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Monday  January 15, 2007

Subject: Letter from England

Interesting news:

Dante's face reconstruction.

UK's existence is at risk--Gordon Brown. He's concerned about separatist movements in the UK. Other Brown stories, too.
<http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/6258089.stm>  <http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/6260855.stm>  <http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/6260267.stm>

UK military chiefs told to keep quiet about force cuts. <http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk_news/story/0,,1989394,00.html>  <http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2-2544986,00.html>  <http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2-2544994,00.html>  <http://news.independent.co.uk/uk/politics/article2149762.ece

Kremlin stalling on poisoning case as the number of people found to be exposed to the polonium increases.

UK perspective on Bush's surge and other US political stories. <http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,3-2544791,00.html>  <http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,3-2544795,00.html

Paparazzi hassling the prince's girl friend.

Pakistan upset about Negroponte comments.

Whose ox is gored matters in UK politics.

NHS running out of money for the most effective drugs (and related stories). Optimal bribing for queue position... <http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2-2545285,00.html>  <http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2-2544542,00.html>  <http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2-2544604,00.html>  <http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2-2545286,00.html>  <http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,542-2544635,00.html>  <http://www.dailymail.co.uk/pages/live/

"Airports face chaos over tax rise." This is a rise in the duty on air fares that Gordon Brown put into place to discourage air travel. <http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/6258213.stm>  <http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/6260241.stm

$5M lesson on how to wash your hands (Scotland).

Parking meter terrorism.

Private schools for children of politicians.

Elimination of school standards

Privacy and UK governmental database sharing <http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/6260767.stm>

Regulating nanoparticles <http://www.nytimes.com/2007/01/

The Feds are going after Steve Jobs. <http://www.theregister.co.uk/2007/01/12/apple_stock_options/

And after the rest of us.
<http://www.nytimes.com/2007/01/14/washington/14spy.html>  <http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/

Graffiti 'artists' killed by London underground train.
_news/story/0,,1990011,00.html>  <http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/london/6260445.stm

Backlash against Dutch liberalism.

UK police dubious about the Government's proposal for super-casinos <http://observer.guardian.co.uk/politics/story/0,,1990056,00.html>

Blair will drop his ethics watchdog. <http://observer.guardian.co.uk/politics/story/0,,1990057,00.html

MI5 braced for disclosures. <http://observer.guardian.co.uk/uk_news/story/0,,1990026,00.html

"Catholic's ID" aims to avert ward euthanasia <http://observer.guardian.co.uk/uk_news/story/0,,1990019,00.html

Next after Iraq: Iran.

Only 7% of the EU budget is spent legally and correctly... <http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.

Freedom of association in the UK.

Commentary (you may want to trim...)

Since December, I've been reading the scholarly literature on the Gospel of Thomas (GoT) and the synoptic sayings source (Q, which lies behind the parts of Matthew and Luke not found in Mark), seeking insights they can give us into the practices and teachings of the earliest Christian movement. I don't read Hellenistic Greek or Egyptian Coptic, so I rely on scholars who do. Having worked through that literature (Patterson, The Gospel of Thomas and Jesus; Davies, The Gospel of Thomas and Christian Wisdom; etc., etc., etc.), I recently started reading Crossan's Birth of Christianity for a integrative discussion of the topic. Crossan attempts to reconstruct the origin of the trajectories that eventually led to Gnosticism (via the Thomas Christians) and main stream Christianity (via the Q community) by examining what the earliest stratum of Q (Q1) and the GoT have in common (the Common Sayings Tradition). Since Q1 and GoT are very early, this has the potential of allowing us to see back into the Christianity of 30-50 AD.

The organisation of the movement at that time was similar in some ways to that of the Essenes. There was a settled community in Jerusalem, ruled by Jesus's brother, James the Just; there were rural communities in Judea, Galilee, and Syria; and there were charismatic itinerants (apostles, prophets, and teachers) who held the movement together by wandering among the communities. The Jerusalem community gave us the basic Passion narrative; the rural communities gave us the Didache; and the itinerants gave us the sayings found in Mark, Matthew and Luke (Q), the Gospel of Thomas, and (apparently in heated dialogue with the GoT) the Gospel of John.

Eschatology is the belief that the existing world is not to God's liking. It is often found in people who have been marginalised religiously, spiritually, materially, economically, and politically by social change (Collins, discussed in Crossan). For example, in Israel and Galilee during the period 60 BC to 66 AD, the Roman tax system was imposed *in addition* to the existing temple tax system, driving many peasants into poverty, and it was in these newly impoverished peasants that we see eschatological beliefs take hold most strongly. Crossan discusses three forms of eschatology found in early Christianity: apocalyptism, asceticism, and ethicism. The apocalyptic faith looks to a future Kingdom of God, with a total absence of evil and injustice, created by an act of God. The usual scenario includes divine vengeance with human slaughter for the unjust, and so presumes a God who establishes his justice of non-violence through violence. Apocalyptism can currently be found in both Christianity (some fundamentalist groups) and Islam (obviously).

Crossan next points out that ascetism looks to the past--the justice of Creation before it was polluted by evil. Ascetics withdraw from normal human life in terms of food, sex, speech, dress, or occupation. It may involve deliberate violations of social norms as in libertine Gnosticism, or it may simply be rejection of the world as in ascetic Gnosticism and many modern Christian groups. Finally, Crossan points out that ethicism looks to the present as the Kingdom of God. Followers of ethicism negate the world by actively protesting and non-violently resisting a system they judge to be evil, unjust, and violent. They direct their resistance at the world's *normal* situation of discrimination and violence, exploitation and oppression, injustice and unrighteousness--the systemic evils that violates what they see of the character of God. Crossan makes two points about ethicism: the death of martyrdom is inseparable from the act of resistance, and the martyr is not a victim. Martyrs are subversive, because their acts speak in ways inherently subversive of the normal way things are done in our world. Apocalyptic eschatology is found in Mark and Q; ascetic eschatology is found in the Gospel of Thomas; and ethical eschatology seems to characterise the Common Sayings Tradition.

