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Mail 412 May 1 - 7, 2006






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Monday  May 1, 2006

Subject: Un Dia Sin Inmigrantes Or in English "Citizen Shopping day"

Stop on the way home and get some gas, buy some groceries maybe buy the significant other a gift. Or stop by the gun shop. It's OUR day!

John Monahan

"Everyone is entitled to his own opinion but not his own facts." Daniel Patrick Moynihan

It is sure Una dia sin trafficos. We had the most pleasant return from San Diego since the 70's. Can we keep this up?

To be fair, some of the produce markets are closed; but that is easily fixed.


 Subject: boreholes and climate change

Jerry, I found this technique of measuring earth temperature change while researching something else. Deep boreholes in the earth reveal anomalies. http://esrc.stfx.ca/borehole/node3.html  "It is also important to recognize that ground temperature histories may be different from, but complementary to, air temperature histories." -from the article

Or http://esrc.stfx.ca/pdf/halifaxtalk.pdf

Russ Newsom.

I know little about how one takes the temperature of the Earth. I have been to a few places that are candidates for getting rectal temperature, but I have no idea how one factors deep core temperatures into an average. And that's the point: until we have an agreed way of doing the measurement, yu can get any result you like.


Communist chic.


- Roland Dobbins






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Tuesday,  May 2, 2006

Subject: The Lesson of Tal Afar, by George Packer

"When we came to Iraq, we didn’t understand the complexity—what it meant for a society to live under a brutal dictatorship, with ethnic and sectarian divisions,” he said, in his hoarse, energetic voice. “When we first got here, we made a lot of mistakes. We were like a blind man, trying to do the right thing but breaking a lot of things."

At the highest levels of the Administration, the notion of acknowledging the enemy’s grievances was dismissed as defeatist. But in Tal Afar I heard expressions of soldierly respect for what some Americans called the Iraqi resistance. "In a city that’s seventy-five per cent Sunni, if you approach it from a point of view of bringing in or killing everyone who’s had anything to do with the insurgency you’re bound to fail," Major Michael Simmering said. "Imagine how many people in this town have picked up a rifle and taken a shot at coalition forces. Do we really want to try to arrest them all?"


This is long, but very much worth the time to read.

One concept that really struck me: the refusal of the higher-ups to use the word "insurgency" made it difficult for the military to properly frame the situation. The military has a doctrine for dealing with insurgencies, but since everyone was carefully avoiding the word, it was hard for the military to apply the correct doctrine. So instead of doing the correct things, they did other things. Put more directly, the refusal to acknowledge the reality of the situation had actual, harmful consequences. Clear thinking matters.

This quote is like something out of a Retief story:

...when the new chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Marine Corps General Peter Pace, said, rather sheepishly, "I have to use the word 'insurgent,' because I can’t think of a better word right now,” Rumsfeld cut in, " 'Enemies of the legitimate Iraqi government'--how’s that?"

-- Steve R. Hastings "Vita est"



Subject: Fusion Power

Dear Dr Pournelle,

Some further thoughts and information on fusion as a future power source. First, a declaration of interest and a disclaimer: I work at Culham in the UK, the home of JET, the biggest fusion device in the world, but I am NOT a physicist. I'm an ex-electronics engineer now running the quality group.

I believe you and your correspondents are too pessimistic regarding the role of fusion - there have been major advances in the science over the last ten years and the strong feeling now is that building a working power plant is primarily an engineering problem. Not a trivial problem (!) but do-able without a fundamental breakthrough in theory. Not in the same category as "cavorite paint or travel through Alderson points".

I absolutely agree with you that for the short/medium term we need fission plants, both in the US and the UK. As you say, in a sensible regulatory climate, built to a standard design and in quantity they are cheap and well understood. Modern designs are intrinsically safe and generate much lower quantities of active waste. The problem with this comes in 30-50 years as uranium is not an abundant resource. If the whole world has adopted fission you are going to run into supply/cost problems. Of course, this is not a issue if you start building fast breeder power plants but this really does raise issues of weapons proliferation and security. This is where fusion comes in.

Over the last few years a "fast-track" to fusion power has been mapped out aiming for the first commercial power plants coming on stream in 35-40 years time. Not as a blue skies dream but a hard headed assessment of what can be done. For the last 50 years fusion has been a science/research activity and we are only now moving into the engineering/exploitation phase. Fusion probably could have been made to work earlier but there just has been no need - energy has been cheap. It was one of the pioneers of fusion, Lev Artsimovitch, who, when asked when fusion would be ready, replied, "Fusion will be ready when society needs it."

Mr Erbach refers to "the European Iter fusion collaboration" He is right that ITER is the next step in fusion but it is not a European project, it is world project, although it will be built in France -10% of the cost will come from US taxpayers. The full list of partners are the USA, Japan, China, South Korea, Russia, India and Europe - each contributing 10% apart from Europe which provides 50% as host (yes, I know that adds up to 110%. India only joined at the end of 2005 and it was decided to use the extra 10% as contingency). ITER, which will take about ten years to build, will not produce electricity but will break even - i.e. produce more power than is put in. ITER is itself part of a wider plan. On a similar timescale a materials test facility will be designed and built (developing long lasting and low activation structural materials is one of the engineering challenges on the road to a commercial power plant) and a number of other issues tackled. ITER's main role is to optimise the design of "DEMO", the first fusion power plant able to produce electricity, starting operations in 25-30 years. This in turn leads to commercial plants in 40 years or so.

ITER and DEMO are both conventional aspect ratio tokamaks, as you point out a brute force approach (in tokamaks size really does matter!) but the power plants they lead to should definitely not be uneconomic. In the end one of the other approaches to fusion may turn out to be better (spherical tokamaks, stellarators, various types of pinch device, or inertial fusion) but tokamaks are certainly the best understood and furthest developed. The present thinking is to push on with the one we know, get it working and then make improvements. If we keep looking for the "best" option fusion will never happen.

Sorry to go on - I've got to stop preaching! - but I have seen a number of discussions on the web recently where the advances of the last few years and the increased interest and activity across the world have not been appreciated. Fusion is not an immediate energy source but will be needed in the future and if it is to be ready when it is needed work has to start now.

If anyone would like more, either about fusion in general or the "fast track" the following UKAEA Fusion and ITER web sites have stacks of information and links.



Regards and best wishes,

Alasdair Urquhart

I have been pro fusion since before the Carter administration -- I recall saying that Carter wanted to war on energy dependence and the first thing he did was cut back on the fusion program -- but it needs new science, not just engineering. I am all for funding it. Heck, give the cost of the war, we could fund fusion research and hardly notice as we built a fission and coal economy.


Mock Iraqi Villages in Mojave Prepare Troops for Battle.


-- Roland Dobbins


Subject: Jupiter "climate change" -


Not to make too much of it but an interesting datapoint in conjunction with the reports of warming on Mars.

And claims of an impact on hurricane strength/frequemncy here on Earth.


But I see no signs that Hansen pays attention to this. Which bothers me.


From another conference:

Back in the 1970s, when nearly all hereditarians were in the closet, a friend told me that mental age correlated better than chronological age on all, or most, factors of development, such as height and weight. The ability to drive a car responsibly, too, I believe.

This is so simple an idea that I suspect others have thought of it also. Any studies or observations here?


From another conference:


"One major finding from the study is that children from all corners of the globe follow almost exactly the same growth trajectory. This lays to rest the idea that genetic differences make the babies of some ethnic groups bigger or smaller than others. It shows instead that different populations tend to grow the same when given the chance."

I'm sure that upon learning this, college football coaches will immediately stop recruiting in Samoa and start recruiting in Japan.

The ability of social scientists to believe nonsense seems to have no limit.


