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Monday April 2, 2007

From another conference:

Subject: Sir Cyril Burt / Twin studies

Jerry Pournelle posts an amazon.com book review by Chris Brand of a 1995 book by Nick Mackintosh and asks whether Cyril Burt's twin data are or are not acceptable as science and whether he was or was not exonerated.

The answer (in my opinion) is clear. Cyril Burt's data are accurate and he has been exonerated. Of course there was no actual _trial_ and so there is no legal _verdict_. Nick Mackintosh put together a somewhat politically correct book in which he (reluctantly) accepts Burts innocence on the twin data but convicts him of a new fabrication -- finding a 1 IQ point decline in London, England, when elsewhere people were finding a rise in IQ due to the Flynn Effect. Chris Brand's review is idiosyncratic as he suggests Burt is a psychopath and _collected data_ from other people's publications. However, Chris Brand has no evidence for his vivid conjectures.

Burt's actual correlations from his twin studies have been replicated about five times, most notably by Tom Bouchard in the Minnesota Study of Twins Raised Apart. Burt's finding of a 1 IQ point decline in London in the 1960s is likely due to the changing demographics of London. Blacks and other non-White immigrants had begun to move in and whites had begun to move out. (London, England is today 50% non-White.) Although Mackintosh raised this possibility in one sentence on one page he dismissed it in the next sentence and proceeded to claim Burt was _probably_ a fraud.

It was a disgraceful effort by Mackintosh. I engaged in a four-part exchange with him in Contemporary Psychology after it reviewed the book (circa 1996). I subsequently published a fuller defense of Burt in the 2002 issue of Intelligence (vol. 30, 555-567) in which I was able to transcribe a speech from a tape recording of a speech he made near the end of his life in which he said he was still advertising for twins. (The audience was one that would have known if this was untrue.) I can send it by pdf if anyone wants it.

Hope this helps, Phil Professor J. Philippe Rushton, Ph.D., D.Sc.
Department of Psychology, University of Western Ontario, London, Ontario, N6A 5C2, Canada   <http://www.ssc.uwo.ca/psychology/faculty/rushton_bio.htm

The Twin Studies are some of the most powerful evidence for inheritance of various characteristics. It is a valid criticism to point out that twins reared apart have the same age and look alike (have the same physical attractiveness) and this must be factored into any attempt to analyze nature vs. nurture. Much of Cyril Burt's original data was burned after he died at the demand of a colleague who later berated Burt for not having the original data to inspect. This didn't seem very fair to me at the time. But later one of the war-time data transcribers turned up. The case got complicated and I lost track, but as far as I can see every twin study comes up with results almost identical to those Burt got; which argues strongly against any fraud. He may have done some rounding of numbers. I won't go into the logic of that, but do note that there is a considerable body of statistical work on error theory and when to round off data.

Pretending three digit accuracy when you have at best two is itself incorrect.


Subject: From WSJ "Best of the Web Today"

After reading this comment from WSJ's Best of the Web Today:

"There is a genuine problem here of choosing language that distinguishes between Muslim terrorists and plain old Muslims."

I wonder if the problem is that there is NO distinction between the two! If there is, apparently the "plain old Muslims" are not making such a distinction easy.


Charles Brumbelow


Harry Erwin's Letter from England

Subject: Letter from England

Stories about Gordon Brown's decision to tax pension funds (20%) in 1997: First Telegraph article: <http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml? xml=/news/2007/03/31/nbrown31.xml>  "Gordon Brown was warned explicitly that he would cause the death of the final salary pension scheme and cost companies and individuals billions of pounds when he took the knife to the pension system in his first Budget." Second Telegraph article: <http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml? xml=/news/2007/03/31/nbrown331.xml>  "The Treasury's decision to choose last night to release the Freedom of Information documents concerning the abolition of the dividend tax credits on pensions could hardly have been more cynical." Treasury response: <http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/6512999.stm>  <http://politics.guardian.co.uk/economics/story/0,,2047198,00.html

Penalties for not spotting erroneous assessments by the Inland Revenue: <http://business.timesonline.co.uk/tol/business/money/tax/ article1593659.ece

NHS implosion: <http://news.independent.co.uk/uk/health_medical/article2405131.ece>  "Let NHS patients pay for their treatment."--as the NHS is unable to pay for new cancer treatments. <http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2007/03/31/ nhs31.xml>  <http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2007/03/30/ ndocletter130.xml>  <http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/6510523.stm

Rail crash outcome: <http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/6510077.stm>  "The fine imposed will come out of company funds and be paid to the government - which effectively owns the company." <http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?
xml=/news/2007/03/31/ nrail31.xml

Bank problems today: <http://www.theregister.co.uk/2007/03/30/apacs_payday_delayed/>  <http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=
/news/2007/03/30/ nsalary130.xml

UK Government may back down on neutering Freedom of Information Act. <http://www.theregister.co.uk/2007/03/30/dca_foi_consultation/

Prison overcrowding: <http://www.guardian.co.uk/prisons/story/0,,2047012,00.html

Cost of Olympics unexpectedly wipes out Arts Council funding: <http://www.guardian.co.uk/olympics2012/story/0,,2047038,00.html

Russian scientists reject Putin proposal to supervise the Academy of Sciences: <http://www.guardian.co.uk/russia/article/0,,2047185,00.html

Professor quits after school administration decides to pass 13 students who he failed. <http://education.independent.co.uk/news/article2407983.ece> Related stories: <http://www.thes.co.uk/current_edition/story.aspx?story_id=2035975>  <http://www.thes.co.uk/current_edition/story.aspx?story_id=2036057

 -- 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

I'll be writing the letter today because I'll be spending the Easter break in Andalusia. Back on April 15th with pictures!

-- Harry Erwin, PhD


TCS has some really good essays today


No Thanks, No Impact Man By Gregory Scoblete 30 Mar 2007



Is This Really a Bright Idea? By Tim Worstall 29 Mar 2007



Iran's Latest Hostage Gamble By Austin Bay 29 Mar 2007



Subject: "Transplant tourism" on rise due to donor shortages 

Why do we always get the DARK version of Science Fiction as OUR future? I want that OTHER worlds' future, the one over THERE with the giant wheel space stations and Luna City!

"Farhat Moazam of the Sindh Institute of Urology and Transplantation in Karachi, Pakistan, said increasing numbers were traveling to her country to buy kidneys.

There are villages that are in the poorer parts of Pakistan where as many as 40 to 50 percent of the population of the village we know only has one kidney," Moazam told the briefing.

http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20070330/ts_nm/transplants_dc <http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20070330/ts_nm/transplants_dc




Subject: Al Gore on Venus

The Former Next President has upped the ante on greenhouse warming-- by 2,558 degrees !


Russell Seitz


Subject: Dengue surging in Mexico, Latin America 

The next immigrant from "Down South" may be:

"The deadly hemorrhagic form of dengue fever is increasing dramatically in Mexico, and experts predict a surge throughout Latin America fueled by climate change, migration and faltering mosquito eradication efforts."


But of course advocating control of our southern border is mere racism and particularism, thus to be disregarded. Out anointed elite shall have the consolation of their liberal consciences being clean of this taint as we all dance the "Ring Around The Rosey".



