Millennium.

It is not the end of history, and there will arise a faith to combat the modern malaise. You may not much care for it.


G'day Jerry,

All through the nineties the European Union was loudly criticizing Australia's border security and immigration restriction policies. Now Britain is struggling to implement the same policies, and it looks a bit late for France and The Netherlands. Australians shed blood twice last century to save Europe, this time they are on their own.

 Chris Papalia,
 Perth, Australia.

If all immigration ceased today, ethnic Danes would be a minority in Denmark by 2030. Since it doesn't cease the invasion will succeed much sooner.


Re your comment: a new faith needed? (Monday November 21)

You are probably right. People armed with something to believe in generally overcome those who have no such thing. An example might be American history; “no taxation without representation” was the rallying cry then.

One tenet of faith might suit us Anglo-Saxons very well, since American culture, which is in part derived from those of the British Isles, has a very strong tradition of warrior ethic and defiance.

What I refer to is the central ethic of a fictional alien race, Poul Anderson’s Ythrians.

“When God the Hunter strikes you down, scream defiance as you fall!”

Did Boudicca have deathpride? Of course she did.

Meaning: Of course we will all die (unless you believe in the wilder ideas of the Singularity to come?). But NEVER SURRENDER. To death itself, tyranny, terrorism, petty bureaucracy, or any of the other evils that beset us on all sides.

I am not cut out to be a messiah, but perhaps someone reading this is? (Assuming you publish it.)

Perhaps the Old Gods will return? And see below



This week:


read book now


Tuesday,  November 22, 2005

Subject: The Writing on the Wall.

Dear Dr. Pournelle,

Thanks for posting the link ( http://www.brusselsjournal.com/node/485 ) about the motives of welfare-consuming Muslim wackos (“youths” for the politically correct) burning Europe. I congratulate the author on making the key point that western communists (or whatever more fashionable name they might prefer) are profoundly stupid in embracing their absolutely literally *mortal* enemies. I think he overlooks the main reason they hate us, which is that we run the world but are just exactly stupid enough to do that! Present company excepted of course.

As always, thanks and best regards,

Jim Utt

Dayton, OH USA


And related:


Subject: Pessimism on a Monday.

Your response to Milford's letter from Texas really starts the week off on a low note..... I do wonder if the threat of Islamo Facism is quite as dire as some suggest:

1) It is hard for me to imagine that a religion devoted to returning the world to the middle ages is going to produce a society that can compete economically with the West.

2) Given half a chance, with even a little bit of economic comfort plus internet access, will the children of Islam be any less susceptible than ours to the lure of Playstation, designer jeans, junk food, junk TV, sex, drugs, and Rock and Roll.

If China's economic power continues to grow, it seems likely that they could evolve into a much greater threat down the road, one that would make our current war on Terrorism look a little bit like a side show. Of course, as China's power grows relative to ours, Islamo Facism may need to shift it's focus to the East. Perhaps we will simply be reduced to onlookers in the next great conflict!

CP, Connecticut.

Our Cultural Weapons of Mass Destruction will indeed bring down militant Islam; but what they do to us first is a matter of concern. If our schools were what they were when I was young I would not be so concerned. A republic needs citizens with a certain level of understanding, and salable skills so they depend on themselves and not the government. Is the trend in that direction now? I wish I had more cheerful news. But it is not yet too late.


Time to get serious about our own hemisphere.


-- Roland Dobbins



New PHISHING tricks

Evening Jerry,

The e-Bay spoofers are getting more creative. I just received an e-mail that appears to be a question from a potential buyer (but I'm not selling anything at the moment). The natural assumption is that someone has misrouted the e-mail, so a helpful individual would click on the respond link to let the buyer know that the message was misrouted. Of course, you have to enter your eBay userID and password to respond. I'm sure that all sorts of nasty things would then happen to your account. If you're interested I'll forward the message, but they did a good job on this one - very realistic.

So to borrow your advice that what you say three times is true:

Never click on a link in an e-mail Never click on a link in an e-mail Never click on a link in an e-mail.





"Do something you like. Forget about the pay, for Christ's sakes. Regulate your style of living to fit your income. Just have fun in your job, that's the main thing." ~ General Chuck Yeager

And we also have

Subject: FW: You_visit_illegal_websites


Here is a fun variation on a virus laden message...

jim dodd

------ Forwarded Message

From: <Admin@cia.gov>
Date: Mon, 21 Nov 2005 19:45:03 +0000 (GMT)
To: <victim@idiot.com>
 Subject: You_visit_illegal_websites

Dear Sir/Madam,

we have logged your IP-address on more than 30 illegal Websites.