From another conference:


Gangs claim their turf in Iraq

May 1, 2006

BY FRANK MAIN <mailto:fmain@suntimes.com> Crime Reporter

The Gangster Disciples, Latin Kings and Vice Lords were born decades ago in Chicago's most violent neighborhoods. Now, their gang graffiti is showing up 6,400 miles away in one of the world's most dangerous neighborhoods -- Iraq.

Armored vehicles, concrete barricades and bathroom walls all have served as canvasses for their spray-painted gang art. At Camp Cedar II, about 185 miles southeast of Baghdad, a guard shack was recently defaced with "GDN" for Gangster Disciple Nation, along with the gang's six-pointed star and the word "Chitown," a soldier who photographed it said.

The graffiti, captured on film by an Army Reservist and provided to the Chicago Sun-Times, highlights increasing gang activity in the Army in the United States and overseas, some experts say.

<http://www.chicagosuntimes.com/cgi-bin/print.cgi?getReferrer=http://www.chi cagosuntimes.com/output/news/cst-nws-gangs01.html#


<http://images.suntimes.com/popups/NWS/iraq_050106/images/gangs0501a.jpg> Jeffrey Stoleson, an Army Reserve sergeant in Iraq, is seen in front of a barricade tagged with gang graffiti in March in Iraq. Stoleson, who has been in Iraq for almost a year, says he has taken hundreds of photos of gang graffiti there.

<http://www.chicagosuntimes.com/cgi-bin/print.cgi?getReferrer=http://www.chi cagosuntimes.com/output/news/cst-nws-gangs01.html#> Click here for photo gallery

Military and civilian police investigators familiar with three major Army bases in the United States -- Fort Lewis, Fort Hood and Fort Bragg -- said they have been focusing recently on soldiers with gang affiliations. These bases ship out many of the soldiers fighting in Iraq.

"I have identified 320 soldiers as gang members from April 2002 to present," said Scott Barfield, a Defense Department gang detective at Fort Lewis in Washington state. "I think that's the tip of the iceberg."

Of paramount concern is whether gang-affiliated soldiers' training will make them deadly urban warriors when they return to civilian life and if some are using their access to military equipment to supply gangs at home, said Barfield and other experts.

'They don't try to hide it'

Jeffrey Stoleson, an Army Reserve sergeant in Iraq for almost a year, said he has taken hundreds of photos of gang graffiti there.

In a storage yard in Taji, about 18 miles north of Baghdad, dozens of tanks were vandalized with painted gang symbols, Stoleson said in a phone interview from Iraq. He said he also took pictures of graffiti at Camp Scania, about 108 miles southeast of Baghdad, and Camp Anaconda, about 40 miles north of Baghdad. Much of the graffiti was by Chicago-based gangs, he said.

In civilian life, Stoleson is a correctional officer and co-founder of the gang interdiction team at a Wisconsin maximum-security prison. Now he is a truck commander for security escorts in Iraq. He said he watched two fellow soldiers in the Wisconsin Army National Guard 2nd Battalion, 127th Infantry, die Sept. 26 when a roadside bomb exploded. Five of Stoleson's friends have been wounded.

Because of the extreme danger of his mission in Iraq, Stoleson said he does not relish the idea of working alongside gang members, whom he does not trust. Stoleson said he once reported to a supervisor that he suspected a company of soldiers in Iraq was rife with gang members.

"My E-8 [supervising sergeant] told me not to ruffle their feathers because they were doing a good job," he said.

Stoleson said he has spotted soldiers in Iraq with tattoos signifying their allegiance to the Vice Lords and the Simon City Royals, another street gang spawned in Chicago.

"They don't try to hide it," Stoleson said.

Army doesn't see significant trend

Christopher Grey, spokesman for the Army's Criminal Investigation Command, did not deny the existence of gang members in the military, but he disputed that the problem is rampant -- or even significant.<snip>


Subject: RE: Illegal immigration (View412)

> Marius was sent to stop an invasion of the Gauls.

That's true, and in Fletcher Pratt's _Battles that Changed History _, he mentions the Arab migration into the Levant. Ancient history, right?

Also, closer to home, there's the history of Oregon, with lots of Americans moving in to make sure the British couldn't keep it.

A more interesting parallel may be the Spanish Reconquista -- it took 500 years for the Spanish Christians to regain control of the lands wrested from them, but they did it.

The Reconquista may not be taught in American schools, but I wonder if the Mexicans have heard of it?

Rob Pierce


Subject: Illegal Alien Boycott Day

After reading your comments on this and some others both on the news and web I find it very interesting that no one connects the dots.

What is the point of May 1st?

Why were the President of Venezuela and Cuba locked in constant conferences for the last month and more about May 1st activities?

Why did no one make comments about the background of the man who promoted this May 1st protest and rally?

Does no one connect the tradition of May 1at historically to those who promoted this event?

So why was May 1st chosen by the promoter who is a leader in the farm labor movement?

Happy May Day to all! -- James Early

I had thought it fairly obvious to this readership. Was I mistaken?

Arise ye starvelings from your slumbers
Arise ye prisoners of want
For reason in revolt now thunders
and thus ends the age of cant.
Now away with all your superstitions
Servile masses arise, arise!
We'll change  the old conditions
And spurn the dust to win the prize.


Then come comrades rally
And the last fight let us face
The Internationale
Unites the human race.



Shah of Iran's Heir Plans Overthrow of Regime?


-- Roland Dobbins

He should be on the Peacock Throne, with Iran as our ally. But Jimmy Carter and the Democrats knew better. Do not forget how we lost Iran.



 Monday's report is scary! You report that the freeways were clear with reduced traffic because of the boycott. Just think, all of those other people who stayed at home today and will be back tomorrow, are undocumented, unlicensed, and uninsured!



Yes, we are thinking that...


Your story of the LA to San Diego traffic reminds me of when the "Evil Republicans" *gasp* shut down the government and all the petty bureaucrats had to stay home. I had to drive from San Luis Obispo to Sacramento that Monday, and can honestly say I'd never seen traffic on either the 101 or I-5 better. Maybe we can have the government and the Illegals trade off staying home from now on.

In Phoenix traffic has been only slightly lighter than normal. Arizona is a so called "right to work" state, and I suspect that if folks didn't bother showing up for work today, they might as well not bother showing up in the future either.

Mark E. Horning, Physicist,


Subj: Artillery FOs Get a Very Special Laptop


=May 2, 2006: ... PSS (Precision Strike Suite) ... has an artillery forward observer (FO) equipped with a laptop computer and a laser range finder linked to a military radio. The FO tells the system to get his GPS location. Then, the laser range finder is used to get the GPS location of the target. On the screen comes a 3-D image (taken from Department of Defense satellite photos and map data) showing the FO and the target. If it looks right to the FO, hit a few more keys and the distant artillery units fire a missile (GPS guided GPS rocket) or guided shell (Excalibur) at the target. The entire process takes a few minutes, and is critical for targets that are "time sensitive" (you have to hit them now, because pretty soon it will be too late). ...=

Hmmm... "When it absolutely, positively has to be destroyed NOW!"

Rod Montgomery==monty@sprintmail.com

It's sure all different from reading a map to find yourself, and doing range estimating from assumptions on how tall that truck is...

Position, azimuth, offset, all done automagically. Until Windows crashes...

Or until someone puts 20 KT in a high altitude burst over his own country, and all the satellite assets are blown away, and no one knows how to read a map.


Subject: Some California stats (Illegal Immigrants)


No clue on the reliability of this, but it was forwarded from a friend who still lives in California.

1. 40% of all workers in L.A. County (L.A. County has 10 million people) are working for cash and not paying taxes. This was because they are predominantly illegal immigrants, working without a green card.

2. 95% of warrants for murder in Los Angeles are for illegal aliens.

3. 75% of people on the most wanted list in Los Angeles are illegal aliens.

4. Over 2/3's of all births in Los Angeles County are to illegal alien Mexicans on Medi-Cal whose births were paid for by taxpayers.

