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Mail 392 December 12  18, 2005






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And from our Security Expert

Subject: VISA scam, typing URL/addresses

Dr. Pournelle:

1) On the VISA/MC phone scam reported in Sunday's mail: this ones been around since 2003 (according to www.snopes.com). It's another version of "Social Engineering", which can be an effective way of gathering information. "Phishing", the "Nigerian" scam ( millions of dollars waiting for you), sweepstakes (you won a prize for a contest you didn't enter), etc., are all examples of social engineering scams. Snopes has verified the credit card calls detailed by your correspondent; the credit card companies are aware of the scam, but won't report how many people fall for them.

Best practices: ignore any email that requests you to enter your PIN number, 'secret questions', etc. Deal with established vendors when ordering on-line (it's OK to provide your three digit code that's on the back of your credit card, but that's all). Make sure that the URL/address on credit card pages starts with "https:". Be wary of any URL/address that starts with numbers, or overly-long addresses. Check your credit card statements regularly.

2) On the reader that asked if it's OK to cut/paste URLs from email addresses: It's very easy to craft an email page (or web page) that has a visible link that is good, but the actual link is evil. A cut/paste might also get you to an evil site.

Best practice: if you get an email from someone asking you to update your account information, it is probably evil. If you think it's valid, just type in the name of that web site; don't copy/paste the link. On the home page of that site, go into your "my account" information (which should be on an 'https' site), and enter the info. Be careful about the info you supply. For example there would be no reason for a valid bank site to ask you for your PIN number --- they already know it.

Readers might find the Anti-Phishing Organization web site instructive: http://www.anti-phishing.org  . And, as mentioned before, Microsoft has some excellent information on their site (start at http://www.microsoft.com/protect  ).

Regards, Rick Hellewell

And as Dr. Johnson remarked, many of us do not need educating but we may need reminding.




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Tuesday,  December 13, 2003

I have seen dozens of letters of support for Dr. Nyborg, from some very distinguished people. One wonders if Danish university officials are beyond shame?


Subject: podcasts

Dear Jerry:

A few thoughts on podcasting:

I guess it's a great thing for those caught on a train or bus during their daily commute, but I am less than enthusiastic. I tried Leo LaPorte's audio podcast a few times and found the quality execrable, both in terms of content and production value. It's hard - if not impossible - to efficiently browse an audio stream like we're all used to doing with printed media: to get to the five minutes of a 30 minute podcast that means something to you you may have to waste 25 minutes on drivel, not a happy proposition.

As for a revenue model I think that's pretty easy to establish: a four to five minute song by a top artist sells on the iTunes Music Store for 99 cents; a 40 minute video of NBC's top-rated series LOST goes for $1.99. So where would 15 minutes of the wit & wisdom of Jerry Pournelle fit in on this matrix? At best (no insult intended) 29 cents or so, maybe half a buck? Times X downloads per day; only you can say what X might be, and whether it would remunerate you for your time, bandwidth, and other outlays. I sort of doubt it.

Which leaves a subscription or advertising based service. If you accept ads you lose the imprimatur of objectivity you've nurtured all these years: bad idea! So I'd say what you're left with is a subscription-based model the details you're far better suited than I to develop.

I really wonder if it's worth it? If you had Rush Limbaugh's readership base it'd be a grand plan, but as it is why not wait and let CMP, if they have a better plan, hire you to do something on a regular schedule for them?

I don't enjoy being discouraging but it seems to me any viable model is going to be a numbers game. Lots of podcasts today are underwiritten by third parties, like a college media department or an existing media outlet like CMP. Why not let them do the spade work and take the risk for you?

All the best--

Tim Loeb


Subject: More on Talin on copyrights

Talin wrote:

> All I want is the same rights that I had when I was growing up. If I buy a book, I want to take it anywhere, read it anywhere, sell it to a used book store when I am done with it, and so on.

But you didn't have the right to do all that. You just had legal permission because the author and publisher chose to distribute the book under the standard terms of the copyright law. They could have chosen to impose more restrictive terms of their own choosing, such as requiring you to read the book only in their offices.

Arbitrary restrictions have always been possible, and have long been used for trade secrets, blueprints, source code, and so on. The difference today is that they are becoming _practical_ even for mass-market distribution.

> If I were to buy a DVD in Australia today, and take it back to the US, it would be worthless - because the region coding wouldn't allow me to play it on a US player, and even if I had an Australian player, it wouldn't be compatible with US TVs.

Simply false. DVD publishers the world over release region-free discs. They play correctly on every DVD player, anywhere in the world. The publisher gets to decide whether to apply region coding or not, and you get to decide whether you want to buy that disc or not.

I am sure that there will always be people willing to create software, books, movies, etc. for free distribution under the terms of ordinary copyright law, or even for release to the public domain.

This content will include political ads and screeds, ad-supported or anonymous programming, and other important material that needs to be widely distributed without DRM. This makes it pretty much inevitable that such content will always be supported on our PCs and consumer electronics.

> However, if I attempt to purchase, or even invent, such equipment, I will have broken the law, specifically the DMCA - because such equipment bypasses the "access controls" on the DVD.

The theory here is based on the fact that DVD encryption gives publishers and purchasers MORE options by helping to enforce the purchase agreement when the publisher isn't around to do it. Bypassing this protection allows purchasers and others to renege on the terms of their voluntary agreements.

I don't much like the origins, phrasing, or scope of the DMCA, but the theory is sound.

> And it gets worse, because as media and media players get smarter, the publishers can keep coming up with new and fancy ways of restricting my ability to use their content

Well, they're entitled to do that, aren't they? If you don't like it, don't buy their products. If enough people don't like it and don't buy their products, they'll be forced to back off on the restrictions. But it's a free market; you have no right to limit how publishers distribute their property.

Nobody's making up any new laws. It's just new technology, and it's very wrong of you to misrepresent one as the other. New technology isn't like new laws, it's just like new technology.

>> Anyway, I'm not worried. The fact is that cryptographic DRM built on secure operating systems will be deployed within the next several years, and it will be totally effective.

> Eh? What evidence do you have for this statement?

I understand the technology, and I am certain it will work. Contrariwise, I know that anyone who thinks it won't work doesn't understand the technology.

> 2) One does not need to interpret the bits in order to copy them. You can copy encrypted bits just as easily as any other kind.

Cryptographic DRM and secure operating systems will make it impossible to copy the keys. That's why users can't read the contents of their own Trusted Platform Modules.

> 3) Anything that I can see or hear can be recorded.

We could have a whole separate arms-race discussion on this point, but the system doesn't have to stop a guy with a camcorder from videotaping the screen to be commercially effective. As technology improves, the value of copies made using purely analog techniques will decline, and the ability of the authorized players to detect and refuse to play these unauthorized copies will improve.

Sure, you will always be able to make DVDs of anything you can see. You might have to make them a little blurry or shaky to defeat steganographic copy-tracking techniques (the next-generation version of those print-tracking dots that are already putting people in prison), but you can be sure to get something watchable. Run the calendar forward 20 years, and how many people will settle for blurry DVD copies of 4K-line digital-video movies? Some, but not enough to matter.

> 4) Are you planning on making it illegal for people to write operating systems?

That isn't necessary, and it won't help the pirates anyway.

. png


Subject: EMP 


Nuke over U.S. could unleash electromagnetic tsunami

SPECIAL TO WORLD TRIBUNE.COM Wednesday, December 7, 2005

The following excerpt from the new book, "War Footing: <http://www.warfooting.com/>  10 Steps America Must Take to Prevail in the War for the Free World", by Frank J. Gaffney and Colleagues, is reprinted with permission from the publisher, Naval Institute Press <http://www.usni.org/webstore/shopexd.asp?id=48545>  , Annapolis, Maryland.


If Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda — or the dictators of North Korea or Iran — had the ability to destroy America as a superpower, would they be tempted to try?

