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Mail 450 January 22-28, 2007







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Monday  January 22, 2007

"Only two percent of the offenders in this study have no history of criminal behavior, beyond crossing the border illegally."


- Roland Dobbins

I suppose we should cheer.

(See below.)


"We grow up with fairy tales that wolves are wild and dangerous and we need a hunter to protect us."


-- Roland Dobbins

like most Husky owners I like wolves, but they are wolves and They certainly Can be dangerous.


CMPMedica Expands SearchMedica.com With Free Primary Care Search Engine

NEW YORK, Jan. 22 /PRNewswire/ -- CMPMedica, a leading global provider of healthcare information and education, today unveiled SearchMedica Primary Care, the second vertical or specialty-specific search engine offered through SearchMedica.com, a free Web-based service that connects physicians and other medical professionals to credible, medical Web sites, online journals and other clinical resources. CMPMedica plans to further expand SearchMedica.com when it unveils SearchMedica Oncology later in Q1 2007.

"We asked 6,000 physicians to share their opinions on mainstream consumer search engines," said Cyndy Finnie, senior product manager for SearchMedica at CMPMedica. "Most primary care physicians of any age and more than 90 percent of those aged 45 or younger said they turn to the Internet for clinical information, but 65.4 percent of primary care physicians cited too many irrelevant results as their main challenge when using Google."

SearchMedica.com addresses this "consumer clutter" problem by only indexing reliable medical information, approved for inclusion by medical editors and a physician editorial board. Medical professions receive a much more relevant, smaller set of search results from SearchMedica than they would from mainstream engines, which contain consumer-oriented, overseas and other types of unreliable information. Searching on the phrase 'diagnosing depression' on Google, for example, returns more than one million results, most of which are geared toward consumers. The same search on SearchMedica Primary Care nets less than 5,000 results, from credible sources of reliable medical information and organized into helpful categories that help medical professionals quickly find the information or other resources they seek.<snip>


> "Only two percent of the offenders in this
> study have no history of criminal behavior,
> beyond crossing the border illegally."

But this study relates to 1,500 illegal immigrants who were apprehended in this country and then subjected to a criminal background investigation.

Of course they're going to have a high rate of criminal behavior. They were arrested for crimes "beyond crossing the border illegally," so telling us that most of them have a criminal record isn't telling us anything we didn't know already. The vast majority of US citizens who get arrested in the US have a history of criminal behavior, too.

It's crazy to infer that ANY statistic measured on this small group can be applied to the entire community of illegal immigrants. No, actually, it's evil. It's simply evil to lie about an entire class of people like this.

The DOJ says there are only about a quarter-million sex offenders under the supervision of the criminal justice system (in custody or released to the community) in the whole United States, a population 25 times larger than that of illegal immigrants. Is the study claiming that substantially all of these are illegal immigrants, or that illegal immigrants are 24 times as likely to be sex offenders, or what, exactly? Whatever the claim is, it's nonsense.

As another quick check, the study quoted in the article claims:

> The 1500 offenders in this study had
> a total of 5,999 victims. Each sex
> offender averaged 4 victims. This
 > places the estimate for victimization
> numbers around 960,000 for the 88
> months examined in this study.

The FBI says there are fewer than 100,000 rapes per year in the whole US, plus some unknown number of other sexual assaults. Is the study claiming that substantially all of these are perpetrated by illegal immigrants?

This article is full of "lies, damn lies, and statistics" all the way through.

. png

Well, now, I wouldn't say that...  I did find this early at the airport and didn't read closely -- actually I thought it said something it didn't say.

Sex offenses are repetitive crimes; take any group of sex offenders and if they've been around long enough they'll almost all have committed not only multiple crimes, but crimes of increasing severity. It's part of the psychopathy, and this has been known since Havelock Ellis.

I do not understand the inference of 960,000 victims from 6,000 people, and I suppose I would have to read the article more closely to see where they think they got that number. And you are of course correct that any "study" of illegals arrested for criminal activity is going to find that substantially all of them have been arrested for criminal activity.

Moreover, it depends a lot on where you do the studies. In come communities there is a low crime rate among illegals, in others it skyrockets. This isn't all that different from any other group of immigrants; the difference is that in the past the Melting Pot was intended to Americanize the immigrants, and the only question was how long it would take. Now, with the goal of "diversity" there is an explicit goal NOT to assimilate and acculturate, and I fear for the consquences to the Republic.

I will agree; this article isn't very good intellectual fodder for a discriminating readership. That does not change my view that Free Trade, Open Borders, encouraging diversity, and discouraging assimilation is a formula for national suicide.

I fear I am not astonished at discovering one more group that doesn't seem to think clearly. Alas, the nation is full of them.

And see below


Subject: How Vietnam really ended


The events seem consistent with your view, but he gives them a different spin. Just curious as to your reaction....


CP, Connecticut

I seldom read Slate and I find this unreadable tonight, so I don't know what it says. I do know that after the Linbacker bombings the North Vietnamese were afraid we'd do that again; they mounted the 1975 invasion -- and it was an INVASION NOT AN INSURGENCY, precisely as if East Germany had sent armored divisions into West Germany and called that an insurgency -- they mounted the 2975 invasion only after they were certain that the CONgres would NOT allow another Lineback bombing campaign and US air support of the Army of the Republic of Viet Nam. North Viet Nam had the armor and the ammunition. We gave South Viet Nam not enough of either, and we knew it, and they knew it, and the North knew it, and we knew they knew it.

If Slate says that I'll be astonished.


Subject: Obama Islamic upbringing 

The author ( name not evident in what you posted writes of those sponsoring the 1st grade education of young Master Obama::

" Wahabism is the radical teaching that is followed by the Muslim terrorists who are now waging Jihad against the western world."

True enough,but an 18th century reporter might have writen of the subsidy of the school attended by John Adams, aged seven :

"Puritanism is the radical teachig that is followed by the Calvinist terrorists who are now waging jihad aganst the western monarchies."

As the twig is bent, it can snap back to poke historical or cultural deteminism in the eye .

Russell Seitz




This week:


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TuesdayJanuary 23, 2007

Harry Erwin's Letter From England

Apologies for getting this up late. It was hectic here yesterday.

Subject: Letter from England


Hillary is in the race--UK perspectives.
<http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/6283787.stm>  (coverage of a number of stories in the news)

<http://observer.guardian.co.uk/world/story/0,,1995222,00.html>  <http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?

Blair problems with police investigation of the cash for honours story. <http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/6284635.stm>
 <http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2088-2558010,00.html>  <http://observer.guardian.co.uk/politics/story/0,,1995327,00.html>  <http://news.independent.co.uk/uk/politics/article2171682.ece

The march of the supercasinos.

Gordon Brown and liberty.
<http://www.guardian.co.uk/Observer/comment/story/0,,1995310,00.html>  <http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2088-2557984,00.html

Germany moves to impose Ordnung on the EU. <http://observer.guardian.co.uk/world/story/0,,1995232,00.html

The bowdlerised branch of the Louvre in the Persian Gulf. <http://observer.guardian.co.uk/world/story/0,,1995229,00.html

Chinese anti-satellite test.
<http://www.guardian.co.uk/Observer/comment/story/0,,1995252,00.html>  <http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,3-2556823,00.html>

Liberalism... <http://www.guardian.co.uk/Observer/review/story/0,,1995096,00.html

Global warming may be accelerating. <http://www.guardian.co.uk/Observer/uk_news/story/0,,1995348,00.html

Scottish toll on nuclear weapons...?? <http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/scotland/glasgow_and_west/6284719.stm

Late submission fines for UK tax returns. (Late, that is, due to the Government.) <http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?

Health and politics don't mix.

Freezing to death in North Korea.


Apologies for getting off-topic last week. I've been just thinking about what it means for Jesus to be an appropriate model for one's life, given what we now think we know. The Didache shows that one early community spotted fakes among the wandering prophets and teachers based on how close their life-style was to that of Jesus, not on what they taught. Perhaps we need to apply this criterion to some of our modern wise men!

I was at a party for a friend in the clergy today, and the discussion came around to looking at what is broken in modern society. For the Church of England, it seems to be a failure to welcome and nurture the talents that people bring to the faith community--where people don't feel valued, they walk away. Perhaps this can be broadened into an indictment of modern society for breaking down the bonds of community that allow people to support one another and solve problems locally.

Central control and planning is inevitably inefficient. We need to deliberately foster grass-roots organisations, retaining an awareness that an effective programme will find itself under attack by the centralised structures of society it threatens to subvert. My experiment in doing this (which eventually resulted in the books by James H. Schmitz published by Baen) indicates that the internet makes grass-root organising easier, because it allows small groups to co-operate without having to be collocated. I think Jerry's experience with his blog shows the same thing. So just as I wrote last week, I repeat now:

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

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

The phenomenon is, as you know, known as alienation or anomie, and liberal capitalism generates it by the cubic yard. The greed for money--

We would rather pay 25 cents less for our underwear in a big box store by exporting the job than pay a bit more to allow a neighbor to have a job and feel useful. The end of that game is oppression and shame; but it's fun while it lasts.


Subject: Liberal Capitalism?