5. Nearly 25% of all inmates in California detention centers are Mexican nationals here illegally.

6. Over 300,000 illegal aliens in Los Angeles County are living in garages.

7. The FBI reports half of all gang members in Los Angeles are most likely illegal aliens from south of the border.

8. Nearly 60% of all occupants of HUD properties are illegal.

9. 21 radio stations in L.A. are Spanish speaking.

10. In L.A. County 5.1 million people speak English. 3.9 million speak Spanish (10.2 million people in L.A.County).

(All 10 from the Los Angeles Times)

Less than 2% of illegal aliens are picking our crops but 29% are on welfare.


Over 70% of the United States annual population growth (and over 90% of California, Florida, and New York) results from immigration.

The cost of immigration to the American taxpayer in 1997 was a NET (after subtracting taxes immigrants pay) $70 BILLION a year, [Professor Donald Huddle, Rice University].

The lifetime fiscal impact (taxes paid minus services used) for the average adult Mexican immigrant is a NEGATIVE.

29% of inmates in federal prisons are illegal aliens.

None of this astonishes me, but I don't have verification.


Earth's Artificial Ring: Project West Ford.


- Roland Dobbins


Subject: Illegal immigrant boycott

Dr. Pournelle,

I thought you might be interested in the impact of the boycott on the California school systems. Here in (Central California), my high school was a lot less crowded and generally quieter than it usually is. Although I missed the morning classes due to an AP test, I noticed in Physical Education that about a fourth of the class was absent. The lunch line was more orderly than usual; the locker room, usually crowded and hot, was downright roomy.

In summary, I suspect the impact was much the same as that of the boycott last year. There was more room, more serious students (on average) attending class, and I observed that a great many of the D and F students stayed home. Perhaps the majority of those were not Hispanic illegals, but I know of seven girls in my PE period who are, and they stayed home. I would guess that the school got more done than usual, at least in the advanced classes.

One last comment. How damaging would it be politically if America closed her southern border, dumped Mexican felons just over the wall (well... first we build one, then dump) and ceased to admit legal Mexican immigrants for a period not less than ten years? If the government levied high taxes on employers who hire illegal workers, then people might go back home (to Mexico) without any further governmental action. Emphasis on English and American culture in the schools would further assimilation, as would the lack of braceros nuevos que no entienden ni la idioma ni la cultura de los EEUU. I suspect that this is either unworkable or too radical a change, and that's fine. I just want to know -- could it actually work?



PS. You probably won't find it important enough to correct. . . but the spelling is Un dia sin trafico, accent on the i in dia and the a in trafico. Apologies if this sounds like nitpicking; I wouldn't want anyone to laugh, that's all -- and there's an AP Spanish test coming up, which is why it's on my mind at all.

Clearly the US, which is awash in money, could afford to pay enough to induce people to do the work now being done by illegal. I point out that in New Orleans, blacks are being laid off because Mexicans will work for wages that require them to sleep in parks -- and this for FEMA contracts.

The labor cost of agriculture is real, but doubling the wages paid doesn't double the consumer price.

We are seriously addicted to cheap labor. It is a curable addiction.




This week:


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Wednesday, May 3, 2006

Subject: The Goths and Rome

Eventually Theodoric the Goth deposed the last Roman Emperor of the West.

Not quite. Romulus Augustulus was deposed by Odoacer (aka Odovacar) who was chieftain of the Heruli and himself half Hun and half Scirian. Theodoric came along 13 years later and killed Odoacer at the instigation of the Eastern emperor Zeno.

David Levinson

All true, and it comes of relying on increasingly faulty memory instead of taking the trouble to look up the details. Doesn't affect the argument, though. The Goths didn't come precisely as invaders, and were used by the Romans until they wearied of that.

The Eastern Empire had the Excubitors, an institution we lack.


Dear Sir

Lawrence Auster - of the View From Right - disagrees with the opinion that Steele's article genuinely celebrates Western civilization - and I happen to concur with Auster on his finer points:


Kind regards KE --


The finer points weren't what I had in mind. This is suicide of the West.


Subject: re: Shelby Steele's article

Steele's essay, 'White Guilt and the Western Past,' is indeed illuminating, but I think (hope) that his argument is not wholly air tight.

I don't recall any serious allegations that we were too soft in attacking and taking out the Taliban in Afghanistan, an action that was rightly perceived as direct retribution for sheltering the 9/11 vermin. No, we did not nuke them until their land was a glass monument, but neither did we convince ourselves to go soft enough on our piteous enemy to give them a chance at victory.

Things are somewhat different in Iraq, as President Bush has had to lean on the social work argument when all of the other pretenses for war on offer proved insubstantial. Now, the President may not have offered his true reasons for fear of inviting the stigma of white guilt, but if WMD's or proof positive of Iraqi national involvement in 9/11 had been found, I think Dr. Steele would not have had such cause to write this essay.

Sincerely yours,

Jonathan Abbey


SUBJ - One step closer to Mobile Infantry

Jerry -

Folks at Berkeley have a powered exoskeleton.


OK, so it's legs only, and no hard numbers on performance, but it sure looks cool.

Jim Martin


Subject: Fusion's Four Decade 'Fast Track'

Dear Jerry,

>>Over the last few years a "fast-track" to fusion power has been mapped out aiming for the first commercial power plants coming on stream in 35-40 years time. Not as a blue skies dream but a hard headed assessment of what can be done.<<

I don't know what part made me laugh harder. Was it the thought such statements can be seriously offered or the knowledge they'll be seriously deliberated in DoE, OMB and Congress?

I suggest the fusion power research community hire as consultants some people who were involved in the Objective Infantry Combat Weapon, Land Warrior, Osprey V-22 and Stryker programs. These folks sure converted one art into a brand-new precise science. This is the process of obtaining federal procurement funding for things that don't work, may never work and even fail all key performance parameter tests established at the program start. The quoted timeline is right. Probably their new consultants will tell them they're asking for way too little money and also overconcentrating the program spending in too few Congressional districts.

I personally recommend the fusion people immediately add at least $20 billion annually to their facilities construction funding budget lines. This will provide an average of $46 million per Congressional District and wildly improve the program's popularity. Especially since it won't pose any threat at all to existing electric utility and fuels (oil and agro-ethanol) interests.

Best Regards,


p.s. My local traffic in Englewood, FL seemed a bit lighter on Monday morning, too. And we have plenty of native born white people working in local landscaping services.


Subject: Your Tax Dollars at Work

Dr. Pournelle I was doing triage on Saturday in an ER in the Southwest. I saw a young lady who was complaining of abdominal pain, sweating and chills. Upon further investigation I learned that she had missed her methadone dose on Friday because she had to go to the hospital to bring home her daughter who was discharged from the neonatal ICU after a three week stay.

So the young lady probably wasn't ill..she was in withdrawal from opiates. I told her that the ER physician could probably write her a script for a single dose of methadone that she could get filled at a pharmacy and that would hold her over until her next regular visit to the methadone clinic. She then became mildly indignant at this suggestion because a dose of methadone at a pharmacy would cost at least eight dollars and she didn't think that Medicaid would pay for it.

Let us Review:

1. She is hooked on opiates, which judging from her gang tattoos the addiction probably originated in illicit drug use.

2. She just produced (at tax payer expense) a child which had to spend three weeks in NICU (at tax payer expense) withdrawing from opiates.

3. She is now outraged that her taxpayer funded ER visit (caused by her own inability to manage to fit in a fifteen minute detour to the methadone clinic the day before) may cause her to spend a entire eight dollars out of her pocket to stop her withdrawal symptoms.

There is a bright side to this though...the Federal Government may be able to re-coup about two days (~$1500/day) of NICU treatment for a her addicted child by sending bill collectors after Army specialist Tyson Johnson ( http://abcnews.go.com/WNT/BrianRoss/story?id=1894152&page=1 ) who failed to repay his re-enlistment bonus after losing his kidney in Iraq.

