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Mail 469 June 4 - 10, 2007







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Monday June 4, 2007 

This week will try to catch up with a number of items worth your attention, but they will come in bunches. I should be caught up by Friday.

Letter from England

Diane and I went on a walking holiday in the Lake District: http://scat-he-g4.sunderland.ac.uk/~harryerw/blog/index.php  http://tinyurl.com/2xzz8k 

But we're back now. This letter covers two weeks.

The first story reminded a lot of people here of Brecht's poem, The Solution: "After the uprising of the 17th June The Secretary of the Writers Union Had leaflets distributed in the Stalinallee Stating that the people Had forfeited the confidence of the government And could win it back only By redoubled efforts. Would it not be easier In that case for the government To dissolve the people And elect another?" (http://www.socialistunitynetwork.co.uk/Myths/brecht.htm

http://news.independent.co.uk/uk/crime/article2588919.ece http://tinyurl.com/299o3j  http://www.guardian.co.uk/frontpage/story/0,,2089685,00.html
 http://tinyurl.com/2fblb6  http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/story/0,,2089432,00.html

UK pull-out plan for Iraq

Egg on the Government's face--war hero denied citizenship http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/6715743.stm
              [There is additional mail on this later]

BBC cuts its news department

DNA database to include everyone

Richard Dawkins irritated about airport security http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/story/0,,2089308,00.html
       [Is there ever a time when Dawkins is not irritated about something?]

Heavy secrecy fuels suspicion

PM's secret stalker squad

Cash for honours reopened

Ignoring Human Rights Act for Iraqi prisoners

Pension problems

Nanny state



NHS imploding [Surprise!]

 http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/scotland/6700685.stm  http://society.guardian.co.uk/health/news/0,,2090300,00.html

Smoking rules

Bankruptcy in Britain (and taxes)
 http://observer.guardian.co.uk/uk_news/story/0,,2094210,00.html  http://tinyurl.com/2mu6w6  http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/politics/article1875574.ece

Drugging their children

Education failures

This might be a bad idea in England--enforced religious beliefs

Didn't they try that a few times? Bloody Mary and all that...

Keep your mouth shut...

Civil servants alerted...

And quitting
 http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2007/06/03/ncivil03.xml   http://tinyurl.com/3xdn5m 

Litvinenko killing and the new Cold War

China addresses corruption in their food and drug agency. This is related to the toothpaste story.


Cracking down (?) on the knife wielders

-- 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>

In my view Berthold Brecht was not an admirable man, but he went far to make up for his life with the quote you gave:

The first story reminded a lot of people here of Brecht's poem,

The Solution:

"After the uprising of the 17th June
The Secretary of the Writers Union
Had leaflets distributed in the Stalinallee
Stating that the people
Had forfeited the confidence of the government
And could win it back only
By redoubled efforts.

Would it not be easier
In that case for the government
To dissolve the people
And elect another?"


It was his finest moment.


As mentioned above.=

Subject: Victoria Cross winner not allowed to live in Britian


" His courage in the face of almost certain death earned him the Victoria Cross.

Tul Bahadur Pun single-handedly stormed Japanese machine-gun positions during the Second World War.

The Gurkha's extraordinary act of valour won him royal admirers and he was invited to the Queen's Coronation and had tea with the Queen Mother.

Yet, despite his illustrious record, his application to live in Britain has been refused.

The old soldier was told: "You have failed to demonstrate that you have strong ties with the UK."

Fortunately this seems to have been settled amicably.


Subj: Nepal: Maoists vs Gurkhas


>>The Maoists now propose to halt British and Indian recruiting of Gurkha tribesmen for military service. ...<<

Rod Montgomery==monty@starfief.com

Possibly relevant


Seitz for publication 

Dear Jerry: I write lest anyone anywher elide me with the mysterious RS who signed the last letter appearing thursday 24 May, providing a link to Deepak Chopra and David Moorehouse's website , which offers " remote viewing " courses for $249

Herewith , unexpurgated , is a slug of Moorehouse's bug juice,

" Most self-proclaimed skeptics are not skeptics at all. They are ideologists who think they have the answers. The ideology they espouse is known as scientism, the belief that the methods and assumptions of the natural sciences are the only ones appropriate for the pursuit of knowledge. Scientism is an open value judgment that other disciplines conform their techniques of investigation to those of the physical and biological sciences. These 'skeptics' are in fact not interested in science; rather, they are fueling some sort of social movement against the possibility and promise of humanity. Knowing what they espouse, consider this fact: that if it Remote Viewing cannot be explained by science (their science), then it cannot exist at all, it must be a hoax or at best wishful thinking, certainly a waste of taxpayers money.