Wouldn't that temptation be even greater if that result could be achieved with a single attack, involving just one nuclear weapon, perhaps even one of modest power and relatively unsophisticated design?

And, what if the attacker could be reasonably sure that the United States would not know who was responsible for such a devastating blow?

Unfortunately, that scenario is not far fetched. It is the conclusion of a report issued in 2004 by a blue ribbon commission created by Congress. The commission found that a single nuclear weapon, delivered by a ballistic missile to an altitude of a few hundred miles over the United States, would be "capable of causing catastrophe for the nation."

How is that possible? By precipitating a lethal electromagnetic pulse (EMP) attack.




Subject: Begley Cloth and More?

Dear Dr. Pournelle,

Have you seen this?


I saw it in a short article in the new DISCOVER and ran a search to come up with this. I assume you might have missed it, if only because such a discovery would have been big news at Chaos Manor. It sounds as if we are talking Begley cloth, lights, structural materials, batteries, heat sources, heat pipes, solar sails, you name it. The actual practical manufacture of carbon nanotube sheets will really be a revolution if it happens. Not to mention the story possibilities right now. Thanks again, as always, for Chaos Manor.

Sincerely yours,

Frank Luxem

Revolution indeed!  And I had missed it. Begley cloth, for those confused, was a name we gave to cloth that could be laid out as solar collectors in our Legacy of Heorot series. It was named after my friend and neighbor, Ed Begley, Jr.

And see below


Subject: Education, Manufacturing, and Jobs -- A Visit to Italy

Here is an interesting thread, Dr. Pournelle, which relates to several recent themes at Chaos Manor:


Some quotes from the starting post by "Ries":

"I just got back from a trip to Italy, and while I was there I managed to tour 5 different factories, all metalworking related, of companies that are at the tops of their respective markets.

"How they manage to succeed, exporting worldwide, when similar companies in the USA seem to be closing everyday, is an interesting question.

"Italian taxes are higher, labor laws are tighter, making it harder to fire employees, and most everything is more expensive there- land and rents, labor and materials, food and clothing.

"On the other hand, due to the partly socialist nature of their government, they do have free government health care and retirement, as well as very good free education. But in general, every hurdle that US companies complain about hindering them- the Italians have the same or more.

"It seemed like a couple of things made these companies work, and make a good product and a profit.

"First, the state education system. "Second, the Italian take on outsourcing "Third, smart bosses who arent too greedy.

"The majority of the companies I visited were in or around Bologna, which has an excellent state funded technical school founded in 1844. It is a last two years of high school type program, with kids graduating at 19 or 20 with a technical certificate. You can then transfer to a university engineering program, and take your credits with you, but most graduates are hired immediatlely by local industries, which work actively with the school to make sure it is training kids in the kinds of things they want them to know.

"The second part of this, of course, is that the businesses are willing to train the new hires. In the USA, we have businesses only willing to hire employees who are already fluent in exactly the machines, software, and technology they use. Of course, since each company is unique in its mix, this means that companies can complain of "a lack of technically trained workers", even though there are tons of qualified applicants who could come up to speed in a few months.

"In Italy, they expect to train employees, and factor that into their costs.

"So they get loyal, longterm employees who know their companies special needs very well.

"The current joke is that Microsoft would never hire Bill Gates, as he is clearly not qualified, which is why they need to import 10,000 green card holding foreign engineers every year."


"Most of these companies are privately owned, but the ones that are public are run by manufacturing guys who worked their way up, not MBA's looking to the stock market for instruction. The goals of these companies are to make a reasonable profit, keep their employees working, and make the best in the world in their product category. "

The points I find particularly relevant to the USA are 1) initial technical training provided by the state, 2) businesses are willing to hire and train graduates of the program, and 3) smart bosses who aren't too greedy (which also means they are not driven by a quarterly reporting cycle).

Charles Brumbelow


Subj: Happy Feast of St. Lucy, Patron Saint of Authors


Patron Saints Index: Saint Lucy of Syracuse

Rod Montgomery==monty@sprintmail.com


Subject: What is happening in Australia?

Of all the places in the world I have ever been, I would have said Australia was the least likely place for this kind of racial violence to break out. I have not found anyone, in a quick web search, that really tells me why this happening! Perhaps some of your other readers have some opinions?

Here is a representative article about it:

Yours, Paul


Subject:Muslim rampage in Australia


Every Christian Nigerian taxi driver I have ever had has agreed: "Muslims Are Trouble".




Ain't our pre-imperial life interestin? (And given what is likely to come next I think one can call this pre-empire) The moral to this story for islamist thugs - riot on the continent where its safe - one is likely to get hurt trying to play a'la francais in Australia...


<http://theaustralian.com.au/images/masthead.gif> Race warfare divides city Simon Kearney and Jennifer Sexton 13 December 2005

SYDNEY exploded into a second night of race warfare as tensions between rival ethnic gangs escalated into a series of late-night revenge attacks on white Australian males across the south and west of the city.

Shots were fired as groups of young men from western Sydney picked fights in and near Cronulla, the scene of Sunday's ugly mob attacks on anyone of Middle Eastern appearance.

Police made at least six arrests, and a number of people were injured, amid reports of local residents being targeted by the gangs in assaults from Cronulla to Punchbowl, in the west.

The violence has been fuelled by a series of text messages urging revenge attacks for the assaults on men and women of Middle Eastern appearance by a 5000-strong crowd at Cronulla on Sunday.

A separate series of text messages call on locals to defend Sydney's suburban beach strip.

The new wave of violence broke out as police promised to hunt down suspected right-wing instigators of the violent outbreaks and debate raged over the reasons behind the vicious assaults. <snip>




This week:


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Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Harry Erwin's Letter from England

This came Sunday, was set aside for posting, and overlooked. Apologies.==

Subject: Letter from England

No word yet on whether my auditory neuroscience grant will be funded.

Tories rebound past Labour: http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2087-1920254,00.html  http://observer.guardian.co.uk/politics/story/0,6903,1664729,00.html 

Accidental blast at oil depot: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/4517962.stm  http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk_news/story/0,3604,1664888,00.html 

NHS stop spending order: http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2087-1920251,00.html  http://observer.guardian.co.uk/uk_news/story/0,6903,1664852,00.html  http://observer.guardian.co.uk/uk_news/story/0,6903,1664666,00.html  http://observer.guardian.co.uk/leaders/story/0,6903,1664604,00.html 

 Where did the cash go?--accounting tricks, pay raises, and jobs programs. http://observer.guardian.co.uk/uk_news/story/0,6903,1664665,00.html 

Exclusion of special needs students from UK schools to save money: http://education.guardian.co.uk/schools/story/0,5500,1664836,00.html 

CIA prison story: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/americas/4517134.stm  http://observer.guardian.co.uk/international/story/0,6903,1664612,00.html   

 MI5 directors pictures: http://observer.guardian.co.uk/politics/story/0,6903,1664862,00.html 

-- Harry Erwin, PhD,
Program Leader, MSc Information Systems Security, University of Sunderland. http://osiris.sunderland.ac.uk/~cs0her



Subject: Plots of mean IQ and per capita real GDP

A few observations on the paper you cited, for what they are worth.

There is a huge literature in economics that looks at the empirical linkages between GDP or GDP growth and various explanatory factors. This literature points out two major issues that the paper needs to address. (And maybe it does, the abstract is not very long).

1) The Multicolinearity Issue. One of the more important papers is by Levine and Renelt published in the American Economic Review in September 1992. The basic problem they point out is that when trying to explain differences in GDP or GDP growth across countries, many of the potential explanatory variables are highly correlated or close to colinear. This leads to all sorts of problems with statistical inference. The enrollment rate in primary schools is highly correlated with GDP growth over long periods of time. So is the number of hospital beds per capita. If I regress GDP growth on either one of these factors individually, I will find they are statistically significant. However, if I regress them jointly, I will find that neither is individually significant, though they are jointly significant. They fact that school enrollments and number of hospital beds are very highly correlated makes it difficult or impossible to determine which (if either) is the true cause of growth.

