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Mail 433 September 25 - October 1, 2006







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This week:


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R/C B-29 with rocket-powered R/C X-1!


Roland Dobbins

This is the coolest R/C flight I have ever seen.


Subject: Letter from England

The auditory cortex conference was interesting, but I don't think there's anything earth-shattering emerging. Most results were either at the level of the individual neurone or involved large parts of the brain. We're not figuring out the neural circuitry of the cortex yet, and I suspect that will be the interesting results.

On to news in England.

There's a rumour floating around of Bin Laden's death. <http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/5374998.stm>  <http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2089-2372390,00.html>  <http://observer.guardian.co.uk/world/story/0,,1879905,00.html

UK voters want a change: <http://observer.guardian.co.uk/uk_news/story/0,,1879885,00.html>  <http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/5375186.stm

Silly targets and crazy public services

Local Sunderland yobs
Article2.aspx? SectionID=1107&ArticleID=1785463

Global warming relief? <http://observer.guardian.co.uk/uk_news/story/0,,1879862,00.html

I'm waiting for UK newspapers pick up this story. Any small bets on the slant? <http://www.nytimes.com/2006/09

/article/2006/09/23/ AR2006092301130.html

Also, check out the Sunday Telegraph ("Torygraph") <www.telegraph.co.uk> . They make it hard to link to their stories, but some are interesting. For example, a lot of public money in the UK is spent by 'quangos'--quasi-non-governmental-organisations, and that creates an opportunity for a lot of feather-bedding.

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


Subject: Pretexting and industrial undercovers

Dear Jerry:

You may recall that during the 1980s I worked for some private investigators as an operative. This is not that much different from being a reporter. Pretexting is a very common tactic. Geeks call it "Social Engineering". I've done it myself, which is why my bank is under strict instructions to accept no orders from me or anyone who says they're me over the telephone. Most of the "precautions" are laughable and easily overcome. Your mother's maiden name is a matter of public record.

One place I worked, we had a client; a charity which was losing lots of money to someone running a phone room that pretended to be them. We called the one number we had for the phony operation and told them that we were the phone company security department and were alerting them to "unusual charges" that would appear on their next bill. "How much?" they asked. "Over ten thousand dollars and growing." We then offered to check out their other numbers and left them a number to call us back, which they did. That number was a "gag line", a dedicated telephone which was always answered with "security". They called back in an hour and gave us the rest of the numbers in their phone bank. We turned these over to the client, who called the District Attorney. The next day the physical premises were raided and the whole thing shut down. The charity had lost three million dollars in donations these people diverted.

So, this was a good thing, right? Of course, it was technically illegal. The California Code term is "False Personation" and it is a misdemeanor. But this is what Private Investigators do and they do it because you can't get the police, who are very busy with crimes they can already prove, to even take a look at something like this without providing information that makes an easy arrest.

Large corporations use private investigators all the time. Industrial undercovers, where an operative is placed within a factory or office, go for months, or even years. I knew one who'd worked in a big bakery for two years and spent an equal amount of time in a steel mill. In each case he busted drug rings, gambling operations and even prostitution. Management can't afford to turn a blind eye to such things, not just because of potential bad publicity, but also of legal liability, which can be criminal as well as civil.

It gets dicey because there is usually some kind of Union and there are Federal laws against spying on union activities. It can also be dangerous. And these investigators are not police and have no special powers of arrest or back-ups.

The HP investigation is harder to justify. It is not a crime to talk to a reporter and the idea of infiltrating newsrooms is bizarre. Like they're never going to find out? These are people who are nosy as a profession. California has the Right of Privacy in the State Constitution, so it almost automatically invites lawsuits. Ms. Dunn, as a former journalist, would be presumed to know this. In the History of Bad Ideas, this one is near the top of the list.


Francis Hamit


The Iraqis Themselves.


- Roland Dobbins

Democracy vs. tribalism...


of spinach

Hello Dr. Pournelle:

I wonder if it has occurred to anyone, that the outbreaks of infection in our food supply might be caused by the immense uncontrolled immigration taking place. For decades, there have been running jokes about dysentery, not drinking the water, and a whole collection of other ills associated with Mexico. In truth, whatever substance these old stories and jokes may have, when you permit huge numbers of people in, from what is essentially a third world country, you also invite in their diseases, and their interpretation of hygiene and public health. I think that it is more than a coincidence that these problems started in the produce and meat industries in which illegals are so heavily represented. Of course, it would be racist to speak of this, so nobody does. They will no more look towards illegal Mexicans as a possible source of disease, than they do towards middle easterners as a possible source of terrorism.

All of this is, of course, in addition to the huge load that illegals put on the medical and welfare systems of this country, not to mention the extra load placed upon the prison and law enforcement resources. Why do we want to do this? I have a high regard for the United States, and for it's culture (what's left of it), and do not see any advantage to transforming it into a third world country, by reintroducing problems which we have already solved a century ago. Since our alleged representatives seem unwilling to deal with this problem, we may as well begin to get used to living by third world standards. So we need to lock our doors against the increasing criminal element, not talk to the police, expect to be robbed and dominated by our government, and look forward to increasing poverty and insecurity. We also need to remember to cook all food thoroughly, and not drink the water.

I am almost glad that the World War Two veterans are, as a generation, dying off. As much as we could use people of their mettle, I am ashamed to have them see what is being done to the country for which they sacrificed so much. It seems that, unlike them, my generation is largely unwilling to fight for our country, or even to care for it. It may be that the old generation will be the last whole generation, outside of separate individuals, to be considered as traditionally American.

Depending upon what history you read, and what definitions you use Valens, Flavius Aetius, Jovian, and Theodosius, as well as others, have all been referred to as the Last Roman. What is interesting about this is that many of those so named lived decades, or even centuries before the official fall of Rome. Certainly, they are only the last Romans in retrospect, and did not perceive themselves as such. I wonder if the last American has been born yet, and if not, how far in the future does his birth lie?

You have my sympathies, by the way, and I hope that something can be done about your neck, and sinuses. I suppose that they have checked you for Lyme, and other such things. It is cheering that nothing bad was found when your head was examined. In the meantime, I always look forward to browsing your site, and appreciate that you are continuing to update. It may be, that the last American is out there somewhere reading your column.

Neal Pritchett

Of 32 emergency rooms in LA County, all but 11 seem to have closed. No private hospital can afford to have an emergency room. If you are wealthy and worried, you need to leave California.

But we are all politically correct.


Subject: Sometimes I wish I had stayed in the Navy

http://www.military.com/features/0,15240,114426,00.html  http://tech.military.com/equipment/view/89179/littoral-combat-ship.html 

Tim of Angle



Celts descended from Spanish fishermen, study finds http://news.independent.co.uk/uk/this_britain/article1621766.ece 

Don't tell the locals, but the hordes of British holidaymakers who visited Spain this summer were, in fact, returning to their ancestral home.

A team from Oxford University has discovered that the Celts, Britain's indigenous people, are descended from a tribe of Iberian fishermen who crossed the Bay of Biscay 6,000 years ago. DNA analysis reveals they have an almost identical genetic "fingerprint" to the inhabitants of coastal regions of Spain, whose own ancestors migrated north between 4,000 and 5,000BC.