> The phenomenon is, as you know, known as alienation or anomie, and liberal
> capitalism generates it by the cubic yard. <

A point of confusion regarding an off-hand remark: I wonder why you added the adjective 'liberal' to capitalism in this observation? Modern day liberals deserve blame for many of the problems of our society, but do they also deserve blame for the disruptive effects of capitalism? I thought that, for the most part, those described as liberal prefer to impose socialistic restraints upon what they see as the excesses of capitalism.

CP, Connecticut

A good question, requiring a bit of thought on my part.

Classical Liberalism no longer really exists; to the extent it does it is usually thought of as a branch of libertarianism. I refer to the works of Adam Smith (far more often referenced than read, alas) and John Stuart Mill (quoted from sometimes, read almost never). Mills attitude toward social issues can be summed up in his view on education: "

WERE THE DUTY OF ENFORCING universal education once admitted, there would be an end to the difficulties about what the State should teach, and how it should teach, which now convert the subject into a mere battle-field for sects and parties, causing the time and labour which should have been spent in educating, to be wasted in quarrelling about education. If the government would make up its mind to require for every child a good education, it might save itself the trouble of providing one. It might leave to parents to obtain the education where and how they pleased, and content itself with...

You will note that Mill has begged the question of defining "a good education" that would be required by the state. To Mill that would have been silly: everyone knew what good manners were, and what honor and virtue were, and what a person of good education should have been expected to read. In his day the quarrel was over public payment for education: Mills' peers were educated in "public schools" which is to say private schools, mostly boarding schools, and most of them had some affiliation with either the Church of England, the Methodists, or Roman Catholic churches; which is to say that chapel was required, many of the teachers and I think a majority of the headmasters were in holy orders, and whether or not the pupils believed in the religions they were taught, they were certainly expected to act in a certain way and hold to a certain code of ethics. For an amusing description of some of this attitude read Samuel Butler's Way of All Flesh. Butler can be tedious at times, but it's interesting to see a dissenter who is still imbued with most of the values of the system he dissents from.

In modern times, the most ruthless capitalists have tended also to be the greatest public benefactors. Carnegie comes instantly to mind, in more recently, Gates and Broad. Liberalism, on the other hand, tends to restrict capitalism and to use the public sectors -- which is to say to hire bureaucrats -- to accomplish what used to be done by Tocqueville's "associations" (voluntary, mostly private, and generally very local clubs and groups, some of which went national like Odd Fellows, Moose, etc.).

I suppose my off hand remark referred to that. It is certainly the case that modern capitalism can be cruel and bereft of charity, and Ayn Rand actually spent considerable effort making fun of charitable people and denigrating any suggestion that anyone might have charitable obligations. I could have and perhaps should have said "both liberal and libertarian capitalism" generates anomie.

I would assume that most readers will by now be aware that I do not regard myself as libertarian other than considering libertarianism a vector pointing the generally the right direction. I am more than willing to entertain a reasonable tariff as a means of protecting domestic jobs; indeed I urge such a general tariff. I believe that exporting jobs for narrow economic gain is disastrous. Yes: I am aware that too much protection of an industry leads not merely to minor inefficiencies but gross inefficiency. On the other hand, that mostly happens when the protective tariff is combined with laxity in enforcing anti-trust laws. Rigorous competition within a large economic sphere will ensure a fair degree of efficiency.

I am no great believer in "compassionate conservatism" which also seeks to solve social problems by creating bureaucracies. I'd rather try to set conditions in which people do the right thing because it is expected of them; the reward of high esteem by your peers is a great motivating device. But to do that would require that we cease the public war on religion (which relies on some kind of natural instinct for doing good, I suppose, as the motivator for children alienated by constant denigration of what their parents believe, and constant praise for "diversity" which even the stupidest kid can see is causing disruption and often results in humiliation and physical pain for children who try act decently as they thought they had been brought up to do).

Liberal capitalism encourages diversity and thus, I think, creates more anomie than strictly libertarian capitalism which is at least indifferent rather than actively hostile to the public philosophy based on Judao-Christian values that built America. Both are dangerous, but I'm willing to compete in the market place of ideas with pure libertarians; liberals will cheerfully enlist the state to suppress me, and encourage their students to make so much noise I cannot be heard (an unpleasantness I have experienced, both personally and witnessed at several shameful meetings of the American Association for the Advancement of Science).


Subject: Windows Vista Signature Edition



. png

Huh, indeed. Autograph hunters alert.


Subject: Illegal immigrants and sex offenders

Dr. Pournelle:

I am a deputy district attorney; when my assignment was to prosecute crimes against children, I noticed something that might bear on this discussion.

Among the local "immigrant community," I had a disproportionate number of cases that came to light that went something like this: 15-year-old girl gives birth in hospital. Simple math shows that her child was conceived when mama was below the age of 15 - the age of consent in most Colorado cases. The proud father is right there with the girl and her parents, and he signs his name to the birth certificate. Voila - tidy statutory rape case, all on official documents. (Usually, the nurse calls a social worker, who interviews the dad, who confesses everything, amazed that anyone thinks he's done anything wrong - after all, her parents knew all about it and approved!)

Now, as a practical matter, these cases got dealt with a lot more leniently than, say, the grandpa who molests his 6-year-old granddaughter. But, they still constitute sexual offenses. I wonder if this phenomenon inflates the numbers of sex crimes among this population?

Yours truly, Christian J. Schulte

A very good question with much relevance on many matters. Diversity would say that we ought to embrace the idea of people marrying that young. After all, Roman children achieved citizenship at 14 and were conscriptable very soon after, and many Roman matrons had their first child at age 15 (and if they survived childbed fever and death in childbirth might, at age 35, remain extremely attractive yet grandmothers and mothers of several citizens). The Melting Pot concept encouraged those with very different customs to adopt those of America and become Americans. Liberal education today does not.

The article in question, though, simply misused the tools of inference to make a point.


Subject: Illegal sex offender article

Dr. Pournelle,

The part in the article about the illegal sex offenders having previous records is pertinant because it shows that we previously CAUGHT AND RELEASED THEM. That's the important thing. Who cares that sex offenders are typically habitual criminals, that isn't the point. The point is that we had already caught them but then simply let them go, free to come back again and again.

That's the whole point of the article, that the catch and release program that is our worthless border control policy is apparently just fine at catching illegal alien criminals, but we turn around and release them again. This is insane, and very typical of our illegal immigration policy.


It is I think the point they were trying to make. They used rather shoddy methods of making it.


Subject: Terror Bird 

Jerry, I thought you would be interested, as they were significent in two of your books. And you had to know a Gator would figure it out, this being the first of many of the Year of the Gator. Go Gators!

Cheers, Fred


Fascinating. I put terror birds in Burning City after seeing an artist's drawing on the cover of Scientific American and realizing that these things were in Texas and California during the period of our story; and they were not magic, but natural creatures.



1. Mr. Seitz and others are correct to point out that any negative conclusion one draws from "young Master Obama's" Islamic upbringing must presume that he is insincere today. For that matter, I never said that he was in fact insincere, or that I in fact believed him to be insincere, but that the evidence warrants further investigation.

2. It is very possible that his sincerity is at this juncture irrelevant, because if Ms. Rodham and her associates determined that it is in their best interest to declare him insincere in this matter, sufficient proof (or, as seems to be the equivalent of proof these days, sufficient repetition of the assertion) will be presented to make their case.

3. This also begs a second point. Presuming that Mr. Obama is, in fact, sincere, should his sincere personality be allowed to trump his proclaimed political positions?


I make no doubt we will see much proof by repeated assertion from the Clinton machinery if they infer any danger from Obama. I would have thought him insufficiently experienced (not at government which may not be the right experience anyway) but at anything at all; like young Kennedy he just don't know enough about what people do. But that's my observation.

I am not terrified of a Hillary Clinton presidency, particularly if it isn't coupled with big party majorities in both Houses. The period when Newt and Bill Clinton shared power was a pretty good period compared to others. In my judgment.


Subject: Russell Seitz By all that's Infernal 

Dear Jerry :

Talk about Websites from Hell-- Abandon every hope, ye who enter

<http://www.4degreez.com/misc/dante-inferno-test.mv> http://www.4degreez.com/misc/dante-inferno-test.mv  <http://www.4degreez.com/misc/dante-inferno-test.mvIt's>  It's the Dante's Inferno Hell Test , sponsored by 4Degreez.Com based on the Comedia's description of Hell . Answer the Vergilian software's questions forthrightly , and it will algorithmicly judge your purity and consign you to the appropriate Circle of Hell.

Be warned , however , that delegating the examination of your life to a machine may be grounds for an angelic indictment for Sloth, so you may end up hanging out below your pay grade if you risk it.

 Russell Seitz

I managed Purgatorio when I tried it...


Subject: How the left caused 9/11, by Dinesh D'Souza 


That font of secular humanism, Salon, has interviewed Dish D'Souza, who claims that the left caused 9/11.


One point I found interesting: most reviewers of bin Laden's "letter to America" following 9/11 ignore what seems to be its main thrust. Interesting.


Indeed. I have met few including people high up in both civil and military organizations who have the faintest notion of what bin Laden's complaints may be; but of course the new Chairman of the Intelligence Committee thinks bin Laden is Shiite. That should make for interesting Congressional advice on strategy.