These skeptics openly use electricity when there is not a physicist on the planet who can explain in anything but theoretical terms how electricity travels along a copper wire. The scientists at SRI could not tell you how Remote Viewing works, not really, they can theorize and that has been the only 'ah ha,' for skeptics-the same people who accept the unexplained movement of electricity because it conveniences them."

_Caveat lectores emptoresque_ , especially if you are reading this on an electron driven screen by virtue of the waste of taxpayer's money on the occult so-called" theory of solids ."

This is as pure a specimen of utter bilge as I have ever cringed to read

 Russell Seitz

I have always thought you capable of saying what you really mean...

I have not yet sent in my $249, but surely if I could learn to do remote viewing it would be a talent worth that price? Indeed one wonders why they would sell such knowledge.


Subject: A successful black man writes about his experiences teaching at a Historically Black College

Here is an interesting series of articles.

Part I http://www.sptimes.com/2007/05/13/Opinion/I_had_a_dream.shtml 

Part II  http://www.sptimes.com/2007/05/20/Opinion/A_dream_lay_dying.shtml 

Part III http://www.sptimes.com/2007/05/27/Opinion/The_once_and_future_p.shtml 

-- Here's to cheating, stealing, fighting and drinking. If you cheat, may it be a death; if you steal, may it be a heart; if you fight, may it be for your Brother; and if you drink, may it be with me.



of fuel cells and poetry

Hello Dr. Pournelle:

You may already know about this, as I know the idea of hydrogen fuel cells has been widely discussed here. Professor Jerry M. Woodall (another Doctor Jerry), has discovered what may be a practical fuel cell.

There are a couple of presentations on his site at: http://hydrogen.ecn.purdue.edu/ 

Or for a summation, you can simply go to: http://news.uns.purdue.edu/x/2007a/070515WoodallHydrogen.html 

Something else, with which you are probably familiar, is the poetry of Robert Service. I never heard of him, in all of my schooling, though I wonder if his works had been required reading, for students of the more cultured and literate society of a generation or two ago. I was unaware of the existence of this man, until a recent trip to Alaska, where he is practically a patron saint. He seems to me, to be a bit like America's answer to Kipling. http://www.robertwservice.com/modules/library/article.php?articleid=4

Neal Pritchett

The Shooting of Dan McGrew and The Face on the Barroom Floor were once known to every high school graduate as well as every adventurer. I have heard Service poems recited in foxholes before combat. We seem to be losing something worth keeping.

As to fuel cells, work continues. (But see below)


Terrible tongue twister,


I came upon this in my wanderings through the 'Net:

"The Sixth Sheik's Sheep is Sick"

It's terrible, I know. But I just had to share. It's worse than Bird Bird's favorite, "Six slick snakes slid down the slippery slough (pronounced 'sloo')." Much worse.



Moving toward the singularity...

Subject: Life 2.0 - Artificial Biology Is Coming 

This has so many implications I don't know where to start:

It last happened about 3.6 billion years ago. a tiny living cell emerged from the dust of the Earth. It replicated itself, and its progeny replicated themselves, and so on, with genetic twists and turns down through billions of generations. Today every living organism—every person, plant, animal and microbe—can trace its heritage back to that first cell. Earth's extended family is the only kind of life that we've observed, so far, in the universe.

The people who are defying Nature's monopoly on creation are a loose collection of engineers, computer scientists, physicists and chemists who look at life quite differently than traditional biologists do. Harvard professor George Church wants "to do for biology what Intel does for electronics"—namely, making biological parts that can be assembled into organisms, which in turn can perform any imaginable biological activity. Jay Keasling at UC Berkeley received $42 million from Bill Gates to create living microfactories that manufacture a powerful antimalaria agent. And then there's Craig Venter, the legendary biotech entrepreneur who made his name by decoding the human genome for a tenth of the predicted cost and in a tenth of the predicted time. Venter has put tens of millions of dollars of his own money into Synthetic Genomics, a start-up, to make artificial organisms that convert sunlight into biofuel, with minimal environmental impact and zero net release of greenhouse gases. These organisms, he says, will "replace the petrochemical industry, most food, clean energy and bioremediation."





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Tuesday, June 5, 2007

That Face

You wrote in today's mail:

>The Shooting of Dan McGrew and The Face on the Barroom Floor were once known to every high school graduate as well as every adventurer. I have heard Service poems recited in foxholes before combat. We seem to be losing something worth keeping.

Don't know if you meant to imply it was, but as the Robert W. Service Website itself reports:

Did Service write "The Face on the Barroom Floor?" No, It was written by Hugh Antoine d'Arcy in the 1870's.

