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Mail 455 February 26 - March 4, 2007







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Monday February 26, 2007

Subject: Letter from England


Rail crash in Northwest England. As usual the evidence points towards cost cutting*: <http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/6393867.stm>




Spending for the 2012 Olympics*: <http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/6393501.stm>  <http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=


Family values row in UK cabinet: <http://www.guardian.co.uk/Observer/politics/story/0,,2021027,00.html>  <http://politics.guardian.co.uk/homeaffairs/story/0,,2021037,00.html

UK views of American politics: <http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/


Tyranny in the modern world: <http://www.guardian.co.uk/Observer/magazine/story/0,,2019157,00.html>  <http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/story/0,,2020934,00.html

US now funding terror groups in Iran:

Assorted comments on UK events and politics*: <http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/story/0,,2020990,00.html>  <http://politics.guardian.co.uk/homeaffairs/story/0,,2020994,00.html>  <http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/columnists/india_knight/article1434465.ece>  <http://news.independent.co.uk/uk/politics/article2303007.ece>  <http://news.independent.co.uk/uk/politics/article2303024.ece>  <http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2007/02/25/nterr25.xml

Cost of red tape to business*: <http://business.timesonline.co.uk/tol/business/economics/article1433783.ece

NHS news*: <http://www.guardian.co.uk/medicine/story/0,,2020957,00.html>



Wind farms running into planning commission problems. (Bat and bird conservation workers oppose them, so I have an agenda here): <http://environment.guardian.co.uk/energy/story/0,,2020929,00.html

Home schooling in the UK: <http://education.independent.co.uk/news/article2300379.ece

Universities now ignoring the government cap on places*: <http://education.independent.co.uk/news/article2300380.ece>

NASA asteroid intercept plans:


Americans are probably bemused about the Blair/Brown situation here. Gordon Brown is from Scotland and currently runs the UK Treasury as Chancellor. Blair has promised to step down in his favour sometime this year. Although both currently belong to New Labour, Brown is to the left of Blair, and is a token representative of Old Labour in the Blair Government.

Labour's popularity is south of the Republicans at 29% right now. The Conservatives are at 43% under the leadership of David Cameron, so when Blair resigns, Brown has a bit of work to do before the next election. Unfortunately, he also has a bit of baggage. Not only is he an old-style socialist believer in central planning, his Scots-style management of the Treasury has produced a large collection of chickens (NHS budgets, educational spending, transportation infrastructure maintenance, Home Office budget problems and prison overcrowding, etc.) that will be coming home to roost just when he will be becoming Prime Minister. The stories marked with '*' above are relevant to Brown's chances and management style--for example, the cost-cutting that has led to a rail crash in Cumbria is quite possibly because the railroads are paying a tidy sum to the Treasury for the franchises to run trains. Expect a Conservative Government after the next general election.

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


Subject: Models. Predictions and the Real World 

Dear JEP,

I know a fellow who is an engineer for the Los Angeles City Department of Water and Power. Every year about March he leaves LA for a week , traveling on DWP business. I asked him about this once, wondering why a water engineer needed to travel on business for, maybe a conference of such engineers, replete with banquets and and other taxpayer funded frivolity? Not quite as it turned out, he explained that his job required him to accurately predict how much water would be available to the city for the next year, and that this required him to travel to the High Sierra and measure the depth of the snowpack in numerous locations so as to estimate how much snowmelt would fill the reservoirs and lakes that feed our desert city with it's lifeblood.

"Couldn't you just use satellite photos and computers to do that estimation? Seems like it would be simpler, faster and you wouldn't have to tramp through snow for a week every year" I innocently wondered out loud to him.

My friend, who is patient with children, cats and Innocent Fools, smiled and sweetly replied, "We've tried that, just to see how it compares to doing it the Old-Fashioned Way."

"And?" I innocently wondered.

"And we realized if we used computer models for that prediction we'd have such a water shortage by August of every year that there would be lynch mobs for anyone watering their lawn."

I -think- he was joking about the lynchings.

Then again, he wasn't smiling when he said it.



Subject: Child porn strikes


"Two Florida teenagers, Jeremy and Amber, ages 17 and 16 respectively, boyfriend and girlfriend -- snapped digital photos of themselves engaged in sexual activity. They were prosecuted under state child porn laws, and convicted. Snip from CNET story:

Each was charged with producing, directing or promoting a photograph featuring the sexual conduct of a child. Based on the contents of his e-mail account, Jeremy was charged with an extra count of possession of child pornography.

The case is complicated and troubling in many respects, and raises an array of tough questions. In Florida, Amber and Jeremy did not break the law by having sexual relations -- even though they're both teens -- but the courts decided they were criminals for having documented it digitally."

Note that in order for this to take place, the teenagers have to be legally considered minors in order to allow prosecution under child pornography laws, but they were apparently tried as adults. Note also that the crime wasn't a crime until they took pictures of an activity Florida allows and mailed them. The philosophical and legal implications are staggering.


