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Mail 409 April 10 - 16, 2006






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Monday  April 10, 2006

And SEE MAIL from the weekend

Harry Erwin's Letter From England

Subject: Letter from England

They're *still* barking mad, and not just in the UK

Opposition to funding for faith schools: http://education.guardian.co.uk/schools/story/0,,1748953,00.html
The NUT sometimes seems well-named.

 Banks accounts do cost money... Pay me now or pay me later, it'll cost more later.

Beating speed cameras http://observer.guardian.co.uk/uk_news/story/0,,1750138,00.html 

Secret NHS plan to ration patient care http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2-2122800,00.html

Jail for anti-war tea party outside Parliament http://news.independent.co.uk/uk/legal/article356271.ece

Secret story of the London bombings http://observer.guardian.co.uk/uk_news/story/0,,1750139,00.html

Al-Qaeda now recruiting in Gaza http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2089-2125228,00.html 


And in Iraq, the conflict continues http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2089-2125230,00.html

-- Harry Erwin, PhD, Program Leader, MSc Information Systems Security, University of Sunderland. http://scat-he-g4.sunderland.ac.uk/~harryerw


Subject: On the Voice Analyzers

I found the descriptions on their web site to be fascinating. However, being 99% ignorant on the technology, I e-mailed them asking how well it really works on mentally disabled people; such as autism, bi-polar disorder, or schizophrenia. Maybe they'll even send me an answer.

No matter what, this places an entirely new emphasis on people's Miranda rights. "You have the right to remain silent."

Come to think of it, "It is better to be silent and thought a fool, than to speak and remove all doubt" has never been more true.

Mike Houst New Hampshire

"The best laid schemes o' mice and men gang aft a-gley." -Robert Burns "To A Mouse"(1785)

"Proper planning prevents 'pathetically' poor performance" - Paraphrase of common USAF saying


Subject: decentralization in SF and Christian Johnny in Iraq

Hi Jerry,

Your correspondent last week who listed notable works in SF that were critical of centralization and its effects glaringly left out your own works set in the Co Dominium.

As regards mercenaries, the 10 April Army Times had an article detailing the proposal by the co-founder of Blackwater Security to field a Brigade sized unit for specific, limited combat missions. I'd include a link, but the online edition will only allow subscribers to download the story, and I've let my subscription lapse.

I suspect that you must feel a bit like Jeremiah: Civilization hell-bent towards a destruction that you predicted over a quarter century ago.

On a more positive note, only two more weeks until I stop teaching rifle marksmanship to other people's children, and pick up where I left off teaching my own two years ago.

Fight the Good Fight,

Dave Porter


Mr. Pournelle,

I found that article about quantum computers that run anyway even when the photon that is supposed to start them never got there VERY interesting.

I have some other problems concerning quantum computers:

(1) I understand that they are supposed to run in parallel many steps that are in series in a regular computer and thus get their answers in perhaps one step, rather than the many series of “baby” steps in a regular computer (I am a programmer who did most of his work in assembly language and am quite familiar with the L-O-N-G way!). However, I have a problem in understanding how the computer is caused to STOP at the end with the “best” solution to the problem given it. If you interrupt it during its run, it ceases to work (the half-dead cat problem), so you have to let it stop itself, I assume, when it is done. What makes it select the “best” answer from all of the possible answers by itself?

(2) What if you create a, say, terabyte-size database array of qbits to be processed by the quantum computer program. Those qbits are always simultaneously in ALL POSSIBLE values and patterns ALL AT THE SAME TIME. Thus, that database, even when not set to anything, is ALREADY set to all possible information that can be contained in a terabyte-size array just by EXISTING. How can you set it to a particular data set (your books, say) without forcing the qbits to take on discrete values, which would cause the entire system to collapse? If the database is already in all possible states, how do you extract the ONE state that represents the information needed to get the “best” solution to your program?

(3) In light of the above, I have an idea for an Sci-Fi story where the hero, a cosmologist who uses “regular” quantum computers in the near future, is given for free a new type of experimental quantum computer to act as a beta tester – he does lots of BIG computations and is considered a good tester to wring out the bugs. This new type is a “second order” quantum computer that can simulate ALL POSSIBLE quantum computers: It does not solve problems directly, but reconfigures itself into the optimum quantum computer design that will give the best answer and THAT computer then solves the problem. What this results in is what makes the stories interesting: Since ALL POSSIBLE means just that, the machine configures itself into versions that include components that the human race does not use at that time (perhaps not ever), but SOME OTHER RACE(S) DID IN THE PAST, DO NOW, OR WILL DO IN THE FUTURE and the machine does not care anything about time (forward, backward, now, then, all the same to it!) or distance (“entanglement” shows this). The machine thus starts to give “solutions” that are WAY beyond the answers that the hero expects: Need to go see something at the far side of the universe? It gives you the blueprints of some kind of super-starship ENTERPRISE so that you can go there and see for yourself (a rather tame answer, that). It doesn’t care how unlikely the result is, as long as it is not completely impossible, merely that it is the closest to the “best” solution answering the question posed to it – it uses ALL POSSIBLE paths, after all, no matter where or when those paths go. The scary thing is, I am not sure that this is science fiction. Can something like that REALLY be made?

Nathan Okun

Everyone finds quantum effects spooky. Even Richard Feynman thought them weird; but he was able to deal with them anyway.

This may be the path to Vernor Vinge's singularity.


