picture of me

Chaos Manor Home Page> Mail Home Page  > View Home Page > Current View


Mail 413 May 8 - 14, 2006






BOOK Reviews

read book now

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

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

LAST WEEK                                    NEXT WEEK


Atom FEED from Chaos Manor

Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat Sun

Highlights this week:


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

line6.gif (917 bytes)

This week:


read book now


Monday, May 8, 2006 

Subject: Letter from England

Diane has written about our Crete trip.

After the fiasco in the local elections on Thursday and the cabinet changes Friday, there's a dog fight underway in Labour. <http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/4983484.stm>  <http://politics.guardian.co.uk/labour/story/0,,1769915,00.html>

Basra crash story. <http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/4983578.stm>

University pay row may get resolved in time for exams. <http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/education/4983898.stm

Apple versus Apple <http://technology.guardian.co.uk/news/story/0,,1769812,00.html

Inheritance taxes and Islam. <http://money.guardian.co.uk/news_/story/0,,1770014,00.html

Freedom of speech <http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/london/4983780.stm

Ice cream vans <http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2-2170199,00.html

-- "The data (or the marks when teaching) are sacrosanct--they tell us what actually happened." Harry Erwin, PhD http://osiris.sunderland.ac.uk/~cs0her

Thanks. I would like to get back to Crete and Thera. I never did write that Atlantis novel, and I would like to do it one day.


Subject: About Marxism in Education and Health Care


-- Harry Erwin, PhD, Program Leader, MSc Information Systems Security, University of Sunderland. <http://scat-he-g4.sunderland.ac.uk/~harryerw> Weblog at: <http://scat-he-g4.sunderland.ac.uk/~harryerw/blog/index.php>


Subject: Mr. Walker's copyright letter

>> It's pretty clear you don't make a living as a writer. <<

Well, I do make my living as a writer, and I'd go much further than Mr. Walker suggests.

See this article on Groklaw for a depressing look at what the future holds if the corporate copyright pigs continue to have their way.


Mr. Walker is correct that copyright is an entirely artificial construct, and that the Constitutional "limited Times" has been extended beyond what anyone could reasonably consider a "limited" time. Thomas Jefferson argued strongly against making any provision at all for copyrights or patents. He was finally convinced, against his better judgment, but you can be sure that when Jefferson agreed to a "limited" term he was thinking of something closer to a year or two than to the obscenely bloated life+ terms we live with now.

Furthermore, as I have often said, there is no Constitutional provision for copyright protection on recorded audio and video. Only "Authors" and their "Writings" are protectable, absent a Constitutional amendment.

If I were running things, I'd throw out copyrights and patents entirely. Ideas and the expression of ideas should not be protectable. But as a compromise, how about we do the following?

1. Repeal the DMCA and all similar extensions of copyright law later than, say, 1789.

2. Issue copyrights to authors for a term of 1,000,000,000 years, renewable for a googolplex of additional terms. Note that such copyrights are available only to authors for their written works, not for any form of sound or video recording.

3. Penalize commercial (for-profit) copyright infringement by public hanging of those who are convicted of it. For particularly egregious cases, add drawing and quartering.

4. Explicitly legalize personal, non-commercial copyright infringement, as well as software and devices needed to circumvent copy-protection and similar measures.

But I still think it would be better just to eliminate copyrights and patents entirely.

-- Robert Bruce Thompson

Journalists, whose work seldom has much value after a couple of years, can afford that notion. Novelists have a different situation. John Boyd wrote 6 novels in his lifetime. He made a living off the residuals. His first couple didn't get big advances, but they did earn out, and he could live, not large, off savings and some residuals while he wrote the next ones. Eventually he was recognized as an important novelist, and got decent advances, but he still needed the residuals. Each of his books took a couple of years to write.

I churn out a column every month. I doubt BYTE would pay me what they if anyone could legally grab what I write the instant it comes out and market it with ads, paying neither me nor CMP. I doubt O'Reilly would pay you to do your books, and publicize and promote the revisions, if the instant your book came out someone else could then print up copies and market them at cut rates. OR GIVE THEM AWAY out of "compassion to those who can't afford them."

But I don't mind if you cut your throat -- well, I do, but then you're an old friend -- but I do wish you wouldn't cut mine.

As for the rest: Annual renewals of every copyright?

Journalists can do that, because their stuff has no residual value after a couple of years. Novelists can't afford to spend three years on a book and have it go public domain a year later because they forgot to fill out a form. And there would be lots of vultures out there just waiting for things to fall out of copyright. There were in the old 28 + 28 days, I assure you.

I have never disagreed that the time limit has been unreasonably extended, but the life plus 75 was the price of joining the international copyright convention, and being duly ratified by the Senate became law. The later extensions are silly.

But one year registrations? Really? Precisely when would I get any work done with hundreds of short works and 30 longer ones to keep track of?


Rise of the $1 Million Hovel.


 Roland Dobbins


Subject: Niven the Prophet

Jerry, What strikes me is the tone of the story, which suggests that it is reasonable for ordinary Canadians to go shopping for Chinese prison organs for transplant. Niven surely predicted this one.


Canadians buy organs culled in executions Doctors here are treating people with transplants from Chinese prisoners

Canadian transplant clinics say they are seeing increasing numbers of patients who paid for kidney transplants in China, and are sure those organs were harvested from executed prisoners.

In what a Toronto physician calls China's "assembly line" organ business, one patient received two kidneys within a week after the first organ did not work. Another talked about the "execution season," when kidneys are available most promptly.

Doctors in Toronto and Vancouver say they strongly oppose the Chinese system, which has been condemned globally as a gross human rights violation. But they say it is hard to blame desperate Canadian patients who otherwise would have to wait years for a transplant, with death a possibility in the interim.

== Barry Rueger

A terrifying story, and that's only a small part of it. Falun Gong parts for sale...


Constitution vs. the court

Dear Jerry,

An interesting situation here in Massachusetts-I'm certain that this was not forseen by John Adams when he wrote our Constitution:

"...Attorney General Tom Reilly gave citizens the go-ahead last September to collect signatures for a ballot petition that asks voters whether they support amending the constitution to ban same-sex marriage. Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD) responded with a lawsuit, claiming voters do not have the right to change the constitution with an amendment that overtly ignores a ruling by the court..."


I suppose, taking the Chief Justice's line of questioning to heart, that the 13th Amendment to the US Constitution is impermissible because the Dred Scott decision affirmed the legitimacy of slavery and the rights of slave holders in all states..




This week:


read book now


Tuesday,  May 9, 2006

=== Cleaning up some back mail. This is SHORT SHRIFT time.  ===

Subject: Heritability of Intelligence


In the Canadian Arctic, one winter, our 5 Shot-hole Drillers got into a Poker Game with our 3 Eskimo 'Environment Momnitors'.

One of the Drillers, self-proclaimed best at Poker, was walking away from the game, late at night.

"Neil, there are _no_ stupid Eskimos! Between the Polar Bears, and the Blizzards, the Dumb ones must never have had kids!"