Why these points? Many of the people who participate in the discussions here seem to be unhappy with the world as it is. Yet few seem to be apocalyptic or ascetic, and few propose changes intended to benefit just a minority. They are unhappy with the normal state of affairs and do not intend to be victims of it. How can these people change things for the better? - They can write. (As does Jerry.) - They can advise. (Not everyone in government is short-sighted, however much that seems to be the case.) - They can petition. (Although there are risks in becoming visible.) - And they can act. (With all the risks that entails.)

So keep it up, folks. Be subversive! You're our hope for the future.

-- 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

One day I will have to write an essay on final things. Meanwhile, with Vogelin I can say, Don't let THEM immanentize the eschaton.



Subject:  The personal is political

Exemplum gratia: http://www.nytimes.com/2007/01/15/us/15Pizza.html 

The "stealth issue" that nobody is addressing (or, apparently, even recognizing) is that, after 40 years of leftist pressure, we now have a generation (and we're working on a second) that has known no culture other than one in which every question and every issue is become political.

If person X does something one doesn't like or doesn't approve of, in former times one would just say "Eh, none of my business" and blow it off.

That doesn't happen any more; people speak up and expect their likes and dislikes to have some sort of legitimacy, even regarding issues that ARE NONE OF THEIR DAMNED BUSINESS.

We're raising generations of fussbudgets and busybodies, both here and (sadly) in Britain, and that's not a good thing.

Soon the notion of a private sphere that is independent of the public sphere (the unique contribution of the West to human history) will be lost, and how will it ever be recovered?

Just another thing for you to feel gloomy about....

Dr. Timoid of Angle


Subject: Ghurkas in Iraq

Dr Pournelle,

As an addendum to your comment on using Ghurkas in Iraq, it should be noted that many of them, actual former British Army Ghurkas, are presently in Iraq working for Private Security Companies. I have worked with many of them. They make excellent guards and with training would make an excellent constabulary. The United States Embassy in Baghdad was for a time guarded by Ghurka Tribesmen.

Matt Kirchner


Subject: Royal Navy will be cut to 25 active surface vessels

Dear Jerry,

Europe continues to unilaterally disarm itself. The Royal Navy is planning to reduce the size of its active surface fleet to 25 ships, with 19 in mothballs.


This will reduce the size of the surface fleet to the smallest since King Henry VIII replaced rowed galleys with ocean-going, cannon-carrying sailing vessels:


The officers of the Fleet are looking for civilian jobs:


Meanwhile, the grand poobahs in Whitehall are going to get plush new digs:


I wonder if Muslim pirates will start to raid Europe again. There won't be many ships afloat to stop them if they try.

Eric Krug

Probably. Reversing Lepanto would be a goal, I presume. At least they won't need galley slaves. On the other hand, I understand blondes go for high prices in the Middle East slave markets. I wish I were making that up.


Subject: CO2 Removal


Three ways to reduce atmospheric co2 come to mind. They all would require some very large but dumb engineering and a big (nuclear power source)

1. Full or partial liquefaction of air followed by a fractional distillation-an advantage to this is a high oxygen content stream would be available to use in coal fired power stations-this gives a high co2 content exhaust which would be easier to treat than current exhausts

2. Pressure swing adsorbtion of co2 from the air, basically pump air under pressure through a suitable adsorbant (Zeolites any one?). When saturated release the pressure and recover the co2. I suspect this would be more energy efficient than liquifaction

3. Chemical absorbtion into "Benfield" solution followed by desorbtion. This is/was a routine procedure on our Refinery in the 1970s and so would work. Benfield solution was a complex mixture including monoethanolamine. The greens would hate it

The other problem is what to do with the recovered co2-bury it?

The financial cost would be large but probably less than many other ideas.

I am off to Cyprus tomorrow but will try to look into these when I get back to work. Last week was to hectic to spend time doing the research. Especially when BASF released HMDA across the landscape (ASK Harry Ewing for details). I work at Seal sands in the NE of England

Andrew Deacon

Logging trees and stacking them, with planting new ones; stimulating plankton blooms in the ocean; there are many ways to reduce CO2.




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Tuesday,  January 16, 2007

Subject: CO2 removal

Dr. Pournelle --

You have stated that we could solve the carbon dioxide emission problem by simply increasing sequestration of the carbon dioxide using tree growth. I did a little looking around on the web, and found some figures that cast a little doubt on the feasibility of doing this. Perhaps I missed some essential detail.

Links: Human CO2 production http://www.seed.slb.com/en/scictr/watch/climate_change/co2.htm 

Plantation yields http://www.urbanecology.org.au/topics/fuelwoodplantations.html 

Arable land http://earthtrends.wri.org/ 

Figures I have seen suggest that the earth has about 3 billion hectares of arable land. Of this about half is being used for agriculture (about 1.5 billion hectares). This land probably is already being roughly maximally used for carbon dioxide removal. I suppose that farmland could be used to remove addition carbon dioxide, but this would almost certainly unacceptably decrease crop yields. Unfortunately, the other half of the arable land already has forests, or is being used by humans for housing, factories, and roads. This would appear to be a problem Ė there is little land available on which to actually grow the large number of additional trees that would be required.

Still, letís assume that we cut down all of the forests and remove all of the human habitations, and replace them with rapidly growing trees, and ignore any fossil fuel usage requirements of this process. This would result in 1.5 billion hectares of tree plantations. The web site listed above states that tree plantations yield approximately 12.6 tons of tree per hectare per year. This means that the we might be able to generate 19 billion tons of tree per year that we could stack somewhere. (This leaves out the fact that even the dry mass of a tree is not entirely produced from carbon dioxide, and that storing large amounts of fresh water in the trees being stacked might not be a good idea.)

The web site I cited claims a human production of more than 25 billion tons of carbon dioxide per year. Thus, even using essentially the entirety of the arable land area of the planet not used for agriculture, we still would be generating a net release in carbon dioxide at current production levels. In addition, attempting this process would seem to be an extraordinarily expensive approach to solving the problem.