-- Cecil Rose

Which shows what doing things in haste and relying on 60 year old memories from high school will do for you. Thanks

Neal Pritchett writes:

"Something else, ... is the poetry of Robert Service. ... I was unaware of the existence of this man, until a recent trip to Alaska, where he is practically a patron saint. He seems to me, to be a bit like America's answer to Kipling. http://www.robertwservice.com/modules/library/article.php?articleid=4

Not quite. Service was Canada's answer to Kipling.

Tim Cunningham

It is not true that Service wrote The Ballad of Eskimo Nell. It is also not true that the versions who make Deadeye Dick's partner "Mexican Pete" are authentic. It's Deadeye Dick and Mexico Pete who go forth in search of fun. Decency compels me to stop here.


Tim Cunningham wrote 06/05/07:

"Something else, ... is the poetry of Robert Service. ... I was unaware of the existence of this man, until a recent trip to Alaska, where he is practically a patron saint. He seems to me, to be a bit like America's answer to Kipling. http://www.robertwservice.com/modules/library/article.php?articleid=4"

"Not quite. Service was Canada's answer to Kipling."

Ah, but since we do want to be correct, politically and geographically, Canadians are, as my Canadian friend never tires of telling me whensoever I refer to as an "American", "Canadians are American's too!", so I must beat this (nearly??) dead horse just once myself and say that though Canadian, Robert W. Service was most definitely an "American" also!



Subject: Re: hydrogen gas from aluminum

The problem with using aluminum to generate hydrogen is that less than half of the energy used to reduce the aluminum from its oxide can be extracted in a fuel cell. The standard electrode potential for aluminum is -1.68 V, for oxygen is +1.23V (both relative to hydrogen). Thus a hydrogen fuel cell can use 1.23/(1.23+1.68) or 42% of the energy originally used to create the aluminum. Actual results will be lower, of course.

I think it would be much more effective to use the aluminum in a metal-air battery, much like the zinc-air batteries commonly used in hearing aids. Current densities may be poor, and reloading the electrodes & reclaiming spent electrolyte may be problematic. The devil is always in the details.

(after a bit more googling)

Or maybe just use zinc-air fuel cells altogether: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zinc-air_battery

Doug Jones, XCOR Rocket Plumber

Thanks. Well, that settles that one.


Subject: Bill Maxwell on Stillman College

It's like that here in the post-'92 English universities. Most of the students come from families with no experience of post-secondary education, and the attitudes seen in the poorer cohort--there are two identifiable cohorts when you do a statistical analysis of outcomes-- match very well what Maxwell describes at Stillman. My third-year software design module is mandatory for graduation, so I get them all.

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


Subject: A few stories that might interest you

--UK children no longer allowed out to play. (If a child is not allowed unsupervised play until they're 14, what kind of unsupervised play will they engage in at that point? 8)


--Showdown with Putin

world/europe/article1884445.ece  http://tinyurl.com/2jv5yo 

--Polynesians in South America--the evidence is pre-Columbian chicken bones with East Asian DNA.


 --Local photos

galleries/tf_local_views_gallery.shtml   http://tinyurl.com/yogteu 

The Gateshead Angel is also known as 'the Flasher'.

-- "The data (or the marks when teaching) are sacrosanct--they tell us what actually happened." Harry Erwin, PhD http://osiris.sunderland.ac.uk/~cs0her


Subject: beating a dead horse (Robert Service)

Just in case this horse has not been beaten enough, Robert Service was not American, not even by way of Canada. He was a British citizen his entire life.

Rene Daley




This week:


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Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Subject: Nanny


"In so many ways, the state has become the babysitter and infantilizer of all of us, even adults and the most depressing part to me is that we are allowing it, bit by bit, every time we give the state more and more authority in the form of petty laws that control the lives of countless citizens in ways that take away personal autonomy while at the same time, doing little to prevent or severely punish those who are truly violent. Rebecca Hagelin, the vice president of the Heritage Foundation pointed out in 2003 that "America started out with three federal laws--treason, counterfeiting and piracy. In 1998, the American Bar Association counted more than 3,300 separate federal criminal offenses on the books--more than 40 percent of which had been enacted in just the past 30 years...""

It would be interesting to know how many new federal laws showed up after 1998.


Add to that regulations. No Child Left Behind. Americans with Disabilities. All matters that ought to be left to the states. Anarcho-tyranny thrives.


Subj: The Baghdad Droid Hospital


>>Users have come to rely on the droids for all sorts of things, and have adapted to the terrorist attacks on the droids, by treating the robots like "one of the team." Thus troops will provide covering fire for droids, as necessary, and will not send the robots out on suicide missions unless it's really important. They will also recover damaged droids, make battlefield repairs if they can (some guys have developed reputations as "droid medics"). There is even a droid hospital in Iraq (Joint Robotic Repair and Fielding Activity), that repairs about 400 broken or "wounded" droids a week. About that often, the staff there will have to deal with one or more teary eyed troops, carrying the blasted remains of their droid, and wanting to know if their little guy can be rebuilt. Many of the droids are given names, which are painted on the robot chassis.<<

I expect all the troops have seen the StarWars movies, but I wonder how many have read the "Bolo" stories? The StarWars droids are cute, but the Bolos are more ... Spartan?

