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Mail 394 December 26 2005 - January 1, 2006






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Monday  December 26, 2005

Subject: Letter from England

Merry Christmas 8).

Prince Charles is musing about his throne name. http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2-1958477,00.html 

The royals are at Sandringham http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/4558786.stm 

The Pope's message http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/4558956.stm 

The Archbishop of Canterbury (CoE) spoke on forgiveness http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/4558124.stm 

The Archbishop of Westminster--go to Bethlehem http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/4558684.stm 

The Moderator's (CoS) message http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/scotland/4558460.stm 

Reading the political tea-leaves http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,1065-1958209,00.html  http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,1072-1958201,00.html 

On miracles http://www.guardian.co.uk/weekend/story/0,3605,1672619,00.html 

On belief http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,542-1958183,00.html 

Be careful about being too certain of what you believe in. It's not just the traditional Christmas carols that are more appropriate for Northern Europe--Christina Rossetti's 'In the Bleak Midwinter' being an obvious example--but the archaeological evidence now strongly suggests that Bethlehem was uninhabited during the Herodian and Early Roman periods.

I didn't realize where Studio City was until I looked it up on a map. My grandfather, Calvert Erwin, surveyed in the valley--look up the names of the E/W streets between Victory Boulevard and Oxnard Street.

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




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Tuesday,  December 28, 2005

Subject: IP, universities, and shop rules

Dr. Pournelle,

This is a bit orthogonal to the copyright discussion, but I wanted to contribute what I think is the worst part of IP laws: shop rules. If I invent something, quite often my employer will own it, and not owe me any compensation. I have no problem with greed, I was a business major. But think about it from the perspective of both employer and employee. The employ gets 100% of everything. The employee gets nothing. Who works for free? Businesses would get more if they would except a smaller share, say 90-99%. Make a business decision. Do you want all of nothing, or a smaller portion of something?

When businesses say that they need innovation, maybe they should realize that workers are not serfs anymore and have to be compensated. Kary Mullis, got around $30,000 for PCR, and the company did not even owe him that, it was a bonus. How many people in biotech took that example to heart? How many people are sitting on great ideas that they don't pursue because they won't get anything out of it, and dream of starting a business of their own?

If you don't find that convincing, look at a similar situation with IP and universities. According to this week's economist, allowing universities and professors to profit from government research has contributed tremendously to the economy. Ending shop rules, or modifying them, would allow American companies to tap untold creativity. If ending shop rules doesn't work, we could always bring them back. Give freedom a chance.

Robert Hull


Subject: Datamining American Telecommunications

Well, it's getting clear why the Administration didn't want to get FISA warrants--they were wire-tapping everyone. I wonder if there were already 'unofficial' taps on people of political interest. Historically that has been the next step. I suspect this story may have legs.


-- Harry Erwin, PhD

Actually, that's probably not true; but do you really have an expectation of privacy when talking on the telephone? I don't and have not for a very long time. I also assumed that my offices were bugged when I was a political campaign manager.


Subject: Joshua and the Sun

In the book of Joshua, it is claimed that Yahweh caused the sun to stand still in the heavens for about a day. This amounts to stopping the earth's rotation for a day and restarting it. If this is ever actually observed (or anything of this sort), I'll grant this as proof that science is wrong, or at least an incomplete account of the workings of the universe.

IOW, as the last phrase indicates, the presumption is unfalsifiable. Nothing can ever be proven a miracle. Someday, somehow, a material explanation will be found. This is why, as Jaki says, science is both limited and limitless.

Actually, a friend of mine figured out a perfectly scientific explanation to stop the Earth's rotation without everybody getting the Worst Case of Whiplash Ever. It was cute, but I promised not to tell anyone, as he had done it to help a friend writing a screenplay, which made it somewhat proprietary. Still, he is a physicist, even if he does paint surrealist pictures and play jazz saxophone.

The point is that no matter how miraculous an event may be, it still involves a train of material, physical events and these latter can always be pointed to as the "cause" of the miracle. A materialist friend even ascribes human thought to patterns of neurons firing in the brain, somewhat like ascribing the journey of a thousand miles to the footprints.

Mike Flynn


Subject: Everything Old Is New Again

Dr. Pournelle,

I've been doing some Visual Basic.NET coding, and here's a curiosity. Simple executables don't require "installation" or registry changes on the target computer. Just copy the *.exe file to a directory and double-click it. Just like we did in the '80s:

Here's an explication of the file structure Visual Studio.NET uses:


Don -- Donald W. McArthur
"I'm living it, but I ain't loving it." -- Bart Simpson http://www.mcarthurweb.com



Taming the Prince.


--- Roland Dobbins


Subject: The view from on the ground

Well, with this story it's obvious that the author isn't bucking for a mainstream media job.




Subject: Iraq Debate Eclipses Heroic Acts

Pay attention to the small stories in the hometown newspapers. They'll tell you of the heroism of thier neighbors, sons, brothers, fathers, sisters, wives, mothers.


USA Today December 27, 2005 Pg. 13

Iraq Debate Eclipses Heroic Acts

Whether one is for or against the war, the discussions at home shouldn't drown out the good being done abroad.

By Caspar Weinberger and Wynton Hall

This season, 155,000 of our men and women in uniform will spend the holidays fighting in Iraq. Though this period is traditionally a time for celebration and hope, our U.S. troops are being confronted with a message of a different sort emanating from the home front — news stories on the hyper-politicization of the mission to which they have been called.

One wonders what our men and women in uniform must feel when they flick on the TV at their base camp or log on to American newspaper websites only to be greeted by a seemingly endless barrage of negative news stories and opinion polls questioning a war in which they're putting their lives on the line each day.

The stories of extraordinary heroism in Iraq, some of which have been published, are being overshadowed by the mostly partisan name-calling and finger-pointing in Washington.

Were it possible to brush aside some of these clouds of ideologically driven negativity over the war on terror, the distraction from the bravery of our troops whose valor in Afghanistan and Iraq matches that of “The Greatest Generation” of World War II would come into fuller sight.

Meet Master Sgt. William Calvin Markham, a combat controller from Waukesha, Wis., whom history will record as the first member of the Air Force to set foot on Afghan soil in the war on terror. Just one month after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Markham, 37, part of a 12-member military team, was among the first U.S. special operations forces to enter Afghanistan.

“The Taliban would unleash everything at us,” Markham recalls. “We took enormous amounts of fire: small arms fire, tank rounds, you name it. They also had ZSU 23s, an anti-aircraft weapon, and turned them on us, sending what looked like large, flaming footballs at our position.”