This week:


read book now


Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Subject: Re: Paying A Bit More

"We would rather pay 25 cents less for our underwear in a big box store by exporting the job than pay a bit more to allow a neighbor to have a job and feel useful. "

Actually, I don't think there ought to be a "we" in that statement. I don't recall being given the opportunity to comparison-shop for underpants. It's just that one day, whoops, underpants are made in China now. I didn't make this decision. You didn't make this decision. _Nobody_ who shops at Wal-Mart made this decision! This decision was made by a small team--and possibly only by a single man! (and I'll give dollars to donuts that he wears boxers, anyway.)

Mike Powers

Free trade made it inevitable. Don't you read Ricardo? Don't you wish everyone did? (Adam Smith understood that defense was more important than opulence, but modern economists skipped that part.)


Subject: Railgun

$1000 per shot.


-Max Wilson

-- Be pretty if you are, be witty if you can, But be cheerful if it kills you.


EE Times: Latest News 2007 could be the year RFID gets smarter

K.C. Jones InformationWeek (01/17/2007 4:50 PM EST)

Soon, RFID could track items as customers pick them up from store shelves throughout America and immediately trigger displays with very specific information and advice -- like which top will match those pants you're holding and where exactly you can find that top.

Radio-frequency identification, or RFID, is poised to help retailers and service providers tap into the seemingly infinite potential for enhancing customers' experiences and delivering precise ad messages, according to members of a panel at the National Retail Federation show at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in New York City. Panelists said that after a year of hype (2005) and a year of validation (2006), RFID will likely bring advancements in terms of how to apply the technology so businesses can glean and share information about customer behavior and their own inventory, then act on it.

Early adopters are already beginning to show how it's done.

Best Buy employees restocked and organized CDs and DVDs more frequently and more enthusiastically when RFID did some of their work for them. An RFID application that created a list of out-of-place and under-stocked items made the employees' jobs easier, said Mark Roberti, panelist and founder and editor of RFID Journal.

The technology can trigger surveillance cameras in some stores when an item or box goes into a dumpster out back. It also can mark the time an item left a stockroom and vanished, allowing investigators and prosecutors to view video footage from that time to build theft cases.<snip>


Subject: Lies and damn lies

Jerry --

It appears Obama's "madrassa" was a public school.


choice quotes:

-- But reporting by CNN in Jakarta, Indonesia and Washington, D.C., shows the allegations that Obama attended a madrassa to be false. CNN dispatched Senior International Correspondent John Vause to Jakarta to investigate.

He visited the Basuki school, which Obama attended from 1969 to 1971.

"This is a public school. We don't focus on religion," Hardi Priyono, deputy headmaster of the Basuki school, told Vause. "In our daily lives, we try to respect religion, but we don't give preferential treatment."


Vause also interviewed one of Obama's Basuki classmates, Bandug Winadijanto, who claims that not a lot has changed at the school since the two men were pupils. Insight reported that Obama's political opponents believed the school promoted Wahhabism, a fundamentalist form of Islam, "and are seeking to prove it."

"It's not (an) Islamic school. It's general," Winadijanto said. "There is a lot of Christians, Buddhists, also Confucian. ... So that's a mixed school."



These are very clumsy lies that Insight published, so I'm not inclined to see Hillary's hand in it -- the Clinton machine is pretty slick. OTOH, it is to the GOP's advantage to spread disinformation about Obama and Hillary, and it doesn't have to be particularly clever, it just has to stick in people's heads. I'm not a fan of either Hillary or Obama, but the original story in Insight is extremely unethical.

Mike Stark

I am not astonished. I used to subscribe to Insight magazine because some of its articles were very good, but I was always aware of its origins. The Washington Times is usually reliable except on news about Korea and religions there. I hadn't realized taht after the paper edition of Insight vanished it remained on the web.

Thanks. As I said, I am hardly astonished; Obama certainly is more sophisticated than the average madrassa graduate.


Subject: Diversity IN Education

Dr. Pournelle,

You wrote: "and constant praise for "diversity" which even the stupidest kid can see is causing disruption and often results in humiliation and physical pain for children who try act decently".

Of course, in my children's school, the overlying theme for all instruction last year was - Diversity. This year it's "Interdependence", which all lessons must incorporate. What ever happened to reading, writing and arithmetic...

To paraphrase you again, Liberalism is a philosophy of consolation...

Regards, Peter Czora


Subject: Thought Crime and Re-Education  

How long before therapy for "hate speech" is not just required by employers, but mandated by law?


" Series creator and executive producer Shonda Rhimes issued her own statement, at once criticizing Washington for his use of the word "faggot" about co-star T.R. Knight and lauding Washington's decision to seek help.

"We applaud and encourage Isaiah's realization that he needs help and his subsequent choice to seek immediate treatment for his behavioral issues," Rhimes said."

Bad manners are now a crime, and to be "cured" by brainwashing.

Like the man said "the personal is political".

Alas, Babylon!







CURRENT VIEW    Wednesday


This week:


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Thursday, January 25, 2007

On Education

A couple of links.

First, I've mentioned the process of mainstreaming special ed students into mainstream classes, and how each such student has rules that apply only to them. This is by a woman going to the meeting where this is officially enacted.


"I mention that here because I think it's an important part of understanding the IEP process. The school district can make recommendations, but the parent must approve every syllable of the documentation. If you're not happy with what's in the IEP, don't sign it until you are!

Which leads me to a very interesting and important thing I learned at the end of the meeting. I need to look into whether this applies to California only or the entire nation. As my pen was poised to sign the final paperwork, the psychologist notified me (as she is legally bound to do) that once the parent signs the IEP, the child is officially "in the system," and the parent can't just decide later to pull him out of services without a big to-do. From that point on, the appropriate district personnel (in this case, speech therapist) must agree that the child no longer needs these services in order to cancel them."

Here is a fine example of ... something.


"Recently a 2nd grade teacher brought her class to the computer lab and whispered to me that one of her kids is involved in a really ugly custody battle and they're worried the non-custodial parent will try to snatch him from school. She also told me she was told she could not identify the child to me due to privacy concerns.

In other words, be on the lookout, but I can't tell you for whom.

However, the next day was the chaotic early release day. Since I'm on car rider duty and the child was going to be a car rider it was decided I needed to know his identity."

Yet another that I hope and pray is fiction.


"Mr. Greenblatt couldn't help but notice that after he heard the sneeze, there were copious amounts of blood on Jose's desk. Jose had somehow bit his tongue while sneezing, and deeply. Fortunately the nurse's office was right across the hall.

"Jose," he ordered, "Go straight to the medical office."

A moment later Jose returned. "She wanth a path, Mithter Greenblatt.""


In our educational dark age teachers do not know that all first graders can learn to read with few exceptions (and as my mother put it, those who don't learn to read in first grade don't learn much of anything else, either). Fortunately, systematic phonics is creeping back, but "just barely" and never in the education department in universities. Mrs. Pournelle's reading program is one of the most effective systematic phonics programs in existence; but it is interesting to see teachers resist the notion that all children can learn to read even when shown it happening before their very eyes. The theorists have been that effective.


Scientists can't get sloth to move.


-- Roland Dobbins

Think of that!


The opposite of an Ice Age is 'global warming', right?


- Roland Dobbins

One would have thought so.


Subject: Fermi's Paradox resolved? 


- Roland Dobbins

It's all in the numbers. But suppose we set out to settle the galaxy with generation ships traveling at 1% of the speed of light. Build two generation ships. It takes 1,000 years to go from star to star. When you get there, it takes 1,000 years to build a civilization capable of building two more star ships. That's 2,000 years doubling time, with each generation ship building two more. I leave the resolution of this exponential to the readers, but you can see why Freeman Dyson says there is only one intelligent race per galaxy.


Subject: Forum

Dude, why don't you have a forum? The problem with blogs is they severaly restrict discussion of the issues you write about. If you had a forum with active and open discussions I think you would get far more subscribers. I would probably be one of them.


Alas, they also require an editor to weed out irrelevant letters. I know others manage to have open forum sites. This isn't one of them.


Marching Morons, Difficult People, choose the label. The fact is, a whole new industry is on the rise: How do deal with these folks?

It's fascinating that the country's Law Schools are leading the workshops. Shakespeare was so right about lawyers.



January 18, 2007 Help, I’m Surrounded by Jerks By STEPHANIE ROSENBLOOM

CERTAIN mortals have the power to sink hearts and sour moods with lightning speed. The hysterical colleague. The meddlesome neighbor. The crazy in-law. The explosive boss. A mélange of cantankerous individuals, they are united by a single achievement: They make life miserable.

You call them jerks, dolts and nitwits. Psychologists call them “difficult people.” In fact they are difficult in so many ways that they have been classified into species like the Complainer, the Whiner and the Sniper, to name but three.

But in an age when no problem goes unacknowledged or unaddressed, living with such people is no longer the only choice. Instead, an industry of books and seminars has sprung up, not to help the difficult change their maddening ways, but to help the rest of us cope with them.

Two decades ago there were only a handful of books offering advice on how to defang the dears. Today there are scores of seminars, workbooks and multimedia tools to help people co-exist with those they wish did not exist.

