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Monday July 31, 2006

Be sure to see the on the spot report from the Eastern Mediterranean in yesterday's mail.


E3 cancelled?

We've seen it with COMDEX, and perhaps now with E3 - in the age of the Internet, physical trade-shows for what are essentially consumer goods just don't make sense:


-- Roland Dobbins

I have commented on this in the July 31 column at Chaos Manor Reviews. It may not be true, but the trend away from expensive trade shows is pretty steady. And see below.


Subject: Letter from England

Diane and I went to a reenactment of a Viking raid at Holy Island on Sunday. It was one of those beautiful summer days England often has. I finished my paper on Arthur on the Edge of Chaos, and I'll post it shortly. It needs further work, but I've run out of time. Watch my weblog.

Mess in Lebanon: <http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/5228224.stm>  <http://observer.guardian.co.uk/world/story/0,,1833538,00.html>  <http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2089-2291490,00.html

Compulsory fingerprinting of British children <http://observer.guardian.co.uk/uk_news/story/0,,1833407,00.html

Another couple of NHS stories. Did you know there are only 33 allergists in the whole of the UK, and none in the north? <http://observer.guardian.co.uk/uk_news/story/0,,1833409,00.html>  <http://observer.guardian.co.uk/uk_news/story/0,,1833449,00.html

-- 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>

Interesting as usual. I do thank you for helping keep track of trends over there. Alas, they are somewhat foreboding....


Subject: Lebanon


.According to a poll released by the Beirut Center for Research and Information, 87 percent of Lebanese support Hizbullah's fight with Israel, a rise of 29 percent on a similar poll conducted in February. More striking, however, is the level of support for Hizbullah's resistance from non-Shiite communities. Eighty percent of Christians polled supported Hizbullah along with 80 percent of Druze and 89 percent of Sunnis.

Lebanese no longer blame Hizbullah for sparking the war by kidnapping the Israeli soldiers, but Israel and the US instead.

The latest poll by the Beirut Center found that 8 percent of Lebanese feel the US supports Lebanon, down from 38 percent in January.


Not, I fear, astonishing, but grim enough. I fear all this was predictable and predicted. If Israel stands down without inflicting a major defeat on Hizbollah it will be a stunning defeat for the Israelis.


Two views on domestication of humanity:

Subject: Domesticated humans

> How many generations would it take to breed domesticated human beings?

An infinite number. It's been pretty well established over the whole of history that humans cannot be domesticated.

-- Robert Bruce Thompson

To which I replied

 Sorry. But there have been docile slave populations, and exactly one  successful slave revolt in all history.

 I would have thought that the long history of slavery indicated other than your view?

Keeping your boot on the neck of a slave doesn't prove the slave is domesticated, merely that he hasn't had a good chance to escape or kill you. To me, domesticated means that the slave voluntarily remains a slave if some external power removes the slaveholder as a threat. Now, certainly, that does happen, rarely, in individual cases, such as paroled long-term prisoners wanting to return to the security of their cells, but humanity as a whole is too ornery to be domesticated. Kind of like putting a saddle on a zebra.

A cow is domesticated, or a chicken. And, yes, even our dogs (although in the case of our Border Collies, I have frequent reason to doubt that.) But even when people are cowed (so to speak) by overwhelming force, the desire to resist remains, and it's sometimes put into effect. Juergen Stroop found that out when the Jews of the Warsaw Ghetto fought back, as did the prison guards at Attica and any number of other prison revolts. As did the Romans with Spartacus or the Brits with Wat Tyler. Sure, all of those revolts were ultimately unsuccessful, but that doesn't change the fact that people under severe pressure to conform instead revolted. Whatever their legal status, none of them were slaves in my opinion, and certainly none of them were domesticated in any sense of that word.

-- Robert Bruce Thompson


Subject: domestication

" How many generations would it take to breed domesticated human beings? "

It has already happened. Hunter-gatherer society was egalitarian: there were not yet any bosses (tribal chiefs, kings, Shah-of-Shahs). They were egalitarian in their bones - they weren't very good at fitting into a hierarchical organization, and existing hunter-gatherers still aren't. They make lousy slaves: in part because they are susceptible to the diseases of civilized people, but also because they just don't (on average) _submit_. You of course know what lousy slaves North American Indians were - they hadn't had the independence beaten out of them by living many generations in a hierarchical agricultural society - beaten out of their very genes. The Bushmen of southern Africa were just as ornery - they never would be slaves.

Over the last 10,000 years, selection has gone a long way towards making us natural serfs and masters, particularly among long-civilized peoples. That kind of process may be a prerequisite for our kind of highly interdependent society. It is certainly has to happen before you can stuff people into cubicles. Of course, we're still in a transient - even in sophisticated societies there still are people unsuited to hierarchy.

Gregory Cochran


Subject: Subject: domestication

Dr. Pournelle:

I'm not sure Gregory Cochran's (or Robert Thompson's) conclusion follow from observation. Both primitive and civilized people display powerful mechanisms to get along within a group of people, whether that group is a tribe of a couple dozen or a larger polity, and in larger polities they manifest different survival and reproductive strategies depending on their place in the hierarchy. A casual look at history doesn't persuade me there's been much change in individual tendencies to resist incursions on liberty (real or perceived), but when licked to change strategies and forge a life in the new environment. Rather than tending toward "domestication" or being "ornery," humans have evolved to switch gears according to their social environment, which for a long while now has been more important than the physical environment. People who rebel no matter the cost have been weeded out by sheer bloodshed; people who never rebel are weeded out more slowly as reproductive opportunities are gradually denied them. I think we have evolved to be a species of bet-hedgers and calculated risk-takers.

Christian J. Schulte

Deputy District Attorney Weld County District Attorney's Office

It is not clear to me that the European and Middle East populations are drawn from the same pool in that regard.


Rich Heimlich on  E3


I don't think the Next Gen piece is accurate from what I'm hearing. I'm hearing that the show will be dramatically scaled back.

Frankly, major players have been passing up this show for some time. Creative doesn't go. ATI wasn't there. Many others have skipped it. If EA skipped it, THQ would step in to fill the void.

The entire argument seems contrived to me. If it's too expensive and a waste, don't go. If the show fills out with other publishers then there's more exposure for those who really need it.

I'd also really like to see them close it off to consumers. They CLAIM to but I run into endless people who have no credentials, no affiliations and openly tell you they're just interested customers. I also run into endless numbers of GameStop employees from all over the country. What are they doing there?

Rich Heimlich

Long time readers will recall Rich as the Sound Blaster guy; I still have his book which I use in setting up virtual machines. He was at the most recent E3.