Important: Please answer our questions! The list of questions are attached.

Yours faithfully,
Steven Allison

++++ Central Intelligence Agency -CIA-
++++ Office of Public Affairs ++++
Washington, D.C. 20505
++++ phone: (703) 482-0623 ++++
7:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., US Eastern time

Be careful out there.


Russell Seitz on

Subject: The Pirates of New Orleans

Dear Jerry; As a sequel to Talk like a Pirate Day, you may want to read an intriguing new book about the life and times of the brothers Lafitte,  William CDavis's The Pirates Lafitte.

Seems an agent of perfidious Albion , Captain Nicholas Lockyer of HMS Sophie, delivered a letter to Jean , in his lair on Grand Isle, exhorting him to join in liberating Louisiana from " a faithless imbecile Government' and exhorting all nationalities on the scene to abolish "The American usurpation in this country' offering the assistance of the Seminoles ;"these Brave red men only burn with an ardent desire of satisfaction...to join you in liberating these Southern Provinces from their Yoke, and drive them ( the Americans, that is ) into those limits formerly prescribed by " King George.

This while Napoleon was simmering ashore on Elba, and Wellington was getting a weekly brief on the state of operations in the Gulf of Mexico.. Good thing they unleashed General Jackson.

On another front, I had an oped in the WSJ on 11 November on how the 234 lawyers in Congress are outnumbered by the 8 cientists it currently boasts- but the page is subscribers only , so you must find a blogolink to read the whole thing. I'm off to the Vineyard for the annual turkey shoot , which never fails to produce a Thanksgiving feast of freshly shot mussells and frozen venison, for the turkeys all move abruptly to the right hand side of the Bell curve for the duration of the season , relapsing into idiocy only when the coast is clear. Some think this evidence of intelligent design,
Best to all
Russell Seitz

The Brothers Lafitte were also involved in Orleanist politics (that is, in promoting the Orleanist branch of the French monarchy after the restoration; unlike the old Bourbons "who had learned nothing and forgotten nothing", the Orleanists promoted a reformed constitutional monarchy), and Henri had a hand in the revolution that installed Louis Phillippe. My ancestors in New Orleans seem to have had some dealings with the Lafitte's although it's not clear precisely what their relationship was. But then everyone from Louisiana has family legends of involvements with Jean Lafitte...


Dan Spisak reports:

Subject: Satan is skating on ice today

A few items of interest:

1. Forbes is reporting that Dell has supposedly told its Taiwan contract makers to start drawing up plans for AMD-based systems. Perhaps opening the new fab in Germany finally gives them the capacity to meet Dell's volume demands?


2. The head of the RIAA implies that what Sony did with its DRM was reasonable in a "virtual" press conference:


Columbia University, Columbia Spectator: With fears of illegal file sharing throughout the music industry, many companies have taken measures into their own hands. Within the last two weeks, there has been a great deal of discussion about Sony BMG's rootkit program. Does the RIAA condone such actions on the part of individual companies to protect their profits?

Cary Sherman: "There is nothing unusual about technology being used to protect intellectual property. You can't simply make an extra copy of a Microsoft operating system, or virtually any other commercially- released software program for that matter. Same with videogames. Movies, too, are protected. Why should CDs be any different?"

-Dan S.


The benefits of globalization.


- Roland Dobbins

Bye bye, GM.

One of the problems is the abysmal state of American public schools.

They have become a bureaucracy.

It is a law of bureaucracy that those who put the good of the bureaucracy ahead of the good of the public and/or the ends the bureaucracy is supposed to serve will ALWAYS end up in control of the bureaucracy, while the conscientious who take their jobs seriously -- like classroom teachers who break their hearts daily -- are considered contemptible in comparison to the bureaucracy official. In the case of the teaching "profession" it is a treble bureaucracy: the school system itself, which might be reformed by election of a new school board, but will never be, because of a second bureaucracy, the teacher unions; and all of them bullied by the US Department of Education bureaucracy.

The only way General Motors could ever be built again would be for us to destroy, eradicate, eliminate the treble bureaucracies of the public school system and start over. Charles Murray told us how to do that over a decade ago, but no one listened. And of course we've known for far longer than that.