Subject: Re: H. Beam Piper

I was under the impresion that the copyrights to H. Beam Piper's books had been assigned to you after his death. Is that true? Or were you just granted the right to write in the "Fuzzy and Lord Kalvan" universes? It appears that some of Piper's books were not renewed and as such have gone into the public domain. Little Fuzzy was released onto the web tonight by Project Gutenberg and they are vey careful about copyrights.

David Reed

All of Beam Piper's literary rights were sold flat out to Ace Books by his widow for a rather small amount. She also sold his gun collection for funeral expenses. Beam had given me certain rights to use characters and backgrounds in his stories, and that was recognized by Ace. I have no idea what was done with those copyrights. Beam died in 1964, and at the time his works were under the 28 years plus renewal law; how much of that was retroactively included in the "life plus" revisions of the Copyright Act I don't know. It's possible that Ace has allowed Beam's works to slip into public domain, which I am sure his widow would approve. They were not on good terms,  but she understood that he was an important writer. But Ace owned the rights to everything.


Subject: Major essay on Western self-loathing from the Brussels Journal, must-read.

Major essay on Western self-loathing from the Brussels Journal, must- read.


---- Roland Dobbins




This week:


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Tuesday,  April 11, 2006

Subject: War to the Knife and Why We Fight

Dear Jerry,

In the process of researching the phrase "War to the Knife" for an essay I was writing for my livejournal, I stumbled across Eric Raymond's "Anti-Idiotarian Manifesto". <URL: http://www.catb.org/~esr/aim/

I thought it was interesting in light of Dan Simmons' short story you posted the other day. As always, I remain,

Your Fan, Preston A. Rickwood, Lilburn, Georgia, USA

Partial quote from <URL: http://www.catb.org/~esr/aim/

WHEREAS, the period since the terrible events of 9/11 has exposed the vacuity and moral confusion of all too many of the thinkers, politicians, and activists operating within conventional political categories;

WHEREAS, the Left has failed us by succumbing to reflexive anti-Americanism; by apologizing for terrorist acts; by propounding squalid theories of moral equivalence; and by blaming the victims of evil for the act of evil;

WHEREAS, the Right has failed us by pushing ‘anti-terrorist’ measures which bid fair to be both ineffective and prejudicial to the central liberties of a free society; and in some cases by rhetorically descending to almost the same level of bigotry as our enemies;

WHEREAS, even many of the Libertarians from whom we expected more intelligence have retreated into a petulant isolationism, refusing to recognize that, at this time, using the state to carry the war back to the aggressors is our only practical instrument of self-defense;

Whitaker Chambers refused to call himself Liberal or Conservative; he was, he said, "A man of the Right" having been a professional Communist revolutionary. His book Cold Friday is still vital for understanding the attractions of the Left.

I wouldn't call the Jacobin measures we seem to be taking measures of "The Right". I don't call neoconservatism very conservative, either. As to "isolationism", no, I am not an isolationist, but I am more "Isolationist" than Wilsonian Interventionist, and I am certainly not in favor of Jacobin measures. Intervention in defense of America is always legitimate, but the only way we can run the world is as an empire. I am not convinced that we must go imperial to make it stick (a phrase from Fletcher Pratt about Athens). I believe we can preserve the Republic without having expeditionary armies all over the world, and without being involved in a land war in Asia.

And I don't think we know how to plant democracy in the Middle East. If that makes me an isolationist, I suppose it does. But I prefer to choose my interventions, and if I am going to carry the war to the enemy, I prefer to choose the time and place and nature of the battle. Not all wars are won by sending in the soldiers. Sometimes they are won with silver bullets.

If I were in charge of strategy vis-a-vis Iran, I would seriously consider subsidizing the sales of iPods. Millions of iPods. Floods of iPods...


Subject: More views of Swift


Souda Bay, Crete, Greece (April 10, 2006) - U.S. Navy High-Speed Vessel (HSV 2) Swift arrives for a routine port visit. Swift, currently manned by its Blue Crew, is assigned as the command ship for Commander Mine Warfare Command (COMINEWARCOM) located in Ingleside, Texas. U.S. Navy photo[s] by Mr. Paul Farley


* "People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf." --George Orwell

Phil's crew takes over Swift shortly. At the moment his crew is in the US training at Norfolk.


Subject: FW: Followup on On the Voice Analyzers

Tools used by humans. Alas, humans are all too fallible, or lazy. Why do I get the feeling that the cops in the attempt at expediency might drag some crazy innocent homeless guy off the streets, work on him for a few hours convince him he commited the crime, and then confess to it under voice stress analysis to 'prove' that he did it?

Reminds me of something I heard about law students being told that the legal/justice system in the United States today is not about determining right or wrong, or truth, or guilt; but about conflict and dispute resolution.

Mike Houst
New Hampshire

-----Original Message-----
 From: Nemesysco Security
 Sent: Tuesday, April 11, 2006 11:16 AM
To: Houst, Michael
Subject: ?????: ?????: A question

Dear Mr. Houst,

I understand your concerns, and it is indeed a concern of ours too. However, the questioning methodology using any of our products for legal/criminal issues is designed with different purposes in mind. The purpose of using LVA in criminal investigation is not to obtain the black/white indication if the person is indeed guilty or not, but to go much beyond that and to follow his “trail of thoughts” so to say, in order to (1) make sure the suspect is indeed showing “normal” behavior over time, and (2) to obtain further links to be verified using standard tools of investigation, for example, names of other people involved, locations, types of weapons etc… Please note LVA is not a “lie detector” like the polygraph is, but a full investigation system, designed to progress the investigation rather than to place judgment… I know this is a common misunderstanding of the nature of our systems.