Clearly this has not been well thought out. But anarcho tyranny is seldom thought out. One drifts into it. The Prosecutor gets his score card punched, the prison guard unions get clients to be paid for incarcerating, the construction industry gets to build more prisons, and who can defend child pornography?





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Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Subject: English Rail Crash...

Jerry: the 'sharp-pencil' boys have done it again, eh?

No surprise, since, in Western Canada, on the CNR, and on the CPR, the sharp pencil boys cut the number of 'Section Gangs', and put the remainder onto rubber-tyred 1-ton trucks, with a set of retractable 'rail-wheels', fore and aft. The idea was to allow the smaller number of crews to fix the trouble spots, and bypass the rest of the trackage. After all, the plan was for a Work Train, with all the fancy maintenance & repair equipment, to follow the Diagnostic Train, every 2 years, over every inch of trackage.

Trains started falling-off of the CNR, and off the CPR Tracks, sometimes off of main-line 'heavy-rail', and sometimes off of the lightest track remaining, the famous 'spaghetti-rail' {where you could sit in the Cupola of the Caboose, and watch the cars aheads sway from side to side, and lumber up and down, as if riding on wet spaghetti - Grin}.

Seems that the 'average' time between failure, used in the Computer Simulations, had left out the after-effects of _not_ having an experienced Section Foreman travelling over 'his' section of track every day, and seeing a problem developing, and _fixing_ it, before a train fell off the track!

Bet that the time between visits, by the remaining Maintenance Workers, on that section of English Track, is at leat twice as long as needed, and perhaps even as bad as 1/6 as often as needed, for safety.

Neil Frandsen now 68, who was a R/R Telegrapher, on the CNR, in his early 20s, in the Drumheller Subdivision.


Subject: Your Survive column link from 2/21/07 Views

Dr Pournelle:

Your two decade old column on nuclear war survival was fascinating! I spent most of last Friday afternoon trying to find a lot of those books, but some have fallen out of print. One, however, is available on the net for free (although I'm not sure about copyright issues because I don't know diddley about electronic editions copyrighting). Kearny's Nuclear War Survival Skills is on the web, chapter by chapter, in .html format. The Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine hosts the book (http://www.oism.org/nwss <http://www.oism.org/nwss>  ). I remember Kearny because of his fallout meter (I read about it in Strieber's Warday back in the late 80s), but didn't know about this book. I’m glad I clicked your link, and read about the book. I'm still trying to hone my hurricane survival planning and can use some of the older cold war era info (and yes, I'm still using Hammer!).

Regarding 10,000 Formulas, I couldn't find that one for love or money!

Best regards,

Bill Kelly Houston, TX


Subject: r.e. Florida Child Porn 

Dear Jerry

The appellate court majority opinion upholding these teenagers' convictions as paedophile sex offenders - probably requiring lifetime registration and tracking via publicly accessible databases -included this bit of reasoning:


"Further, if these pictures are ultimately released, future damage may be done to these minors' careers or personal lives."



Subject: Another Country Heard From in the Illegal Immigration Discussion

Here is an interesting take on illegal immigration, Dr. Pournelle, from a normally unheard group -- the "abandoned" wives.

http://insider.washingtontimes.com/articles/normal.php?StoryID=20070226- 010345-3459r

"The women of Tecalpulco, Mexico, want the U.S. government to enforce its immigration laws because they want to force their husbands to come back home from working illegally in the United States.

"They have created an English-language Web page where they identify themselves as the "wetback wives" and broadcast their pleas, both to their men and to the U.S. government.

"To the United States government -- close the border, send our men home to us, even if you must deport them (only treat them in a humane manner -- please do not hurt them)," it reads."

"Mexican officials are aware of the social and economic consequences to their towns and villages. But businesses and government officials on both sides of the border also acknowledge a sort of grand bargain -- the U.S. gets cheap labor, while Mexico has an outlet for its unemployed, who in turn send cash back home."

"But for now, Mexico is also addicted to the influx of cash. In 2006, Mexican workers in the United States sent $23 billion back to their families in Mexico, an amount that rivals Mexico's foreign income from oil sales."

Charles Brumbelow


Subject: More Russian Missiles for Hizbollah

<sarcasm>The good news just continues to roll in.</sarcasm>

February 27, 2007: If Israeli troops move into southern Lebanon again, they will apparently find, as they did last Summer, lots of late model Russian missiles aimed at them. That's because Syria has placed an order for several thousand 9M133 Kornet and 9M131 Metis 2 anti-tank guided missiles (ATGM). Israel tried to persuade the Russians to back off. But the money was too good for the Russians to pass up. Iran is supplying the cash. Syria gets to keep some of the missiles, and slips the rest across the border to Hizbollah. It's a win-win-win-win-lose (Russia-Syria-Iran-Hizbollah-Israel) situation.

