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Mail 459 March 26 - April 1, 2007







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Monday  March 26, 2007

Subject: Letter from England


Gordon Brown (the Chancellor) announced next year's budget. Lots of sleight of hand. He reduced the income tax by 2%, but the way he funded it was by eliminating the 10% tax band paid by the poorest. He similarly reduced the corporation tax rate by eliminating tax credits for R&D. He freed up some funds to deal with the funding crisis in the National Health Service, but meanwhile the NHS continues to implode in other ways.

The science community here is up in arms about the £68,000,000 reduction in Government funded research that was clawed back. (Last year, they did a similar thing by delaying the announcement of the approved research grants by a quarter, but the funding eventually came through. You probably remember my complaining at the time. This year, I would not have been funded at all.) This claw-back was to pay for rescuing Rover Motorcars, but it managed to P-O nearly every scientist in the UK.

The cash-for-honours scandal continues to unwind. Blair avoided being questioned under caution by the police by threatening to resign. One of his supporters (David Miliband) is being encouraged by those around Blair to challenge Brown.


Iran took some Royal Marines prisoner in Iraq in retaliation for American capture of Iranian intelligence officers. The UK Government is not pleased. <http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/6493391.stm>

xml=/news/2007/03/25/ wiran425.xml>

story/0,,2042289,00.html>  <http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/
world/middle_east/ article1565688.ece>  <http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.
jhtml?xml=/news/2007/03/25/ wiran125.xml

British political news. <http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/6492417.stm>  <http://observer.guardian.co.uk/politics/story/0,,2042290,00.html>  <http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/
columnists/simon_jenkins/ article1563712.ece>

xml=/news/2007/03/25/ nrbudget25.xml>  

Cash-for-honours stories.

 <http://news.independent.co.uk/uk/politics/article2390949.ece>  <http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?
xml=/news/2007/03/25/ nhons25.xml

Raid on research funds. <http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/6419261.stm>  <http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/6384499.stm

The coach for the Pakistani national cricket team was strangled in Jamaica. Later it emerged he was writing a book about the corruption in the sport. <http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/cricket/6492749.stm>  <http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/americas/6492279.stm>  <http://observer.guardian.co.uk/sport/story/0,,2042512,00.html>
xml=/news/2007/03/25/ nrwool25.xml>

Belarussian politics <http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/6493441.stm

NHS problems. <http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/6484285.stm

Final showdown in Zimbabwe. <http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/africa/article1563672.ece

Nuclear energy in the UK?
xml=/money/2007/03/25/ cnenergy25.xml

-- 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>


"What we use here, rightly or wrongly, is a reasonable-suspicion standard."


- Roland Dobbins


"This is like the Holy Grail for a rocket enthusiast without much money."


--- Roland Dobbins


our foreign trade

Hello Dr. Pournelle:

At the risk of coming across as a xenophobe, I have to say that, as the old saying goes "they do not live as we live." Now we have pet deaths, caused by wheat gluten imported from China. This was contaminated with a type of antibiotic, sometimes used as a rat poison, which is no longer allowed to be used in this country: but it is apparently still used in China. When you engage in unlimited trade, you often trade more than just goods. You sometimes trade your production safeguards, and standards, for the less stringent regulations, or lack of regulations, of other countries. This could not have happened with domestic wheat, because the use of this poison is forbidden here. This also indicates the unpredictability of the whole One World system of trade. These pet foods were imported from Canada, and were made by a Canadian company, which used gluten imported from China.


So we allow unrestricted immigration across our southern borders, and get outbreaks of food contamination, and see new outbreaks of diseases which we had eradicated a century ago, while we allow a flood of products form China, a country with much different standards than our own, and get wheat gluten laced with a poison not allowed to be used here. This is not the first toxic product to come to our shores from China. A short search brings many examples. The pervasive lead contamination, found in so many plastic products made in China, is due to the fact that one of the big sources of plastic used there, comes from recycled lead acid batteries, primarily from waste management firms in America. Such a thing would not be allowed here, due to health concerns; but is permitted in China. Because fo the cost of proper disposal here, many so called recycling firms skirt the regulations, by sending old batteries to China, where they are broken up, and melted down for use in industry. Many of the products, so manufactured, are then sent back here. A similar process is used to "recycle" discarded compter and electrical gear.