Neil Frandsen
yes, the 3 Eskimos had cleaned the Drillers out! Grin.


Subject: Full employment at NASA

Dr. Pournelle, You once described NASA's space shuttle project as bloated sort of full-employment program for leftover employees from the Apollo project.

Reading this news article I am forced to the sad conclusion that matters at NASA are still as you describe.


NASA chief defends approach to moon

"...The agency also is no closer to solving what Griffin described as its biggest challenge -- shifting its operational workforce from shuttle and space station duties to the new moon vehicles..."

Take care, Winchell Chung


Subject: Popular Mechanics Fuel comparisons

Dr. Pournelle, Popular Mechanics seems to have done it again. They crunched the numbers and published an article comparing the various fuel alternatives. In the article, they went so far as to compare what a trip using the various fuels would actually cost. It is available in the article as a .pdf file at the bottom of the first page.

The URL is: http://www.popularmechanics.com/science/earth/2690341.html?page=1&c=y 

It makes for interesting reading.

Jeff Hitt


On Linux


First some qualifications:

I was one of the "guys" that ported Unix to the 486 and 80860 at Intel in 89-90. I was there when a young college student named Linus called asking for example code to start writing a kernel for the x86. I was and am a big fan of the Unix derivatives. My favorite is Mach which Apple OSX is based on.

That being said, I've made my living since 1994 as a consultant writing Windows device drivers. Trust me when I say this, down at ring 0, Windows is not so pretty. NT and it's popular descendants Win2K and WinXP are big improvements over Windows 3.X and Windows 9X, but they are still a hodge podge of interfaces down in driver land. You just haven't learned how to swear until you have single stepped one line of driver code and re-booted all day long.

However, as much as I like Linux, consider the following:

The other day I wanted to add my new NVIDIA 6800 graphics card to Linux Fedora Core 4. It has 2 DVI output and will drive two flat panel displays nicely. On Windows, I simply install the drivers, right click on the desktop, goto settings, and turn on the other display. On Linux, I found that Fedora Core 4 would not work with my dual display, even with the latest NVIDIA driver. After fooling around for a night and checking the web, I was still not up. Please understand, I can get the kernel sources, and go to. Once a Unix kernel guy, always a Unix kernel guy. But it was just not worth my time. I just unplugged the second display.

Another comment. While driver land is pretty ugly under Windows, consider this. Winhec is once a year. For $2K you can go to many classes on driver development. Even www.microsoft.com/hwdev is a major resource. Every few years Microsoft has driver development classes. If you happen to get a Dell or HP as a customer or even just happen to get the attention of the right folks at Microsoft, you will suddenly find yourself the center of more attention than you knew existed.

None of this is true for Linux. Don't know about Apple. I pray for them nightly now that they've gone IA32 (it will always be X86 to me - damn marketers).

That's my 3.1415 cents.




One other comment on Microsoft. If they went open source for most of the OS like Apple did, a lot of their security problems would get identified and fixed. Of course, a lot of burried bodies would also surface. Security through Obscurity is one of the stupidest things I ever heard.



Subject: Why The Upsurge Of AIDS In Blacks?

Dr. P,


"It is one of the most puzzling mysteries of the AIDS epidemic: Why did blacks, in little more than a dozen years, become nine times as likely as whites to contract a disease once associated almost exclusively with gay white men?

Two researchers say they found the answer in an unlikely place: prison...

...They discovered that the surge in black AIDS patients -- particularly women -- since the early 1980s closely tracked the increase in the proportion of black men in America's prisons, which by the 1990s had become vast reservoirs of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.

The percentage of prisoners who were black increased from 40 percent in 1982 to well over half in 1996, according to government data. At the same time, get-tough sentencing policies more than doubled the prison population, producing even more infected black men who passed the disease on to black women after they were released...

...Part of the reason for the rapid spread of AIDS among African Americans is that so many black men spend time behind bars, Johnson said. About one out of 12 black men are in jail or prison, compared with one in 100 white men; at current rates, a third of all black males born today will do time...

...Whatever the cause, the AIDS gap is not going away. Other studies suggest that half of all prisoners engage in homosexual sex. But safe-sex programs, key to controlling AIDS in the gay community, are unwelcome inside prison walls..."


Don --

 Donald W. McArthur

 "What ought to be done with the man who invented the celebrating of anniversaries? Mere killing would be too light." -- Mark Twain (1835-1910)


Jerry P:

Neither Hansen nor any other climate scientist has described the actions that are necessary, in exact detail, to bring about a turn around in ten years. The reason is obvious: It involves substantial changes in the plans of most of the world's populations that do not enjoy the US level of consumption. While they will describe what the US should do, they don't include the fact that China, India, and a few others with the potential to develop levels of consumption of significance would have to do their part in the equation or it is all for naught. The interesting thing is that China and India reaching the US level of consumption of fossil fuels is likely not possible with the known resources available.

The reason that the demand on petroleum products will drive the costs too high for them to afford with their level of technical and economic development. Anyone in the petro-chemical industry will tell you frankly that $2.00 a gallon gas is long gone. And it will not get significantly cheaper in the future but will continue to rise. Dream your dreams, but face the facts as known, not as you wish. So global consumption of petro-chemicals at the present rate, extrapolated over developing populations, cannot happen due to scarcity of resources. One wild card on a temporary basis is coal, but that is a more serious problem that has to be addressed as the pollution from coal burning in developing countries, which is likely to happen when oil prices continue to rise, will be a major air pollution problem.



Re: Abolish FEMA


You will note that the proposal to abolish FEMA doesn't replace it with anything like Civil Defense. The proposal is to replace FEMA with. . .another FEMA.



Subject: "No Place To Run"

Apologies if you've mentioned this already. The Civil Defense prescription sounds a lot like yours.


Tom Brosz


Judicial Tampering with Voting Demographics

I read http://www.jerrypournelle.com/view/view393.html#emperor  and http://www.jerrypournelle.com/view/view406.html#Monday  (have I missed any?)

Your military and education points were no surprise. The judicial tampering with voting looks to have done far more damage to America, and is something that I had not learned anywhere else.

Datum: Many years ago I read an old book (estimated about 1940's) by someone I don't remember who explained that "family" used to mean "family business". Not anymore.

Which has me thinking "voter" at the time of the founding fathers mean CEOs of the family businesses. So that expansion of the right to vote to include more males, lead to laborers running the farms and factories instead of the family CEOs (1). (I do not have warm feelings for CEOs of not family businesses who are basically hiring’s, managers, etc.) The expansion of the vote to women did much the same to families (2).

I think I'm finally beginning to understand what Ben Franklin mean by republic. My opinion is the judicial tamperings are what changed the republic into the current democracy.

(1) This lead to the unwarranted & unnecessary interference of Legislatures in the innards of businesses. (2) Genderized the vote, got government involved in everything to do between men and women, etc. (3) As you've noted, college students who are not family CEOs, do gross things with their power to vote.