Your Government and Tax dollars at work.....

Steve (an ER nurse in the Southwest)



CURRENT VIEW    Wednesday


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Thursday, May 4, 2006

Subject: Letter from England

This letter has three broad topics: our visit to Crete, EU boondoggles, and current events in the UK.

* Report from Crete

Diane and I spent two weeks around Easter in Crete, visiting the parts of the island that we missed last time. During the first week, we stayed in Douliana at Iliopetra Suites (Cachet Travel) near Chania on the western end of the island, visited some archaeological sites, and did some walking in the hills and Chania.

The Minoans did not settle the west of Crete in strength--there was a palace at Kydonia (Chania) that managed trade with the Mycenaeans, a town nearby at Aptera, and some settlement around Rethimno. The climate is similar to the foothills of the Sierra Nevada in California, with snowy mountains and orange groves in the lowlands. Saint Maria (Samaria) Gorge was not yet open, but we visited its starting point and walked the Imbros and Myloi gorges. We visited some other sites, including the Melidoni Cave, Chania, Moni Arkadi, and the monasteries of the Akrotiri peninsula.

During the second week, we stayed at Kouremenos villas near Palekastro (also Cachet Travel) at the far eastern end, visited quite a number of archaeological sites, did more walking, explored the countryside by car, and participated in the Greek Orthodox Easter celebrations.

The Minoans apparently were Indo-Europeans from SW Anatolia, and their earliest settlements were probably around Palekastro. The area has many more sites than might be expected, but as the population density is low, the known sites are limited. We visited the town at Gournia, the palace site, fleet base, and peak sanctuary at Palekastro, the palace at Petras, the fishing village at Mochlos, the fast galley base at Zakros, and many other sites. We also walked the lower part of the Dead Gorge at Zakros. The climate is similar to San Diego county in Southern California, but with olive groves, vineyards, and sheep/goat herding. If you lived in California in the 1950s-60s, a visit to Crete will bring back memories.

Pascha (in Greek) is different than Easter in America. There are activities throughout the week: services, fasting, scripture reading, anointing with holy oil, and communion. On Good Friday, a late evening service is held, with the symbolic bier of Christ being carried around the village in a solemn procession. The Easter service is at midnight Saturday with *everyone* attending. Leaders chant the liturgy, and the congregation remains relatively quiet. Finally, the priest lights the candles of the acolytes, who light the candles of the worshippers, and the congregation passes outside at midnight to hear the priest announce ‘Christ is risen’. They respond ‘Truly risen!’ and watch as firecrackers are thrown and an effigy of Judas is burnt on a bonfire. Finally, they break their fast with a midnight meal, traditionally based on a soup made from lamb innards (margaritsa). On Sunday, after a morning service, everyone feasts on whole roast lamb, barbecued outside on a spit over a wood fire, local wine, and traditional Easter dishes.

* European Union Boondoggles

The EU has boondoggles that would make American congresscritters blush. These are mostly funded through the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), and the amount of money wasted is large enough to even make the Labour Government complain. One area that is particularly popular for spending is history and archaeology. You can usually spot an ERDF site using four features:

1. The prominent sign.

2. The over-the-top tarting up of the site. For example, at the Melidoni cave, the steep approach road up the mountainside is lined for the last half kilometer with street lamps. At the Petras palace in Sitia, they are laying out stone and concrete paths to provide wheelchair accessibility throughout the site.

3. The lack of transport accessibility and long-term maintenance--the money is spent on the site, not on infrastructure. Some of the street lamps at the Melidoni cave are already broken, and the road to reach the Petras palace site is a single narrow lane up the steep side of a hill in an urban area.

4. The emphasis on appearance over content. At the Petras palace site, they are using concrete and random country rock to slap together the walls--no concern for real archaeology, just make it look nice for the visitors.

We visited some other ERDF sites, and the same pattern was present-- these were just the two most extreme cases.

* Current Events in the UK

We just finished a three-day weekend, and we're ramping up for local elections later this week. The Labour Government has several active scandals on its hands. <http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/4963698.stm>
 <http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,17129-2160643,00.html>  <http://politics.guardian.co.uk/labour/story/0,,1765518,00.html>
 Charles Clarke (Home Secretary) is in trouble over missing prisoners.
<http://www.guardian.co.uk/uklatest/story/0,,-5793481,00.html>  <http://politics.guardian.co.uk/homeaffairs/story/0,,1765542,00.html>  Prescott is in trouble over an extramarital affair. <http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/4961394.stm>  And the NHS problem isn't going away soon. <http://society.guardian.co.uk/publicfinances/story/0,,1763897,00.html>  <http://society.guardian.co.uk/publicfinances/comment/ 0,,1756176,00.html> <http://society.guardian.co.uk/publicfinances/story/0,,1763024,00.html>

Comments on Labour management approach. <http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,6-2160417,00.html>
 <http://society.guardian.co.uk/publicfinances/comment/ 0,,1761348,00.html>

More targets and more strikes.
<http://politics.guardian.co.uk/localgovernment/story/ 0,,1765501,00.html>

American attitude towards London's congestion charge (aka Ken Livingstone's slush fund) <http://politics.guardian.co.uk/gla/story/0,,1765480,00.html>

Insulting Turkishness. <http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/4963586.stm>  A visit to Crete brings this story home.

Research funding. The real problem is the low level of research funding in the UK. That produces a dogfight over the scraps.
<http://www.thes.co.uk/current_edition/story.aspx?story_id=2029620> .
 It's also related to the on-going strike action.

My weblog contains longer illustrated reports on a few of these topics.

-- Harry Erwin, PhD,
Program Leader, MSc Information Systems Security, University of Sunderland.


Scientists Resolve Global Warming Data Discrepancies



It seems that someone in the White House agreed with you about nailing down the data before taking a drastic step. The problem I have with this report is that I don't trust "political" scientists.


I don't trust them either. I remember Gus Spaeth, of Carter's White House science advisory council; a lawyer, who was concerned that nuclear waste might be a contaminant in the event of a new Ice Age. I asked him if I'd care about nuclear waste if my house was under 100 feet of ice, and what the contaminants would be anyway given their half lives, and he changed the subject.


Porn Industry May Be Decider in Blu-ray, HD-DVD Battle



This article points to porn as a decisive factor in the Betamax vs VHS battle, as if this is a fact of history. If so, I had no clue.


Market driven forces, Ed. Market driven forces. And see below.


Doktor Pournelle,

It occurs to me that most of the noted lack of freeway congestion on "Der Tag Ohne Auslaender" (if our Hispanic brothers can use their mother tongue, I thought I would revert to my Teutonic muttersprache in a sense of multicultural stupidity)/solidarity) was not the result of those people not driving around.

I heard at least one report that due to the lack of economic activity that day in the various downtown Los Angeles business districts almost no trucks were on the road making deliveries. This was specifically the case with the Port of Los Angeles. As during the 1984 Olympics, when trucks were banned from LA area freeways during daylight hours, this led to an immediate lessening of freeway congestion. It seems one tractor-trailer truck has the same effect on traffic as from 3 to 5 standard automobiles. This is a case of if you remove ten percent or so of the vehicles you can get a massive change in flow.

Every time I get stuck in LA freeway traffic I curse the planners and politico's who subsidize long haul trucking instead of letting the more efficient railways haul freight from docks to warehouses and distributions centers. High school physics would have taught them, had they taken it (there's a thought, real science taught to American students!) that the co-efficient of friction between rubber and concrete is considerably higher than that between a steel wheel and a steel rail.

But I digress.

Perhaps more border control AND more railways would lead to less traffic. We could even employ more of our own citizens in the building of those railways.


I won't hold my breath.

Petronius The Arbiter Of Taste

That's Herr Doktor, por favor. There were trucks on the freeways, although perhaps not as many. Kommt der Tag, Tovarisch...

But Stappers get you. Or be you Standuch?