The discovery, by Bryan Sykes, professor of human genetics at Oxford University, will herald a change in scientific understanding of Britishness.

People of Celtic ancestry were thought to have descended from tribes of central Europe. Professor Sykes, who is soon to publish the first DNA map of the British Isles, said: "About 6,000 years ago Iberians developed ocean-going boats that enabled them to push up the Channel. Before they arrived, there were some human inhabitants of Britain but only a few thousand in number. These people were later subsumed into a larger Celtic tribe... The majority of people in the British Isles are actually descended from the Spanish."

Professor Sykes spent five years taking DNA samples from 10,000 volunteers in Britain and Ireland, in an effort to produce a map of our genetic roots.

Research on their "Y" chromosome, which subjects inherit from their fathers, revealed that all but a tiny percentage of the volunteers were originally descended from one of six clans who arrived in the UK in several waves of immigration prior to the Norman conquest.

The most common genetic fingerprint belongs to the Celtic clan, which Professor Sykes has called "Oisin". After that, the next most widespread originally belonged to tribes of Danish and Norse Vikings. Small numbers of today's Britons are also descended from north African, Middle Eastern and Roman clans.

These DNA "fingerprints" have enabled Professor Sykes to create the first genetic maps of the British Isles, which are analysed in Blood of the Isles, a book published this week. The maps show that Celts are most dominant in areas of Ireland, Scotland and Wales. But, contrary to popular myth, the Celtic clan is also strongly represented elsewhere in the British Isles.

"Although Celtic countries have previously thought of themselves as being genetically different from the English, this is emphatically not the case," Professor Sykes said.<snip>


Subject: Who was in charge?


Consider this account:

According the story, the Deputy Secretary of State allegedly threatened to make war on an islamic nation that possesses nuclear weapons (Pakistan), and the President of the United States was not aware that the threat was being made! Makes we wonder who was really running our Foreign Policy back then.

CP, Connecticut.


Richard Armitage - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia On March 2, 2006, bloggers discovered that "Richard Armitage" fit the spacing on a redacted court document, suggesting he was a source for the Plame leak. ...



Report Card on Colleges Finds U.S. Is Slipping The Chronicle of Higher Education, 6.9.15 http://chronicle.com/weekly/v53/i04/04a00101.htm#perform  By SARA HEBEL

The United States is beginning to slip from its status as a world leader in higher education, including on measures of college participation among young adults and degree completion, according to a national report card on higher education that was released last week.

The new international comparisons included in the report, a state-by-state analysis of higher-education performance conducted by the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education, underscore the need for the United States to improve how well it provides access to college and fosters students' success, the report's authors said.

"We're not failing in higher education by any stretch of the imagination, but the performance is mediocre," said Patrick M. Callan, president of the national center, an independent research group based in California. "American higher education on the whole is underperforming and is being outperformed by many other countries."

This is the fourth national report card on higher education that the group has issued since 2000. It is the first to compare the United States and individual states to other countries.

Mr. Callan said that the United States has not necessarily been regressing over time on most measures of how well it has provided postsecondary education to its citizens. But the nation, he said, has not made significant progress since the early 1990s on many measures of college participation and student attainment, while other countries have improved their systems. As a result, America's educational strengths have become heavily concentrated in its older populations, Mr. Callan said, while other countries' strengths tend to lie more among younger generations.<snip>


Subject: On spinach


Been monitoring the Mountain View Police primary frequency for a while as part of a comm system I'm about to put up. Guess what all the radio calls are about? Hispanic's - gang related and spousal abuse. At a community meeting a while back the cop that was present, mentioned that our local police spent 95% of its time on less than 5% of the population. So instead of stopping flagrant traffic violators, we get speed bumps every where. But we have cheap lawn care!







This week:


read book now


Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Subject: shameful


For the descendants of the Vikings who once ruled the Atlantic, Mediterranean and all the rivers of Europe and Asia as far as Tashkent.

Michael Z. Williamson


Subject: Anthrax Update


FBI Is Casting A Wider Net in Anthrax Attacks

By Allan Lengel and Joby Warrick Washington Post Staff Writers Monday, September 25, 2006; A01

Five years after the anthrax attacks that killed five people, the FBI is now convinced that the lethal powder sent to the Senate was far less sophisticated than originally believed, widening the pool of possible suspects in a frustratingly slow investigation.

The finding, which resulted from countless scientific tests at numerous laboratories, appears to undermine the widely held belief that the attack was carried out by a government scientist or someone with access to a U.S. biodefense lab.

What was initially described as a near-military-grade biological weapon was ultimately found to have had a more ordinary pedigree, containing no additives and no signs of special processing to make the anthrax bacteria more deadly, law enforcement officials confirmed. In addition, the strain of anthrax used in the attacks has turned out to be more common than was initially believed, the officials said.<snip>


Subject: Safer and safer


My favorite part on the new, new, uh, -really- new TSA rules on liquids in carry on luggage:

> The new guidelines require items to be stored in bags quart-sized
> or smaller, but TSA officials in Atlanta allowed passengers to
> board planes with items stored in one-gallon bags since Tuesday was
> the first day the new rules were being enforced.


It is just SWELL of them that they don't care (temporarily) what SIZE clear plastic bag you use to enclose small containers of those dangerous eye drops, toothpaste and deodorant.

I think the reason that we've had no airline related security incidents since 9/11 is that the people who might want to commit such acts have decided that the disruption already created, and the wasted resources, is the best outcome they could have hoped for. That, or they just can't stop laughing....


The purpose of TSA is to demonstrate to the people of these United States that we are no longer citizens. It serves that purpose well. We are now subjects, and we are to be deferential to those who cannot get better jobs than as TSA screeners. As you say, the disruption to air travel is an effective tool of economic warfare. Even as insanely rich as we are, this is costly. And of course the principle of "equality" (meaning equal misery) demands that we treat 80 year old grandmothers exactly the same as we treat bearded young men clutching Korans and glancing nervously about.

Our masters have gone barking mad, and there seems to be no way to cure this. Electing Democrats won't do it. They'll do worse.

Competent Empire we might be able to tolerate. What we have now is clowns in command.



Fred is grumpy. Among other things, he says we are over-governed:



So. Everyone read this and think on it. Then comment. I'll have my own after you get a chance to look at it.


Subject: Daily Diatribe - 

Maybe I seem a little harsh on the Mohammedans of late. Perhaps just a wee bit of it involves the way they treat their women. They "relieve us of the responsibility to spend the income we earn." The men take it all. When it comes to a court of law the word of a woman gets half the weight of the word of a man. That is in the Qur'an. In practice it is much worse.

So in Afghanistan there was a leading official working on women's rights. She was gunned down as she left her home for work in Kandahar. It is not unreasonable to suspect the Taliban is responsible. She was a sharp, eloquent, and ardent critic of them.

This tells us two things, there is a resurgence of Taliban violence, and the general Mohammedan notion of a strong woman pushing education and women's rights is worthy of murder.