Rod Montgomery==monty@starfief.com


Subj: Freeman Dyson on Global Warming


>>He ends with the fact that the lowest cost way to control CO2 in the atmosphere is not by controlling energy production and use, but by planting or cutting down plants.<<

Rod Montgomery==monty@starfief.com

Freeman Dyson is one of the ten sanest men on the planet. He and I do not always agree, but we have never disagreed on fundamentals.

Note that the article says:

He says you can't do good science without good data. He notes that the data on vegetation is sparse (as in almost totally non-existant). The money went into computer models instead of data gathering. It figures. Computers are sexy. Electronic wind vanes and anemometers are not.

We need to understand what is happening before we spend all our money on remedies. Of course we won't do that. We'll opt for Kyoto and bureaucracy, and after that we will never eliminate programs that do more harm than good. We will instead spend more and more to "fix" them.

I hope it is merely my head cold. Despair is a sin. But I do not see many people of good sense and sanity out there and none who are likely to take power. (and see below)


Dreamer Fithp article.


- Roland Dobbins

In case you missed this last week. My head was working back then.


Security vulnerability affects third-party Firefox extensions


Indiana University researcher Christopher Soghoian has discovered an unusual vulnerability that affects several widely-used Firefox extensions including the Google Toolbar, Facebook Toolbar, and Anti-Phishing Toolbar.

Bill Shields

This is a week old but important if you missed it.


Dr. Pournelle:

A Gurkha Victoria Cross winner is allowed to immigrate to the UK.


Robert Patton

Sanity prevails.


The other Hitchens 

Christopher Hitchens recently released a militantly anti- religious book. This has apparently convinced his non-atheist brother Peter to prove there's more than one Hitchens who can write. The piece does a good job of covering ground you've visited more than once in the past yourself.

A sample: "Where is his certain knowledge of what is right and wrong supposed to have come from?

How can the idea of a conscience have any meaning in a world of random chance, where in the end we are all just collections of molecules swirling in a purposeless confusion?"



What is justice if there is no Fountain of Justice? The Pope's Regensburg speech addressed this issue, but few seem to have noticed. I recommend it to those interested in such matters.


the new cold war

Hello Dr. Pournelle:

After reading the article below, the only thing that I can say is "Stupid, stupid, stupid." How can anyone want to start this all over again?


For those who have only read about the Cold War, as history, this is your chance to experience it first hand. For those who remember it fondly, here is a chance to bask in it's glow once more. What was Putin thinking? The first Cold War left the United States as the world's only super power (subject to change), and left the old Soviet Union a wreck, and Russia an ash heap. A while back, in one of his columns, Fred Reed suggested that Russia was still a super power; but had simply decided to take a decade or two off. I wonder if it's leaders have now decided that it is time to get back to business, after a long rest. Of course, Iran cares not a bit, about any of this. Fundamentalist Islam has enough hatred and paranoa, to go around, and would like nothing better than to see the two major western powers at each other's throats again; it looks like it may actually happen. Like I said: stupid!

Neal Pritchett

Perhaps my CoDominium will come back after all.


A Sound Way To Turn Heat Into Electricity


Science Daily - University of Utah physicists developed small devices that turn heat into sound and then into electricity. The technology holds promise for changing waste heat into electricity, harnessing solar energy and cooling computers and radars.

Bill Shields

Now that does look promising.


Subject: Artificial Biology -

Evening Jerry,

I just read the note about the possibility of creating artificial life. I'm no luddite, nor do I adhere to blind faith in God, but this scares the willies out of me.

I believe that all bio-engineering to date has involved taking existing life and modifying it. No one has yet constructed new, self-replicating DNA, let alone a complex, living organism from base elements. Thinking that we can start with raw molecules and bring them to life without consequence is sheer human arrogance.

I'm all for scientific progress, but creating a golem will irrevocably change human culture, and not for the better. Granting life has been the Divine power of God. If that last mystery falls, does faith fall with it?

"Scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn't stop to think if they should" ~ Ian Malcom, Jurassic Park

I believe - and hope - that the efforts to create artificial life will fail.




And you really want to look into this:

Ever wonder how your mouse pointer really works...?


Note: It also has sound if your computer is capable.

.... Just thought you needed to know.


**** "Glory is fleeting, but obscurity is forever." -- Napoleon ****

Mousing about...





