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Monday  August 7, 2006

There was considerable mail, some of high value, over the weekend, so start there.

Subject: Study: Cat Parasite Affects Human Culture


Jerry, the domestication of humans discussion intrigued me. The following article is somewhat relevant. In essence, the author suggests that a parasite common to cats -- which can be transferred the humans -- results in psychological effects ranging from "guilt proneness" to schizophrenia. We also know that diet can have a dramatic effect on mood. In summary, it is apparent that there are a number of tools available for the domestication of humans, should some individual make that his or her goal.

Regards, Charlie Worton

Study: Cat Parasite Affects Human Culture <http://images.livescience.com/template_images/navigation/transpacer.gif>  By Ker Than <http://www.livescience.com/blogs/author/kerthan> LiveScience Staff Writer posted: 03 August 2006 03:47 pm ET <http://images.livescience.com/template_images/livescience/transpacer.gif

A parasitic microbe commonly found in cats might have helped shape entire human cultures by manipulating the personalities of infected individuals, according to a new study.

Infection by a Toxoplasma gondii could make some individuals more prone to some forms of neuroticism and could lead to differences among cultures if enough people are infected, says Kevin Lafferty, a U.S. Geological Survey scientist at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

In a survey of different countries, Lafferty found that people living in those with higher rates of T. gondii <http://www.livescience.com/scienceoffiction/060210_technovelgy.html>  infection scored higher on average for neuroticism, defined as an emotional or mental disorder characterized by high levels of anxiety <http://www.livescience.com/imageoftheday/siod_051122.html>  , insecurity or depression <http://www.livescience.com/humanbiology/ap_060228_patch.html>  .

His finding is detailed in the Aug. 2 issue of the journal for Proceedings of the Royal Society, Biology.

Manipulating behavior

T. gondii infects both wild and domestic cats, but it is carried by many warm-blooded <http://www.livescience.com/animalworld/060710_dinosaur_temperature.html>  mammals. One recent study showed that the parasite makes normally cautious rats outgoing and more prone to engage in reckless behavior, such as hanging around areas frequently marked by cat urine, making the rats easy targets.

Scientists estimate that the parasite has infected about 3 billion people, or about half of the human population <http://www.livescience.com/othernews/060224_world_population.html>  . Studies by researchers in the Czech Republic have suggested T. gondii might have subtle but long-term effects on its human hosts. The parasite is thought to have different, and often opposite effects in men versus women, but both genders appear to develop a form of neuroticism called "guilt proneness."

Other studies have also found links between the parasite and schizophrenia <http://www.livescience.com/humanbiology/050907_schizotype_creative.html>  . T. gondii infection is known to damage astrocytes <http://www.livescience.com/humanbiology/060106_astrocytes_blood.html>  , support cells in the brain that are also affected during schizophrenia. Pregnant women with high levels of antibodies <http://www.livescience.com/humanbiology/060207_virus_evolution.html>  to the parasite are also more likely to give birth to children who will develop the disorder.

In light of such studies, Lafferty wondered whether high rates of T. gondii infection in a culture <http://www.livescience.com/humanbiology/060123_dying_wish.html>  could shift the average personality of its individuals.

"In populations where this parasite is very common, mass personality modification could result in cultural change," Lafferty said.

The distribution of T. gondii could explain differences in cultural aspects that relate to ego, money, material possessions, work and rules, Lafferty added. In some countries, infections by the cat parasite are very rare, while in others nearly all adults are infected.<snip>

I had not thought about the implications for evolutionary theory. Thanks.


Victory in Iraq:

Dr. Pournelle,

An odd thought occurred to me today...

Our Middle East policy for a very long time was containment and maintaining a balance of power. As long as they kept their religious insanity to themselves, we really wouldn't get all that bothered by it. It strikes me that with the religious civil war fully underway in Iraq, we've achieved our true objective of rebalancing the region and it's time to leave.


Nothing we do is going to keep these heavily armed morons from killing each other, so we may as well take advantage of the situation. The shape of the new Middle East won't be determined for another several years, so it's time to declare victory and, with a few choice behind the scenes agreements, take our leave.

How I'd do it - I'd work a deal with Saudi Arabia to look the other way and let the Saudis send a little aid to Iraq to help balance Iran. An Iraq at war is ok as long as it remains identifiable as Iraq, so our task ought to be to focus on the balance in the region instead of an outright victory for western style democracy. Because for the US, stability is a win.

As part of the withdrawal, I'd beef up the Kurd's security forces as much as we can get away with so if Iraq collapses completely, the Kurds would be strong enough to declare some form of independence and get away with it. The Kurdish regions are a relative model of peace and stability, and it would be a shame to let that progress go to waste. Again, it would take a deal with Saudi Arabia to make this work because whoever "wins" the religious slaughter in Iraq will naturally turn north in search of more blood to spill in the name of Allah. Saudi Arabia's leadership may help temper that urge. If we had any old school ninja diplomats, we could get the Syrians and Iranians in on the deal but there are only new-age liberal Barney and Teletubbie diplomats left so I'll take what we can get.



Subject: Evidence in the propaganda war

Dr. Pournelle,

Clear proof/evidence of how active the Hizbollah propaganda machine is. I don't usually pass around these kinds of links but this one is a bit different. Warning - some pics may be disturbing as they are using dead children in posed photo opportunities for propaganda.


The main character in these shots must be the busiest and most prolific emergency worker in the world! He's photographed over and over wearing only a couple different outfits, but in one series of photos passed off as immediate action, he actually carries and displays the dead body of a young child in various poses for several hours, and the child is recovered for the "first" time several times.

He has company... There are others that appear multiple times in the series of photographs, doing different tasks but somehow "wrong"... Like a wounded child being carried into, lying in, and being taken from an ambulance during several completely different press events "documenting" the effects of the war.

According to little green footballs (.com) apparently there is one photographer, "Adnan Hajj" responsible for taking these photos and shopping them around to anyone who wants to invent a story anytime, anyplace.