Scott Rich

I have a ton of mini-essays, so yes, you've missed some, and it's my fault. I need to go over this site and collect a lot of stuff into subject matter pages. Sigh.

But the erection of the Supreme Court into a superlegislature is what will eventually force us to Empire. The emperor will be a friend of the people protecting the people from the courts. The courts will have got us used to rule without consent of the governed.

For the courts to abrogate consent of the governed in favor of some abstract Rawls-like principles was the beginning of the end of the republic. We could survive the imperial presidency and congressional usurpations. We cannot survive when the notion of consent of the governed is so treated.


Subject: rebuttal to Scott Cardinal's mail of Thursday

Mr. Cardinal says in his mail that Linux is for people that like to tinker with their systems vs. using them, because it takes work.

I'll counter by asking how much time is invested by Windows users in keeping their systems deloused of viruses/spyware/rootkits/etc., and the inevitable re-imaging every 12-18 months.

The SuSE 10 release I set up as a dual-boot on my HP Pavilion has all the basic tools he expects: browser, e-mail, office suite, etc. I added desktop icons for photo management, archive files (WinZip equivalent), etc. from the menu. I downloaded Eclipse for developing code, which I would have had to do on either platform. I'll concede that some of the other distributions have become server-oriented and don't provide much of a desktop, but there are certainly enough that do (I'll recommend the *Ubuntu distro's for those looking for a well-featured Linux desktop).

-- Bob Halloran Jacksonville FL


Civilization of Deception.


--- Roland Dobbins


Subject: Rosslyn, Templars, Gypsies and the Battle of Bannockburn.

Rosslyn, Templars, Gypsies and the Battle of Bannockburn.


- Roland Dobbins

I am convinced that many Templars and probably the fleet went to Scotland after Philip The Monster suppressed the order.


Next step in pirating: Faking a company.


--- Roland Dobbins


War privatisation talks in Warsaw.


- Roland Dobbins


On Fusion

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


Subject: Frum, Pareto

Dr. Pournelle,

Thought you might enjoy this article about the egregious Frum and Pareto:


You don't know me, but you might remember the urban legend about the wheelchair-bound grandma who beat up six airport security guards. I found it linked on your site. I was the one who wrote it.

Thank you,

Bob Wallace


Subject: Frightening if True...

I have no way to verify the accuracy of this, but it is frightening if true, Dr. Pournelle.


"Magnequench UG, although still headquartered in Indianapolis, IN, is the sole provider of specialized magnets for military aircraft systems. But it closed down its manufacturing arm permanently in 2004 and finished relocating operations to China at that time, with its operations now solely controlled by Chinese companies with direct ties to the Chinese government

"Magnequench magnets are produced from a unique patented process of sintering specialty metals. They are used by various electronics and aviation companies, but Magnequench's primary client is the Pentagon, leaving the U.S. in a rather precarious position with China. Enjoying 85% ownership of the world's market of rare earth metals, required for its magnet production, Magnequench's factories are now located in Batou, China. It is there that the world's only operating rare earth mine exists. Thus, China now owns a monopoly on the manufacture of missile magnets which the U.S. military is dependent upon for its most sophisticated technology and weaponry."

Charles Brumbelow


Subject: Mac Mini Running Windows XP Pro

That's what I've got now. It's really fast and really nice, and until I get saturated by playing Civ IV, it'll probably mostly run Windows. Making it work is adventurous, but not that much more complicated than installing Windows XP Pro on any PC. How do you convince Norton that you really want to run the MS Firewall?

-- Harry Erwin, PhD,

Program Leader, MSc Information Systems Security, University of Sunderland.


From a reliable source, a nurse in Iraq:


Time for me to let you know some things I have learned. First, I have a new respect for Marine officers, specifically at the BN level, to include down to O-3. Have not had contact with the 1's or 2's, so cannot comment. I feel woefully inadequate (although someone told me to NEVER show that) from a military standpoint, and am trying to soak up this Marine stuff. Went on a moto hump, 50# pack, flak (with SAPI's), kevlar, for 50 minutes. Damn near died. I have a lot of work to do to get in better shape. I have, however, lost a total of 16# since arriving at Camp Pendleton.

BTW, Gunny Jxxxxxxx is aboard Camp Fallujah. Continuing, this activation has brought me to realize what the Marine Corps is, what happens to the men and the crushing burden of responsibility that the officers and senior enlisted have to take care of their Marines and bring them home. Have also realized (you are gonna like this one) that this is not about getting to do cool stuff, toys, guns, and bravado. None of that, and the people who talk like that are dangerous. The job is dangerous, and some people could get hurt, or worse. My responsibility is to take care of my Marines and Sailors, and be a good officer. I know I told you I understood when we last had eye lock, but I say now that I really understand and that level rises each day with more experience.

You said to stay in my lane. Done. My responsibilities demand that. I have the opportunity to go outside the wire on short convoys to deliver detainees to Abu Graib, or release into the town. Have not gone yet, but will before I leave here. I AM NOT going to do something that would be considered taking chances. Not looking for any accolades or action, just want to see what my Marines do. Nothing more than that.

I really don't need anything, one of the hard things here is controlling my appetite and not eating too much. Would like any reading you think would be informative for me to learn about USMC stuff, if you can swing that. Email me when you have the chance.



More on Swift

Swift Provides Quick Delivery in North Persian Gulf

By Journalist 3rd Class Bobby Northnagle, Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Central Command/Commander, U.S. 5th Fleet Public Affairs

MANAMA, Bahrain (NNS) -- The U.S. Navy's only High-Speed Vessel, Swift (HSV 2), demonstrated its unique ability for rapid response and logistical support when it delivered a replacement rigid-hull inflatable boat (RHIB) 270 nautical miles in less than 24 hours, April 26.

Swift, currently leased from Australia and deployed to the U.S. 5th Fleet, was at sea in the Persian Gulf off the coast of Bahrain when it received a call to deliver the replacement RHIB to USS Lake Champlain (CG 57), which was supporting maritime security operations (MSO) in the North Persian Gulf. Lake Champlain's RHIB was on its way back to the ship after delivering security personnel and food to the Iraqi oil platforms when an aggressive storm hit and damaged the boat. With Lake Champlain's other RHIB inoperable and awaiting repair, the closest replacement RHIB was in Bahrain.

The Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser is conducting MSO in the North Persian Gulf, which is critical for the safety of the local Iraqi oil platforms. These platforms are vital assets to Iraq's economy, so Lake Champlain needed a replacement RHIB immediately.

"The RHIB was too big to be lifted by a Desert Hawk, [the only available helicopter]," said Cmdr. Tom Gerstner, deputy director of logistics at Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Central Command (NAVCENT) in Bahrain. "But we needed to get the RHIB and the spare part [to the North Persian Gulf] quickly."

Swift was the only vessel with the speed and capability to deliver the RHIB in such a short time frame due to its wide array of features, such as its size, large mission deck, crane, vehicle ramp, maneuverability and its navigation system.