Morning Jerry

First off thanks for the info on Inferno II.

Secondly on seeing View for Thursday I can tell you that as far as I am concerned the eBook reader has arrived. In my case it came in the form of the O2 XDA Orbit mobile phone/PDA ( https://shop.o2.co.uk/phone/O2/Xda_Orbit_-_Sat_Nav ) . Although the screen is only 3" and 320x240 it is very readable. Combine this with Microsoft's reader app. and the almost unending supply of books in reader format from Baen and I have the solution to my daily commute. Not forgetting other goodies such as satnav (great on foot round London), contact and callender management with Outlook, FM radio (BBC Radio 4 has some great stuff comedy, drama, current affairs etc. most of it available on the web at www.bbc.co.uk/radio4)  and a music player. Oh yeah and a phone :-)

As regards eBooks I think Baen have got it right, at least from a readers point of view, the chance to sample a couple of chapters, and then the ability to instantly down load the whole book at pocket money prices ($5-7 for a book not even two pints at the pub). I have to ask, though, do you as an author get a reasonable deal out of these sales?

All the best

Ian Crowe




This week:


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Tuesday,  April 3, 2007

Is dark energy an illusion?


-- Roland Dobbins

I am gathering information from physics comprehenders on this...


Dear Dr Pournelle,

I wonder would any of your correspondents* like to comment on the US Supreme Court decision that the EPA may regulate CO2 emissions. As I understand the commentary I have read, a basic, no, vital part of the cycle of life on pur world is now to be legally cast as a pollutant? Will this decision be extended to include water vapour? Clouds? Sunlight? Agriculture? Cities? Cows? People?

*I am a regular reader, but this is the first time I have been prompted to put pen to paper - usually your correspondents manage to articulate any arguments I may wish to pursue much better than I can - but this one really takes the biscuit - a famous quote comes to mind 'If that is what the law thinks, then the law is a ass, Sir, a ass!'

May someone help us when the EU bureaucrats get their teeth into this on our side of the water!

Tony Judge

Thanks. I had intended to write on this, and may before the day is out, but I have errands this morning -- the battery died on my car -- and I have to go to Hell this afternoon, and there -- well anyway, my day seems eaten. But it is a usurpation of the power of Congress.


Subject: Another Illegal Immigrant?

"Behind the county hospital's tall cinderblock walls, a 27-year-old tuberculosis patient sits in a jail cell equipped with a ventilation system that keeps germs from escaping.

"Robert Daniels has been locked up indefinitely, perhaps for the rest of his life, since last July. But he has not been charged with a crime. Instead, he suffers from an extensively drug-resistant strain of tuberculosis, or XDR-TB. It is considered virtually untreatable."

"Though Daniels' confinement is extremely rare, health experts say it is a situation that U.S. public health officials may have to confront more and more because of the spread of drug-resistant TB and the emergence of diseases such as SARS and avian flu in this increasingly interconnected world."


Wonder how this squares with Constitutional rights?

Charles Brumbelow

This is an extreme case of quarantine, but quarantine for plague has been a power of state and local health authorities since the beginning of the nation.

It's a pretty grim situation but it would a lot worse if that strain got out. It's a consequence of some of our medical and agricultural techniques plus some really poor practices on the part of overseas health authorities. We are probably due for another  plague, and TB is a possible candidate. Now imagine a perfect storm with TB and influenza running loose...


Subject: The Wrath of the Legions

You wrote, concerning Specialist Townís diagnosis of a personality disorder unrelated to his wounds:

I had not heard this before. It is infuriating. Do any readers have more information on this? Is this truly a trend? This is a despicable practice, and deserves -- I won't say what those who participate in this deserve.

There is an article in The Nation:   <http://www.thenation.com/doc/20070409/kors>

I cannot speak to the existence of a trend, but it would seem fitting to me that such a practitioner would find himself in Cocytus, perhaps specifically in Antenora. Has Carpentier gotten that far yet?

Mark Deisinger

Shoreview, Minnesota

Thanks. And see below


Subject: Random thoughts on e-books.


I'm not at all certain that Stross mischaracterized your position, rather he pointed to you as an example of a respected writer that thinks that e-book and e-book piracy is a soon-to-be serious problem, a position with which he disagrees.

There are some interesting nuggets in the overall discussion though.

1) American consumers are reluctant to spend more than $25 on a hardbound novel. This seems to agree with my subjective gut feeling. I'm personally reluctant to pay more than that myself. I will generally only make an exception for someone I can rely on as being really good, such as yourself or Niven. Ken Macleod makes that list as well and Vinge of course, but that's a relatively small list if you think about it. Most of the time I'll wait for the paperback, or wait for it to show up at the used bookstore. Sometimes this is a mistake. I waited to buy Harlequin's Moon since, even though Niven's name was on the cover, I had never heard of Brenda Cooper before. I actually thought the book was outstanding. Larger novels are also an exception.

2) Why exactly do I want an e-book reader anyway? MP3s and other portable digital audio formats are successful because of convenience. You can carry around thousands of songs and the media is a tiny bit of flash memory, not a stack of CD's 4 feet tall. I can't imagine ever taking more than 2-3 novels with me while traveling, and books are portable enough that 2-3 is not really hard. Now having all of my physics textbooks on an e-reader could be handy. Given the price of textbooks these days ($80-120) the textbook publishers have a lot more to fear than novelists. Add a built in search feature that can cross reference several texts and you have a real application. Another advantage would be the ability to issue a patch. Get a formula wrong on page 162, just download the patch. The typesetter set "The children should have been spared" rather than "spaced", issue a patch.

3) One commenter (after your comment) opines that given the state of short story publishing, short story "e-stories?" might by a viable distribution mechanism. This actually bears further thought. I'd be far more likely to carry around 100 short stories electronically than 10 novels. The short stuff is in some ways like music, I'm not in the mood for Stross right now, I think I'll read some Flynn. Another thought, an electronic format seems made for a revival of the serial. Short pieces, delivered in a timely manner. Probably once a week rather than once a month as in the old days.

4) To be viable an e-book needs to sell for much less than the cost of a paperback. I'd go further and say it has to be much less than the cost of a used paperback, otherwise I'll just buy the paperback.

5) Used books and the ability to find them are probably a more immediate threat to the traditional revenue stream. You have (correctly) repeatedly pointed out that when Amazon markets used copies of your books side by side with new copies that this directly impacts new sales. This reutilization of used assets will only increase as large chain resells tie their inventories together. I'm certain it won't be long before I can go to the local used book store and they say, no we don't have a copy of that in stock, but we have a copy in Portland (or Dayton or wherever), we can have it here by Tuesday for you.

6) The "artefact" is important. How do I get you to sign a digital copy of Mote? Maybe you e-mail me a patch that affixes a digital signature. Somehow that does not seem the same. Something else I wonder about, do book signings have an indirect affect on book sales? There is the direct effect that people buy books that they might not otherwise have bought. However, I am also far more reticent to lend out my signed copies. Is this positive or negative on sales? Fewer people read said copy, but then fewer folks are then exposed to said author, and exposure is important. No one buys books written by someone they've never heard of. I've been known to buy used copies of books that I think are especially important and simply give them away to people. If someone has never heard of Heinlein and I give them a copy of Moon, I guarantee they are far more likely to go out and buy a copy of something that Heinlein wrote. The same is true if a give away or loan out a copy of Footfall.