I hope I successfully expressed my self, and I’ll be happy to answer any further.



This is a matter of considerable interest, and we will return to the implications at another time.


Subject: Global Warming Rebuttal

Jerry: From the Telegraph (UK), a reasonably rational rebuttal to "global warming"

xml=/opinion/2006/04/09/do0907.xml&sSheet=/news/2006/04/09/ixworld.html  <http://www.telegraph.co.uk/opinion/main.jhtml?


It is a truism that almost any sect, cult, or religion will legislate its creed into law if it acquires the political power to do so, and will follow it by suppressing opposition, subverting all education to seize early the minds of the young, and by killing, locking up, or driving underground all heretics. Lazarus Long


Subject: Fred Kaplan on nuking Iran

This has some speculation on why the use of bunker buster nukes is being discussed: http://www.slate.com/id/2139610/ 

I hope those who believe that Bush makes decisions solely on the basis of instinct and faith are wrong. As you point out, this needs careful analysis and thoughtful consideration of the long-term consequences.

CP, Connecticut


Subject: smart paint roller

Do you have a need to paint a sign quickly? Well there's this thing called the Pixel Roller <http://random-international.squarespace.com/pixelroller-overview/> .

This will load an amazing video. OK, amazing to me, I put myself through college as a painter.

Cheers, Fred

It is rather amazing!


Subject: Garage-lab bioweapons -

MIT's Technology Review March/April 2006 magazine has a very interesting -- and scary -- article about garage-lab-style bioweapons. One of the major sources for the article was a key player in the old Soviet bioweapons program. The article is:

"The Knowledge: Biotechnology’s advance could give malefactors the ability to manipulate life processes--and even affect human behavior"


On page 7 of the online article, there are some interesting comments about modifying memory function. Notice the impact of modifying the methyl group at C7.

Technology Review also published a rebuttal to the article: http://www.technologyreview.com/BioTech/wtr_16459,306,p1.html 

Although I hope the rebuttal author is correct, I'm afraid we need to bet with the author of The Knowledge.

--Gary Pavek


From another conference:

> She says that the white South
> African elites are very poorly behaved indeed when it comes to booze
> and sex,

A few years ago, when I visited South Africa, I was shown around by two schoolteachers. They said the white kids were into sex and drugs because they regarded their future as hopeless, due to institutionalized discrimination against whites.


An observation. I have not been in South Africa since the end of the old regime.


Subject:  [NYT] How to Lose the Brain Race

Other industrial democracies are reshaping their immigration policies to invite the skilled immigrants that the U.S. turns away.




Subject: Delta Procurement Costs

Someone from the inside admits the fix was in.


Wayne Eleazer spent 25 years in the US Air Force, serving as the Thor program manager, GPS integration manager, Atlas test director at Vandenberg Air Force Base, and led the space launch section of the Air Force Acquisition Directorate of the Secretariat in the Pentagon. Prior to his retirement in 1999 at the rank of lieutenant colonel, he served as chief of advanced planning of the 45th Space Wing at Patrick Air Force Base, Florida, responsible for initial planning of EELV and other launch operations at Cape Canaveral.


 Now, take the $25 million that a commercial Delta cost in 1979, add a few million bucks to pay for the performance upgrades that were done, apply the official DoD inflation indices for that type of hardware so to adjust the price up to 1989 dollars, and you reach a 1989 equivalent price of $45 million per launch. Then compare that price to what the Air Force actually was paying for the Delta 2 in 1989, which was… $45 million a launch.

What this means is that under its new, commercial-style procurement the Air Force was paying the inflated commercial price for the Delta. Furthermore, for its multi-unit, multi-year buy, it was paying the price that a non-government user would have paid for a single launch. And whether you are buying eggs, socks, or Cadillacs, if you buy a couple of dozen of something you normally get them for a much cheaper per-unit cost than if you buy just one.

Yep. Regarding the $600 toilet seats: when I was at Boeing, Human Factors had some inputs into the design of the toilets for the B-52. Due to the confined space and irregular shape, the toilets including the seats were entirely non-standard (you wouldn't like them unless you had to use them). We urged USAF to buy spares. They didn't have money for spares. Boeing didn't have any provision for warehousing unbought spare parts. Once the airplanes were delivered, the production lines were closed.

Decade later: USAF found that toilets wear out. They needed new ones, and new seats. They needed about a hundred of them. We found that the setup costs were tens of thousands of dollars due to the irregular shape. The average cost came out to about $500 per seat for the 100 they wanted. The 101'st seat would have been about twenty bucks. We urged them to buy a lot of spares. They didn't have the money for spares. The order was filled, the line was closed down, and a few years later they needed another hundred or so...

But of course that's not the same story. But I did want to point out that sometimes the obvious isn't so obvious...




This week:


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Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Subject: Climate of Fear: Global-warming alarmists intimidate dissenting scientists into silence


Al Perrella/IDA

Climate of Fear Global-warming alarmists intimidate dissenting scientists into silence.

BY RICHARD LINDZEN Wednesday, April 12, 2006 12:01 a.m. EDT

There have been repeated claims that this past year's hurricane activity was another sign of human-induced climate change. Everything from the heat wave in Paris to heavy snows in Buffalo has been blamed on people burning gasoline to fuel their cars, and coal and natural gas to heat, cool and electrify their homes. Yet how can a barely discernible, one-degree increase in the recorded global mean temperature since the late 19th century possibly gain public acceptance as the source of recent weather catastrophes? And how can it translate into unlikely claims about future catastrophes?