Mark Brandt, Ph.D.

My opinions are my own, but I distribute them freely to anyone failing to flee fast enough.

I haven't done the math on any of this for a long time, and my memory is not what it used to be.

I don't know the amount of CO2 produced by human activities, although ball park measures ought to be simple calculations from other primary data like oil and coal mining. I would assume that while agricultural activity fixes a lot of CO2, much of that is then eaten or burned so that it returns to the atmosphere.

I confess to being a bit flippant about the forest activities. One hears so much about how vital the rain forests are for the health of the planet that the assumption is that much to most of the CO2 fixing must take place there. Actually, I expect we all know that the oceans are the major sink in the CO2 cycle, and plankton growth, fixing of CO2 into carbonates, followed by death and sinking to the bottom has been a primary balancing mechanism. Stimulating that growth and fixing would I think be the first line of research effort.

The drawback is that once done, it's hard to undo. Eventually one supposes that benthonic sludge is eventually subducted and added to the interior stores of carbon in the Earth's interior, but that's going to take a long time. On the other hand, ocean bloom stimulation is likely to require a continuous activity so all that is needed to reverse trends would be to stop doing it.

I could do the work of looking up sources and doing the calculations, but many readers are more familiar with all this than I am, so I'll leave to to them; someone will do some serious calculations in a reasonable time, and I'll post the results.

My real point in all this is that if the problem is alarming levels of CO2, perhaps we would do better to have a serious look at how to reduce them, rather that beggar ourselves in trying to stop production of CO2. CO2 isn't the only or even the most effective greenhouse gas, and the effect of CO2 reduction on global warming isn't likely to be all that great; but we are running an open-ended experiment on enriching the atmosphere with CO2, and as I have been saying for at least 35 years, that's probably not a great idea; we'd do better to have some control over what we are doing.

I had this conversation with Isaac Asimov more than once; he was alarmed by the CO2 levels, and I was alarmed by the fact that no one was paying much attention to them. But that was back when the great fear was not global warming, but a new Ice Age, and that may have had something to do with it.

Economic means for removing CO2 can't be that hard to find. They may require building nuclear power plants, but then so does reducing the CO2 emissions of industry. What I'd propose is that we start seriously looking at ways to solve the one problem we can all agree is unusual and probably due to human activity. If that doesn't change the temperature trend enough, at least we won't have beggared ourselves to achieve it.

Actually, of course, if the US and Europe were to shut down all their CO2 sources and go back to subsistence farming without fertilizers, Russia, China, and India would be unlikely to cease their efforts. It's unlikely that we'll stop burning fossil fuels (even though many of us have been saying for 35 years that oil is far to valuable simply to burn it). If we won't stop producing CO2 (and we won't), and there are alarming levels of CO2 in the atmosphere (many think there are, and certainly they are unusual and high), then the obvious answer is to start taking the stuff out of the atmosphere.

I doubt that NSF or anyone else is funding very much research on this subject. Why isn't more being done?


Dr. P,

Fred's latest is absolutely priceless and right on the mark.


Matt Kirchner

He's three quarter right, but read C. S. Lewis Experiment in Criticism before accepting the entire argument.


More Neaderthal rishathra.


-- Roland Dobbins


Life. (for adultery) (In Michigan, not Somalia)


- Roland Dobbins


Subject: Late to the party?

Sub headline in today's WSJOpinion, Dr. Pournelle:

"Half of all children are below average, and teachers can do only so much for them."


"Education is becoming the preferred method for diagnosing and attacking a wide range problems in American life. The No Child Left Behind Act is one prominent example. Another is the recent volley of articles that blame rising income inequality on the increasing economic premium for advanced education. Crime, drugs, extramarital births, unemployment--you name the problem, and I will show you a stack of claims that education is to blame, or at least implicated.

"One word is missing from these discussions: intelligence. Hardly anyone will admit it, but education's role in causing or solving any problem cannot be evaluated without considering the underlying intellectual ability of the people being educated. Today and over the next two days, I will put the case for three simple truths about the mediating role of intelligence that should bear on the way we think about education and the nation's future.

"Today's simple truth: Half of all children are below average in intelligence. We do not live in Lake Wobegon."

"What IQ is necessary to give a child a reasonable chance to meet the NAEP's basic achievement score? Remarkably, it appears that no one has tried to answer that question. We only know for sure that if the bar for basic achievement is meaningfully defined, some substantial proportion of students will be unable to meet it no matter how well they are taught. As it happens, the NAEP's definition of basic achievement is said to be on the tough side. That substantial proportion of fourth-graders who cannot reasonably be expected to meet it could well be close to 36%."


Charles Brumbelow

Eventually the WSJ discovers the truth. They have been enthusiastic about NCLB in the past. But it's good that some of them are waking up.




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Wednesday, January 16, 2007

Subject: More apprentices, not more scholars

A well-known English chef, Jamie Oliver, has started calling for more apprenticeships and less scholars, and is doing something about it.



--Gary Pavek

It could work...


Subject:  This sounds familiar


Timoid of Angle

It does, doesn't it...


Observations, but no good solutions.

1. I'm not yet ready to say that invasion of Iraq and removal of Saddam from power was not justified. NOTE: an invasion may be justified but still not a good idea for other reasons; this is embellished a bit below. But the bottom line remains that based on data available both to the Bush Administration and to the Clinton Administration before, removal of Saddam was determined to be justified. There is no need to rehash the pro and con arguments here, except that -- such being the nature of classified information -- I am confident that there is information still classified that supports that justification. Not that I would expect the Main Stream Media (MSM) to care about that.

2. It is indisputable that things have not gone as planned, and that manpower and manpower distributions have been part of the problem (beginning with the failure to secure safe access through Turkey prior to the invasion, but certainly continuing as a matter of strategy, policy, and political correctness since).