2) The Timing/Causality Issue. Another potential problem is with the sample, though it's not clear from the abstract if this is a problem in this case. GDP per capita does not remain constant over time, nor do GDP growth rates. Were the GDP observations from a single year or averages over some longer period? In either case there is a causality issue to be addressed. Does higher IQ cause higher GDP or does higher GDP cause higher IQs? If the GDP observations and the IQ observations are contemporaneous, then there is no way to answer this question statistically. However, if the IQ numbers predate the observation of GDP, then there is less of an issue.

I'm not aware of any attempts in the economics literature to fit IQ to GDP per capita using an exponential function. Most of the attention is on growth of GDP anyway. There may very well be something to this, but unless both of the above issues are addressed by the paper, IQ seems to be another potential cause of GDP growth without strong empirical support. And there are many of these, including primary school enrollment rates and hospital beds per capita. I don't know if mean IQ was one of the regressors Levine & Renelt used in their paper, but I'll check and let you know.

Kerk Phillips

To which I replied

I think you should read the original paper.

But surely it is not astounding that IQ and GDP are highly correlated?

and received as answer:

I probably should and will when I get some free time. My only point is that one needs to be very careful in asserting causality for GDP, since so many other things can appear causal when they probably are not. Correlation does not surprise me, but it may very well be the case that countries with higher GDP also have better infant nutrition and health systems which causes higher mean IQs.

But why is it surprising that nations with higher IQ have better public health? Isn't that the obvious hypothesis?

It is certainly the case that some nations have terribly low IQ because the people are stunted by protein deprivation in gestation and early childhood; something I covered in more detail in A Step Farther Out twenty years ago.

Rising IQ can spiral upward: the smarter people are, the more intelligently they deal with public health and nutrition, and the more productive they are giving more resources to deal with environmental problems. This spiral continues until some kind of natural limit is reached. The natural limit, I would assert, is determined largely by heredity.

Of course national productivity is also determined in large part by the education system, and there we have a counter trend spiraling downward.  I have mentioned this before: it is the trend of all societies to devote larger and larger portions of their output to structure. This means bureaucracy, and Pournelle's Iron Law of Bureaucracy is that in any bureaucracy, the people devoted to the benefit of the bureaucracy itself always get in control, so that those dedicated to the goals the bureaucracy is supposed to accomplish have less and less influence, and sometimes are eliminated entirely.

Of course the worst trend is the downward spiral of lowering IQ. As national IQ lowers, productivity fall, there are fewer resources to devote to prenatal and early childhood nutrition and health, public health deteriorates, and down it goes. Sometimes this downward spiral can be astonishingly sudden and complete.

See below for another example of Pournelle's Iron Law in action. And this discussion continues below.


Near Earth Objects

NEO News (12/14/12) Year-end press reports

As 2005 draws to a close, the recent high level of press coverage for the NEO hazard remains strong. Much of this attention is stimulated by the extraordinary asteroid Apophis (formerly MN4) and the initiatives from the B612 group to consider defenses against this asteroid should they be necessary to avert a collision with Earth on April 13, 2036. I am impressed by the quality of most of this reporting, as opposed to some past experiences with media hype over "false alarms". The seriousness of the issues may also be more apparent in the wake of the major natural disasters of the past year: the Sumatra-Andaman earthquake and tsunami, Hurricane Katrina, and the Pakistan-Kashmir earthquake.

While predicting the future is difficult, I note that we can expect the first of four planned telescopes in the Hawaii Pan-Starrs survey system to begin operations late in 2006, with a potential to double or triple the discovery rate of NEOs. The space mission Stardust will return its comet samples to Earth, and we anticipate the launch of the Dawn mission to orbit main-belt asteroids Vesta and Ceres. Also there will be a major conference on NEO science next August at the International Astronomical Union meeting in Prague, and plans are being made by the American Institute of Astronautics and Aeronautics (AIAA) for a second conference on defense against the impact hazard, perhaps early in 2007.

This edition of NEO news contains:

(1) a statement by the Administrator of NASA on asteroid defense (the first case I know of where the head of NASA has commented publicly on the impact hazard),

(2) an article by Leonard David of Space.com on the lessons being learned from the operations of the Japanese spacecraft Hayabusa at asteroid Itokawa,

(3) an article by Marcia Dunn of AP on Apophis and the open letter from the Association of Space Explorers urging action on asteroid defense,

(4) an article by Henry Fountain of the NY Times on Apophis and the B612 proposals, and

(5) a news release from Nature on the publication by Lu and Love of their innovative paper proposing a "Gravitational Tractor for Towing Asteroids".

David Morrison


NEO News (now in its tenth year of distribution) is an informal compilation of news and opinion dealing with Near Earth Objects (NEOs) and their impacts. These opinions are the responsibility of the individual authors and do not represent the positions of NASA, the International Astronomical Union, or any other organization. To subscribe (or unsubscribe) contact dmorrison@arc.nasa.gov . For additional information, please see the website http://impact.arc.nasa.gov . If anyone wishes to copy or redistribute original material from these notes, fully or in part, please include this disclaimer.

For details see the web site or subscribe.


Subject: Begley Cloth = Bucky Paper?

Jerry, ... on the subject of Begley cloth

One of the advantages of living in Houston is the proximity to great research. Last week I visited the offices of Carbon Nanotechnologies Inc. (the company founded to commercialize Dr. Smalley's work on Fullerene's). http://www.cnanotech.com/

One of the most interesting topics was "bucky paper" a thin, paper-like film made from carbon nanotubes.

If you google "bucky paper" [is google a verb?] you will obtain many very interesting links. http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&q=bucky+paper

Fullerenes can be conductive, semiconductive, and doped with non-carbon atoms to provide additional functionality... given the current cost of energy - Begley cloth may be created sooner than we thought.

Cool stuff indeed.

 Jim Coffey

"As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord." Joshua 24


Subject: New Feed explanation

I have re-written the script that generates the Atom feed for Chaos Manor. The new version of the script should produce a feed entry for every item Dr. Pournelle puts on his site, whether the item is included in the "Highlights this Week" section or not.

The new script is being tested now, and is not yet in place on the server to generate the feed. I expect it to be up within a day or two.

Here is how the new script works:

Items from the "Highlights" section are processed identically to the way the previous script handles them. The title of the feed entry will be the title from the "Highlights" section.

All other items get titles generated by the script. It looks at the first paragraph of the item, and tries to pick out some words that make a good title. In testing it seems to work pretty well.

Assuming the script works properly, it should now be possible to read all the content from the Chaos Manor site with a feed reader.

The new script still produces an Atom feed only (no RSS feed). That may change in the future but I cannot make any promises right now.

Once the new script is in place, Dr. Pournelle will mention it on his site. -- Steve R. Hastings "Vita est" steve@hastings.org http://www.blarg.net/~steveha

My thanks. Roland assures me I will understand Atom and RSS feeds when I turn my attention to them, but I haven't done so yet; I'm still catching up with time lost to holidays, family matters, illnesses, and pressure of both journalism and fiction. It's a full life. I wish I knew the difference between Atom and RSS and had kept up my Python skills, but I don't and haven't so I have no idea when or how RSS as opposed to Atom feeds will be possible. I do know this seems to work in Firefox unaltered.