The answer has much to do with misunderstanding the science of climate, plus a willingness to debase climate science into a triangle of alarmism. Ambiguous scientific statements about climate are hyped by those with a vested interest in alarm, thus raising the political stakes for policy makers who provide funds for more science research to feed more alarm to increase the political stakes. After all, who puts money into science--whether for AIDS, or space, or climate--where there is nothing really alarming? Indeed, the success of climate alarmism can be counted in the increased federal spending on climate research from a few hundred million dollars pre-1990 to $1.7 billion today. It can also be seen in heightened spending on solar, wind, hydrogen, ethanol and clean coal technologies, as well as on other energy-investment decisions.

But there is a more sinister side to this feeding frenzy. Scientists who dissent from the alarmism have seen their grant funds disappear, their work derided, and themselves libeled as industry stooges, scientific hacks or worse. Consequently, lies about climate change gain credence even when they fly in the face of the science that supposedly is their basis.<snip>


Subject: Economic incentives for global warming

The global warming debate is about more than just bad science but rent seeking behavior. The hottest sector in venture capital is green tech right now just look at the net 83,000 jobs. Canada and Europe already have cap-and- trade for CO2 and in the US for acid rain polluters. CO2 caps in California will drive businesses to buy all sorts of new technology from guess which venture-backed firms? Could we have a future Enron bankrupt trading on CO2 contracts?



Three studies of California's goals for greenhouse gas reductions have found little or positive economic impact, with the governor's own advisory team reporting a net gain of 83,000 jobs.

But Margo Thorning, chief economist for the American Council for Capital Formation, said those studies use "non-mainstream" assumptions. Other studies of greenhouse regulations in the U.S. Northeast and Europe found substantial costs, including higher heating and vehicle fueling costs for families.

"If they spend more to insulate their houses, they might not be able to spend as much money on other things," she said.

Thorning also voiced doubts that creating a cap-and-trade program will nudge ahead the kind of technological advances needed to capture greenhouse emissions from fossil fuel burning or find new, carbon-free energy sources.

Manufacturers said much the same thing in 1959 when California led the nation in regulating air pollutants, said Mike Peevey, president of the California Public Utilities Commission.

"Everyone said, 'Oh, you can't do this, you'll screw up the economy,'" Peevey said. "We can deal with the cement industry and not thwart its growth. There are things we can do that are thoughtful and logical. But I do think we need caps."

Assemblywoman Fran Pavley of Southern California authored California's law requiring vehicles to cut greenhouse gas emissions 30 percent and is co-sponsoring legislation that would firm up Schwarzenegger's goals ­ cuts to 2000 emissions by 2010 and to 1990 levels by 2020 ­ by ordering the air-pollution agency to come up with reduction strategies.

Climate change is happening faster than many scientists predicted, she said, and California can reap economic benefits by inventing and selling solutions.

"California needs to seize this economic opportunity," Pavley said. "A cap right now would signal the marketplace that we're serious, that we're going to be the home of clean tech to export to other communities."<snip>


And this sent by an analyst:

Subject: Real Income Gap


  "We don't have a jobs gap," he said. "We have a skills gap."

The dropout rate in Los Angeles high schools is astounding, and the options for dropouts are bleak. One reader suggested that my Sunday column on the security guard ­ who didn't graduate ­ should be required reading at every high school. Drop out, and you're looking at $8.50 an hour, with a skid row hotel room that has no bathroom.

Nobody living in the real world expects a sizable public investment in education any time this century. But it would be sensational, Garcetti said, if Villaraigosa's planned takeover of the schools put a focus on vocational training and specific linkage to the Los Angeles economy.

He said he had just been told by the Gas Co. that 40% of new hires are let go within two years because they don't know math and other basic skills.


I get mail...

The bioweapon is in the post


09 November 2005 Peter Aldhous

YOU might think it would be difficult for a terrorist to obtain genes from the smallpox virus, or a similarly vicious pathogen. Well, it's not. Armed with a fake email address, a would-be bioterrorist could probably order the building blocks of a deadly biological weapon online, and receive them by post within weeks.

That's the sobering reality uncovered by a New Scientist investigation into the bioterror risks posed by the booming business of gene synthesis. Dozens of biotech firms now offer to synthesise complete genes from the chemical components of DNA (See "A dollar a base pair"). Yet some are carrying out next to no checks on what they are being asked to make, or by whom. It raises the frightening prospect of terrorists mail-ordering genes for key bioweapon agents such as smallpox, and using them to engineer new and deadly pathogens.


Letter from Turkey:

Subject: Jesuit paper on Islam(ism)

Dear Sir

You may want to read this - pretty interesting commentary on the progress and purposes of radical (or perhaps plain) Islam:


Regards KE --


The Last Island of the Savages.


---- Roland Dobbins

And the end of the age of exploration? Well, perhaps not.




-- Roland Dobbins

Semper Fi. This is known as testing the loyalty of the troops, or the Temptation of the Legions.

 The first time the warriors respond appropriately to the foxes, we will come down hard on the warriors. That will not sit well. And as time goes on...  See Pareto on the Circulation of Elites.

Note that in the new TV show "The Unit", the Sergeant Major (read Centurion) has in several episodes threatened local authorities and petty bureaucrats with death, to the cheers of the audience.