CURRENT VIEW    Wednesday


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Thursday, June 7, 2007

Dear Mr. Pournelle,

Here is a link (which took me just a few minutes to find) to some actual data on solar irradiation:


It shows the 11-year sunspot cycle, among other effects. I am sure this data is known by climatologists and included in their models. It does not show any clear overall rising trend to me. If there is one, as another of your correspondents has suggested, it should be big scientific news leading to articles in "Science" or "Nature".

From my layman's understanding (due mostly to "Scientific American"), the main reason for singling out CO2 as a likely primary cause for global warming is the distinctive signature it produces in the range of temperature readings in the atmosphere and on the ground, over land and over water, during night and day, over time. For example, solar irradiation would heat the upper atmosphere as much or more than the lower atmosphere, whereas the CO2 green house effect actually lowers the temperature of the upper atmosphere by reducing the amount of reflected infrared radiation which reaches it. CO2 concentration varies over land and water (and over different large land regions, such as the Amazonian jungle), which allows us to distinguish its effects somewhat from those of other greenhouse gases. That is, one makes various hypotheses and then looks at the data to see which are supported and which are refuted, per the scientific method.

Sites such as realclimate.org have more information on the subject. For example, they explain that the "global cooling" urban myth circa the 1970's was never the consensus or even much respected among scientists at that time, and was mostly due to hype by a popular magazine article. This view is backed up by citing the peer-reviewed literature of the time. (If I recall, there was only one paper supporting global cooling, which was later recanted.)

Temperature increases on other planets are also data which must be considered, but their orbital characteristics are so different from the Earth's that no simple correlation would be expected.

I have long admired most of your books, especially "The Mote In God's Eye", and "Footfall". It comes as a huge disappointment to me to find you on what in my opinion is the wrong factual side of an important issue.

If it turns out you are right after all, I will owe you an apology, but it seems to me you are repeating discredited arguments uncritically, much as creationists do in their battle against evolution.


Jim Vogan

First, the Coming Ice Age theory was hardly the work of a "few popularizers." I personally took the picture used on Stephen Schneider's Genesis Strategy cover at a AAAS meeting: it shows him and Margaret Meade. She was then President of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and Stephen got her endorsement for the book (and her picture for the inside book cover picture) to show the consensus on the coming disasters. There were AAAS sessions. Gus Spaeth, then Chairman of a White House Council, gave a speech which included dangers of reglactiation of the US (he was concerned that the glaciers would spread stored nuclear waste). You will not remember those days, but I do. We were doomed, and Ice and Overpopulation were part of the National Malaise that was bringing in The Era of Limits.

Second, what those graphs show is the difficulty of trying to establish trends in cyclical data. Look at them. Look hard. Depending on the starting and end points you can make any trend you like. The eleven year cycle is long known. The warming trend from about 1800 to present is also long known. Since a great deal of the warming that has so many alarmed now took place during the 1800-1875 period before CO2 levels rose much, it is difficult to attribute that warming to human activity. It may have done, but it's not easily proven.

Warming releases CO2 from the sea: I am sure you know this. Just put a carbonated drink out at room temperature. Whether warming causes CO2 or CO2 comes about as a result of warming isn't all that clear. In any event, CO2 is a rather lousy greenhouse gas. There are far more efficient ways to warm the earth.

My point, which I repeatedly make, is that until we know what the hell is going on, it is absurd to spend the money we could be spending to find out what is happening on "remedies" when we don't understand the problem. We spend what money we do get for research on computer models instead of better data. We ought to be taking more deep sea probes, launching satellites whose purpose is to get accurate temperature data at all levels of the atmosphere (it varies a lot) as well as ground and sea surface; get temperatures both in and outside of cities, upwind and down; measuring total glacier gains and losses (some glaciers are gaining); and so forth. We ought to know more about clouds. I don't claim to be the world's expert on what we ought to be doing to find out what is happening. I do claim to be enough of an old Operations Research guy to know that if you don't know what's happening, you're better off spending money to find out what's going on than you are in trying to fix something you don't understand.

Simple Bayesian analysis: if there are two possible trends, and dealing with each is expensive, and what you must do is pretty well determined by which trend is going to happen, you are better off spending money to reduce the uncertainty and pay the penalty for starting later on the right track than you are to start investing in remedies that may be for the wrong coming disaster. I could show you mathematically, but I am sure you can see the point.

I repeat (and I wish someone would address the point, but they never do): we don't have good predictions of the climate. We can't even predict the El Nino events that affect North American weather quite directly and dramatically. We do not have the data to decide what to do about Global Warming, and we propose to spend the money on more computer models and expensive remedies instead of finding out. This is not an optimum policy.