Asked how he and his team survived the enemy's wall of fire, the 6'1”, 250-pound Markham replies, “It was the grace of God. It was like we had a bubble over us.”

When the smoke cleared, Markham's Silver Star citation credited him with directing 175 sorties that resulted in the elimination of 450 enemy vehicles and the killing of more than 3,500 Taliban fighters in a little more than a month.

Today, however, his greatest source of pride is the golf tournament he hosts each year, the Whomper Stomper Open, to raise funds for the children of fallen U.S. special operations forces.

When asked whether barbs by the naysayers of the war bother him, Markham says, “When I hear that kind of thing, honestly, it makes me glad because it means those individuals have the freedom to think and say what they wish.”

First Sgt. Justin D. LeHew feels similarly. LeHew was an amphibious assault platoon sergeant in Iraq and was one of only 10 individuals to receive the Navy Cross, second only to the Congressional Medal of Honor. Moving into Nasiriyah, his column of 12 amphibious assault vehicles came under extreme fire by a massive Iraqi force that had burrowed itself inside buildings. When one U.S. vehicle took a hit by a rocket-propelled grenade, LeHew raced toward the fiery scene.

“The first thing I see on the ramp is the leg of a Marine. … From what I could tell, everybody in the back was dead — at least that's what I thought at the time. As I was crawling through all that stuff into the center, I stepped on something and actually heard someone gasp for air. … So I started digging around and underneath, bent in a V-position, was a live Marine.”

That Marine's name is Cpl. Matthew Juska. He is alive today because LeHew refused to give up his search for fellow Americans, even as enemy fire pelted the flaming vehicle.

LeHew says the only thing he asks from war critics is that they support the men and women who safeguard their right to dissent. “You can say that you feel that this war is unjustified or whatever, but you support the home team, the American servicemen in the fight.”

This humble plea — to stand with those who fight for us — is the one echoed by the 2.4 million men and women in our armed forces. And yet, even as the voices of those who oppose their efforts get louder, the voices that carry our heroes' stories remain but a whisper.

Those waging the war on terror this Christmas season are proud of the work they're doing — and we should be, too. Our nation would be well-served if we saw more images and stories about the positive and heroic work they are doing.

Men such as Master Sgt. William Calvin Markham and 1st Sgt. Justin LeHew couldn't care less about generating headlines; they're professionals who radiate humility. Besides, they don't consider themselves heroes.

The reason their stories should be retold is not for their benefit but for ours. Our heroes have much to teach us, if only we could clear away the fog that cloaks them.

Caspar Weinberger is a former secretary of Defense and the chairman of Forbes. Wynton C. Hall, an author and speechwriter, is writing with Weinberger, Home of the Brave: Honoring the Unsung Heroes in the War on Terror.


Subj: The Burke Habit

Good reminder by Jeffrey Hart in the _Wall Street Journal_:


=In "The Conservative Mind" (1953), a founding document of the American conservative movement, Russell Kirk assembled an array of major thinkers beginning with Edmund Burke and made a major statement. He proved that conservative thought in America existed, and even that such thought was highly intelligent--a demonstration very much needed at the time. ...=

Rod Montgomery==monty@sprintmail.com

I saw this at breakfast this morning. Well worth reading.


Subject: Dangerous activity



These people are standing where they are a perfect target, and they'll be there a long time. Have you ever seen so many courageous people all in one place?



Subject: NASA Plans to Remove Problematic Foam


The shuttle reminds me of the relativistic starship "Lewis And Clark" in Heinlein's "Time For The Stars", which finally got to its' destination after decades of earth time, only to be met by a faster than light vessel that left earth the day before yesterday. I would bet even money that the first Virgin Galactic flight with paying passengers to sub-orbital "space" will occur before another shuttle mission. Any takers?

Petronius The Arbiter Of Taste

Delendam Esse NASA






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Wednesday, December 29, 2005

What's happened to M3?


--- Roland Dobbins

One more thing to worry about. I have not heard the official explanation of why an important money measure is no longer to be published. I always worry when the government decides to keep economic secrets. Anyone know more? Knowledge preferred to speculation. I can speculate with the best of them...  And see below


Probably not connected:

Well, that didn't take long.


-- Roland Dobbins


Tale of the Radioactive Boy Scount?


-- Roland Dobbins

I only made nitroglycerine when I was a teenager. But that was prior to 1945 and we didn't know much about nuclear reactors...


Hello Dr. Pournelle,

In your Byte column "Last Minute Christmas Chaos" you wrote:

"That won't work if the hotel is recording your MAC address, but not all hotels do; some just go by room number."

If this does happen, one more thing that you can try is to use the MAC address cloning feature that many routers include. I do not know if your D-Link includes this feature, but I would be very surprised if it did not. So you would do this:

1. As you wrote, connect your PC to the hotel's network to handle the payment or terms and conditions acceptance or whatever.

2. On your PC open up a command shell.

3. Type "ipconfig /all". Somewhere in the printout is a section for your LAN adaptor. Mine shows up as "Ethernet adapter LAN:" In this section is a property labelled "Physical Address". This is the MAC address for your network controller.

4. Go to the setup of your router. Somewhere in there will be a section to enter a MAC address. (I very briefly googled "D-Link MAC Address cloning". It seems that on some routers it is in a section of the admin interface called "Useful Tools". I am not sure where it would be on your router.

5. Reboot everything, and connect the router to the hotel's network. You (hopefully!) will be connected.

Hope this helps you. It has worked for me in the past.

Best Regards,

Steve Barlow


"the only way I (or anyone) could be proclaimed Emperor would be by acclamation of the troops"

I suspect acclamation of the media would be an easier & more likely method. I don't consider that totally an improvement.

The world is more complicated than under the Caesars & even the present army would find it very difficult to control the media. There have been many coups carried out almost entirely by somebody (ok usually a low level officer like Gadaffi) seizing the national TV/radio station. Equally when the Russians occupied Czechoslovakia in ' 68 it took them almost a fortnight to control the media. Again see the revolutions against Milosevic, Georgia & the Ukraine. Unless you are actually willing to shoot into a crowd the military have very little option against a media savvy opposition. It took a lot to get the Chinese to do it & I seriously doubt if US troops would shoot on a US crowd, particularly on camera & everything is on camera now.

Neil Craig


RIAA strikes again

Bullied into submission.


-- Roland Dobbins


It's criminal, really.


-- Roland Dobbins

I loved the old BB's and they were certainly needed in Korea, but I guess they just aren't cost effective any longer. Missile boats are probably more useful. But sure loved them.


Interesting historical data on Britain

"A vision of Britain between 1801 and 2001. Including maps, statistical trends and historical descriptions."