Subject:  - Restoring federalism - 

I read the piece that you linked to by David Gelernter and it seems to me that Gelernter, while he correctly identifies the Supreme Court as eroding federalism that he's grinding an axe with regards to Roe v. Wade and ignoring larger problems. While Roe v. Wade can be criticised from many angles (and I say this as someone who is pro-choice) such as the court's ruling on a case which was moot by the time it reached them (a treatment they did not apply to DeFunis v. Odegaard, an affirmative action case at the University of Washington law school) and of course the completely ridiculous penumbra concept, the fact is that Roe v. Wade was in no way as pernicious as the expansive power grab the courts enabled in Wickard v. Filbourn, where they basically ruled that the Commerce Clause gave Congress the power to do anything they wanted so long as some connection, regardless of how tenuous it might be, existed between the subject of federal legislation and "interstate commerce". Of course if we were to repudiate Wickard, which the Rehnquist court has done to some extent, the powers of the federal government would be drastically curtailed, and I'm not too sure that I can believe that Gelernter really wants that.

Another problem with federalism is control over our Senators and Representatives. We live in a country where a corrupt lowlife like Ernest Hollings can take large quantities of money from people who are ineligible to vote for him and then use his position to propose legislation such as the CBDTPA and SSSCA to mandate the Fritz chip to close the analog hole. As long as members of Congress are able to shop around for money federalism will be weakened as local concerns (I find it difficult to believe that there was a lot of concern in South Carolina over the fate of Hollywood that inspired Fritz Hollings to introduce CBDTPA and SSSCA) will be ignored so that politicians can cater to national special interests with deep pockets. One way to fix this would be to prohibit any member of Congress or anyone running for Congress from accepting any monies, gifts, etc, from anyone who is not eligible to vote for them, when you have districts where over 50 percent of the donations to a candidate come from individuals who are ineligible to vote for that candidate then it's pretty obvious who that candidate is going to be thinking of when they're in Washington D.C.

This is not a perfect solution by any means, however if members of Congress are forced to rely on the people who they putatively represent for financial support and no others it would do a lot to focus their minds on the concerns of their constituents.

Jamie Jamison

What you seem to be saying is that Federalism is fine except that it doesn't produce the laws you want. It's great except that places perversely insist on doing things their way, and electing people you don't like.

The cute to having people you don't like in Congress is to limit the POWER of Congress to affect YOUR life. If you limit the power of the feds, then the awful people you don't care for have less influence over you. Since the problem with national unity is that there isn't any, the remedy isn't to make Federal Power better. It's to limit it.

As to Roe v. Wade, there is not one single argument to show that the Constitution allows a court to negate the laws of 50 States plus Acts of Congress when those laws have been in existence since the founding of the Republic. There was no Amendment, and in fact there wasn't even any legislation; it was just something the Court decided ought to govern the nation. But Courts are not legislatures.


Not that local governments are so wonderful. But at least there is more than one state in this Union:

Subject: Britney Spears Gets a  Visit from DCFS


What's the message here--if the State finds your child has been injured in any fashion, it has the right to investigate whether you can keep said child?

Nanny State indeed.

Bart D. Leahy

Sam the Eagle: "Will you stop this foolishness?"

Gonzo the Great: "What foolishness would you like to see?"

--MuppetVision 3D

Yes: it means just that. And in this egalitarian age, it means that the more prominent you are, the more likely you are to have a bureaucrat in your life. The people who abuse their children most often are stepfathers in lower class or underclass homes. This is well known. Since there are insufficient investigators to look into all those cases, and predictably any move against "the poor" will often generate a legal shakedown artist's intervention, the Iron Law of Bureaucracy dictates anarcho-tyranny: selective enforcement. Britney Spears is prominent and demonstrating that DCFS is on the job was quite a coup.

California is more a nanny state than most, but again it is highly selective enforcement.


Subject: Temperature Accuracy

Dr. Pournelle:

Regarding the 'earth is getting warmer' theory. I've always puzzled about the accuracy of the "temperatures have increased one degree in the last 100 years' statements.

Where is the temperature data coming from? Thermometers? Analysis of tree rings? What is the accuracy variance of these temperature readings?

But, I am not a scientist, just an 'average joe' in these matters.

BTW, MS Updates this week.

Regards, Rick Hellewell

That is the heart of the matter, actually. There are instrumental records, but where they were taken, how they were taken, and when; and how they are combined to come up with a single figure of merit we can call the "temperature of the Earth" is very much the most important question. We have some instrumental measures of sea temperatures from exploration voyages, including HMS Challenger and HMS Beagle; but how are they to be compared? Do we go to the same longitude and latitude and take temperatures from the same depth at the same day of the year? Is that a comparison? And land temperatures taken in places that were pastoral but are now urban are not comparable at all.

Models that combine measures taken at various times and placed will give different results depending on the weights given each measurement.

And of course when you have no instrumental records you must infer the temperatures from such things as tree rings and ice cores and growing seasons, and when the ice formed and when it broke, and when glaciers formed and how fast they grew, and when the first cuckoo began to nest... And you can get almost any temperature you like out of such data.

This is one reason why climate models have never been able to take past date and predict the present. But if you have faith, perhaps they will predict the future.


CURRENT VIEW    Wednesday


This week:


read book now


Thursday, April 13, 2006

Subject: Bluetooth Laser Virtual Keyboard 

Probably not viable for a touch typist, but the cool factor is undeniable..