And now an important message from our Security Correspondent:

Dr. Pournelle:

The SANS Institute (non-profit security information organization) has released their latest "Top 20 Security List". The report states there are eight patterns of growing attacks in the Internet: Internet Explorer and Firefox, media files, Apple OS/X, Oracle and Veritas, plus attacks on data warehouses using SQL injection. Spear Phishing (a highly targeted phishing attack via email) is also a growing scourge.

Note that Mac and open-source users should be aware of the security risks on their systems, which are increasing. The non-technical report is here: www.sans.org/top20/2005/spring_2006_update.php  , a link inside that report will get you to the technical details.

As before, "safe computing" practices are important for users of *any* computer system. Any OS and application can be attacked, users need to be careful in their use of their computer, no matter what platform/software used. One source for 'safe computing' is on Microsoft's site http://www.microsoft.com/athome/security/default.mspx  , the SANS site also has similar information.

Regards, Rick Hellewell



Q. What could a boarding pass tell an identity fraudster about you?
A. Way too much.


-- Roland Dobbins

If this doesn't scare you, what will?


Free Rhodesia Now!

Zimbabwe's Prices Rise 900%, Turning Staples Into Luxuries New York Times, 6.5.2 http://www.nytimes.com/2006/05/02/world/africa/02zimbabwe.html 


HARARE, Zimbabwe, April 25 How bad is inflation in Zimbabwe? Well, consider this: at a supermarket near the center of this tatterdemalion capital, toilet paper costs $417.

No, not per roll. Four hundred seventeen Zimbabwean dollars is the value of a single two-ply sheet. A roll costs $145,750 in American currency, about 69 cents.

The price of toilet paper, like everything else here, soars almost daily, spawning jokes about an impending better use for Zimbabwe's $500 bill, now the smallest in circulation.

But what is happening is no laughing matter. For untold numbers of Zimbabweans, toilet paper and bread, margarine, meat, even the once ubiquitous morning cup of tea have become unimaginable luxuries. All are casualties of the hyperinflation that is roaring toward 1,000 percent a year, a rate usually seen only in war zones. <snip>

All this was predictable and predicted. Free Rhodesia Now!


Jean-François Revel, RIP

J.-F. Revel, French Philosopher, Is Dead at 82 New York Times, 6.5.2 http://www.nytimes.com/2006/05/02/world/europe/02revel.html 


Jean-François Revel, a prolific philosopher, writer and journalist who summoned the classical polemical weapons of Voltaire and Montaigne, including humor, irony and surprise, to illuminate subjects from French cuisine to French anti-Americanism, died on Saturday in Paris. He was 82.

Mr. Revel called himself a leftist, but was known during the cold war as a champion of American values when many European intellectuals praised Marx and Mao, though he castigated the United States for the Vietnam War. In "Without Marx or Jesus" (1970), he said that America, in fact, was winning, and that "the revolution of the 20th century will take place in the United States."

More than three decades later, when many of his countrymen were outraged by the Iraq war and elements of Washington's effort to curb terrorism, he continued to write in favor of the United States. He suggested that Europeans refused to accept responsibility for their own mistakes.<snip>


Subject: VHS v. BetaMax (see above)

Dear Jerry:

When the VHS v. Betamax wars were on I was Associate Editor of Video Action magazine and covered the Consumer Electronic Show in Chicago for seven years running before I moved to California. Porn was indeed the big driver for adoption of video recorders. It was a pervasive presence at those early CES shows even when confined to an "adults only" ghetto. (Unnecessary because no one under 18 was allowed to attend the show anyway). Aside from the obvious -- men are beasts--- Porn drove the market because the major studios were standing back from video distribution because they were afraid it would hurt ticket sales. (Hollywood has NO institutional memory for these things. The same arguments were used against television and before that, radio.)

So,here is Porn, with plenty of content, not all of it dreadful from a dramatic and/or comedic point of view and they got in and stayed in. They now gross more than the so-called "Mainstream" movie and television producers.

Now as to why VHS prevailed over Betamax, a superior system from a technical point of view, that is simple. Back then tapes were $15 each. You could, at the slowest speed, get six hours on a VHS. You could not do that with BetaMax. And the machines were also less expensive. So market penetration was much greater. We learned a dirty little secret. Most people wouldn't know quality if it bit them in the...., well most people just are not technologically sophisticated about issues like color balance and image definition. They just want to watch the show.

And Porn is still a driver. Take a good close look at some of the seamier parts of Second Life and you will see things that people in First Life go to jail for.

I don't see this changing. When Anthony Comstock raided Minsky's Burlesque about eight decades ago, Heywood Broun commented, "Mr. Comstock's thesis that the relations between the sexes are deplorable may well be correct, but a conspiracy of silence will hardly alter the facts."

One of the real drivers of video, and now online, porn is the fact that privacy attaches. It can be done in the safe environment of one's domicile. And its interactive. Howard Reingold's vision of "teledildonics" has been realized.


Francis Hamit


Subject: You thought this up


I'm blocking on the name of the novel right now, but I'll never forget the scene where the CoDo riot cops sprayed slippery goop on the crowd, while the instigators sprayed solvent on their boots and walked away. You wrote this more than 25 years ago.

Well, someone may have caught on:



The story is now incorporated into The Prince. It was the first Tanith story. It was published under the title Silent Leges as I recall.




CURRENT VIEW    Thursday


This week:


read book now


Friday,  May 5, 2006

Cinco de Maya

Viv' l' Emperour

One wonders: would Mexico be better off with the heirs of Maximilian, or was the victory of the Juaristas a benefit? Our neighbors to the South have their own views, of course. One also wonders if the Juaristas would have won absent US invocation of the Monroe Doctrine?

Subject: Global warming solutions

One of my main gripes about the global warming controversy is, nobody seems to give a darn about trying to fix it, not even the people who are most concerned (or at least most strident) about it.

It seems to me that most suggested courses of action for combatting global warming are effectively a retreat to a less technologically advanced civilization. Lots of people talk about how we should reduce our use of fossil fuels, become vegetarians so there are fewer cows to produce methane, yada yada. Most of these proposals share the common element of requiring us to give up things in the way we live, the way we get around, the way we do business.

It might work, but what about the idea of rolling up our sleeves and trying to invent something that will protect us without having to restructure our entire society? Why isn’t anyone trying to approach the matter in the spirit of so-called American knowhow? This approach has served us before. When people wanted electric lights, Edison didn’t go around trying to convince people to use weaker lights so he could make his bulbs weaker. When a voyage around the Horn was long and expensive, we didn’t see nationwide efforts to convince people to cut down seaborne commerce – we built the Canal.

How about something like the X Prize – have a contest for a prize to the people who can come up with a controllable sunshade at the appropriate LaGrange point?

Louis Black used to tell his version of a joke about the hole in the ozone layer: “We have balloons and rockets. We can make ozone. FIX IT!”

I admit I don’t have any answers. But I’d sure rather see an active approach to the problem, rather than a bunch of politicians and businessmen arguing over limits on producing factory smoke. I’m not advocating a band-aid; I think we should figure out a way to put up a sunshade to give us the time to figure out a better long-term answer.

Keith Hood

That, I would think, is the proper attitude for our Congress and officials. Alas, it doesn't seem to be.

I know this: if we have lots of electricity from nuclear plants we will not ourselves be adding to the CO2; and we will find ways to use it effectively to cut down on fossil fuel use and CO2 emissions. If we have cheap transport to space we will be able to beam power down from space, using sunlight that would have hit the Earth anyway. And so forth. Of course there will be difficulties.

But going to war in Iraq is not the answer to assuring energy for the United States.,


Russell Seitz asks:

Subject:anyone we know?




George Shultz on pre-emption and the Revolt of the Generals.