Swift crew members loaded the boat on the high-speed vessel and departed Bahrain on the evening of April 26. By morning, it arrived at Lake Champlain's location to make the delivery.

"We were able to get the replacement RHIB to Lake Champlain without the ship even putting out a CASREP," said Capt. Rob Morrison, Swift's commanding officer, referring to the standard "casualty report" that units use to notify others that a piece of equipment is not working and sets the chain of events in motion to repair or replace it. "This was a great example of how, with Swift, our capacity for rapid reaction has accelerated beyond the speed of the planning process."

"One of the keys to our quick reaction was our electronic navigation capability," he said. "When NAVCENT asked us how quickly we could get to the NAG, we were able to lay out a track and give them an answer right away."

Gerstner agreed and said the choice to use Swift for the delivery was based on its capabilities.

"It's a real flexible [vessel]," he said. "It can be used for transportation, logistics, medical evacuation, command and control, and special operations. It only has an eight-foot draft, which means it can go closer into shore [than most ships]."

MSO set the conditions for security and stability in the maritime environment, as well as complement the counter-terrorism and security efforts of regional nations. These operations deny international terrorists use of the maritime environment as a venue for attack or to transport personnel, weapons or other material.

For related news, visit the Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Central Command/Commander, U.S. 5th Fleet Navy NewsStand page at www.news.navy.mil/local/cusnc/.



Probably a trite political observation, and this may have surfaced from reading something that stuck in my subconscious until now (while addressing libertarian impulses in the two major parties to another correspondent), but I've just realized that the US DOES have a coalition government -- it's just that here, the coalitions have formed into the two major parties prior to the election.

Thus we have the "Democratic" party which can be viewed roughly as a coalition of what in Europe might be called Green, Social Democratic, Labor, Farmers, Civil Libertarians, and Socialist parties; and the "Republican" party, which can be viewed roughly as a coalition of what in Europe might be called Christian Democratic, Patriotic Conservative, Isolationist, Industrialist, Rational Libertarians, and Constitutionalist parties. (Some of these terms are a bit arbitrary because US conditions are different than European, and some of the extreme members of the Democratic party view any designation of "Nationalist" as equivalent to fascism; and some of the distinctions may be too fine -- for example, there is probably considerable overlap between potential Christian Democrats, Patriotic Conservatives, and Constitutionalists, and of course Social Democrats and Socialists have always been a fine hair to split.) But the formation of the "ruling coalitions" at the expressed party level rather than in post-election politics accounts for much of the different dynamics of US and European politics; and conversely, any new party to form in the US has to pull a coalition together out of the aggrieved parts of the expressed parties, against both tradition and common interest. For example, Perot's Reform Party in 1992-6 drew from the minority of non-Socialist Social Democrats, Labor, Patriotic Conservative, Civil and Rational Libertarians, and Constitutionalist elements of the two expressed parties, but not universally, and it's greater appeal to Republican factions probably put Clinton in the White House for two terms due to the reduced fragmentation of the Democratic coalition. (Not that either Bush I or Dole campaigned like they really wanted the job. And it is amusing to consider that if the Reform Party hadn't been captured by Pat Buchanan Isolationists in 2000, it might have remained enough of a force to assure Gore's election. God save us all.)

As someone with considerable more expertise in matters political than I ("i-am-but-an-egg") I'm confident you can find the weaknesses (and strengths, if any) in this argument. But I think it makes an interesting mirror to view American politics through.


The problem is in the primary process.

We should not have primaries for national office. I am not convinced of their utility even for local offices, at least not for partisan office.

We no longer have traditional political parties that will compromise to win office. I see this will take a lot longer than I have time to deal with it.

Perot's Reform Party, coupled with a real "Take Back Your Government" reform movement to build a real party, could have done well. Perot seems to have been all ears for a while then something happened to him. I'd swear it was as if someone slipped him a Mickey.




This week:


read book now


Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Subject: the "me-too" alt fuel article from PM

What a surprise! Another allegedly comprehensive article on gasoline alternatives that omits what may be the most promising technology of the lot. Thermal depolymerization (TPD) eats garbage without significant preprocessing, and spits out a light crude equivalent, along with other byproducts that are either useful, or relatively benign. Two successful demonstration plants have been built: Philadelphia, PA and Carthage, MO.

The Carthage plant has been processing hundreds of tons of waste daily from the Con Agra Butterball plant for several years. The resulting product may be utilized by the current processing and distribution facilities for light crude, with virtually no changes or capital investment required beyond the TPD plant itself. While some realignment of the distribution chain (both pre and post) might ultimately be required, since TPD can apparently accept raw landfill garbage, it should be no great trick to initially locate TPD plants convenient to current gasoline cracking facilities.

Why does this technology receive virtually zero attention from politicians or media, while those groups glibly dote on less promising stuff? Is Changing World failing to adequately grease palms, or greasing the wrong ones? The Carthage TPD facility has been shut down a number of times because of odor complaints. I was unable to find figures for the efficiency of turkey processing, but if one assumes that 20% becomes solid (more or less) waste, Butterball-Carthage is processing on the order of 2 million pounds of turkey per day to feed 200T to the TPD plant. I travel Rt 13 through Delmarva past the much smaller chicken processing plants (Purdue, Tyson, etc.) regularly, and I can tell you with authority that any incremental contribution to the smell that might result from consuming the waste in this manner would of necessity be inconsequential.

I have no evidence, but little doubt, that the silent hand of Archer Daniels Midland and possibly other ethanol advocates is behind the complaints, and possibly also partly responsible for suppressing media coverage. But some hope may remain.

Perhaps if H5N1 continues to be a dud, and prion diseases become sufficiently widespread to become fodder for the next big, irrational media panic campaign, the headline droids will pretend to have suddenly discovered TPD.

Links: Wikipedia article: http://tinyurl.com/4fk7m Original Discovery article: http://tinyurl.com/b9x2c Changing World Technologies home page: http://tinyurl.com/97ogu

=== Scott Miller

You may or may not recall that I wrote about this technology in Galaxy and incorporated that column in A Step Farther Out. This was in the 1970's.  Everything has been said but no one listens...


Subject: Mail on Perot


I would agree with you. I voted for him because, fresh out of civil service at NASA, what he said resonated with what I knew about the government. He seemed to be on a roll, and then whoosh, it all fell apart.

On the tree of liberty being thirsty, if the 3 odd million illegal immigrants in Los Angeles County statement from the other day is even close to true, then we are in the middle of a full scale invasion, the likes of which our past enemies only wish they could have pulled off in their wildest dreams. You folks in Studio City need to build your own wall. The parks around here (Bay Area) are overrun on the weekends by what I suspect are illegals having festivals. They don't bother anyone, but where did they come from?


I had really hoped that Perot would build a new grass-roots party. His change was so sudden that I would seriously entertain the hypothesis that someone drugged him.