Needless to say, this creates a really toxic environment in China. Then again, this is the country which runs protesters over with tanks, and executes prisoners, so that they may be surgically disassembled, and sold to foreigners for transplants. Under such a government, it can not be expected that there would be too much concern over a bit of poison in the environment, or against what the west would consider to be sub standard working conditions. If we are so anxious to save a few dollars on light bulbs, and underwear, that we continue to let these jobs go to other countries, we may soon find ourselves being forced to accept sustenance level pay, and poor working conditions, in order to compete. The transformation will than have been complete. We will have imported China living standards, even as we are seeking to import third world lifestyles from Mexico, through massive immigration.


This is not necessarily meant as a criticism of these competing countries, or as some sort of ethnocentric rant. Rather, it is meant to illustrate the reason that people band together to form countries in the first place. One of the reasons that people band together in nations is, to preserve and protect their way of life. Trade, then, should take this into consideration. To the people of China, it may, or may not, be worth the sacrifices, lower standards, and shortcuts being made, in order to develop their economy, and their country. To those of us here in America, it is not. A form of trade which allows jobs, and entire industries, to be moved off shore, does not preserve and protect our way of life. I don't know that it is doing much for the people of China, though the government and the new industrialist class are certainly profiting. The way things stand right now, we are serving ourselves the worst, from each plate. On the one hand, much of our industrial production is being strangled by regulations which are often too exacting, and encourage industry to leave. So we lose jobs, or must accept lower pay, or less amenable working conditions, than might otherwise be the case. On the other hand, we are not even benefiting from many of these regulations when substandard, dangerous, or toxic products, manufactured in places with lax regulations, are allowed in.

In case anyone is thinking that the wheat gluten incident only occurred because of lower standards in regards to pet foods, it might be interesting to note that many imported foods from China have problems. When fruits, and other crops are grown in areas where there is little oversight or pollution control, you get contaminated food. You also get contaminated food, when packaging is imprinted with lead based dyes, or candies are wrapped with lead contaminated plastic wrappers.


Welcome to the brave new world. The third world.

Neal Pritchett

We should be looking ahead to see how we can maintain a First World economy. We now that can be done without Free Trade, for we have done it. What man has done, man can aspire to. Whether the current system of free trade, credentialist union dominated bad schools, job exports, and open borders will sustain a First World economy for very long is not so clear. However, the CEO's of our big corporations will have deployed their Golden Parachutes and taken their retirement bonuses and they will be able to buy whatever the want. The very rich do quite well in Second World and Third World economies. The rest of us may not fare quite so well.

It's an interesting experiment we are running.


Subject: The pill against global warming.

Hi Jerry, there is news on the belching cows:

Now it seems that scientists in Germany has found a pill against global warming from belching cows!

The pill reduces methane output from the cows, and should even increase the milk production and wellbeing of the cows.

News article in The Guardian: http://environment.guardian.co.uk/climatechange/story/0,,2040846,00.html 

Report in German: http://www.innovations-report.de/html/


Bo Andersen Denmark



Subject: DOE Policy Update: Polygraphs

Via Bruce Schneier, http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/intel/RL31988.pdf.  DOE continues to use polygraphs, but moving away from using them for screening and more towards investigations of specific incidents. Concerns about false positives and learned countermeasures influence this move.

-Max Wilson

P.S. This paragraph particularly interesting. "In its 1983 report, OTA asserted that the CIA and the National Security Agency (NSA) employ the polygraph as an interrogation technique with the goal of encouraging admissions rather than as a method to determine deception or truthfulness, per se. OTA further noted that NSA security adjudicators are more interested in the pre-test and post-test responses than in any other examination results produced by the polygraph. OTA concluded that the Intelligence Community's research measured the polygraph's utility, rather than its scientific validity."