And they we can offend Christians to a farethewell. We can offend Jews to a farethewell. We can offend pagans quite freely. We can offend everyone but Mohammedans. An automobile commercial and promotion by an auto dealer was censored. It was too inflammatory. Yeah - why do these Mohammedans think and demand that they receive a higher standard of protection from insults than the rest of our world here in the US. WE can laugh at ourselves. That is part of our culture. They can't. It is time they joined our culture if they intend to live here.


And we all remember South Park - It is open season on Jesus but not on Mohammed. Of course Mozart gets censored too.


And so do newspapers in Egypt


Them thar Mohammedans have no sense of humor. And if they do not then perhaps they do not belong in this country. I am sure there are some countries that would welcome them and their attitude. It is not welcome here, IMAO.

So the Italians are deciding it is time to do something about their rapidly growing population of embedded terrorists er Mohammedans. The Interior Minister is drawing up a charter of values to which the Mohammedans will be expected to subscribe to indicate their readiness to be fully integrated into Italian society. Allowing them to stay separate has not worked. He's developing an alternative approach. He has my applause. Robert Spencer takes him to task on details. But we all must start somewhere. I'm willing to applaud the guy and give him a chance to try it.


For a nice snicker consider that these are the UN guys guarding us from nuclear proliferation. The IAEA commissioner falls into water tank at a Czech nuclear plant.


OK OK, the water was not radioactive. But still, when you are in a group and are instructed not to leave the group there is usually a pretty good reason to listen - and stay with the group. But then, it is the UN. And we've all learned not to expect brilliance from them unless there is corruption opportunity at stake.



Subject: Virginia Heinlein

The Rio film festival RAH and Ellison attended occurred in March 1969, while Harlan Ellison didn't pass Robert A. Heinlein for total number of Hugos (5-4 at the time) until Labor Day weekend 1969, in St. Louis. In March 1969 both would have had four Hugos.

Cheers, Jon


Subject: Unskilled Jobs

The issue is that over time capital accumulates, reducing the marginal value of labour and eventually eliminating all but highly skilled jobs. If debts are inherited, it becomes even worse as a small minority eventually owns all the capital, producing a society that requires only the small amount of production to satisfy the needs of the owners. To overcome this, you have to do two things:

1. Allow each generation to start anew without holding them accountable for the debts of their parents, and

2. Give each generation a free and effective education to endow them with effective skills.

This was the solution seen in New England during the first century of the Republic, underlay the Northern opposition to slavery (which was a threat to the marginal value of skilled labour), and produced the land-grant universities. The recent papers on expertise that I've cited elsewhere strongly suggest that even the lower half of the population can develop expert-quality skills; the only things holding them back being effective education and motivation. I might even suggest that the last fifty year's destruction of the educational system in America might have been deliberate policy on the part of those who stood to gain in the short to medium term (not long term) from the centralisation of capital in their hands.

-- 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>

Yes, but the education system must accommodate both those who require EDUCATION, and those who require SKILLS.  Skills are learned in a different manner and appeal to different people from the symbol-manipulation set.

Belloc and the distributists thought a periodic redistribution of ownership would suffice: a fool and his money are parted, but it takes a while, and meanwhile everyone has a good start, some better than others but none at rock bottom. Henry George had similar views with a different remedy.

The education bureaucracy has utterly destroyed public education although there are exceptions. Skills are mostly a matter of inheritance now, with some learned by apprenticeship, but since skills aren't taught there is less and less ability to compete with offshore workers.

It is pretty clear that the US would survive and be wealthy if, magically, all imports and exports were blocked. The Technocracy people for all their odd views did a pretty good resource survey and concluded that a Technate of North America could be quite self-sufficient. I understand there are a few vital resources like chromium that must be imported, but there cannot be many vital resources with no substitutes whatever. An economically isolated United States is not only possible, but one could argue that by requiring the contribution of nearly everyone in the country, it might well be better off in the sense of being a working republic.

As I have said many times, my own view is that a tariff of between 10 and 15% on all imports would be about right; it would provide enough protection for "inefficient" enterprises (such as those that provide health care and pensions and worker safety) without leaving the domestic industries utterly without competition and thus grossly inefficient. I have yet to see a good economic refutation of this taking into account the reductions in anomie, the lowered costs of prisons and welfare systems and parole officers and the whole machinery of compensating for a large underclass with no economic importance. When I ask economists about this they wave their hands and say I have not read Ricardo and do not understand comparative advantage, none of which addresses the question I raise: given political realities, does exporting jobs make sense?

Clearly exporting SOME jobs makes sense; the question is how many, which ones, and what the hidden costs of job exports are. The firm that exports the job gets the benefit of work at lower cost; that firm does not bear the social cost of unemployment or downgraded jobs, of casting someone from middle to lower class and from lower class to underclass. Those costs are born by all. I have yet to see a real economic model taking all this into account.

And see below


Subj: Fred's Cultural Psychiatry

Bah! Fred seems to be running for Supreme Nattering Nabob of Negativism.

Everything's gone to s---, nothing can be done about it, we're all Doomed! Doomed, I say!

Me, I'd rather think about, and discuss, what we can do to *improve* the situation.

How about let's light some candles, rather than just cursing the Darkness?

Rod Montgomery==monty@sprintmail.com

We can begin by coming up with a way to teach all the kids to read. Oops. We have that. Now we need a way to get it out to them and get the teachers to use it. That doesn't seem to be working so well.

We can also try to get someone in authority to stop being so damned PC and admit that half the children are below average, they can't be drowned, and schools have to have something for them: there have to be ways to teach skills as well as "educate" in the public schools. I've been trying to do that for 40 years. I don't seem to have got it across. Instead we got No Child Left Behind and everyone is proud of that imbecility. Mr. Gates wants to use his money to provide a world class university prep education for everyone, as if that made sense anywhere but in Lake Wobegon. The truth is that intellectuals hate skilled work (usually), but there are plenty of skilled workers needed -- but instead of teaching our kids to do them, we offshore that work when possible.

Despair is a sin, but I do hope I will be permitted to go write some books and make a bit of money, having put my tender members in the Disposal for all these years...


Re: free trade

Jerry, about this:

"I also have some thoughts on free trade and political stability. Are we better off if everyone has a job being reasonably useful, but common goods cost more due to inefficiency of manufacture, or if there is unemployment particularly at the bottom end of the skill set, but underwear and other common goods cost less for everyone? And what happens if in addition to free trade you allow open borders and unrestricted competition for the few meaningful jobs at the low end of the skill set? Which "economists" have addressed this situation with actual economic studies?"

There is a study cited in Emmanuel Todd's L'Illusion Economique - I looked it up on Amazon and it doesn't look like it's been translated into English. Unfortunately, I don't have the book with me right now, and I don't remember the exact references. I'll try to get it back and look it up if you're interested.

The study was about a short period at the end of the 19th century when most industrialised nations agreed on free trade agreements. According to the study, international trade dropped and growth in participating nations slumped, so after a few years protectionism gradually crept back in and growth and international trade came back.