In the spring, Career Press is to publish “151 Quick Ideas to Deal With Difficult People” by Carrie Mason-Draffen. But numerous resources are already on the market, including the succinctly titled “Since Strangling Isn’t an Option” by Sandra A. Crowe.

Next month the Career and Professional Development Center at Duke Law School will for the first time offer a workshop called Dealing With Conflict and Difficult People. In September the negotiation program in Harvard Law School’s executive education series will present a seminar called Dealing With Difficult People and Difficult Situations. And the Graduate School, United States Department of Agriculture, which offers continuing education classes, has scheduled more than half a dozen seminars entitled Positive Approaches to Difficult People for this year.<snip>

Duke. Would that include the Lacrosse team or the faculty?


Subject: Cheaper LEDs for lighting, 


In my recent post email concerning indoors DC electricity supply lines to supplement AC, I noted that not only could you supply electronic devices, but that LED lighting was on its way. Now we have this:


What a waste to generate DC current on your roof, convert it to AC to run to your living room, where you must convert it back to DC for your flat panel TV, your computer and, now, your lighting.




January 19, 2007 Op-Ed Contributor Classroom Distinctions By TOM MOORE

IN the past year or so I have seen Matthew Perry drink 30 cartons of milk, Ted Danson explain the difference between a rook and a pawn, and Hilary Swank remind us that white teachers still can’t dance or jive talk. In other words, I have been confronted by distorted images of my own profession — teaching. Teaching the post-desegregation urban poor, to be precise.

Although my friends and family (who should all know better) continue to ask me whether my job is similar to these movies, I find it hard to recognize myself or my students in them.

So what are these films really about? And what do they teach us about teachers? Are we heroes, villains, bullies, fools? The time has come to set the class record straight.

At the beginning of Ms. Swank’s new movie, “Freedom Writers,” her character, a teacher named Erin Gruwell, walks into her Long Beach, Calif., classroom, and the camera pans across the room to show us what we are supposed to believe is a terribly shabby learning environment. Any experienced educator will have already noted that not only does she have the right key to get into the room but, unlike the seventh-grade science teacher in my current school, she has a door to put the key into. The worst thing about Ms. Gruwell’s classroom seems to be graffiti on the desks, and crooked blinds.

I felt like shouting, Hey, at least you have blinds! My first classroom didn’t, but it did have a family of pigeons living next to the window, whose pane was a cracked piece of plastic. During the winter, snowflakes blew in. The pigeons competed with the mice and cockroaches for the students’ attention.

This is not to say that all schools in poor neighborhoods are a shambles, or that teaching in a real school is impossible. In fact, thousands of teachers in New York City somehow manage to teach every day, many of them in schools more underfinanced and chaotic than anything you’ve seen in movies or on television (except perhaps the most recent season of “The Wire”).

Ms. Gruwell’s students might backtalk, but first they listen to what she says. And when she raises her inflection just slightly, the class falls silent. Many of the students I’ve known won’t sit down unless they’re repeatedly asked to (maybe not even then), and they don’t listen just because the teacher is speaking; even “good teachers” are occasionally drowned out by the din of 30 students simultaneously using language that would easily earn a movie an NC-17 rating.

When a fight breaks out during an English lesson, Ms. Gruwell steps into the hallway and a security guard immediately materializes to break it up. Forget the teacher — this guy was the hero of the movie for me.

If I were to step out into the hallway during a fight, the only people I’d see would be some students who’d heard there was a fight in my room. I’d be wasting my time waiting for a security guard. The handful of guards where I work are responsible for the safety of five floors, six exits, two yards and four schools jammed into my building.<snip>




CURRENT VIEW    Thursday


This week:


read book now


Friday, January 26, 2007

Subject: Jabobinism


In reading your writings on Iraq, I thought I had an idea of what was meant by Jacobinism, but I decided to look it up to be sure.

Now I'm *really* confused.

I'm coming up with:

- "promulgator of extreme revolutionary opinion."

- Synonym for totalitatian democracy: "a system of government in which lawfully elected representatives maintain the integrity of a nation state whose citizens, while granted the right to vote, have little or no participation in the decision-making process of the government."

- "In contemporary France this term refers to the concept of a centralised <file:///wiki/Centralisation> Republic, with power concentrated in the national government, at the expense of local or regional governments."

Do any of these match what you meant?



The Jacobins believed that political ideologies were more important than institutions, and that radical democracy was the remedy for all social ills. This led to the Terror. Bush has said that within every human heart there is a strong desire for freedom and democracy. This isn't based on observation, it is an ideological given.

I use Jacobinism as a shorthand for these notions. The Wikipedia entry for the Jacobin Club is long but covers the subject fairly objectively. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jacobin_Club

It is objectively the case that where you have strong central government it becomes extremely powerful and increasingly less sensitive to the views of the populace, and more concerned with the rights and privileges of those in power. This follows as a special case of Pournelle's Iron Law of Bureaucracy. Ideologies have consequences, but the Iron Law trumps them all over time. But that's another matter.

Whether or not the neo cons really believed that radical democracy would save Iraq, the President certainly talked as if he believed it.


Subj: Iraq: Fallacy of the Excluded Muddle?

With all due respect, it seems to me that the recent analysis at


constitutes a Fallacy of the Excluded Muddle.

Was Korea 1950-53 a Victory? A Defeat? Or something else?

It certainly wasn't a Victory, if you define Victory the way Truman, basking in the afterglow of MacArthur's brilliance (and, let's face it, luck) at Inchon, defined it, to wit: as the reunification of Korea under a non-Communist government allied to the US.

But was it a Defeat? I think not; I think Defeat would have been the reunification of Korea under a Communist government allied to China and the USSR.

So what was it?

And what lessons from that might apply to Iraq?

I invite attention to


Mail 309 May 10 - 16, 2004

in particular to "Monty's reply". (For some reason, doing a Find from there on "Monty's" in SeaMonkey doesn't find it, but doing a Find on "reply" finds it as the second hit. Browsers, ugh!)

I respectfully suggest that there is still a good chance for a *muddled* outcome in Iraq -- figured out by the people of Iraq, in time bought with the blood and treasure of both the people of the US and the people of Iraq, almost certainly at a price higher than we expected when we started -- that will still constitute a substantial improvement, from the perspective of the people of the US, over the _status_quo_ante_. In particular, I contend that the chances of a restored Tikriti Tyranny are as close to zero as one might wish, that al Qaeda's popularity is about as close to zero as one might wish, and that the campaign the President recently announced stands a decent chance of blunting both the Mahdi Army and the Iranian+Syrian covert intervention. Please note that I say "blunting" not "ending".

I say "the people of Iraq", in deference to the notion that there are no Iraqis, there are only tribes and sects and factions. I don't subscribe to that notion myself, I think it's yet another Fallacy of the Excluded Muddle. I think there are plenty of people in Iraq who don't fully understand our ideas of Rule of Law and Liberty Under Law, but who nevertheless aspire to something better than either Chaos or Just Another Tyranny. But even if the notion is true, I don't see that it necessarily excludes a muddled outcome -- in which the tribes and sects and factions live in some uneasy state of smoldering dissatisfaction and mutual suspicion, punctuated perhaps by occasional flare-ups of violence on a scale Americans would consider intolerable -- that leaves us all better off than we were with Saddam.

I understand that this contribution does not really respond to the question posed in the above-cited recent analysis, "Given that Victory is Unlikely, what shall we do now? Is it not time to plan for that?" If you want to dismiss it as just another neo-Jacobin raving, well, fine, maybe that's all it is. Or maybe -- just maybe -- not.

Rod Montgomery==monty@sprintmail.com

To which I can only say, I sure hope you are right. I always have misgivings about an analysis that leads to stark choices.

As I said and have said repeatedly: none of us knows what are the real conditions in Iraq. I do know that the new Iraqi government has acted swinishly in denying Sunni areas of Baghdad the elementary municipal services such as post offices, security for banks, garbage collection, etc. It may be that with more troops we can have more influence in such matters. And it may be that the new Iraqi forces will not merely be new militias.

I am unsure how we get to even a muddled outcome.

Perhaps I too am tempted to despair and need reminding of that.


Subject: Iraq

Iraqi need to realize they cannot continue to drive around fat, dumb and happy while the troubles are going on. Baghdad must be put under a 24 hour curfew with strict movement restrictions, passes and NO PRIVATE VEHICLE TRAFFIC. Traffic in and out of town must by convoy only, and the MSRs need to be cordon sanitaires, where if you come within 500 yards without a permit they shoot you. State must never be allowed in a country until the military hands it over. Diplomacy and war don't mix.

Walter E. Wallis

Any chance of more There Will Be War?


Seems a bit drastic.

The There Will Be War series depended on John Carr to make them happen. He bullied the authors to get the stories and did all the editorial work including bullying me to get the introductions done on time. Alas, the original paperback anthology market declined to the point that that series and my other anthology work simply didn't make enough to keep John alive. And I fear I no longer have enough creative energy to sustain the series. =========

Subject: Politically impossible solutions for the war in Iraq

Dear Jerry:

Here are some ways to solve the problem of the war in Iraq that are not feasible because of the politics.