3. That said, I personally believe that the point the "war was lost" was when April 1, 2004 dawned over Iraq with the city of Fallujah standing more or less intact. The bottom line remains -- you can conduct a successful campaign, or you can conduct a "politically correct" campaign by the rules of the MSM and the liberal branch of the Democratic party, but you can't do both at once and have any hope of winning the conflict. And I would still be willing to see appropriate changes (e.g. those mentioned in Article Three, Section Three of the Constitution, presuming that Ex Parte Bollman and other relevant charges can be found to apply to any of the cases of "Aid and Comfort" so referenced). Everything since then has been a holding action against forces that know they can get away with anything as long as they spend most of their time out of line of sight of our troops. Note also that I recognize said razing would have been a turn down the path that would surely have ended any hope of resurrecting the Republic.

4. More troops might be the answer, and probably is the best answer that has a chance of salvaging the current situation, but I am currently convinced 20,000 is grossly insufficient; 100,000 might be minimally adequate. Again, there may be no solution that preserves the Republic.

5. At this point, the Democratic Congress has given Bush only one other way to protect the US and preserve some semblance of civil liberties within our borders, in the form of a decree that goes something like this:

A. The United States is withdrawing from the city and environ of Baghdad. Solve the problem yourselves.

B. The United States Army is being redeployed to secure international access to petroleum from the Persian Gulf ports of Iraq, Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia. We will not allow anything to interfere with that mission of maintaining petroleum supplies to the US and its allies. We are prepared to capture the ports of Iran as well if necessary to the achievement of this objective.

 C. The United States as a country is committing all necessary resources to terminate its dependence on imported oil within six years. This solution will of necessity include the use of nuclear energy and the drilling of ANWR and of costal natural gas resources. Political opponents to this policy must realize that it is the essential corollary of the policy their actions have forced on us in Iraq. If they don't like it, they are invited to please volunteer for the Army to support the mission of Paragraph B. There are NO other choices on the timeframe we have to act in. Withdrawal of the troops outlined in Paragraph B will not occur until the United States has fully met its internal energy needs without imports of petroleum for a period of six months. All energy production technology is now declared protected under the International Trade in Arms Regulations.

D. If any American forces, civilian population, business interests, or property is attacked by terrorists employing conventional weapons, conventional explosives, chemical weapons materials in quantities less than 3 liters, radiological weapons deploying less than 1000 curie-hours of total dose potential, or biological toxins in quantities less than 300 milliliters, we will eradicate the population which attacked us within 48 hours. If our intelligence proves to have been wrong after the fact, we will apologize, but only after correcting our error. For the purposes of this and the following clause, "chemical weapons materials" includes Chemical Weapons Convention Schedule chemicals and any industrial or agricultural chemical or mixture of chemicals (whether carried separately or together, but provided by a coordinated operation) with an Immediately Dangerous to Life and Health vapor, dust, or aerosol concentration less than 300 milligrams per standard cubic meter of air.

E. If any American forces, civilian population, business interests, or property is attacked by terrorists or military forces employing nuclear weapons of any magnitude, live agent biological weapons of any magnitude (whether directed against population or agriculture), or chemical, radiological, or biological toxins in excess of the quantities named in Paragraph D, then the following cities will be immediately destroyed by nuclear attack: Pyongyang, Islamabad, Kabul, Tehran, Baghdad, Fallujah, Damascus, Riyadh - and Mecca; said list subject to change as circumstances change. Secondary targets will then be identified and targeted by nuclear and/or conventional weaponry based on intelligence assessment of each target's contribution to the attack and the proper strategy for operation in the affected region. Countries which oppose this policy are reminded that this is NOT a first use policy, but a response technology aimed at countries which have the potential to conduct such attacks. should note that they are assumed either part of the solution, or part of the problem, and react accordingly. What this means is, in simple terms, police yourself or die. What this means to downwind neighbors of the affected countries is, police your neighbors or be seriously inconvenienced. Terrorist attacks of this class which are successfully interdicted will be treated as attacks defined by Paragraph D.

F. Paragraphs D and E apply equally whether the attack is against a single individual American, or any larger population of American civilians or forces. Paragraphs D and E also apply to countries which allow or encourage their populations to enter the US by other than legal immigration procedures. What this means is, police your own borders and the smugglers corridors on your side of the border to keep terrorists out of the US. And expect us to pay a lot more attention to your nominal citizens; if your borders are penetrated, or if your indigenous population is corrupted by terrorists and used in attacks, your country will be considered a secondary target as defined above. For the purposes of this clause, narcotic drugs in quantities in excess of 10 liters are considered chemical weapons as defined in Paragraph E.

If none of the above is observed, then I must recommend that citizens resume investment in nuclear bomb shelters, radiation protection suits, gas masks and appropriate PPE, and similar civil defense measures. Oh, and guns, lots and lots of guns and ammo. The best defense has always been a good offense, which was at the end the fundamental reason for Iraq; but if we can no longer use the best defense, we're left with what we can get.

Jerry, I'm very much afraid that we are headed down a path that can only end in Empire, or Subject status, and have been ever since November 4, 1979. All things considered, I think I would rather live as an Imperial citizen in an empire that preserves some democratic and humanitarian norms for its citizens, than as a Christian subject under Sharia law (or under some form of government that calls itself communist, which is an option not yet completely off the table).


Given the choice of an American Caesar and living in dhimmitude under sharia, I would certainly choose Caesar. Whether we have come to that point or not is not clear. The hour is certainly late.

But if we are to be an empire, can we not be a COMPETENT empire with a competent emperor?


Subject: The Hidden War, 

When I read articles like the one below, I remember a 20-year old warning made by a friend who was a terrorism expert: The Muslims would be the world's biggest threat and a difficult foe to contend with internationally.

The note with the information below came from a high school classmate of mine.


* * * * * * *

..well, in the UK, perhaps they are beginning to wake up to the Islamic threat. Britain's Channel 4 presents a video report that resulted from a four month undercover investigation. Click though on the link to access the report in three 10-minute segments, as reported by the Observer (UK) and the NYSun: http://www.shinesforall.com/2007/01/video_dispatche.html .

The report ran on UK Channel 4 last night.