This week:


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Subject: Software factories,


This story alleges that China maintains software factories - some benign for finding bus in games software, and some hostile, for finding zero-day exploits:



I expect it's all true.



The ways of a wayward youth, a half century ago:



Sounds like the way I grew up except that we went from BB guns to .22's rather quickly.


Subject: Signing Statements,

Dear Jerry,

There is a battle brewing over Presidential signing statements. In fact, Senate Judiciary Chairman Arlen Specter has introduced legislation that would allow Congress to sue the President over these statements.



Apparently, George W. has issued about 800 signing statements during his term, more than any other president. In fact, all the other administrations combined have only issued a total of 600 signing statements.

Since I had no recollection of the use of such statements, I went fishing around for information and thought I'd share.

What I don't understand, and can't seem to find, is the origin of these statements. Is there a provision in some document that establishes this function? Or, did some president start this tradition? Apparently Jefferson issued a signing statement about the Louisiana Purchase.

Here is some background from the Justice Department:


And this from the Federation of American Scientists:


and this


And, one more question: Where does all of this figure into your contention that the US is more empire than republic?


I confess I managed to get a Ph.D. in political science without much study of signing statements, which did not loom large in constitutional law.

Bush seems to have used them in lieu of vetoes, but I do not know on whose advice. Ever since their "analysis" of strategic defense I have avoided reading anything by the Federation of American Scientists, which not only has an agenda, but in the strategic defense and nuclear winter debates seemed to have little use for truth.

I'm not enamoured of Slate, either.

It seems like a new way to undermine the authority of Congress and make work for the courts.


Subject: NASA tapes from Apollo

Dr. Pournelle,

This may come as no surprise to you, but I was listening to public radio this morning and heard an astonishing story. The newsperson interviewed a man who had worked on the imaging systems for Apollo 11. He has always been disappointed at the grainy quality of the images that were shown on broadcast television, as the original images were clean and crisp.

According to the report, the camera on the lander produced clear images, which were then relayed to tracking stations on earth. Monitors at the tracking stations displayed a very clear image, but, since the imaging system wasn't compatible with broadcast television, the signal relayed to the television networks came from a standard TV camera aimed at the monitor. This explains the signal degradation.

The astonishing part of the story: nobody can find the original tapes.

NASA still has machines to play the Apollo tapes, but machines and tapes are both aging. NASA is apparently going to close the Apollo imaging program in 2007, although the man interviewed will set aside some of the machines.

Somewhere, there exists (or, at least, existed) clear images of the first moon landing. We can hope.


Didn't you know? The Moon landings were actually done in a sound stage in Hollywood, which is why NASA had to lose the original tapes.


Jerry --

re: Google and Skype

Google SKYPE and the first item you see is:

Download Version 2.5 Now Skype.Download-It-Free.com Make Calls Anywhere from your PC. Latest Version - 100% Guaranteed!

That's actually a "sponsored link". You can distinguish it from a real search result because it's shaded in blue, and it says "Sponsored Link" way over on the right.

The first actual search result is the real one:

Skype <http://www.skype.com/>

Yes, I know. But it's so artfully done that I did not realize, because I was in a tearing hurry to implement Skype so I could get on TWIT in time, that these people were charging me for linking me to the www.skype.com where the download is free. Not only that, but they actually made it confusing because SKYPE was in big log letters on their pages, although they have nothing to do with Skype whatever.

I realize that Google isn't evil; but I do worry about disguising the service sold, and in particular, selling a sponsored link to something free.

Suppose someone sponsors a link to Chaos Manor Reviews, and then charges you as if you had subscribed. It would sure look as if you have a subscription, but you would not have in fact paid me anything. That's what happened to me with Skype: I thought I had paid them for something.

Eventually I realized what happened. Now I worry that someone who will charge me for nothing more than linking me to a free site will do other things with my credit card.


From bad to worse?


--- Roland Dobbins

Socialist democracy in action: all in the family.


  Subject: Watching for Domain Expirations Lesson

Dr. Pournelle:

Readers are advised that it is important to check your Internet domain expiration date. "Cybervultures" are running automated programs to look for expired domains, and then register them. Then they can sell your domain back to you at a huge profit.

Or, as in the case of the folks at "bleedingsort.org" (an open-source site for firewall signatures), your domain can now be used to drop malware (evil stuff) on your computer, some of which is not being sensed by current AV software. ( bleedingsnort.com is their 'official', and currently safe, site for Snort users)

If you (or your business) has a domain name, you might want to check on your expiration date (and contact info). One such place is www.whois.net . It's a lot cheaper to renew (under $10/year) than pay the extortionist ($ 5 figures or more).

(Your site is good until 31-May-09, BTW.)

Regards, Rick Hellewell


Subject: Skype deception




A little research at dnsstuff.com shows that the active domain in that link,

"download-it-free.com resolves to, but that IP address reverse

resolves another domain entirely:


IP address:           

Reverse DNS:          

Reverse DNS authenticity:       [Verified]

ASN:                            28870

ASN Name:                       PLUSINFO-AS (Plus Info Ltd.)

IP range connectivity:          1

Registrar (per ASN):            RIPE

Country (per IP registrar):     RU [Russian Federation]

Country Currency:               RUR [Russia Rubles]

Country IP Range:      to

Country fraud profile:          High

City (per outside source):      Unknown

Private (internal) IP?          No

IP address registrar:           whois.ripe.net

Known Proxy?                    No

Link for WHOIS:       


Apparently that outfit is one of many charging fees for access to files and

services that are available at no charge.  Since clearing houses for this

particular kind of misrepresentation do not seem to exist (neither the

domain or the IP address for this example show up in the abuse blackhole

lists),  I am not sure what Google or other ad sellers can be expected to

do to screen these ads up front.  The link to a Russky site would have been

enough to scare me off, but I doubt that any of the search engines have

people scrutinize each advertiser.  Volume most likely forces them to rely

on the results of automated look-ups against the abuse databases.

Switching to another search engine is unlikely to help - 5 minutes spent

searching uncovered sponsored ads for Download-It-Free on Epinions, Opera

Search and CompuServe.  I'm confident that further research would show that

they have successfully placed ads with virtually all of the major

ad-supported sites.   Download-It-Free and its founders shady practices

were documented in the February, 23 2006 edition of the Guardian Limited:

http://tinyurl.com/f48vj "Money for Nothing".  As disturbing as this

practice is, I doubt that offering nothing for something is illegal.  I

regularly see TV ads for a paper publications listing "thousands of free

offerings", all of which are more-or-less generally known and that can be

researched for nothing on the internet or at any public library.  It isn't

convenient, but I have taken to doing at least brief research on each and

every web domain with which I anticipate doing business.



=Good advice.