Tracy Walters

Wow. It says they are out of stock. I wonder how the sensor knows what you are typing on the virtual keyboard? Wonderful if it works, but I can't figure out the mechanism.


Subject: Vote Early, Vote Often...

Elections in Pennsylvania apparently are...interesting, Dr. Pournelle.


"...many liberals insist fraud isn't an issue in Pennsylvania. "Show us the fraud," said Elizabeth Milner, chairman of the state's League of Women Voters, urging a veto of voter ID. Well, Donna Hope of Philadelphia can show her, because in 2004 an organizer for Voting is Power, an offshoot of the Muslim American Society, registered her to vote despite her admission that she was a noncitizen. Although she was turned away from the polls for that reason that November, someone eventually voted in her name."

Charles Brumbelow

And you are surprised? See the Sanchez election in Orange County, etc.

Today we rally, tomorrow we vote. Tomorrow is to be taken literally.


Subject: The Last Island of the Savages and Satellite Anthropology

The Sentinelese have long struck me as a people who are best studied from afar. They want other people's to keep their distance and express that desire quite forecefully. But it may be possible to satisfy our curiosity about them whiile keeping our distance.

Satellite archaeology is a fairly new field: why not satellite anthropology? There are limits to what we can learn from that, but we can probably get an good idea of how many people are on the island and, by going back and looking at older images taken by spy satellites (which, if not already declassified, can probably be obtained by a Freedom of Information Act request. provided the area for which one wants photos is kept narrow) and commerical satellites (SPOT, et. al.), we can get an idea of what numbers used to be and have been over time.

Using Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) with camera feeds and sound mikes is also a possibility, though I'd expect the Sentinelese to attack UAVs if they saw them (they attacked helicopters with arrows after the 2004 tsunami), and there would be the possibilty that the UAVs could bring some disease to the island that the Sentinelese would have a hard time with.

Marty Busse

Satellite anthropology; an interesting concept. And as accurate as Margaret Meade's on-site tale collecting in Samoa...


Subject: I guess history didn't end, after all


I guess history didn't end, after all:

In Villages Across India, Maoist Guerrillas Widen 'People's War' - New York Times





Subject:  on the global warming mess

Subject: global warming data

Dear Dr. Pournelle,

I worked on a government ship in the late 1960's. Each day the weathermen on board would throw a bucket on a rope over the side, then retrieve the bucket full of sea water. The temperature was measured with an ordinary thermometer, then duly recorded on the ship computer. This was our continuing record of sea temperature, kept over about half the globe.

One remembered news article from this period mentioned the actions of a small town government. The weather service moved the measuring station from the park in the town square to a more isolated location as part of an improvement program. Some city politician noticed that moving the measuring station away from the lawn sprinklers resulted in summer readings that were a few degrees higher. The politician felt that these higher readings would drive tourists away, and wanted the measurement station returned to the park.

These isolated incidents are the basis of my opinion of the "Chicken Little" types that want to spend billions fighting global warming, recently reported as a rise of one degree in this century. I agree with you, the science so desperately needed now cannot be heard for the yammer of bureaucrats.


William L. Jones



Global Warming

a little something I sent Holly Lisle after she acknowledged todays WSJ article on her web site.

As to Mr. Hewell's question, I have been thinking about that. This "global average temperature" figure is something that is accumulated from data with systematic variations, periodic and irregular time series variations, random variations, and measurement errors. Despite the Central Limit theorem, none of these parameters are more than approximately normal (and the systematic and time series variations are not properly statistical data (i.e. are not true random variable) at all) .

Certainly just a straight T = sum (T)/N is not a good representation of this data, but I'm willing to bet that it is what the results come to.

I think it very likely that this estimated average temperature is not trustworthy.

Jim Woosley


The global warming controversy hingers on four key questions:

1. Is there a sustained, long term increase in global average temperatures? 2. If this increase exists, is it due to natural environmental factors (including the observed warming of the sun over the past few decades), to human influences (e.g. industrial carbon dioxide, agricultural methane, etc.), or to a combination of these factors? 3. Is this environmental change likely to be, on the whole, beneficial or detrimental to human society? 4. If the change is likely to be detrimental, what actions should be taken to mitigate or eliminate the deliterious effects.

Briefly, in turn:

1. Is there a sustained, long term increase in global average temperatures?

a. Experimentally observed temperature effects are, at present, well within the historical data base of measured temperature extremes, which include cyclic patterns on scales of a year, two to three years (the El Nino/La Nina cycle), twenty-two years (the "normal" solar cycle), 80-odd years (natural the hurricane cycle which peaked in the 1930s and which is peaking again now) and several hundred years (the cycle that left Lief Erikson's Greenland as an agricultural paridise, then created the "mini ice age" in Europe in the late Middle Ages. These cycles are their interactions are poorly understood, and the possible forcing (or retarding) effects of manmade influences even less so.

b. Most of the evidence for long-term "global warming" is a consequnce of computer models which, of necessity, oversimply some (or many) aspects of the global environment. All of these models systematically predict warming of from 2 - 9 degrees C (3.5 - 16 degrees F) over the next century. This is noteworthy, but is is evidence -- even after the fact given the not yet understood cycles noted above? In any event, a lot of people think that if the most sophisticated weather models we can produce are in error by several degrees after five to seven days, why should we worry about climate models over the period of a century, and there is much to be said for that position.

2. If this increase exists, is it due to natural environmental factors (including the observed warming of the sun over the past few decades), to human influences (e.g. industrial carbon dioxide, agricultural methane, etc.), or to a combination of these factors?