This is counterintuitive, but Todd's thesis is that you can't dissociate economics from society - he's an ethnologue and his basic theory is that family structure conditions both political and economic structures, the main parameters being nuclear/extended, patriarchal/non-patriarchal, endogamic/exogamic, and inheritance patterns.

In the case of free trade, however, his analysis is that it dissociates supply from demand in the mind of economic decision-makers. In a protected system, your employees are also your customers, so if they're doing well, so will you. In a free trade system, employees are just cost. Of course, at the end of the day, if employees all over the world are getting pressured, demand falls for everybody, but it's a classic game-theory situation where you're pushed into a sub-optimal choice.

Another point Todd makes is that Ricardian specialisation at the country scale is plain stupid. Not everybody in Switzerland is a genius at making watches or cheese, so if you insist on everybody in Switzerland doing just the one or the other, you'll end up turning great aerospace engineers into poor milkmen and overall efficiency will drop. Of course, you could force Swiss aerospace engineers to relocate to Seattle or Toulouse, but we all know it just doesn't work that way.

But the real problem according to him is that globalisation forces everybody to use the same economic system - these days, that's the anglo-saxon financial, stock-market driven model - and that simply doesn't work because of societal pressures. You can think of it roughly as the Germans being more efficient working in patriarchal conglomerates, the French in a Jacobin, state-pushed system, etc... just because it corresponds to the family structure in which they're raised.

An interesting point he makes is that in the US, de-industrialisation started roughly at the time when in the 1970's - early 1980's families of Germanic/Scandinavian ancestries got fully assimilated and the corresponding family structure disappeared in the US.

At least one of Todd's books is available in English on Amazon, After the Empire, about the US course to, well, just that, written in 2002 and updated in 2004. You could find it worth your time.

As a final note, he's half American and half French.

Best regards,

Jean-Louis Beaufils, Paris

Fascinating. That looks like precisely the kind of analysis I had in mind, and I like the notion that when there are tariffs, employees are customers (as with Henry Ford) and not just a cost.

I have often said the same thing regarding Ricardian specialization, but the economists just throw up their hands and say I don't understand. I am not sure what I should have learned that I didn't. I used to be pretty good at operations research and models, but economics seems to make some very odd assumptions.

We all grew up hating tariff -- at least I did, in the Old South, learning in 8th grade that Smoot Hawley caused the depression. In those days Republicans were protectionists, and Democrats had the platform plank "Tariff for revenue only." (Note that it was considered a legitimate source of revenue to have an excise tax on imports.) Today I wonder.


Subject: VML Exploit Fix from Microsoft 

Dr. Pournelle:

As expected, Microsoft released the fix for the "VML" exploit that security researchers say is 'running rampant' (their opinion, not mine). Details are in this KB article: http://www.microsoft.com/technet/security/Bulletin/MS06-055.mspx <http://www.microsoft.com/technet/security/Bulletin/MS06-055.mspx>  . Most users (at least those that have automatic updates set up properly) will get the update by tomorrow; if you want it faster, just use the "Microsoft Update" or "Windows Update" in the Start menu. Corporate users should work with their help/support staff.

As I have said before, I don't think this is as urgent as some have claimed. "Safe computing" practices work for me (for new readers: fully patched OS/apps via automatic updates, current anti-virus, using the 'preview pane' in Outlook, avoiding the 'dark side' of the Internet, data backups). Note that users should ensure they have "Microsoft Update" on their Start menu; this will get them the critical MS Office updates.

Now, there are exploits out there for this. And all varieties of operating systems (and applications) need to be kept current. For instance, web sites hosted at one hosting place (HostGator) were compromised by and exploit against the "CPanel" program (used to remotely administer your web site). That exploit gave the hacker control ("root") over the web site, and they installed HTML code on those pages that redirected visitors to sites with malware-enabled pages. Since the hacker had control of the web servers via the CPanel program, initial efforts to recover worked for a while until reinfected. The CPanel program vuln has since been fixed. (More info here http://news.netcraft.com/archives/2006/09/23/hostgator
_cpanel_security_hole_exploited_in_mass_hack.html  )

The point is that no OS or application is immune from attack. Some environments are attacked more than others. And sometimes the attack can come from an unexpected direction. "Safe computing" practices by users and administrators is important.

In the words of Sgt. Phil Esterhaus (the late Michael Conrad) on Hill Street Blues: "Hey, let's be careful out there!"

Regard, Rick Hellewell


Warning: follow the next link at your own discretion. I advise you not to, actually. You may regret it if you do.


Just when you thought you'd heard everything, this from the BBC:


Beijing's xxx



Two important articles from the Brussels Journal:

Dalrymple on Decadence, Europe, America and Islam.



The Benedictine Rule.



Roland Dobbins





This week:


read book now


Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Outsourcing intelligence.


-- Roland Dobbins


Subject: Survival rations


Just for fun, I offer this. I've seen the stuff sold, though I've never seen anyone eat it.

I'm pretty sure this is the ultimate survival food, because I guarantee it will be the last thing on the pantry shelf.

--  Michael Z. Williamson


Subj: CDC: Pournelle's Law not yet taken hold?

It would appear that Pournelle's Law has not yet fully taken hold at the CDC:


Surveillance: What is FoodNet? | CDC Foodnet

=The Foodborne Diseases Active Surveillance Network (FoodNet) is the principal foodborne disease component of CDC's Emerging Infections Program (EIP). FoodNet is a collaborative project of the CDC, ten EIP sites (California, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Maryland, Minnesota, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, and Tennessee), the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The project consists of active surveillance for foodborne diseases and related epidemiologic studies designed to help public health officials better understand the epidemiology of foodborne diseases in the United States. ...=

There is probably an interesting doctoral dissertation or two to be written about *how* the CDC evades Pournelle's Law.

Rod Montgomery==monty@sprintmail.com


Why Americans Oppose the Iraq War.


--- Roland Dobbins


Subject: Daily Diatribe - basically one topic today. Mohammedan perpetual pique

The little baby Mohammedans are getting more and more petulant.


Bombing churches. Taliban demanding apology...or else. More enraged Muslims prove the Pope's point. An Arab op-ed threatens: Pope's remarks may lead to war.

and the list goes on with links all over the place. There is a nice article by Father Raymond de Souza speaking out in the National Post with an excerpt in Michelle's blog posting.

Are the Mohammedans a case for arrested development? Are their actions the actions of adults? Arguably their religion prevents their growing up to be fully realized human beings grasping all their potential. It's rather a shame.

Father Raymond de Souza thinks otherwise, quoting from Michelle's excerpts: It does a disservice to children to call the wild-eyed statements and deranged behavior of the past days childish.

It is not only the obscenity of the Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamist terrorist band suppressed in several Muslim states, demanding an apology from anyone, let alone the Holy Father.

It is not only the grandstanding Pakistani politicians passing resolutions condemning a papal speech few read, and even fewer understood. It is not only the extraneous charges about the Holocaust and Hitler by the agitated and excited.

It is that we have seen this before.