As usual, I have more questions than answers. Proof that modeling human behavior is a tad more complex than something simple like Quantum mechanics. I also owe you money. I usually renew at Space Access, but I had a frightful cold last weekend, and stayed home. Please let us know when the subscription payment system is up and working 100%. Otherwise I'll just slip you some cash the next time I see you. BayCon perhaps?

Mark E. Horning, Physicist,

Good points. I will deal with all this in a column segment.


Subject: Jon Town 


http://www.thenation.com/doc/20070409/kors  is just the first of 689 sites that came up on a Google of "Specialist 'Jon Town,'" and this is not the only respectable news site in the list. That said, there is another site which claims this was a story fabricated by anti-war bloggers. FWIW this is not referenced at Snopes.

A google of "Evans Army Hospital Knorr" regarding material cited in a different article about Town produces the site

 which claims that Evans Army Hospital (Fort Carson) chief psychiatrist COL Steven Knorr is operating to deny further psyche benefits to discharged soldiers. I have to consider it verified.

This may be another extreme case, but if true it is even more despicable than the Walter Reed situation.


It is the kind of rumor the anti-war people would make up. It is also a very dangerous rumor, particularly if it is discovered that it was that. I still don't know, but this is the kind of story that caused great trouble in Gaul and Africa among the Legions. Threatening pensions and benefits of those with what amounts to a monopoly on the means of violence is never an intelligent thing to so.


Subject: Re: Denied Benefits for Non-Pre-Existing Conditions

(in regards to soldiers being diagnosed with "pre-existing personality disorders") I'm sure that these doctors can point to eminently sensible bureaucratic regulations that _require_ them to deny benefits. It isn't _their_ fault, you see--it's just regulations! You can't blame them for following regulations! Besides, there've been studies, y'know, showing that people can't help but follow their orders--you can't blame them for getting bad orders! Right? If you've got a problem, well, take it up with the ones that wrote the regs. After all, the Modern Businessman creed is that there are no failures in _execution_--only errors in _process_. Bad results just mean that your _process_ isn't quite right yet...



Jon Town


Here are some URLs.of the 996 listed by Google. I wish that this was a newspaper story blown up out of all proportion and the facts were that Mr Town had engineered an ingenious fraud to escape an unpleasant duty and collect a disability pension as well. The reported facts are such that not even your most egregious Neocon could defend the actions of the Administration.




John Edwards


Subject: Tuesday April 3 

Hi Jerry,

re: Is dark energy an illusion?

My college major was in physics, but I've been working for the past 30+ years as a electronics systems engineer. I try to keep up with the theories, but they're coming so fast these days it's very difficult. I understand the reasoning behind the proposed existence of dark energy and find the arguments in the article plausible. Unfortunately, like the hockey stick of global warming, there's not enough information in the article to make an informed decision. I'll do some more research, but I imagine there are larger brains than mine that will explain it better before I do.

One thought, however. According to theory, there should have been a equal amount of matter and anti-matter created at the beginning of the universe. If so, they would have annihilated each other and left a soup of photons and neutrinos. This obviously did not happen, but why? What if the energy of the big bang affected the particles that would later form anti-matter a little more than those that form normal matter causing anti-matter to expand faster than normal matter? There would now be a ring of anti-matter surrounding our normal matter universe, a sort-of universal Dyson Sphere of anti-matter. The gravity from that could be pulling us all to a rather uncomfortable end in a few billions of years.

re: U.S. Supreme Court and EPA ruling

I've said it before and I'll say it again, the honorable judges of the U.S. Courts have apparently all chosen to ignore the U.S. Constitution. Why should it surprise anyone that this august body of "scholars" would grant even more power to the federal government than it already possesses? From what I've read, if it isn't in the Constitution the feds can't do it. In other words, interpret the words as written, not after 5 days of arguing on what the meaning of "is" is. California can decide to restrict emissions of all cars sold in the state. Arizona can decide not to. Where's the problem? Of course, this would make the Department of Education, the EPA, and most other federal agencies illegal, so... It would also mean the people held in Guantanamo are being held illegally. "No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a grand jury,..." - U.S. Constitution, Fifth Amendment. Notice it says person, not U.S. citizen.

Braxton S. Cook


Subject: Mr Cook on Dark Energy 


Regarding Mr. Cook on Dark Energy and particularly the comment about the creation of equal amounts of matter and anti-matter during the Big Bang (vs. the current situation known as "baryon asymmetry"):

I've always been partial to preon models which propose that quarks/antiquarks and electrons/positrons are composed of smaller particles. (The fact that Doc Smith uses them to explain the propulsion of the Skylark III is beside the point :) Several suggested models, most particularly Harari's rishon model, postulate that the preons occur in preon-antipreon pairs such that conventional baryonic matter is neutral at the preon level, and thus explains baryon asymmetry as a statistical effect ("when the dust settled") rather than a significant factor to be separately explained. (A lot of my heartburn with Smolin's The Trouble with Physics is in his discussion of this topic as well, though admittedly I'm not fresh on the research in this area.) While there are sound reasons why Harari's basic model is not correct, I certainly think that this area of inquiry is worth further work.

Harari's model is at the heart of the Genesis Effect in Vonda McIntyre's novelization of Star Treks II and III, and in the endgame of Jim Hogan's Voyage to Yesteryear.

(There is a modest article on the relevant subjects at Wikipedia; the last time I checked it was accurate but significantly less detailed than much of their other work).






This week:


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Wednesday, April 4, 2007

' . . . the kinds of jobs that cannot be outsourced are slowly evaporating.'


- Roland Dobbins



Subject: Cargo Ships and Global Warming Plus Carbon Coaches in England

I've quoted both brief articles, Dr. Pournelle, as they may not be accessible on line to non-subscribers. "Business Week" is of course available in most libraries in hard copy.

"Smog Across The Waters

World trade gets the blame for all sorts of ills, from the loss of well-paying factory jobs in the U.S. to the rise of sweatshops in China and other developing nations. Now add global warming to the list.

The more than 90,000 commercial vessels crisscrossing the oceans produce more carbon dioxide than all but 10 of the 39 industrialized nations originally included in the Kyoto Protocol, says a study by the International Council on Clean Transportation. That includes the Netherlands, Poland, and Spain. This massive global flotilla also emits more sulfur dioxide than all the cars, trucks, and buses on the planet, and a sixth of all the nitrogen oxide pumped into the atmosphere, says the study.

The outsize emissions at sea reflect the limitations of world politics. While national governments have forced giant reductions in discharges from vehicles and smokestacks, the U.N.'s International Maritime Organization has maintained looser limits on ships, in part because 139 countries are involved in crafting controls. Some fuel burned in ships, for instance, contains 27,000 parts per million of sulfur on average. In the U.S., diesel fuel cannot have more than 15 parts per million. The IMO plans to take up new pollution standards at a midsummer meeting.