With all of our modern media and technology, this is probably the worst documented war in history. The reason that is so is that nobody in the media seems to be fighting back or even trying to find whatever truth is hidden among all the BS. Yes the death of the child is tragic, but it's being used as a propaganda weapon and our media is buying hook line and sinker. I've seen these same shots on almost EVERY major media outlet.

On top of that are other faked photos... The one shown here got used a lot and it's clearly a terrible fake:


I also noted that Time magazine (print edition) took a picture of the local dump's tire fire and claimed it was a burning Israeli fighter...

Why are "media sources" like eureferendum.blogspot.com and little green footballs the only people even talking about this? Where is the old Time Magazine when we really NEED them?



Dr. Pournelle,

An update to the propaganda email I sent you earlier - it appears that the photographer responsible for all the faked and staged pictures has been suspended.


In addition, there a breaking story about someone using a Reuters email account, from an IP address corresponding to a domain used by Reuters, to send a death threat to the little green footballs owner Charles Johnson. A Reuters employee has been suspended over this as well.


There is apparently a writeup on this at the Guardian as well, but I don't have a URL.

Score another one for the internet community policing the media. Although I expect CNN to keep their heads firmly in the sand (ie not report the REAL news and how they were yet again mislead into reporting the made-up news), this one should get more play on the world news circuit than the faked Bush military papers.



Subject: Cease fire?

You're right about the inadvisability of an immediate cease fire, of course, but an immediate cease fire wasn't in the US/French resolution, regardless of the terminology used. What it did implicitly -- and why I think it's a good thing if it doesn't happen -- was forbid an "offensive" operation, like the move northward.

Whether it was always part of the plan or not, the (necessary, IMHO) push for the Litani is apparently on the table in Jerusalem, regardless of what goes on at the UN.

Joel Rosenberg


Harry Erwin's Letter From England:

Subject: Letter from England

Diane and I just got back from a week-end study tour of neolithic and bronze age sites in the Cotswolds. I'll have an illustrated report up on my weblog later in the week.

The Times had a short comment piece by George Walden on America's Puritan roots: <http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,6-2298435,00.html>  I remember learning about this when I had to take American History at UCD in the mid-60s--his thesis is not that new. The Puritan tradition in America has a lot to say in its favour, and I'm proud to have Puritan ancestors.

There was a piece on new uses being found for the UK ID card. <http://observer.guardian.co.uk/politics/story/0,,1838363,00.html

Biometric passports cracked <http://technology.guardian.co.uk/news/story/0,,1838751,00.html>

Sri Lankan guerrilla actions <http://www.voanews.com/english/2006-08-07-voa10.cfm

Bomb protesters at Prestwick <http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/scotland/glasgow_and_west/5251438.stm>  <http://www.guardian.co.uk/antiwar/story/0,,1838939,00.html

'Optimum' level of immigration to be set by Home Secretary <http://politics.guardian.co.uk/homeaffairs/story/0,,1838664,00.html

How the US fired Jack Straw... <http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,6-2301799,00.html

Effects of NHS cuts <http://society.guardian.co.uk/health/story/0,,1838727,00.html>  <http://observer.guardian.co.uk/uk_news/story/0,,1838359,00.html>  <http://observer.guardian.co.uk/politics/story/0,,1838470,00.html>  <http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2-2301896,00.html

Ethnic issues <http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,29390-2301972,00.html>  <http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,6-2301807,00.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>

We may be certain that the Puritan Spirit is not dead: masochistic Massachusetts keeps electing our Ted...


Subject: The laws of stupidity


The Laws of Stupidity and Stupidity Defined


I would impose a couple of generalizations, but this is quite interesting nonetheless. I would also like to apply the quantitative approach outlined herein to the Pournelle Axes and determine if the relative merits of different social systems can be rated in terms of their relative stupidity.



While I can't honestly say I myself would have done the honest thing, it is remarkable that a full two days went by before an honest person appeared. Shade of Kitty Genovese!


Can't Beat the House? Try This Slot Machine New York Times, 6.8.5 http://www.nytimes.com/2006/08/05/us/05casino.html 


They say the house always wins. But that was not the case last month at the Caesars Indiana casino in Elizabeth, Ind., where a faulty slot machine erroneously paid out nearly a half-million dollars to an unknown number of gamblers.

For two days starting July 21, the slot machine gave players credit for 10 times the money they put in, causing the casino to lose $487,000, casino officials said.

Players could get vouchers from the machine for the amount credited to them and then cash in the vouchers.

It all came to an abrupt halt when Kathryn Ford had a bout of conscience. After putting a $20 bill into the machine, Ms. Ford said it registered a credit of $200. When she put eight $20 bills in, she received credit for $1,600. She knew something was wrong, she said, so she notified a security guard.

"I felt guilty," said Ms. Ford, of Louisville, Ky. "But I also knew they have cameras covering the whole room."

After telling officials about the problem, Ms. Ford said the casino gave her a $200 voucher and thanked her for her honesty.<snip>


I can't imagine the liberals ever coming up with all this rumble-bumble. It takes "conservatives" to so clog the education system that learning will become impossible. Maybe not: life itself is consisting more and more of sheer rumble-bumble. Still, there has to be someone, somewhere to do actual work.

The most difficult question of all: how many fleas can fit on one dog.


Appendix A:

NCLB Implementation Provisions Framework

Challenging Curriculum Standards and Academic Goals:

Know state standards and their alignment of instruction to support both the standards and the school improvement goals. Master state standards and district goals and they have set specific school improvement goals to reach standards. Align district-specific academic goals with state standards and set specific district improvement goals. Develop challenging academic standards in reading, mathematics and science to enable students to attain proficient and advanced academic levels.