Jerry, this former Secretary of State needs to be listened to, and not only because he has been annointed in some quarters as Old Man of the pre-emptiion doctrine. Shultz sees disgruntled sections of the military acquiring a dangerous habit of defiance against civilian authority as well as theiir own professional traditions. He is disturbed by the behavior of the people and thus the long-term resourcefullness of the institutions tasked to fight wars far more important than the political intifadas of the capital. I do hope Mr. Shultz's fears are premature.


Father of the Bush Doctrine George Shultz on pre-emption and the Revolt of the Generals.

BY DANIEL HENNINGER Saturday, April 29, 2006 12:01 a.m. EDT

"...George Shultz is an intellectual, an MIT economist who in his career held two other cabinet posts, labor and Treasury, under Richard Nixon. And clearly he is awed by Ronald Reagan, the "actor" President, and the years he spent serving as Reagan's minister to the world. But I had come to San Francisco because I wanted to talk about the here and now. So did he. Above all, the Revolt of the Generals and the leaks out of the CIA. He's upset.

"I always had a good experience dealing with the career people in government," Mr. Shultz said. "But I have to say it's almost as if there is an insurrection taking place. Particularly what is going on in the military is astonishing and fundamentally intolerable. There has to be a sense of discipline. This is something new, and for everybody's good it has to be dealt with."

I asked about the place of dissent in government. "Look," the former secretary said, "in our system some people get elected and what you get out of that is the right to call the shots, and the full-time career people are entitled to have their views listened to. But it is very important to see that what is going on now is a problem that goes beyond whether someone likes Don Rumsfeld or not."

George Shultz has been talking about the here and now for a lifetime. He recently sent me a speech on terrorism that he gave last month at the Woodrow Wilson International Center at Princeton. There is a quote in it from a speech he gave back in 1984, which of course is also the title of George Orwell's predictive novel. What Mr. Shultz had on his mind in 1984 was also eerily predictive. It was dealing with terrorism: "We must reach a consensus in this country," he said 22 years ago, "that our responses [to terrorism] should go beyond passive defense to consider means of active prevention, pre-emption and retaliation."

Arguably, this makes George Shultz the father of the Bush Doctrine, or at least its most controversial tenet--pre-emption. I asked how he arrived at the idea. "Being a Marine [1942-45, Pacific theater], probably my worst day in office was when the Marine barracks were bombed in Beirut." On the morning of Oct. 23, 1983, a suicide bomber drove an explosives-filled truck into the barracks and killed 220 Marines and 21 other U.S. service personnel..." <snip>

Regards, B. Pastoral


Commenting on my decision not to go to E3 because of the hoops the Press Relations people wanted me to jump through, Francis Hamit said:

Dear Jerry:

A lot of trade show press rooms are run by ignorant people who somehow think we should pay to work. What they are trying to do is to force us to BUY admission to the event. (We should pay to work?) Of course, if you do that, you still can't get into the press room to get the press kits you need to do stories where you have the correct background information and the correct spelling of names (etc). Sometimes these people have no idea of what is involved in doing a story and they tend to be a bit on the arbitrary side. I recall one, many years ago, who denied me admission because "We already have enough reporters". I didn't like her tone. My response to that was to never cover another show by that organization (Seybold). Their loss, not mine. I never lacked for work, or shows. Seybold lost coverage on their shows for many years because the magazines I wrote for were not going to pay to send someone out when I was in L.A. It was me or no one. All because one little twit decided that they had enough reporters.

So I think your approach is correct. If a business card won't do it, or they are so ignorant of the media that they don't know who you are, you should pass it by. In my experience, the best press rooms are run by people from our side of the business; former reporters who have passed over to the Dark Side and gone into Public Relations. They know. They know why you are there. They also know what you need to do your job and that their job is to provide it. They know that you cannot guarantee coverage; that final publication is not up to you, and they know that their first obligation is to the exhibitors who pay big bucks to display their wares at the show. They are the ones who the press room is for. For them there is no such thing as "too many reporters". Media coverage is half the reason they are there.

Those concrete floors don't get any kinder as we get older. Why suffer fools gladly?


Francis Hamit

I had not supposed that most of those companies paying big bucks for exhibiting at E3 were paying to be protected from my seeing their exhibits: indeed, many of them seem to want me to come by their booths. Oh well. I suppose it is arrogant of me to think that if a PR person doesn't know who I am, they probably ought to learn. Perhaps I should take this as a lesson in humility.


I also found this older note from Francis on Copyright. This is a complex issue, and most of us have an interest even if we are not aware of it.

DMCA has to go. What it will be changed to requires thought. We -- the computer aware community -- needs a position.

Dear Jerry:

The view that copyrights only benefit a few is flawed and it is apparent that most people don't grasp the full implications of the extensions. First of all, Copyright is a GLOBAL system managed by treaties like WIPO and Geneva. Those laws don't just apply here, but pretty much throughout the world. Secondly, copyrights are analogous to rights in real property or "land". While there are provisions to allow others access, the rule that someone's home is their castle is very much on point. The people who seek to limit or abolish copyright want leave to trespass on someone else's property without payment or penalty.

To say that someone has earned all of the money that they are entitled to from a copyright is like saying that your apartment building has been there for fifty years and therefore you should live rent free because it is so old. And stealing someone's electronic rights is like renting a car and selling it to a third party for cash rather than turning it in to the rental company.

It is rather a slam on creators to say that their work has no permanent value. The English notice of "fair dealing" is also very much in point. People sometimes compliment me on the sheer volume of non fiction articles I've produced; over a thousand. My reply is "It's called making a living." If all of the publishers I dealt with had been willing to pay the price I charged for full rights, which was about three times the amount I charged for a single appearance of an article, I would have done far less of that kind of work and far more fiction and drama. That thousand articles represents between ten and fifteen novels and plays I will never have time to write. So, where I did retain rights, I do not simply want those articles to pass into free use like falling overripe fruit. I recently been accused of being a "greedy freelancer". Sorry, this is a market economy and I charge what the market will bear, like any other business person, and every other creative person with any sense does the same. The fact is that freelance writers have very little bargaining power, as recent events have proved. I drove the same car for 14 years. This is a tough way to make a living and not all you might imagine in terms of freedom. The tyranny of "deadlines" is ever present. Certainly, it is not a career path for the faint of heart.

If someone squatted in your house, you would certainly call the Sheriff to have them evicted. You do something very like that when you file a copyright infringement lawsuit. The only way to change the status quo is to change the law and to do that you also need to change the treaty system. Generally that takes decades.

The other problem is that copyright law applies across the board. It is not just the freelance writer not the aging rock star who feels the impact of changes. One of my favorite cases is the one where the Flying J truck stop firm sued a competitor for copying their floor layout. They had a design copyright and had put a lot of time figuring out the most efficient system for servicing their customers. They won a four million dollar judgment. Greedy? Or Just Business?

The reason that I won't sign "all rights" contracts is that those rights cover far more than the electronic database market. Derivative rights are for all media; including film and television productions. Those I keep for myself. I write screenplays and I understand that business.

And anyone who understands business understands that you don't give away the store if you want to survive. The people who want to limit or abolish copyrights are the intellectual equivalent of shoplifters.


Francis Hamit

We may or may not agree on the length of copyright that's fair. I was perfectly happy with the old way with renewal in the 28th year. I think life plus 50 years is a bit long, but I'm willing to haggle. Life plus 90 years is silly. And see below


Subject: Joyride in yur grandma's car, trespass on a school, sentence: death by beating and suffocation

More anarcho-tyranny:


TAMPA, Fla. - A 14-year-old boy beaten by guards at a juvenile boot camp died because the guards suffocated him, a medical examiner

"Martin Anderson's death was caused by suffocation due to actions of the guards at the boot camp," said Dr. Vernard Adams, who conducted the second autopsy. The boy's body was exhumed after a camp surveillance videotape surfaced showing the guards beating him the day before he died. said Friday.