By Michael Arndt"

"England's Greener And Pleasant Land

Think of them as personal eco-trainers. So-called carbon coaches are helping Britons who want to learn how to live greener. For a fee of $300 to $600, advisers assess a family's energy usage and recommend ways to reduce it-everything from adding insulation and using halogen bulbs to installing a rooftop system to recycle rainwater.

Business is booming for the dozen or so green advisers, most of them based in the south of England, where they largely serve cash-rich, time-strapped customers. "I've had so many calls from interested clients I haven't even had to do any marketing," says Donnachadh McCarthy, founder of London's 3 Acorns Eco-Auditing and author of Saving the Planet Without Costing the Earth. McCarthy, who says he conducts at least two home audits a week, is also getting requests from companies.

Green coaching is about to get a boost from London Mayor Ken Livingstone's Green Homes program, which will roll out later this year across the capital as part of a wider initiative to combat climate change. The new service, announced on Feb. 28, will sell home energy makeover tips to Londoners for about $400 a session. There seems to be more than enough eco-demand to go around. Former engineer Dave Hampton, who runs Carbon Coach, based in the Thames-side town of Marlow, is planning to set up a side business in training others for the trade.

By Kerry Capell"


Charles Brumbelow


In Fear Of Chinese Democracy.


-- Roland Dobbins

Listen to the apostles of free trade, and you'll learn that once consumer choice comes to authoritarian regimes, democracy is sure to follow. Call it the Starbucks rule: Situate enough Starbucks around Shanghai, and the Communist Party's control will crumble like dunked biscotti.

As a theory of revolution, the Starbucks rule leaves a lot to be desired.

Shanghai is swimming in Starbucks, yet, as James Mann notes in "The China Fantasy," his new book on the non-democratization of China, the regime soldiers on. Conversely, the American farmers who made our revolution didn't have much in the way of consumer choice, yet they managed to free themselves from the British. In New England, however, they did have town meetings, which may be a surer guide to the coming of democratic change. It's a growing civil society -- a sphere where people can deliberate and decide on more than their coffee -- that more characteristically sounds the death knell of dictatorships.




Dr. Pournelle:

For your anarcho-tryanny file:

'Gay' used in e-mail brings 4 police to 10-year-old's home:




Yet one more reason to stay out of San Francisco:

Minivan's rude introduction to Critical Smash

File this under "I guess terrorism is okay as long as it's for your goals."



Minivan's rude introduction to Critical Smash

Phillip Matier, Andrew Ross <mailto:matierandross@sfchronicle.com>

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

It was supposed to be a birthday night out for the kids in San Francisco, but instead turned into a Critical Mass horror show -- complete with a pummeled car, a smashed rear window and little children screaming in terror.

The spontaneous Critical Mass bike rides, in which thousands of free-spirited cyclists roam the city, have been a fixture on the last Friday night of the month since the early 1990s. But even bike-weary cops, who have seen their share of traffic disturbances and minor skirmishes, weren't prepared for what happened during the latest exercise of pedal power.

Here's the story:

Susan Ferrando, her husband, their two children and three preteens had come to San Francisco from Redwood City to celebrate the birthday of Ferrando's 11-year-old daughter. They went to Japantown, where they enjoyed shopping and taking in the blooming cherry blossoms.

Things took a turn for the worse at about 9 p.m., when the family was leaving Japantown -- just as the party of about 3,000 bikers was winding down its monthly red-lights-be-damned ride through the city.

Suddenly, Ferrando said, her car was surrounded by hundreds of cyclists.

Not being from San Francisco, Ferrando thought she might have inadvertently crossed paths with a bicycle race and couldn't figure out why the police, who she had just passed, hadn't warned her.

Confusion, however, quickly turned to terror, she said, when the swarming cyclists began wildly circling around and then running into the sides of her Toyota van.

Filled with panic, Ferrando said, she started inching forward until coming to a stop at Post and Gough streets, where she was surrounded by bikers on all sides.

A biker in front blocked her as another biker began pounding on the windshield. Another was pounding on her window. Another pounded the other side.

"It seemed like they were using their bikes as weapons,'' Ferrando said. One of the bikers then threw his bike -- shattering the rear window and terrifying the young girls inside.

All the while, Ferrando was screaming, "There are children in this car! There are children in this car!"

She had the presence of mind to dial 911 on her cell phone -- and within minutes, the squad of motorcycle cops who were assigned to keep an eye on the ride descended on the scene.

The cyclists were loudly demanding that Ferrando be arrested for hit and run.

According to police, Ferrando had allegedly tapped one of the cyclists' tires.

When the alleged bicycle victim was approached, however, he said he wasn't hurt. He also refused to give his name or any other information.

Then, after a few swear words, the alleged victim took off on his bike while the rest of the crowd continued to yell at both the cops and the van.

Sgt. Ed Callejas -- the lead cop on the scene and a veteran of Critical Mass rides since their inception -- said he'd never seen anything like it before.

"I've seen the bikes swarm cars, and scratch them as they go by. I've seen guys get out of their cars and start fighting with the bikers, but if you had seen the faces on those little girls in tears,'' Callejas said. "All I could do was apologize for what they had been through."

The sergeant suggested that Ferrando write a letter to the mayor.

Estimated damage to the car: $5,300.

For Callejas and other cops assigned to the bike ride, Critical Mass has long been a study in contradictions.

For starters, San Francisco is a "green" city, and bike riding is about as green as you can get -- yet residents and commuters complain endlessly about getting trapped in the rides.

The city tries to ignore the unplanned rides, but there are always cops on hand to monitor the gatherings, even though any kind of traffic planning is impossible because no route is announced.

And even though the rides are held every month, Critical Mass has no organized leadership -- so no one can be held accountable for the group's actions.

In 1997, then-Mayor Willie Brown tried to control the rides. The result was anarchy and mass arrests.

Since then, the rides have shrunk in size. The city's generally hands-off attitude leaves cops as little more than bystanders.

"We sit there and they just go right through the red lights,'' Sgt. Callejas said. "What else can we do? Arrest one rider while 500 keep going?

"The only way to control this is through a massive effort by police and the Sheriff's Department,'' he said.

As for reaction from City Hall, Mayor Gavin Newsom said such acts of violence -- if true -- "only serve to undermine the worthwhile message of Critical Mass, which is to raise the awareness of bike transportation issues."

The mayor also said that -- if the charges are grounded -- he expected the attackers to be "punished to the greatest extent of the law."


There are very few social problems that cannot be solved by the suitable applications of machine guns and high explosives. These people are busily teaching that lesson, although they do not know that is what they are doing. Wait until they do this to the wrong person. Beware the fury of the legions.


charles murray on cochran et. al

I predict you will find it interesting, if you have not already seen it:

"Jewish Genius," Charles Murray


Wade Scholine










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Thursday, April 5, 2007

Subject: Iron, by God 

I completely believe the Specialist Town report. I mean, I've heard of this iron law of bureaucracy thing that predicts stuff just like this, does it not? In fact, this shows just how iron the law is. The doctors and administrators who are pushing the 'personality disorder' discharges probably are benefiting very slightly. Evading some paperwork is probably most of it. But that small advantage totally trumps the little matter of fulfilling their theoretical mission of providing for the welfare of wounded servicemembers, as compelling as that mission might seem to some.