Highly Qualified Staff:

Incorporate effective professional development into classroom teaching and collaborate with other staff on curricular and instructional issues. Select, develop, and retain highly-qualified teachers; monitor highly qualified teacher status. Recruit, select, develop, equitably distribute and retain highly-qualified personnel; monitor status of highly qualified teacher status. Develop standards, licensing requirements and professional development to ensure highly-qualified professional staff; Monitor status and retention of highly-qualified teachers.

Evidence-Based Instructional Programs & Practices

Utilize evidence-based instructional programs and practices to improve student achievement. Choose evidence-based instructional programs and practices that support classrooms to achieve state standards. Adopt evidence-based instructional programs and practices that support schools to achieve state standards. Identify evidence-based instructional programs and practices that support districts in achieving state standards.

Assessment, Adequate Yearly Progress, and Corrective Action:

Monitor student performance at regular intervals and use the data to improve student performance. Monitor student and teacher performance using assessment data and classroom observations and use the data to improve educational services to all students, in and out of the classroom. Develop student assessment systems to track school, teacher and student performance and use the data to guide decision making and corrective action activities. Develop an accountability system that includes standards-based assessments in reading, math and science; Set AYP targets and monitor progress towards those goals; Participate in restructuring.


Subject:  Cat parasite may affect cultural traits in human populations

(Santa Barbara, Calif.) –– A common parasite found in cats may be affecting human behavior on a mass scale, according to a scientist based at the University of California, Santa Barbara.



Cat parasite may affect cultural traits in human populations

(Santa Barbara, Calif.) –– A common parasite found in cats may be affecting human behavior on a mass scale, according to a scientist based at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

While little is known about the causes of cultural change, and biological explanations often stimulate social and scientific debate, a new study by the U.S. Geological Survey published in the August 2 issue of the Proceedings of the Royal Society, Biology, indicates that behavioral manipulation of a common brain parasite may be among factors that play a role.

"In populations where this parasite is very common, mass personality modification could result in cultural change," said study author Kevin Lafferty, a USGS scientist at UC Santa Barbara. "The geographic variation in the latent prevalence of Toxoplasma gondii may explain a substantial proportion of human population differences we see in cultural aspects that relate to ego, money, material possessions, work and rules."

Although this sounds like science fiction, it is a logical outcome of how natural selection leads to effective strategies for parasites to get from host to host, said Lafferty. Toxoplasma gondii is a parasite of cats, both domestic and wild. While modern humans are a dead-end host for the parasite, Toxoplasma appears to manipulate personality by the same adaptations that normally help it complete its life cycle. The typical journey of the parasite involves a cat and its prey, starting as eggs shed in an infected cat's feces, inadvertently eaten by a warm-blooded animal, such as a rat. The infected rat's behavior alters so that it becomes more active, less cautious and more likely to be eaten by a cat, where the parasite completes its life cycle. Many other warm-blooded vertebrates may be infected by this pathogen. After producing usually mild flu-like symptoms in humans, the parasite tends to remain in a dormant state in the brain and other tissues.

Evidence for subtle long-term effects on an individual's personality, reported by researchers in the Czech Republic, inspired Lafferty to explore whether a shift in the average, or aggregate, personality of a population might occur where Toxoplasma has infected a higher proportion of individuals. Infection with Toxoplasma varies considerably from one population to another; in some countries it is very rare, while in others nearly all adults are infected. To test his hypothesis, Lafferty used published data on cultural dimension and aggregate personality for countries where there were also published data on the prevalence of Toxoplasma antibodies in women of childbearing age. Pregnant women are tested for antibodies because of the serious risk posed by toxoplasmosis to fetuses, which lack their own immune systems.

The results of previous work suggested that Toxoplasma could affect specific elements of human culture. Toxoplasma is associated with different, often opposite, behavioral changes in men and women, but both genders exhibit guilt proneness (a form of neuroticism). Lafferty's analysis found that countries with high Toxoplasma prevalence had a higher aggregate neuroticism score, and western nations with high prevalence also scored higher in the 'neurotic' cultural dimensions of 'masculine' sex roles and uncertainty avoidance.

"There could be a lot more to this story. Different responses to the parasite by men and women could lead to many additional cultural effects that are, as yet, difficult to analyze," said Lafferty.



Subject: Singularity

"On the one hand, we have Kurtzweil and Vinge confidently predicting "the singularity" when all the trend lines go vertical"

But reality is usually an "S" curve.

Gene Horr

Indeed, a point we made in The Strategy of Technology








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Tuesday, August 8, 2006

Subject: Reuters admits altering Beirut photo - News from Israel, Ynetnews


Julie Woodman



Subject: ID Card Planning in the UK

They're absolutely barmy... <http://www.theregister.co.uk/2006/08/07/brown_id_expansion/

-- 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>

There are times when I am convinced the entire world has gone mad.


Subject: What Really Matters

This may be a restatement of the obvious, but thought you might enjoy the article.


Al Perrella

I take it as an axiom that most of today's public school teachers are either outstanding, or not very good, and this will be increasingly true over time. Merely "good" teachers are not likely to be sufficiently motivated to put up with the Mickey Mouse stuff they must endure in colleges of education in order to become "qualified". Thus the good to near-great teachers are hired by private schools not concerned with credentialism.

Since nearly anyone with an IQ above that of a chimpanzee can get through a college of education and be credentialed and thus qualified, the credentialed teachers are either so highly motivated that they will put up with the junk they are taught in ed school, or actually believe they are learning something and are qualified.

Have I overstated the situation? Perhaps, but by how much? I recently saw a third year ed school textbook, and it did nothing to change my views.

OF COURSE the quality of the teacher is the most important variable in the learning situation; but are we doing much to attract quality teachers, or have we set up a system to discourage them?


Life in Hell: A Baghdad Diary.


-- Roland Dobbins

Per omnia seecula seculorum


Subject: The Idle Middle Class


Mr Brooks sees a drop in employment rates for middle aged men, and conjours up a social trend (dare I say megatrend) of growing laziness and moral decay among the middle class, using a laid-off 54-year old electrical engineer, and a laid off steel worker as his poster boys!?!