Subject: Air Force Teleportation Physics Study 


(download full report at fas link)

Air Force Teleportation Physics Study


This study was tasked with the purpose of collecting information describing the teleportation of material objects, providing a description of teleportation as it occurs in physics, its theoretical and experimental status, and a projection of potential applications. The study also consisted of a search for teleportation phenomena occurring naturally or under laboratory conditions that can be assembled into a model describing the conditions required to accomplish the transfer of objects. This included a review and documentation of quantum teleportation, its theoretical basis, technological development, and its potential applications. The characteristics of teleportation were defined and physical theories were evaluated in terms of their ability to completely describe the phenomena. Contemporary physics, as well as theories that presently challenge the current physics paradigm were investigated. The author identified and proposed two unique physics models for teleportation that are based on the manipulation of either the general relativistic spacetime metric or the spacetime vacuum electromagnetic (zero-point fluctuations) parameters. Naturally occurring anomalous teleportation phenomena that were previously studied by the United States and foreign governments were also documented in the study and are reviewed in the report. The author proposes an additional model for teleportation that is based on a combination of the experimental results from the previous government studies and advanced physics concepts. Numerous recommendations outlining proposals for further theoretical and experimental studies are given in the report. The report also includes an extensive teleportation bibliography.


He walked around the horses?

I expect to hear more of this on Art Bell and George Noury shows. But the universe is a queerer place than we can imagine...


BiPolar Disorder:

Subject: Well, that explains a few things, now doesn't it?

Hi Jerry, I think that the latest post on my site at this url explains more than a little bit about the last 18 years of my life, including why I had fallen into 'the sauce' so firmly way back in the Bix days to stay calm: http://davidmercer.nfshost.com/2005/12/14/WellturnsoutIwascrazierthanIthought  (sorry that they are in bass-ackwards 'blog order', I still need to re-patch the software similarly to how I did on the chaos manor 'blog demo' I whipped up earlier)

I'm sorry if some of the letters I've sent in have on occasion been less than 100% clear or lucid at times, and I'm pretty sure the doctors have that all sorted out now. Details in the link above.

In any event, I'm obviously not afraid to discuss this in public, and would actually appreciate it if you would be so kind as to post this letter. Perhaps there is someone in your readership that could use the info I put up there, and there are probably more than a few folks out there in the world wondering "just what was wrong with me" at those moments when I let my mania or depression (as suited the occasion) show through the carefully crafted masks. Those all crumbled the other week in an incident that saw me finally admit myself to the hospital for a while.

Thanks for all of the great novels, ideas and general level-headedness over the years (oh and for helping win the Cold War, too!)


-David Mercer Tucson, AZ radix42@cox.net (my triple spam-filtered public address), formerly dmercer@bix.com (back in the mists of time)

When I took abnormal psychology it was called Manic Depressive Psychosis, but it was known that it was somehow related to another state called Agitated Depression. It was a psychochosis, not a neurosis, and there was no known cure, but there were ameliorative treatments, and it wasn't considered hopeless like schizophrenia or dementia praecox. Spontaneous cures were known.

Except for shock treatment, which was experimented with, there was no real treatment, and the recommended course of action was mostly accommodation, with caution against trying to stimulate depressives out of their depressive mood. It was considered (at least in Henderson and Gillespie's Textbook of Psychiatry) to be a constitutional disorder.

Discovery of effective drugs was far in the future from when I studied these matters. Freudians would attempt psychoanalytic treatments, but I never heard of any successes that couldn't be explained by spontaneous remission.

Poul Anderson used to suffer from depression, and at times he and I would go on trips together to try to cheer him up. Sometimes a week's sailing would help, but fortunately they found chemical means that were more permanently effective. It is likely that I have a mild form of this disorder, and it is also likely that most writers do, just as alcoholism seems to be associated with writing careers. And of course Manic-Depressive states are often associated with alcohol abuse.

The web site indicates a new drug related to drugs used to treat epilepsy has been effective in this case, and anyone with concerns for themselves, friends, or relatives, should have a look and recommend a study of the treatment to the attending physician.

I know of no psychotherapy effective in these cases other than a certain amount of common sense; but it is that way with many severe disorders. Our therapeutic society recommends "counseling" for all kind of things, but my experience is that much of this is a waste of money, and often results in "diagnoses" that turn out to be excuses for bad choices an immoral behavior, or worse, as diagnoses that excuse bad teachers from doing their jobs. I am no great fan of our therapeutic society and its counseling. But that should be obvious from my other writings.

The only time I ever tried to practice as a psychologist was taking cases referred by a local pediatrician (who remained the primary health care professional in the case); these were bright kids from 9 to 15 or so who were clearly intelligent and not doing at all well in schools.  I was able to help them because most of that was common sense. They hadn't been taught some elementary notions that were key to understanding, or, the subject matter seemed to elementary to them that they couldn't be bothered. The treatment in every case was to show the rewards -- internal satisfaction and DESERVED self-esteem -- that come with mastering subjects and going on to more interesting material. I once thought of writing a book on this but it seemed so elementary that I tired of it; I think there may be a need for such a book because frustrated parents often don't seem to understand that the remedy for bad academic performance is almost always self-discipline, and learning self-discipline requires starting off small to teach yourself good habits. "Make a habit happen" is something well in our own self control, although like anything else one has to learn how to learn this. But this is far off the subject.

Thanks to David Mercer.


Pournelle's Iron Law.


Harry Irwin's Letter from England cites the Guardian story of the lady whose hernia operation is beyond the financial resources of the NHS. http://observer.guardian.co.uk/uk_news/story/0,6903,1664665,00.html.  No one should be surprised by this, indeed it is surprising that the NHS manages to fit any operations at all into their crowded schedule. The number of managers in the NHS is now equal to the number of beds in the NHS.

John Edwards

The first person who put wheels on luggage did more for women's liberation than any of the organisations devoted to this purpose.

Pournelle's Iron Law of Bureaucracy is that in any bureaucracy, the people devoted to the benefit of the bureaucracy itself always get in control, so that those dedicated to the goals the bureaucracy is supposed to accomplish have less and less influence, and sometimes are eliminated entirely.

Thanks for the example. Also for quoting my throwaway line from Footfall...




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Thursday, December 15, 2005

Subject: RE: Plots of mean IQ and per capita real GDP

My only point is that one needs to be very careful in asserting causality for GDP, since so many other things can appear causal when they probably are not. Correlation does not surprise me, but it may very well be the case that countries with higher GDP also have better infant nutrition and health systems which causes higher mean IQs.

Kerk Phillips

To which I replied

Yes, but is it astounding that higher IQ produces better public health? I would have thought this an obvious prediction. Everyone kicks against the pricks here, because IQ is not PC. I welcome open discussions on this.

I was arguing reverse causality. That is, where per capita GDP levels are higher and people re wealthier they are willing to spend more on health, particularly neonatal and infant care, in this case. Or they are willing to pressure the government to provide it even if it means higher taxes. Where this kind of health care is better IQ is higher.

I realize that the causality could easily run the other way. That is higher IQ people will be able (on average) to provide better quality health care and presumably also be able to produce more efficiently yielding higher GDP per capita.

It is also possible that higher IQ and higher GDP are both caused by some unobserved phenomenon so that, in reality, neither of them causes the other.

The problem is that all these scenarios are consistent with the given evidence as near as I can tell. To establish causality you would most likely want to look within countries over time. If you observed IQ jumping up and then GDP rising a few years later, and if you also could establish that this was not being caused by some other factor (i.e. rule out a substantial multicolinearity problem), then there would be compelling reasons for believing that IQ causes GDP.

Until then, while the evidence is interesting and certainly indicates that the whole issue is worth more attention, it doesn't seem overwhelming.

I suppose part of this general skepticism is due to seeing all sorts of data mining in the past when it comes GDP differences both across countries and over time. Prior to Levine & Renelt it was fairly easy for a researcher to show correlation of GDP with some random factor like ice cream sales and then argue that he had found a previously undiscovered engine driving GDP.

The PC-ness of the hypothesis doesn't bother me at all. If higher IQ does, in fact, contribute significantly to higher GDP, then knowing that can only be good. But one must be careful that the evidence not only supports that hypothesis, but also eliminates competing ones.