In the blogworld (references to which are claimed to constitute 'verification' in some sense), there is much nattering about how evil President Bush for doing things like this. That part is terribly silly.
Bush surely knows nothing about it, and in any case he has no budgetary reason to care about liabilities that mainly fall in decades following the end of his term. It's just incredibly hard to get bureaucrats to do the right thing when it's easier for them not to. A President Hillary would have the same problem--unless she appoints inspector generals with the power of summary execution.

And sometimes I think that isn't hyperbole at all.

Mike Juergens


Subject: I hope you can tell me....

So, while my father was in boot camp for the marine corp ( @ 76-81 ) he read a book and decided he would name his first daughter after this "warrior princess." He could never remember the title to the book though. I recently came across your website through google. In the page only titled, as far as I can see, Chaos Manor Special Reports " The Mamelukes" you speak of Rick's wife Tylara... Please tell me where this comes from! ~TY

My novel Janissaries.  Tylara is a made up name; she is of mixed caldonian/celtic ancestry. I don't know anyone else who has used the name. I used linguistic principles to develop it; you'd have to read the novel to understand how unusual her situation is.

Tylara do Tamaerthan was her full name before she married. Her first husband was Eqeta of Chelm. He was killed, and she became the dowager Eqetassa, there being no other possible heirs (all other claimants were in rebellion and thus not qualified). She later married Rick Galloway, Colonel of Mercenaries, who is from an entirely different world and culture, so she continues to be Lady Tylara, Eqetassa, and her husband took the title of Eqeta (roughly = count). 

And she is indeed a warrior princess. Or at least warrior countess. Janissaries is still available. And Tylara is quite a girl.


Subject: Gay email

I have somewhat mixed emotions about the story involving the police visit to the youngster who sent an email to another youngster calling him gay. I am sure that amongst your readers, there are several who received visits from police officers when they were adolescents, which visits were intended to scare them into better behavior. When the offense involved is rather minor, I think such intervention is a good thing. A visit by the police can highlight the perils of poor choices at an age when people are still impressionable.

That being said, this did not seem to be the type of minor offense for which I expect police to involve themselves. Just as significantly (or even more so), this is not the type of behavior I expect parents to report to the police. This type of behavior may deserve the intervention of a headmaster or some other lesser school administrator. Heck, if it was a small enough town, I expect the parents of the belittled boy could have resolved the situation by forwarding the email to the parents of the bully. That the parents went straight to the police means to me that they want a nanny state. We need to stop blaming the police exclusively for incidents like this -- we need to focus a good deal of the blame on ourselves.

Rene Daley

Well said.


Subject: Janissaries

Is there a place where I may see a list of the Janissaries books, in order, so I may know what to look for at Amazon?

Thanks, John

There are three books in the series, but currently published in two volumes.

The original is called Janissaries, and was originally commissioned by Ace books as a "massively illustrated" novella. It became longer than a novella (but short for a novel by today's standards). The illustrations are excellent.

Volume Two, also massively illustrated, was called Clan and Crown. This book was designed to make use of the illustrations, and indeed the book isn't really comprehensible without them: a key incident looks like an author controlled coincidence or deus ex machina to solve an insoluble dilemma. The illustration shows precisely what happened, and that it wasn't in fact an author controlled device at all; and the action stems from the character of Tylara and is her solution to a threat to her house and household.

Volume Three, Storms of Victory, was not illustrated except for some maps. The first chapters of Storms of Victory make it clear to the reader -- and to Rick Galloway, Tylara's husband -- just what happened in volume two.

The books are currently published by Baen Books. They are not illustrated except for maps. The three books are published in two volumes:

Janissaries which is the original first volume sans illustrations but with maps.

Tran which includes both Clan and Crown, and Storms of Victory. There are no illustrations but there are maps. This inclusion of both books in one volume makes sense because Clan and Crown makes no sense without the key illustration; Storms of Victory tells what happened and continues the story.

I am currently working on Mamelukes, which will be the fourth book, but physically the third volume. It is about 2/3 finished, and I expect to turn it in to Ace this July. I will then begin plotting the fifth and last volume, but I make no promises on when that will be finished. I am currently planning my work schedule for what I will do after I finish Inferno II and Mamelukes.


The Cost of Cheap Immigrant Labor -- Legal and Illegal

More fuel to the fire, Dr. Pournelle...


"Immigration reforms that increase the number of low-skilled workers entering the United States threaten to impose a high cost on taxpayers, says a study being released today.

"The Heritage Foundation report calculates that for every $1 unskilled workers pay in taxes they receive about $3 in government benefits, including Medicaid, food stamps, public housing and other welfare programs."

"The report on low-skilled workers, who are defined as those without a high school diploma, did not focus on immigrants, but its authors say 25 percent of legal immigrants and 50 percent of illegal aliens fall into the category. About 9 percent of native-born Americans lack a high school diploma.

"Using data from 2004, the report shows the average household headed by a low-skilled worker paid $9,689 in taxes but received $32,138 in benefits a year. The more than $22,000 difference is the "tax burden" which rises to $1.1 million over the worker's lifetime."

Charles Brumbelow


Subject: Look what Niven has gone and started... 

Look what Niven has gone and started...

Dear Jerry,

Flash Crowds without transfer booths:

"More than 4,000 clubbers danced through the rush hour at Victoria station in Britain's biggest flash mob stunt. Revellers responded to e-bulletins urging them to "dance like you've never danced before" at 6.53pm."



Rod Schaffter

-- "If we extend unlimited tolerance even to those who are intolerant, if we are not prepared to defend a tolerant society against the onslaught of the intolerant, then the tolerant will be destroyed, and tolerance with them." --Sir Karl Popper


Personality Disorder Discharges

Hello again Jerry,

From May 2004 through April 2006, my Army Reserve unit was mobilized to the Infantry school at Fort Benning, GA. I started my tour as a Drill Sergeant, and got promoted to First Sergeant about half way through. I can tell you that 5-13 personality disorder discharges were the tool of choice to remove recruits undergoing Basic and Infantry training who were "problem children." These are the new generation of teenagers who have never been held responsible for their actions, and become verbally abusive and occassionally violent when such responsibility is forced upon them by the Army. In the old days, a quick, dirty "wall-to-wall counseling" session would usually convince them to change their ways, but I knew personally of several instances where even derogatory language, much less actual physical contact between Drill Sergeant and trainee, got the NCO into career-jeopardizing hot water. I also have heard of cases (unconfirmed) where fellow Reservists, who are less concern ed about military careers than our active duty counterparts, deliberately engaged in what Commanders call "trainee abuse" because they were sick of all the BS and WANTED to be relieved of duties and sent home.

I must note that none of the above should be construed as approval of ACTUAL trainee abuse on my part. Stealing money from soldiers, as well as physical or mental abuse is something I neither engaged in or tolerated from my subordinates, though it does go on, as seen in the scandals at Fort Knox and Aberdeen Proving Ground in recent years.