If New Mexico Builds It, Will Space Travelers Come?


-- Roland Dobbins

But note:

Not everybody feels the love


I do note that the Constitution explicitly authorizes the Federal Government to build post roads, and the Erie Canal and other such improvements were done largely with government funding. There are enterprises which have great general benefit but low return to any individual; Adam Smith discusses such cases as have economists ever since. Railroads and canals; highways; while there are and have been boondoggles in plenty, it is hard to argue that the country would have been better off without  the government infrastructure investments.


Study Links Child Care and Bad Behavior


"WASHINGTON - Children who got quality child care before entering kindergarten had better vocabulary scores in the fifth grade than did youngsters who received lower quality care."

"Also, the more time that children spent in child care, the more likely their sixth grade teachers were to report problem behavior."

In other words, classrooms with slow kids become too boring for those who had the pre-school head start. Bored kids become problems. Duh!

Fix the freaking schools, folks!



“They knew this would be disturbing news for parents, but at some point, if that’s what you’re finding, then you have to report it.”


-- Roland Dobbins




This week:


read book now


Tuesday,  March 27, 2007

Subject: Ben and Jerry Math

To deal with that rather silly little Oreo film, here are some numbers. First, http://www.usgovernmentspending.com/index.php  has somewhat more information available. One thing to keep in mind is that defense is in fact a national task, that cannot reasonably be done by spending at the state or local level. Education is a local task. Also, note that all DoD spending was lumped together, while the issues they cared about were broken up to present an impression they are smaller.

Armed with that knowledge, what do we get?

Government Pensions: $875 billion
Government Health Care: $850 billion
Government Education: $750 billion
National Defense: $650 billion
Government Welfare: $425 billion

So, what parts of DoD spending do we cut in order to provide better funding for education? Note that there doesn't appear to be any direct relationship between spending and the quality of education.

It is also very interesting to examine the percentage of the Federal Budget spent on national defense over the life of the nation.


It is always enlightening to look at real numbers. Thanks. And as you note, it has been known for 30 years that there is almost no correlation between education results and the amount of money spent on education; Challs showed that a long time ago, and nothing has contradicted that. Yes, there is a minimum below which results are affected; but that is far below what we spend.

The clearly indicated remedy to schools is to return to locally financed locally controlled schools. Some will be awful, but some will be excellent. Since the average is awful now, it's not likely to hurt anything, and local pride will bring up the average in many districts. Some places care about education and if given the responsibility will seize it and do something. Others won't, but it's pretty hard to make the situation worse.

What really annoyed me about it is the way they compare apples and oranges. There is no good way to compare US expenditures on national defense with China. Just as a trivial example, they don't consider the small amounts they pay their troops as part of the national defense budget, while we consider pensions to retirees as part of ours. They also make no provision for how much the ability to intervene around the world costs, and while it may or may not be a good idea to do so, there is zero chance the US government will be willing to do without it.



Subject: More dumbing down for the kids


10th-grade WASL may ditch math and science

By Linda Shaw <mailto:lshaw@seattletimes.com>  Seattle Times staff reporter


State lawmakers appear on the verge of dumping the math and science sections of the 10th-grade Washington Assessment of Student Learning (WASL), and replacing them with a very different kind of test.

The idea is to do something about the fact that so few students pass the math and science sections. But the proposed remedy is generating a lot of concern because it could mean big changes in what students are expected to learn, and how they're tested.

Al Perrella/IDA

aperrell@ida.org <mailto:aperrell@ida.org>

All to be expected. Federalizing education will INEVITABLY lead to dumbing down. The only way that no child is left behind is to see that no child gets ahead.

THE PURPOSE OF ALL THIS is to keep the poor kids down and let the rich kids get ahead: only the rich can afford decent schools (with some exceptions, but the Federal Bureaucracy will take care of those if they have poor kids in them). Lousy schools are a way to keep the lower classes in their place and assure there will be smart burger flippers.