Subject: Playing Wing Commander on modern hardware

I frequently play Wing Commander I on my 2.4 GHz Pentium 4 with the aid of DOSBox 0.63. You shouldn't need to change any DOSBox settings other than the speed (which should be around 3000 cycles).

Wing Commander II and Privateer are harder. Your computer may have speed issues, and they are unstable unless you use some voodoo command-line switches. See http://www.wcnews.com/news/showupdate.php?id=6042 

In general, DOSBox does an excellent job of pretending to be a 25 MHz 386 with MCGA graphics and Ad Lib sound (which is the sort of machine Wing Commander I originally ran on). It sometimes exceeds these (its Sound Blaster support is very good these days) but it starts to get flaky, as you found with Conquests of the New World. If you have hours of time and effort to spare (which I doubt) you can gain some performance by poking around the configuration files, as discussed at

Michael Horton


On Copyright (note: as a rule I do not care for the technique of chopping letters into small pieces and making what look like replies, because the context is often lost. I encourage you to go back to the original letter and read it all before reading commentaries.)

Please continue to post your readers' interpretations of copyright law, but could you at least pick letters polite enough to not insult a professor trying to correct common misunderstandings?

From Braxton S. Cook:

> "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?

I suspect that his opinion comes first from the U.S. Constitution, which only allows that monopoly to be held for a limited time. It is further supported by U.S. Copyright law, Title 17, Chapter 1, Sections 107-112, 117, 119, and 121-122, all of whose titles begin "Limitations on exclusive rights".

In particular, section 107 is what allows me to give a copy of 4% of Mr. Cook's letter to my email recipients without his permission, and it's what Google thinks allows them to give a copy of 1% of a book to its users without the author's permission.

Now, I don't agree with everything Lessig thinks either - it looks to me like Google is committing copyright infringement with every scan of a book they don't own, and they'll be committing mass copyright infringement as soon as someone scripts a way around their attempt at remaining within fair use limitations. But disagreement is why we have courts in the first place: we know that even educated lawyers can disagree with each other without being "demented".

Some of Mr. Cook's other questions have equally plain answers:

> How does anyone come to believe that what I create isn't mine and mine > alone?

That belief comes when you make a copy of what you create, then give that copy to another person in exchange for money. With tangible property, unless you got a signed contract along with the money, that would be the end of your rights. "Intellectual property" is already much less limited.

> How is society benefited by stealing the works of authors?

Society is benefited because unlike tangible property, "stealing" intangibles does not deprive the owner of its use. If matter duplicators were invented, and people could now "steal" a car without taking away the original, I suspect that public outcry would legalize that kind of stealing in 10 days, and everyone in the world would own luxury cars in 11. We make copyright infringement illegal not because it does any harm in the short run, but because copyrights are the best way we've found to reimburse creators and encourage more original art creation in the long run.

> How does allowing Google to make money on your literary characters > enhance innovation?

The same way that allowing Google to make money on your web pages enhances innovation.

Try searching Google Print for literary characters' names. A search for "Lazarus Long" revealed to me books by authors I'd never heard of but now want to read, and views on science fiction from broader literary and social science perspectives. A search for "space elevator" produces a long list of interesting fiction and non-fiction, and the ability to look at a couple pages is enough to weed out the false positives.

Hundreds of thousands of new books are published every year. It's not as bad as the millions of new web pages, but it's certainly more than enough to benefit from the existence of a search engine. This is more of a benefit to readers than to writers, but good writers do a lot of reading too - all those "space elevator" hits come from authors who didn't innovate that concept itself, but wrote innovative books which included it.

--- Roy Stogner

This is more or less the standard "pure" libertarian position: since taking a copy of a work does not deprive the original owner of anything, there is no such thing as intellectual property. The "property right" is created by law, and is not "natural". It is theft if I steal your chair, but not a copy of your painting or novel.

One problem here is that in the real world, all "rights" are created by law. We can argue that "rights" are natural, (the Declaration says they come from endowment by a Creator), but they are meaningless if the only enforcement of your "rights" is from self-help or through cooperation of your friends. This is "rights" in the sense that the Mafia has rights. See Thomas Hobbes for more: without law, "rights" are hard to come by. (And the third world needs law and order, not "democracy" which is usually a system of reallocation of property through counting noses, and generally results in poverty for all". Democracy without rule of law tends to increasing confiscation until the productive members of the society turn to a tyrant who will protect them.)

Much of this is discussed in my current column at www.byte.com.