Kerk Phillips

Oh come now. Common sense says that smarter people take better care of themselves and their children. One predicts: Higher IQ people will take better care of themselves, insist on better public health, avoid hazards, be more productive, and have more resources to prevent kwashiorkor and rickets and childhood protein deprivation. Why in the world strain to find some other explanation?

It is not a matter of straining to find some other explanation. I am quite sympathetic with the notion that higher IQ is one of many significant causes of higher GDP. As you point out, it seems a matter of simple common sense. However compelling common sense is, it not the same as proof.

My alternative hypothesis of higher GDP leading to higher IQ makes as much sense, though I admit this is only my opinion. In reality, I would guess these two effects feed back on each other in a fairly complex way and probably interact with other factors. Of necessity, the real world is always more complicated than any model of it.

If we really want to understand what makes some groups of people wealthier and better off than others (which I think both of us do), then we need to examine the data critically and in ways which allow us to distinguish between alternative hypotheses.

Other researchers (I hesitate to use the word scientists, since most of them are economists and there is terminological baggage there) have looked critically at other explanatory factors for differences in GDP. It has been discovered that simple correlations and curve-fitting exercises between these explanatory factors can be misleading for reasons laid out in my earlier emails. It would seem natural therefore that when any new explanatory factor is examined, such as IQ, it should be subjected to the same tests as earlier ones. This is the point I was making.

As for why I am straining, if that is the right term. Understanding what drives GDP is more important than satisfying intellectual curiosity. Policymakers of the future may well base their policies on the results of today's research in this area. (If there is a general consensus, and then with a long time lag) If societies assume the higher IQ causes GDP and base policies on that assumption when it is wrong they would, at the least, waste valuable resources and possibly do real harm. If they assume the reverse, the same applies.

I see a parallel here with the global warming debate. We have competing explanations which make sense, but which cannot be distinguished by an examination of the current data. One can assume that one's favorite explanation is the correct one. Or one can appeal to the data, either by examining existing data in more sophisticated ways or by gathering more data.

And my God man, I would not think that the proposition that smart people produce more and are healthier is exactly NEW.

Perhaps a bad choice of words on my part. "New" only in the sense that the linkage has not been tested as rigorously as things like infrastructure spending, primary & secondary school enrollment, R&D spending, measures of political & economic freedom, ethnic composition of the population, and a whole host of other factors.

I hope I'm not flogging a dead horse here. I'm merely pointing out that a correlation does not imply causation. Maybe this is an obvious point and I should just shut up. But when the abstract says "As a rough rule of thumb, an increase of 10 points in mean IQ results in a doubling of the per capita GDP," the implication is certainly causation from IQ to per capita GDP. I am pointing out that the evidence is consistent with that causation, but does not necessarily imply it. Based on the curve-fitting described it would be just as valid to say "As a rough rule of thumb, a doubling of per capita GDP results in an increase of 10 points in mean IQ."

If IQ were examined simultaneously with GDP per capita in 1960, real investment as a percentage of GDP, and primary school enrollment rates, (which DO appear robustly correlated with GDP) the contribution of IQ in explaining GDP could well be lower than reported. If this has not already been done, someone should do it.

Kerk Phillips

 I pointed out a positive feedback as well as a negative one in my earlier online response. Thank you for the discussion.

And see below


Subject: Proxmire passes


I never knew he replaced "Tailgunner Joe."


** "We've all heard that a million monkeys banging on a million typewriters will eventually reproduce the entire works of Shakespeare. Now, thanks to the Internet, we know this is not true."

Robert Wilensky

I was never one of Proxmire's admirers. But of the dead, speak naught but good. RIP


The American Enterprise: Unlimited Government

Dear Jerry,

An excellent critque of "Big Government Conservatism":

"...This division of labor in Constitutional interpretation is another instance of the streamlining of modern government. By removing one bone of political contention, it generates a much higher volume of legislation. By leaving the sorting out of Constitutional issues to the courts, the branch with the least democratic sanction, it ensures that resistance to governmental growth will be sporadic and anemic. The politicization of judicial appointments is in large part a result of the courts having acquired, through a process of incremental conquests of their own and incremental abdications by the political branches, de facto exclusive authority to interpret and apply the Constitution...."

"...If a federal program were established to give financial assistance to Boy Scouts to enable them to help old ladies cross busy intersections, we could be sure that not all the money would go to Boy Scouts, that some of those they helped would be neither old nor ladies, that part of the program would be devoted to preventing old ladies from crossing busy intersections, and that many of them would be killed because they would now cross at places where, unsupervised, they were at least permitted to cross....”


On a separate note, in my youth I used to think Robert Heinlein's "Crazy Years" from his future history series was pretty funny-I'm not laughing now. He was, if not the only one, one of very few who recognized that Western Civilization as we knew it was drawing to a close. Hopefully our future turns out as well as his stories.

Take Care, Rod Schaffter

-- "Science is wonderful at explaining what science is wonderful at explaining, but beyond that it tends to look for its car keys where the light is good." Jonah Goldberg

Big Government is not Conservative. The conservative view is that government is a blessing and good government is not merely a major blessing, but nearly a miracle; but there are many things that government should encourage, but not do. The Red Cross is one example. The various health foundations such as the March of Dimes is another. There are many more. (And of course organizing local Civil Defense organizations, which are quasi-governmental, is well within the province of the Federal government.) As Tocqueville observed, America made effective use of "associations" in doing much of the work that in Europe was done by government bureaucracies.

The United States is now losing scientists and engineers as well as manufacturing jobs. Lithium batteries were developed at MIT by a professor of Chinese ancestry. They are now manufactured -- in China. I will have more on that technology at another time.

The Western Lands are becoming the Twilight Lands. There is still time, but the days are growing short.


Subject: A handful of interesting technologies -

Nicotine vaccine continues to show promise "NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Research with a new nicotine vaccine shows that the vaccine is safe and well tolerated, with higher doses producing a greater rate of abstinence." http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20051201/hl_nm/nicotine_vaccine_continues_show_promise_dc_1 

Growing meat in a dish http://www.nytimes.com/2005/12/11/magazine/11ideas_section2-9.html 

Hmm. When they start rolling this out in production, I wonder how many workers, truckers, and ranchers will lose their jobs? And will the Meat Vat in the back of the meat department at the local grocery require enough supplies and services to provide replacement jobs for them all?

Seeing with sound http://www.nytimes.com/2005/12/11/magazine/11ideas_section3-14.html 

Locating shooters by sound http://www.nytimes.com/2005/12/11/magazine/11ideas_section3-19.html 

Preventing suicide bombers http://www.nytimes.com/2005/12/11/magazine/11ideas_section3-8.html 

 --Gary Pavek


"It Pays To Read the Original Study -- Home Computers" by Donna Garner 12.12.05

It pays to read the original study rather than to rely upon a special interest group such as eSchool News to add its "spin." If I were to read just the eSchool News article (posted below), I would be led to believe (1) that a child simply cannot graduate from high school unless he/she has a home computer; (2) that minority children cannot graduate unless they are given laptops -- undoubtedly at the taxpayers' expense, of course. Those are the conclusions that a special interest group such as eSchool News obviously wants the reader to reach. However, laborious as it can be, I have learned to read studies for myself and to evaluate the results on my own. I try to notice who is sponsoring a particular study because that can also make a big difference as to the credibility of the results. There is a tendency for those with personal agendas to read more into their results than the statistics show.