Back to personality disorder discharges. I learned that to 5-13 discharge a recruit who wouldn't obey orders, I had to prove a pre-existing mental condition. This meant that the pampered little brat didn't attend training, had to be taken to medical and mental health appointments, usually by a much-needed-elsewhere NCO, and had to be housed separately, lest his barracks-mates belittle him for his stupidity. Civilian medical and mental health records would have to be sent for and evaluated by military mental health folks, and THE PROCESS TOOK WEEKS. It was also discouraged by higher ups who were under pressure to produce troops for the war effort. I had to attend seminars led by General Officers that "explained" how we weren't actually lowering standards.

Anyway, if 5-13 discharges are deliberately being misused to broom combat wounded vets from the benefit rolls, those who are doing it deserve WORSE treatment than the Blackwater contractors got in Fallujah.

On another subject, anyone interested in the Amelia Earhart story you had a link to earlier this week should visit my friends at <www.TIGHAR.org

I don't know how I missed it previously, (because you're always at or near the top of my reading list)but I recently picked up, read, and enjoyed immensely Birth of Fire. Could be considered a dangerous book in these troubled times for the Republic

All the best to you and yours,

Dave Porter

Getting them out in training is a Good Idea. Sending them to combat and then claiming that their disability was pre-existing is a terrible idea. I am sure you agree.

And see below







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Friday, April 6, 2007

I received this today; I have no way to verify the source, but it does speak for itself.

Subject: Jon Town and his "personality disorder"

Mr. Pournelle;

I just wanted to send you an email after reading the comments about the Jon Town article that was published in The Nation from freelance writer Joshua Kors since I am the "Mr. Unnamed Official". I also sent this to another blog that was question the article and possibly thought it also came from an anti-war stance or someone who was purposely trying to make the Military look bad. First I will tell you a little bit about myself and my story and then I will complete the story of Jon Town.

Let me give you a small portion of what personally happened to me. I am an Iraq War Veteran who came home from Iraq with many issues, one being mental related. So I too sought help from the Mental Health professions at the Army Hospital . On the first visit and within the first 15 minutes of the one on one with the Psyche I was told that I could be out of the Army within 2 weeks if I took a personality disorder discharge. I went home that evening and looked up AR 635-200 chapter 5-13 and read about it (being the army geek that I am). I went back the next day and told my doctor that I didn't feel that a personality disorder was what I had. My doctor immediately started the paperwork to begin the MEB process. 4 months later my 10 year military career came to an end with the PEB giving me a 30% disability rating which made me medically retired. I now receive half my base pay, all military installation benefits to include commissary and PX privileges and Tricare Prime for me and my family. Even though I will have this disability for the rest of my life, I find myself lucky that I went home that evening and read the regulation.

Jon Town believed his doctor and chooses not to read the regulation. Jon Town was an infantry soldier who listens to his leaders, he was trained to listen and respond to orders. If someone tells him to do something, he does it. No questions asked. He trusted a doctor, a jag officer and his unit commander. All these people are part of the Discharge system.

After being discharged, I decided the only thing I knew was soldiering and I missed being around troops. So I went to work as an out processor. Myself and another 20 year retired veteran are the only two that do this part of the out processing here at our installation. We were both there the day Jon Town came in. The 20 year vet (Paul) was so disgusted when he heard Town's story and after taking care of more and more Iraq vets with personality disorders said to me "we need to do something about this".

There are many in-house organizations that this could have been brought to, but we felt it was better for the discharged soldier to tell the story rather than an employee of the Defense Department.

Josh Kors doesn't finish the story so let me. Jon Town went to his congressman who made this a big issue with my installation and the Pentagon. After many months of work, Jon Town's debt to the military was wiped away and he also received payment for Separation Pay due to the fact that he had served over 6 years and was involuntarily discharged. The Pentagon asked Town, in his words "To shut up about this", which obviously he didn't.

Paul and I give out the phone number of numerous Veterans Service Organizations and Veterans Advocacy agency to help these soldiers fix this issue. We also have helped some of these agency's fix this issue with the DOD. We have had numerous visits from Senator Kit Bond (R), Senator Barbara Boxer (D), and Senator Barrack Obama (D) who have come to fix this problem.

The number of personality disorders here at this installation has declined severely since Josh Kors started writing his piece. I know that the article was slanted and I tried to help Mr. Kors stay unbiased since this is not a political issue. I didn't know that it was going to be in the Nation (my fault, should have asked), I'd rather it had been on the front page of USA Today or the cover of Time Magazine. Something that has a better reputation than the obviously far-left leaning The Nation. Our sole purpose of getting this story out was to show the American people that we as a nation must take care of our Veterans. We owe it to every American hero.

Lastly, I would like to apologize for one thing. I remain unnamed for selfish reasons, I need to feed my children and I just don't trust the Federal Government.

Please feel free to ask me anything else.


Subj: SpaceX - Second Falcon-1 launch postmortem as of 27 Mar 2007


The second stage shut down early because the LOX in the tank was sloshing away from the sump.

The LOX was sloshing because the control system couldn't recover from the combined effects of the first stage hitting the second stage nozzle during separation, "followed by a hard slew to get back on track."

The first stage hit the second stage nozzle during separation because the vehicle was rotating faster than expected.

The vehicle was rotating so fast because the shutdown transient for the first-stage engine turned out to be different from what they expected and allowed for.

So they're going to put baffles in the second-stage LOX tank and change the first-stage shutdown sequence.

And fly again.

Rod Montgomery==monty@sprintmail.com


Subject: Oil, Energy, Food, and Chemicals

Background - I'm a 44 year old chemical engineer who works for a large petrochemical company. These thoughts are my own and do not reflect any company position. Feel free to cut and paste if this note is too long.

Nukes (and eventually space solar) are great for generating electricity. With enough electricity you can do pretty much anything ... AS LONG AS YOU ARE STATIONARY (or at least very large ... ship or locomotive in size)

Nukes work very well for ocean going vessels and with the improvement in battery technology they'll work well for short haul automobiles.

If you want to fly a plane - there's really no substitute for jet fuel.... safe, portable, high energy density.

However, if you want to maintain a first world standard of living the best use of our increasingly expensive petroleum may be as a chemical and plastic feedstock. Once you burn it - it's gone ... CO2 and H2O. But if you make plastic, medicine, lube oil ... you can use it, recycle when feasible, and eventually burn it and recover almost all of the original energy.

Plastic makes your car lighter so it gets better mileage (miles per gallon or miles per battery charge).

Plastic keeps your food from spoiling. My friends in Africa state that local farmers lose 50% of their crop to spoilage - either in the field, in storage, or during transport. Polyethylene bags are a modest proposal that is much more attractive than the eating of infants.

Polymers = paint/varnish that keeps your wood from rotting. Polymers = metal coating so it doesn't rust ... and it keeps the food in tin cans from tasting funny Polymers = fabrics ... nylon, rayon, polyester, polypropylene, fleece, Gor-tex, etc Polymers = all types of glue, adhesives, sealants, caulks

You can make analogs of most chemicals and plastics using biomaterials. But they are typically more expensive and usually don't work as well. I don't really want my food storage container to be biodegradable - that defeats the purpose. I want to keep the rats and microbes OUT.