Jerry, Braxton S. Cook said, among other things:

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

And then he wondered:

>Now how in the holy heavens does this idiot come up with an opinion like that?

Jerry, at the risk of putting words in Mr. Lessig's mouth, I'm going to suggest that that he came up with that opinion from reading the U.S. Constitution, which says, in part:

Article 1, Section 8. The Congress shall have power to ... [do many other things, and] ... promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries;

I think that the vital point there is that Congress is given that power to ``promote the progress of science and useful arts''. Enriching authors and inventors is a necessary side effect of copyrights and patents, not the reason for them. If the copyright and patent law is having the opposite effect, then I think it's hard to argue that the law is constitutional. Unfortunately, our courts have taken to making the constitution up as they go along, so contradicting the plain language and intent of the constitution is no reason to overturn a bad law. In any event, in our legal system, the authors' rights aren't rights, properly speaking, but privileges, granted because those privileges ``promote the progress of science and useful arts''. Given that, those privileges can be taken away or curtailed when they no longer promote the desired end. Mr. Lessig's argument might be far different, and far better, than mine.

Spider Robinson's ``Melancholy Elephants'' made a great case for limiting the term of copyright. It's been years since it appeared in Analog, but as I recall, he made the point that the public domain is our common heritage, and that nothing could be more destructive of our culture and society than to keep our recent past from falling into the public domain in a timely way. It's not the same argument that I'm putting into Mr. Lessig's mouth, but I think it's another strong argument for ``limits to the monopoly publishers and authors hold over their books''. I don't remember whether it would be reasonable to extend Robinson's argument to limiting the extent, as well as the duration, of the author's control.

I make my living through patronage: I work for a state government, which pays me to produce reports and forecasts. Patronage worked for Shakespeare, and maybe it's time we tried it again for other works of fiction, besides my economic forecasts. Or maybe we should just trade off duration for extent in the copyprivilege: let authors retain total control for a few decades, or let them retain much less control over distribution for far longer, at the author's option. Unfortunately, the current system gives authors both essentially permanent duration and total control, and I think that we're approaching Spider's dystopia, in music and fiction (through copyright law) and software (through patent law) and probably other areas. I'm not against copyright, and I don't want to force you to get a day job. On the other hand, I want my great-grandkids to be able to find your works on Project Gutenberg.

Maybe Australia has gotten it right: they end copyright 50 years after the author's death. That should support even a newborn child through college.

Nels Tomlinson
 Juneau, Alaska

I was opposed in 1976 to the change from 28 years with renewal in the 28th year to life plus 50 years, and I certainly do not like the current life plus damned near forever.

One problem is that the Congress doesn't write the laws. They allow the staff, many of whom look for jobs in publishing and recording industries in return for services rendered while working for Congress, to write the laws. Few Congresscritters know a darned thing about the laws they pass, even those on the relevant committees.

I can make a living in journalism and forget the fiction, and given the way the law and technology are going perhaps I should. Or, enough of you can subscribe, and I'll have a patron...


Jerry P:

Your column in Byte was right on, as usual. That congressmen cannot defend DMCA comes as no surprise as Tom Coburn and others have pointed out that no one in either house actually reads and is familiar with the bills they pass. They rely upon staffers to attempt to understand and advise them about what they are actually voting on. Staffers seem to reside in the shadows of DC and move along to others when their host shark loses his seat or finds more lucrative employment with a fat cat.

That we don't get more of the DMCA type of legislation is the wonder of the century. We did get a lot of environmental laws which once passed never get revisited to determine if they make sense. By the way, I do agree on your stance about Google et al in their attempt to use copywriter materials without permission. But you may have to hire a class action lawyer to take action; horrors. As you have not been injured as of yet, it would seem you have no cause to complain, at least as far as the law is concerned. Of course, once someone at Google scans Mote, Pandora's box is opened and you can only hope that no one at Google takes a copy and shares with his friends, or gets hacked and the copy stolen. Then you have suffered an injury but cannot prove that it was intentional. Stay out of the hands of the lawyers, and get the Congress to make real laws, not paper tigers.

Charles Simkins


Subject: Just a stunning view


This site http://www.panoramas.dk/fullscreen3/f2_mars.html  has a Quicktime VR of the view that Spirit has from the top of the Columbia Hills. Many other good panoramas too. Worth looking at!

Chuck Bouldin


Papers, please.

I've no idea of the veracity of this story - and that's the sad part.