Subject: Popular Mechanics on Ethanol

Dr. Pournelle,

Having read the Popular Mechanics article last week, I immediately noticed that their numbers seemed a bit low. From everything I have read, 100 bushels of corn equals 300 gallons of ethanol. I would have guessed lower, but this number is pretty consistent. The official figures from the USDA for the average yield per acre of corn is on the order of 150 bushels/acre. The 100 bushels/acre figure is from the late 80's. Thus the yield per acre should be 50% greater than what Pop. Mech. claims.

In other news, our governor signed a bill last week allowing E85 to be sold here in the valley (Phoenix metro area) apparently they had to change the law because the previous clean air law failed to take into account that E85 is lower polluting than the 10% stuff. Thus the clean air law forbade the cleaner burning fuel.


Mark E. Horning, Physicist,


Subject: intel macs

Hi Jerry,

I read your Byte column this morning with interest. Part of me wanted to wait too, but having recently spent 18 hours out of a 36 hour quick visit to LA stripping malware from family member's PCs was the nail in the coffin. Rather then build a new PC I have been needing, I bought an dual core Mini as an interim machine. It is just stunning. I am even running Ubuntu and Windows XP on it via Parallels Workstation. I have (albeit as a stunt, the Mini having one one gig of RAM) run all three OSes simultaneously.

I'd dive in. Switch it off an existing display with a KVM if need be. One caveat, it really wants a digital LCD, so the exercise cost me an Apple 20" Cinema Display. It is just plain wonderful too.


Richard Kullberg


Thanks to Julie Woodman for this one:


BBC NEWS A load of hot air? By Simon Cox and Richard Vadon BBC News

Hardly a day goes by without a new dire warning about climate change. But some claims are more extreme than others, giving rise to fears that the problem is being oversold and damaging the issue.

How much has the planet warmed up over the past century? Most people reckon between two and three degrees. They are not even close. The real figure, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is 0.6C.

It's not surprising most people get it wrong. We are bombarded by stories warning us that global warming is out of control. The most extreme warn us we will be living in a tropical Britain where malaria is rife and Norfolk has disappeared altogether.

Dr Hans Von Storch, a leading German climate scientist and fervent believer in global warming, is convinced the effect of climate change is being exaggerated.

"The alarmists think that climate change is something extremely dangerous, extremely bad and that overselling a little bit, if it serves a good purpose, is not that bad."

Why do the stories that reach the public focus only on the most frightening climate change scenarios? We decided to find out for a BBC Radio 4 documentary.

In 2005 the scientific journal Nature published the first results of a study by Climateprediction.net, a group of UK climate scientists. They had been testing what effect doubling the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere would have on temperature.

The vast majority of their results showed that doubling CO2 would lead to a temperature rise of about 3C. Such an increase would have a major impact on the planet. The scientists of Climateprediction.net say that is what you would expect their model to produce, and many other scientists have produced similar results. However a tiny percentage of the models showed very high levels of warming - the highest result was a startling 11C.

Attention grabbing

When it came to selling the story to journalists, the press release only mentioned one figure - 11C.

If journalists decide to embroider on a press release without referring to the [research], we can't as scientists guard against that Dr Myles Allen The ensuing broadsheet headlines were predictably apocalyptic, from "Global warming is twice as bad as previously thought" to "Screensaver weather trial predicts 10C rise in British temperatures".

They may be dramatic but they are also wrong. Dr Myles Allen, principal investigator at Climateprediction.net, blames the media.

"If journalists decide to embroider on a press release without referring to the paper which the press release is about, then that's really the journalists' problem. We can't as scientists guard against that."

But is the media solely to blame? We asked several climate scientists to read the paper and the press release publicising it. All were critical of the prominence given to the prediction that the world could heat up by 11C.

"I agree the 11C figure was unreasonably hyped. It's a difficult line for all scientists to tread, as we need something 'exciting' to have any chance of publishing... to justify our funding," one scientist wrote us. <snip>

Wolf! It really was! It was a really, truly wolf!


Subject: Our Man in Mogidishu 


A fourth day of fighting between rival militias in Mogadishu saw the death toll rise to at least 94/..the latest battle is the third between gunmen allied to Islamic courts and militia linked to the Alliance for the Restoration of Peace and Counter-Terrorism, a coalition of powerful warlords.

Russell Seitz


Fred's recent column comparing Mexican schools with stateside schools is interesting, Dr. Pournelle:


"...I have my doubts as to whether the big-city schools in America are greatly ahead of Guadalajara. Detroit recently had, and probably still has, a forty-seven per cent rate of functional illiteracy. Guadalajara doesn't. If someone were inspired to compare the foregoing material with what students, if so they can be called, are learning in downtown schools in, say, Washington, DC, Chicago, and New York, I would be interested to see the results.

It will be said, correctly, that the cities of America are populated by extensive underclasses of blacks and Hispanics. True enough. However, they are still American kids (now or soon to be) who are learning nothing. Natalia would eat them alive. I have some familiarity with the suburban, mostly white schools of Arlington County, Virginia, just outside of Washington, because my daughters went to them. At least one of these schools served populations living in very pricey neighborhoods.

"The girls came home with misspelled handouts from affirmative-action science teachers, and they learned about Harriet Tubman and oppression. Of the sciences they learned very little. I knew bright kids who had trouble with the multiplication tables. Yes, there are schools and schools, some better than others, and advanced-placement and such. I do not suggest that Mexico has a great school system, because it doesn't. Yet Natalia, in her particular school, is better off than she would be in Washington, heaven knows, or the Virginia suburbs. Ain't that something?"

Interesting comparison from someone who seemingly "has no dog in this hunt".

Charles Brumbelow

The pages from his step-daughter's Spanish language public school textbooks are illuminating, too.



CURRENT VIEW    Wednesday


This week:


read book now


Thursday, May 11, 2006

So much for 'noble savagery'.


-- Roland Dobbins


On the Central Intelligence Mess

Subject: This weeks Stratfor Report


This week's Stratfor Geopolitical Intelligence Report (www.stratfor.com)  newsletter is titled "The Intelligence Problem," by George Friedman, and it is not optimistic...

"The [vicious battle between the White House and the CIA] is simply about who bears the blame for Iraq. The White House and the Defense Department have consistently blamed the CIA for faulty intelligence on Iraqi weapons of mass destruction and over the failure to predict and understand the insurgency in Iraq. The CIA has responded by leaking studies showing that its intelligence indeed was correct but was ignored by Bush and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. The truth, as usual, lies somewhere in the middle." <snip> Not much news here, but...