If you protest that this can't be the intention, I say "If you wanted to design a system in which the poor are kept down and the rich kids get ahead, how would you design it?"

We told people in the 1950's that "Federal Aid to Education" was an awful idea and would lead to the destruction of the world's best public school system. It all came true.


Subject: Admiral Sir Alan West interviewed on British sailors, Iran


Interesting. Compares/contrasts with 2004 incident (which most have forgotten...).



Protecting Tokyo Today

March 26, 2007: The Japanese are so concerned about North Korean ballistic missiles, that they are setting up Patriot anti-missile missile batteries inside Tokyo. This is because the anti-missile version of Patriot (the PAC 3) can only defend out to about twenty kilometers. These launching sites are considered "emergency launching sites." Apparently the Japanese consider the current relationship with North Korea to be an emergency, because the Patriot missiles are being brought in this month. Patriot missiles are very noisy when they launch. Basically it's a sudden, and very loud, explosion. If you are at home asleep when that happens, you will definitely wake up. This was the experience of civilians living within several kilometers of Patriot batteries in northern Saudi Arabia in 1991.

The 17 foot long PAC 3 anti-missile missiles cost about $3.4 million dollars each. The first versions of these missiles were used in 1991, and much development has taken place since then. The current PAC 3 can stop most North Korean ballistic missiles. Over the next three years, Japan will deploy Patriot batteries to sixteen sites around the country (including four in the Tokyo area.)

Japan has had poor relations with North Korea of late because the North Koreas have ignored Japanese demands that more information be provided on dozens of Japanese civilians kidnapped by North Korean agents in the 1970s. North Korea admitted they did this, but the Japanese believe information on some of the victims is being withheld. At the moment, North Korea is making a lot of noise about the mistreatment of Koreans in Japan. All foreigners get "mistreated" in Japan, but the North Koreas are mostly concerned about Japanese crackdowns on fund raising, and criminal activity, among pro-North Korea Koreans in Japan.


John Monahan


A Serving Officer on the Iran Hostage Situation

As we all know, the Iranians have captured British marines and sailors in the Persian Gulf. Eight sailors and 7 marines from HMS Cornwall. The Royal Navy says they can prove their personnel were never in Iranian waters due to technology like GPS, though Iranians have claimed that disputed boundaries will make such proof difficult. The Iranians intend to try them as spies, even though they were taken in uniform. The British personnel have admitted to being in Iranian waters, but Ministry of Defense officials point out that these are not trained to resist interrogations, and thus are expected to say what their captors want on the grounds that nobody will believe them anyway.

So, what can we know about this? The US has actually begun moving against Iranian Qods force officers in Iraq. They were dealing with Sunni and Shia fighters and providing arms and training. This surprises the naive, who think that Sunni, Shia and Secular can't work together, forgetting this is where we get the saying "The enemy of my enemy is my friend." An unknown number of Iranian officers have been taken, and at least two attempts have been made against US forces that appear, based on open source reports, to be attempts to retaliate for those. One was successful, with US personnel taken and killed ( http://billroggio.com/archives/2007/01/the_karbala_attack_a.php) . The other was an attack on an Iraqi Army platoon, miles inside Iraq, by Iranian border guards. Some of the Iraqi soldiers are missing, but no Americans were hurt in that attack. In both cases it appears reaction was fast enough to prevent full exploitation. Keeping live American prisoners would be a real coup, even if only considered in propaganda terms.

HMS Cornwall is the flagship of a multinational force of ships combating smuggling off the Iraqi coast. It is not clear why HMS Cornwall, the embarked helicopter, the two RN minesweepers in the Gulf or an allied naval unit was not covering the two small boats as they were taken by a reported force of six Iranian boats.

A complicating factor is that Iran has no single commander in chief. There are several officials who can make use of varying amounts and types of military force. This makes it harder to know who is actually making the move, and thus who to deal with. It has been about four days since elements of the Revolutionary Guards seized the two boats containing the British personnel. This is not the first time Iran has taken British forces prisoner in the area, but the June 2004 incident ended with the release of the prisoners three days later. The British press apparently believes this is in response to Americans taking Iranian prisoners in Iraq. I'm not sure, since it could also be connected with EU sanctions. There being a limited selection of EU forces handy for Iran to grab in the area.