Reducing CO2 from energy plants is a fine idea. If they had built nuclear power plants in the US (as France and Japan have done) that would have had the side effect of reducing US CO2 emissions. If we had invested in access to space with the view to building Space Solar Power Satellites, that would have the effect of reducing CO2 emissions, and put us in a far better position with regards to energy. I have been in favor of those measures since the 1960's. I wrote "America's Looming Energy Crisis" in 1973 for heaven's sake. I don't like being dependent on burning petroleum for energy any more than you do.

Thank you for the kind words which precede your accusations of idiocy. I am not uncritically repeating discredited arguments, but I find the phrasing interesting. It seems to be in widespread use.


Subject: New trial for teacher convicted of exposing students to internet porn

I'm sure you remember the story discussed here earlier about the substitute teacher who was convicted for exposing her students to internet porn, and was not allowed to present evidence that the porn came from pop-ups. After the conviction, the state had a team of experts re-examine the computer and chose not to oppose the teacher's request for a new trial.


The court granted the teacher's request for a new trial, thus voiding the prior conviction. The prosecutor acknowledged that erroneous evidence had been presented to the jury which called the verdict's validity into question. We do not yet know whether the state will re-prosecute or drop the charges. I'll be the first to agree that we do not have a perfect legal system -- but we have a very good legal system. Mistakes are made, since the system is run by humans.

This story strengthens my belief that it's a good thing we have a system run by humans. The prosecutor was uncomfortable with the conviction and re-examined the evidence in order to dispel his own doubts. Once he became aware of additional facts not presented to the jury, he contacted defense counsel and suggested that he would not oppose a motion for new trial [I'm reading beyond the published facts here]. Prosecutors are not experts in every field. They - like the jurors - rely on expert witnesses. If the prosecutor received poor information from the state's expert, then he would have believed that the teacher's actions had been deliberate. I still think the decision to charge and prosecute someone on a felony charge for exposing kids to porn is questionable, but that's a different issue.

Rene Daley

It would have been better for all if the prosecutor had bothered to consult someone competent before he went for his indictment, but otherwise I agree. What is the price of a couple of years of a teacher's life?


Subject: Waste heat to sound to electricity 

Dr, Pournelle,

Not to be cynical, but I would like to see a 2nd law thermodynamic analysis done on this concept. The whole concept of waste heat recovery is hobbled by the fact that any heat source that is sufficiently hot (available, has enough exergy, whatever terminology you want to use) to recover a significant amount of energy by any process is usually better used doing something else instead. The blowtorch the professor is using in the picture has lots of availability. However, the trick to waste heat recovery is getting some power back out of, say, a stream of 300 fahrenheit automotive exhaust gas with the same amount of total power (higher mass flow, lower temperature).

While I'm no expert on thermoacoustic refrigeration (I really have no grasp at all on how it works) I don't expect that it can alter the laws of thermodynamics.


Mike Smith

Well so would I, but one presumes that the University people have done that; I certainly hope so. I haven't looked into cogeneration techniques for twenty years; in those times they were using low grade heat to warm buildings, and saving money in doing that. I am sure we have better methods now. I don't think you have to violate any laws of physics; but there are heavy economic problems. We'll just have to see.




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This week:


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Friday, June 8, 2007

Jim Vogan's letter


I think you made a temperate reply to a somewhat snippy letter. There is a dirty little secret buried in the prose of Mr. Vogan:

>From my layman's understanding (due mostly to "Scientific American"), the main reason for >singling out CO2 as a likely primary cause for global warming is the distinctive signature it >produces in the range of temperature readings in the atmosphere and on the ground, over >land and over water, during night and day, over time. For example, solar irradiation would >heat the upper atmosphere as much or more than the lower atmosphere, whereas the CO2 >green house effect actually lowers the temperature of the upper atmosphere by reducing >the amount of reflected infrared radiation which reaches it. CO2 concentration varies over >land and water (and over different large land regions, such as the Amazonian jungle), which >allows us to distinguish its effects somewhat from those of other greenhouse gases. That is, >one makes various hypotheses and then looks at the data to see which are supported and >which are refuted, per the scientific method.

The hidden item is that water (both vapor, liquid and solid) is MUCH more important than carbon dioxide for global warming (by probably two orders of magnitude). It is very hard to divine how this 'signature' of carbon dioxide would differ from that of water. The real effect, if any, of carbon dioxide is on water vapor, which because of its far greater concentration and innate IR spectrum, then MIGHT multiply the effect of CO2. Since the modelers can't model the complex water system, with its three phases, and scattering components, they choose to model something simpler (CO2) which occurs only in one phase, the gas phase, and which thus has no scattering (ar albedo effect).