"The issue is not who heads the CIA or what its bureaucratic structure might be. The issue is, as it has been for decades, what it is that the CIA and the rest of the intelligence community are supposed to do and how they are supposed to do it. On the surface, the answer to that is clear: The job of the intelligence community, taken as a whole, is to warn the president of major threats or changes in the international system. At least that appears to be the mission, but the problem with that definition is that the intelligence community (or IC) has never been good at dealing with major surprises, threats and issues. Presidents have always accepted major failures on the part of the IC. <snip>

"This is why the argument going on between the CIA and the White House/Defense Department misses the point. Bush well might have ignored or twisted intelligence on Iraq's WMD. But the failure over Iraq is not the exception, it is the rule. The CIA tends to get the big things wrong, while nailing the lesser things time and again. This is a persistent and not easily broken pattern, for which there are some fundamental causes.<snip>

"[The CIA} is awash in information that is not converted into intelligence that is delivered to its customers. Huge organizations will lose information in the shuffle. . <snip>"

Thus the beginning of the systematic problem, undoubtedly made worse during the Clinton years but not YET attacked in any fundamental fashion by the Bush administration.

And the fundamentally depressing finale...

"Rethinking why there is an intelligence community and how it does its job is the prerequisite for Hayden and Negroponte to be successful. We do not believe for a minute that they will do so. They don't have enough time in office, they have too many meetings to attend, they have too many divergent views to reconcile into a single coherent report. Above all, the CIA has to be prepared to battle the real enemy, which is the rest of the intelligence community -- from the Defense Intelligence Agency to the FBI. And, of course, the odd staffer at the White House


We blamed Pearl Harbor on a failure to integrate intelligence. The War Department (Army) had code breakers. The Navy had radio intelligence. The FBI had all intelligence operations in the Continental US and the Caribbean. The State Department had an intelligence unit, most of which was under the control of communists or sympathizers, or political naifs like Berle who was told by Chambers of a communist cell in State, made memos to himself of the conversation, and otherwise did nothing. And so forth. Integration was supposed to solve these problems. Central Intelligence, Department of Defense to integrate War and Navy and add Air Force. But then CIA lost a turf war and NSA and NRO came into existence. Defense didn't trust CIA and slowly built DIA (and under Graham was competent, which meant it would be infiltrated and bureaucratizes after Graham left.) And on. And so forth.

Now we have the cookie pushers and bureaucrats of the Agency in conflict with the operations agents, and super spook Negroponte as the king of bureaucratic turf warriors.

I seriously wonder if it would not be better to let every relevant department have its own intelligence agency. They would take turns having access to the President. Then each would pass its reports to its agency head to a central office of no more than 200 analysts, and have the analysts look for alarms. We wouldn't get an integrated product. The good news is that we wouldn't get an integrated product.

I recall the days when Possony and I would demonstrate the USSR could not possibly be spending less than 30% of GDP on its military (a level that was economically disastrous); and State and the CIA would prove we were out of our minds, and it couldn't be more than 15% and was probably 12% because if they spent more it would be economically disastrous. Keep all that in mind when thinking about the competence of our grand intelligence consensus estimates and the Daily Briefing to the President: every day the President was told imbecilities by the CIA about what the USSR was spending on its military.

Fortunately, Reagan went to sleep during their briefings and sought counsel from outside, with the result that we got Star Wars and the collapse of the USSR.

Our national intelligence system is worse than a mess, and most of it is worse than useless, and the more we centralize it so that the President gets one single "integrated" intelligence report, the more important it becomes to capture control of the final editorship of that report, and the more the nation falls in the hands of bureaucrats.

Let a dozen flowers bloom and let them all have access to the President. And have a small staff to make an integrated report which the President can hear on the second Tuesday of each month, but they get five minutes daily with the Chief of Staff to sound urgent alarms.


Dear Jerry,

>>I seriously wonder if it would not be better to let every relevant
>>department have its own intelligence agency.....The good news is that
>>we wouldn't get an integrated product.<<

Agree. I've thought this since the middle 1980s. A bureaucratic process - consolidation and distillation of intelligence - cannot make up for Presidents and cabinet officers who can't or won't do their jobs. DIA evolved precisely because of the following mindset, automatically regurgitated by the STRATFOR analyst: "On the surface, the answer to that is clear: The job of the intelligence community, taken as a whole, is to warn the president of major threats or changes in the international system."

No. 'The job of the intelligence community, taken as a whole', is to provide intelligence data to the entire federal government to support its execution of national policy as established by the President and Congress. And also to support the formulation of that policy. Because of the CIA's perennial White House centric focus we've gone into operations like Grenada, the 1988 'Tanker War' in the Gulf and many others partly or wholly blind about very fundamental circumstances on the ground. Yet circumstances easily determined had anyone bothered to inquire. People in the FBI might have their own tales to tell about lack of CIA focus on other foreign activities of interest leading to untoward events. The job described by STRATFOR of warning the President belongs to the National Security Advisor and the Secretaries of State and Defense. And to Congress.

If we achieve this thought then what should be done with the CIA at this point is clearer. The Directorate of Intelligence should be completely removed from the CIA, its bureaucratic structure broken up and its analytical assets divided up among its primary customers. These are the National Security Council, Defense, State, Commerce, Justice/FBI and the new Department of Homeland Security, plus a few others. DI has been nothing but a loose cannon in Washington ever since it was created. DI has no responsibility for any mission results in any subject matter area in the federal government. Creating it just led to an irresponsible collection of academic analysts sounding wise on subjects they had no responsibility for and usually no practical experience in.

What's left of the CIA, which will be mainly the Directorate of Operations, should have its orientation redirected exclusively on foreign human intelligence (HUMINT) collection. It will thus become a very specialized intelligence collection agency like the NSA and the NRO. Direct action covert operations should be assigned to DoD and further sub-delegated to the regional Commanders-In-Chief. These are the men responsible for results in their different geographic areas. Their 'Joint' commands of Army, Air Force, Navy and USMC units invariably obtain greater area expertise and focus than bureaucrats removed inside the Beltway. And it's time for all the covert 'spooks' to join those geographic teams rather than rolling around the world like loose cannons the way DI does inside Washington, D.C.

Best Wishes,



Subject: NSA wrietapping


The fact SIGINT activity is in the paper at all is beyond me, but it is. Of course "USA Today" is one of the pillars of journalism.

So everyone is upset about big bad NSA having access to their phone records. Time for a reality check. The slime ball, used card dealership down the road can, for a monthly fee, have access to virtually all of a person's financial information through the credit bureau's. The job resume you just submitted to a big company or that head hunter, will probably be mined for any useful information and put in a commercial data base by that company (whose name slips my memory today) for access to anyone with enough cash. Both of the former happen all day long, but we are not raising a fuss about that. No, we're upset by an agency with a long history of success in the Intelligence business. One whose very existence was mostly unknown by the public for most of the cold war.

Of course, thanks to Hollywood, we had better watch out for those NSA hit squads!



Subject: Intelligence Community

Dear Jerry:

There is a reason that we have 15 intelligence agencies. Intelligence structures tend to represent the societies they serve. You might say that bringing everything in intelligence to a single point is actually anti-Democratic. The USSR did that. It did not serve them well. (I've always believed that Yuri Andropov saw the handwriting on the wall, but, unable to convince the others in the top leadership, hand picked Gorbachov to manage the transition and limit the damage. He knew he wouldn't live to see it, but was, in his own way, a patriot who put country above self.)