I suppose it is a disservice to children. But even monkeys are not as extreme and petulant unthinking unreasoning animated pieces of meat as the Mohammedans rioting over a recounting of a historical discourse between a Pope and a very learned Mohammedan scholar and theologian.

How is the world to deal with these people if we cannot clearly identify the moderate Mohammedans and give them encouragement to spread their concepts and beliefs. These moderates of good will have a very steep mountain to climb to alter the very foundations of a very violent religion.

Meanwhile, we non-Mohammedans are in the beginning stages if a new fight for our very existence, the same as what faced the first crusaders.

If these Mohammedans are not stopped - the human world stops. Note that there is NO equivalent of the Pope within Mohammedan law, tradition, or Qur'an. It's every man for himself with the most charismatic being leaders of others convincing them of HIS take on the religion. Given that, the last two Mohammedans left alive will be forced one to kill the other over the most minute difference in belief. For that difference makes each an apostate in the others eyes. And apostates are to be put to death. Literally the human world ends if the Mohammedans win it all.

Then we have Father Samir K. Samir also speaking out. Michelle's quote begins: Rather than criticizing Islam, the pope is actually offering it a helping hand by suggesting that it do away with the cycle of violence," Fr. Samir K. Samir, SJ one of the Vatican's leading experts on Islam wrote in the Catholic newspaper Asia News.

That very much is what the Pope offered. However, the Mohammedans are deathly afraid of any change to the scriptures. The tradition says those who would "interpret" the scriptures are apostates. They are to be taken as written.

And if you need to lighten up a little Daffyd is at full sail in his blog entry link in Michelle's blog item above. He claims to have the original pre-editing manuscript for the NYTimes piece on Pope Benedict's horrid gross misstatement.

The party continues in Michelle's next blog post: http://michellemalkin.com/archives/005937.htm 

It is complete with a graffiti picture of the Pope with Mohammedan love poems pasted over the picture. You know - things like "The pig, worshiper of the crosses," "Sacrifice him/Behead him," and other expressions of their undying love for the Pope.

Question - why are all the posters in the riots and protests in English? Or at least they seem to be. Are the other language posters invisible to the news camera critters?

This needs to be quoted in full: And remember that "Mr Pope Be With In Your Limits Banner?" Robert Spencer explains what it means: What limits? Classic Islamic law stipulates that Christians may live in peace in Islamic societies as long as they accept second-class status as dhimmis, which involves living within certain limits: not holding authority over Muslims, paying the jizya tax, not building new churches or repairing old ones, and...not insulting Allah or Muhammad. If they believe that a Christian has insulted them in some way, even inadvertently, his contract of protection -- dhimma -- is voided.

So are these protestors warning the Pope to behave like a dhimmi, or else? I expect so. After all, so many Christians and post-Christians in the West in recent years have been willing, even eager, to accept such limits -- witness the chastened reaction to the Cartoon Rage riots, in which Church officials, government leaders, and others solemnly pontificated against "insults to religious figures." But it wasn't really a question of blasphemy then, and it isn't a question of insult now. It is a question of whether non-Muslims will submit to Muslim standards and restrictions on their speech, thought, and behavior.

And I hope that the Pope, for one, is not willing to do so.

I hope so, too. Today all good men and women are Catholics WITH the Pope and against the religion of perpetual pique, Mohammedanism.

"Pope to address controversy on Sunday"

I hope he does so sensibly rather than giving in. His address in two and three quarter hours as I write this.



On a related but slightly different note, we can see who is really in charge in Lebanon. Hezbollah tells the UN peacekeepers what they are allowed to do.





CURRENT VIEW    Wednesday


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Thursday, September 28, 2006

Subject: Closeup of the Face on Mars,


Closeup of the Face on Mars:


As a face, well, this dude's fairly u-u-u-gly.



The Pope's Message

Dear Jerry,

The muslim reaction to the Pope's message has had at least one effect. I, again, support the Iraq war. I did at the start and then, gave up on Bush for his inept handling of the war. But, after the way the muslims have attempted to harm the Pope, I believe the war is necessary.

Militant muslims are the danger to the west and I'm glad that they exposed themselves. Given the opportunity, they would white wash St. Peter's and behead Benedict. War is the only way to produce a kinder Kzinti! They must be stopped.

Yours truly, Christopher Vaughan


Dr. Pournelle,

Rod Montgomery criticizes Fred for not being constructive about the situation in the United States. That brought to mind another article Fred wrote a couple years back in response to just such a criticism. I think you will find it interesting.


Matt Kirchner


Subject: Re: Emmanuel Todd

"In the case of free trade, however, his analysis is that it dissociates supply from demand in the mind of economic decision-makers."

This dovetails neatly with a view that I've been refining over a long term, which is that America is in an absentee-landlord situation; only the lands in question are industry and the economy. The people who run US Airways, for example, when they need to fly somewhere, do not book their flight a month in advance and go to the airport four hours early and get run through the security mill and then stuffed into closer quarters with strangers than they typically are with their own family. They get on a private charter jet. The jet may say "US AIR" on the side, and the staff may wear US Airways uniforms, but they're employees only by courtesy; they're personal servants, and the charter jet is the executive fief. The CEO of Comcast Inc. does not dial 1-800-COMCAST when his cable modem disconnects. The president of McDonald's does not eat dogfood burgers served by functional illiterates. There is a _fundamental_ _disconnection_ between the people who make the money and the people who do the work. There is no use in yelling at service employees anymore; even if they wanted to help you there's really nothing they can do beyond what they're allowed. The people who have the authority are all at the Home Office, which is only open until 2 PM and is located in Minnesota.

When a business is large enough that the owner does not need to speak to his customers, it is too large.

Mike Powers


Subject: Security classification


Regarding the NIE declassification, security declassification authority is specifically given to a certain level of authority, however anyone in a lateral organization who does not directly report to the classification authority or declassification authority is theoretically immune to prosecution for "unauthorized" declassification.

As an example, I can produce a "classified" document in the normal conduct of my job, but the declassification authority may be fairly close to my own level so anyone above that level may be allowed to declassify that document on their own authority.

Since declassification authority for a military document is typically within the military chain of command, and a congressman will typically hold themselves as above/outside the military chain of command, there are few congressmen who needs to think twice about "declassifying" a document classified secret by a military authority.

Don't post my name on this, since this is an uncomfortable *fact* that a lot of people don't want to know. The US military is 100% dominated by our civilian authority. This is a good thing in the broadest interpretation, but it also means that military matters are 100% subject to political interests and that includes security classifications.

You can't do this because you're not elected to an office above or separate from the military chain of command (your public service that exposed you to classified material was in the service of the President) but a congressman does not report to the President or any military authority for that matter, so a congressman who spills a secret classified by me or my organization (for example) is de-facto pretty much immune from prosecution.

Does this mean that any Congress critter can leak the National Intelligence Estimate with impunity?

I am not sure I understand what you've said here.


From Darrell Van Wagner

This is a long article; it's of interest to anyone concerned about the future of education in the United States.