It's a sad ending to our story if my greatgrandkids are forced to wear homespun cotton and pack their soybeans in bags made from hemp and jute because I burned all the easily available chemical feedstocks in my SUV.

p.s. In case of emergency we can always dock our Navy nuclear reactors and plug them into the local utility grid - this should hold back the dark ages for a while. I'm sure your son Phillip has done at least one contingency planning exercise of this type.

Jim Coffey

While transition from internal combustion to electricity for mobile systems will take time, it's not impossible, particularly with hybrids. Fuel cells are promising. Energy storage needs more work, and I have advocated government X Projects on mobile energy storage systems for more than thirty years. There are also methods for recharging stations on the Interstates that would allow much of the truck traffic to be electric on the highways -- but only if we have the kilowatts to do it. Until there is a prospect of more cheap electricity there's little incentive to work on conversions.

Of course I agree that petrochemicals are too valuable as feedstocks to simply set fire to them. I think I first said that in Galaxy in 1974, and I know that's in my A Step Farther Out. Thanks.


Subject: Ships Burning Bunker Oil in the Port of LA

Jerry, I work with a rather large oil company and can verify that ocean going ships tend to burn yucky junk called "bunker oil."

I attended a recent conference in LA and a representative from the port of LA told us that they were planning to change the regulations to not allow ships to burn high sulfur oil within X miles of the California coast. They were also creating infrastructure to allow both ships and trucks to plug into an electricity grid to provide power while they were sitting idle during the loading/unloading process. The port of LA generates an apparently large amount of NOX and VOC's from trucks and ships sitting idle but maintaining airconditioning and lights.

I see this as an excellent example of a good local law for a specific local issue - air quality in the LA basin. The issue of jurisdiction came up - LA has authority within the port, but when you leave the port the USA Congress/EPA Critters in Washington (God rest their souls) probably has jurisdiction until the ship reaches international waters.

Since electricity doesn't come for free this means that the pollution (and or nuke plant) must be located "out of sight, out of mind" somewhere in the valley.... creating the wonderful electrical generating capacity for the survivors of Footfall and Lucifer's Hammer.

 Jim Coffey


Subject: Lack of Skilled Workers


Donít believe that a lack of skilled US workers is the problem. The problem is a lack of skilled US workers willing to work 80 hours/week for $30K a year. A US citizen knows better; an H1B holder has no choice.

As an electrical engineer I can no longer in good conscience speak to high school students and try to convince them to thing about engineering or science. The jobs arenít there in most of the country. Why take very hard classes, get a diploma and wind up struggling for a job that has no future? In the past two years my income has steadily fallen by about 25%. And at this point Iím happy to just have a job that doesnít require 4 hours on the road every day getting in and out of downtown Chicago.

The problem isnít a lack of skilled people; it is a lack of respect for science and engineering in general. It is Wall Streetís attitude that all jobs (except the CEOís) should be done in India, China or eastern Europe at wages that you canít live on in the US.

I wonder if novels can be written in India or South AfricaÖ


I don't disagree. My solution would be to raise across the board tariffs; but then I have always thought that the purpose of a country is to help its citizens, not to try to equalize world wages.

Democracy and unrestricted capitalism are not compatible. A world that has no values but the market. The market will sell people if allowed to do so.


Mystery of Greek Amphitheater's Amazing Sound Finally Solved.


- Roland Dobbins


Subject: Well, duh! 



Relativity trick slashes computing times

Simulating the interactions between relativistic objects -- those travelling close to the speed of light -- can take enormous amounts of computer time. But according to Jean-Luc Vay of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in the US, this time can be slashed enormously by considering how the interactions occur from the point of view of a fast-moving observer -- a short cut made possible by Einstein's century-old theory of relativity that no one seems to have noticed before (Phys. Rev. Lett. 98 130405).


Do scientist ever slap themselves in the forehead and go, "Well, duh?" Haven't graphics programmers been doing something similar for matrix calculations for over 10 years?

Braxton S. Cook


Miscellaneous comments on today's mail

Item about Mr. Town. (1) Out of curiosity, any indication what prompted the author to write you? (2) Do you concur from this assessment that, in summary, the problem was isolated to one or two bases rather than general; that it is being resolved correctly (barring keelhauling of the culpable officials); and that it is being exaggerated somewhat to the benefit of the far-left media and bloggers.

Item from Mr. Coffey (1) Do I need to see if I (or someone) can develop an economical solar-powered plant to reduce atmospheric CO2 and H2O back to olefins and oxygen? I know how to brute-force it (well, OK, I have a reasonable concept for a process to brute-force it), but the cost per ton product even at production scale would be prohibitive (probably about a dollar per pint for sweet-crude-equivalent, which will not be economical for several more decades, particularly for fuel - unless OPEC cuts us completely off, or their well heads start to glow in the dark...). (2) Or should we just continue hoping for the turkey-guts process to take hold.

Item from Norman (1) It was reiterated today by Rush's guest host that while manufacturing employment is a fraction of what it was, per capita manufacturing and total manufacturing in the US has increased dramatically due to improvements in technology. (2) What would be the net result of a tariff which required an importer to certify that the goods were manufactured in full compliance with US labor, occupational health and safety, and environmental regulation -- with US inspectors allowed to inspect and audit foreign plants and suppliers who wished to claim compliance at their own or the importer's expense -- or to pay a tariff equal to the cost differential between their current situation as estimated by the US government without inspection/audit, and the estimated cost of production and FOB delivery from a US manufacturer. I strongly suspect that this would be a negligible tariff from most of Western Europe, Japan, and Taiwan -- and would at least double the on-dock prices of most goods from China and SE Asia. Even more if "carbon credits" from transport have to be included in the computation. That is where the major inequity lies...

Item from Mr. Cook Way back when I was in grad school, lo these many moons ago, almost all of our analysis was performed in the Center of Mass frame and boosted to the lab frame. If Fermilab and CERN could do it in the early 1980's, why not LBNL? (Relativistic Kinematics by Hagedorn was my friend then...)


Regarding the first item, I have no idea why this was sent to me. I would guess that in good part the problem is less pervasive than it appears, and I suspect that many of those who publicize it really do not wish the military well.

Regarding CO2 reduction, we need to know (1) do we really want to do it? and (2) how to do that; I suggest prizes. Sir Richard has offered $25 million, but a couple of billion prize for reliable CO2 reduction would be a better idea.

Regarding adjusting tariff for conditions it is complicated; it would work if enforceable, but I am not sure how one does that. Across the board would probably be better.


"They're just making it like they didn't intend to do that."


-- Roland Dobbins

Is anyone surprised?


Subject: Labor shortages

Dear Jerry:

A long story in the current Business Week describes labor shortages worldwide. The joker in the deck is that these are all skilled positions and that the shortages seemed to be caused by the reluctance of large corporations to raise wages and perks. It makes interesting reading. Mexico has an 82 percent shortage in skilled positions...and the list, across the board in all nations and all firms , includes sales representatives. That's a skill I have, but I'm not at all tempted, given that I was routinely cheated by every employer I had on the sales commissions I earned, except when I was real estate broker and basically running my own one person show. There is nothing really enjoyable about sales work except the money, so if you take that away, why do the job? And "once burned, twice shy". I've sold everything from Christmas cards to security services, but no more. I don't need the money and I don't need the grief.