Now I am really worried since they have my credit card information.  I think I will have to have that card cancelled and get a new one.

This is very inconvenient, but that alternatives are worse.

What Google can do is stop selling ads that simply link to a site with free stuff. This is unconscionable.

Don't be evil.


Addendum: I have cancelled the credit card, and will get a new one. My card company says this happens fairly often, and I'll have to dispute the charge, but they don't anticipate any problems from that.

It's a lesson to all: Google sells links to all kinds of people. Some are Russian companies. If you want a Russian company to have your credit card number this is a good way to accomplish that, but if you don't, be sure that the link you click takes you where you thought it would. In general it will not. Recall that a few months ago I got sidetracked to a New York camera outfit that sails awfully close to the wind with bait and switch.

The Net isn't really safe, and you cannot trust Google or anyone else to do your homework for you.


And not unrelated:

Carr: The Web is unflat.

Yet another form of Jacobinism runs headlong into the wall of reality:


--- Roland Dobbins






This week:


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Wednesday, August 2, 2006

Please check your Tarnkappe at the door!

"Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." Sir Arthur C. Clarke


It's unlikely to occur by swallowing a pill or donning a special cloak, but invisibility could be possible in the not too distant future, according to research published on Monday.



Subject: Eight words that explain a corrupt concept,


Political correctness is affirmative action for lousy ideas.



Subject: Global Warming Link to Hurricane Intensity Questioned

Thought you might find this interesting. It looks like some are looking at the data, and not just trying to generate grants by proclaiming the groupthink du jure.

Jim Riticher



Global Warming Link to Hurricane Intensity Questioned

John Roach for National Geographic News

July 28, 2006

An expert with the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is questioning the connection between climate change and the appearance of more intense hurricanes in recent years.

Historical data on hurricanes is too crude to determine long-term trends in intensity, says Christopher Landsea, a science and operations officer with NOAA's National Hurricane Center in Miami, Florida.

Extreme hurricanes like Katrina were likely as common around the world 30 years ago as they are today, Landsea says. But since satellite imagery was poorer, storm intensities were underreported.


How soon the Singularity?

Subject: This Morning's Stories

Vernor Vinge suggests that we will know the Singularity is approaching when we start seeing *large* software projects being developed successfully, particularly those involving a lot of parallelism. Right now--based on the UK Government's experience with IT--I think we're safe, but I think I should comment--I was a software architect for many years, and my current research is exploring biological ways of generating intentional behaviour using parallelism. (I'm using a large Beowulf cluster and biomimetic robots for part of this work.)

To me, the problem with large projects appears to be that software development currently involves finding a large number of local solutions. The architect ensures that these local solutions work well together--it often takes a good deal more intelligence than your average manager possesses to do that. I suspect we won't solve the problem until we can provide the architect with suitable tools to visualise and control the design. Most of the tools I've seen are unable to manage just those aspects of the system design that I have to manage in a successful solution. The key interactions that cause problems are deep down in the details, and tools don't help you identify or control them. If we want to build larger systems, I think we will have to move away from the algorithmic and specification- driven approach to solving problems and come up with a more robust approach to combining subsystems. That would make the job easier for the architect, too, because it is the sheer number of detailed interactions that limits the size of a system that one man or woman can design. It will also allow evolutionary design to work, since a refactoring capability is just what I want at the architectural design level. We experimented with architectural teams at TRW, based on some ideas of John Gormally, and they seemed to be successful for large systems, but it still helped to have one or a few persons on the team providing style guidance and controlling specific system- wide aspects. So the first need is an architectural assistant in the architect's laptop. The Eclipse SDK provides a taste of some of the things needed. Give me an architectural tool like Eclipse, and I could build some amazing things.

We're only just beginning to understand how the brain solves these kind of problems. Here is a report of a recent paper on how the brain turns on innate behaviour <http://cognews.com/1154442364/index_html>  that suggests one solution might involve a timed sequence of actions turned on by hormones, rather than by synaptic interactions. Since innate behaviour can be as complex as a new-born colt or calf standing up and walking, it suggests that most behaviour involves such timed sequences. Learned (as opposed to innate) behaviour is probably scheduled relative to internal timing signals--perhaps gamma and beta rhythms. The fact that behaviours can be interleaved suggests various behaviours are associated with specific phases of the internal timing sequences--Christo Panchev has done work suggesting how this might take place <http://www.his.sunderland.ac.uk/ ps/panchevwermter05.pdf> . So a second need is some way of scheduling timed activities so they work together compatibly. The solutions I see the engineers coming up with here are too narrow, but I haven't had the time to point them in what I suspect is the right direction. (Sue Denham has commented that neuroscience is too hard for most engineers!) My current grant may give some insight here in about two or three years.

There are some other hard problems to be solved before we will make much progress. One major one is understanding how the brain can do algorithmic things non-algorithmically. For example, bats are able to predict the future positions of *accelerated* targets, yet there's no evidence in the brain of any mechanisms for vector arithmetic. Also, planning seems to involve decision tree representations, but we don't see evidence for the switching networks we would expect. That's why I speculate that real brains may have some capabilities for working with a continuous external reality that digital computers will always find computationally *very* demanding. Real AIs may have to be hybrid entities, with both silicon and biological components. I know I already interact with my laptop that way, but the user interface needs a lot of work. So the third need is a more intuitive GUI. I already use my laptop as medium and long-term memory, but if it could act as an extension of short-term memory, I would allow me to work on bigger systems. I'd also like it to compute off-line doing tasks, searches, and algorithmic calculations while I work on other aspects of a problem. Perhaps that would be the next key application--it would certainly use all the compute power available and more!

On to the news:

Blair says we need to completely rethink the war on terror: <http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,3-2295604,00.html

MI5 assessment: <http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2-2295582,00.html

Curfew orders on terror suspects held illegal: <http://www.guardian.co.uk/terrorism/story/0,,1835296,00.html>  <http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2-2295588,00.html

 NHS trusts divert sexual health funds to cover their deficit: <http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/5234938.stm>  <http://www.guardian.co.uk/medicine/story/0,,1835308,00.html>  <http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2-2295495,00.html

Another IT disaster: <http://www.guardian.co.uk/conservation/story/0,,1835280,00.html

A hospital fined for being too efficient: <http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2-2295840,00.html

To save money, NHS trusts are only providing one cochlear implant to deaf children: <http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2-2295387,00.html>  (This is one area where I work as a researcher, so I have a strong negative opinion of these policies.)

Hermitage hit by thieves: <http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/5235148.stm>  <http://www.guardian.co.uk/russia/article/0,,1835338,00.html

School workload: <http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/education/5235146.stm

-- 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


The other shoe drops.