Turn the entire thing over to private military companies and let them provide the necessary constabulary forces. Lease them the heavy stuff (helicopters, AC 130s, etc). Take a dollar a barrel in oil taxes from the oil exported from Iraq to underwrite this program. Tell the alleged government of Iraq that the whole thing goes away when they step up and start acting like a government. Pull some of our troops back to Kuwait as a response force. Send the rest home except for those sent to Afghanistan to suppress the Taliban (again).

Hire armies by the battalion from any third world nation that wants access to American training and military technology. Send their officers to our military education institutions such as Command and Staff and the War College so that they learn how a democracy can be supported by its military. The payback is that they have to work off their tuition under American command in Iraq, but also places with failed states, like Dafur.

Impose a special excise tax of 50 cents a gallon on all petro fuels to retire the national debt. Regressive? Yes. Effective? Also yes.

Expand the U.S. military to Cold War levels. If necessary revive the draft to fill the ranks, but make NO exceptions for any reasons beyond health and fitness. Women serve as well as men. No exemptions for marriage, college, sexual orientation, or religious objections. (The latter can serve in non-combat support roles or as medics.)

Create a real military for the United Nations. At the constabulary level. Soldiers from member nations are paid at American rates, but are carried on the books of their home nations for pension and career purposes. Maximum tours are three to five years each, with no repeats. Under UN command during their tours, but not required to act against their home nation. (Another argument for the battalion plan above). Make genocide "an act of war against humanity" which demands an immediate military response by these forces, without the need for any formal resolution by the Security Council.

Tell Iran that if they ever use a nuclear weapon we will respond under the MAD doctrine.

As I said, the politics make all of these solutions very unlikely if not impossible. But we can dream, can't we?


Francis Hamit

I fear some of your cures may be worse than the disease. Kofi Amin with a real army? Look up War Safety Control and United World Federalism one of these days.

I have a better solution.

which is probably about as politically feasible.


Subject: Saner Than Most Writing About Mercury

As one who's survived to age 80 without significant problems even though I may be from the last generation that dared to coat copper pennies with mercury to make them look like shiny new dimes, I think I may have finally found someone who speaks sanely in the midst of hysteria.


PS My 103-year-old mother's memory has begun to get very flaky. No doubt due to her having also played with those wonderful, heavy, very round drops of mercury that lucky kids somehow acquired back in the Bad Old Days


I used to love playing with mercury and my high school chem lab had a full quart or so of the stuff.


Subject: "Dude, why don't you have a forum?"

I'm sure others have said the same, but I like Chaos Manor just fine the way it is. My willingness to read through the (admittedly large) quantities of letters and links posted is due in no small part to the fact that you've already read through it and found it worthwhile. If I wanted an open forum I'd hang out on Usenet.

~Max Wilson


Subject: It occurs to me...

Dear Doctor,

It occurs to me there are parallels between your warnings about US policy in Iraq and the prophet Jeremiah foretelling the end of Judah at the hands of the Babylonians.

Here's hoping the present experience ends differently.

Jon Eveland

Alas it had occurred to me as well. Alas, Babylon.


I ask your pardon for posting this:

Subject: corruption?

An IQ over 180 and unwilling to post the challenging email of one whose IQ is merely over 140, and that number was probably too high.

Let's think about that. Either you are unwilling to submit your prejudices to the light of day, or your are corrupt. Which is it "Dr." Pournelle?

Are you really a dilettante wimp? Beginning to seem so.

Of course, this is your website, so you have absolute control over its content. But, do you have control over what others say on other websites about your refusal to engage rational observations?

Ted Cowen [mailto:tedcowen@msn.com]

I have no idea what this refers to. I get a fair amount of mail like this. One expects that if we set up a Forum we would have more posted.

Addendum: I found the letter he wanted posted. I see no reason to post it. You can imagine its contents.

For those who want to disagree with me: Shouting at me with proof by assertion probably won't appeal either to me or to my readers. I do try to post letters bringing up valid reasons to disagree with my views.


Subject: Interesting interview with Thomas Ricks (Fiasco)


Some interesting comments here, particularly how the Shia see Bush's troop surge. There are also some remarks on what he has heard from officers over there. (http://prairieweather.typepad.com/the

---- " When I was with Defense Secretary Gates in Baghdad last month the Iraqi officials hanging around the meetings would tell you that what they had asked for was that US forces move to the periphery of Baghdad and basically beat up the Sunnis for them while they more or less finished the ethnic cleansing of central Baghdad with the Shiite army.

"....it's my characterization. It's not quite how they put it! But -- reading between the lines -- that's where they were going. It's a kind of "donut strategy": you guys get out of here and be useful chumps while we sort out our internal differences, finish the ethnic cleansing, and consolidate our hold on power. I don't think that's where the Americans wanted to go so, while they called this "Maliki's plan," it's almost the opposite. It's "we're going to send troops into the middle of the city, double the American presence on the streets of Baghdad because we don't trust your army."

"My worry about the US insisting on reconciliation is that politically the Bush administration consistently has been about 6 to 12 months behind the curve in Iraq from the very get-go. In military terms, it's called "losing the initiative." We've been operating off balance -- basically fighting from our heels rather than our toes since about 2003. The reality of Iraq that they haven't caught up with, I fear, is that the Shiites have concluded that they've won. And that's why we're proposing this "donut" strategy. And as you say, if the Shiites have won, then it has won the civil war, won control of Iraq. All we're doing is being a useful tool to help them out and keep the Sunnis off their back while they consolidate their hold."

"The problem here, as you may suspect, is that two aspects have characterized the American approach in Iraq over the past three years. One has been official over-optimism in which institutions fail to recognize the basic reality on the ground. The second is a rush to failure with Iraqi forces. I think the concern of a lot of people in the military right now -- especially officers who have a tour or two in Iraq -- is that the new plan combines both those flaws: official optimism about what Iraqis are willing to do, and a rush to failure in pushing Iraqis too soon to do too much. "

"Petraeus is a fascinating character. Just about the best general in the Army in a lot of people's view. Quite ambitious. Quite smart. Extraordinarily competitive. Both a combat leader and the holder of a PhD from Princeton in which he studied the Vietnam war and its effects on the US military. Stands out -- particularly in recent history -- because he had a very successful first tour in Iraq in 2003-2004. Really an exception to the rule..... <snip> .......

So the bottom line on Petraeus with a lot of officers now is "look -- this situation is pretty bad, it's pretty bleak out there -- if anyone can do it Petraeus is probably the guy who can try best." But even then, what I'm hearing, is they don't expect it to succeed."

CP, Connecticut


Subject: Book recomendation

One more thing to add to your reading list, Barry C. Lynn's "End of the line, The rise and fall of the global corporation". The author points to the vulnerability of global trade to physical and political catastrophe in far away places, and the lack of redundancy in the system. Yet another way in which civilization's going down the tubes and little help to be expected from politicians, the left having been jacked by pointy-headed theorists, and the right by the finance industry.



Subject: American Hegemony

Article continues past the point I've quoted, and discusses several things I thought you'd find worthwhile, including what it would take to get the US to act like the Roman Empire and what it would take for the world to accept it.


"They have made a desolation, and they call it peace." -Tacitus Much in the way of criticism of the United States comes in the form of accusations of imperialism. According to this view, echoed by everyone from Harold Pinter to Noam Chomsky to the Arab press, the U.S. has for decades run roughshod over the globe, in defiance of agreements and civilized norms. Enforcing its policies unilaterally and always for its own benefit, the U.S. has effectively colonized huge swathes of the planet, if not through direct military action, then by economic exploitation or diplomatic chicanery. No one dares raise a hand against this; any show of independence is met by cruise missiles at the very least, if not armored divisions or carrier battle groups. Today it's Iraq, tomorrow... who knows? America is the third-millennial Rome, brutal, implacable, infinitely corrupt.

Domestically, this takes the form of hegemonism <http://www.americanthinker.com/2006/12/seeds_intellectual_destruction.html>  , with the U.S. viewed as the primal source of global iniquity. Internationally, it's a major component of anti-Americanism, in which the U.S. is taken as the embodiment of an overpowering modernity, in whatever form - economic, political, cultural -- the onlooker finds most threatening. In such a context, anything and everything can be labeled "imperialist", from military bases to McDonald's fast-food joints to tourism. Intent and results are meaningless; all U.S. actions are evil, since all are viewed through the lens of imperialist activity.

It's difficult to match any of this with the actual record. The America that takes on the dirty jobs, the jobs no one else will touch - Serbia, Kuwait, Somalia - the country that comes to the rescue when disaster strikes, as with the Indian Ocean tsunami or the Pakistan earthquake, either goes unmentioned or has its actions attributed to somebody else (as in Kofi Annan's taking credit for tsunami relief operations in his farewell speech).

Regarding defiance, within certain limits crossed only by the Taliban and Saddam Hussein (and not yet by Ahmadinejad or Kim Jong-Il), it comprises one of the safer bets for any ambitious third-world demagogue, as Chavez and Morales plainly reveal. It's a solid career move -- there is no danger of any comeback (as long as you don't actually act on your rhetoric), and you gain plenty of sympathy and support from the international left, including its American branch. The myth of the U.S. as Rome has proven useful on all sorts of levels.