However, the Brits seem to have failed to learn the lessons of strict ROE. There are times to take it and soldier on. I've taken fire without returning it, so I know it can be done when there is a reason. However, a boat in the Gulf isn't a place where I'd worry too much about stray fire hitting civilians. Yet the Brits use a de-escalating ROE to reduce the chances of getting into a war. Hmm, may not be working. According to MP Ann Winterton, returning British personnel have told her that they are forbidden to fire so much as a warning shot at Iranian forces on pain of court martial.

http://www.verumserum.com/?p=951  is a good starting point for a timeline, though from memory I do not believe it is complete.

The Iranians say they will treat the uniformed military personnel as spies. This is in clear violation of the Geneva Convention. Yet when we treated prisoners, taken in combat against us in civilian clothing, about like we'd treat prisoners in a maximum security prison in the US, we were accused of war crimes when the treaty we signed allows us to shoot them out of hand for their crimes. How long you figure we'll need to wait until we hear those lawyers who were so worried about our treatement of the Geneva Convention on the case against Iran? Should I hold my breath? Nobody seems upset about summary executions of civilian contractors or military personnel taken by the enemy in Iraq, so it must be far less important than the crime of using women to guard Muslims.

PM Blair has threatened to move from pleading to cajoling. He has stated that "efforts to secure the release of 15 Royal Navy personnel held by Iran will enter a 'different phase' if diplomatic moves fail." Current speculation is that this means sanctions. However, there are already mild sanctions in place, and I'm told that foreign investments in Iran are drying up already because investors fear their assets would be seized and nationalized, and their personnel taken hostage. This tends to harm the profit margin.

The most likely outcome is less than a week of posturing before Iran can get a nice enough deal to return the troops, probably involving the release of Iranian agents in British hands in the south of Iraq.

Serving Officer




This week:


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Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Subj: Costs of Free Trade: are economists waking up?

A front-page article in today's _Wall Street Journal_ by DAVID WESSEL and BOB DAVIS, "Pain From Free Trade Spurs Second Thoughts" -- alas, there seems to be no free link available -- describes Blinder's intellectual journey from unreserved enthusiasm for free trade to an understanding that "the downsides of trade in today's economy are deeper than they once realized."

Here is Blinder's most recent scholarly paper on the subject:


"How Many U.S. Jobs Might Be Offshorable?" CEPS working paper no. 142, March 2007.

and here is his testimony before the Joint Economic Committee on 31 Jan 2007:


There is other material available from the same hearing:


and search down for "January 31st".

Ralph Gomory, President of the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, is another Free Trade skeptic. Here's a conference in which he participated in June 2006:


There even seems to be Windows Media Player video available.

Gomory and Princeton+NYU economist William Baumol did some computer models and a book, _Global Trade and Conflicting National Interests_, in 2000. Here's a paper from 2004:


Globalization: Prospects, Promise and Problems by Gomory & Baumol

and this paper is about their model:


"The economic significance of these results comes from the characteristic hill shape of the region of equilibria. The hill shape implies that there is inherent conflict in international trade, that the best equilibria for one country are poor ones for the other, and that a country is better off with a partly developed trading partner than with a fully developed one. ..."

And then there's Turkish-born Dani Rodrik of Harvard, whose 1997 book was _Has Globalization Gone Too Far?_:


Economist Wants Business and Social Aims to Be in Sync - New York Times

"The movement across borders of goods, services, capital and production, he said, is “open enough as it is.” He would concentrate instead on building public awareness that social insurance and free trade are “two sides of the same coin,” a concept entrenched in Europe but not in the United States."