-- Roland Dobbins

Not unexpected.


Dr. P.,

I just finished listening to your guest appearance on "This Week in Tech" with Leo Laporte. I very much enjoyed your input. I listen to the show weekly and I have occasionally felt that the viewpoint is too heavily skewed toward the 'insider' or 'geek' viewpoint. You provided an exceptional grounding for the conversation and it made the show much more valuble.

Thanks for all you do,

Brian K. Moynihan



Subject: 1 Aug 1971: Apollo 15 finds Genesis rock


With everything else that's going on, this is worth remembering:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/onthisday/hi/dates/stories/august/1/newsid_4101000/4101579.stm <http://news.bbc.co.uk/onthisday/hi/dates/stories/august/1/newsid_4101000/4101579.stm>



 It is lack of confidence, more than anything else, that kills a civilisation. We can destroy ourselves by cynicism and disillusion, just as effectively as by bombs.

---Lord Kenneth Clarke


I asked Colonel David Couvillon, USMCR, to comment on the Iraq article:

Subject: Re: Even Churchill Couldn't Figure Out Iraq.

Of course the Sunni's are afraid the Shiia won't give them a fair deal. After all, they didn't give the Shiia a fair deal the whole time they had control.

One question they avoid, is whether a Shiia/Sunni conflagration wouldn't be better for the Western world than peace? Saudi, Kuwait, Jordan, Sunni Iraq, possibly Turkey against the Shiia Iraq and Iran, The Taliban and Hezbollah (I'd bet a buck that Syria tries to sit out the overt warfare). Pressure is certainly relieved against Israel. Iran is preoccupied with war - diverting attention away from developing nuclear weapons; well, certainly slowing it (AND, it provides cover for western espionage [as poor as they are in that part of the world] to sabotage the Persian nuclear program). Palestinians lose their funding. The Western world (nee - the US) would have to blockade the Persian Gulf and Mediterranean east coast.

Downside is the disruption in the flow of oil from the region - turn that around, though and give the Russians opportunity to sell the world their oil. They'll reluctantly support the Western effort.

Col Hammes is absolutely correct in his analysis about the Iraqis believing that we are leaving. Everyone is moving to grap the power left by that vacuum. We saw that immediately after Baghdad fell, while in the early months after the war - everyone skeptical but jockeying for position. Certainly the Shiia where deathly afraid that we'd leave and the Sunni would again renew their pogroms. We really blew that - the Iraqi Shiia were ready to be on our side AND to ignore the Persians (despite the presence of the Badr Brigade/SCIRI) - The Iraqi Shiia hated the Persians from the Iran/Iraq war. We could have denied the Mullahs their reach in Iraq, if we wouldn't have been so afraid of their money and organization. We were so afraid, in fact, that we stood by and let them organize and use their money to put themselves in the position they're in now.

Sadr used to be a joke to ALL Iraqis. Now, because we didn't have the guts confront him, he has strength - and the Sunnis/Al-Queda saw that we were a paper tiger - not willing to use the power we had. Now it's squandered.

A colleague of mine, serving in Iraq as an advisor to an Iraqi general, was present at a meeting with the senior American commander. After the meeting was over, the Iraqis were not satisfied. My colleague's counterpart, commented to him about the American commander, (interpreted & cleaned up a bit) "Nice guy, but he has no balls." Too many of the Iraqis, Arabs, Islamists, etc., believe we have no balls.


Machiavelli:  Never do your enemies a small injury.

Our problem was that the neo-conservatives in the White House really believed that Chalabi would be welcomed with flowers and cheering, and he would take over Iraq and be our ally and build a pipeline for the oil, and everything would be just peachy. When that didn't happen they didn't have a real plan, and they distrusted all those who did have plans because we had all told them, "Don't invade. If you do invade, this is what you must do. But don't invade." They never heard a word past the advice about not invading.

Competent imperial wars are more expensive than most believe. Incompetent imperial wars are even more expensive, but one needs to know more history than most to know this.


Continuing the discussion on domestication of humans:

Subject: domestication

I'm afraid Mr. Thompson and Mr. Cochran are greatly misinterpreting the trends in human social interactions. Not all hunter-gatherer groups are or were completely egalitarian. True egalitarian communalism is a rarity, both ethnographically and archaeologically. Evidence suggests that in even largely unstratified egalitarian societies there would often be at least some informal status differentiations (whether merit-based or ascribed by lineage) through which a group's activities are organized.

Further the general trend in group structures is to maintain the status quo, even when that is not necessarily to the best advantage of a large portion of the group as a whole. This is why archaeologists are very much interested in the transition between small band social systems and nascent state societies (antiquated terminology these days, but I figured most people would be familiar with these terms).

In the former, subsistence and resource allocation are relatively homogenous across the population thereby being much to the advantage of even the lowest status members of the group. In the latter, resources are typically very unevenly distributed across the population and there is a great deal of differential access to subsistence and resources between status group members. Therefore the latter system is much less to the advantage of the majority of the population. Even still the general historical trend is towards greater stratification and complexity of social systems despite its disadvantage for the majority of the social members.

The logical conclusion from this is that the trend as population increases and societies become more complex in structure resources and subsistence becoming unevenly distributed is supported by the majority disadvantaged population, and resource availability _as a whole_ becomes greater although the lower strata have less access than they had as small groups (e.g. typical nutrition and health in agricultural societies is far worse than that of hunter-gatherers - agriculture is just a bit more predictable).

Does this mean they've become domesticated? Not really. In making individual choices within a cultural system, the probabilistic trend is toward the norm maintaining the status quo and the status differentiations. Only extreme pressures of subsistence and survival are likely to break those choices away from the normative trend, and is likely to be motivated by an outlier individual or individuals (incipient elites) making choices that can rally and organize the lower strata population. Thus the rarity of (successful or not) peasant or slave revolts. Most civilizations have collapsed from the top down instead.

None of this suggests domestication, only that the probabilities involved in human agency within a social structure operate to maintain a system rather than being a destabilizing force. Yet another reason why the Jacobin philosophy of waiting for the "people" to rise up against oppressive regimes is unfounded. People more often than not will choose AGAINST their own self interest to maintain the devil they know.

A somewhat simplistic explanation, but covers much of the observable evidence without going into too many of the complexities of large scale social interactions and cultural propagation.

Just my 2c as a reluctant voodoo scientist...

--J. Scott Cardinal


Steve Goldberg on natural law.