But the world's anti-Americans should take care that their fantasies don't catch up with them. Myths have a way of coming true. If believed in long enough, and hard enough, and by enough people, they can come to pass, if only by limiting the possible responses of the subject in question. Tell someone they're an oppressor often enough, and they may become an oppressor, out of spite, or anger, or simple weariness. Useful the Roman stereotype may be, but it can prove very dangerous.

How did Rome get that way in the first place? The Rome we know is seen through the lens of the later, corrupt empire -- brutal, heartless, and tyrannical. We see the Romans as dour, arrogant, living off the intellectual capital of older civilizations, slowly falling victim to their own worst impulses. But was Rome always like that? Did Rome start out that way? Was Rome ever young?

It must have been at one time. Rome was once a republic, and must have possessed a republic's virtues. How could it ever have accomplished so much otherwise? "

A Serving Officer

My Reply

I'm not anti American. I just want us to stay home and build things. Forwhat we spend on overseas adventurism we could be self-sufficient in just about everything.

Didn't think you were. I thought the article, has utility for the American Hegemony story you were thinking about a couple of years ago, and for the Rise of Empire story I've suggested for Sparta.

I also thought the article points out that the attempt by anti-Americans to paint us in unflattering ways would be an unpleasant self-fulfilling prophesy.

Now I think that you overestimate the value of staying at home, but I do agree that we have been hit hard by the law of unintended consequences in our economic and political moves of the past 60 years. I'm reminded of the comments you've made in fiction and non-fiction that our politicians and business leaders don't think more than a couple of years ahead, the next economic decision or election to come, and we really need somebody do do some long term planning for the human race, other than the fruitcake thinktanks who do that sort of thing, seeing as how that is how we got our education system, among others.

Just this morning I was reading a blog which has a main writer I like and a periodic writer I don't. The latter was responding to a discussion of racism on the site and wanted to talk about the definition of racism, since it was being thrown about in ways that didn't match the others' usages. He included the comment that his father and grandfather believed what he called scientific racism, that blacks had lower IQ's than whites. He went on to add that scientific consensus has thrown that on the trash and no longer believes such wrongness. Facts be damned, what should be is more important than what is.

I've always said that what is truth is truth, whether I believe it or not. It remains truth. Therefore it behooves me to attempt to find such truth, even if I don't like it when I find it. I don't like the idea that different subsets of humanity, on a racial basis, have different IQ scores on a statistical basis. However, if I hold my breath and stomp my foot, it won't change the facts of the matter.


Subject: Installing Visual Studio 2005 pro after the demo version 

Dear Jerry,

I downloaded the demo full version of Visual Studio 2005 pro sometime ago (about 4 months). It was a 90 day trial. I since bought the VS 2005 pro product and now I am not sure what I need to do before installing the bought full version.

I wondered if perhaps someone of your website visitors might have some advice for that. I am guessing you wouldn't know since I doubt you use VB or any other Visual Studio product.

Best, Marty Stephens

I used to do a good bit of programming in Visual Basic but that was years ago. Anyone?


Subject: Pentagon study narrows down Iraq options 

Go big, go long or go home

This echoes your own analysis. Note also that at least one Republican (McCain) is advocating the massive force you astutely point out to be required for "victory". Except they don't realize that going big and going long are BOTH required if you want to try and "win".

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20070125/ap_on_go_co/us_iraq <http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20070125/ap_on_go_co/us_iraq

"A Pentagon review of Iraq has come up with three options _ injecting more troops into Iraq, shrinking the force but staying longer or pulling out, The Washington Post reported. The newspaper quoted senior defense officials as dubbing the three alternatives "Go big, go long and go home."

The secret military study was commissioned by Gen. Peter Pace, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and comes as political and military leaders struggle with how to conduct a war that is increasingly unpopular, both in the United States and in occupied Iraq.

McCain, a front-running GOP presidential hopeful for 2008, said the U.S. must send an overwhelming number of troops to stabilize Iraq or face more attacks---in the region and possibly on American soil.

"I believe the consequences of failure are catastrophic," said McCain. "It will spread to the region. You will see Iran more emboldened. Eventually, you could see Iran pose a greater threat to the state of Israel."

There you have a possible scenario as follows: President Bush keeps trying at the current level the rest of his term. McCain gets the nomination, the Democrat's nominate a likely loser in either Senator Clinton or Obama, and President McCain then initiates the "Go Big" option. Where he would get the troops, I don't know. But he certainly says he wants to try it. He also seems quite interested in doing something serious about Iran.

I'm supporting Giulani. McCain is crazy, and a bit like Bremer: in over his head. At least Bremer knew he was incompetent. McCain truly believes he knows what he is doing.

So did Bush. They're both Jacobins.



Subject: Generation ships

>> It's all in the numbers. But suppose we set out to settle the galaxy with generation ships traveling at 1% of the speed of light. Build two generation ships. It takes 1,000 years to go from star to star. When you get there, it takes 1,000 years to build a civilization capable of building two more star ships. That's 2,000 years doubling time, with each generation ship building two more. I leave the resolution of this exponential to the readers, but you can see why Freeman Dyson says there is only one intelligent race per galaxy. <<

I think you're an optimist. Although recent astronomical discoveries say that many stars are likely to have planets, the likelihood of a suitable Sol-like star having a suitable Terra-like planet and lying within ten LY is pretty small. You might have to extend your sphere to 100 LY and your travel time to 10,000 years to reach a really good planet. Even then, and even assuming that the generation ship survives such a journey, many apparently suitable Sol-like stars would turn out for one reason or another to be unsuitable, although in many cases that could not be determined until the generation ship had already arrived. Scratch one generation ship.

Furthermore, some proportion of the generation ships, presumably a relatively large proportion, would encounter disasters during the trip or soon after arrival that would kill most or all of their passengers. Even if everything went as planned, the number of people that would fit on a generation ship are a pretty fragile start for a new civilization. If they run into stobor, they might be wiped out or have their skill sets reduced to the point that it would take them far, far longer than 1,000 years to develop to the point that they'd be ready to produce generation ships of their own.

I guess I just think the galaxy is a much larger and deadlier place than you and Dr. Dyson do.

-- Robert Bruce Thompson thompson@ttgnet.com

Fiddle with the numbers as you will, exponentials are exponentials: in a billion years the galaxy will be populated under the most pessimistic assumptions. It isn't, so there were no intelligent species a billion years ago. Probably none 100 million years ago. Unlikely even a million years ago...


Subject: Populating the galaxy

Dr Pournelle

Robert Bruce Thompson finds fault in the argument on the technical side: likelihood of each ship finding a Terra-like planet smaller than expected; radius of required flight greater than expected; time required for each colony to achieve industrial capacity to replicate the adventure greater than expected. As you point out, this merely protracts the outcome: the curve will still go asymptotic.

The fault, dear Brutus, lies not in our stars but in ourselves. What race has the will to maintain a policy of populating the galaxy for millions of generations? Ain't gonna happen.

Time is the great leveller. When we go to the stars -- I believe -- we are unlikely to find another race to share the galaxy with. But -- I believe -- we are very likely to find the artifacts of races long, long dead.

BTW 1% C is fast! At 1% C a ship would fly from the Earth to the Moon in under 13 seconds.

Sincerely h lynn keith


Dear Jerry:

The current conversation on Iraq puts me in mind of a grim joke that made the rounds in M.I. about the perfect solution to win in Vietnam. It went like this:

Step One: Put the entire "friendly" population of South Vietnam on ships in the South China Sea.

Step Two: Carpet bomb the entire country until nothing is left standing.

Step Three: Sink the ships.


Francis Hamit

Is the point of the joke to show how little intelligence there was in Military Intelligence? After Tet we had won the war, and everyone but the New York Times understood that; surely MI did? And after 1972-1973 it should have been obvious to everyone that (1) there was no civil war, (2) South Viet Nam was about as well governed as any nation in that region -- certainly as well as Taiwan and approaching Singapore, and no worse than South Korea under the early regimes following the Korean War's termination, (3) the only threat to South Viet Nam was invasion from the North, and (4) invasion from the North could not succeed if we gave the Army of the Republic of Viet Nam the supplies needed and air support.

As to Step Three, why the hatred of our allies in the South? They asked us for help. Kennedy had their leader, the man who had sent the Emperor abroad and declared independence, murdered along with much of his family; and despite that particular bit of perfidy they were developing a government that could govern. Surely MI knew this? Heaven knows the Company knew it. Most of us in analysis knew it. I thought most of the troops in the field knew it; are you saying that MI had no more smarts and less vision than the New York Times?

I see the scare quotes around "friendly" but I don't understand them. My experience was that after Tet most of the population of the South was friendly. They didn't love us, but they understood the need for allies. Cao Dai and Hoa Hao didn't love us because they wanted to govern, but again they understood what would happen to them if we bugged out (as indeed eventually happened).

My late friend General Dan Graham understood these matters. Now he was head of Defense Intelligence Agency, and Deputy Director of Central Intelligence, so one would presume that he was hip to what was known by MI; but perhaps not?

Have you just given us the reason for the collapse in Viet Nam after our victory there? Local MI didn't understand what they were doing and were just as infected with the information diseases circulating in the Metropole as was the press corps? Why would we want to slaughter our allies as worthless? For indeed that was the attitude of the press corps. I hadn't known it was the attitude of our Military Intelligence on the ground.