The pro-warming factions maintain that their models hold that only 30% of observed warming is due to the solar warming, and that the balance is due to human influences. However, the "observed" warming -- against a baseline of mid-1940's temperatures -- is something like 0.2 degrees C (0.4 degrees F), which as noted above is well within the limits of historical temperatures of the past. Even that observed warming is questioned by many researchers, because our most direct temperature measurements are associated with urban areas, which are known to be heat traps due to the replacement of naturally cooling foliage by high-heat-retaining pavement (plus the waste heat of human activities). To some extent (this is being debated rigorously) this effect is skewing the underlying effects of the observed warming.

The solar variations are discussed at sites in the list of references below, and the average variation over the sun's normal 22 year cycle is approximately 0.2% -- which for a normal surface temperature of 300 degrees Kelvin (27 degress C) amounts to a cyclic change of 0.6 degrees -- agaisnt which we are trying to detect a systematic 0.2 degree effect against a two-cycle background. Ask me again in a century.

3. Is this environmental change likely to be, on the whole, beneficial or detrimental to human society?

It is an open question whether meteorological "forcing" by increased temperatures would normally result just in warmer days and warmer nights by the same amount, by increased violent weather, or by a combination of these effects. There are also scare scenarios about Arctic or Anarctic ice melting, ignoring that for every section of the ice pack that is weakening, another is strengthening.

The worst case scare scenarios warn of costal inundation as the ice packs melt, combined with desertificaiton from increased heat. On the other side, in temperate climates, growing seasons will be longer. On the whole, the global effects are hard to predict and must more sophisticated modeling is required. Believable modeling, which I'm not sure we have yet. (See note 1).

4. If the change is likely to be detrimental, what actions should be taken to mitigate or eliminate the deliterious effects.

It is an open question as yet that the change is likely to be detrimental. Yet, it is clear that a solution that punishes the US and Europe while allowing China and India to pollute without restriction, such as Kyoto, is properly a non-starter. The impact on the American standard of living of Kyoto would be significant. Maybe we do have a too-luxurious lifestyle -- but I don't see many pro-Kyoto activitists renouncing their suburban homes, TVs, computers, and SUVs to return to subsistence organic agriculture. Would you be willing to do that? Today? In ten years?




http://www.ngdc.noaa.gov/stp/SOLAR/ftpsolarirradiance.html#composite  and references therein



From Monty.

Is this a picture of the future?

(Alas, the WSJ does not allow public posting of the link; I'll see if I can find something.

Title: Top High Schools Fight New Science As Overly Simple


Whatever means you use to access this, if you have any interest in the future of education and how that impacts the nation, this is important.

San Diego is bankrupt due to illegal aliens. There may be other problems associated with this situation.

Liberalism is a philosophy of consolation for Western Civilization as it commits suicide.


Subject: Laser virtual keyboard

I Googled for more information on the laser virtual keyboard.

The device has both a laser and an infrared camera. The laser draws the virtual keyboard, and the camera watches the area bounded by the virtual keyboard. The camera sees fingers in the area and figures out where the fingers are, and translates that into a keypress. Some sort of algorithm crunches the camera data and decides which keys were "pressed". Since there is no way for it to tell how hard you are pressing, it must measure how long the fingers stay in the virtual key area; if you move your finger quickly you don't get a keypress. Audio feedback lets you know when it has recognized a keystroke.

I'd guess that you would not be able to "press" keys on this keyboard with, say, a thin glass rod; but ordinary fingers should work well.

Looking at the photo of the device, initially I thought you had to suspend it over the surface. Now I understand: you set the device down, and it projects on the flat surface from the top end of the device.

Here are some reviews:


"It took us about an hour to get used to the typing style and also for us to get the feel of typing on a flat surface." "...the classic two fingered hunt and peck style of typing works best with the Virtual Keyboard."


"Every keystroke is accompanied by a sound effect, informing you that the system has successfully registered you intended action. Sensitivity of the keyboard can be tailored to individual preferences, in the menus on the device you have attached. The users action is detected when the light dots at the rear of the character-denoted area are fully obscured."


This one includes a video of the keyboard in use!

This device is very interesting for computer use inside sterile labs. You could seal this device away behind glass, and wash the flat typing surface with the germ killer of your choice. This would also be good for clean room or industrial use. Car mechanics with greasy hands could use a computer and just wash the flat typing surface later.

If and when I get around to buying a portable Bluetooth keyboard, it will probably be this one:


I already have a keyboard similar to this, but with a physical connector instead of wireless. The way it folds in half is really slick. You need to press a function key to get numerals; this let them leave off one row of keys, which in turn let them make the remaining keys bigger and thus easy to type upon.

-- Steve R. Hastings
"Vita est" steve@hastings.org

Well I will be swoggled. I suppose I should have figured it out. One of the good things about this place is that even when I am harassed and haven't time to look things up, someone will. Thanks!




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Friday,  April 14, 2006

The Moussaoui case:

One opinion on Moussaoui:

(1) He is guilty of conspiracy to commit over 3,000 murders, which conspiracy was successful, and I believe this carries the same legal weight as murder in most jurisdictions Whether he should have been considered guilty of capital murder if the conspiracy had failed is a different issue, but also a moot point.

(2) He had no obligation to confess, as you note. But his decision not to confess means he remains guilty of conspiracy. (Certainly, if he HAD confessed -- and been believed, not necessarily an easy hurdle for him to cross -- he could have plea bargained down to whatever it was he was arrested for in the first place or maybe gotten away scott free, or been put under witness protection, more likely, with much closer supervision than usual.)