He seems to give short shrift to the other theory, namely that shrinking middle class participation in the labor market might actually reflect significant turmoil in the economy that it has made it much harder for older workers who have been displaced from jobs to regain their financial footing. Perhaps his outrage would be eased if Mr. Priga abandoned his 30+ year engineering career, and took a position behind the counter, serving coffee. Then Mr. Priga would have a job, and also wouldn't be middle-class, thereby reducing by one the number of middle-class reprobates that exist to bother Mr. Brooks. I doubt, however, that this would do much to ease the burden on those over stressed and over worked, high IQ types who still have the courage and moral fiber to work long hours for fabulous pay packages and great benefits.

One thing still troubles me about this resolution of Mr. Prigas's situation: Isn't electrical engineering one of those high IQ knowledge professions? One would think that there would be loads of high paying jobs out there for a smart white collar professional with loads of experience with a Fortune 500 company? I can only conclude that Mr. Priga must have a really serious character flaw......

CP, Connecticut


It isn't just illegals who run up medical costs the rest of us must pay, dr. Pournelle...


"Kentucky doesn't require motorcycle riders to wear helmets. When a motorcycle rider wrecks anywhere in southern Kentucky, Vanderbilt's LifeFlight helicopters are sent to save them because Vanderbilt is the only Level I Trauma Center, covering 65,000 square miles of turf, in this region.

"The numbers add up:

"* Vanderbilt treats about 100 people with severe head injuries every year. About 11 percent of those come from Kentucky. Of those, 75 percent have no health insurance whatsoever. Vanderbilt takes care of them anyway.

"* That number has been rising steadily since Kentucky repealed most of its helmet law in 1998. That year, there were 650 people hurt in motorcycle accidents in Kentucky. In 1999, that number jumped to 774. After the law was loosened even more in 2000, 800 riders were hurt. That's a 23 percent increase in just two years.

"* The average Vanderbilt hospital stay cost for someone with a head injury is between $75,000 and $100,000. That extra $20,000 to $25,000 is the cost to care for patients who didn't wear a helmet.

"* Kentucky also has a law that forbids hospitals or long-term care facilities from accepting these severely injured people until they have Medicaid.

"It can take up to three months to get Medicaid approved after wrecks like these. Vanderbilt is forced to keep them in the hospital until that happens.

"We are eating millions," said Beth Broering, trauma coordinator at Vanderbilt. Dr. Richard Miller, medical director of the trauma unit at Vandy, agreed: "The rest is up to us as taxpayers or to the hospital."

So much for the Libertarian theory of responsibility for one's actions. Or, if you prefer, one more of many situations where only "rights" are given consideration.

Charles Brumbelow

Would it be proper to have legislation that deems anyone riding a motorcycle without a helmet to have signed  DNR and Organ Donor authorizations? I ask that seriously.

But I suspect illegal aliens cost us far more than these.


Subject: IRAQ: The Civil War Myth

Jerry, I have included a link to a very good article with a good deal of history about the area now called Iraq. I have included about 1/3 of the article below as a sample. Considering what was said in Washington DC recently about civil war in Iraq I thought it was worth reading.

Dave C


IRAQ: The Civil War Myth

August 4, 2006: People who should know better, including diplomats, and those just looking for an exciting headline, are talking up civil war in Iraq once more. You can't have a civil war if one side is so weak that it's unable to raise an army and put up much of a fight. In that case you have the weaker side expelled, wiped out, or forced to accept whatever terms the stronger side will grant. In this case, the Sunni Arabs of Iraq have the short end of the stick. The Sunni Arabs in Iraq never comprised more than 20 percent of the population. Emigration in the past three years, to avoid the violence, and vengeance of Shia and Kurds, has reduced that to fifteen percent. But the worst thing that's happened to the Sunni Arabs, is the creation of an effective non-Sunni Arab army and police force. The Sunnis Arabs are outnumbered and outgunned, and facing the growing threat of massacre and expulsion from Iraq.

How is this possible?

Simple, just check the history of the Sunni Arabs and what we now know as Iraq. Until 1918 there was no Iraq, just three provinces of the Turkish (Ottoman) empire. These were Mosul province (which was largely Kurdish, with a large Turk minority), Baghdad (which was largely Sunni Arab, with a large Shia minority) and Basra (mostly Shia Arab.) When the conquering British came in after 1918, they took these three provinces and declared them the new country of Iraq. As was their custom (in dealing with colonial matters), the British left the current governing arrangements in place. This meant that the Sunni Arab minority was running things.

How did this happen?

Again, it's all a matter of history, and the continuation of ancient trends. The best organized, and most powerful gang in what we now know of as Iraq has been, for several centuries, a collection of like minded Sunni Moslem groups living in and around Baghdad. This great city was founded, over a thousand years ago, by the Arab conquerors of what was then called Mesopotamia. The city became a center of Islamic learning, and a major commercial power because of its location in the fertile Tigris-Euphrates river valley, with all those trade routes. But that wealth attracted conquerors. The Mongols leveled the place in 1258, and trashed the place again in 1400. The Persians, who often controlled the region before the Islamic empire showed up, returned in 1524. The Ottoman

Turks finally conquered the region 1638 and set about getting the area organized to suit Turkish tastes....

The Christian faith has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult and left untried." --G.K. Chesterton

I suppose it is well to remind people of these facts; one would have hoped that those making decisions about our policies in Mesopotamia would have already known them, but it is increasingly clear that they did not.




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Wednesday, August 10, 2006

Subject:  - Firefox session restore - this will help you

Jerry read your piece on Firefox, your problem is that you’re running Crash Recovery and Session Manager.

These days everyone runs Tab Mix Plus which provides crash recovery, session management, undo closed tab and a bunch of other really nice features all in one extension so they play nicely together, you need to go download it. It’s easy to find, it’s in the list of most popular extensions. Note that before installing Tab Mix Plus you should uninstall Session Manager and Crash Recovery so you don’t have multiple extensions trying to manage your sessions.