I seem to have forgotten about [sigh] the 2004 essay by Paul Samuelson (*Samuelson* fer cryin' out loud!):


"Where Ricardo and Mill Rebut and Confirm Arguments of Mainstream Economists Supporting Globalization"

which sparked some controversy amongst economists e.g.


which was mentioned at


(scroll or search down to "Samuelson").

I guess the good news is that there's now at least some awareness amongst economists that the costs of Free Trade might be distributed substantially differently from the way the benefits are distributed, and that maybe something needs to be done about that. So maybe we're ready to move beyond the shouting matches between the wild-eyed doom-and-gloomers like James (_The Trap: The Case against Free Trade_) Goldsmith and the equally wild-eyed enthusiasts for driving globalization to completion as quickly as possible, on the points of bayonets where necessary, like Thomas P.M. (_The Pentagon's New Map_) Barnett.

But the bad news is that I haven't yet seen any modeling either of the effects of low IQ (not to mention rotten schools) on the retrainability of workers or of the rather minimal 10%-or-so across-the-board worker-protective tariff Dr. Pournelle recommends.

So far even the skeptical economists seem rather more focused on attempts to alleviate the damage to American workers -- by unemployment benefits and retraining programs -- than on preventing the damage in the first place, as Dr. Pournelle recommends.

Rod Montgomery==monty@sprintmail.com


The War on Poverty is Over

The poor lost.

See <http://www.telegraph.co.uk/money/
main.jhtml?xml=/money/ 2007/03/26/cmbrown26.xml>  for a discussion. Perceptive people here have been commenting that many of Labour's policies seem to be oriented towards keeping the working class in their place.

-- 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>


How Eisenhower solved illegal border crossings from Mexico.


- Roland Dobbins

What man has done, man can aspire to.


Subject: Schools - the rich


You wrote "THE PURPOSE OF ALL THIS is to keep the poor kids down and let the rich kids get ahead: only the rich can afford decent schools (with some exceptions, but the Federal Bureaucracy will take care of those if they have poor kids in them). Lousy schools are a way to keep the lower classes in their place and assure there will be smart burger flippers."

I do not disagree with the point of that paragraph. I have a nit to pick of course - does anyone write if they do not?

" ... only the rich can afford decent schools ..."

Not true. Anyone can home school. It merely takes a certain attitude; that your kids are the most important thing you've got going.

I am not rich - and were my wife to work we could certainly have more toys than we do. But is it - to us - worth it.

I acknowledge that for a single parent home schooling is just not going to work. I acknowledge this is a problem that is probably unsolvable if you insist or are forced by circumstance into that situation.

But that does not detract from this: home schooling is a viable alternative for not-rich family.

In the interests of fairness I need to say this; it's easier for me than it is for others I am aware of. I make a decent wage at a job I like; we can easily afford to have a "non-working" parent. But I know of people who home school on a salary that is far less than mine - and they make it work as well.

-- Brian Dunbar System Administrator Liftport - The Space Elevator Company


We have no quarrel. Home schooling works. I prefer good public schools for reasons I've explained before; but perhaps they are no longer possible.


Dr. Pournelle:

I have to take issue with the following:

"THE PURPOSE OF ALL THIS is to keep the poor kids down and let the rich kids get ahead: only the rich can afford decent schools (with some exceptions, but the Federal Bureaucracy will take care of those if they have poor kids in them). Lousy schools are a way to keep the lower classes in their place and assure there will be smart burger flippers. If you protest that this can't be the intention, I say "If you wanted to design a system in which the poor are kept down and the rich kids get ahead, how would you design it?"

I don't at all dispute that this is the *effect* of federal education policy, but that's no evidence of its *purpose*. As someone (Napoleon?) once said, "Never attribute to malice what can be explained by stupidity."

And in response to your "how would you design it?" question, there are a lot of well-meaning folks who would answer "I would throw communities back on their own resources like you want to do, or even privatize education like the libertarians want. Then, poor kids wouldn't get any education at all." I think these people are totally wrong-headed, but I don't doubt their sincerity for a minute.


Steve Klein

Oddly enough, back in segregated schools days, the kids at Hickory Hill -- not far from Capleville where I went -- all learned to read. And it was Napoleon who said that.