- Pål Steinar Berg



Subject: What happened to M3

There just plain isn't much data available on why M3 is being discontinued.

The only things I've seen were in a somewhat specious article on Bloomberg written by Carolyn Baum in which she noted: "In the M3 review, the board staff determined the elimination would save roughly $500,000 a year for the board and Reserve banks and $1 million a year for depository institutions, according to a Fed board spokesperson." http://quote.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=10000039&refer=columnist_baum&sid=abJD2CVu7kHk  

I say specious for a number of reasons:

1. She parroted data from the Fed ("Fed spokesperson said that because M3 doesn't appear to contain any more relevant economic information than M2 and has a diminished role in the policy process (when did it ever have a role?), the costs of collecting and publishing the data outweigh the benefits."). A simple graph comparing the two (attached, original at http://jessel.100megsfree3.com/M3andM2.jpg courtesy of http://www.geocities.com/arthurcutten/jesse.html  ) shows the quite significant differences between M2 and M3. The benefits available from publishing it is that it's the widest measure of money available and is quite useful in prediction.

2. Since when does a central bank that has over $730 billion in its main system account ( per http://www.ny.frb.org/markets/soma/sysopen_accholdings.html  ) get concerned about $500 thousand?

3. She chose Robert McHugh to pick on in the conspiracy camp, and to my knowledge he's never even defined the PPT or the Executive Order (#12631) that established it in 1987, so is not a credible target or representative spokesperson in my opinion.

One last point, and one that has been missed in all of the comments about M3 going away. The reporting of repos is also being discontinued at the same time as M3. It is quite useful to say the least as a predictive aid - see the attached graph or my site at http://www.nowandfutures.com/images/repo_dow.png  which shows how closely it tracks with the Dow Jones Industrial Average once a simple 41 week lag is applied.

Overall, color me at least an unhappy camper that the Fed is becoming less transparent and open.

Warm regards,


Subject: What happened to M3

The Fed used to publish an even broader measure of money, which it called “L”. This was discontinued several years ago as well. I don’t know the exact reason for either measure being discontinued.

As others have pointed out it seems odd to be doing this as some sort of cost-cutting measure. The Fed has almost no incentive to cut costs, as it is a non-profit organization. By law any profits it earns must be turned over to general revenue of the federal government. The only incentive I can think of is don’t anger Congress to the point they revoke the Fed’s charter or legislate its behavior. Dropping M3 hardly seems like the kind of move that will buy lots of good will on Capitol Hill.

While there may be some nefarious reason, it’s more likely that the Fed is just not interested in broad measures of the money supply as indications of policy effectiveness. For quite a while the Fed has been targeting short-term interest rates (specifically the federal funds rate, which banks charge each other for very short term loans) and very broad measures of the money stock are not much use in that environment. Narrower measures are as are measurements of various types of bank reserves. I doubt the M3 figures have been examined seriously in policy meetings for some time, so why bother collecting the data?

Another reason for dropping the measure may be that the Fed views it as unreliable. There are lots of good substitutes for long-term time deposits, repurchase agreements & Eurocurrency accounts these days and including these three in M3 while excluding the others is somewhat arbitrary.

The Fed may not be reporting M3, but perhaps some other entity (government or other) could reconstruct it from publicly available data. There are many other agencies that gather and report bank data. Perhaps the Comptroller of the Currency at the Treasury Dept.?

Kerk Philips


Subject: Top 25 Censored Stories

The bit on the secrecy involved with the end of the M3 reminded me of the top story on the Top 25 Censored Stories List at http://www.projectcensored.org/censored_2006/index.htm 

Peter Phillips, director of Project Censored, was interviewed on the CBC radio program The Current. The interview can be heard in part 2 of the show at http://www.cbc.ca/thecurrent/2005/200512/20051228.html 

Brian Moore


CURRENT VIEW    Wednesday


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Thursday, December 29, 2005

Subject: Can Patents Deter Innovation?

Fascinating article about the "tragedy of the anticommons" - where scarce resources are underutilized because too many owners have rights to exclude each other:




Subject: Iraq's History Still Divides Children Of Mesopotamia

This is analysis and part of vital information you should know about Iraq. I believe that Iraqi nationalism and identity exists and can be fostered. The Iraqi people themselves know well the history of the area. And, they take pride in the cultural, political, religious, literary, artistic legacies of the area now known as Iraq. Observe a tea shop with the television on an Iraqi National Team football (soccer) game. It's not the Sunni National Team, or Shiite National Team, or Kurd National Team. It's the Iraqi National Team that the country identifies with. This may seem innocuous, but it is important. It doesn't mean there aren't divisions in the country (Hell NO, I won't ever forget! - uhmmm, there are distinct divisions in the US!), there are. But, under the Iraqi flag and the new constitution there is opportunity to forge a greater Iraq - the sum of all divisions.


Los Angeles Times December 29, 2005 Pg. 1

News Analysis

Iraq's History Still Divides Children Of Mesopotamia

By Borzou Daragahi and Louise Roug, Times Staff Writers


BAGHDAD — The myth of a unified Iraqi identity may have finally been laid to rest this month.

More clearly than any other measurement since the U.S.-led 2003 invasion, preliminary results from the Dec. 15 parliamentary elections show Iraq as three lands with three distinct identities, divided by faith, goals, region, history and symbols.

Iraqis of all stripes say they are the descendants of Mesopotamia, the glorious great-grandchildren of the cradle of civilization.

Iraq, they point out, gave birth to law and the written word. And asked their faith, Iraqis often testily answer with the refrain: "There is no Sunni. There is no Shiite. We are all Iraqi."

But the preliminary election results, which have trickled out through a series of haphazard leaks and news conferences and remain disputed by all parties, show a nation starkly fragmented into ethnic and religious cantons with different aims and visions.<snip>

My first advice on Iraq when we began the invasion was to partition it into three nearly independent states, with the United States (well the coalition) retaining control of the oil revenue: not for keeping the oil, but to pay the three nearly independent states so that there was no winner take all lottery for the oil. Use the money to build infrastructure and to reward success, apportioning the money in part on population and in part on need and in part on building national infrastructure; the goal to build a kind of Swiss confederacy. That would take many years, but it would not have required US occupation. A garrison to prevent across the border invasions, yes; but not an occupation.

I do not know if that will work now, but I suspect it is still a better idea than our attempts at national unity. But, I hasten to add, I am not there.