--- Roland Dobbins

Algorithm agility is an essential feature in any Internet protocol.

-- Bruce Schneier

It appears to be all too real.


Minor miracle - NYT writes non-moonbat article about nuclear power.


--- Roland Dobbins






This week:


read book now


Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Begin on the light side...

Too bad, I would like to see a tomato-bazooka in action!


- Roland Dobbins


Subject: Scientists in government


By a recent post, there are 234 lawyers and 8 scientists in Congress.

I find it interesting that the new German Bundeskanzler has a Phd in physics, and her husband is a chemistry professor.

Not that it will actually *mean* anything, policy-wise, I suspect.




Reconstituting the USSR, step by step.


-- Roland Dobbins

Maybe my CoDominium will happen after all. Perhaps it's time for another Falkenberg story. Spartan Hegemony...


Subject: Copywrite/DRM 

Dr Pournelle, Going out on a limb, I would say that the vast majority of people would agree that artists ought to be compensated for their work and the consumer of a book/movie/song should be able to enjoy that work in a manner that suits them. Sure, there are those on either extreme who feel that "information should be free", or "I'll pirate this because I can make a quick buck" and on the other extreme "I control when, where and how you use my work", or "I want to extract as much money from the consumer as I possibly can for this", but I seriously doubt either extreme will make much of an impact in the long run.

The real problem seems to be more along the lines of how the various medias and their profit making strategies change as new technology comes into play. The record industry and movie industry is currently in the midst of a dramatic change. More and more of the movie industries money comes from DVD sales rather than from box office, yet the movie industry has fought against the DVD and before that VCR tooth and nail. Same in the record industry, we have gone from 45's to tapes to CD's to MP3's with each new music format being fought tooth and nail. With each new format, there were dire predictions of the collapse of the industry in question with starving artists on the streets. Yet, with each new media, money came rolling in.

While currently, DRM is being pushed hard by the various media companies, I suspect that eventually it will go by the wayside for the simple fact that it's not really needed, it's intrusive and it's ineffective. The fact that it's intrusive and ineffective is illustrated by the Sony rootkit fiasco. The fact that it's not necessary is illustrated by the record revenues in the record and movie industry. Funny how the predicted huge losses to MP3 downloads never seemed to happen.

I would predict that the book industry will go the same way. While I can understand and support your outrage that Google would wish to make a profit from your work without either compensating you or asking permission, I seriously doubt that you have to worry about people pirating your works by stitching together extracts. Why would they? Many, if not most of your works are already available for download via news groups or IRC servers as various individuals scan the books in and make them available to others. Is this right? Certainly not. But, much as iTunes has become quite profitable by stepping into the market place originally defined by the illegal song download sites, I would put to you that money will eventually be made as legal ventures step into the ebooks space as technology improves and ebook formats standardize. After all, scanning a book is a lot more work than ripping a cd. Does that mean that you have to have DRM to keep people from just buying a copy and posting it on the internet? To that I would would reply with a question, isn't the same concern true for records? It's trivially easy to buy a cd, rip it, and then post it on the internet, yet that doesn't seem to have hurt CD sales. I would put to you that book buyers as a whole are probably less likely to pirate than CD buyers. The strongest enforcement mechanism is social convention. If everyone would pirate given the chance, as the media companies seem to believe, then enforcement would be impossible. I suspect that the reason that we read about RIAA sueing a grandfather for his grandson's downloading is there is very little real pirating in the USA and that piracy is a red herring that the record companies throw out as they struggle to retain control over the music industry.

Phillip Walker

Music industry sales are down. Way down. Of course music publishers have treated their artists abominably, and that causes the artists to detest their publishers. With authors, publishers are the class enemy, but we don't hate them, we like our editors, and we can be genuine friends with some publishers.

You say, and we hope, that the scheme I put forward back in A Step Farther Out in 1976 will happen: I put the book in the web (on a "utility" I believe was the phrase I used), you decide to read it, you download it, a payment equal to my usual royalty goes from your bank account to mine, and as I said "where's the need for that blood-sucking publisher?"

And that may yet happen.

It is certainly true that people prefer to be honest if it doesn't cost too much time and effort. Making it easy to buy things legally helps. But it is also the case that the amount of time and effort most people will put into being honest goes down and down, and it becomes easier to cry "Ripoff!" and steal because you want it, I want it now! and this guy is charging two dollar! and it takes five clicks! and that's a Ripoff!