In 2006, Israeli troops found Hizbollah equipped with many modern Russian ATGMs. Three post-Cold War Russian missile systems were found in large numbers. These were the 9M111 Fagot, which has a 25 pound missile fired from a 24 pound launch unit for up to 2,000 meters. Then there was the 9M133 Kornet, a replacement for the 9M111. This is laser guided missile with a range of 5,000 meters. The launcher has a thermal sight for use at night or in fog. The missile's warhead can penetrate 1200mm of armor, which meant that the front and side armor of the Israeli Merkava tank was vulnerable. The missile weighs 18 pounds and the launcher 42 pounds. Then there was the 9M131 Metis 2, which is a 30 pound missile, with a 1,500 meter range. It is fired from a 35 pound control unit, that has a thermal sight.

Missiles and launch units were found in bombed out buildings last Summer. The 9M131 can be fired from inside buildings. The missiles were used to take long range shots at Israeli infantry, and tanks. Russia had been selling these new missile systems to Syria and Iran for several years, and this was the first real combat test of these systems. A few Israeli tanks were hit, but most of the missiles have been fired at Israeli infantry, causing over a hundred casualties.





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Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Is there any reason to think that the schools are really deteriorating instead of the problem being incoming students who have lower IQs to begin with (due to higher percentages of under-performing minorities)?

Is there "IQ-normed" data for school performance that shows any sort of large difference between the best and the rest?

Schools could well be deteriorating, but the larger problem is that our methods of measuring school performance are silly and easily gimmicked. And the measurements aren't really geared toward intelligence norming the data, which should always be the first step.


It's a good question. I can only go by what data we have. In the 1920's there were truant officers, and we tried pretty hard to enforce compulsory education at least to 8th grade. Enforcement was sporadic after that depending on the county but up to 8th grade school attendance was pretty well enforced, and that included both black and white.

What data I can get on rural schools in America in the 1920's show a pretty high level of instruction up through 8th grade. It's hard to get reliable data, but it does appear that most were able to learn at least as much as we hope to teach in the no child left behind tests.

In my case I remember Capleville school in the 1930's with 2 grades to a room, about 30 kids to the grade, and teachers who were 2 year AA Normal School grads, not 4 year BA college grads. I know what our 8th grade curriculum was, and while I certainly was brighter than my classmates, the curriculum we had was good enough foundation for a much more rigorous high school at the hands of the Christian Brothers in High School.

I'm no expert on any of this; I don't have access to much of the data. I did once see some conscription data that indicated that very few found illiterate by the Army had been through at least 4 years of schooling. That seems suggestive.


From another discussion:

I said, "Chairman Bill does seem to think that all children ought to get a college prep education. Which is nonsense."

It should be noted that Bill Gates doesn't exactly have a credible record when it comes to public education. The Gates foundation messed up a public school in Denver so badly it had to be closed. Take a look at ( http://tinyurl.com/yr3kwl ) "We can't even spell our own gangs right". A few quotes

"No wonder the whole city thinks we're stupid," Norberto said, addressing a recent turn of events that some on the bleachers still refused to accept. "Like, that's our education in a nutshell--we can't even spell our own gangs right."


"Attempts to help Manual's students go beyond the class room:

"Aides rode the bus with pregnant girls, showing them a school where they could bring their babies, and argued with parents about the value of a high-school diploma. A band of outreach workers, the educational equivalents of repo men, arranged part-time jobs and night-school curricula for other resisters."

"The considerable effort does not translate into results:"

"Last year, on the tenth-grade math test, only thirty-three African-Americans in the entire district passed," [Bennet] resumed flatly..."Thirty-three--in the entire city and county of Denver, Colorado. And only sixty-one Latinos."

"The decision is made to close Manual High, and its students are given the opportunity to attend their choice of the other, better (i.e. less Mexican) Denver schools. Those who think vouchers a cure-all take note: this causes most of them to drop out of school entirely (which seems to make no sense, but think about it from the teens' perspective"

The blog post contain a link to the original article in the New Yorker (without the pictures). It is a warning of where mass immigration is taking us and the folly of thinking that these problems can be easily solved.

P.S. For a more comprehensive article about Gates and education, see ( http://tinyurl.com/gd96l ) "Bill Gates Gets Schooled" in Business Week Online. They give a him C grade for his efforts.



I recently checked the California 8th grade reading scores. Dead last in the nation. No more "Thank God for Mississippi" excuses. California has finally achieved its long awaited breakout to the bottom. Actually, DC ranks below California (by far), but is not a state.

Thank you


P.S. Look on the bright side. California soars to 45th in 8th grade math.


Joys of Cultural Diversity?


Ghost brides are murdered to give dead bachelors a wife in the afterlife

Gang preyed on rural superstition Undertaker was link with families

Jane Macartney in Bejing

A ring of gangsters who traded in the bodies of women they murdered, selling them as brides to keep dead bachelors happy in the afterlife, has been arrested in China.

The arrests have exposed a trade that places a higher value on women when they are dead than when they are alive.