This came from another conference. Dr. Goldberg had made an argument that elicited the comment from me, "No natural law for you, then." Another participant then answered,

>>(moral philosophy)...refers to the logic, science (=experience), and art of designing public policies that actually have some realistic chance of increasing the general welfare<<

to which he replied:

Meme 071: A virtues approach to personality


This is no doubt desirable, and entirely concordant with science, but it has nothing to do with moral philosophy. It is scientific in the sense that it addresses empirical causes and effects. But "moral philosophy", virtually by definition, attempts not merely to find effective ways of implementing moral assumption--determining the moral assumptions not being the province of science. Moral philosophy attempts to determine which moral assumptions are "right" (I.a., desirable). Science has nothing to say about this.

To the extent that one wishes to answer the empirical questions and take the moral assumptions as given (without claiming that they are justified in any scientific sense) then economics and political science would be the venues.

Which is not to say that these, or any other social sciences, are, in fact, capable of well answering the empirical questions. After forty years in sociology I've become persuaded that, save those aspects of social life for which hereditary factors play a role, such questions are for the most part unanswerable. The problem is not primarily the extent to which ideology has captured social science, but the fact that most social questions are effectively infinite-dimensional manifolds.

I *would* ease up and go along with a moral philosophy that saw societal survival as the initial moral assumption. The problem is that cross-cultural evidence gives us pretty much the set of moral precepts that would be obvious to a seven-year-old. All else varies from society to society and can't be seen as required for societal survival.

It may well be true--as I have written--that the view that separates science from morality is disastrous for many reasons. But this is no argument for it's not being correct.


Steve Goldberg

I haven't time to write a long essay on the subject. I do refer interested readers to C. S. Lewis, The Abolition of Man, all three parts.


Need surgery? How about going overseas?

Dear Jerry,

An interesting response to high health care costs-outsource it:

"After going overseas to outsource everything from manufacturing to customer services, American businesses - pressed by rising health-care costs - are looking offshore for medical benefits as well. A growing number of employers who fund their own health insurance plans have begun looking into sending their ailing employees around the world for surgeries that in the U.S. would cost tens of thousands of dollars more..."


Perhaps the hidden costs of Malpractice lawyers and illegal immigration are coming home to roost.

Cheers, Rod Schaffter

-- "A good scientist, in the absence of data, simply says, "we don't know" rather than proposing an unfalsifiable, untestable explanation." --Robert Bruce Thompson



CURRENT VIEW    Wednesday


This week:


read book now


Thursday, August 3, 2006

Subject: You can't Big Dig yourself out of a hole


"...a decade-long legacy of drunken-sailor spending behavior, thanks to an endless pipeline of money from Washington; rampant patronage; nonstop political finger-pointing; and potential criminality on the part of fat and happy government contractors. "What we have here is a systemic failure of accountability as to how the money got spent," he fumed. "We have hundreds of people manning the turnpike tolls who make $60,000 to $80,000 a year." Some electricians with overtime were earning $300,000. According to the state auditor, $23 million was spent on ramps spanning the Charles River, which had to be demolished because they did not meet community approval and led to nowhere."

"President Reagan vetoed a highway bill in 1987 (subsequently overridden by Congress) in no small part because he said the Big Dig's price tag couldn't be justified.

"That was back when the cost estimates were still in the relatively modest $2.5 billion ballpark. By 1991 the cost was hiked to $6 billion, then $7.5 billion, then $10 billion and eventually ballooning to $14.7 billion by the time the last tunnel was completed in January. That's a staggering, nearly 500% cost overrun, for those who are counting."

Charles Brumbelow


Subject: Short Term Memory Programs


I'm looking for something I can run on a laptop that has an intuitive interface and can act to extend short-term memory beyond the five chunk limit. I'm not really looking for a calendar program--more something that can interact actively with me throughout the day as I work, recode information, keep track of ideas and tasks, aid my creativity, and run search agents in background. In a general way the user interface might be an extension of the tabs that modern browsers provide. Have any ideas? Do I need to write my own? (I suppose I could, but it looks like a lot of work.)

-- 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>

I am off for lunch with Congressman Rohrabacher, and haven't time to look at this  closely, but I bet the readers will have suggestions.



CURRENT VIEW    Thursday


This week:


read book now



Subject: Debate on Al Jezerra

The source of this says the link won't remain active. I suspect it's too blasphemous for the Muslim world.

In case you haven't seen the interesting "video" that makes a powerful and amazing statement on Al Jazeera television, the URL follows. The woman is Wafa Sultan, an Arab-American psychologist from Los Angeles. I would suggest watching it ASAP because I don't know how long the link will be active.


Charles Brumbelow


Subject: Two links for Erwin

Dear Dr. Pournelle

I'm sending two links for your friend, Dr. Harry Erwin from UK. He may already be aware of them, but just in case:

This is a programming language with its own IDE. It also has high-level components and a specification format for large-scale systems:


I don't claim it is everything to every project manager, but it may be fruitful to explore the language, its surrounding community, and their tools.


The other is from the late Jef Raskin's son - the Jef Raskin that was the primary designer of the Mac GUI. He then developed an even more intuitive GUI for Cannon. This is the latest version of the visionary design. Unfortunately, Raskin senior has passed away last year due to pancreatic cancer. His son - who is computer geek and computer scientist - is continuing his efforts:


Dr. Erwin may find elements here that magnify the feeling of short-term memory as Raskin built it on entirely on the latest principles of cognitive psychology. (He also wrote a book on the design called "The Humane Interface.")

Kind regards -- Koray


FTC: Rambus Misled Panel on Standards The chip firm may face a cap on royalties after a finding that it didn't tell members about patents and that it illegally monopolized a market.
By Terril Yue Jones, Times Staff Writer August 3, 2006

Rambus Inc., which designs and licenses memory chip technology, may have its ability to collect royalties limited by a federal ruling Wednesday that concluded it deceptively and illegally monopolized the market.

The Federal Trade Commission said that Rambus deceived a standards-setting committee by not disclosing patents and patent applications and that it "unlawfully monopolized the markets for four computer memory technologies that have been incorporated into industry standards."

Los Altos, Calif.-based Rambus gets most of its revenue from royalties, which came to $41.7 million, or 88% of total revenue, in the first quarter, the latest period for which such figures are available. A stock options probe has delayed the company's filing of its full second-quarter results.

Rambus allegedly concealed its patents regarding four types of technologies for computer memory known as DRAM, or dynamic random access memory, which is commonly used in personal computers and in memory cards for digital cameras and cellphones. Rambus' patents governed the ways devices communicate with DRAM memory.<snip>


Subject: JAXA plans moonbase by 2030

It would be nice to be there to greet them... *


Japan aims for Moon base by 2030

* 11:47 02 August 2006 * NewScientist.com news service * New Scientist Space staff and AFP

Japan's space agency has set a goal of constructing a crewed lunar base by 2030, an official said on Wednesday.