CURRENT VIEW    Wednesday


This week:


read book now


Thursday, March 29, 2007

Subject: Illegal occupation

Jerry: This from our "allies" in the middle east, who we defended from Iraqi invasion at the cost of US lives.



Never believe anything until it has been officially denied. Otto Von Bismarck


From another conference:

> Legislation holding the chief executive officers
> of private corporations personally responsible
> for all criminal activities carried on by their
> organizations...

We need to go back to a strict *mens rea* standard, not away from it. I resigned the one public-corporation board seat I held as soon as Sarbanes-Oxley came into effect, and you would have too. My place was taken by a lawyer with no knowledge of the software business. Since then, giant hedge funds have been taking existing public companies private to get them out from under Sarbanes-Oxley and new IPOs have moved from New York to the LSE. These trends are not conducive to prosperity.

Last time I looked, Jeff Skilling was still in jail and Ken Lay was still dead. The combination of market discipline and prosecution for real crimes personally committed with *mens rea* is enough. Far greater pain will come to the American people from public promises that cannot be kept (Social Security, municipal pensions, "No Child Left Behind" public education, and, especially, Medicare) than the private sector could ever inflict.

Good people simply will not expose themselves to unknown/uncontrollable criminal liability.


Sarbanes-Oxley along with job export, terrible schools, open borders -- it is as if there were economic warfare on the United States. Sarbanes Oxley has ended the IPO capitalization, and had it been in effect Silicon Valley would not have happened. Government is stifling us. Welcome to Second and then Third World economics n the US. Find a way to hang on to wealth.


Subject: A shorter work week?


In a box of memento's from my youth, I have a pamphlett written in the early 1960's that makes some predictions about what the world would be like in the future (i.e, the year 2000). One of the most optimistic predictions was that we would have a shorter work week, and that for most people, the biggest struggle would be how to spend all that leisure time. Consequently, I have to smile at the correspondent who is predicting a future world of leisure. That particular prediction from the 1960's seems way off the mark in this era of globalization and frequent Corporate restructuring. The biggest fear that I think most working age people have today is that they will need to work long into their retirement years, and will increasingly struggle to compete with low wage workers in other parts of the world.

Perhaps this too will pass. My impression is that the collapse of communism, combined with cheap transportation costs and cheap communication costs have temporarily upset the balance between capital and labor. Capitalists have a great opportunity to exploit this surplus of labor to their advantage. How long it will take to establish a new equilibrium is beyond my ability to predict. Likewise, I am unable to predict whether or not the new equilibrium will be comfortable for the average American worker.

Also to consider: A shorter average work week might not end up meaning what you think it does. We may end up with a situation where the 'lucky' employed have to work way too many hours just to hang on to their positions, while a large group of 'unemployed/underemployed' will feel lucky to work at all. If the unemployment rate got high enough in that situation, the average work week could decline from what it is today, and yet neither the working or unemployed would be particularly happy.

Here is another take on 'leisure inequality': http://www.slate.com/id/2161309/

CP, Connecticut

A lot to think on, but alas, I haven't time to do it justice. I'll leave that for the readers to comment on since I must be off and away to Hell.


Subject: Copyright

Dear Jerry:

The positions of the anti-copyright crowd approach those of religious faith and we know what the Jesuits said about that. I may weigh in later, but, like you, I have the feeling I've said it all before -- many times. I weary of beating the same drums again and again.

As for Monsters. I nominate Bishop Diego DeLanda, who burned all the Mayan books; perhaps the great act of cultural genocide in history.


Francis Hamit

Thanks. I have started some research on His Reverence. Of course there was the Caliph who burned what was left of the Library of Alexandria. Hmmm....




CURRENT VIEW    Thursday


This week:


read book now


Friday,  March 30, 2007

Fair use?


- Roland Dobbins

A rather important test case. Indeed so.