As reported in the Observer (UK): http://observer.guardian.co.uk/uk_news/story/0,,1984530,00.html  Revealed: preachers' messages of hate

Muslim worshippers are being urged by radical clerics to ignore British law

Jamie Doward Sunday January 7, 2007


An undercover investigation has revealed disturbing evidence of Islamic extremism at a number of Britain's leading mosques and Muslim institutions, including an organisation praised by the Prime Minister.

Secret video footage reveals Muslim preachers exhorting followers to prepare for jihad, to hit girls for not wearing the hijab, and to create a 'state within a state'. Many of the preachers are linked to the Wahhabi strain of Islam practised in Saudi Arabia, which funds a number of Britain's leading Islamic institutions.


Subject: Mind Games, 


Now the tinfoil hat people are organizing. Literally:


It is schizophrenia, of course. These experiences predate the development of electronics. Very sobering, though.


But you must not listen to Art Bell. The UFO's had electronics all along. And of course the USSR was beaming microwaves at our embassy in Moscow...


Subject: There's an echo in here


Timoid of Angle


The article's title speaks for itself, but I think you'll enjoy knowing you're not alone, shouting in the wilderness.



Doug Hayden

Charles Murray can use anything I have said any time with or without attribution. But it's nice to see other people beginning to say this.


Subject: Genius at Work

An alternate view on art, to contrast with the recent article by Fred.


Mike 'Z' Zawistowski


Overt Mexican casus belli. 


- Roland Dobbins


Subject:   copyright thoughts

In your last column of 2006, you asked for discussion on copyrights and intellectual property in general. Let me give a bit of input from two tangents.

The first tangent: I think that one important principle that has been forgotten (or deliberately ignored) by the lawmakers is this: while it is right and proper for the government to regulate what happens in the town square, the government has no business trying to control what I do in privacy.

If I take great pleasure in intricate programming, why shouldn't I crack a copy-protection scheme? If I do this at home, affecting no one else, why should anyone care. Of course, if I start distributing the result, it's a different matter - a straightforward case of copyright infringement, for which the old laws were perfectly adequate. But the DMCA is not really about copyright protection, but rather about coming into my living room and telling me what I can and cannot do on my own computer.

The second tangent: a fundamental principle of our legal system is that we are to be presumed innocent until proven guilty. And yet, on every DVD-recorder, on every copy machine the purchaser pays a fee. This fee is supposedly to recompense artists for copyright infringement. If you purchase such a device, you are presumed guilty. You cannot possibly prove yourself innocent - you must pay the fee!

There is now serious talk (at least here in Europe - if it's not in the Status, it will be soon), that there should be similar charges on any device capable of storing and replaying music or films. If this presumption of guilt is not offensive enough, think of the counterproductive effect. Imagine: if a teenager pays a $40 per gigabyte fee (that's the proposed amount) on a new MP3 player, said teenager is going to be damned sure to pirate at least $40 worth of music!

To summarize: my suggestion for copyright law is simply this: the law - and enforcement of the law - should respect our basic rights. In particular:

1. Privacy. As long as our activities do not directly impinge on others, they should be of no interest to the law. In my own house, I should be able to do anything I like with copyrighted material: copy it decrypt it, encrypt it, nail it to the bathroom wall. As long as my activities remain private, they are of no interest to anyone but me.

2. Innocent until proven guilty. No law or regulation should presume that we are going to behave illegally. We should pay no fees for infringement we haven't done. Content providers should not prevent us from making private copies (i.e., DRM) without notifying us in advance on the outer packaging so that we can choose not to buy their product. Our computers should not be able to disable our hardware because some hacker somewhere pirated content using the same model.

3. A fine but important point that follows from both of the above: merely possessing illegally copied material should not be punishable, beyond demanding that the material be destroyed. It certianly is not criminal. The punishable activity is the distribution: the person who copied and passed out the material. Too many end-consumers have been sued for downloading something in good faith - this should not happen.





CURRENT VIEW    Wednesday


This week:


read book now


Thursday, January 18, 2007

Subject: paragraphs

In the olden days paragraphs began with an indent. Now they have to begin with a line space and no indent. It's just ugly. Why the change ó isn't it about as easy to hit "tab" as "enter?" Is this some computer thing? Or a "professional typist" thing?

R Hunt

Good question. I prefer indented paragraphs too. There is a problem with tabs in cuts and pastes. And some people for some reason use return space return to mark paragraph ends. That's really deadly if they also put returns at the ends of each line.

I have macros that deal with most odd formats to make life easier for cut and paste for mail.

But tab in FrontPage doesn't indent the next paragraph, it takes me to the next cell, which isn't useful at all.

When I write fiction my templates do indent paragraph beginnings. I gave it up for non-fiction. It just causes too many problems.


Subject: On Orson Scott Card's commentary

I don't know if what Mr. Card postulates is likely or not. But even assuming it is all true, his solution seems strange.

Mr. Card says the route to our destruction is economic due to the oil power of the Middle East and a breakdown in production and distribution. His solution is more war. How is that going to keep the region stable and productive?

He's afraid we will abandon Iraq and it will fall into anarchy. Our intervention caused Iraq to be unstable. We don't have the will to control Iraq even if that is the right thing to do. Our mistake was getting too involved in the first place. Going into Iran to break their power would be ten times worse. Something about this doesn't make sense.

I suspect that some have other motives for their "solutions" to problems in the Middle East. Is it a desire for war against the infidels?

Obviously, if oil is the sword they hold we should forge a shield against it. How is war against Iran the answer when energy independence, or large steps towards it, would be far more moral, likely cheaper and necessary in the long term regardless of the results of the "War on Terror"?

Joe Larkin

Well, I believe a massive energy program would do more for the West than more wars, and if we had spent the $300 billion we spent on the Iraqi War being a better USA with cheaper energy less dependent on the Middle East, the world would be better off. But then I said that before we invaded.

Expanding the Middle East war would be a terrible blunder. What we have to do now is find a way out of there without disaster. I don't know how to do that., I hope someone smarter than me does.

But energy independence for the USA is not unreasonable; it wouldn't cost a lot more than the war did. But it won't happen.


h lynn keith asked how we can fight Pournelle's Iron Law in education.