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) revealed its ambition to an international conference in Tokyo this week but has not yet been allotted the budget for the ambitious project.

JAXA hopes to launch a satellite into lunar orbit in 2007, followed by uncrewed spacecraft that will land on the Moon and collect lunar rock samples.

Under the plan, astronauts will be sent to the Moon around 2020 to start construction of the base that will be completed by 2030, the agency said. Japan had earlier given 2025 as the target date for a lunar base.

"The feasibility of the plan is unclear at this point as we need to gain understanding by the government and the Japanese people on our plan, but technologically it would be possible in a few decades," said Satoki Kurokawa, spokesman for JAXA.

"Exploring a frontier is always a mission of science. In addition, space programmes have the potential to create cutting-edge technologies, particularly in the field of robotics," he said.

Japan has launched a series of satellites successfully since its space programme suffered several embarrassing setbacks in 2003 with the loss of a Mars probe, an Earth observation satellite and the forced destruction of a rocket carrying a pair of spy satellites just 10 minutes after lift-off.

Mr. Heinlein always said we would go to space but there was no guarantee that the language used there would be English.


Apple, PC notebooks vulnerable to wireless attack

Thomas Claburn InformationWeek (08/02/2006 2:00 PM EDT)

Wireless device drivers for computers running both Apple Computer and Microsoft operating systems appear to be full of holes, and a prominent security researcher recommends turning off wireless cards until the holes can be fixed.

Last night, Intel and the SANS Internet Storm Center announced three Centrino vulnerabilities that can also be used to take over computers using Centrino-based wireless cards.

Introduced in 2003 by Intel, the Centrino package comprises the CPU chip, chipset, and wireless network module.

On Wednesday afternoon at the Black Hat computer security conference in Las Vegas, hackers Jon "Johnny Cache" Ellch and Dave Maynor plan to demonstrate how to take over any Apple MacBook if its wireless card is turned on, even if the owner is not connected to a wireless network.

In an e-mail to the SANS mailing list and government security researchers, SANS Institute director Alan Paller warns, "This is a big story for several reasons. First it shoots a pretty big hole in the 'bulletproof' image Apple is trying to project (notice the words Maynor used in the Krebs interview). Second, it isn't just about Macs. The vulnerabilities apparently can also be found in Centrino-based laptops as well. Third, by nature, attackers (a.k.a. security researchers) are swarm organisms. That means they will see Maynor's work as a beacon to follow toward a new cache of useful vulnerabilities. And finally, the really bad guys are already using these flaws (and are frustrated that Maynor is making them public)."

Apple on Tuesday released a Security Update (Security Update 2006-004) to fix 26 Mac security flaws. But this security update doesn't address the wireless chip driver flaws that Ellch and Maynor plan to demonstrate.

An Apple spokesperson says the company is looking into the issue.

Intel has released driver security updates for Centrino device drivers for Windows and for the Intel PROSet management software.

Until a patch has been applied, consider unwiring your wireless. "[P]atching the Centrino flaws and turning off wireless cards is indicated as an immediate response," Paller recommends. Firewalls are unlikely to help because they're not designed to filter low-level wireless device communication.


Colonel Couvillon's strategic advice to Israel

 Also, this is what I wrote to a friend on 7/28:

  The Israelis should mount a significant ground offensive to the suburbs of  Beriut and to the major Syrian/Lebanon lines of communication. This  offensive should be destructive of anything that smacks of Syria, Iran, or  Hezbollah (and any other terrorist organizations. After such a campaign,  they should announce victory and withdraw to their borders immediately.  They should also announce that any attempt to move any non-Lebanese Army  weapons, or reinforcements, into the area will be addressed with total  destruction. Hezbollah will be paralyzed - If they're the political and  humanitarian organzation they're trying to portray, they'll have to spend  vast amounts of $$$ in assisting the people of S Lebanon and rebuilding  their military infrastructure. Otherwise, they'll have to call for a  significant jihad to punish Isreal. Once the gatherings of the those  forces  occurs, the Isreali's can attack with airpower easily.






This week:


read book now


Saturday, August 5, 2006

I'm hard at work on Monday's column which will be Part One of the August column. The International Edition of the column is Part One and Part Two which are mostly done at the same time. Tokyo, Istanbul, and other overseas publishers that get my column do get what I do in parts 3 & 4 (and twice a year Part 5), but since they are generally monthlies, they may not use it all. Or they may. That's up to them.

Meanwhile I am moving along on Inferno, and I need to work on that this afternoon. Consequently, Mail is on Short Shrift, and I don't have much to say in today's View. That will probably be the case tomorrow as well.  Monday there will be a new Chaos Manor Reviews column, and a new Mailbag.

Dear Dr Pournelle,

Someone will have told you this by now, but the drive-by hacking performed on a Mac was a staged event; the Mac laptop concerned was using a 3rd party wireless card, not the built-in card one would expect; and the perpetrators freely admit that they used a Mac for shock value.

I will leave it to you and your readers to draw your own conclusions about the likely impact of such a vulnerability on real world Mac users.

Regards, TC

-- Terry Cole System Administrator, OU Physics tcole@physics.otago.ac.nz tel: 64 3 4797801

Dan is at DefCON even as we speak, and we'll have more on this in the column Monday. You're probably safe enough until then whether you have a PC or a Mac.


Subject: The Domesday Book now online

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/5242794.stm <http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/5242794.stm

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


Subject: Web pages suggestion


When your time and health permits, it would be nice to have a direct link to new site http://www.chaosmanorreviews.com/ near top on both the Current View and Current Mail pages unless this would be a problem when you go to subscriber only content.

Perhaps in same stack of links at upper left that includes Home, Columns and Book Review.

I'm probably not the only one who has bookmarked Current View rather than the home page.


Done! Thanks.


Subject: Global warming? Not hardly


Anecdotally, add to this report the fact that for two summers while I was in grad school at Vanderbilt, there were multi-week periods with highs in the low 100's (and winter storms where the wind chill reached 35 below).



A Bit of History for Global Warmers: Look at 1930 By Randy Hall CNSNews.com Staff Writer/Editor August 04, 2006

(CNSNews.com) - People sweltering from a heat wave in the Mid-Atlantic region of the U.S. might find cold comfort in the fact that the temperatures of the past few days are not the hottest on record. That "honor" belongs to a summer 76 years ago -- decades before the controversy over "man-made global warming" began.

"From June 1 to August 31, 1930, 21 days had high temperatures that were 100 degrees or above" in the metropolitan Washington, D.C., area, Patrick Michaels, senior fellow for environmental studies at the libertarian Cato Institute <http://www.cato.org/> , told Cybercast News Service. "That summer has never been approached, and it's not going to be approached this year."