No Child Left Behind:

"Perfect and tweak."


-- Roland Dobbins



Subject: M.I. and Vietnam 

Dear Friend Jerry,

I have some knowledge on the attitude of U.S. Army M.I. at the end of the Vietnam War.

Some background: I enlisted in June of 1974, five months after the signing of the Paris Peace Accords that ended our direct participation in the Vietnamese war. I was tested and found to be of sufficiently high aptitude (IQ and other measures) for assignment to M.I. for training as an interrogator. I was sent to Fort Huachuca for training at the U. S. Army Intelligence Center and School. There I met other new recruits as well as older soldiers returning for refresher courses or retraining. Many of the latter had served in Vietnam, as had most of the instructors at the school.

One of the first classes we had was a legal overview of what M.I. could and could not do within the bounds of the law. The class was taught by a Reserve officer who was a law professor at an Ivy League School doing his two weeks of annual JAG service. I asked him in a Q. and A. session what would happen if the North Vietnamese broke the Paris Accords and assaulted with full force. His reply was that there was zero chance the U.S.A. would do anything other than protest verbally. He said the determination had been made nationally that we were done with Vietnam. This class was held about one month after Nixon resigned the presidency.

I asked several of the other students about this particular matter, and was surprised that the most vehement agreement with the professor was among the M.I. people who had been in Vietnam. They almost invariably had a low opinion of the Vietnamese government and military, yet they also expressed great admiration and liking for the Vietnamese as a people.

As near as I could parse the situation, it seemed to me at the time (and still today is my opinion) that there was a lack of empathy among the M.I. people for the fact that the South Vietnamese government and military were not all liberally educated, high I.Q. wonks like the average M.I. "puke", and instead insisted on acting like members of a Confucian society that had been given a patina of French bureaucracy over the underlying Mandarinate governing style.

I was at Defense Langauge Institute for language training when the collapse of April, 1975 came. No one even blinked among the younger recruit students, and the older troops at the school, most of whom had been in Vietnam, just said "To hell with it", "Good riddance" and similar statements.

M.I. at that time was full of "soldiers" who had contempt for warriors, felt they were superior in every way as a class, and basically felt like the Army was merely a way-station on the way to something bigger and better (either the Company or a think-tank or University). The "career" M.I. people were the exception: they tended to be senior NCO's and Warrant Officers who were tired, bored to tears most of the time, and just wanted to get their twenty in and go fishing somewhere.

That's why "jokes" like that were common in M.I. at the time. It was the sin of despair.

I hope, with some evidence to believe in the hope, that things are somewhat better in M.I. now. However, M.I. by design and nature looks for and attracts people who think they are "smart cookies", and arrogance is a real danger with them. I was one of the worst in that regard. You taught me a lot about the danger of that when I discovered you about that time in the pages of Galaxy magazine. What wisdom I have gained since then, little or none, is from the recognition of that arrogance gleaned from reading contrary views from such as yourself on matters such as Vietnam. Thanks for that!

Oh, and I do not mean in any way to tar Fances Hamit with any of my comments above. He's a fine and homorable person, and I heard that very same joke about 1974 myself.







This week:


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Saturday, January 27, 2007

On Programmers:

We were installing Visual Studio 2005 at work the other day and watching the marketing photographs fly by on the screen. One of the guys surprised me with this statement: "I know why no one likes Visual Studio!" (It's a very Unix-friendly/anti-Microsoft atmosphere at work -- means I get stuck with all the Windows problems as well as all the Linux problems nobody else can solve.) He continued: "This software wasn't made for white people. There are no white people at all in these photographs!"

Everybody laughed, because after all, who would be the main users, and who were the main programmers of the thing? White people.

It was a really out of place moment. What I'm used to when talking to fellow computer geeks is absolute denial of intelligence differences between groups and even between people. There's a childlike faith that everybody else in the world could would be a programmer if they had just had the right breaks when growing up.

For example Steve Yegge, a great programmer/blogger, wrote today: "In the fullness of time, I believe programming fluency will become as ubiquitous as literacy."

Another thing I don't understand about programmers is that no other engineering endeavor seems to get as little use out of academic training -- but programmers believe in it more strongly than anybody else. Programmers are self-taught, and keep themselves self-taught with every new thing that comes down the pipe, or they're nothing. My girlfriend, a smart girl, has a CS degree with an awesome GPA -- but can't program for anything and never could. I know a kid in danger of dropping out of college who might be one of the most talented programmers I know. (For all that I once had to spend a week debugging a Perl program he had dashed off, but hadn't bothered to actually run to see whether it worked.)

It probably has something with programmers being willing to believe in simple models of how the world works, etc. I don't know, it's just something I see.


Are Indians from Bangalore and Calcutta usually considered white? And of course my friend Darnell (first site host of this web site) is not only a programmer but teaches it.



Casual reflections on the Fermi Paradox:

Why is nobody here?

1. We're alone. Also means we're unique. I have violent objections (call them religious; Mr. Heinlein did) to this possibility. I could be wrong; I'm not uncertain.

2. The Einstein limit is absolute and cannot be circumvented economically (or even as a desperate last-gasp effort). Every intelligence civilization that arises eats itself to death unable to cross the stars to salvation. This assumption is unfortunately far too plausible. Maybe our information will travel between the stars, but we never will.

2.1. Note that every "practical" system for interstellar travel presumes some sort of widget (warp drive, whatever) that has the net effect of assuming a threshold power level (typically on the order of 100 kilotons/second per vehicle, or about 4E14 Wts) at which the Einstein limit breaks down and interstellar travel becomes effortless. Note that 4E14 J is the kinetic energy of 1 kg of mass traveling at 9,145 km/s or 3% of c, and note again that I said the power assumed is per vehicle and not per kg mass of vehicle.The two derived scenarios are:

2.1.1. The "trick" is so difficult to identify few or no species ever develop the capability. 2.1.2. The "trick" is so easy that everyone gets it in time, which reduces to the same solution set as 3.

3. We're quarantined (either totally, or a few select people are in the "know.") Need not assume the possibility of FTL travel, though that does make things easier. Not implausible, but there are several corollaries:

3.1. The "classic" UFO/aliens scenario. The aliens who have us quarantined are not much in advance of us; enough to get here, but not enough to offer a serious military threat at the end of an interstellar logistics chain even with advanced technology. So they try to get whatever they want by subterfuge and manipulation. Note that this covers all of the possibilities from benign intervention to "they want us to worship their gods" to clandestine conquest.

3.2. The "galactic punctuated equilibrium" scenario. Probably most dramatically exemplified by Stephen Baxter in Manifold Space: Every "X" years (Baxter seems to equate X to the mean time between mass extinctions), intelligent species pop up everywhere simultaneously (with perhaps a technological development dispersion equivalent to a few hundred years -- a lot, if you're considering Moore's Law). Everything goes to pot for a few hundred years, after which the colliding expansion waves have decimated our corner of the galaxy, and everything stays quiet for a another sixty million years until the next wave simultaneously evolves.

3.3. The "Pax Organia/Prime Directive" scenario. One race gets far enough out on the power (literally) curve to dominate all the others in their corner of the galaxy, and are benign and confident enough in their own self-preservation to impose a "peace of the greater guns" on all the less nobly inclined species in their neighborhoods, and leave developing civilizations alone

3.4 The "Planetary Defense" scenario. They're eventually coming to eat us -- if not literally (though that can't be ruled out), then at least metaphorically by taking our materials and means of production for their own racial preservation. Nobody will protect us (3.3 fails) so when they finally arrive we're on our own.


I guess you'd call Janissaries -- what? A classical UFO/aliens scenario?


It was a joke!!!

Dear Jerry:

It was a joke. Admittedly, a stupid joke, but a joke nevertheless. Really. I have few quibbles with your response.

I was there right after Tet and we definitely did not have it won. We'd had quite a shock to the system, and while everyone is trying to figure out why we got caught out, we had the Home Country looking like it was going up in smoke. The King and Kennedy assassinations had a very depressing impact on troop morale. I had a worm's eye view of the whole thing and it took years beyond the pullout for the truth to come out. There were failures in strategy and leadership which still haunt us.

Here is the hard truth and no joke. Westmoreland cooked the books on the enemy strength figures and that should be a lesson learned applied to the current situation. Sam Adams, the CIA analyst, discovered this by simply going through old records and applying some simple accounting. Col. Gaines Hawkins, MI, backed him up. Both lost their careers for going against the politics of the moment.

What Westy and his staff did was to eliminate the Viet Cong equivalents of Special Forces and Sniper/Scouts and Military Police from the count on the basis of their part-time status. The VC in the field were counted -- sort of ---it was a very rough estimate -- but those in the big cities were not. That included not just Saigon, but Hue, Can Tho, Tay Nihn etc. Much of the VC operation was hidden from view and they had agents everywhere. The tunnels at Chu Chi ran back a hundred klics to the border...and they were dug by hand. I got there the month following all this madness and everyone was still running scared while trying to convince each other what big heros they'd been. It was a near thing. Or so I was told.