Subject: Scary Things Going on In American Education Schools

City Journal Home. <http://www.city-journal.org/index.html

City Journal The Ed Schools’ Latest—and Worst—Humbug Teaching for “social justice” is a cruel hoax on disadvantaged kids. Sol Stern Summer 2006

In 1980, Bill Ayers and his partner Bernardine Dohrn came up from the underground—the Weather Underground, that is. It had been a wild ride for the Bonnie and Clyde of the sixties New Left. They first went into combat during the 1969 “Days of Rage” in Chicago, smashing storefront windows and assaulting police officers and city officials in the fantasy that they were aiding their Vietnamese allies by “bringing the war back home.” They spent the next few years planting bombs at government buildings around the country, including in restrooms at the Pentagon and the Capitol. When their little war against America sputtered to a halt, the revolutionary couple rationalized that at least they had not caused any deaths. But three of their comrades had blown themselves up in a Manhattan townhouse while preparing a bomb to detonate at a dance at the Fort Dix army base.

Ayers has acknowledged committing crimes during his underground days—crimes that arguably amounted to treason. Yet thanks to procedural complications and a lack of witnesses, he never went to trial or to jail. A few years after stepping out of the shadows, Ayers reflected on his odyssey in a conversation with journalists Peter Collier and David Horowitz: “Guilty as hell, free as a bird—America is a great country,” he exulted.

But that was just half the wonder of it. Ayers would soon go on to disprove thoroughly F. Scott Fitzgerald’s famous though mistaken aphorism that “there are no second acts in American lives.” Ayers’s spectacular second act began when he enrolled at Columbia University’s Teachers College in 1984. Then 40, he planned to stay just to get a teaching credential. (He had taught in a “Freedom School” during his pre-underground student radical days.) But he experienced an epiphany in a course taught by Maxine Greene, a leading light of the “critical pedagogy” movement. As Ayers wrote later, he took fire from Greene’s lectures on how the “oppressive hegemony” of the capitalist social order “reproduces” itself through the traditional practice of public schooling—critical pedagogy’s fancy way of saying that the evil corporations exercise thought control through the schools.

It hadn’t occurred to Ayers that an ed-school professor could speak or write as an authentic American radical. “There are vast dislocations in industrial towns, erosions of trade unions; there is little sign of class consciousness today,” Greene had proclaimed in the Harvard Education Review. “Our great cities are burnished on the surfaces, building high technologies, displaying astonishing consumer goods. And on the side streets, in the crevices, in the burnt-out neighborhoods, there are the rootless, the dependent, the sick, the permanently unemployed. There is little sense of agency, even among the brightly successful; there is little capacity to look at things as if they could be otherwise.”

Greene told future teachers that they could help change this bleak landscape by developing a “transformative” vision of social justice and democracy in their classrooms. Her vision, though, was a far cry from the democratic optimism of the Founding Fathers, Abraham Lincoln, and Martin Luther King Jr., which most parents would endorse. Instead, critical pedagogy theorists nurse a rancorous view of an America in which it is always two minutes to midnight and a knock on the door by the thought police is imminent. The education professors feel themselves anointed to use the nation’s K–12 classrooms to resist this oppressive system. Thus Maxine Greene urged teachers not to mince words with children about the evils of the existing social order. They should portray “homelessness as a consequence of the private dealings of landlords, an arms buildup as a consequence of corporate decisions, racial exclusion as a consequence of a private property-holder’s choice.” In other words, they should turn the little ones into young socialists and critical theorists.

All music to Bill Ayers’s ears. The ex-Weatherman glimpsed a new radical vocation. He dreamed of bringing the revolution from the streets to the schools. And that’s exactly what he has managed to do.


The teachers colleges have accomplished much of this, while simultaneously producing an educational dark age in which we no longer even remember that there was a time when every child could read by the end of Second Grade.


On Norton Internet Security

Jerry, I have 2 children and have relied upon Norton Internet Security for Parental control features that prevent my kids accessing inappropriate content on the internet. I'm sure it does not work 100 percent but I also try to monitor my kids within reason to ensure that the content they are viewing is appropriate. What I wanted to write to you about, is the parental control feature seems to be missing from NIS 2007. I contacted Symantec and was told that it was left out because customers did not want it.

Accessing the Symantec website, using the product selection wizard and selecting parental control still points to NIS 2007. The tech told me that it would be released as a potential patch in a few weeks for the customers that want it. To me this is inappropriate. If the software is installed on a computer, the parental control form the previous version is obviously uninstalled. Either the user is forced to return to the previous version to await the patch "in a few weeks" or leave the potential can of worms open until the patch is made available.

Symantec in this case is misleading consumers and I thought you might want to warn your readers that might be looking for the parental control functionality and are intending to upgrade.

Again, just thought you might want to have this information.

Bob Gates


Jeff Cooper, RIP


Jeff Cooper died on Monday.


I had the great privilege of learning both handgun and rifle under him, and knowing him for the last 15 years. He was both a warrior and a philosopher, perhaps Leonidas reborn.

Jim Dodd










CURRENT VIEW    Thursday


This week:


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Friday, September 29, 2006

Subject: Thou Shalt Not Mock Government Employees

And my family thinks I'm being irrational about my dislike for the TSA.


(Gee, do I need to withhold my name from this? I've got to get on an airplane soon.)


WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A Wisconsin man who wrote "Kip Hawley is an Idiot" on a plastic bag containing toiletries said he was detained at an airport security checkpoint for about 25 minutes before authorities concluded the statement was not a threat.

Ryan Bird, 31, said he wrote the comment about Hawley -- head of the Transportation Security Administration -- as a political statement. He said he feels the TSA is imposing unreasonable rules on passengers while ignoring bigger threats.



Subject : Grain in Greenland ? -That aint hay in the foreground , and the large white object is exactly what you think it is - http://adamant.typepad.com/seitz/2006/09/greenlands_ungr.html

Russell Seitz

ALAS the link doesn't seem to work.

This one does


Thanks to Bill Billings!



re: Doggy Diner

No K[9]-rations for me, guv'nor. I'll jolly well stick to bread pudding http://www.janeausten.co.uk/magazine/index.ihtml?pid=337&step=4  or "spotted dick" as we likes to call it.

Also, I 'eard a rumor that our lads in Iraq 'ad an affectionate nickname for the Yank's Commanding General - http://www.britishbacon.com/comersus6f/store/comersus_viewItem.asp?idProduct=2  "Bangers" they called 'im, meanin' no 'arm ... seein' as 'e *was* Tommy Franks ...

-- Bill Kilner


Subject: Immigration


Dear Jerry:

Neal Pritchett wrote:

Why do we want to do this? I have a high regard for the United States, and for it's culture (what's left of it), and do not see any advantage to transforming it into a third world country, by reintroducing problems which we have already solved a century ago.

The answer is contained in the comment. Mr. Pritchett (and you, and I) want to preserve Western Culture. But as Jacob Leib Talmon pointed out, in his trilogy The origins of totalitarian democracy, Political Messianism, and The myth of the nation and the vision of revolution, lots of people in the West have hated our culture since the Enlightenment (especially those who think they should be philosopher-kings with absolute power). And until we recognize that many so-called reformers and social critics are really just at war with Western Civilization, we won't be able to counter them.