Between July 19 and Aug. 9 of that year, heat records <http://www.wunderground.com/cgi-bin/findweather/getForecast?query=20001>  were set on nine days and they remain unbroken more than three-quarters of a century later. "That's hot," added Michaels, who also serves as professor of natural resources at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in Blacksburg, Va.<snip>

And that's the problem.

Incidentally, I now have letters that seem to prove that the Viking farm areas of Greenland were fairly small; whether that's small in comparison to what's melting NOW isn't quite so clear. I need to look into that unless some reader has reliable data.

I make no doubt there is global warming. How much and what causes it is another matter. I do know that coal fired power plants put mercury in the atmosphere and that ain't good; nuclear plants wouldn't do that. I do think we ought to get rid of coal fired electric power plants as soon as we can. Replace them with nuclear. It's safer by a lot.

And it's not clear to me that we're in more than a temporary warming period before heading for an Ice Age.


Subject: "Mamelukes" & Falkenberg Status???

Dr Pournelle

I realise this question has probably reared it's head many times, but when (IF??) will we see the long-awaited sequel (final??) of the Jannissaries books? I was a teenager when I read the first one & I just turned 40 a couple of months ago - I don't want to be retired/dead before I get to read it....;-)

Oh, and I'm keen on Falkenberg and Sparta as well..........or War World........or whatever.

Any chance of a reply??


Wayne O'BRIEN Brisbane, Oz

I am trying to do Mamelukes but INFERNO comes first. I have recently been working on plotting the last half of the book. When I get that done it should come out at a good 1000 words a day.

Falkenberg is now in an alternate history (actually his second; his first appearance was in a post-atomic-war novel that I never finished). SPARTAN HEGEMONY is the next series if I do it, but I am not the greatest alternate history writer. When I did Peace with Honor, the first story in the CoDominium series, it looked like a fairly good prediction of things to come.

The CoDominium didn't happen. Alas, there are worse futures we must now avoid.




CURRENT VIEW     Saturday

This week:


read book now


Sunday, August 6, 2006

Subject: Centrino/wireless Severe Vuln (laptops)

Dr. Pournelle: Word is out that there is a major vulnerability in systems (usually laptops) using the Intel Centrino chip. Links to the vuln

2006/08/security_hole_s.html>  , Intel notice here:

wireless/wlan/sb/CS-023068.htm>  , F-Secure blog link here:

archive-082006.html#00000938>  . The vuln is not public yet, but can be done to any laptop that is near the attacker's system. A successful attack will allow the bad guy to run any program on your computer, including installing rootkits.

A list of vulnerable wireless adapters (internal/external) is here on Intel's page: http://support.intel.com/support/wireless/
wlan/sb/cs-005905.htm  . There's a link on that page to an Intel program that you can download/run to test your system.

Notice that the F-Secure link recommends that you ensure updated drivers before you do the BIOS patch. On IBM/Lenovo systems, there is a program that you can run that will update all drivers/BIOS on the laptop ("Software Installer", on Start, Programs, Thinkvantage). The update process will require you to be at the laptop to do the update; it's not a MS update, so we can't push down the update. You will also need to have the laptop connected to AC power, with a fully charged battery, to do the BIOS update.

The vuln may be related to an attack shown at DefCon. (That attack was done to a Mac laptop, but it was through the Mac's wireless card; the attack can be done against any laptop with wireless.) The Washington Post "Security Fix" column

has a video that shows the attack.

Bottom line: any notebook with Centrino chip set and wireless will need to get the updates to fix this vuln. Strongly recommended.

Regards, Rick Hellewell


Facing Middle Age With No Degree, and No Wife


The fruits of globalization:



We have chosen to worship Mammon, and he is a fickle master. And think of the Chinese men where there are no women...


Dear Jerry:

The link below to an ad on JournalismJobs.com says volumes about the immigration debate.


Francis Hamit




Subject: Popular curry spice is a brain booster

Call it yellow ginger, haldi, turmeric or E100, the yellow root of Curcuma longa, a staple ingredient in curry, is turning out to be gratifyingly healthy. Now Tze-Pin Ng and colleagues at the National University of Singapore have discovered that curry eating seems to boost brain power in elderly people.

Curcumin, a constituent of turmeric, is an antioxidant, and reports have suggested that it inhibits the build-up of amyloid plaques in people with Alzheimer's. Ng's team looked at the curry-eating habits of 1010 Asian people unaffected by Alzheimer's and aged between 60 and 93, and compared their performance in a standard test of cognitive function, the Mini Mental State Examination. Those people who consumed curry "occasionally" (once or more in 6 months but less than once a month) and "often" (more than once a month) had better MMSE results than those who only ate curry "never or rarely" (American Journal of Epidemiology, DOI: 10.1093/aje/kwj267).

"What is remarkable is that apparently one needs only to consume curry once in a while for the better cognitive performance to be evidenced," says Ng, who says he wants to confirm the results, possibly in a controlled clinical trial comparing curcumin and a placebo.


Charlie Worton

Of course New Scientist tends to jump on a lot of bandwagons, but this could be interesting. Niven loves curry...


Subject: DAVID BROOKS: For the 1st time, the rich work harder than the proletariat

> For the first time in human history, the rich
> work longer hours than the proletariat.

And the rich are overwhelmed. We cannot expand the number of people in our society who can do work that requires IQ-120+, so those of us who *can* do the intellectually-demanding tasks of our society keep getting busier and busier. I helped a young mother from Airport Security to her gate at Houston Intercontinental Airport a few days ago because all the stuff (including a car seat) that she had with her and her two small children was more than she had hands for. As soon as we got to her gate and got settled, she did not start interacting with her kids, but rather with her Blackberry.

I have had the same experience trying to get security industry professionals to take some time out to work on a general solution to the identity theft problem. No one has enough time to do what they are supposed to be doing for work, so they just never get to public-interest problems, no matter how intriguing they might find them.


At least this woman of the Professional Class went ahead and *had* the 2 kids!


Now we have the idle middle class


August 4, 2006

In all healthy societies, the middle-class people have wholesome middle-class values while the upper-crust blue bloods lead lives of cosseted leisure interrupted by infidelity, overdoses and hunting accidents. But in America today we've got this all bollixed up.

Through some screw-up in the moral superstructure, we now have a plutocratic upper class infused with the staid industriousness of Ben Franklin, while we are apparently seeing the emergence of a Wal-Mart leisure class - devil-may-care middle-age slackers who live off home-equity loans and disability payments so they can surf the History Channel and enjoy fantasy football leagues.

For the first time in human history, the rich work longer hours than the proletariat.