I may be unduly cynical. But I know how many people read this site daily, and how few subscribe...


Dear Jerry:

Now that Gogle Book Search (formerly Google Print) is active, and I can read the detailed reports provided by them and my distributor, Lightning Source, every day, I can say, with confidence, that it is a Good Thing. Of the 66 titles provided to Google for exploitation as a advertising medium, 14 are now live. There have been a significant number of hits and a few click throughs. I am not paid for the former, but am paid for the latter.

Moreover, providing a sample seems to have an impact of the actual sale of a title. Being able to browse a few pages of the whole does apparently inspire people to spend the cost of a cup of coffee at Starbucks or Peets to see the rest. No additional reviews so far.

So the experiment continues. I'll know more when Google gets the rest of the titles up. One thing, from a comment on my The Fight For Copyright blog: Apparently some people do not understand the concept of "sample" and expect to find the entire thing on Google for free. This is probably the confusion in the marketplace cause by Google's own pronouncements about their library book scanning program and the large amount of those titles which are Public Domain and fully searchable.

As for the current copyright system no longer working, I challenge that. It may not work for the cheap and lazy bastards who want to take and "remix" copyrighted material without paying for it, but for authors it works very well. I am currently negotiating with Amazon Shorts to put some material on their service. They demand an exclusive. How can I promise that unless I have an enforceable (which means registered) copyright to the material I provide. There is an editorial process in play there and signed reviews. Some of your colleagues in the science fiction genre have provided non fiction material about writing and world building which have gotten less than overwhelming endorsements from the readers and buyers. It must be daunting to be so criticized for something which sells for 49 cents, but you'd get the same thing if it were free. Going direct to the reader does not relive of the obligation to provide a quality product.

People need to get over this "Information wants to be free" crap. It is never free. Someone pays to create it. Even government documents which fall automatically into he Public Domain cost money to create. People who write these work for a salary which comes out of the public purse. And even the creation of voluntary collections such as Wikepedia are driven by another form of income. The ego satisfaction of having found a way to publish work. Nothing magically appears on the Internet or anyplace else. It is the product of labor applied to production. People are free to give away their own property but not that of another. Copyright is a limited property right. That limit has been expanded because we are all living longer and need to earn from our work longer. Simple as that.

That which is not paid for directly through purchase is paid for indirectly, through patronage, grants, group subscriptions, donations, or similar means. There are all sorts of models.

Speaking of which, I am joining the Authors Licensing & Collecting Society, Ltd in the United Kingdom. They accept members from other nations and are so confident of their ability to collect money on your behalf that they will deduct your annual dues from what they collect for you. They have a web site.

So far Electronic Publishing has produced only dribs and drabs of money. But it is steady and it is growing. As I said, the experiment continues. One concern is pricing point. What should I charge? Amazon seems to have determined that 49 cents is a relatively painless amount for the consumer. They seem to be getting business and response at that price. I don't think there is a "one size fits all" price (aside from "free"). I could see if advertising click throughs would support a work on Google, but so far, the number of click throughs is about the same as a response to Direct Mail. It would not work for every topic. In fact it would not work for most.


Francis Hamit

Thank you for keeping us up to date on these matters. You're a better information source than the Authors Guild...

More on copyright next week.


Subject: Congress doesn't write the laws - so why should they read them?


You wrote: "One problem is that the Congress doesn't write the laws. They allow the staff, many of whom look for jobs in publishing and recording industries in return for services rendered while working for Congress, to write the laws. Few Congresscritters know a darned thing about the laws they pass, even those on the relevant committees."

Perhaps you should reconsider this: http://www.downsizedc.org/read_the_laws.shtml 

Tom Craver Chandler, AZ

As I said when I first saw this, a noble effort. Worth support. Probably doomed, but it is worth support.


AND BEWARE, another phishing scam!

It had to happen. Apparently some bright con-man has started a real world non-internet based phishing sort of scam.

I recently purchased a new car. About six months after purchasing it, I received a letter claiming to be from the sales department of the dealer from whom the new car was bought. This letter stated the deal had mistakenly undercharged me about $90.00 on the car license fee and would I please mail a check in the enclosed pre-addressed envelope for the amount due? There was even conveniently a place on the bill for my credit card info in case I wanted the "convenience" of a credit card payment to settle the account.

I noted that the address on the enclosed envelope was for a Private Mail Box in the same city as the dealership where I bought this car.