Best, Stephen M. St. Onge Minneapolis, MN




Subject: You said...

"We all grew up hating tariff -- at least I did, in the Old South, learning in 8th grade that Smoot Hawley caused the depression."

Another Old South reason for hating tariffs, Dr. Pournelle, is that they were a major cause of the "War of Northern Aggression" as my west Tennessee relatives refer to the unCivil War. Lincoln was elected by the industrial north which wanted tariff protection, while at the same time these tariffs hurt the agricultural south by increasing their costs for manufactured goods and simultaneously (by limiting the markets) reduced their revenue from agriculture.

Since history books are written by the victors, I doubt that the part played by tariffs in causing the Civil War received much coverage in your schools (or mine, for that matter).

Charles Brumbelow

You're in Nashville, no? I know they think that Shelby County is full of uneducated rednecks, but I can assure you, we had heard about tariff and the War even in Capleville, Tenn., in the 1940's. I am aware that about 80% of the revenue of the US prior to 1860 was paid in the South, but 85% of all Federal spending was in the North or on the Navy, and the debates on Secession. They did learn us a little of that stuff in Shelby County!


Subject: Outsourcing Education...

Fuel to the fire about education in the USA, Dr. Pournelle:


"The outsourcing trend that fueled a boom in Asian call centers staffed by educated, low-paid workers manning phones around the clock for U.S. banks and other industries is moving fast into an area at the heart of U.S. culture: education.

"It comes at a difficult time for the U.S. education system: only two-thirds of teenagers graduate from high school, a proportion that slides to 50 percent for black Americans and Hispanics, according to government statistics."

Charles Brumbelow

The way to see that no child is left behind is to make certain none get ahead.


Subj: Pix: US Air Force Wargaming Is Different


Rod Montgomery==monty@sprintmail.com

I wish I'd had computers when I was planning air strikes on Tirana about a zillion years ago...


For the background to this click here

Subject: RE: Virginia Heinlein


After a poster to Harlan's message board
 http://harlanellison.com/heboard/unca.htmbeg=1&num=25  pointed out the Hugo discrepancy, Harlan posted this:

HARLAN ELLISON - Tuesday, September 26 2006 18:25:30 RESPONSE TO BILLY RUBIN

You are absolutely correct!

But ...

As Freud said, "Sometimes a cigar is JUST a cigar."

The answer to this one is so simple I wouldn't've thought it'd get you scratching your head.

I misremembered. You're right; you've got the facts correct.

Bob Heinlein and I had been discussing Hugos, on that plane from Rio. It was damnably late, we'd been flying forever, and I thought Ginny, in the seat closest to the window, was asleep. My seat was further up front, but I'd been restless, couldn't get comfortable, and so I was wandering the aisles of sleepers and wholly fagged-out insomniacs. Bob was awake. He motioned me to a seat beside him, moving over into the middle one, and we chatted for an hour or so.

Bob and I had known each other for years. If you check out PAINGOD you'll see that he gave me one of the rare-rare-rare Heinlein blurbs. We weren't bowling buddies, but we were professional peers. He could be testy, even thorny, but he liked me, and I liked him ... a lot.

We were talking about Hugos. This was the famous conversation I had with Bob about his reaction to "the flower children" lionizing him for STRANGER IN A STRANGE LAND, and him smiling and replying, "We put up an electrified fence."

So ... we're talking about Hugos, and I was bragging and pointing out to him (at that time) that I'd won as many as he. It was a josh, no more than that. Bob took it as such. And we chatted back'n'forth for a while thereafter.

When I got up and went back to my aisle seat nearer the nose, after a while Ginny came by -- I think on her way to the washroom up front -- and she leaned in, and said, "Yes, but HIS are for the NOVEL."

I choose to think this was another josh, a moment of kidding-on-the-square, as opposed to a moment of nastiness. Ginny, to those of us who knew her a lifetime, was capable of both.

When I reprised this anecdote at the Hugo ceremony, at which I presented the short story award, I used it to point out that as important as all of the fans make the novel out to be, that it has always been, and continues to be, the short story that is the spine, the heart, the backbone of the genre. Important, and I was honored to be the one presenting it.

Mr. Rubin is absolutely correct, when he points out the seeming inconsistency in my passing along of the anecdote, after forty-plus years. I just misremembered. Mr. Rubin corrects me precisely: Bob Heinlein and I had exactly the same number of Hugos at the time this anecdote occurred.

I still have no idea what Mr. Harrington's problem is, or why he should interpret my telling of this slight, anything but disrespectful, but nonetheless real, anecdote as "defaming a dead person."

Yr. pal, Harlan


And after a few more people complained about the 'bitch' comment, Harlan replied with this:

HARLAN ELLISON - Thursday, September 28 2006 19:1:1 PUBLIC SHRIVING REDUX


Unlike the imbroglio with Connie Willis at the Hugo Ceremony, my "afterthought smartass insult" in re Ginny Heinlein's remark to me on that Rio-to-NYC flight was a dumb thing for me to have said. It was, sadly -- and as is all too often my bigmouthed problem -- as it is often yours -- a semi-conscious blurt of what I'm thinking. Instantly after which, I slap myself upside the head and hear my affronted mind asking, "Geezus, did I say that aloud?!?!!" It was a dumb dumb thing to have said, and I regret it enormously. It was a personal thing and not words I should have bruited about. I'm not "apologizing," because there's no one to "apologize" to ... what I'm doing is copping to it, and regretting having shared the thought. Like all of you, I am dumb and fumblefooted far more often than I find bearable.

I ask for no absolution on this one, folks. I done it, I said it, I sure as hell shouldn't've, and as always ... I pay the piper for my gaffes.

Please proffer this post to anyone who echoes to The Great American Philosopher-Poet Tony Isabella's observation: "Hell hath no fury like that of the uninvolved."

It won't suffice for those maliciously-inclined toward me, but may reassure those still in their right minds, that is to say: those sans lynch ropes in their mitts.

Harlan Ellison



I would imagine that probably ends it pretty much.

Cheers, Jonathan Stover

I suppose I am technically uninvolved, but Robert and Ginny were close friends perhaps twenty years, and Ginny Heinlein was generally a gracious lady. She could be sharp when pressed, but in many cases even those incidents were more impish humor than malice. I can well believe the story as Harlan tells it here. I could not believe it as he told it the night of the Hugo awards


As he says, there is no one to apologize to. Yet, I recall, Harlan was extremely displeased with Charles Platt for defaming Larry Shaw, and expressed that rather vigorously; he may not have demanded that Platt apologize, but he certainly made his position clear. The way Harlan told the story in the video clip made Ginny look considerably different from the way many of us remember her.

Harlan says

I still have no idea what Mr. Harrington's problem is, or why he should interpret my telling of this slight, anything but disrespectful, but nonetheless real, anecdote as "defaming a dead person."

but I think anyone watching the video, then reading the account Harlan gives above, might be forgiven for thinking Mrs. Heinlein "defamed".