I’ve included a few relevant ‘options’ screen shots, and a settings file (TMPpref.txt) which can be imported so your setup is like mine as a starting point.

<<...>> <<...>> <<...>> <<...>>

Here are some of the options I have set:

- ‘remember’ up to 25 screens in a session (you can adjust this higher or lower)

- on Firefox startp, ask if you want to restore a session, you can choose last or previous to last.

- put a ‘close tab’ X on the current active tab (only), which makes it easy to spot which tab is the active one.

- Rather than cramming all tabs into one row, it will display up to 3 rows deep (you can increase or decrease this, and adjust the width of the tabs that display)

- Double clicking on a tab duplicates it in a new tab. This is incredibly handy, you can keep the current page and in a new tab back up to a previous page for instance.

It also has an ‘undo close tab’ function, whereby right clicking on any tab and choosing ‘undo close tab’ will let you choose from a list of the last 25 (adjustable, it’s the parameter mentioned above) tabs you closed, and recover it.

These are just a few of the settings, I recommend you look through the options, it will be readily apparent what most of them do, I haven’t found need to change any I wasn’t sure of.

After installing this you’ll never look back.






CURRENT VIEW    Wednesday


This week:


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Thursday, August 10, 2006

Being Phoneless in San Diego, this is a batch process, and all mail I have as of this moment is as of yesterday morning. In a few minutes I will head for the Starbucks about a mile away and do my connectivity, get new mail, etc.


Subject: Motorcycle Helmets

Dr. Pournelle,

With regards to motorcycle helmets…I find myself leaning towards a moderate libertarian position. I am an emergency room nurse and I ride a motorcycle. I always wear a helmet and I am against helmet laws. Such laws always sound like a good idea, while we’re at it let’s restrict motorcycle engine sizes and top speeds..easily done these days. At the same time lets go back to the 55 mph speed limit and not let those darn smokers smoke while driving, you know how dangerous that can be and oh by the way cars shouldn’t start unless everybody involved has on a seat belt. Let’s get those robotic red light cameras and speed traps up; they are certainly municipal money makers. God only knows the costs involved in parents smoking around their children, let’s get the little tykes to tell their teachers if mom and dad have a pack of Marlboros in the house or heaven forbid a gun. You know how much it costs to treat an accidental shooting in a CHILD.

I wonder if your correspondent Mr. Brumbelow has ever eaten a nicely marbled steak and if so is he is planning on fully reimbursing the cost of his trip to the cath lab to whatever insurance plan he has.

Damn, I shouldn’t read your column after two whole glasses of wine…stuff like this gets my blood pressure up. Maybe you should post a warning so I can’t blame my cerebral vascular accident on you.

Steve Martin

I fully understand your sentiments. At least, so far, it remains a state matter. California didn't have motorcycle helmet laws for a long time after other states adopted them because the Motorcycle Clubs made themselves into an influential lobby.

My usual preference is for freedom with responsibility for one's actions, but we are removing the responsibilities. People seem to want that. Hospital emergency rooms M*U*S*T take in anyone including those who didn't wear helmets and have liability release documents and didn't sign organ donor cards. Illegal aliens do more to bankrupt our hospitals -- many have closed their emergency rooms entirely -- than helmetless motorcyclists, but every pressure on them is another reason for closing.

We need an overhaul and reassessment of freedom/responsibility, but it won't happen. Liberals will continue to press for fewer freedoms and fewer responsibilities because that is the nature of modern liberalism. Precisely what they liberate and from what isn't entirely clear.


Fallen Astronaut.


--- Roland Dobbins

Alas I can't comment because I can't chase links, being without communications.


Subject: "Kids Draw the Darnedest Things" (BATFE)

You have to see the picture to really appreciate this.


Artifact: Kids Draw the Darnedest Things Nick Gillespie

[image: http://www.reason.com/0607/artifact.jpg  ]

Earlier this year, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives posted the winners of their Kid's Art Contest. The agency "requested artwork from ATF employees' children under the age of 14 that depicted what they thought their parents did at work."

Pictured above is a winning entry drawn by a 6-year-old. Ostensibly a drawing of an ATF agent investigating a church arson, the image, especially the ambiguous child-like figure on the left side, eerily calls to mind the ATF's central role in the 1993 siege of the Branch Davidians outside Waco, Texas. That confrontation—which started with a bungled ATF raid and ended with a firestorm—was the deadliest law enforcement operation in U.S. history. When it was over, 86 people (including nearly two dozen children) were dead.

According to the ATF, this drawing will be part of "a permanent kids' art wall exhibit decorating the new ATF headquarters building in Washington, D.C." One hopes also it will serve as a daily reminder to ATF agents to learn from the past and not to repeat their mistakes.


And perhaps the horse will learn to sing hymns.




- Roland Dobbins

Indeed. Peer reviewed science....


The Blue Pill.


----- Roland Dobbins

I am not sure what to make of this. Watch this space. The mail should be interesting.


UC Joins Google Library Project.


-- Roland Dobbins

Which seems to be going ahead without regard to copyright...


Subject: A rational discussion of global warming

Craig Bohren, retired atmospheric science professor at Penn State, wrote a very compelling article on GW:



"This does not mean that the alarmists are wrong or even dishonest, merely that in assessing their claims we must always ask about the extent to which they will profit from our believing and acting on them. "

[Dr. Bohren studies scattering by atmospheric particles and optical phenomena in the atmosphere. He is a Fellow of the Optical Society of America, and the first recipient of the American Meteorological Society's Louis J. Battan Award for Authors.]

--- Joe Hennessey

It is a very good essay. I have one quibble: conservatives, at least my variety of conservative, are not for unlimited growth. Roepke's Humane Economy is not what guide the neo-cons in Washington. Big government Conservatism is a contradiction in terms in my judgement.