Thinking the whole thing seemed rather "hishy", I called the dealership the letter was ostensibly from. They had no record of such a letter having been sent by anyone, and the name on the letter was not that of any employee they knew of.

The dealership had no knowledge of the Private Mail Box address that was on the "bill". I got the dealership to admit I was not the first person who had called about such a "bill".

Apparently someone got a list of all the people, complete with addresses, who had purchased cars at this dealership recently.

I sent the "bill" along with all of the details to the local police agency for that city. I don't know if they will investigate such a case with much diligence, since anarcho-tyranny seems to rule in such matters.

If the scammers do for this for every car sold in six months at just one dealership, it would not take a very high return rate to make the scammers rich.

The police, when I spoke to them, remarked that fake medical bills are also being sent to people. The scammers get a list of recently released patients from a hospital, and "spam" then with paper mail containing "bills".

A lot of people might just pay such a "bill" and never think about it.

I also notified the Postal Service. I have somewhat more hope the Postal Inspectors (a remarkably tough group of law enforcers who are little known to most civilians) will do something. Be careful out there.

Petronius The Arbiter of Taste


Subject:  ID, *now* ?

Insofar as the Davis case goes (that Roland mentioned to you):


I am inclined to believe there is something to this -- I have worked with the firm of Haddon, Morgan, and associates before. I don't see them becoming involved in this unless their review of the facts suggested there was some "there" there.

I shall be watching this with some interest, while trying to keep my blood pressure in hand.

cheers, Bill Ernoehazy, MD


And a new virus warning

New Bagel / Sober Viruses being mass-mailed

Dr. Pournelle:

I'm noticing an increase in a new variant of the Bagel virus. At this writing (900am PST), the major AV vendors are just starting to notice increased number of mass-mailing of this malware. F-Protect seems to be more pro-active in their detection; their blog has released 5 updates to their detection today. McAfee's current detection files (4634, dated yesterday) does not detect this one yet.

The email contains a randomly-named ZIP file (mine were 'nathanial.zip' and 'harry.zip') that contains a file called "1.exe".

It was caught by our corporate mail server because our mail filtering software (SurfControl) has a rule that blocks all incoming executables. SurfControl uses McAfee's engine to detect for viruses, and didn't catch the executable as a virus. But since we block all incoming executables, we are protected against these 'zero-day' attacks.

Readers would be well-advised to implement similar precautions of blocking any email with an executable attachment. And, of course, the usual "don't open attachments or run programs attached to emails" rule (I tell you three times).

There are also a bunch of new "Sober" malware emails making the rounds. Similar warnings to prevent infection.

Regards, Rick Hellewell


Faith of our Fathers revisited

Dr. Pournelle, When I spoke of the "faith of our fathers," I wasn't harkening back to the culture of the Thirty Years War. I was referring to the very strong but moderated Christianity that existed in this country in various forms until the post WW2 era. My older relatives saw what I am describing as a sort of "main street and public square" faith. I am willing to speculate that that sort of faith would provide our society with the courage and identification it needs to face the current realities.

 In my earlier post I did not mean to convey that I desired a crusade: just a motivated people engaged in a competent active defense. I think it would help if our citizenry saw their nation as worth defending on every level. Faith and culture can play a role in that. I think a large number of our citizenry still wish to see our nation defended on every level including culturally; arguably a larger percentage of the more secular French and other Euros seem not to care about defending theirs.

 I would like to see active border security and military force deployed according to hard military realities and goals. I think nation building in regions with no or at least very limited interest in democratization is a waste of our troops' lives. I also think such stratagems are born of overly secular minds that have not a clue about the real motivations inherent in faith and culture.

Regards, Paul D. Perry Milford, Texas

I understood what you meant, and I agree. But when I was young there were no public ceremonies without an invocation and a benediction, usually both with one by a Roman Catholic and the other by a Protestant Minister. For sufficiently important events there would usually be a rabbi as well. We paid public attention and deference to "Divine Providence" and saw the Hand of God in our works.

The courts in the name of liberalism have thrown all that out. Soon after of course goes most of civility: again I refer people to the Drama of Atheist Humanism, and where it has always led. Yes, there are highly ethical atheists. Some of them tend to militancy, at least among their friends. Marvin Minsky is a great example. But The Drama of Atheist Humanism still plays out in a different way because for every Minsky there will be two Trotsky's and a Stalin.