I have little trouble with this, under the circumstances.



Hi Dr. Pournelle,

The crime of conspiracy exposes a conspirator to liability for the underlying crime, provided that he has aided in the commission of the crime in some way. Basically, by having participated in the conspiracy Moussaoui exposes himself to guilt for murder even if he did not commit the murders himself, in the same way that a Mafia don ordering the death of a rival is guilty of murder even if he did not pull the trigger.

However, attempting to stop the underlying crime can serve as a defense; i.e. if Moussaoui had told authorities of the plot before 9/11 he would have shielded himself from the guilt for the murders, though not for conspiracy, and conspiracy does not carry a death sentence. Note that this would have been true even if 9/11 had happened anyway.

In other words, by confessing to the conspiracy Moussaoui has confessed that he is guilty of conspiracy _and_ murder, and therefore exposes himself to the death penalty. Had he attempted to prevent the crime by informing the authorities, he would've been guilty only of conspiracy, and thus not be in danger of the death penalty. Thus, Moussaoui is being put to death because he participated in the 9/11 and is legally guilty of the ensuing murders. It's just that he could have avoided it if he had informed the authorities.

If you post this publically, please include the disclaimer that I'm only a law student and that this can't be taken as definitive.




There are several “games” in play here.

Moussaoui pleaded guilty and wants the death penalty to elevate his status to martyrdom. After all, do not all jihadists want to achieve martyrdom? What else could explain his statements?

The bigger game is the Administration, specifically the Justice Dept and the FBI, need to convict someone, anyone for 9/11.

This has been argued to death on both sides of the media, but it has been shown that field agents had knowledge of 9/11 participants involvement in flight schools, of Moussaoui’s desire to learn to fly an airplane into a building, etc, etc; all before the actual horrific event. In every case the field warning died in the system before reaching the correct parties, or were blatantly ignored by several of the testifying witnesses for the State in the Moussaoui trial.

Things like this used to happen in other countries, not mine. Are we safer? Are we better protected? I do not honestly know.


Dear Jerry:

You make some very good points regarding Moussaoui. But the law he is being tried under must already be on the books, correct? I mean prosecutors can't just make up a charge that doesn't violate a statute somewhere, or if they did it would be the judge's responsibility to throw it out immediately. So the questions you raise are really more appropriate for the inevitable appeals, aren't they? Judges at this level can't make a ruling on Constitutionality, or can they?





I remember some criminal law from Harvard law school. This may help you make sense of it.

When you are a member of a conspiracy you remain liable as a co-conspirator until you take affirmative steps to separate yourself from the conspiracy and stop the conspiracy from achieving its results.

You are not allowed to plan and foment the conspiracy and then decide at the last minute you have cold feet and back out.

If Moussaoui conspired, then backed out, but kept his mouth shut so he conspiracy could actually achieve its results, he is liable for the deaths as much as someone who did not quit but continued until the planes crashed.

Even more importantly, as a member of the criminal enterprise, he is guilty of murder under the feloont murer doctrine, which says that every co-criminal is equally responsible for the deaths of anyone (including a fellow criminal) who dies during the commission of the crime.

Mike Patton

Harvard Law School 1991



Ace at http://ace.mu.nu  explains the legal details pretty well. I think the link to the individual post should be http://ace.mu.nu/archives/170606.php  , but it doesn’t seem to work. In any case you can go to the main page and scroll down. This is the meat:

“But note that even if you take no further actions to further the execution of the actual plot after agreeing to commit a crime (and intending the crime be committed, and taking acts in furtherance of the conspiracy), you are still, after all, guilty of committing the crime of conspiracy in the first place. So you just can't commit the crime of conspiracy and then simply not involve yourself in the actual crime-conspired-to-perpetrate and say "But I'm innocent." You're not innocent. You may be innocent of actually committing the crime you conspired to commit, but you already are guilty of conspiracy to commit that crime.”

“So yes; As a general rule, you do not have any duty to report someone else's crime. You cannot, generally, be arrested simply because you know of a crime, or a crime to be committed, and keep silent. (You don't have the right, on the other hand, to lie to LEO's when they ask you questions; that's obstruction of justice. But that won't get you the death penalty.)

Further, you do have the fifth amendment right to not incriminate yourself.

However, if you want to escape a conspiracy rap of which you are demonstrably guilty, you must abandon the conspiracy by taking active steps to stop the coming crime from happening. Or else you remain guilty of conspiracy. And in this case -- as it concerns terrorism -- the death penalty is on the table.

Moussaoui's lawyers' defense, I imagine, is that he did "abandon" the conspiracy, simply by not taking part in any further actions, or telling the other Al Qaeda plotters he no longer wanted to fly a plane. But that is simply not what the law requires for abandonment. For abandonment, he was required to go to the police and tell them of the plot, or, barring that, take it upon himself to prevent the plotters from hijacking the plane.”

He’s not being executed for not blabbing to his jailers. He committed a capital crime and declined to use the escape hatch the law provides to him before the attack actually occurred. That’s a fine, but important, distinction. In my mind it’s a reasonable punishment given the magnitude of the crime.

Eric Baumgartner

And that should be about enough for a first round.


Subject: Binary Black Hole


This is mind-expanding: co-orbiting supermassive black holes in a composite radio and X-ray image.













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Sunday, April 16, 2006

Easter Sunday






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