An exchange of views on Iraq. Note date of original message


Subject: Round 2 on the issue of weapons of cultural destruction

-----Original Message----- From: tnmartin1988  Sent: Wednesday, August 03, 2005 8:48 PM To: jerryp@jerrypournelle.com


I dislike to disagree, and twice in one day, with you after having read your columns since about 1982 (old Byte days when Cromemco, etc. were the Latest Thing.) But I must voice a concern. You have said, several times, that our presence in the Middle East is what causes "Them" to hate us, and removing from that area should reduce our attractiveness as a target. I think I've said that fairly. Forgive me if I was wrong as I've had a bad day (year) too.

I am not convinced this theory is correct. The Islamic jihadists have at least this much in common with the Marxist-Leninists, they are openly intent on conquering the whole world, and deny the right for non-believers to live in peace *anywhere*. Considering the historical record - the old presence in Spain, southern France, most of the Mediterranean lands, the Balkans, northeast Africa, southeast Asia, the "-stans", etc., one can think they are serious. I seem to recall that one of Osama's objectives is the return of al-Andalusia, otherwise known as a large chunk of Spain, to the control of the Caliphate he wants to recreate. They're still smarting over the Battle of Lepanto and want a re-match. I recently was told that some Muslim cleric has decreed an ancient claim to Australia. Most of the lands now called Muslim were not always so, and become so classified generally as the result of warfare of a fairly brutal sort. And, of course, the first bombing of the World Trade Center occurred before the bad excuse of US troops on the Arabian peninsula.

I fear that retreating to the CONUS and keeping a navy to maintain sea lanes will not work, at least in the long run. Eventually, either the forces of the new Caliphate (or the Chicom one) will be here, on the attack. Their belief system demands it.

Your points about the defense of the culture are well taken. I know of no quick way to get there from here. We could begin by razing all mosques and deporting all the Muslim clerics and their followers, but that soon leads to licensing religion, a cure worse than the disease. A robust defense of what we believe and why does seem to be in order. I don't think that can occur in the atmosphere of cultural relativism that seems to rule. Not in an era of Noam Chomsky and Ward Churchill. Perhaps you are right about the suicide of the West. And while I agree that despair is a sin, concern is not, and I'm at least good enough an engineer to be able to count the battalions and estimate the eventual winner. Dhimmitude is an unattractive future to me but others might bend the knee. I don't like the prospect of my children's children hiding in caves here in the Smokies.

Rog Martin

I replied:

----Original Message----- From: Jerry Pournelle [mailto:jerryp@jerrypournelle.com <mailto:jerryp@jerrypournelle.com> ] Sent: Thursday, August 04, 2005 4:44 AM ' Subject: RE: Round 2 on the issue of weapons of cultural destruction

No, I said that if we were not there and didn't need their oil they could not get at us. I don't care if they hate us. I can manage without being a tourist in Baghdad or Tehran or Riyadh

I don't think we ought to have helped them subdue the Serbs in the Balkans, either, but that wasn't on my watch. Let Europe worry about that.

Me I'd deport everyone who talks treason here, build up the Navy, and get the hell out of the Middle East. Let the Israelis do whatever they have to do. But come home.

They can't kill our soldiers if they can't get to them and coming here can be made exceedingly difficult for them. Meanwhile cultural weapons of mass destruction finish off their ability to do more than skulk about with suicide bombs.

Today this arrived:

Your message about being willing to forego tourism and the like is on track so far as it goes. While my totally amateur curiosity in ancient archeology would be frustrated by the lack of anyone doing digs in the Baghdad-Babylon area, I could live with limited tourist opportunities there, and Egypt never appealed to me.

And you are again right, the US had no national interests in the Balkan situation. The Europeans DID, and fulfilled that about as well as you might expect for those who have not yet recovered from 1914's events, and those following. We stepped in, and we are not the better for it.

Recovering a pro-American attitude and deporting anyone who talks treason here is more difficult. Ward Churchill is still on staff at CU. Edward Said's attitude is still the prevailing one in Middle Eastern Studies. Sami al- Arian in Florida. Noam Chomsky. John Kerry. Jane Fonda. Chris Dodd. And on and on. My late father-in-law had the dubious distinction of being shot down and a POW in two of this nation's wars, WW2 over Sicily and VietNam leading to a stay at the Hanoi Hilton. His attitude would be a bit different than that of much of the Senate. We can't even deport the ones clearly guilty of at least sedition, if not treason, covered under existing law - a thing you probably see daily. You really think we'll deport a new class of violator? And what of the jihadi who are native born US citizens? It's been a very long time since there were charges of treason brought, and I see none on the horizon. With the ACLU having the backing of so many in law, government, academia, media, etc., the prospects for such things are slim: I see the ACLU is already suing NYC over the subway searches. None of us want to end legitimate political disagreements, and the capacity to tell the difference between "legitimate" and seditious seems to have vanished as we chase relativism. Fixing that - ending cultural relativism, recovering a sense of who we are, and ending hyphenated-Americanism - has to happen, absolutely.

And here's the concern, and I admit to a level of caution that may sound excessive. The Muslim world at its height was built on conquest, generally of those who had no major issue with the Caliphate as such. Conquest as a way of life has its own internal logic and set of assumptions. If I understand Osama, part of his program is to recover the "lost" territories in places like Spain. My belief is that even if the US were to pull out of the entire rest of the world, even if we were totally self-sufficient for things like petroleum, even if we ended all involvement, even if we closed every mosque in the US and deported not only the radical clerics but all clerics and all Muslims of all shades, it would make no long-term difference. (And we know that none of that would happen, but bear with me.) At some point somewhere the forces of the New Caliphate would be massing at the borders. Islam is at heart a religion of conquest and domination. Our presence in the Middle East is a convenient excuse for barbaric acts, but if we were not there another excuse would be found. In any case, would we really sit back and allow the recovery of al-Andalusia? (although given our government's passivity in the face of a more local reconquista as the Aztlan nuts try to return much of the southeastern USA to Mexico, perhaps). The fact is that they CAN get at us - the oceans are no longer a useful moat, and our neighbors north and south are not what I would call allies. As your late friend RAH pointed out, wars are not won by defense, but by offense. We did not want or seek this war but it is upon us and I would prefer to win.

What I would really like to see is a recovery of the moral vitality that once characterized what we once knew as Western Civilization. The loss of the assurance that our ways are worthwhile, our history generally honorable, and our future in our own hands is worse than any petroleum shortage. I would be willing to argue that it is at the heart of many of the problems we see in Russia these days. That could be our own future as well.

Be well.

Rog Martin 

My views remain the same: we would have done better to invest in energy independence, with Afghanistan being our retaliation; but that is irrelevant now. We have committed the nation to rebuilding Iraq, and while I do not see a clear way to get there, I do see progress; there may be a time when we can leave on our own terms.