This approach is typical of modelers, and is not necessarily bad as a first step in understanding phenomena. What IS bad is treating the results as Holy script which cannot be questioned. TO paraphrase Star Trek (Wolf in the Fold):

"I know something of physical laws and you're engaging in sheer speculation!"

Keep up the good work!

All the best,

Bob (a layman in climatology, but a professional scientist for 40 years)


Subject: The teacher porn case in Connecticut


It is very good that someone came to their senses, realized this teacher was the victim of an uninformed witch hunt, and overturned the conviction. But she still doesm't have a final resolution.

Aside from the couple of years of her life that have been stolen, I imagine her legal bills could be running into the hundred's of thousands, even with some pro bono representation. I wonder how she will be compensated for that? Recently, we had a case here where a rapist who had served 20 years in prison was found, via DNA evidence, to be innocent of the crime for which he had been convicted. He got a $5 Million dollar settlement for the 20 years of freedom he lost. Seems that ought to set a precedent.

And what about the bureacratic idiots who let this go forward? Shouldn't the DA, or someone in the police department be fired for incompetence?

If I were in this women's shoes, I'd have a huge lawsuit waiting to go against the school district which provided her with a computer that had obviously inadequate security - no fire wall, no spam blocker. Seems that the real liability and responsibility lies with them. I'm sure the various players have that in the back of their mind - how can we walk away from this without exposing the school district to a huge financial liability. Let's hope some equitable (more or less) back room deal is about to be worked out.

CP, Connecticut.


: "in those times they were using low grade heat to warm buildings"

You reminded me of something.

In 1981, I worked a summer job at Charter Information in Austin, TX. They were running a Xerox Sigma 6 computer (transistorized, I think, maybe ICs). They'd moved the company down from Woburn MA a few years earlier.

During a bull session one afternoon, they mentioned that, when they'd set up the offices in Woburn, they'd run a duct, with a valve, from the computer's cooling air exhaust into the building HVAC ducts. Result: They heated their offices through Boston winter with JUST the waste heat from the computer. They had an oil burner, but they never had to light it up.



Wireless energy promise powers up


US researchers have successfully tested an experimental system to deliver power to devices without the need for wires.

The setup, reported in the journal Science, made a 60W light bulb glow from a distance of 2m (7ft).

Bill Shields


Trade Secrets Revealed by Robert Silverberg

Hello Jerry,

Did you ever wonder what the three basic characteristics are of a professional writer?

Robert Silverberg, who has won Hugo and Nebula awards and who has professionally published fiction since the 1950’s, reveals trade secrets that you cannot get anywhere else. His insight into the fiction writing trade and getting published is amazing. You will love the 3 basic steps Mr. Silverberg elaborates about in his exclusive article “To A Writer Just Starting Out”.

If you ever felt that there was something you were missing to break through as a fiction writer but you could never put your finger on it exactly, read the article by Robert Silverberg.

Go to: http://www.galaxypress.com/pub/tradesecrets.php 

We wish you the best of luck and success in your endeavors to get your stories published!


Above was a general release by Writers of the Future, but if you are interested in writing, Silverberg is worth listening to.


A penny a mile

It's not a great looking car but it goes 85MPH, does 150 miles between charges and costs only $30,000. The best part would be no more imported oil.


Loy Myers


Civil War Bookshelf -- my comments on Amazon Shorts


Dear Jerry:

You may find this link to the comments I sent to Dmitri Rotov of the Civil War Bookshelf of interest.


Francis Hamit


Review of The Access Principle


The above is an unexpected bonus linked to Rotov's web site. Enjoy.

Francis Hamit


Subject: Re: Waste heat recovery

"I haven't looked into cogeneration techniques for twenty years; in those times they were using low grade heat to warm buildings, and saving money in doing that. I am sure we have better methods now."

Dr. Pournelle, That is exactly the right thing to do with waste heat. In fact, the entire metropolitan area of Gothenburg, Sweden, (and I'm sure other places, but that's the one I know about) is heated in such a manner (and living where they live they need heat for quite a bit of the year). All of the industry in the city uses a common municipal system for cooling their equipment, which is in turn circulated through the radiators of the buildings in the city. Or, if it is summer, the city dumps the heat for them (some sort of heat exchanger, maybe seawater. I'm not sure of the details.)

I wholeheartedly support such intelligent, win-win energy savings measures. I think a lot of No.2 home heating fuel could be saved if more municipalities with industry would do such a thing.

Working in the heavy duty on-road diesel engine industry, we expend a lot of effort chasing every erg of possible fuel efficiency, since that is really the driving performance criteria in our market. I've done lots of analysis of various waste heat recovery methods, including turbocompounding, thermoelectric, and heat engines of all sorts. Several of them would be worth it for steady-state applications like gensets and so-forth, but the transient nature of vehicle engines give a bunch of them fits. Turbocompounding works, but it isn't a magic bullet. A colleague of mine recently did a 2nd law analysis on one of our engines and concluded that even though nearly 30% of the fuel energy goes out the stack as heat, only 9% was available, even with a Carnot engine. Then you have to start applying real-life efficiencies to that 9%.