Today's super-wealthy no longer go off on four-month grand tours of Europe, play gin-soaked Gatsbyesque croquet tournaments or spend hours doing needlepoint while thinking in full paragraphs like the heroines of Jane Austen novels. Instead, their lives are marked by sleep deprivation and conference calls, and their idea of leisure is jetting off to Aspen to hear Zbigniew Brzezinski lead panels titled "Beyond Unipolarity."

Meanwhile, down the income ladder, the percentage of middle-age men who have dropped out of the labor force has doubled over the past 40 years, to more than 12 percent. Many of the men have disabilities. Others struggle to find work. But in a recent dinner party-dominating article, The New York Times' Louis Uchitelle and David Leonhardt describe two men who are not exactly Horatio Alger wonder boys.<snip>


Subject: Voting Machine Hacking

Hello, Dr. Pournelle,

If you hadn't heard about this, I thought you might find it interesting:




Daniel Rowlands,

I have always worried about systems with no paper trail.


Subject: solids control


I thought this was wonderful…I got this from Amazon today…..


Dear Amazon.com Customer,

We've noticed that customers who have purchased "Foundation and Empire (Foundation Novels (Paperback))" by Isaac Asimov also purchased books by Gene Bouse. For this reason, you might like to know that Gene Bouse's "Field Guide to Solids Control" will be released in paperback soon. You can pre-order your copy by following the link below.

Field Guide to Solids Control

Gene Bouse

List Price : $89.95

Price : $89.95

One never knows when you’ll need this kind of thing….

Damn, might just order several copies, one for the house and car.

Artificial Stupidity?


Subject: Marching Morons


Jim's post about the upper crust working their tails off while the "middle" class loaf brings back fond memories of one my favorite stories, "The Marching Morons," by Cyril Kornbluth. You see the late Mr. Kornbluth's story coming true everywhere you look - in America and Europe, at any rate.

While our "middle" class loaf away and stew in their collective ignorance, the middle classes of other countries are working their tails off, as are the upper-middle class in our own society. I suspect that the transformation of our middle class to a "middle" class came about because their ability to get ahead is far outstripped by the difficulties of doing so in our current economy, and the disincentives these days for slacking are not large.

I also suspect that putting up that fence, severely fining the employers of illegals and instituting a 17% import tax on all goods (including airliners) would help, but as Mr. Lieberman's troubles would indicate, getting elected with centrist views these days is likely impossible.


There was also "The Little Black Bag"


Subject: - domestic man from global warming

Jerry The commentary on domesticating humans to me strikes a cord with the variable temperature of this planet. In Janassaries you outline a scenario of a planet with wide temperature swings from either orbit or like earth from a variable output star. I looked again at the “Abruptclimatechange_7229.pdf” file that you had recently provided a link to and noticed that after the 8200 year event most of the peaks match cultural advances and extensions of productive civilization. When you look at the spread of the valleys in the temperature record you see eras of conquest, rape and pillaging.

Now the charts in the PDF are a little coarse to see the possible relationships directly, but would it not be practical for someone with access to the Woods Hole data the report was based on to extend the study to include social effects of recent previous periods of warming and cooling. Could not your scenario in the novel be relevant in many ways to the rise and fall of civilizations here on our own word from temperature variation. I have read many reports of how the dreaded dark ages and the medieval little ice age were periods of population decline and conquest for food, slaves and other loot. The warm peaks were periods of wide spread prosperity and population growth that included exploration and opening of new lands for settlement.

Seeing that temperatures have a long way to go before they match the medieval optimum let alone some of the earlier and higher temperature peaks maybe thought should be give to hatching the egg before it spoils again. If things cool rapidly in a century or so the wars of conquest could be brutal with the worlds potential population then looking for warmer lands to live and grow crops in.

-- James Early Long Beach, CA


Re - Outsourcing medical care


Actually, companies are already outsourcing medical care within the US, in most cases sending patients to the Midwest for cheaper US-based care. Sometimes the hospitals involved are in other parts of the US, but as I think back to those stories, one thing is in common with them all: they were in places where the illegal alien load is small.

The complaint that the hospitals had in the Concord Monitor story: they must take care of uninsured patients. California hospitals lost $6.65B doing that last year, for example. This is an example of an "unfunded mandate" - a service the government wants provided but does not want to pay for. Hospitals in other countries such as India and Thailand have no such burden, so would be cheaper even before you figure in lower wages, etc.

The avoidance of malpractice liability, though, is a chimera: once a company outsources a service to where US law doesn't apply, they take arguably responsibility in the US for any malpractice in the provision of that service, wherever it is provided. Just ask a trial lawyer. Just ask a juror.

To me this is most interesting. In a superficially similar circumstance, patients in the US were buying meds from Canada. US "lawmakers" made it legal, but in doing so they undermined our own pharmaceutical industries: US consumers pay for the R&D of those medications. The Canadian government leaned on those companies to sell them the meds at a discount - essentially somewhat above the cost of manufacture. That leaves US consumers to pay for the R&D.

I have always thought the US government should adopt the same lowest-cost provisions in pharmaceuticals that it adopts with medical services: the lowest price you require of anybody is the price you give us. This would link Canadian and US prices, so the companies would bargain a little more firmly with such robber countries.

This other method of going to a lower-cost provider, whether in-country outsourcing or international outsourcing, is a lot more interesting. It really does expose market forces. Enough of it might make clear just how much of a welfare cost is being hidden with the current unfunded mandate system, and expose just what kind of a tax we are paying to provide this form of welfare.

Such a result would be bound to push the body politic ever more toward doing something about the illegal immigrant problem. But that's for another letter.


I had never thought about it, but clearly, the illegal alien burden on the hospitals drives the costs for everyone else very high.

But Our Masters seem to think that enforcement is not a Good Thing. They need those low cost workers, so they say, so the rest of us must pay.


Subject: vector arithmetic


In re: Dr. Erwin on cognitive processing of directional signals (e.g. bat sonar) involving accelerating objects, I don't believe that the brain operates via an arithmetic analogy but by a geometric one. Anecdotally, in estimating the rate of movement of oncoming vehicles, the brain (OK, my brain, for what it's worth) seems to proceed by comparison of two processes: "blooming," or the rate at which the oncoming vehicle changes in apparent angular size and resolution, and graphic interpretation of changes in relative angles (perhaps correlated via a gestalt of historical experience maintained in long-term memory). The process can be both consciously informed and subconsciously informed by knowledge of vector calculus (one reason why I've reached these conclusions rather than suffered from the Centipede's Dilemma in even contemplating them :) .

For what it's worth, of course.

Dr. W



The world at their fingertips and they are bored, bored, bored:


They need to get outside - without their electronics.














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