Had it not been for weapons like the Huey Cobra that could deal out wholesale slaughter on those human wave attacks, we might have lost it all right there. The whole year I was there I never fired a shot outside the range. I pulled guard duty every week and dodged incoming mortars every other day...in the middle of the largest, most secure American base in IV Corps.

Didn't feel like winning to me. The point of that joke was that the local population was thoroughly infiltrated, from the hutch maid to the local Catholic Priest to the Quan Kahn (local police) and only our numbers and our superior firepower kept them at bay. No one thought it anything we would ever do. Short of that, winning didn't look likely. There was no trust between allies and we had a contingency plan which was updated regularly about what we would do if South Vietnam suddenly declared for the other side and we had to fight our way out of there. And Westmoreland's only answer was "more troops". We got up to half a million at a time and over eight million people served there over the years. In the grand scheme of things that might have been great geo-politics, but if you were there, it just sucked, big time. More than 58,000 names on The Wall, three times that number of suicides, and most of those who served there slowly dying from Agent Orange caused diseases. The Butcher's Bill is still being paid for Vietnam.

Early in my tour we were cutting weeds along the road by the airstrip (this was before the Airfield Commander had them all sprayed with Agent Orange) and saw a Vietnamese man in civilian clothes looking around. No uniform, no badge, no reason to be there, He was looking at all of our barracks and equipment with tears in his eyes. We figured him for a VC scout and left him alone. Let him report what he saw. Let them know how big we were. Let them cry, too.

Every time we went on guard duty the VC sappers would test the perimeter. The sound of wire being cut on a quiet tropical night is one you don't forget. When the attack finally came we lost eight people. Three of them newbies on the berm who fell asleep, and the rest pilots and MPs. They blew up some aircraft with satchel changes. My unit never got out of the barracks because it was all over in an hour and we were reserve at any time. The next day everything was normal again. Beer at the PX,

Those sappers were also among the uncounted. We caught one or two. One of them was persuaded to show off his skills. He stripped naked and went through a double strand of concertina wire in about a minute and a half, and didn't get a scratch. We were all very impressed.

The lesson we should have learned from all of this is that political will trumps military power every time in a counterinsurgency operation. Another lesson is that those who have not served in such situations are really not fit to lead those who have. They don't know the first thing about it. That's the lesson we are learning in Iraq.


Francis Hamit


To which I replied:

According to their own figures they had fewer than 300 Viet Cong south of the border after the Tet offensive. 300. Three hundred.

And after that it was invasion from the north. Which almost anyone could see. For reasons not clear to me, the highly brilliant people who were supposed to know what was going on either did not see it or did not say so.

But the North Vietnamese knew. They stopped sending infiltrators and built armored divisions.

Jerry, in the Mekong alone there were more than 30,000. We killed 3,000 in one night setting up for an attack on the airfield. Took two passes by Huey Cobras. You see this is the problem. No one knew what the real numbers were because the reporting was changed for political reasons. This is what Sam Adams found out and what ultimately killed him.


You don't give the year. I haven't been able to find references to a battle in the Mekong resulting in 3,000 enemy killed in one night, or with 30,000 engaged, but clearly this isn't an infiltration battalion sized operation. This is more like part of the Tet offensive.

Tet used up the Viet Cong, which turned out in battalion strength along with division strength NVA forces. By summer of 1968 there were, according to Giap's recollection, fewer than 300 active Viet Cong left in the south. Nixon's strategy after 1969 was to build up South Viet Nam into a powerful regional force; a client state capable of defending itself. The analogy would be Korea: South Korea was capable of defending itself against infiltration and subversive activity, and the US stood as guarantor against outright invasion.

From Wikipedia:   

Effect on the Viet Cong and North Vietnam

The Tet Offensive can be considered a military defeat for the Communist forces, as neither the Viet Cong nor the North Vietnamese army achieved their tactical goals. Furthermore, the operational cost of the offensive was dangerously high, with the Viet Cong essentially crippled by the huge losses inflicted by South Vietnamese and other Allied forces. Nevertheless, the Offensive is widely considered a turning point of the war in Vietnam, with the NLF and PAVN winning an enormous psychological and propaganda victory. The Viet Cong's operational forces were effectively crippled by the Offensive. Many Viet Cong who had been operating under cover in the cities of South Vietnam revealed themselves during the Offensive and were killed or captured. The organization was preserved for propaganda purposes, but in practical terms the Viet Cong were finished. Formations that were referred to as Viet Cong were in fact largely filled with North Vietnamese replacements. In reality, this change had little effect on the war, since North Vietnam had no difficulty making up the casualties inflicted by the war.[14] The National Liberation Front (the political arm of the Viet Cong) reformed itself as the Provisional Revolutionary Government of South Vietnam, and took part in future peace negotiations under this name.

The Communist high command did not anticipate the psychological effect the Tet Offensive would have on America.[15] For example, the attack on the U.S. Embassy was allocated only 19 Viet Cong soldiers, and even the expenditure of this force was considered by some VC officers to be misguided. Only after they saw how the U.S. was reacting to this attack did the Communists begin to propagandize it. The timing of the Offensive was determined by the hope that American and South Vietnamese forces would be less vigilant during the Tet holiday.

After the Tet offensive, the North Vietnamese Army began building regular divisions, and the next phase of the war was invasion from the North. If US Military Intelligence on location did not know this, it says volumes; because every one of us in analysis knew it. Now true enough, the US press didn't understand that. But it is shocking that MI didn't know.


Subject: Empty galaxy

"so there were no intelligent species a billion years ago. Probably none 100 million years ago. Unlikely even a million years ago..."

Or that the race between physical expansion & any intelligent race's ability to destroy itself also inherently involves faster geometric growth for destruction (60 years ago we could destroy 2 cities, now we could probably manage every city in the world, possibly by chemical & bacteriological means too.. In which case probably all we can do is build Dr Asimov's law abiding robots & send them as far away from us as possible.

On that basis I find emergence of the Rare Earths hypothesis, since it suggests that the bottlenecks in survival have mostly been passed, a happy development.

Your assessment of expansion is clearly right in general terms since it works by compound growth whereas the New Scientist article assumes human society will grow at an arthmetic rate taking as long to reach our 50,001st after the 50,000th star as to get from here to Centauri. Living systems don't do arithmetic growth for long.

Neil Craig

You may be interested in my political blog http://a-place-to-stand.blogspot.com/


Subj: Conscription in Switzerland


swissinfo - Swiss Economics Minister Doris Leuthard praises work of civilian service

Apparently conscientious objectors to military service can do civilian service instead.


swissinfo - Military service drop-out rate for new recruits remains high

=Four out of ten conscripts unfit for duty=

=In the past, being an officer in the Swiss army was viewed as a real asset for one's career prospects. Nowadays this is no longer the case - the benefits of doing military training has been replaced by MBAs and other networking opportunities.=

But I haven't found out *what happens* to the unfit. I expect there'd've been mention, if it were anything drastic -- like expulsion from the country.


swissinfo - Swiss split on compulsory military service

=According to the survey in Le Matin Dimanche, 50 per cent of Swiss French are against conscription compared with only 27 per cent of Swiss Germans.=

Rod Montgomery==monty@sprintmail.com

Interesting. Clearly there have been many "enlightened" changes since I last studied the Swiss system. One may with some confidence predict the end of Swiss independence when they are finished with the "reforms"; just as Sweden's Armed Neutrality may be coming to an end. Alas.

As to what happens to those can't serve, in Sweden at least, they are never allowed civil service jobs and are not eligible for some other government benefits, and an employer may refuse to hire anyone who did not complete honorable military service. I suspect something of the sort happens in modern Switzerland.




CURRENT VIEW     Saturday

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Subject: Rehashing the end in Vietnam


In looking at casualty figures, I see that in the year of Tet (1968) there were 29,000 South Vietnamese and 14,600 US soldiers killed. The following year, there were 22,000 South Vietnamese and 9,400 US troops killed. So even though there were hardly any VC left after Tet, there was apparently a whole lot of fighting still taking place. Yet this was 3 years before the full blown invasion of 1972 that you often cite.

The answer for this paradox seems to be found in the Wikipedia article, just after the section you highlighted:

"Formations that were referred to as Viet Cong were in fact largely filled with North Vietnamese replacements. In reality, this change had little effect on the war, since North Vietnam had no difficulty making up the casualties inflicted by the war."

So I am wondering if the distinction about who was "VC" and who was an "invader" during that period between 1968 and 1972 is really that important? Certainly, it might seem a subtle distinction to the average soldier being shot at, or the perhaps even the locals being terrorized. Weren't those who walked down from the north just as capable of operating as effective insurgents and guerillas as those who were recruited from the South Vietnamese population?

CP, Connecticut

The point is that the American people were persuaded that the war couldn't be won because it was "a civil war" not an invasion from the north. After Tet it was no longer a civil war. It was invasion from the north. A competent military intelligence would have known this and insisted on that being known. It was known at the CIA and DIA. It was known among the analysts. The American people never learned this until it was too late, and the myth that we were defeated in Viet Nam was born. In fact Nixon's strategy worked, the infiltrations were contained, the war wound down until the North sent in overt flat out invasions.

I have long known this. The surprise to me was that the MI people in Viet Nam apparently did not. I worked with people at DIA who certainly did.













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