Today's liberal establishment makes war on religion, which is odd, because the roots of liberalism are in religion. The assumption of human equality makes sense only in religious terms -- surely few of you feel equal to the drooling idiot who camps on your doorstep and shakes the paper cup at you asking for change? Some see the Image of Christ, but that is not a rationalist or materialist position. Some see "But for the Grace of God there go I," but again that is not a rationalist position. And some think thoughts of personal superiority rather than thankfulness for grace.  But what rationalist reductionist can see an equal, who ought to have all the rights of citizenship including the vote (which he would sell for a shot of hootch or a line of cocaine)?

But without that assumption of equality, liberalism is in big trouble. As we see: although today's liberals profess a kind of equality in their words, their actions show they believe themselves Enlightened, with a mission to minister to the Benighted. But "minister to" more an more translates to "lord it over."

The Ancien Regime would have none of this equality. Lords were born superior; if well brought up, they had a sense of honor and duty as befitted those chosen. Some became evil. Some purported to reject most of their heritage, but there remained something about them -- see the life of Byron, who except for the doctors who bled him to death might well have become King of Greece. Lord Peter Death Bredon Wimsy was certainly idle rich, but he had his place in that ordered world that is gone and may not return until generations of tyrants and demagogues teach us that there were worse things. Under the old regimes those of great merit could still rise; those with no merit but great ambition born low could still feel that there were reasons other than their own inadequacy that held them back.

For that is one of the real frights of the egalitarian state with ruthless competition and genuinely equal opportunity: it is pitiless toward who had their chance and failed because there is no excuse for failure.

And there remains the ceaseless striving, with no peaceful end: is it any wonder that bureaucrats form feudal organizations and effectively end the striving and competition? Is it any wonder that the rise of the modern egalitarian state has produced the rise of bureaucracy and rule by bureaucracy?

Enough. More another time.=======









CURRENT VIEW    Wednesday


This week:


read book now


Thursday, November 24, 2005

Thanksgiving Day

"For what we are about to receive may we be truly thankful."

Old gunner's prayer.







CURRENT VIEW    Thursday


This week:


read book now


Friday,  November 25, 2005

Subject:  The power of selection


PHILADELPHIA, Pennsylvania (AP) -- An 18-year-old man who was honored in August by People magazine as an outstanding father was gunned down on his way home from work Thursday.








This week:


read book now


Saturday, November 26, 2005

I have taken a couple of days off. I'll get caught up after our morning walk. I added a few thoughts on the modern world to the reply to the last letter on Wednesday. ==g





CURRENT VIEW     Saturday

This week:


read book now








The current page will always have the name currentmail.html and may be bookmarked. For previous weeks, go to the MAIL HOME PAGE.


If you are not paying for this place, click here...

IF YOU SEND MAIL it may be published; if you want it private SAY SO AT THE TOP of the mail. I try to respect confidences, but there is only me, and this is Chaos Manor. If you want a mail address other than the one from which you sent the mail to appear, PUT THAT AT THE END OF THE LETTER as a signature. In general, put the name you want at the end of the letter: if you put no address there none will be posted, but I do want some kind of name, or explicitly to say (name withheld).

Note that if you don't put a name in the bottom of the letter I have to get one from the header. This takes time I don't have, and may end up with a name and address you didn't want on the letter. Do us both a favor: sign your letters to me with the name and address (or no address) as you want them posted. Also, repeat the subject as the first line of the mail. That also saves me time.

I try to answer mail, but mostly I can't get to all of it. I read it all, although not always the instant it comes in. I do have books to write too...  I am reminded of H. P. Lovecraft who slowly starved to death while answering fan mail. 

Monday -- Tuesday -- Wednesday -- Thursday -- Friday -- Saturday -- Sunday

 Search engine:


or the freefind search

   Search this site or the web        powered by FreeFind
  Site search Web search

Boiler Plate:

If you want to PAY FOR THIS PLACE I keep the latest information HERE.  MY THANKS to all of you who sent money.  Some of you went to a lot of trouble to send money from overseas. Thank you! There are also some new payment methods. I am preparing a special (electronic) mailing to all those who paid: there will be a couple of these. I have thought about a subscriber section of the page. LET ME KNOW your thoughts.

If you subscribed:

atom.gif (1053 bytes) CLICK HERE for a Special Request.

If you didn't and haven't, why not?

If this seems a lot about paying think of it as the Subscription Drive Nag. You'll see more.


Search: type in string and press return.





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

birdline.gif (1428 bytes)