As I located the original study and read it for myself ("Are We Really A Nation Online? Ethnic and Racial Disparities in Access to Technology and Their Consequences" by Robert W. Fairlie, University of California, Santa Cruz and National Poverty Center, University of Mighican, Sepember 20, 2005, Report for the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights Education Fund), I found the following statements: Income differences are partly, but not entirely responsible for ethnic and racial disparities in computer and Internet access. Even among individuals with family incomes of at least $60,000, blacks and Latinos are substantially less likely to own a computer or have Internet access at home than are whites. [Evidently money is not the only reason why some people have computers and some do not even though there are groups in our country who try to point to poverty as the sole reason for every ill. Perhaps some families simply do not see the need to purchase computers. That is their choice.]<snip>

* * *

I love computers and spend much of my day on one, but I know well-educated people who choose not to use them and do not have them in their homes. My complaint with the eSchool News article and with some of the conclusions that Fairlie has reached is the over-reaching assumptions which are represented as fact. Of course, we want all students to graduate from high school with a quality education; but their having laptops in their homes may or may not be a contributing factor toward student academic success.


Donna Garner

Reading the original is a good idea, but it is also a good idea to remember that most political statements are incomplete at best and usually full of outright false statements.


Subject: 2p worth on Talin again

Dear Dr Pournelle,

In response to Talin's observation on the worth of DVDs outside the region they are coded for, png (Mr Glaskowsky) stated that: "DVD publishers the world over release region-free discs. They play correctly on every DVD player, anywhere in the world. The publisher gets to decide whether to apply region coding or not, and you get to decide whether you want to buy that disc or not."

None of these statements is generally true. Nearly all DVDs in commercial release are region-coded. This became a major problem in New Zealand in the wake of a judicial finding that the practice of selling or renting DVDs not coded for domestic use (region 4) was illegal. Specifically, it violated the provisions of the Sale of Goods Act; such DVDs were "not of merchandisable quality", and therefore quite literally worthless, as Talin noted. Similar scenarios have played out all over the world.

The Government was obliged to respond. With NZ's accession to the TRIPS accord, mandating a hardware solution deregionalising DVD players) was not an option. Instead, the right of publishers - or anyone else - to import such DVDs for sale or rent was struck down by legislation. Rental houses like Blockbuster were given a short period of grace to restock.

Mr Glaskowsky is correct that works unencumbered by copyright restrictions will always be with us (though distribution of such things will not, because the major chains of distribution won't have a bar of it). What really made me snort however, was the declaration that "Nobody's making up any new laws. It's just new technology, and it's very wrong of you to misrepresent one as the other. New technology isn't like new laws, it's just like new technology".

Having just been through Law School's Intellectual Property paper, I can assure Mr. Glaskowsky that new laws absolutely are being created, and always have been, in response to the threat of new technology to vested interests. I would cite numerous examples - the DMCA for starters - but I'm sure your readers know perfectly well what these laws are.

The curious thing for me is that the United States justifies such laws on the basis of the original Constitution's explicit provision for copyright. That's all very well, but I would have thought the First Amendment, as a later change to the Constitution, superseded any such copyright - at least in so far as it threatens free speech. SCOTUS decisions clearly show however that IP rights trump free speech.

png is also on shaky ground when it comes to "The fact is that cryptographic DRM built on secure operating systems will be deployed within the next several years, and it will be totally effective." Yeah, right <Insert rude noise>. Sorry about the snide tone there. But I'd love to see Bruce Schneier's reaction to "Contrariwise, I know that anyone who thinks it won't work doesn't understand the technology."

I too have a degree in digital electronics, and another in engineering science, and a CCNA, and I'm making progress on my law degree (heck, I don't party or take drugs and my kids are almost grown - what else is there to do with spare time?). But I do not share Mr. Glaskowsky's confidence in the ability of manufacturers to outsmart legions of hackers.

Furthermore, they don't want to. Even Windows NT's C2 certification was only for stand-alone non-networked systems. It doesn't seem to have harmed MS' market share. To the extent that consumer OS's are progressively more secure, they become less usable.

The last point made by png has much more interest. "As technology improves, the value of copies made using purely analog techniques will decline, and the ability of the authorized players to detect and refuse to play these unauthorized copies will improve."

This might be a reference to VEIL and its relatives, designed to plug the 'analogue hole'. That has still not been approved by Congress. In a way I hope it will be, because the consequences of such a thing will be quite dramatic. It's important because history so far has shown that people are quite willing to live with inferior quality so long as it's free, or much cheaper.

The grubby individuals I chase for excessive bandwidth use on our systems seem to love their grainy copies of "The Incredibles". It turns out that they don't have high definition TVs. And if they did, their eyesight and hearing is not generally so good that they care about the difference - this is especially true of the hearing of rock music aficionados. Ten minutes after leaving the theatre, the memory of a movie session is no better than that of the moviegoer's unscrupulous neighbour who watched it on his PC.

Both of them can bring up the movie in conversation at the pub the following day. And twenty years from now people won't be settling for something like today's "blurry DVD copies of 4K-line digital-video movies". They will be settling for something just a couple of years behind the cutting edge.

The law will try to stop them; and to the extent that the law prevents the great unwashed from doing what they want, the lawmakers will be removed from office. Talin wondered if this meant it would be "illegal for people to write operating systems".

It's arguable that applying Linux to an Xbox, for example, is already a violation of the DMCA - though it certainly does have non-infringing uses. Writing operating systems does indeed help pirates. That's why the recent Grokster decision effectively makes it illegal, as Talin foreshadowed, "to write operating systems" for DRM-protected hardware.

This simply won't fly in the real world, however, if only because the biggest DRM pirates are commercial firms themselves. In a time of rapid change trade secrets should have little value. In fact they are fiercely protected, less for their novelty than for how much they would reveal about how much firms violate each others' copyrights and patents.

Sony, for example, hired First4Internet to do their dirty work - and that crowd stole from other firms left and right, including Apple. Sony's XCP rootkit was capable, among other things, of translating to Apple's "FairPlay" DRM, which is used in iTunes. (The fact that First4Internet didn't use Apple code to do this - they ripped of GPL'd software instead - is irrelevant; it was still Apple's IP they were infringing, which is probably why that portion of XCP was disabled at the last minute.)

But the biggest violators are the hardware manufacturers. It's impossible for microcircuit-based industries not to step on each others toes, however, so a sort of honour among thieves ensures that only end-users are subject to the force of the law.

Regards, TC

-- Terry Cole System Administrator,
OU Physics tcole@physics.otago.ac.nz

For Mr. Glaskowsky's reply, see next week.


Subject: response to png

As far as publishers restricting rights - when I walk into a store, notice a CD or book on the shelf, and think "hey, that's cool, I should grab that", and take it up to the register, pay for it, and walk out with it in my hand - there is no implicit agreement there, there is no implicit enumeration of rights or carefully laid-out contract. I have given the store money; the store has given me the object. The object is now mine to do with as I please to the same extent the money was. That is all there is to it. If that was not the store's intent they need to make much more of a big deal of explaining to the customer all the restrictions on seemingly-reasonable actions they can take before the sale is completed. A contract is not valid if one of the two parties does not agree to it, and in this case the contract the customer is implicitly agreeing to is very simple: "it's mine."

The stores don't stop the customer short and explain all the rights and restrictions the publishers impose, of course, because that would hurt sales. But that leaves the door wide open for the customer to take the simplest conclusion of what the exchange actually involved. If you don't defend it you lose it, and the publishers try to defend the extra rights they're trying to extract from this material far later than the point of purchase - far later than the point at which the customer agreed to what they thought the deal was. They have the money and the lawyers, so they can keep trying to defend that ground for a while, but it will not be a winnable battle, because human beings simply do not think the way the publishers want them to. We are not that far from monkeys, we are still territorial, and we think, instinctively, "it's mine".

Working with that instinct rather than against it is the only way to go. Laying down extra rights and restrictions and arguing about whether they are enforceable in the end only enriches the lawyers.

As far as "secure operating systems" go:

My computer DOES NOT have the right to overrule my decisions. Ever. For any reason.

My computer is a tool. It does what I tell it to do. If it does not, it is useless to me, and it gets chucked out the window.