It won't be by regulating teachers' unions, adding standardized testing, or increasing the size of the education bureaucracy. Trying to fix the problems by fine-tuning the current system will be about as successful as pushing water uphill with a broom.

I only have one hope: greatly increased competition among schools. If the parents can easily move their children away from bad schools and into good schools, the invisible hand will apply pressure to the bad schools to stop acting bad. It doesn't matter what creative ways the teachers might have found to be bad, and it doesn't matter if none of the schools in an area are perfect. There will be a steady migration out of bad schools and to better schools, and the bad ones will have to shape up or close down. As this process continues, the schools will continue to improve, or else new schools will appear and steal their customers by providing a better education.

In a fully libertarian society, people would have to pay for school themselves (but taxes would be vastly lower). This would be a completely free market in schools. I doubt a majority of people would vote for this idea right now, so forget it.

This leaves vouchers as the only realistic hope. And it must be possible for new schools to appear, so the vouchers cannot have too much bureaucratic red tape attached.

I want vouchers because I want a *market* in education, not a near-monopoly run by the state. -- Steve R. Hastings

John Stuart Mill in "On Liberty" -- an essay much neglected not but it was not always so -- said that if the government would require and education it could save itself the trouble of providing it; the market would take care of the situation.


Don't Give Up

Part of a dialogue:

JP: And of course all the children will be able to learn calculus?

NH: Not 'all': 95+% will suffice. Nor 'of course'. It would be difficult and would require cultural commitment. But it's a worthy goal, for nations with ambition. Note that there do exist nations with a 95+% literacy rate, and literacy used to be the property of the few. So I still think that a 95+% numeracy rate is possible.

JP: If you believe 95% of all the kids can learn calculus and algebra and profit from a college education you live in a dream world. You have zero evidence for that assertion.

NH: The only evidence I have for that assertion is twenty years of teaching at the community college. I have taught arithmetic, algebra, trigonometry and statistics. I have taught these topics and others, to the young, to the old, to men, women, and transgenders. I have taught orange people (i.e. 'whites'), brown people ('blacks'), tan people, Chinese speakers, Spanish speakers, and others. I have taught the native-born, I have taught immigrants, and I have taught foreign visitors. I have taught the poor, and I have taught the moderately well-to-do. I suspect that the only major demographic group that I have not taught is the very wealthy. And I have learned, from teaching this cross-section of the city, that pretty much anybody can learn the basics of math, given enough motivation, time and effort.

I agree that basic numeracy is not the same as research-level math. There is indeed an aristocracy of research; only a talented few can learn the truly new, all on their own. But I can assure you, from personal experience here in the trenches, that there is a democracy of learning. Topics well understood (and calculus has been well-understood for centuries) can be taught to the masses by standard methods. This is what I meant, in a previous e-mail to you, about the difference between the "Few Best" and the "Many Good".

Take for instance logarithms. It took a Napier to discover them, and years to compile the first log table; but nowadays anyone with a $20 calculator can find a logarithm with the push of a button - provided that someone like me had come by to explain what a logarithm is good for.

Or consider Miss A.B. She was in my last semester's Statistics class, and she was learning-disabled. The only concession I made for her mild neurological deficit was to let her do the final as a take-home. I cannot fault her motivation; the campus's tutoring center reports that she spent many hours there. Well, she passed. Not with an A, but not with a D either. I can assure you that she knows how to plot a histogram, and how to compute the standard deviation, what a null hypothesis is, and how to do a chi-squared test. And Jerry, she also knows the difference between a median and a mean.

I admit that I do not in general teach 'children'. Most of my students are college-age, many are adult re-entry, a few are high-schoolers. I sometimes regret teaching in college what I think should be taught in high school or earlier; for adolescents learn quicker than adults, if properly motivated. ("If.") But on the other hand every one of my students is there voluntarily; which takes care of the motivation problem.

I also admit that I have not taught calculus for awhile; but this semester I shall teach "Business Math", which covers exponentials, logarithms, basic differentiation, and basic integration. I certainly believe that business students can 'profit' from knowing how compound interest works, or how to find a maximum, or an average over a time period, or the elasticity of a demand curve. In fact I think these basics are essential for anyone serious about surviving in the business world.

Or in a technological world. I think your anger and cynicism about public education is a sign of despair about the future. It seems to me that you have given up. How fortunate for my students that it is I, and not you, who teaches them.

- Nathaniel Hellerstein paradoctor@aol.com

To which I can only say, I wish you well; but I do not believe that 95% of the population can be taught what logarithms are, or what calculus does. And I ave seen no evidence that my assumption is wrong.

You assert that a large number of those who have chosen to take your classes benefit from them. That is good. I certainly wish you continued success. I have plenty of evidence that 95% of the population can be taught to read, and I would be tickled pink to find that it is only the lack of good instruction that keeps everyone from becoming numerate; but I don't believe it.

Jaime Escalante was able to teach calculus to AP students in his South LA school. He did so by teaching it as a skill, with much rote learning; not as calculus is normally taught in colleges. His methods work, but he was dealing with a selected group of students: not the brightest in the school, but the next layer, those not normally thought of as Advanced Placement material. And he had considerable success; but he was dealing with motivated students. Sure, he provided much of the motivation, but no one was required to take his class.

I agree entirely with your implication that we expect far too little from the average voters. That's odd because we depend on them to select our government. If our schools took their obligations seriously, much might be done.

But at the moment the Iron Law of Bureaucracy controls public education.


Oprah: ďI became so frustrated with visiting inner-city schools that I just stopped going."


 Roland Dobbins


Dear Jerry Pournelle:

I hear that you are rewriting your "Inferno". I wonder if you plan to follow the route Dante took, and write a Purgatory and a Paradise.

I personally like the second book of Dante's trilogy the best; for his Purgatory has motion and hope, unlike in his other two books. (Abandon all hope in the Inferno, and there's nothing left to hope for in Paradise.)

Dante's Paradise ends with a vision of "the love that moves the sun and other stars". In other words, Gravitation.