The whole job is too big for any one organization and specializations breed prejudices as the superiority of those methods over others. Bureaucratic turf battles are inevitable because no one ever has enough resources to do a perfect job. People outside the system always like to think they have a better idea, and this is almost always a distraction rather than anything fresh and original that the principle players have not thought of themselves.

Under the 1947 Act the director of the CIA was supposed to coordinate all intelligence activities, but DOD and the other departments, especially the FBI, never bowed to their mandate. Intelligence operations show up in surprising places. There is one in the Department of Agriculture which uses spy satellite images to estimate crop yields worldwide. The big problem is priorities. The Intelligence Community has made great strides in the last ten years in creating a "fusion" and "all source" reporting system. Ultimately what defeats early warning systems is information overload and the prejudices and/or indifference of more senior personnel in the chain of command. There is a reason that military officers are transferred every three years on the average and why there are more retired flag rank officers than active duty ones. It is to prevent this kind of stultification. On the civilian side the top jobs have become political plums to be handed out to those valued not for their expertise and competence, but for their loyalty to a political theory. (FEMA is also a victim of this, as is DHS.) This can have fatal consequences and creates unnecessary vulnerabilities.

The recent reorganization has been executed on the old political principle of "Do something, even if it's wrong!". Rearranging the chairs in the boardroom does not change the basic business of the enterprise. I rather hope that General Hayden is confirmed because I know his background and where his heart is. He's spent his life upholding and defending the Constitution and will use his expertise in technical intelligence to inform the human side of the equation. His military background is a plus, not a negative, if only we have the wit to see it.


Francis Hamit


Subject: Commercial Space Transportation Advisory Committee

FYI, FAA to Host Commercial Space Transportation Advisory Committee May 9 – From May 23-24, FAA’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation will host the 43rd meeting of the Commercial Space Transportation Advisory Committee at FAA Headquarters in Washington, DC. Members of the Committee are leaders in the industry for expendable and reusable launch vehicles, satellite services and other space-related businesses.

Meeting agenda is at:

http://www.faa.gov/ <http://www.faa.gov/




“We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.” ----Albert Einstein


On Linux:

Subject: Re: Phil's 3.1415 cents

Jerry, Phil may dislike the fact that something which he can do easily under Windows appears difficult/impossible under Linux. But it is not impossible. It *is* sometimes very difficult to find out where or how to find out how to do things in Linux. About the *only* thing which Microsoft does well, is determine what users would possibly like to do, and then make it simple for the user to do that.

Part of it is tied to the hardware scans which it does on every boot. If there is new hardware, then Windows asks if the user wants it installed! And Linux does....???

So Phil looked in the wrong places: try http://blog.chris.tylers.info  and drill into the archives (Feb 2006) where there is an article on multi-seat setups. It all has to do with xorg.conf not the kernel. Linux IS built to do that but it is not as clean a process. (Which also says a lot about why Linux is still not a full competitor for the desktop.)


 To which I replied that this looked like the poster child for why Linux won't go into the corporate world.

Well, *I* think it depends upon what that desktop is being used for. If it runs a dedicated process the user does not need to know nor care what the OS is. If the user has to maintain that desktop (rather than just re-boot every once in a while) then the 'installed base knowledge' of windows is damn useful. And the yawning chasm of no-knowledge is daunting!

What is surprising to me, is how many places continue to use windows in environments which really cry out for some other OS so that the security and instability problems of windows can be avoided.

Point of Sale terminals, internet linked credit card terminals and ATM machines should NOT be running windows.

My 2 pieces of pi: 6.2830 cents!


Which makes it make more sense.



Your corrspondent talks about not having good Linux drivers for a particular 2 screen video card. I think the error is in not researching cards before buying one and getting one that had a good Linux driver. Converting an existing Windows computer to Linux is not a good way to judge it - if you want to set up a company or your Aunt with Linux, you get a box with all Linux friendly components from the start.

I have boards, USB and Gameport devices (from Microsoft even - my Sidewinder) that do not have a working driver for Windows XP. This doesn't make XP a failure. I think you have to judge XP on a Dell box that was made with parts tested with XP and judge Linux based on a computer built from a parts from Linux friendly companies (either supplying their own Linux drivers or opening up the interface). It's fun to boot Linux from a CD on a Windows computer, but if it will be an important machine, you have to be ready to spend $50 or $100 to sidestep a missing driver.

- Stephen Hart


House votes for hydrogen prizes

Someone's been reading your journal Jerry.




"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

It's a start...


Literary affirmative action.

My vote is for Tom Wolfe's _The Bonfire of the Vanities_. Of course, this crowd wouldn't even give him the time of day.


---- Roland Dobbins

Maybe we ought to have our own contest. Most of the ones they like so well I fear I was not able to finish. I'd rather read a Tom Clancy, or a good detective story, than most modern literature.

There was a time when good books were ones you wanted to read, not books that someone had convinced you were good for you. Of course in school we did have to read books we didn't want to read. Silas Marner was for some reason required by everyone in 9th grade in Tennessee. Cured me of reading women novelists for a decade, but I can't say I am sorry I read it, and eventually I did read other George Elliot novels.

Some good books are hard slugging, not entertaining, and one reads them for reasons other than just to pass the time. It takes time to figure out which ones these are. Having American professors of literature may not be the right way to choose them.


On intelligence and NSA

Subject: NSA Spying Outed

Perhaps traffic analysis on the entire American population makes sense, but I question whether it is cost-effective, and I wonder what other uses the data has been put to.

I had a discussion with a KGB analyst about what was going on about 1992, and she indicated that the KGB had gone into damage-limitation mode before Andropov's time. Andropov had the remit to salvage something from the disaster, and Gorbachev inherited the same assignment.

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

Possony used to say that the KGB was the only outfit in the USSR that KNEW the situation was desperate and the economics were a potential disaster. We -- Possony and I -- understood, the KGB understood, but for some reason the CIA didn't understand. Nor did Kissinger. Nor did Carter. Kissinger was deceived by the CIA. Carter was, well, Carter. Reagan got the same faulty gubbage from the Agency, but he had other sources, including Dick Allen from Hoover, and that. thank God, made everything different.




CURRENT VIEW    Thursday


This week:


read book now


Friday,  May 12, 2005

Subject: Rome and the Barbarians,


I have just finished listening to a wonderful lecture series, Rome and the Barbarians:


The professor, Kenneth Harl, specializes in researching the economic history of the Roman Empire and its frontiers. He has done a wonderful series on the Vikings

3910.asp?id=3910&d=Vik ings&pc=Search

but here he does a lovely job describing how the Romans interacted with barbarians, from the days of the Republic (res publica) to the end of the Empire in the west. He describes how the Roman system of patron and client was used to assimilate barbarians. He also describes the various barbarians. Finally, as he describes the end of the Empire, one can see how and a bit of why it died, and what replaced it.