This week:


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Saturday, September 30, 2006

Subject: Japanese quality in decline - the fruits of prosperity? 


The Japanese fret that quality is in decline:


The crucial points are buried in the middle of the story, but it seems that prosperity is finally getting to them the way it did to us.



I am sure everyone has seen this, but for the record:

Anousheh Ansari weblogging from space.


--- Roland Dobbins






CURRENT VIEW     Saturday

This week:


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Sunday, October 1, 2006

Subject: No Child Gets Ahead, 

Gee, Roberta should have gotten in on some of this money!




By Michael Grunwald Sunday, October 1, 2006; B01

President Bush's No Child Left Behind Act was premised on three revolutionary goals. The first was to focus on low-performing schools and students; hence, No Child Left Behind. The second was to beef up the federal role in education, enforcing national standards through testing. The third was to bring facts and evidence to the notoriously squishy world of education policy, promoting teaching methods backed by "scientifically based research" instead of instinct and fad. This was the least-publicized goal, but arguably the most vital; the phrase "scientifically based research" appeared more than 100 times in the landmark 2001 law.

The centerpiece of the new research-based approach was Reading First, a $1 billion-a-year effort to help low-income schools adopt strategies "that have been proven to prevent or remediate reading failure" through rigorous peer-reviewed studies. "Quite simply, Reading First focuses on what works, and will support proven methods of early reading instruction," the Education Department promised.

Five years later, an accumulating mound of evidence from reports, interviews and program documents suggests that Reading First has had little to do with science or rigor. Instead, the billions have gone to what is effectively a pilot project for untested programs with friends in high places.<snip>

The problem is that it didn't work that way. This is a very important article. It demonstrates just how pernicious "Federal Aid to Education" has become. Most of you will not remember when "Federal Aid to Education" was a controversial matter. Some of us opposed it, for a number of reasons. One was that we predicted this kind of thing would happen.

The article continues:

<snip>But it wasn't just about phonics.

Success for All is the phonics program with the strongest record of scientifically proved results, backed by 31 studies rated "conclusive" by the American Institutes for Research. And it has been shut out of Reading First. The nonprofit Success for All Foundation has shed 60 percent of its staff since Reading First began; the program had been growing rapidly, but now 300 schools have dropped it. Betsy Ammons, a principal in North Carolina, watched Success for All improve reading scores at her school, but state officials made her switch to traditional textbooks to qualify for the new grants.

"You can't afford to turn down the federal money," Ammons said. "But why should we have to give up on something that works?"

The answer lies in the Reading First grant process, which was almost comically skewed. Michigan was the first state approved, after it simply proposed to adopt the five best-selling textbooks. But when Rhode Island officials proposed to require "high-quality reading programs that meet the test of having a scientific research base," they were rejected. Doherty told them to check out Michigan's list, so they cut and pasted it into their application, while suggesting that districts could still adopt other programs justified by research. They were rejected again. So they limited their program to the textbooks. Only then were they approved. Similarly, Oklahoma unsuccessfully proposed to require reading programs backed by three years of longitudinal data before it got the hint and proposed the Michigan list.

So instead of advocating scientifically based reading programs, Reading First has promoted programs with "key elements" endorsed by a national reading panel, which could describe almost any program.<snip>

And I can only say, "I flipping told you so!"


Teacher's Unions

Your Sept 29 View included this statement:

"You may or may not know that the teachers unions have prevailed on the textbook publishers to suppress the sale of public school textbooks to home schoolers."

Can you provide any reference?

Earlier this year, without any discussion with the booksellers, eBay implemented a new policy banning the sale of teacher's edition textbooks. There was considerable protest over this, and eBay has been prevaricating ever since. A discussion thread on the Booksellers Board has over 1400 posts (I can provide a brief synopsis, if you're interested), but there is no movement on policy. As an example of the absurdity, the policy prevents the sale of TE Dick and Jane readers, which are collectible and haven't been used in schools for decades.

As far as I can recall, there has been no dicussion of any teachers union involvement in the ban. But since eBay is a California company, I am wondering.

Best Regards, D.R. Williams

The reference is from correspondence, and some statements by Dr. Robinson of the Oregon Institute which has some excellent home schooling curricular materials, and who has experience in trying to get approved textbooks. I see now that the document I had is dated last spring, and apparently there have been some changes.

It is likely -- indeed it is certain -- that my statement was overly broad. I should have said that "some" teachers unions have this policy and goal.

For the record, I was for a year the business agent of Professional Educators of Los Angeles, which was a teacher's association that was legally a union but which rejected most of the notions of what a union is. That is, we bargained with LAUSD, but not with the threat of strikes. PELA was absorbed into the union system after my departure.

Most teachers unions are perfect examples of Pournelle's Iron Law of Bureaucracy; the best teachers want nothing to do with union management and are not looking for released time (being paid by the school board to do administration, not teaching). Those who take the positions usually do so because they didn't like teaching or -- well for other reasons having to do with classroom performance. The number of teachers union officials who have an outstanding record in the classroom is vanishingly small.

The result is that teachers unions work to benefit the union; to keep membership large, and that means protecting everyone in the union. The more heavily unionized a district the more difficult it is to fire an incompetent teacher.

It is a matter of public record that the teacher unions in California opposed the law allowing principals to reject transfers of incompetent teachers into their schools; and oppose any weakening whatever in the tenure laws, including longer 'probation' times for teachers.

Whether "tenure" in public schools makes sense is a matter worth discussion, but no teachers union will host such a discussion. They have tenure as a major policy goal.


"That's not my job."


- Roland Dobbins

Secret Reports Dispute White House Optimism

By Bob Woodward Washington Post Staff Writer Sunday, October 1, 2006; A01

On May 22, 2006, President Bush spoke in Chicago and gave a characteristically upbeat forecast: "Years from now, people will look back on the formation of a unity government in Iraq as a decisive moment in the story of liberty, a moment when freedom gained a firm foothold in the Middle East and the forces of terror began their long retreat."

Two days later, the intelligence division of the Joint Chiefs of Staff circulated a secret intelligence assessment to the White House that contradicted the president's forecast.

Instead of a "long retreat," the report forecast a more violent 2007: "Insurgents and terrorists retain the resources and capabilities to sustain and even increase current level of violence through the next year."

A graph included in the assessment measured attacks from May 2003 to May 2006. It showed some significant dips, but the current number of attacks against U.S.-led coalition forces and Iraqi authorities was as high as it had ever been -- exceeding 3,500 a month. [In July the number would be over 4,500.] The assessment also included a pessimistic report on crude oil production, the delivery of electricity and political progress.<snip>

I am preparing an essay on Iraq and what we should do if we want to retain the republic. It will be a while in preparation. It's not an easy thing to write.

It's very easy for me to say "I told you not to go in there." We have done so. The question is, what do we do now that we are there and it didn't work?

I will point out that for the $300 billion the war has cost we could have energy independence, and stop sending billions of dollars to Arab nations. The only way the Muslims can get at us is for us to pay their way to get here; paying $60 /bbl for oil is one way to pay their way.













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