- Nathaniel Hellerstein paradoctor@aol.com

Inferno 2 is the same landscape as in our first Inferno; but it is after Vatican II has begun to have an effect. Our first story combined C S Lewis and Dante. Whether we will do an actual Purgatorio with that geography is not clear. We might. But first we have to get Carpenter out of Hell...




CURRENT VIEW    Thursday


This week:


read book now


Friday,  January 18, 2007

 Was porn-surfing teacher wrongly found guilty?

I canít believe this story



Alas, I can.


Subject: 95% Calculus - 

Afternoon Jerry,

Regarding the 95% can learn calculus comments in your dialog. Right off the bat, I'd argue that his experience is based on a sample that has a built-in bias: students enrolled in a community college. I'd be stunned if the IQ distribution included many below 100 (I suspect it's a fairly tight distribution with a mean of 110, some higher outliers, and not many lower outliers). The background cited included algebra and trigonometry, both of which, while difficult, are a far cry from the abstract mathematics of calculus.

In addition, I'd ask the question why? Why does a Wal-Mart manager need calculus? Or an owner of a small business? Or even a software engineer writing back office business applications? The number of professions that actually need to use calculus on even an infrequent basis is very small - and populated by folks who are at least one if not two standard deviations above the mean.

I've been reading the articles in the WSJ you recommended - and he's dead on right. A master plumber makes $150,000 per year. That job does require some level of math (e.g. calculating inches drop per foot of run on drains) but it doesn't need calculus. Heck - I wish I'd had vocational training available. It'd save me $200 an hour to run a new drain line!




Subject: Competent Emperor 

I reached the end of the salient piece by "Anon" seriously hoping that you would disagree with some part of it and appropriately correct the author's misunderstandings and salve his misgivings. I really did.

Ave, Imperator!

(PS is Soldier still being published?)

Despair remains a sin. The republic has withstood worse. The question is, do enough care? Or have we reached a Dark Age, in which we no longer remember that once we had self government, and did not venture forth to seek dragons to slay?

We are certainly in a dark age regarding education: our teachers no longer recall that once 95% of the children learned to read in the first 2 grades, and a child of normal intelligence unable to read after 4 years of school was simply unthinkable (with tiny exceptions; as my mother said, those who didn't learn to read in her first grade class didn't learn anything else, either).

The republic can be restored, but does anyone care?



Hello Dr. Pournelle

For someone who recalls that the very existence of Apple was in doubt, not that long ago, the following quote from AP, is nothing short of miraculous: "For the final three months of 2006, profits surged 78 percent after the company sold a record 21 million iPod players, or about 50 percent more than it did in the same period the year before. The Mac sales growth rate was more than triple that of the overall PC industry for the period, according to market research firm IDC. Apple's share of the PC market in the U.S. also grew to 4.7 percent in the quarter, up from 3.6 percent a year ago, IDC said."


Thank goodness the government is doing something about this. After all, you can't have companies making money, paying workers, and contributing to progress, while there are still all of those needy lawyers, and idle government officials out there. Companies, as well as individuals, also need to be constantly reminded that nothing happens, these days, without the blessings, and permission, of that source of all goodness --- the government. On the other hand, I suppose the government is correct in being suspicious. We now have a system, where it is nearly (if not entirely) impossible to succeed within the rules. Therefore, any measure of success must automatically indicate that there has been a rules violation somewhere; itís just a matter of finding it.

According to the article: "Apple is one of the most prominent among dozens of companies facing federal scrutiny over its past accounting of stock options. It also has been sued by Cisco Systems Inc. over alleged trademark infringement for using the name iPhone for the new cell phone-iPod device it unveiled last week."

Sadly, lawyers and the government appear to exist, by feeding off of success, without actually making any contributions of their own. I believe that the biological definition for this type of behavior is parasitism. Of course, a well designed parasite will not kill it's host, or seriously impair it's health. Our government, and legal system do this as a matter or course, and so are not well designed parasites. Perhaps they are more like disease organisms, or cancers, than true parasites. Well, whatever they are, the country could do with a lot less of both.

Neal Pritchett


Subject: "Jezebel's Tomb" by David Hilzenrath (washingtonpost.com)

Dear Jerry:

The Washington Post has started distribution, in serial form, of a novel by one of its reporters. The page makes a printed copy available for order from Lulu.com and they sell ads on the page. The individual chapters can be read for free. This is an interesting innovation and possibly a model for publishing fiction in the future. The Washington Post connection helps lots, of course.

Something to think about. Old school novelists would shrink in horror from using their work directly as a venue for advertising, but this might be a future path to royalties. Of course, such innovations make a strong copyright law and its enforcement even more important.



Francis Hamit


Hello Jerry,

 Mr Hamit's thought that "serious" novelists would shrink in horror from having their work being used to sell advertising is interesting. I can think of two very well respected novelists/short story.essayists that published in the newspapers first - Charles Dickens and Mark Twain. And besides, the money to pay for their hard work needs to come from somewhere.

Keep up the good work on Inferno revisited and I'll start saving my pennies so that I can buy it in hardback once it comes out.

Don Scherer

Good plan...


Obama Islamic upbringing:

The Urban Legends website at www.snopes.com <http://www.snopes.com/>  address the issue of Obama's Muslim background at http://www.snopes.com/politics/obama/muslim.asp.  They claim the charges are false and provide detailed documentation including excerpts from Obama's own writings, claiming that both his father and his stepfather were non-practicing Muslim's and including a several-paragraph exposition of his conversion to Christianity. However, in my opinion nothing on the site that Obama is discounting his ideological Muslim background for political gain, if one assumes that he has been "conning" the electorate from the beginning. It definitely falls under the heading of "you can't prove a negative" but I concur that there is reason to discount his sincerity.

This was in response to the following E-mail received yesterday:

Probable U. S. presidential candidate, Barack Hussein Obama was born in Honolulu, Hawaii, to Barack Hussein Obama, Sr., a black Muslim from Nyangoma-Kogel, Kenya and Ann Dunham, a white atheist from Wichita, Kansas. Obama's parents met at the University of Hawaii.