I DO NOT and WILL NOT trust my computer. That is the whole entire point. I do not because I am the human being in the relationship and I am the one capable of making judgments about what is and is not appropriate for me to be doing - even to decide, at times, that it is appropriate for me to be breaking a law.

Kent Peterson urquan@rocketmail.com 

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


Subject: .png's response to Talin

Dear Jerry,

Busy on project sale, so no time for lengthy comment. Short version, to .png: not no, but Hell NO!

(after some more thought) slightly longer comment:

The weak point in any crypto system is usually the key distribution. Back during the cold war, I was in an operational unit of the ASA. We had a very secure crypto environment. Our keys changed on a regular basis. The keys were distributed by one or two (usually two) guys with guns. That was secure. The chance of getting shot and/or going to federal prison works wonders for security. In the case of commercial systems, especially mass market systems, they are too cheap to employ such measures, not to mention the publicity problems.

All of the existing systems have been hacked at one time or another. And it is almost always through the key distribution. In the case of Echostar (dish network) the new improved Nargra 2 system just replaced Nargra 1 which had been really cracked open. Nargra 2 was cracked before it was released. And so it goes. So, believe what you want, whatever is done will get undone. Of course publishers can try to sell sealed PC's, but then they will not be PC's anymore. I won't buy one, most of the people I know won't ether.

And lets not forget the 100 million Chinese engineers that want to make some money. To them, hardware is property, software is, well, free.

Hollywood has seen technology make most of their ways of doing business obsolete. So join the rest of us who have to re-invent ourselves every few years or cease to exist.

Phil Tharp Mountain View


Dear Jerry:

In regard to Mr. Tharp's post that ASA codes were hacked. Not so. John Walker and the rest of his spy ring sold those codes to the Soviets. More specifically, they sold the key cards for the coding machines. We were innocent of this until a low level Soviet SIGINT unit sent a message over a coded system that came up in clear before being automatically being sent on to NSA headquarters at Fort Meade. It was a Christmas greeting from our opposite numbers on the other side of the Fulda Gap. Naturally there was Hell to pay. The system could not be cracked by other than the most advanced computers, which they did not have and we had few of. Unless you had a key card. Then it was very easy.

I was a junior NCO in ASA Headquarters Europe at the time.


Francis Hamit



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Friday, December 16, 2005

Subject: IQ and GDP


Your recent discussion thread about IQ and GDP appeared just as I was nearing the end the book "Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Society" by Jared Diamond. From the prologue, it is evident that the author does not believe that genetic IQ differences are the major factor behind the greatly different rates of social and technological development that occurred among different societies during the past 13,000 years. The book doesn't really bring up issues of IQ after the prologue, but does provide a lengthy discussion of other factors that seem to explain the origin of the social and technological advantages that societies of European and Chinese origin have today.

If you have read the book, I am curious as to what you thought of it?

CP, Connecticut

I have read the book but haven't time to comment other than to observe that smart people are more likely to have better public health (Roman baths and aqueducts, as an example), and higher GDP allows them to take better measures. There is an upward spiral, as there is a downward spiral when intelligence falls due to disasters including wars.


IQ and GDP

Sorry to keep dragging this out, but I thought this might interest you.

Doing a literature search, I ran across the following article from 2002. Weede & Kampf appear to do the robustness tests I mentioned in my last email and finds important positive effects from IQ on GDP growth.

Weede, Erich; Kampf, Sebastian

Source: Kyklos, 2002, v. 55, iss. 3, pp. 361-80

Publication Date: 2002

Abstract: Standard indicators of human capital endowment--like literacy, school enrollment ratios or years of schooling--suffer from a number of defects. They are crude. Mostly, they refer to input rather than output measures of human capital formation. Occasionally, they produce implausible effects. They are not robustly significant determinants of growth. Here, they are replaced by average intelligence. This variable consistently outperforms the other human capital indicators in spite of suffering from severe defects of its own. The immediate impact of institutional improvements, i.e., more government tolerance of private enterprise or economic freedom, on growth is in the same order of magnitude as intelligence effects are.

I plan on reading both this article and the one by Dickerson you cited as soon as my library can get me copies. This is all very intriguing and I plan on digging through this more. Thanks for an interesting discussion and for sparking my interest. I enjoy your site immensely because it gets me thinking seriously about things I would normally not.

Kerk Phillips

On the contrary it is an important subject. I think your latest citation is another confirmation of Spearman's hypothesis on the utility of measures of g in predictions of success.

Note that the proposition "Smart people will have a higher GDP" is (1) falsifiable and thus withing the definition of science, (2) in accord with common sense and anecdotal evidence, and (3) apparently confirmed by critical study. The hypothesis "Measures of g have high utility in predicting success" is also falsifiable, and in accord with common sense among those who understand what it means.

I recommend Seligman's book to those who wonder if IQ tests are not culturally biased and not good instruments for measuring g. Test construction is a fairly exact art and almost reduced to engineering (i.e. implementation of scientific findings).


Dead Man Tells No Tales.


-- Roland Dobbins

Esther Dyson announced at a AAAS meeting "the end of the official story" due to the Internet. Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. But it may not work out that way, and I have little hope that an investigation will reveal anything here. The Marshals apparently panicked, decided they had to Do Something, and executed the man after he was off the airplane. When I was Deputy Mayor I was always reluctant to second-guess police officers who had acted with what I thought was bad judgment. Being what you perceive as mortal peril does little to make you think better, and actions you later realize were clearly wrong or even stupid seem like good ideas at the time. Air marshals are particularly prone to the scope dope phenomenon: hours, days, weeks of boredom and sudden confrontation with pending disaster and no time at all to think about the situation, you must react.

I am not at all sure that leaving things as they stand is not the best course here, even though justice might have different demands.




This week:


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Saturday, December 17, 2005

Subject: "People Like Me..."

"House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.)...said Democrats scored significant victories recently, the biggest coming on Social Security, on which she said Democratic opposition to Bush's proposed private or personal accounts blocked any hopes the White House had for changing the government retirement insurance program this year.

"Not only did we take him down on that, but we took down a lot of his credibility as being somebody who cared about 'people like me,' " she said."

From http://www.opinionjournal.com/best/?id=110007692 

Maybe I'm wrong, Dr. Pournelle, but my understanding is that members of Congress are anything but "people like me" when it comes to Social Security and Medicare. Ms. Pelosi and her comrades have taken so much better care of their futures than they have of the futures of "people like me" that one stale joke says "The way to fix Social Security quickly is to cancel Congressional pension plans and put them all into the same Social Security plan which covers their constituents and the system would be repaired in a single session."

Charles Brumbelow

That is my understanding as well. Congress does not have to eat its own dogfood nor do the Congressional staffers. They have their own system.


Subject: Congressional Retirement System

Dr. P.,

Your understanding of the current Federal Employees Retirement System (which also applies to Congress) is flawed. As of the Fall of 1984, all entering Federal Employees are required to be members of the FERS system. The retirement benefits consist of three parts -- a basic annuity based upon salary and years in service (you'll end up with about 30% or less of your salary if you work long enough to qualify for retirement); a 401(k) clone called the Thrift Savings Plan (you contribute part of your salary, the government matches up to 5%); and Social Security.

It's all taxable income, you still have to pay for the health Insurance, and you go into Medicaid at the regular age. It is not as generous as the former Civil Service Retirement System, but it is valuable as America abandons Defined Benefit Retirement Plans and adopts Defined Contribution Retirement Plans. FERS is a mixture of the two.

Here's a link to the FERS website:


Don -- Donald W. McArthur

Thank you. One of the best things about being me is that when I'm wrong I am fairly quickly corrected.




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Sunday, December 18, 2005

Subject: Re: Talin's Copyright Circus

Just a quick one-liner: People who insist that ownership of non-physical property is impossible remind me of a child who believes that when he puts a blanket over his head, the world ceases to exist.