Which brings us to that lamentable decision by Circuit City to fire 3,400 of their most senior sales staff because they make too much money. My reaction to this was "What are you? Nuts?" The best of these will go to the competition and those who take the lower wages will develop that sense of entitlement that permits any theft or cheat they can devise. Look for "shrinkage" at Circuit City to go sky high on the excuse "they owe me this." In the annals of bad management decisions, this one will be a MBA case study.

At this point, I am having trouble finding sympathy for all those computer geeks who complain about foreign labor coming in. There are jobs everywhere. One may have to retrain or even learn a new language and move to a new country, but if you make the effort, you can find the work you want. This is a nation of immigrants. Most of our ancestors came here for exactly that reason; to find a way to make a living. Conversely, employers who complain about labor shortages also get short shrift. As that Business Week article points out, any economist will tell you that labor shortages disappear when you meet the price that labor wants.


Francis Hamit

But importing people to absorb all the entry level jobs depresses all wages, and is not the way to build a middle class. Rule by the middle class is the only way democracy can work. Huge discrepancies between classes causes disruption of society; that's followed by some kind of circulation of elites.


Subject: Easter Comes to North Korea 

The Dear Leader may have gone too far this time - He's up and eaten the Easter Bunny - all 24 pounds of him http://adamant.typepad.com/seitz/2007/04/bunny_boiler_ki.html

Russell Seitz


'The police say the arrests followed a request by the school's principal.'


 Roland Dobbins

An extreme case of the "broken window" tactic?


"It's quite possible she'll end up back in her old position."


- Roland Dobbins

Why not?





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Saturday, April 7, 2007


Fukyama Agonistes.


 Roland Dobbins


"They wanted him to have a mental health evaluation because he wouldn't admit to making the call."


- Roland Dobbins

Well of course, with the WideAwake Police on the job, how could there be a mistake?


Subject: A question about your recent comments on global warming.


In Friday's blog entry, you reiterate your opinion that it is important to find out what is going on before we make big bets on a solution. (Agreed!) Then later you say: CO2 is not the cause of global warming. There is a big difference between saying that the role of CO2 isn't sufficiently well understood to take action, and saying without reservation that CO2 has no impact on warming. I'm just curious if you really meant to say the latter? (I remember that you've also said that we are basically conducting a very large experiment with the planet's atmosphere, which implies you are really more in the camp of "we don't know for sure".)

CP, Connecticut

What I said is that even if global warming is caused by human action, CO2 is not sufficient to cause what is predicted, and every one of those people know that. Eliminating CO2 won't stop global warming. Whether we want an elevated CO2 level -- and there are benefits -- is worth discussing, although few of the True Believers are willing to discuss it. How high an elevated level is worth discussing, too.

Most of the steps we can take to reduce CO2 emissions are good things to do anyway, nuclear power being one of the main steps; but if we want to reduce CO2 we need to address that problem, not play games with adjusting world economies by imposeing burdens on the First World while China and India continue to burn coal ad lib.

I have never advocated running an open-ended CO2 experiment, and don't now. I do think that if we need to reduce CO2 we better get to work on ways to do that because playing with emission levels won't have much of an effect.






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Sunday,  April 8, 2007  



Solar constant: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solar_Constant 

History curve from 1978 - 2002 is in the article. The 11- year solar cycle is clearly visible with changes in the solar constant on average of about 0.1% clearly visible -- this corresponds to about 0.5 degrees F.

Anecdotally from my memory, peaks correspond to warmer years and troughs to colder years, both across the full solar cycle and local variances within the cycle, which can be significant (by eye about 25% of the 11-year cycle variance).

I think this one graph could easily be used to disprove the whole global warming lobby.



That was my impression. It does seem to me that the sun is prima facie the main source of heat to the Earth.

I keep thinking: what would have happened if they'd spread carbon black on polar ice to increase the absorption back when the fear was The Coming Ice Age?


Must be 'global warming'.


-- Roland Dobbins



How one woman impacted the Holy Week liturgies:



Thank you! I had heard of her but forgotten. The story is well worth recalling.


'The exercise will simulate an attack by a fictitious radical group called Wackos Against Schools and Education who believe everyone should be homeschooled'


- Roland Dobbins

Of course. The bureaucrats understand that the real threat is home schoolers, not jihadists.


Global Warming - on Mars 



Earth's dusty neighbor Mars is grappling with its own form of climate change as fluctuating solar radiation is kicking up dust and winds that may be melting the planet's southern polar ice cap, scientists said Wednesday.


Of course, fluctuating solar radiation has nothing to do with rising temperatures on Earth.

Braxton S. Cook

What is interesting is that planetary scientists have ignored Martian temperatures until recently; now they want to find a mechanism that doesn't impact on the Earth's climate pattern. If they found that the Solar Constant has been changing, they would have to give up Kyoto and man-made Global Warming. I don't say this theory was generated in response for the need to explain Mars without conceding that the Sun is not constant, but it sure looks like it.

Solar output is the real key to planetary temperatures; yet there isn't a lot of work on studying that. We know that solar flares can have a sudden and dramatic effect on energy received at the Earth.

When I say that I get mail about dying polar bears.

The polar bears survived the Medieval Warm, back in times when the Inuit had different dietary habits and a different lifestyle. They adapted to the cooling; the Vikings didn't, and had to abandon Greenland and Canada in general. Now maybe that isn't definitive, but when "scientists" say "we have to get rid of the Medieval Warm" and other "scientists" are more concerned about public opinion than on scientific accuracy, I would suppose they have ceased to be scientists.

I don't claim I know everything on this; I do claim that some funding of contrarian theories would make it a lot more convincing that "science" has this monolithic opinion structure, particularly since the observers are still not finding what the computer modelers say they should be seeing.









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IF YOU SEND MAIL it may be published; if you want it private SAY SO AT THE TOP of the mail. I try to respect confidences, but there is only me, and this is Chaos Manor. If you want a mail address other than the one from which you sent the mail to appear, PUT THAT AT THE END OF THE LETTER as a signature. In general, put the name you want at the end of the letter: if you put no address there none will be posted, but I do want some kind of name, or explicitly to say (name withheld).

Note that if you don't put a name in the bottom of the letter I have to get one from the header. This takes time I don't have, and may end up with a name and address you didn't want on the letter. Do us both a favor: sign your letters to me with the name and address (or no address) as you want them posted. Also, repeat the subject as the first line of the mail. That also saves me time.

I try to answer mail, but mostly I can't get to all of it. I read it all, although not always the instant it comes in. I do have books to write too...  I am reminded of H. P. Lovecraft who slowly starved to death while answering fan mail. 

Monday -- Tuesday -- Wednesday -- Thursday -- Friday -- Saturday -- Sunday

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Entire Site Copyright, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007 by Jerry E. Pournelle. All rights reserved.

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