Yang Dongyan, 35, was arrested on January 4 in Sha'anxi province as he played cards with his children. In his prison cell, Mr Yang showed little remorse for committing two murders. He told the Legal Daily: "I just wanted to make money. It's a quick way to make money. I was arrested too soon otherwise I had planned to do this business a few more times."<snip>



It's begun (and look at the news item's author)


Climate Panel Recommends Global Temperature Ceiling, Carbon Tax By Peter Heinlein United Nations 28 February 2007

A panel of scientists has presented the United Nations a detailed plan for combating climate change. VOA's correspondent at the U.N. Peter Heinlein reports the strategy involves reaching a global agreement on a temperature ceiling. A group of 18 scientists from 11 countries is calling on the international community to act quickly to prevent catastrophic climate change. In a report requested by the United Nations and partially paid for by the privately funded U.N. Foundation, the panel warns that any delay could lead to a dangerous rise in sea levels, increasingly turbulent weather, droughts and disease.<snip> The panel's recommendations include a series of steps to cut the rate at which temperatures are rising. Chief among them are a global agreement on an acceptable ceiling for temperature rise and finding ways of adapting to cope with the damage already done.<snip>

And next it will be criminal to deny it.


Subject: A scientist speaks out against man-made global warming 



A climate of alarm News & Analysis: February 2007

The conventional view among scientists is that man-made global warming is real and potentially devastating. Climate physicist Richard Lindzen tells Edwin Cartlidge why he disagrees ...

[F]or Richard Lindzen, a climate physicist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, this explosion of interest amounts to "baseless alarmism". Lindzen, who has studied meteorology and the climate for more than 40 years, believes the evidence that man is dangerously overheating the planet simply does not stack up. And he thinks that the predicted widespread sea-level rises, droughts and floods will not materialize. Even if these effects were on the cards, he says, attempts to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases would do almost nothing to hold such disasters back.


"Many programme managers have told me that [my] funding depends on concern for global warming," he says. "But if that is true, how can you objectively study the way climate works?"


A few get it. A slim few, but maybe, just maybe they'll be enough. It's hard to stop a juggernaut with a rowboat, but maybe it can be slowed down enough that it sinks on its own.

On another tangent all together, I absolutely LOVED what I've read of Inferno 2 and Mamalukes. My only question would be, which is worse, the agony of reading a small part and then having to wait for the rest or the agony of waiting without knowing what it's going to be like?

You know you've sold at least 1 copy of each for me and more that I can give away to friends as presents.

Thanks for your website and for your wonderful books. I don't drink beer, well not often or Deb yells, so I have to read or else have no place for my "extra" money.

Braxton S. Cook


Subject: Tribute paid to the imperial overlords, 


This piece is about the US as the world's hedge fund:


The piece discusses how "the US has managed to earn more with fewer and fewer net foreign assets than foreigners have managed to earn with more and more net US assets." And:

"In other times and places, such arrangements have been referred to as tribute."

Like all mighty empires, Pax Americana has made rich those who conduct business within its safety. And the subjects of this empire pay tribute.

How . . . traditional.



Subject: Kling misses the point on IQ

Hi Jerry,

I've been following your comments on IQ and education and I agree with you and Charles Murray. IQ is definitely a relevant factor and more importantly, the differences in IQ need to be taken into account. What seems to be happening, though, in the discussion on IQ in the media is that the use of IQ tests on individuals is being discussed instead of discussing the real point which is the need for different levels of education for people of different IQ levels.

Arnold Kling's article that you cited rightly rails against rigid tracking and the use of IQ tests as the only determiner of what skills track a student would be on. However, he misses the point that in the current educational system there is only one track that is deemed to be important, the college bound track. How a student would be directed onto an educational track is irrelevant because we only have one (well, two, really. College and remedial).

What you've pointed out many times is that our educational system is designed for Lake Woebegone where all the children are above average. Our educational system needs to give opportunities to people of different intellectual capacities and temperaments. The different tracks can be defined, in general, by the range of IQ's that are expected to be in them but the manner in which students are directed does not need to be by IQ test any more than university entrance is by IQ test. Students should be given the opportunity to move between tracks both up and down as it is found appropriate for them by both testing and their performance in their classes.

Regards, Dave Smith


Subject: Legos and Irony...

Is it just me or is it hideously ironic that teachers in Seattle are trying to teach our kids the same tricks that have brought Zimbabwe from food exporter to the brink of starvation?

The leaders in Zimbabwe don't seem to be learning either: "Everyone who got land must produce". Why produce when you have been shown that you get land for nothing?


Did Mr. Gono study abroad perhaps? In the Pacific Northwest? I'd be shocked....

Please withhold my name, I'm busily accumulating my personal stash of lego-men here while I still can.