That does not mean that I would give up an energy policy that makes sense. We ought to be making ourselves independent of overseas oil. That mean oil drilling where there is oil we control. That means removing the legal barriers to nuclear power, and reversing the regulatory process so that nuclear plants are encouraged (as to waste, there are a dozen solutions to the problem including glassification and dropping them into a subduction zone, or stacking glass bricks in the desert behind a physical barrier; they don't need to be in a mine); encouraging space development to develop space solar power; and building a domestic battery and fuel cell industry. If we can afford the war without rationing and deprivation we can afford the long term solution to the Middle East problem...




CURRENT VIEW    Thursday


This week:


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Friday,  December 30, 2005

We begin with an intriguing question:

Is the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) a Marxist newspaper?

 At first glance, the answer may appear to be obviously not. However, a closer analysis shows that the WSJ is deeply Marxist, at least in some crucial respects. Of course, the WSJ does not claim to be Marxist. Indeed, the editors would almost certainly deny any such thing. However, history shows that Marxists are not shy about creating "front" organizations that advocate Marxist policies and ideas but deny any direction connection.

Notably the WSJ passionately advocates the same polices as other overtly Marxist groups. For example, "Political Affairs Online - Marxist Thought Online" has a long article (http://www.politicalaffairs.net/article/articleview/2425/1/137/)  on HR 4437, the immigration reform bill. Somewhat predictably, they oppose the bill. Alas, it has been a long time since Marxists actually supported higher wages for working people.

However, the real point is how precisely the WSJ follows the party (Communist that is) line on immigration. Whether this is because the WSJ is controlled by Marxists or because the WSJ simply shares common interests with them is not clear. However, both use exactly the same arguments for Open Borders.

1. "People will continue to come to the US so long as gross economic inequality grows between rich and poor countries" - This is standard fodder for the WSJ. Somehow we can't enforce our immigration laws and we shouldn't even try. Of course, it is not evident that the U.S. has tried to enforce its immigration laws for at least 35 years... The real point is that the wage gap between the U.S. and Mexico existed for many decades before 1970 and illegal immigration was nil. Why? Because before 1970 the U.S. did enforce its immigration laws both on an ongoing basis ("La Migra") and via periodic roundups of illegals (1920, 1930s, and in the 1950s via "Operation Wetback").

In more recent times, several nations, notably Japan, Singapore, Malaysia, and Finland have demonstrated that immigration laws can be enforced even with vast economic incentives for illegal immigration. How? By real and ongoing enforcement. Singapore and Malaysia have severe sanctions (caning for illegals and anyone who employs them). Finland has never allowed chain migration to start. Japan is similarly intolerant of illegal immigrants.

2. "The work of migrants is indispensable to many industries, from agriculture to construction" - The WSJ repeats this bromide with depressing regularity. Of course, the truth is otherwise. Before large scale migration resumed around 1970, the work got done in the U.S. with our own labor. In parts of the U.S. where illegals haven't taken over, the work somehow gets done by American citizens even now.

In truth, America has far more unemployed workers than employed illegals aliens. If you add discouraged and displaced workers the number of available Americans utterly dwarfs the number of illegals (perhaps 5:1). Once the illegals are removed wages, working conditions and benefits will rise to both improve the domestic supply of labor and too some extent reduce demand (some folks may have to cut their own lawns). Clearly as good Marxists, the WSJ regards the prospects of better wages and working conditions as intolerable.

It should be noted that wages for production workers have been falling for decades (since 1973). The minimum wage has been declining for even longer. Any suggestion that we have a labor "shortage" and need immigrants is easily refuted by the facts.

3. "Deporting or denying work to migrants does not create a single job for anyone else" - This is a standard trope of the WSJ. Clearly they are quite capable of articulating the party line. The truth is otherwise. Significant sectors of the U.S. economy have been taken over by illegals and are now closed to American workers. Meat packing provides a good example. At one time, meatpacking jobs paid wages sufficient to support a family. Corporate employers have been able to use illegal aliens to slash wages and almost completely remove American workers from these jobs. Similar shifts have occurred in construction, hospitality, car repair, etc. In every case, Americans have lost out at the hands of foreigners. Worse, illegal immigration has simultaneously raised housing costs (by increasing total population density), reduced mobility (gridlock), increased taxes, etc.

4. "Beefed-up border enforcement doesn't deter people from crossing" - This is really point one all over again and in this case it is true. A revolving door border patrol where illegals can try to enter the U.S. an infinite number of times really doesn't deter illegal immigration. A system where the border patrol and ICE are forbidden to arrest and remove illegals except at the border amounts to a "heads I win, tails the American people lose" non-enforcement system. However, a real border fence would work. Indeed, the shrieking in response to the proposed fence shows just how well such a fence might stop illegals.

Israel provides the best current example of the value of border fences. Apparently, not a single terrorist has been able to penetrate Israel's security barrier (mostly a fence, concrete in a few places to stop snipers). Given that suicide bomber wanna-be's are presumably more highly motivated than aspiring dishwashers, we can only expect better results in the U.S.

The points above are drawn directly from the Marxist Thought Online article and the editorial pages of the WSJ. However, the WSJ clearly takes a Marxist approach to immigration in other respects as well. A few examples:

1. Income Redistribution - Income redistribution is a standard Marxist theme. The idea that a free-market income distribution is somehow "unfair" is recurring left-wing thesis. Clearly the WSJ has similar views. Open Borders is a well documented tool for driving down wages and increasing both corporate profits and the incomes of wealthy executives. Not surprisingly the WSJ has no problem with "Robin Hood in reverse" immigration policies. Some measure of how well Open Borders is working in this respect can be found in the declining wage statistics citied above. However, the amazing increase in income inequality since 1970 including the vast rise in executive/worker wage ratios is perhaps a better measure of how Open Borders redistributes income in a manner conducive to the WSJ.

2. Subsidies - Good Marxists are always in favor of massive subsidies for their preferred goodies. For example, bread was cheaper than wheat in the former Soviet Union. Indeed, it was a crime to feed bread to farm animals. Of course, health care, housing, and public transportation were all lavishly funded with the best of Marxist intentions. The WSJ takes a similar line. It is a no-brainier to recognize that "cheap" immigrant labor is dearly expensive for society as a whole. Numerous studies have shown that immigrants are a serious burden on taxpayers at all levels of government. After all, who exactly pays the health care, education, food stamps, WIC, EITC, criminal justice, other social services, etc. that immigrants consume. Corporate employers? Not exactly. More a "we can get the profits and the taxpayers get the bill" kind of deal. Good capitalists insist that external costs be recognized and paid by those who impose them. Of course, as a Marxist organization the WSJ can't even contemplate such a thing.