The videotape shows Anderson being kneed, struck and dragged by guards on his first day at the Bay County Sheriff's boot camp for juvenile offenders. He was eventually taken to a Pensacola hospital, where he died a few hours later, on Jan. 6.

Anderson had collapsed while doing push-ups, sit-ups, running laps and other exercises that were part of his admission process at the camp. He had been sent there for violating probation by trespassing at a school after he and his cousins were charged with stealing their grandmother's car from a church parking lot.

So, let's recap: a misdemeanor followed by a misdemeanor and you get sentenced to a Gulag where the "guards" beat prisoners to death and cover it up.

When the people cry out for justice, and receive none, how closely will they look at the resume of he who comes on a white horse and offers justice?

Petronius The Arbiter Of Taste

The boot camp idea is probably a good one, but the staffing needs close attention, and there needs to be supervision by officers.





This week:


read book now


Saturday, May 6, 2006

Subject: Sub-commander, engage the cloaking device!


Steven Dunn


Iraqis Begin Duty With Refusal.


- Roland Dobbins

Not good news. Not unexpected, but not good. So we train militias now.


Gone in 60 Seconds.


-- Roland Dobbins

Gone in 60 seconds--the high-tech version

By Robert Vamosi


Story last modified Sat May 06 06:00:03 PDT 2006

Let's say you just bought a Mercedes S550--a state-of-the-art, high-tech vehicle with an antitheft keyless ignition system.

After you pull into a Starbucks to celebrate with a grande latte and a scone, a man in a T-shirt and jeans with a laptop sits next to you and starts up a friendly conversation: "Is that the S550? How do you like it so far?" Eager to share, you converse for a few minutes, then the man thanks you and is gone. A moment later, you look up to discover your new Mercedes is gone as well.

Now, decrypting one 40-bit code sequence can not only disengage the security system and unlock the doors, it can also start the car--making the hack tempting for thieves. The owner of the code is now the true owner of the car. And while high-end, high-tech auto thefts like this are more common in Europe today, they will soon start happening in America. The sad thing is that manufacturers of keyless devices don't seem to care. <snip>


I have often wondered about that. I prefer a physical key.


Subject: A step farther out

I see no mention of the update to the old classic "A Step Farther Out" Has it been published or dropped. With all the leapfrog technology charging in our direction, It Should make a very interesting study.

Thanks, Mike Chapman

I'm working on getting electronic and print on demand editions published. It takes longer than I thought because other things get in the way.


Subject: There's the press and then there's the "press"

Dr. Pournelle:

This is not to defend arrogant public relations people, but as Francis Hamit mentions in his e-mail of "If a business card won't do it, or they are so ignorant of the media that they don't know who you are, you should pass it by" may be a bit naive. Working journalists, of whom I have no doubt both you and Mr. Hamit qualify, should have more than a business card as their bona fides. A personal case in point.

Several years ago, the German hand-tool company Metabo invited six journalists, including myself on a trip to Frankfurt and Stuttgard to visit their factories and get a briefing on their North American marketing strategy. The invitations were sent out several months in advance to working journalists [I was a national biz-to-biz magazine editor at the time].

When we got to Germany I was ashamed for my trade when I learned that three of the six people on the junket were either no longer writing for the magazines for whom they were employed when the invitations were accepted, or were in professions outside of journalism. Essentially, they were "civilians" who wanted a free trip to Germany.

Metabo was both gracious and generous enough to turn a blind eye toward these moochers, but I considered it a black eye to my profession.

Rude PR people should be punished, but they should also have the means of keeping out the freeloaders pretending to be freelancers if only to protect the resources available to the legitimate press. I'm willing to bet you've seen a "press" representative in the press room indiscriminately loading up the last pieces of literature on the release table.

-- Pete Nofel

Sure. There are "press" whose credentials turn out to be for a newsletter circulated in the high school where they teach, and whose main interest is getting to the press room so they can tap into the networking to find out where the best parties are being held. And there are free lance who haven't sold anything in years and live off free food in the press room. God knows where they sleep. In their cars, I suspect.

But I would think that part of the job of a good PR person would be to know the difference between someone with a regular column running continuously for 30 years and the correspondent for the Resume Speed, Iowa, Shopping News. In any event, the E3 people wanted me to jump through more hoops than I cared to. I could easily have got letters from Tokyo and Istanbul as well as CMP -- not an entirely unknown news company -- but that wouldn't have been enough, and accumulating the stuff they want was just more work than going to a very noisy show is worth to me.

While I am not primarily a games reviewer, my endorsement will sell a fair number of games. The exhibitors do not pay those large prices for booth space to be protected from me; and while in these web days everyone with a blog can claim to be press, some blogs really do have readers. Making those judgments is what good PR professionals are paid to do; making the process so onerous that people like me skip it entirely is the easy way out, but I am not sure doing that is any big favor to their clients.


Subject: The Pump that Exploded in Air Department

Hi, Jerry - there's been a lot of discussion lately about singing the National Anthem in Spanish. Of course, no translation is perfect; and I was curious as to how well the National Anthem could be translated into Spanish. So I fired up good 'ole Babel Fish at http://world.altavista.com/tr <http://world.altavista.com/tr>  , dumped in the first verse, and translated it into Spanish. Of course I then needed to know what it said; and since I'm not fluent in Spanish, the simple solution was to dump the Spanish translation back into Babel Fish and turn it back into English. The results are listed below.

On the whole, I think we'd be well advised to stay with the English version; it seems to flow a whole lot better. I will admit that I was a bit taken aback at "the pump that exploded in air"; I had no idea we were using liquid fuelled rockets back then. Must have been an Area 51 project.

Regards, Charlie

(the original, in English)

O say can you see, by the dawn's early light,
 What so proudly we hail'd at the twilight's last gleaming,
Whose broad stripes and bright stars through the perilous fight
O'er the ramparts we watch'd were so gallantly streaming?
And the rocket's red glare, the bomb bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there,
O say does that star-spangled banner yet wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

(What's really being sung in Spanish, according to Babel Fish)

Can you consider, by the early light of the dawn,
what so proud we hail'd in flashing last of the twilight,
that ample rays and the shining stars with the dangerous fight
Óer flowed embankments so galantemente we watch'd?
And the red fulgor of the rocket, the pump that exploded in air,
gave the test with the night that our flag still was there,
does that flag stars-star-spangled wave
Óer the Earth of the free one yet and the home of the brave one?

Not bad.

In one of the earliest experiments with machine translation, they used the system to translate "The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak" into Russian and then back again. Out came "The vodka is good, but the meat is rotten."




CURRENT VIEW     Saturday

This week:


read book now


Sunday, May 7, 2006

Subject: re: Francis Hamit on copyrights - 

Dr Pournelle, I suspect that the fact that Mr Hamit's seems to think that it's his ox being gored is leading him to overstate his case by quite a bit. From a historic view, copyright is a new concept, dating from the mid 1600's or 1700's, depending on how you look at it. While it is in the Constitution, it isn't considered a natural right, such as the right to life, liberty and property, but rather it is incorporated as a means to promote the progress of science and useful arts, granting the artist a limited monopoly for a short duration to encourage people to produce more. Thus it is more of a privilege granted in recognition that this monopoly serves the greater good than a right. In much of the world, copyright is an alien concept. For example in China, it is considered quite normal to copy work wholesale without attribution and has been that way for much of recorded history. This is one of the reasons that there is such a problem with piracy (video, literary and software) in Asia. They simply don't consider it wrong. For that matter, the idea of the US recognizing external copyrights is also quite new. The first edition of Tolkien's LOTR trilogy published in the United States was pirated. It wasn't until 1973, as I recall, that an authorized edition was published here.