When Obama was two years old, his parents divorced. His father returned to Kenya. His mother then married Lolo Soetoro, a radical Muslim from Indonesia. When Obama was 6 years old, the family relocated to Indonesia. Obama attended a Muslim school in Jakarta. He also spent two years in a Catholic school.

Obama takes great care to conceal the fact that he is a Muslim. He is quick to point out that, he was once a Muslim, but that he also attended Catholic school.

Obama's political handlers are attempting to make it appear that Obama's introduction to Islam came via his father, and that this influence was temporary at best. In reality, the senior Obama returned to Kenya soon after the divorce, and never again had any direct influence over his son's education. Lolo Soetoro, the second husband of Obama's mother, Ann Dunham, introduced his stepson to Islam. Osama was enrolled in a Wahabi school in Jakarta. Wahabism is the radical teaching that is followed by the Muslim terrorists who are now waging Jihad against the western world.

Since it is politically expedient to be a Christian when seeking major public office in the United States, Barack Hussein Obama has joined the United Church of Christ in an attempt to downplay his Muslim background.

Let us all remain alert concerning Obama's expected presidential candidacy, and he should NOT be elected to another term in the the Senate!

I have always assumed that the liberal agenda trumps everything else in Snopes; it's pretty clear if you read much of what they put up, which is why I never bother with the site.

I have no idea of Hussein Obama's background but you may be certain that the Clinton machinery will make everyone aware long before the primaries...






This week:


read book now


Saturday, January 20, 2007

Subject: Why?

The State Department admits that it knew for 30 years that Yasser Arafat directly ordered the murder of two US diplomats and a Belgian diplomat in Khartoum in 1973.


Seven presidents stonewalled that one. Even under Bush II, the State Department claimed that Arafat was not tied to the killing.

Regardless of what Israel has done (and I'm still waiting for the truth about the _Liberty_), I think we should never have dealt with any organization run by Arafat. Shoot on sight would have been a better policy.

For 30 years our government covered for the murderer of its own diplomats. Why? What kind of government does that?

Steve Setzer

This is the first I have heard of this. How sure are you that the source is what it purports to be? I would have thought that this would be well known, if true.  I am not in a position to do any research on this matter, and my main source in the State Department recently died, alas.

I will have to ask readers to look into this. How long has this been known, and is this an accurate account? I have never seen a public document from State that was written in quite this matter of fact way on this subject.




CURRENT VIEW     Saturday

This week:


read book now


Sunday, January 21, 2007      

Subject: Imperial future

According to the patterns pointed out in http://www.johnreilly.info/cont.htm we have another 50-70 years of assorted foreign and civil unrest to go before Caesar emerges.

Going by the patterns pointed out there, the World Wars correspond to the Punic Wars, and the coming century with the civil wars and contests over power in the undisputed world hegemon during the last century of the Roman Republic.

Kent Peterson urquan@rocketmail.com

"... there was always a minority afraid of something, and a great majority afraid of the dark, afraid of the future, afraid of the past ..." - Ray Bradbury, _The Martian Chronicles_

Let's hope it takes that long. There was a book many years ago called The Coming Caesars that was fairly prophetic. We will see.


Subject: Was porn-surfing teacher wrongly found guilty?

I canít believe this story



I can


Dr. Pournelle,

In regards to "And of course the USSR was beaming microwaves at our embassy in Moscow..." tin-head ranting aside, I read somewhere that there was a bug embedded in a gift from the Soviets that was powered by the remote beam. Supposedly the passive device would modulate the beam with sounds from the room, which were then demodulated elsewhere.

Wasn't that the source of the rumored microwave beam story?

(This is just an aside to the topic being discussed)


Indeed. I thought that was common knowledge except for the Art Bell show.


Subject: Freedom of Speech

Politics is not about truth; it is about power. The first rule of politics is 'punish your enemies' and that is what this is about. Certainly many politicians are squeamish about the innocent blood that may be shed; but many more don't mind, and some even relish it. The First Amendment is the least of their concerns. For academics, it is the greatest of our concerns, because it protects us when we speak the truth. I cannot tell you this is the time, but I will suggest that if your fate is to go down challenging immoral authority, this is as good a place as any.

-- Harry Erwin, PhD "Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety." (Benjamin Franklin, 1755)


Subject: State department 


On inspection that link and the associated material is:

1. A legal and correctly formatted U. S. Department of State web page. 2. A link to a State Department document in PDF format, originally classified SECRET/NO FOREIGN DISSEMATION/CONTROLLED DISSEMATION and Declassified on 4 May 2006 in accordance with Executive Order 12958. 3. The subject .pdf appears to be an Executive Summary of a longer document which presumably remains classified. There is no information pursuant to the authorship or publication history of the source document, which is not atypical for stand-alone executive summaries; however, failure to include any bibliographic information on the cover page is perhaps suspicious but no more than that.


1. The document is legitimate. (98%+ probable) 2. The information has probably been largely hidden in files and in the memories of only a few knowledgeable gentlemen (and perhaps a lady or two, but not likely) from Foggy Bottom. It is plausible that it was covered up by Palestinian sympathizers and never rose to the Secretary of State's desk. It is certainly unlikely to have been known outside the African section of State after Kissinger retired as Secretary, so that post-Carter foreign policy analysts -- perhaps even post-Nixon or Post-Ford -- would not have known about it as a basis of policy. 3. And I agree, countries shouldn't act like this. But we did.


I am horrified. I am fairly certain Regan never knew this.



When I started law school in 1980, I talked with various of my new classmates. One was the daughter of one of the US personnel who was killed in 1973. She remained furious at our government, especially at our State Department, for doing nothing to help them.

I could tell you two other tales from the mid-1970's where I have specific knowledge, but suffice to say that the State Department was no friend to American citizens in need during those years.

If our government has truly sat on the knowledge of who ordered the Khartoum killings for a third of a century, it would surprise no one associated with the three episodes that I learned about. Watergate was nothing compared with this, IMO.











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