MIND AND MATTER Is an Economist Qualified To Solve Puzzle of Autism? Professor's Hypothesis: Rainy Days and TV May Trigger Condition

By MARK WHITEHOUSE February 27, 2007

In the spring of 2005, Cornell University economist Michael Waldman noticed a strange correlation in Washington, Oregon and California. The more it rained or snowed, the more likely children were to be diagnosed with autism. [Michael Waldman]

To most people, the observation would have been little more than a riddle. But it soon led Prof. Waldman to conclude that something children do more during rain or snow -- perhaps watching television -- must influence autism. Last October, Cornell announced the resulting paper in a news release headlined, "Early childhood TV viewing may trigger autism, data analysis suggests."

Prof. Waldman's willingness to hazard an opinion on a delicate matter of science reflects the growing ambition of economists -- and also their growing hubris, in the view of critics. Academic economists are increasingly venturing beyond their traditional stomping ground, a wanderlust that has produced some powerful results but also has raised concerns about whether they're sometimes going too far.

Ami Klin, director of the autism program at the Yale Child Study Center, says Prof. Waldman needlessly wounded families by advertising an unpublished paper that lacks support from clinical studies of actual children. "Whenever there is a fad in autism, what people unfortunately fail to see is how parents suffer," says Dr. Klin. "The moment you start to use economics to study the cause of autism, I think you've crossed a boundary."

Prof. Waldman, who thinks television restriction may have helped rescue his own son from autism, says many noneconomists don't understand the methods he used. His paper recommends that parents keep young children away from television until more rigorous studies can be done. "I've gotten a lot of nasty emails," he says. "But if people aren't following up on this, it's a crime."

Is this a turf war?

I have no idea what has caused the increase in autism; but surely speculations with data shouldn't be condemned out of hand without consideration? I doubt that using TV as the baby sitter has done this; there are plenty of kids parked in front of TV who don't develop autism; but can it be a contributing factor? Is it worth considering?




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Thursday, March 1, 2007

Subject: Aliens will save us?

You can't make this stuff up - well, you can, but any editor would reject it. . .

UFO science key to halting climate change: former Canadian defense minister



It was a thousand science fiction stories...


More evidence for global warming, naturally.


- Roland Dobbins


Caption: my daughter in law's back yard outside Washington, DC in February, 2007



Mr. Pournelle,

I usually don't consider the TV Mythbusters show something that shows a major event, but they did something on a show I saw tonight that was very interesting:

They were trying to see if those movie scenes where the villain or CIA guy breaks into a sealed building and steals something from a locked vault were plausible. One of the protections they tested was one of those ultrasonic moving-object detectors (it looks like a fire detector mounted on the top of the inner wall so that it can "see" the entire room) used to detect if somebody goes into a room. They tried several methods to try to make a person invisible to this device, without much success. Then the woman Mythbuster simply did the following: She took a regular bed sheet (not a blanket, but a thin white sheet) and held it up so that it hung vertically between her and the detector and then she moved at a slow but steady pace across the room WITHOUT THE DETECTOR GOING OFF!!! Thus, the high tech detector was completely nullified by a bed sheet!!! Obviously, the people who made this device had never had somebody try such a simple-minded defense, since it worked perfectly in nullifying their detector.

Robert Heinlein would have probably almost busted a gut laughing!! So much for our vaunted technology...

Nathan Okun


Subject: JP Aerospace

G'day Mr Pournelle,

I stumbled onto the http://www.jpaerospace.com/  site. I've not heard of anyone attempting anything similar and the only online references to the Airship to Obit concept that I've been able to find have either been derived from press releases by JP or have been cursory dismissals of the idea as ridiculous without going into any detail. What I couldn't understand from their site was why they were trying to build a man-rated craft without even having sent up a remotely piloted second stage to prove the concept. Does this look even remotely possible?

Regards, Chris Papalia.
 Wembley, Western Australia.

I can tell you more after the Space Access Conference in Phoenix later this March; I'll be going. I have spoken with John Powell and he impresses me as knowing what he's doing. The physics are right; but engineering details are important and many of those remain unknowns. The notion of a big machine shop at 100,000 feet is certainly intriguing and will probably figure in one of my stories; but whether it is more than science fiction isn't something I feel confident about. It could work. And wow! if it does!


Subject: 10,000 Formulas text

I, too, appreciated the reprint of your survival guide article, and like Bill Kelly, I also started hunting for a copy of the book of formulas you referred to. I may not have found the edition you cited, but I did find


Henley's twentieth century forrmulas, recipes and processes, containing ten thousand selected household and workshop formulas, recipes, processes and moneymaking methods for the practical use of manufacturers, mechanics, housekeepers and home workers (1914)

Author: Hiscox, Gardner Dexter, 1822?-1908




It's available for download in several formats.

BTW, while http://www.archive.org does duplicate many of the works found at http://www.gutenberg.org/ it's not a mirror of Gutenberg--each site has works the other does not.

David Needham

Thanks! And for more locations, see below.


Subject: Reverse Hacker Vindicated


Every now and then you see a jury in a technology trial make the right decision.