Subject: Blowback

*Everything*--has to be checked as hold luggage. Passengers are only allowed to carry small wallets (with contents), passports, tickets, essential prescription medicines for the flight (but liquids are not allowed), glasses (but no cases), contact lens holders without solution, limited baby supplies for the flight (foods must be tasted by the passenger with the baby), tampons/pads/etc. (unboxed), handkerchiefs, and keys (non-electronic). These are to be carried in a single transparent carrier bag, not in the pockets. Passengers are being hand-searched and all items being carried are being X-rayed. Passengers for flights to the USA are being searched twice and all liquids are being confiscated. I suppose the next stage is 'fly naked'.

<http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2-2306721,00.html>  <http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/4778575.stm>  <http://www.guardian.co.uk/terrorism/story/0,,1841140,00.html>  <http://news.independent.co.uk/uk/crime/article1218129.ece

-- 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>

Or in my case, don't fly at all.


Freeman: NR Goes to War.


- Roland Dobbins


In our final meeting before the balloon went up in Iraq, I pleaded with my NR colleagues to reconsider their drum-beating for war. I rehearsed my old arguments and added the prudential point that we should husband our resources to meet the real threats in Iran and North Korea. I thought then and I think today that if NR had opposed the invasion it could have made a decisive difference within the conservative movement and, radiating its influence outward, across the larger political community.<snip>

AS AMERICA WENT TO WAR, NR gave its warm endorsement to the invasion but then -- rather than rallying reluctant conservatives to flag and cause -- it turned abruptly to the settling of intramural scores. In the issue immediately following the invasion, NR ran a long cover story excoriating what it called "Unpatriotic Conservatives."<snip>

from my reading of T.E. Lawrence's dispatches. The young officer had informed his Colonial Secretary (Winston Churchill, as it happened) that the sprawling territory that would one day be called Iraq was in fact three distinct entities with natural capitals in Basra, Mosul, and Baghdad. It was the estimate of Lawrence of Arabia that the three Ottoman provinces could be held together only at the point of a gun. That estimate proved to be durable. Even Saddam's long tenure offered no evidence to the contrary. f

This is an important article, and those interested in the subject should read it. The egregious Frum accomplished much.

And see next week's mail


Subject: Working Memory and g

I've been investigating the neuroscience and cognitive science literature on working memory, since I'm interested in finding software that might increase its effective size. There is evidence that between 70 and 90% of the variance in general fluid intelligence (g) is explained by working memory capacity (and not by short term memory capacity or processing speed). Short-term memory appears to be a simple storage buffer, whose use is optimized by rehearsal and chunking strategies, and has a capacity of about four different chunks (not 5-9). Working memory has a storage component (1.5-5 elements) and an attentional component and is responsible for maintaining memory representations through distractions.

That raises a series of questions:

1. Can working memory capacity be improved by training?
 2. What damages working memory capacity?
3. What drugs affect working memory capacity?
4. If someone comes up with a way of augmenting working memory, will that create Vinge's/Stross's Singularity?

-- 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 points.


Subject: Achtung! Bloggers beware 

Dr. Pournelle,

You might want to pay attention to this one.


This guy might spend a year or more in jail for not handing over video he may or may not have, related to a crime that may or may not have occurred. Aside from violating a number of constitutional protections that many shortsighted and ignorant people somehow see as theoretical and not applicable during an endless war against terrorism, this case will directly affect everyone who pays attention to or records the actions of our own government and police forces.




Subject: The numbers add up 

Dear Doctore P,

Charles Brumbelow, your esteemed regular correspondent, argues that head cases (in both senses of the term) are partly responsible for high hospital costs.

He wrote:

"The numbers add up:

"* Vanderbilt treats about 100 people with severe head injuries every year. About 11 percent of those come from Kentucky. Of those, 75 percent have no health insurance whatsoever. Vanderbilt takes care of them anyway. "

The numbers do, indeed |add up": Start with the stated 100 patients with severe head injuries treated by Vanderbilt annually. "About 11 percent come form Kentucky". 11 percent of 100 is, of course, 11. "75 percent of them have no health insurance..." Okay, now 75 percent of 11, well that is about eight. This is where I sort of don't quite buy what Charles brumbewlow is selling here, when he wrote:

"* The average Vanderbilt hospital stay cost for someone with a head injury is between $75,000 and $100,000. That extra $20,000 to $25,000 is the cost to care for patients who didn't wear a helmet.

Eight patients add enough in annual hospital operating costs that every other patient (presumably hundreds, if not thousands of other patients in a given year) to require each of them to pay $20,000 to $25,000 dollars to cover those added expenses from those EIGHT head cases? Suppose Vanderbilt treats just a thousand other patients in a year. That would mean added expenses of 1000 times 20,000 (to $25,000), which of course would mean those eight extra patients would, by Brumbelow's math, cost a total of $20 million to $25 million.

If we go with the lower figure, that's $2,500,000 per head case. But wait, Brumbelow DID write "The average Vanderbilt hospital stay cost for someone with a head injury is between $75,000 and $100,000."

Something does not "add up" here. And yes, anyone who rides a motorcycle willingly without a helmet ought to be considered legally what they are in fact: a potential organ donor.

By the way, even if Brumbelow's numbers are in some way correct, and those 8 head cases do cost 2 to 3 million apiece in Vanderbilt care, a thousand illegal's having babies on the public dime will easily equal that. How many illegal's are in Kentucky, and what is their birth rate, and the percentage of such mothers using public hospitals with no private insurance?

Just remember, ten percent of Mexico's population lies in the USA. Imagine how much better off our economy would be if we had NO illegal's burdening our health care system with their "free ride", if we ALSO had ten percent of OUR population farming out their health care costs, if the USA had to pay NOTHING for the health care received by that ten percent of our people, AND the USA received remittances in cash annually of circa $150 billion. That's EXACTLY what we "give" to Mexico annually. We're still paying for the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, through the nose.