Some may wonder why the WSJ would adopt a Marxist line on immigration. The answer should be clear. Free markets will never yield the consistently inflated profits the WSJ clearly slavers for. Marxism provides an alternative framework that can be used to justify any excess, no matter how egregious. Given the potential social and political instability Open Border may well bring, one might think the WSJ would be wary of mass uncontrolled immigration. Perhaps as good Marxists, the WSJ favors the complete immiseration the American people as a way of promoting radical social change (a key reason Marxists favor Open Borders). However, perhaps Lenin's comment about "selling the rope..." is the correct explanation.

Thank you

Peter S


The Finno-Ugrics: The dying fish swims in water



Russia finds outside support for its ethnic minorities threatening

IF YOU want to embarrass a Finn, and infuriate a Russian, raise your vodka glass to "Suuri Suomi--Uraliin asti!". That means "Greater Finland--to the Urals and beyond". It sounds fanciful, even potty. But it used to be real geopolitics. In the dying days of the Tsarist empire, a swathe of Russia bubbled with nationalist agitation among minorities, many with ethnic ties to Finland.

The Finns themselves got away for good. Their ethnic kinsfolk--the Komi, Mari, Udmurts and the like--managed it only briefly. In 1917-18 there was a big country in the middle of Russia called Idel-Ural (literally, "Volga-Ural") which united the Finno-Ugric (the "Ugric" because of distant cousinship with Hungary) and Turkic peoples in those areas. When it was crushed by the Bolsheviks in late 1918, its refugee foreign minister, Sadrí Maqsudí Arsal, got a warm welcome first in Finland and then Estonia.

In Russian nightmares at least, that spectre now looms again. According to Vladislav Surkov, an adviser to Vladimir Putin, there is a "premeditated system of operations" by Finland, Estonia and the European Union to fan discontent. The more nationalist papers have steamy stories of westerners plotting Russia's destruction. After Mr Putin said recently that foreign-financed groups should be subject to strict scrutiny by the Russian security agencies, a website with close ties to officialdom, news12.ru, said that pro-Mari pressure groups would now be investigated further (the site also accused "Estonian nationalists" of stoking riots in Paris).<snip>


Tourism in Iraq

Instant gratification society and abject lack of historical perspective. Then look to today's story of the Florida teenager who jaunts off to Iraq on his Christmas vacation from school and finds that; Hey, things are tough elsewhere! He writes in his school assignment, “There is a struggle in Iraq between good and evil, between those striving for freedom and liberty and those striving for death and destruction,”

Happy New Year!


December 29, 2005
 The Plague of Success
 The paradox of ever-increasing expectations.
 by Victor Davis Hanson
 National Review Online

After September 11 national-security-minded Democratic politicians fell over each other, voting for all sorts of tough measures. They passed the Patriot Act, approved the war in Afghanistan, voted to authorize the removal of Saddam Hussein, and nodded when they were briefed about Guantanamo or wiretap intercepts of suspect phone calls to and from the Middle East.

After the anthrax scare, the arrests of dozens of terrorist cells, and a flurry of al Qaeda fatwas, most Americans thought another attack was imminent — and wanted their politicians to think the same. Today's sourpuss, Senator Harry Reid, once was smiling at a photo-op at the signing of the Patriot Act to record to his constituents that he was darn serious about terrorism. So we have forgotten that most of us after 9/11 would never have imagined that the United States would remain untouched for over four years after that awful cloud of ash settled over the crater at the World Trade Center.

Now the horror of 9/11 and the sight of the doomed diving into the street fade. Gone mostly are the flags on the cars, and the orange and red alerts. The Democrats and the Left, in their amnesia, and as beneficiaries of the very policies they suddenly abhor, now mention al Qaeda very little and Islamic fascism hardly at all.

Apparently due to the success of George Bush at keeping the United States secure, he, not Osama bin Laden, can now more often be the target of a relieved Left — deserving of assassination in an Alfred Knopf novel, an overseer of Nazi policies according to a U.S. senator, a buffoon, and rogue in the award-winning film of Michael Moore. Yes, because we did so well against the real enemies, we soon had the leisure to invent new imaginary ones in Bush/Cheney, Halliburton, the Patriot Act, John Ashcroft, and Scooter Libby.<snip>


The Conclusion was inevitable, of course

Past Hot Times Hold Few Reasons to Relax About New Warming http://www.nytimes.com/2005/12/27/science/earth/27warm.html 


Earth scientists with the longest frames of reference, particularly those whose specialties begin with the prefix "paleo," often seem to be the least agitated about human-caused global warming.

This has been true even in 2005, a year that saw the biggest summer retreat of Arctic sea ice ever measured, a new sign that warming seas are rising at an accelerating pace and global temperatures continuing a sharp climb that began around 1990 and appears unmatched in 2,000 years. But these backward-looking experts have seen it all before.

Recent studies have found that 49 million years ago the balmy Arctic Ocean, instead of being covered in ice, was matted with a cousin of the duckweed that cloaks suburban frog ponds. The forests on the continent now called Antarctica and on shores fringing the Arctic were once thick and lush.

And through hundreds of millions of years, concentrations of carbon dioxide and the other trace gases that trap solar energy and prevent the planet from being an ice ball have mostly been far higher than those typical during humankind's short existence.

Compared with that norm, the rapid buildup of carbon dioxide now from a binge of burning forests, coal and oil lasting for centuries (and counting) is but a blip

In fact, the planet has nothing to worry about from global warming. A hot, steamy earth would be fine for most forms of life. Earth and its biological veneer are far more resilient than human societies, particularly those still mired in poverty or pushed to the margins of the livable.

Only we humans have to be concerned, and species like polar bears that, like the poorest people, are pushed to an edge - in the bear's case the tenuous ecosystem built around coastal sea ice.

Henk Brinkhuis, a paleoecologist and botanist at Utrecht University in the Netherlands, said it might be hard to get used to the idea, but the Arctic as we have known it for centuries "is history."

He said this may spell doom for polar bears, a species that branched off from brown bears only about 250,000 years ago - an evolutionary blink of the eye.

Still, this is a special case, not necessarily a blow to the prospects of mammals in general.

The world's last huge warm spike, the Paleocene Eocene Thermal Maximum some 55 million years ago, preceded "the biggest radiation in mammals ever," Dr. Brinkhuis said.

"The first horses, cows, the first primates had their origin right around then," Dr. Brinkhuis said. "It may be that the extinction of the polar bear would be followed by all kinds of new species in return."