This seems like such a case.

He was fired for tracking down Chinese hackers that had broken into Sandia Nat'l Labs. Once he tracked them down, he turned his information over to the FBI and the Army.

"When Sandia officials learned of the investigation and of his sharing information with the FBI and other outside agencies, they terminated him for inappropriate use of confidential information that he had gathered in his role as a network security manager for the laboratory."

This could be interpreted as a $4.3m 2x4 up-side-the-head of Sandia's ruling bureaucracy.

I hope it is.


John Harlow, President BravePoint

All bureaucracies need shock treatment. With military bureaucracy it's called war: if there's no reform the war is lost. Sandia is a key part of our military procurement system. Deterrence depends on everyone trusting them to be competent. The consequences of a failure of that consequence are incalculable.


Subject: Notes from the Canadian Culture Wars

Thought you might find these articles interesting:



As someone from a small town -- actually, a farm outside a small town -- I do get a bit tired at the underlying assumption in a lot of media that people from such places are inevitably uncultured and, indeed, stupid. To quote Stephen King, "Country don't mean dumb."

I'm left-wing on a lot of issues, but I find what Herouxville did to be quite valuable in terms of attempting to address what seems to have become unaddressable in Canada: questions of what our culture is and is not, and how tolerant a multicultural society can be and remain a cohesive (and indeed coherent) society.

Cheers, Jon Stover

Sometimes defining who you are can be a disaster. It is astonishing that the power of the state is used to force everyone and every place to be "diverse" and thereby to wipe out pockets of actual diversity by making all places just alike...


Subject: Legos and ownership

The article about the Seattle "teachers" foisting their ideas about community ownership shows they have no concept beyond what they've been fooled into believing at colleges.

It takes an advanced social realization that common property should be treated as well as private property. Examples of this lack of realization range from litterbugs up to people living in -- and destroying -- community housing.

When something belongs to everyone, it belongs to no one. Few people value common property or items unless they have some skin in the game.

-- Pete Nofel


Subject: Whacko commie school in Seattle 

Even for Seattle public schools, that sounded pretty over-the-top.

I was surprised to find out it's a private school, "Hilltop Children's Center". Looks a school catering to limousine leftists so their kids can learn learn to despise their parents like they do. I wonder how they'll like the end results...

At least it's not a public school. (Yeah, they do stuff almost as bad, so that's very small consolation.)

This blurb from their web page just makes me feel all fuzzy inside:

Our program is inspired by children's curiosity and natural inclination to learn through play. Teachers observe children's play and listen carefully to children's questions so they may support emergent projects and creations that come directly from the children instead of the teachers. In small group work teams and large group free choice activities, teachers provide invitations to the children on topics they express interest in.

But somehow I don't think the taking away the legos and "It is evil to expect to own anything" came "directly from the children instead of the teachers."

-- Mike Van Pelt


Subject: Manual High School / Bill Gates 

Hi Jerry,

Regarding the comments about Bill Gates and Manual High School's closure being related to immigration. I know several white folks who were forced bused to that school in the 80's and 90's. The problems with the school had nothing to do with being 'too Mexican', as the previous author noted. The student body was primarily black, and much more importantly, poor. That, as the Bell Curve notes, is the primary indicator of IQ, and thus educational performance. Not race.

The real problem here though is that the Denver Teacher's Union makes it impossible to fire the terrible teachers employed there. More than one former student told me that as far back as the mid 1980's, less than half the teachers were competent. The school district, unable to fire the bad teachers across all the schools, tended to transfer the worst teachers to the worst school - accelerating the decline. The teachers have gone on strike more than once in recent memory, demanding more pay and benefits, and less accountability. The district has caved in, and granted concessions. It is top-heavy with administration, and poorly managed.

In addition, the gross numbers of students in inner city schools is declining, both due to flight to private schools by the non-poor bright students, and the aging population in the district itself. Manual's enrollment was down significantly from previous levels, and the economics of keeping it open were in question, regardless of the quality of education.

Illegal immigration is definitely an issue, but it's not a hammer, and not every failed school is a nail.

Name withheld by request




CURRENT VIEW    Thursday


This week:


read book now


Friday, March 2, 2007

Interesting statistics

If one looks just at the number of people in Washington, D.C. "like" the actual murder victims (young black males), I would guess that DC is competitive with combat in Iraq. The body count in DC is not at all a random selection from the overall population.



Subject: If an invasion falls in a forest but no one hears it, does it make a sound?

Dr Pournelle

Swiss invade Liechtenstein


Respectfully h lynn keith

Actually, Liechtenstein is very nearly a Canton of Switzerland, but because it has a monarch it can't actually join. It used to be a bit of the Holy Roman Empire, but stayed independent of Austria; the Prince wisely (and probably against the wishes of a majority of his subjects) kept the country neutral during WWII instead of joining Austria in the Anschluss. It was quite a delicate job. When I was over there the monarchy was very popular, and the only anti-monarchical sentiments came from outside or from students who like to play at chalking slogans on the gate. The Prince owns the best restaurants in town and the wineries that supply them, so the taxes all go to actual improvements in the state; the monarchy makes enough money to support itself in the rather lax style they prefer.