We are suckers, and our leadership are knaves and/or fools. I'd rather pay for a thousand of my own foolhardy countrymen who ride without helmets than for one indigent and illegal foreign resident. I believe in charity, and caring for ones neighbor, but ones' own come first. What is so hard to understand about that?



Subject: Positive proof of global warming.

Dr Pournelle, Now you can no longer deny it - here is positive proof of global warming...


Regards, Chris Els




CURRENT VIEW    Thursday


This week:


read book now


Friday,  August 11, 2006

Subject: RIP: Dr. James Allen


With you and Roberta being down at the beach, I'm not sure you've heard the news-- but I knew you'd want to know this...

I got a call this morning from an old University of Iowa colleague that Dr. James Van Allen passed away yesterday (Wednesday,) about 6:15AM of a heart attack at University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics in Iowa City, IA. It is my understanding Abigail was at his side. He was 91. They'd been married over 60 years.

As I am quite sure you are aware in 1987, President Ronald Reagan presented Dr.. Van Allen with the National Medal of Science and in 1989 he received the Crafoord Prize, from the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences in Stockholm.

Gay and Ciha Funeral and Cremation Services in Iowa City are handling the arrangements. They have a memorial book online at http://www.gayandciha.com/obit-display.jhtml?DB=update/obits/dbase&DO=display&ID=1155155163_22667  Otherwise I'd send cards over to the house at

There is also talk there will be a public memorial at Iowa, but nothing formal has been announced. Knowing Dr. Van Allen-- he may have told them no a long time ago-- but who knows. In many respects he was the University of Iowa.

The University of Iowa and the local Iowa City newspaper, the Press Citizen has done the nicest of the obituaries.   <http://www.uiowa.edu/~ournews/van-allen/index.html

However at this point tonight, all you have to do is Google his name on the news and the list of obits' are growing by the minute.

It's strange relaying this information to you tonight. I remember the first time I met you, was when Dr. Van Allen, who was acting as father-professor and host, introduced me to you and Roberta at a NASA-JPL reception and dinner YEARS ago, when I was one of the National Science Foundation High School Science Scholarship winners. I know I would have never won that scholarship without his encouragement. Two things about that night I will never forget. 1. Both you and Dr. Van Allen called me a "young lady." and 2. I couldn't forget Roberta's smile and that her hair was more red than mine!

Hope you're enjoying your break at the beach. I really enjoyed hearing you on Leo's TWIT podcast last week.

As ever--

Mary Lu

Mary L. Wehmeier Hm:


Thank you. One of the things I am no good at is writing about departed friends and mentors. I studied physics as an undergraduate at Iowa a very long time ago. Van Allen and I had our rather public disputes over the value of the manned space program, but as you say, he was the heart of the SUI sciences, as Mosse was of history.

An extraordinary man.


Subject: Re: On Academic Terrorism

If you are interested in academia keeping funding away from research that questions a shaky politically-driven orthodoxy, I highly recommend Lawrence Keeley's book _War Before Civilization: The Myth of the Peaceful Savage_. In it, he recounts how archaeologists ignore the evidence of prehistoric violence because it conflicts with their view that such people were peaceful. In particular, he talks about being denied funding to study "prehistoric fortifications" in Europe only to get funding to study "prehistoric enclosures", as if the large ditch and palisade constructions were designed to keep the sheep in. A diagram of the arrowheads found at the site show the absurdity of denying that they were fortifications. Keeley also makes some interesting observations that defy conventional wisdom with respect to how to avoid conflict and war. In particular, he notes that trade and intermarriage can actually increase the prevalence of conflicts between peoples because they create more issues for them to fight over. Given your mention of pressure to conform in academia as well as memories of _King David's Spaceship_'s focus on civilization, I thought you might find this book interesting if you haven't read it already.

John Morrow


Now for your further confusion:

Arctic Thawed In Prehistoric Global Warming.


--- Roland Dobbins

And you can make of that what you will.


As well as this:

Top 10: Weirdest cosmology theories.


-- Roland Dobbins


Subject: on not flying


You mentioned the no-fly alternative in this week’s mail. I have been following that option since returning from Southern Africa in October of 2002. It was clear to me then that airline security was really a theatrical show, more about trying to fool people that they were secure than actually providing it. I decided then to just drive my truck, and to provide my security with my own firearms and martial arts. (My most effective tactic is stay out of stupid places by the way.)

So far my longest trip was to Saskatchewan to go deer hunting (4,036 miles round trip), and we just returned from a road trip to Montana from San Diego (a 3,944 mile loop up I-15, over I-90 and back south on I-25). (The most expensive gas was in Southern California, the cheapest was in Montana.)

I have military security experience. The only effective (and efficient) way to keep explosives off airplanes is to identify the bombers – and keep them away and off the aircraft. I know people who work on airports, and TSA is busy ignoring them and the threat they are. Obviously the bombers are Moslem men between 17 and 40, but I am willing to vet them and their burka-ettes too.

So as long as it is Kabuki theater, I will continue to go my own way.

Jim Dodd

LCDR Jim Dodd, USN (Ret.)

San Diego

I think I have told the story of how when my son, traveling on military orders with his wife, daughter, and dog, got selected for extraordinary search when going to Virginia from San Diego. Even the TSA clown who was doing this saw the absurdity of it but could not say anything. When a stupid man is doing something that he knows is wrong, he will always insist that it is his duty. Shaw has Appolodorus the Sicilian say that of a Roman sentry in Shaw's Caesar and Cleopatra; and it is quite true. And see view today

But note:

Subject: Muslim terrorists

Dear Dr. Pournelle,

I am amazed, but not amused. British Intelligence has foiled a plot against various United States airlines. The terrorists have succeeded without even leaving home. US citizens must now cope with still more abuses from arrogant, incompetent, and lawless TSA personnel in the name of safe airline travel. Bureaucratic procedures followed by TSA are not laws.

A careful reading of the press shows a few reporters pointing out that no backup plan B has been discovered. I submit that this was the inept plan B, and plan A will be implemented on 11 September of a year chosen by Al Qaeda. They do not need anything more this year.