All in all, it was a wonderful 18 hours to spend in my car. Sometimes I listened a bit at the curb before going into my house. Along with The Vikings, this lecture series is Most Highly Recommended.


And see next week's mail.


Subject: Re: wait til Fusion vs. Fission NOW


I do not wish to slam on Mr. Urquhart regarding fusion hopes, but I side with you regarding fission power. Since companies are now talking about building new reactors, I performed some web searching and have been fascinated by the story of the AFR (advanced fast reactor).

Two good links are: http://www.nationalcenter.org/NPA378.html  and http://www.rae.anl.gov/research/ardt/afr/ 

This style reactor uses several inherent safety features that enable the reactors to be extremely safe, even without human intervention. Other added benefits are that the fuel cycle consumes spent fuel rods (with on-site recycling) and is very proliferation resistant. With this fuel cycle there is never a pure uranium nor plutonium stream (unlike the current reprocessing/PUREX stream). Also, the radioactivity from this fuel cycle reach background levels in a couple hundred years instead of hundreds of thousands of years. It makes too much sense - we get pollution free energy, eliminate most of the radioactive waste, and all in a very safety conscious reactor. It'll probably never happen.....

Best Regards, Jim Laheta

p.s. Imagine using abundant electricity (from AFRs) to power thermal depolymerization plants to eliminate sewage, landfills, and garbage dumps and have petro supplies as some of the byproduct! What environmentalist could protest that??


Subject: Ships' logs give clues to Earth's magnetic decline,


It seems that the strength of the Earth's magnetic field has been falling since 1860. Hmm. Is it coincidental that the Earth's temperature may have been rising in that time?








Sex differences on the progressive matrices: A meta-analysis Intelligence Volume 32, Issue 5 , September-October 2004, Pages 481-498 doi:10.1016/j.intell.2004.06.008

Richard Lynn^a and Paul Irwing^b^, ^Corresponding Author Contact Information ^, ^E-mail The Corresponding Author ^aUniversity of Ulster, Coleraine, Northern Ireland, UK ^bManchester School of Management, University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology, P.O. Box 88, Manchester, M60 1QD, UK Received 19 November 2003; revised 31 May 2004; accepted 8 June 2004. Available online 11 August 2004.


A meta-analysis is presented of 57 studies of sex differences in general population samples on the Standard and Advanced Progressive Matrices (SPM and APM, respectively). Results showed that there is no difference among children aged 6-14 years, but that males obtain higher means from the age of 15 through to old age. Among adults, the male advantage is 0.33d equivalent to 5 IQ points. These results disconfirm the frequent assertion than there are no sex differences on the progressive matrices and support a developmental theory that a male advantage appears from the age of 15 years. A meta-analysis of 15 studies of child samples on the Colored Progressive Matrices showed that among children aged 5-11 years boys have an advantage of 0.21d equivalent to 3.2 IQ points.

Keywords: Intelligence; Progressive matrices; Sex differences






This week:


read book now



In Palo Alto





CURRENT VIEW     Saturday

This week:


read book now


Sunday, May 14, 2006

Subject: Fred as Racist...

Fred on Everything is hot this week, Dr. Pournelle.


"...in newspaper parlance, "minorities" means "permanently underperforming and inassimilable minorities," which is to say blacks, Latinos and, when anybody remembers, American Indians. It very seldom means successful minorities, such as Chinese, Greeks, white men, Jews, or Anglo-Saxons."

"Blacks remain intractably far below the white population academically. An astounding proportion can't read, and of those who can, few do. The gap hasn't closed, despite Head Start, integrated schools, segregated schools, more funding, welfare, black teachers, black school boards, black mayors, remedial instruction, or anything else."

"The gap appears on every known test of mental capacity or scholarly achievement-SATs, GREs, ACT, LSATs, MedCats, Stanford-Binet, Wechsler, Raven's matrices. Nothing makes a difference. Everything has been tried. Because of this, we got affirmative action or, as kids once said, make believe."

"Yes, I will be called a racist for saying these things. I hope so. Today, "racist" means "one who says what everybody else knows." It is a badge of intellectual honor. Nonetheless, it remains that if I could change any of these conditions, I would. I don't enjoy seeing people in lousy circumstance. I just don't know what to do about it. Neither does anyone else."

"The Latinos coming into America are heavily Indian and uneducated. Mexican ophthalmologists do not swim the river. Mexicans who can make a decent living do not want to live in the United States. Thus the US gets the losers, the second-grade educations, people who on average have neither the intellect nor the urge to study."

"Everyone says, "But the Hispanics work hard." They do indeed, in the first generation. Many people in fields such as construction have told me that the Latinos are the backbone of their operations, that blacks don't want to work, have attitudes, show up if they feel like it and quit without warning. The Latinos work, now. Their children do terribly in school, however, drop out, and lose the desire to work. Then they join gangs."

"Law enforcement in America relies on having a white population that is mostly law-abiding. It has no good way of responding to large numbers of violent criminals, especially when they are backed by politically potent voting blocs. The crucial question, or a crucial question, is what proportion of the new minorities will fall into the permanent underclass? How much permanent underclass can the nation stand?"

And there is more...

His descriptions of inner cities and gangs sound like they could have been lifted from Heinlein's "I Will Fear No Evil" or "Oath of Fealty" by a well known writing duo.

Charles Brumbelow

Mr. Heinlein always gave me credit for the concept of  "abandoned areas" in Fear No Evil. We had been discussing political and social trends in correspondence.

Fred is by conventional designation "a racist." I am not sure what a "racist" is.

Another crucial question is this: If half the children today are of minorities, then in no more than eighteen years half the kids of college age will be. Unless they show a sudden scholarly afflatus which has not heretofore been in evidence, this means that soon the US will have to compete with China with the brains of only half the nation. This is not to mention secondary effects, such as enstupidating all schools to hide the failures of the minorities. Do you suppose that the Chinese are doing that?

I do know that No Child Left Behind will have the result Fred predicts. It recognizing this racism? Perhaps so. In any event, Fred raises questions and makes predictions. It is not entirely clear to me that calling him a racist will answer his questions, or remove the threats, or change the dire results he forsees.


Subject: Here's a utilities page you might be interested in, Dr. Pournelle

Hello Dr. Pournelle – an acquaintance of mine just pointed me to this list of freeware utilities. Looks pretty good, and a decent resource for your readers and you.

I have no interest in this page, just thought I’d pass this info on to you. Seems to be free of any malware too.



Greg Trent


Subject: "Ships' logs give clues to Earth's magnetic decline"

"It seems that the strength of the Earth's magnetic field has been falling..."

It's all George Bush's fault, doncha know!

Charles Brumbelow










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


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

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

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

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

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

 Search engine:


or the freefind search

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

Boiler Plate:

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

If you subscribed:

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

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

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


Search: type in string and press return.


Strategy of Technology in pdf format:


Entire Site Copyright, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 by Jerry E. Pournelle. All rights reserved.

birdline.gif (1428 bytes)