I have been involved rather incoherently in a discussion on copyright and intellectual property piracy in the SFWA discussion group, where I suspect I make little sense: one shouldn't try to tackle important issues when one's brain isn't working well. (That includes now, too; when I get deep enough into a novel, I forget there is a real world). Anyway, this is an important test case indeed.

This has generated a good bit of mail and considerable controversy.






This week:


read book now


Saturday, March 31, 2007

Tony Blair learns that immigrants are eroding wages, increasing unemployment

New immigrants eroding pay levels

· Senior adviser warns Blair over east European influx · PM due to give key speech today on future of work

Patrick Wintour, political editor The Guardian, March 30, 2007


The influx of immigrants into the EU from the 10 eastern European accession countries may be starting to push down wages among low- paid workers, leading to a rise in unemployment among unskilled workers, the prime minister has been told by one of his closest advisers. Tony Blair was given the politically sensitive information by Lord Turner at a seminar in preparation for a major lecture today on the future of work. The lecture is one of a series of valedictory addresses being given by the prime minister.

Concerns over the impact of immigration are understood to be shared by ministers at the Department for Work and Pensions, even though the government's official economic analysis has not yet shown a clear link between falling pay levels and immigration from eastern Europe. Lord Turner, a former chairman of the Low Pay Commission and author of the government's landmark report on pensions, told Mr Blair that the latest evidence suggested that migrants were beginning to push down wages at the lower end of the income scale. They were displacing some less skilled workers, making it more difficult to persuade some of the long-term unemployed to seek work -- partly because the immigrant workers were more willing to work unlawfully for less than the minimum wage.

The influx may also make it more difficult to increase the level of the minimum wage in the future. The introduction of the minimum wage in 1999 will be hailed by Mr Blair in today's speech as one of the major achievements of the Labour government.

Since the 10 eastern European countries joined the EU, the UK economy has absorbed an estimated 500,000 migrant workers, although many of these will have returned to their native country.

Mr Blair was urged by other academics at the seminar to do more to counter growing wage inequalities in Britain, on the basis that widening inequalities between senior executives and other workers within a company can reduce productivity. He has been reluctant to take such advice, arguing that any wage inequality has been driven by international competition for senior executives.

In his speech, Mr Blair will argue that the Labour government has given a new meaning to the term "labour flexibility", turning it from a euphemism for exploitation into a phrase which helps to empower workers with skills and rights.

"In the era of open economies, a flexible labour market is a desirable, indeed a necessary, thing," the prime minister will say. "We saw flexibility as a two-way street. We wanted to give flexibility to the employee as well as the employer.

"This used to be posed as a choice: either a flexible labour market or rights for workers .... [Instead] we saw that you could have a flexible labour market and a flexible labour force -- indeed, that it was vital to have both."

Perhaps this needs no comment?





CURRENT VIEW     Saturday

This week:


read book now


Sunday,  April One, 2007

There may be April Fool stories below, but there won't be many.     

I'm sure this was a surprise to King Leonidas.

This week the movie "TMNT" did better at the box office than the movie "300".

The headline of the web news story about that?

"Revived Ninja Turtles Defeat Spartans At Thermopylae"

< http://www.playfuls.com/news_0006234_Revived_Ninja_Turtles_
Defeat_Spartans_At_Thermopylae.html >

David Klaus 


Subject: Chinese launch secret manned flight to the moon!


   Email Header<http://ih.constantcontact.com/fs050/1101218001058/img/8.jpg?a=1101586715926>

Have the Chinese put us to shame?

NASA screams silently in space whilst trapped in Earth orbit. April 1st 2007


The first day of the Cruelest Month is upon us once again, so to chase the April blues away, it's time to think Green Party, and it seems Al Gore is planning a real doozy of a do for the Fourth Of July in the nation's capital : http://adamant.typepad.com/seitz/2007/04/raving_greens.html 

-- Russell Seitz


How to train a cat to operate a light switch.


-- Roland Dobbins

Looks very like Skinner's work. Or Guthrie


Was Amelia Earhart a doomed castaway?


-- Roland Dobbins














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