William L. Jones

wljonespe at verizon dot net

We will find out, I expect. What I do not expect is that the threat will come from American Christians, Jews, WASPS, retired generals, US military flying on military orders with their families, etc. -- but we must of course act as if these are equally likely as Middle Eastern young males.


TSA Bans Liquids

Hi Jerry,


Has a good discussion on the latest TSA overreaction to a threat by creating security theater.


Subject: Terrorists win this round

As I see it, the terrorists have taken the trick this time. With this latest aborted bombing, they have caused everything to happen that would have happened in a successful bombing, but without the need to actually have a successful bombing.

From AQ's perspective, they lost just as many people as they would have if the attack had succeeded; and the net result is that now Americans can no longer carry liquids on planes. They have caused us to do far more damage to ourselves than they ever could do directly.

They have once again forced us to overreact and look like fools. Already people think of TSA as "the people who carry scary looking guns and take away our nail clippers." Now we can look forward to a TSA that won't let us take Gatorade on a plane.

Box cutters, shoe bombs, and now 'liquids' - see the pattern? They are slowly forcing the government to restrict every common object that a traveler would normally carry. They are chipping away at all of our liberties one by one - and letting us do the work of actually taking away those liberties from ourselves.

-- Talin

Oh yeah. But we will never let them "win" by resorting to PROFILING!  Heaven forbid!

Liberalism is a philosophy of consolation for western civilization as it commits suicide.




This week:


read book now


Saturday, August 12, 2006

How feminism destroyed real men.


-- Roland Dobbins



CURRENT VIEW     Saturday

This week:


read book now


Sunday, August 13, 2006

Subject: Bureaucracy impedes bomb-detection work

I know that this is a "dog bites man" sort of "non"-story, but when the Iron Law strikes, who can resist pointing at the example?



Indeed. The TSA is a show, and the show must go on, but it does little good. Anyone who would take such a job would eat okra.


Subject: Jacobinism One More time


You ask "But if such a thing be possible, what does it say about the nature of man?"

How did we manage to do such a thing [establish stable democracy] with the Japanese?


By utterly defeating them, reducing them to helplessness, slaughtering hundreds of thousands in fire raids, starving them with a blockade, and displaying a ruthlessness worth of their most vaunted ruthless Shoguns; then coming in with a fairly reasonable occupation.

But that required WARRE.  We have not engaged in that kind of war with Iraq. Neither did we try for minimal operations to break as few things as possible.

And, Arabs are not Japanese. Their cultures, their histories, and their religions are utterly different. The same is true of Germans. Japan and Germany had far more in common with each other -- and with us -- than any of the three have with Iraq.

Iraq was never a nation, so nationalism wouldn't be useful. It is not unified by religion. Indeed it is unified only in that each faction seeks supremacy over the others.


Subject: Pakistan Terror Plots

Before anyone goes thinking homegrown Pakistani terror can only happen in the UK and can't happen in the US read about Hamid Hayat. Mr. Hayat was recently convicted by a Lodi, CA jury of attending a terror training camp in Pakistan and lying about it to authorities.





From another conference:

I would be interested in comment from  others with expertise more or less in point, on the relevance of a discussion I heard on the radio recently about a serious book called (approx.) "How to become an expert". I don't know whether there was anything new in the emphasis on "effortful practice" but the author's reminder that 10 years of intense focused practice is the normal road to doing something expertly which involves mastering the previous decades or centuries of expertise - such as playing a piano as a concert pianist, with some exceptions, like Mozart. Even Mozart had the benefit of his father's constant teaching and attention so perhaps his example too raises the question of relative lack of "effortful practice" of difficult disciplines in black and white cultures and households. The virtues of home schooling and the famously effective Jewish mother are also in point here.


It is interesting how little emphasis modern education gives to skills and skill training, which are usually described as "Drill and Kill".

The discussion continues:


High intelligence is never enough. Expertise and very high levels of cultural achievement (Mozart et al.) also require a great investment of dedicated time, energy, and practice. I think Simonton talks about this in his book Greatness. Schools aren't aiming at greatness, but basic competence. Motivation and practice matter there too, of course, but neither can compensate for weak reasoning ability. If nothing else, there simply isn't enough time for slow students to master the more difficult subjects, or to the same level as faster students. Schools get kids for a full 12 years (if they can keep them), but only 12 years (unless you hold them back).

Ogbu's study of black-white differences in achievement in Shaker Heights looked at student effort, as I recall, and found that black students reported less learning for equal time and more difficulty understanding their teachers and lessons. Ogbu therefore hypothesized that black parents were not providing their children equally dedicated or effective support in academic matters. He looked at Shaker Heights because it's very liberal, desegregated voluntarily and early, and both blacks and whites tend to be well off economically. Same pattern of stubborn black-white achievement gap in Berkeley and other school districts that provide all the resources once thought sufficient to eradicate the achievement gap.

Jencks and Phillips in their book on the Black-white test score gap (1998??) have several chapters on such sociocultural theories for black underachievement (fear of "acting white", etc.). None seem to pan out well, which is why they turned to the first several years of life as most critical. They note that the IQ gap is in place by age 3.

None of this is to deny that effort, self-discipline, etc matter in promoting achievement. Intelligence is just a tool, which has to be used to yield anything. My freshman honors students differ a lot in devotion to their studies, and it shows in the end.

A slightly different take is that parental standards of success matter a lot, and these differ by race and class. For example, lower class parents judge their children occupationally successful at lower job status levels than do middle or upper class parents (e.g., plumber or cop vs. teacher or doctor), and, at equal ability levels, lower social class kids don't aim as high. Frame of reference is different for judging what is good, or at least good enough. That evidence can be found in this paper, as well as elsewhere. http://www.udel.edu/educ/gottfredson/reprints/1981CCtheory.pdf 

I hope that addressed some of your question.





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