None of this means that humans should simply embrace their fossil-fueled potency without regard to the effects. In fact, many scientists say, if we value the world as it is, there are still strong, and purely self-serving, reasons to start curbing releases of carbon dioxide and the other greenhouse gases.<snip>

Of course this assumes that fossil fuel burning is the cause of global warming, just as it presumably was 50 million years ago...


No Child Gets Ahead?

Conspicuously missing from the debate over the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act is a discussion of how it has hurt many of our most capable children. By forcing schools to focus their time and funding almost entirely on bringing low-achieving students up to proficiency, NCLB sacrifices the education of the gifted students who will become our future biomedical researchers, computer engineers and other scientific leaders.



All of which was predictable, and certainly predicted by me if by no one else. Not so well noticed is the effect of class structure: those who can afford good schools for their bright kids send them outside the public school system. Bright kids born to poor families remain in the public school system where they learn the mechanics of gang management.

We sow the wind.




This week:


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Saturday, Saturday, December 31, 2005

Subject: Someone has been listening to you



The above link tells how the Thais have been dealing with their terrorist problem. I think the Thais must have been reading your View section.


Actually we do have several subscribers from Thailand. But the strategy seems obvious enough.


Talin on Copyright

Subject: The copyright debate 


I am glad to see that the copyright debate seems to be on track, in the sense that we are at least arguing about the right things.

I've tended to find that the subject of copyright can be framed in several ways, and that unless the parties in the debate can agree on a common frame, you can't even have a debate, let alone come to an agreement. Instead, what you get is a bunch of people using the same words to mean different things.

For me, the first step in the copyright debate is to establish whether copyright is a social convention or a natural law. If copyright is a natural law, then the debate ends there, since there's nothing anyone can do about it. Its like trying to debate the moral value of gravity, or the value of PI.

On the other hand, if copyright is a convention (or as I like to think of it, a social contract), then it may be fruitful to consider how the rules of the contract should be written. It transforms the debate from an abstract moral discussion that can never be resolved, into a practical one, where we can weigh the merits of various options and their benefits to society. In other words, it changes from philosophy into engineering.

For this reason, I tend to push pretty hard on the "copyright as social contract" argument in the early parts of the debate. From reading the comments on the site, I can see that we have pretty much passed that hurdle. We can negotiate over contract terms, rather than arguing how many angels can dance on the head of a scanning electron microscope.

The fact that the social contract is mutable is proved by the fact that it *has* mutated - our informational rights have taken drastically different forms in different historical periods. And we have not even begun to exhaust the possibilities.

Now, to some specific points:

1) You never heard me use the phrase "Information wants to be free." Actually, the complete quote is "Information wants to be free. Information wants to be expensive." The intent was not to create a rallying cry for CD burners, but instead to bring into sharp relief the contradictions of how we think about information. Its purpose is not to bring clarity, but to highlight confusion, which it does very well. What it does not do, however, is serve as any meaningful basis for a debate.

2) Kent Peterson's comment "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."

Absolutely! I applaud the sentiment. Defenstration is absolutely the correct response to technology that does not serve us.

3) Some notes on moral rights and the Driot Morale. First, take note that everything I said above about social contracts and such does *not* apply to these moral rights. My view is that these rights are different from copyrights, they derive from a very different part of the law, and debates about them should be firewalled from the copyright debate.

If I write something odious and claim that you wrote it, that's a kind of slander. It has nothing to do with the social contract of copyright. Similarly, if I claim to have written something that in fact your creation, it not merely your livelihood that I am threatening, but also your reputation.

(And for the record, I am a strong supporter of these moral rights. Specifically, I feel that it is wrong to misstate the provenance of a work.)

4) Right of first sale. It has been pointed out that, just as people will pay more for a car that they believe has a high resale value, so too will they place a higher value on new books if they know that they can recoup part of the cost later by reselling the book to a used book store.

Each additional restriction put upon a copyrighted work decreases its utility, and thus its value to the consumer. Moreover, it makes the value of the "pirated" version higher in relation to the legal version. Despite png's assertions to the contrary, many pirated works are in fact *superior* in quality to the authorized version - because the pirated version can be played on an iPod, while the authorized version cannot.

So from the consumer's point of view, it is not merely a choice between breaking the law and saving a few bucks to get essentially the same thing - its a choice of whether you want a degraded, crippled version of the work or not. Many people who would, through a sense of honesty, be willing to pay money for a work that they could get for free, might waver in their resolve when they realize how much less utility they are getting for their money.

For example, although I personally have not done so (yet) I would consider it perfectly moral to buy an authorized copy of a work, and then obtain a pirated copy of same with the copy protection removed.

5) The claim that if DRM gets too annoying, market forces will correct the problem. Ahhh, the Market. I am not so much a believer in the "invisible hand" as many here I suspect. In fact, I am certain that Adam Smith himself was more skeptical about it than many here :)

Actually, I pretty much agree with Smith with one small modification: replace "intervention by government" with "intervention by any actor with global reach." As long as the market consists of a distributed network of entities whose size is relatively small compared with the scale of the market as a whole, the market will self-regulate and the price of items will reflect something close to their actual value to the consumer. But when one participant in the market (or in a market sector) becomes large enough that their influence on the market becomes systemic and global, then all bets are off.

(OK, so there are other problems with Smith, but I won't go into them here.)

Because of this, I truly am worried about the day when I will no longer be able to buy a computer that does not have an UnTrusted Computing chip in it. My chosen profession pretty much requires me to upgrade my personal system every few years - this is one of the overhead costs of being a software engineer. At the same time, however, I absolutely will *not* buy a computer that I cannot completely control if I wanted to.

I think about this in the way that apocalyptic Christians think about the Mark of the Beast - how will I react when the day comes, and I have to make the choice? Do I give in and accept the Mark, or do I find another line of work? I only hope that they day comes after I retire - and that the hardware that I already have doesn't become uselessly obsolete before I die.

-- Talin

Very few of those who argue what Adam Smith thought have taken the trouble to read him. Smith was convinced that capitalists were the greatest enemies of capitalism, and desired nothing more (as a class) than to conspire to use government to restrict entry into their chosen field of endeavor. General Motors never worried much about Ford or Chrysler or Nash or even Studebaker; it was new entrants without the encumbrances of labor and pension contracts that terrified them.

Smith never opposed tariff as such; he opposed unreasonable tariff. Tariff is a perfectly reasonable way to raise revenue, and "tariff for revenue only" (as opposed to tariff for protection of industry) was at one time the slogan of the Democratic Party, particularly in the South where Northern dominated Republican Congresses tried to prevent development of cotton weaving mills in the South through imposition of really abominable tariffs on importation of weaving machinery. You will not find Adam Smith among those who oppose my 10% across the board tariff on all imports. It would raise revenue, and simultaneously give a bit of protection to native industries faced with EPA, minimum wage, compulsory health care, rising pension costs, and other social benefits we insist on for domestic industry, thus forcing those industries to seek ways to export as many jobs as possible.