There's no army other than a ceremonial guard, but there is a very efficient police force.

The country closes down on Sundays. I mean the whole country closes down on Sundays. We enjoyed our stay there. It's very peaceful. And I hiked uphill a couple of miles to a castle that used to house a real live Robber Baron who charged tolls on the main road (back in the days of the Thirty Years War). It was being excavated by American students from a Pennsylvania universty...


Subject: Global Warming - Mars

Dr. Pournelle,

Just in case you haven't seen this article. I thought it may be of interest.


Kind Regards,



Herding the Mob.


- Roland Dobbins

I haven't tried Digg yet although Roland and others have suggested I do whatever it takes to get in on it. I suppose I should.


Bootstrapping the Industrial Age.


-- Roland Dobbins

I would have found this really interesting back in the Survive days.


The Thirteen Towers.


-- Roland Dobbins

Saw that in this morning's paper. I love archeo astronomy. Maybe one of Whandall's grandsons will visit...


And on a serious note

“Somebody’s got to be left who can do more than flip burgers for a living."


- Roland Dobbins


Subject: Speaking of global warming...

Have you seen this about the Oscar winner, Dr. Pournelle?


"A day after receiving Oscar glory for a documentary on global warming, former Vice President Al Gore was called a hypocrite by a Tennessee group saying his Belle Meade home is using too much energy.

"The home's average month electric bill topped $1,359, according to the group.

"As the spokesman of choice for the global warming movement, Al Gore has to be willing to walk (the) walk, not just talk the talk, when it comes to home energy use," said Drew Johnson, president of the Tennessee Center for Policy Research."

Charles Brumbelow

Sure. So has half the world. Is anyone astonished?





This week:


read book now


Saturday, March 3, 2007

Mr Pournelle,

In a recent 3 volume work, "The 2300BC Event" (Outskirts Press, Denver - www.outskirtspress.com), Moe Mandelkehr has assembled an enormous wealth of interdisciplinary evidence for an extra-terrestrial catastrophe in the Bronze Age. As this one of the themes which you have pursued on your admirable website, I look forward to seeing your comments.

I have a particular interest in this area as one of the co-founders of the Society for Interdisciplinary Studies (which was formed in 1975 to "objectively assess" catastrophist theories, such as Velikovsky's). In the 1980s, when I was one of the editors, the SIS Review published Mandelkehr's first article on the topic, which covered the archaeological evidence for a 2300BC event. Since that time he has refined and expanded his work and presents a formidable case for such an event. On its past record, mainstream science will probably ignore the work, but sites such as yours can help considerably in bringing it to the attention of wider audience.

Best wishes,

Brian Moore

I am not familiar with those works. Big Science resisted the notion of cataclysms in the early Bronze Age, but it's pretty clear now that there were some, of which the Thera (Santorini) eruption was quite important.


A liberal finds out that there -are- differences between boys and girls.


-- Roland Dobbins


Subject: Gore says media too "balanced" on global warming issue

Dr. Pournelle,

I really don't need more evidence to make me think that Al Gore isn't playing with all his marbles on the environmental front. But his article just makes me wonder what media _he's_ been following.


Cheers, Bruce Lewis


Subject: Eco-Religion

If you haven't seen this, enjoy:

"Environmentalism has largely superseded Christianity as the religion of the upper classes in Europe and to a lesser extent in the United States," Nine Facts About Climate Change author Ray Evans says in the publication. "It is a form of religious belief which fosters a sense of moral superiority in the believer, but which places no importance on telling the truth."







CURRENT VIEW     Saturday

This week:


read book now


Sunday, March 4, 2007      

Subject: Education, and IQ

Jerry: My experiences, in the Seismic Industry, really make our present Education 'System' look silly!

I had 'Catskinners', with a Grade 2, or 3, Education, that could read a 'Forest Cover Map {at 1"=1mile}, and a Contour Map {at 1/50,000 scale}, and bring my New Cut Seismic Line's Length to within 50 yards of where I had Pencilled it in, on each Map. They found their own Detours, around too steep, too soft, or River Crossings, and showed me where they were, to an accuracy that I could not beat, with my Survey Instrument & Stadia Shots. They also did their own minor Maintenance, and told their Cat Foreman when Major Maintenance was needed, and why. The Owners & Operator Manuals for their Cats were most familiar to them.

Yet some of them were very shy about talking with the Geophysicists, and the Geologists, from the Oil Companys, our Clients, because they had been infected with the 'more Formal Education is Superior' Meme.