-- Mike Powers

I assure you that is a misinterpretation of David's position.


Subject: "Papers Please" breaks new ground...


"NEW YORK - Hoping to save hundreds of lives, New York adopted a health code regulation Wednesday that will make it the first American city to keep track of people with diabetes...[New York's health commissioner] said people skittish about their privacy will be allowed to opt out of the program. Details on how that would work, however, are still being developed."

On another message board, speculation abounds as to whether this is a "first move" towards a complete Disease Registry, or just a bunch of legislators who want to fob off the responsibility for their parents' health care onto the state.

-- Mike Powers

With mixed blessings. Possony and I were working on precisely this kind of  government service when he had his stoke. But working on, I mean examining benefits and dangers.


The therapeutic mind-set, Down Under.


-- Roland Dobbins


Subject: An Empire of Men . . .

Dr. P -- something you have warned about for years, coming all too true.


One more dose <http://www.nytimes.com/2005/12/15/politics/
101aee&ex=1292302800&partner=rssuserland&emc=rss>  .

Surprise? Not really. The NSA has always circumvented the ban on domestic spying, as many know. Before, they at least pretended to obey the law and civil rights. One mechanism was the infamous “Mid Atlantic Swaps” with GCHQ in the UK. It is so widely known that commentators as diverse as Juan Cole <http://www.juancole.com/2004/02/we-may-as-well-just-record-all-our.html>  and those worried about Echelon, etc. <http://www.globalpolicy.org/empire/analysis/2004/0227keepwatch.htm>  have now stumbled onto it. The swap allows each institution to trade intercepts on each other's domestic citizens.

The practice has been in force for decades. It has been an open secret for at least half as long.



These letters signed Professor Leo Strauss are probably not really from beyond the grave...


Subject: I wish...

Dr. Pournelle:

You wrote:

"The only time I ever tried to practice as a psychologist was taking cases referred by a local pediatrician (who remained the primary health care professional in the case); these were bright kids from 9 to 15 or so who were clearly intelligent and not doing at all well in schools. I was able to help them because most of that was common sense. They hadn't been taught some elementary notions that were key to understanding, or, the subject matter seemed to elementary to them that they couldn't be bothered. The treatment in every case was to show the rewards -- internal satisfaction and DESERVED self-esteem -- that come with mastering subjects and going on to more interesting material. I once thought of writing a book on this but it seemed so elementary that I tired of it; I think there may be a need for such a book because frustrated parents often don't seem to understand that the remedy for bad academic performance is almost always self-discipline, and learning self-discipline requires starting off small to teach yourself good habits. "Make a habit happen" is something well in our own self control, although like anything else one has to learn how to learn this. But this is far off the subject." (emphasis added).

I only wish that you HAD written the book and my parents (or a school counselor or one of my teachers) HAD read it. I was one of those "bright kids from 9 to 15" who did very poorly in school because (1) I was bored, and (2) I had no discipline. I had the top SAT scores in my Senior class and had to repeat the 12th grade because I couldn't get myself to finish my English theme paper. What a loser!

It was not until my second college career (dropped out the first time) that I was able to harness my intellect and find that school was easy. Heck, I even enjoyed law school! (Which probably proves that I am some sort of a sick individual).

Lee Keller King

There are times I wish I had written that book. I do not think I will do so now, but it depends on how many years are left to me...

But I emphasize: you can make habits happen. It requires self training and self discipline but habits of both thought and deed can be learned and for those you are the best teacher. It is a matter of wanting to develop the habit, then doing it systematically, and I emphasize again, that includes habits of thought as well as actions.


And not unrelated:

Subject: More on Education, IQ, ADHD and Society

Dr. Pournelle:

I've been fascinated by the discussion on education I've seen at Chaos Manor. I hope my previous contribution was of some help.

While I've been somewhat attentive to the various controversies swirling around education, I can't claim to have done original research in the field nor even to have read the original research in all that great a depth. I will claim that I have read more on the subject than most. I will also claim, by virtue of having done some grad work in social psychology, that I might have more insight than the average person.

Do things like ADD and ADHD exist? They undoubtedly do. I've seen a few extreme victims of these maladies. Are they wildly overdiagnosed? I suspect that they are.

As I wrote before, in the middle of the twentieth century, major changes were imposed on education in this country. The people who orchestrated these changes were quite intelligent and also committed to making our nation a better place. Unfortunately, it seems, they got a number of things wrong. Smart people making mistakes should not come as a surprise to readers of Chaos Manor.

One of the changes imposed upon education was the adoption of an earlier start time for high school students. A growing body of research now indicates this was a major mistake. Adolescents seem to require as much sleep as somewhat younger students. There is also apparently a mechanism that kicks in and causes adolescents to go to bed later and get up later. This phenomenon has even been observed in cultures greatly different from our own, including ones without TV. So what do we have as a result of this change in education? We see sleepy, rebellious, cranky teenagers. What do people in schools do? Why, they blame students, parents and society at large. It couldn't be anything the schools are doing. A few schools have shifted their start times back to what they were when I was a teenager in New Jersey. Interestingly enough, an amazing number of problems cleared up in the schools that have done so, most especially the problem of sleepy students. This is just one reason many school reformers are trying to undo many of the reforms of the past half century.

A friend I know from SF fandom has boys (some of them now young men) who have been diagnosed as ADD or ADHD. She also reports a large percentage of the boys in her sons' schools have also been so diagnosed. I've met her sons. If they do have ADD or ADHD, it's certainly not extreme. Since I'm a runner (one of the few in fandom) she once contacted me about the physical education requirements for children in her sons's schools. My first educated guess was that the requirements were a bit extreme. But, since I'm no expert on adolescent physical fitness, I used the web to do a little research. I came across one of those sites run by a major physical fitness group. That's where I discovered the schools in question were requiring all their students to perform at least as well as the average for the United States. I concluded the schools were making unreasonable demands on their students.

So what is my take on ADD and ADHD in the schools? I suspect our schools and, perhaps, our society as a whole, are making some unreasonable demands on young people. Rather than acknowledging, for example, that adolescent boys especially need breaks from classrooms and the freedom to physically explore their world, educational authorities claim these boys suffer from ADD or ADHD and drug them into submission. Rather than admitting the sleep needs of adolescents, people castigate them as lazy.

I won't claim to be an expert in the field, but, for me, alarm bells go off when educational experts state the schools are fine but the students, parents and society are the cause of failure. Or when school systems place great faith in the superintendent, not realizing the limited impact only one person can have.

Thanks again for the thoughtful discussion.


Chuck Divine

If a computer programmer told you that of all the computers in your office, a number were so defective that he could not program them, you might want to get another opinion. Indeed, if you have that opinion from several people but they all belong to one union and have all been taught programming in the same way from the same textbooks, you might wonder at the diagnosis and look elsewhere for possible remedies.

When the teachers tell us that in this modern world we can no longer get results that were routinely expected from 2-year Associate of Arts degree teachers from State Normal Schools teaching students in rural Tennessee and rural Florida, we might to well to wonder about their diagnoses and prescriptions; and when we are told that extraordinary numbers of young people are defective and require drugs unknown until very recently (and which are very profitable) we may be excused for some skepticism and wonder if there might be better analyses.

The education establishment of the US has taken us close to ruin. Should we blindly accept their pronouncements as truth?


And also perhaps not unrelated:

Subject: 'nuf said?

China overtakes U.S. as supplier of IT goods


Charles Brumbelow

Can it be our education system doesn't work well enough to turn out skilled workers?


Subject: 10 Years, 12 Reports Later, County Health Still in a Fix - Los Angeles Times

Since it's in the L.A. Times, you probably already read this, but just in case:


Best Regards, and an early Merry Christmas!

Doug Hayden

SooPrise! It doesn't fix itself and reports don't fix it.
















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