The real disagreements in copyright have to do with predicting capabilities: will DRM be possible at a price people will pay (price in convenience of operating their systems, not so much monetary)?

The trend to insisting on crippling devices in desktop computers is certainly one to watch. I have no special insights for predicting what will happen. I do have great confidence in the ingenuity of American programmers and the EFF community in finding ways to overcome nearly any restriction Congress may try to impose. I also note that when Brazil tried to restrict access to computers not meeting requirements of the Brazilian government, the smuggling industry thrived, so much so that smugglers had advertisements in the Yellow Pages, and gave warranties.

My own view is that we are only a few years away from having iPod-like gadgets that substitute for paperback books, and the paperback book industry as we know it -- as a mass market phenomenon -- is doomed. It is already suffering from very low profits. O'Reilly and others have made the "trade paper" industry profitable, but an O'Reilly best seller sells very few copies compared to a mainstream paperback best seller (or even to a mainstream hardbound best seller). Most O'Reilly authors make their income from early sales; there are only a few computer books that have a thriving backlist market with royalties to authors. Part of this is due to obsolescence (which gives authors the opportunity for revising their works and having them reissued) but I suspect part of it is due to piracy: why spend a lot of time and effort running down a print copy of a book already fading into obsolescence  when you can access all its information for free?

And Amazon's tendency to list used books in competition with new right on the same page and often simultaneously with the issue of the book must certainly cut into author (and publisher) revenues. Most author revenue comes from the first six months; there are far fewer books that, like MOTE, have been in print for thirty years and earn decent backlist royalties over all that time, and books like, say, Jacqueline Suzanne's works (Peyton Place, Valley of the Dolls, The Love Machine) that flash across the publishing sky like meteors, then just about disappear from view.

The whole publishing industry, like the entertainment industry, is in flux, and while I think I see more of the future than most, I find my crystal ball gets pretty cloudy when I try to look very deep.




CURRENT VIEW     Saturday

This week:


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Sunday, January 1, 2006

Subject: Spaceflight regulations  discussion

Dr. Pournelle,

This is my response to some discussion in another forum about the proposed commercial spaceflight regulations. It's a bit long but hopefully I don't repeat myself too much.

The discussion about requiring a pilots license with instrument rating is pretty detailed in the proposal, and it's going to be a hot issue. The proposal goes back and forth about the merits of requiring a pilots license and instrument rating vs. requiring that the space pilot applicant demonstrate competence in some other fashion, and I think that for the purposes of this initial and temporary set of regulations, requiring a pilots license and instrument rating is probably the best/cheapest/least intrusive option.

The logic used in the proposal is that regardless of the nature of the spacecraft, winged or not, powered or not, piloting it will undoubtedly require knowledge of the national airspace system and the ability to perform piloting tasks under disorienting conditions by reference to instruments alone. The closest civilian formal certification process in existence that mirrors those basic skills is a pilots license with instrument rating.

The other side of the coin is that in the absence of this requirement, a spaceflight applicant would be required to demonstrate competency. But how would they do so to the satisfaction of an FAA examiner? Even ignoring the fact that each spaceship will be different and require a different knowledge/skill set, except for a few multi-million dollar simulators owned by NASA, there are no FAA certified spaceship simulators on the planet. So the process of certifying a spaceship pilot would begin with FAA certification and approval of a sufficiently realistic and equivalent simulator and examination process. My guess is that this requirement alone would be cost prohibitive. How could an applicant with no current aeronautic certifications or qualifications prove that he is competent without demonstrating many hours of performance under sufficiently demanding circumstances, including emergency procedures training and proficiency? And the applicant would still have to be knowledgeable enough of the national airspace system to pass a competency exam, which would require some sort of ground school academic course.

In the face of the challenges involved in creating a new spaceship pilot rating without any historic (civilian) background to give perspective and insight into what skills are actually required, it seems only logical to follow the two-step requirement outlined in the proposal. The pilot must have a pilots license and instrument rating which ensures a specific skillset is already in place, plus there must be a demonstrated effort to be competent in the spacecraft to be utilized. No spacecraft pilot performance standards can be set without knowing what is going to really be required, until there is some data to dig through. This way, everyone benefits at the lowest price point possible.

In a decade or two, I expect we'll see a new set of pilots license categories, including specific types such as powered and unpowered winged spaceflight, vertical landing (also powered and unpowered), with modifiers for ballistic, lift-aided, ground launch, or air-launch takeoffs. I don't think there's enough data or enough time to come up with the standards before it's time to authorize more launches and commercial operation however, so as an interim fix I think they're on the right path.

Those griping about the proposed licensing requirements ought to be careful what they ask for, because if they get it they'll probably be far less happy with the regulatory alternative. There is no way the FAA or congress will let the spaceships fly without some sort of pilot and crew certification process, so the question right now is if we would rather use the current certification process that most closely matches what we think will be the required skillset and come up with new ratings after we have some data to work with, or should the FAA shoot from the hip and halt all flights until they come up with a complete new certification process for spaceflight ratings, including all the ancillary requirements such as ground school, FAA certified simulators for checkrides and maintaining currency/proficiency, etc?

I'd rather see them get on with it and start flying. Using the military as a worst-case example, at the end of 6 months, a USAF student pilot is capable of passing an instrument checkride in a primary twin jet trainer. Although earning USAF wings will take an additional 6 months of advanced training, the student should possess the skills of an FAA certified private pilot with instrument rating after the first 6 months of training. In a civilian environment, such training should cost well under $10,000 and would take anywhere from 3 months to a year, depending on student and instructor skill and motivation. Compare that with the cost of proving to an FAA examiner (or board of examiners) that your spaceship simulator is an accurate representation of your real spaceship, then convincing the examiner using only this spaceship simulator that you possess the ability to perform every possible task including emergency procedures while in microgravity, under thrust, and in an all-axis coupled tumble under power while undergoing rapid decompression... If that sounds like an exaggeration, check into EP simulator checkrides that commercial airline, NASA astronauts, and military pilots must go through. It's all very expensive. For the purpose of helping get civilian commercial spaceflight going, I prefer the pilots license plus instrument rating requirement.

Sean Long


The Army, Faced with Its Limits.


- Roland Dobbins

Unfortunately it's all true. Imperial action is expensive, and keeping a volunteer force in the field is difficult. We could attempt a Foreign Legion, but we have little experience in such matters. The United States needs to decide just who we are.




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