Our Seismic Companies {and I worked for 6, or 8, different ones} all trained and promoted from within, for their Jug Truck Drivers, Shooter's Helpers, Jr Operators, Shooters, Operators, Crew Managers, and Crew Supervisors. The Survey Crews, self-selected from among the more math-orientated folk, ran thru the steps from chainman, rodman, jr surveyor, surveyor, First Surveyor {able to run his own Survey Crew, for a Seismic Crew to follow}, to Senior Surveyor (who did Permitting, Cat Pushing, Drill Pushing, and other Jobs as required...}, and Advance Man {who also added some Crew Managing, until the Regular Crew Manager arrived with the Recording Crew}. Some Surveyors became Crew Managers, and followed the step up to Crew Supervisor, as well.

Now, the 'Education', to advance, was mostly in the Field, hands-on, with some Book-Work, as well. The Survey Crews had to learn a lot of Map-Reading, and Plotting on Maps, plus a slug of Survey-Note Calculations {a lot less, nowadays, with the Solid State Data-Collector hanging on the Tripod, hooked-up to the Digital; Survey Instrument, which also uses EDM to measure Distances}. Special Schools existed, during off-times, for First Aid {BC Industrial First Aid for anyone going for a 'Shooters License'}, for Surveyors, and for the Electronics and Geophysics that the Operators needed to know.

All the Education was aimed to bring the Student past the level of competence and confidence. One of the really important ideas is "How do you Repair a Mistake?". Regular schooling mostly left our new-hires with the attitude of walking away from a Mistake, because it was 'forever'. All their Exams had been one-try and its over - no one had ever taken the time to show how you fixed a mistake.

As an aside, any Inuit that I had for a helper, took about a week or two to decide if I really knew what I was doing, or if I was going to need 'hand-holding', just to survive! Seems their young Schoolteachers, oft from Toronto or Montreal, had to be watched, when outdoors, lest they stray into the Dog-lines, or wander out into the great outdoors, improperly clad.

Neil Frandsen,

 who sees the Portable Computer as giving folk, such as the Inuit, the capability of combining Traditional living-on-the-land, with high education levels. Add a small windmill, and a small 'roll-up' solar cell blanket, and the Adults, and the children, can combine access to everything, via Satellite Phones, with the satisfaction of being out on the land, Winter and Summer. {Injecting the Displays with Ether prevents 'freezing', which is a discovery made by the Surveyors in the North.}



RE: Digg

Dear Dr. Pournelle,

I hope you rethink about “getting on” digg. Have a look at this blog: http://littlegreenfootballs.com/weblog/?entry=24563&only&rss . You say far too many contrarian things to deserve getting buried by a stupid mob!


Bill Grigg

I [mis]read the letter but went to the web site, after which I sent a note to the effect that I wondered if this were intended to persuade me to get on Digg. I got this reply:

Goodness no! It's supposed to STOP you from participating in that idiocy!!

Digg was one of those "sounds like a good idea", but has turned into mob rule by the Generation Y, or whatever they're called now. I suspect the author at Little Green Footballs is the victim of bots. I don't want you to be!

I am looking forward to Inferno, as I have enjoyed all of your writings.




Subject: r.e. 10,000 Formulas text 

Dear Jerry,

We don't need a nuclear war to trigger global economic chaos and a rapid contraction of trade. A couple dozen conventional explosions in the right places in the Persian Gulf can do it, too, followed by global financial chaos and psychological panic equal or greater than the Great Depression. One of my hobbies the last three years has been assembling a digital library of industrial technologies from the early 19th Century forward. Maybe a waste of time. And maybe my great-great-grandkids will organize their community around my statue.

Here's a 'few' other 'survival' technology references along those lines I've found useful.

1. The Digital Library of India: http://dli.iiit.ac.in/ 72,886 full text copyright expired English language books online. And growing. A complement to Project Gutenberg, with heavier emphasis on 'hard' sciences and technology from the early 20th Century.

2. Lindsay's Technical Books: http://www.lindsaybks.com/ Ask for a paper catalog. It has many books not on the website. Some useless, some entertaining. Many fundamental such as how to build and rebuild electric motors.

3. The Science Madness Library: http://www.sciencemadness.org/library/index.html Focused on chemistry and overlaps the Digital Library of India to a degree. Plus http://www.sciencemadness.org/lanldocs.html The Los Alamos Technical Reports sub-library. Great stuff even if you aren't trying to build nuclear bombs. I found a paper on slip-casting foundry crucibles, information I had trouble sourcing elsewhere since private companies consider the techniques trade secrets.

Knowledge is priceless. Right now it's instantly available and nearly free. This condition can change instantly with a "no network connection" message. I still remember how slow my internet got on 9-11-2001.

Best Wishes,



Subject: Mackenzie's 10,000

Dr P,

Looks like Mr. Needham didn't quite dig far enough. MacKenzie's book is at:


*Mackenzie's ten thousand receipts, in all the useful and domestic arts ..* ([c1865])

Also in many formats.

I downloaded both- and will be interested to see how they compare.

Kevin McGowan














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