While there have been some recent rulings that grant a much broader copyright protection in areas where copyright has not traditionally applied, that Mr Hamit points to with glee, it can be argued that these rulings are more in line with the overall expansion of "rights" that has come out of the court system in recent years rather than having a basis in legislative actions and are not in line with the stated purpose of copyright in the Constitution. The problem here is that when you twist the concept of copyright in this manner, then you risk losing your moral high ground. Laws that are not respected are difficult to enforce and I doubt that very many artists wish to spend most of their time trying to take people to court, a la the RIAA.

Part of the problem here is that Mr Hamit has carved a niche for himself in a very specialized area and views copyright through that narrow keyhole. What's good for the writer in that specialized area isn't so good for artists and scientists as a whole. For example, based on the various e-mails that you have posted, Mr Hamit writes articles which find their way into various online databases and he thinks that those databases should pay him extra to include his article. Now assuming that the database in question actually bought a legitimate copy of his article, what is the difference between someone reading his article in an online database and someone viewing a painting in a museum? Should the museum be expected to pay the painter an extra fee for the right to display the painting to the public? I doubt that very many people would agree with that, but that is a natural extension of Mr Hamit's expressed view of copyright. Copyright needs to be viewed as to what is best for society as a whole rather than what is best for Francis Hamit, or for the RIAA or for Disney, Inc. Does expanding copyright protection like this help promote arts and science as a whole? I rather doubt it. Indeed, depending on the data contained in the database, one could make a very good argument that having such databases available provides considerably more good to society as a whole. That doesn't mean that I think that we should all start flying the Jolly Roger, but it does mean that I think that we should keep in mind the original intent of copyright and remember that it's a two way street.

Now personally, I would tend to argue that copyright should be granted to the original artist on a yearly basis, with the monopoly right being renewable each year for the life of the artist. If the artists cares enough about the work to renew it, then it's protected, otherwise it falls into the public domain. This would allow for those rare works which continue to generate income year in and year out to be protected, but allows the vast majority of works that otherwise might disappear from sight to be available to the public.

 Phillip Walker

It's pretty clear you don't make a living as a writer. If I had to renew every one of my works every year, I'd get a job doing something else.

I understand what you want. You want me to write my head off, and have the benefit of my works, and pay if you feel like it. (Note: Mr. Walker is a subscriber, so he clearly does feel like paying; if everyone with these sentiments acted as responsibly we wouldn't need this debate.)

The problem though is not just readers who want to read something and think publishers are ripping them off so it's OK to rip off the publisher (and thus the artist). Music publisher do act in such an outrageous fashion that they are at war with their own artists (witness "the artist formerly known as Prince" who had to go through that gyration to get his own name back; and other musical talents who routinely denounce the publishers and encourage their fans to steal copies of their works since the artists get nothing anyway). Book publishers tend to be more responsible. Authors have a stormy relationship with publishers -- Fred Pohl once called them the class enemy -- but by and large the relationship is symbiotic not parasitic. But that's reputable publishers.

There is another brand of publisher, pure pirates, and these are not people who have a love of books. What they want to do is use someone else's work to get rich. Some are outright pirates, who simply print the works without permission and sell them at a small markup to mass distribution outlets. I have often found such editions of my works at Costco and Wal-Mart. These are usually overseas operations. I then complain to the US government. The State Department complains to the overseas government. The foreign government promises to do something. There is a police raid. Surprise. The publisher went out of business and can no longer be found, having vacated the premises the week after the raid was planned and a week before it was executed. A few months later the publisher is back in business, under another name, just down the street. And that happens often: as President of Science Fiction Writers of America I had to deal with it.

Then there are those who would like to use my works to draw a crowd, then run advertisements to sell other products. That happens more often than you think. And in Francis Hamit's case, there are the publishers who simply scooped up every work they could find on a given subject, put them into a data base, and sold rights to access the data base. Just about everything in that data base was written by people like Francis Hamit, who got not one dime from the revenues so generated. That's what Hamit's copyright war


 is about.

If you buy a copy of my book, certainly you can lend it to a friend; but have you bought the right to make copies and sell them? If a publisher buys a copy of a magazine that contains one of my stories (a legitimate copy, as you put it) has that publisher thereby obtained the right to scan it and put the electronic copy into a data base of  "famous science fiction stories" and charge for viewing? Give copies away but with advertising inserted? Give them away out of the goodness of their hearts (and malice toward my family)? What is this you assert? That I have the right to work and other have the right to make money off my work without consulting me?

Annual renewal. In addition to all the other work we have to do. I might survive that, but it sure would be an incentive to do journalism rather than work on anything that might take more work now but earn money over the years.

No one but a blockhead ever wrote except for money. I can alter Dr. Johnson's rather bilious remark to mean that no one but a blockhead ever wrote a third novel except for money. And yes, there are a few blockheads. But not many, I assure you. Writing is hard work. Shouldn't it be paid for?


Subject: DDT Comes back -

Hi Jerry,

Step one to combating malaria:






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


Subject: Silver bullets and golden

I read this on the Chaos Manor web site:

“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...”

This reminded me of a half-joke I used to make when I was in the Army in Germany, back in the early 80’s. I figured out a simple way to end the Cold War in Europe without shooting. A brief synopsis of the plan:

1. Previous day – Fill a bunch of cluster bombs with American Express cards, Sears catalogs, and pictures of Safeway grocery stores.

2. 8:00 AM – Drop them on opposing military bases in East Germany.

3. 8:30 AM – Fire a bunch of line charges across the fence to open gaps in the minefields.

4. 9:00 AM – East German desertion rate 100%.



Feds' Watch List Eats Its Own.


-- Roland Dobbins

I am shocked...


Subject: Conservative Crackup and Hope in Iraq

"I suppose the hope is that the Iraqi politicians will come to their senses."

I'm afraid the problem here is the hope that Iraqi politicians will come to *our* senses rather than theirs.

They have been following their own sensibilities all along much to our dismay - sectarian infighting, "big man" style politics and leadership, continued use of violence to get one's point across. That all sounds very much like the venerable traditional sensibilities of the regional politics to me.

I do think in this situation, the new crop of conservatives is falling into the same trap as the last crop of liberals. You often quote Burnham's description of liberalism, but I've never seen the west as actively killing itself so much as it's simply oblivious to the fact that it is drowning.

I've always preferred the definition of liberalism as a philosophy of futile hope for a utopian future that can never possibly be. Of course the corollary has conservatism as a philosophy of hopeless nostalgia for an idyllic past that never was. Neither has room for the realist.

Somehow the neocons have become both liberal and conservative at the same time. Not only in their Jacobin messianic delivery of democracy to everyone and anyone whether they want it or not (as though this has ever really worked), but also in their delusional hope that such an imposed democracy could somehow NOT reflect the local governed.

Seems to be a bit of a logical flaw there somewhere...

We're there. We can't just cut and run. The question is - do we try and stay until the neocon's skewed Iraqi utopia exists?

Just my 2 cents,

Scott Cardinal

I would argue that we paleo conservatives are quite realistic in both our assessments and our expectations, but otherwise your assessment is quite astute. You express the dilemma well.

Gelernter in Weekly Standard this week's Weekly Standard is worth paying attention to:


As he said, we made promises, both in Viet Nam, and in Iraq. We did not keep those in Viet Nam although we easily could have: if the Democrats had not cut and run in 1975, the 1975 offensive would have ended as did the 1973 offensive, with South Viet Nam free of the North. Corrupt, yes, but no more so than the present regime, and corruption in a thriving society is to be preferred to efficiency in a dead society. We made promises and did not keep them, and millions of former allies suffered and died for our sins. We have made promises in Iraq. As the French made promises in Algeria.

The dilemma remains. If Iraq ever has a stable democracy its first act will be to demand our departure. And if it be a true democracy, I fear that as we depart we will hear the sounds of the rifles at dawn, and the construction of reeducation camps for those who supported us.


Subject: Federal Agencies...


The unelected folks at many of these agencies can issue regulations with the force of law, and many even have their own enforcement squads...and they still can't keep the illegals out.

Charles Brumbelow












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