In the case of a 500 HP diesel, 9% is still a fairly significant absolute number. But running a waste heat recovery device off of a ~300 watt CPU heat sink is perhaps something else again.

On the gripping hand, it might be time to start grasping at the tenths-of-a-percent efficiency that we had considered as just scratching in the dirt before.

Regards, Mike Smith


Dr. Pournelle,

Just one more quick thought; waste heat could be used very effectively for running alcohol fuel distilleries (the waste heat stream would only have to be 212 F, max). That would take the energy required to distill the fuel out of the energy balance for alcohol fuels for transportation. I wonder if that would be one of the better usages on balance for low grade heat…

Apologies for so many emails in one day,

Mike Smith


Subject: waste heat recovery

Hi Jerry,

Here's an easily understood example of waste heat recovery.

Most of your readers have a good combination of smarts and curiosity. Anyone who has ever put their hand in front of the outdoor part of their air conditioner (the condenser coil), or seen a pile of sleeping kittens on the kitchen floor in front of an older refrigerator will have noticed that those appliances reject heat to the surrounding environment.

I'm sure the same people have also noticed the large amount of walk-in and reach-in coolers and freezers in an average supermarket. Those coolers and freezers work on the same principle. They manipulate the pressure-temperature relationship of chemical refrigerants (freon) to move heat from where it isn't wanted to where it doesn't matter. In places that have cold winters, supermarkets often get a significant percentage of heat for the store by capturing the otherwise wasted heat from their freezers.

I've also seen commercial applications where the heat rejected by the office air conditioners was captured and used for some industrial process in the shop or lab. Just like any other form of energy, the trick is getting a usable amount of heat to the place where you want it. I once worked with a guy who tried to use the heat from his air conditioner to heat water for the dishwasher, but the exchanger he built blocked too much of the airflow around the AC condenser and only heated his water a few degrees. Just last night, I was on a no AC service call at a cable company switching hub. Once I got the AC running, the airflow at the condenser measured 157 degrees F. I suppose that IF the cable company had a vehicle maintenance garage right next door, AND it was the dead of winter, a fan and some insulated ductwork might allow them to recover some waste heat to keep the garage mechanics comfortable...

So, waste heat recovery is feasible in some applications, but not so in others. Bring on SPS and nuclear!

Dave Porter


Subject: Wireless Power Transmission

Hello Dr. P.

Here's a link to an article describing successful experiments (baby steps) in wireless power transmission. The article contains a link to another article about SPS.


Glad you got out of DC relatively unscathed.

Dave Porter


Chaos Mannor porn accusation

"I could not have been more shocked if I had seen porn at Chaos Manor." --Brendan Kelly

I was amused, because your reply to the immediately previous letter was,

"No Quarantines! Open Borders! Free Trade! My God how the money rolls in."

And of course the last sentence is the refrain of a pornagraphic song.


You have an odd idea of what is pornographic. I would think pornography would have an element of attractiveness and perhaps seduction. The Old Left ballad I quoted is blasphemous and obscene, but hardly pornographic.

There are many versions of "My God how the money rolls in" but none I know are pornographic. For example

My brother's a church missionary
He's saving young girlies from sin,
He'll save you a blonde for a shilling,
My God how the money rolls in!

is hardly pornographic.

My father makes cheap prophylactics,
He punctures each one with a pin,
While mother grows rich from abortions,
My God how the money rolls in!

is no more so. There are probably a hundred such verses, and none seem pornographic to me.


Subj: Bacterial drug resistance: evolution in action


Rod Montgomery==monty@starfief.com


Subject: offshore methane bubbling up

I've just read Mr. Vogan's letter. It's disturbing to see how many apparently intelligent people have been duped by the Environmentalist lobby. Observation led me to the conclusion that the goals of the Environmentalists are solely political; they're not seeking solutions, they're seeking political control over the production and distribution of energy. You suggested instigating oceanic algae blooms to remove C02 since the '70s, with the caveat that the carbon becomes irretrievable; even today we don't know if our apparent warming trend signals global warming or sudden glaciation. (Sudden warming appears to precede ice ages in the geological record.)

I've suggested making silvered mylar mirrors for the nations comprising Saharan Africa. The stuff is cheap enough to make give away sunglasses, how much would it cost to cover the Sahara? As much as our rebuilding of New Orleans? The temperature of the Sahara is a suspected cause of the hurricanes that strike our east coast and the Gulf of Mexico. I doubt the natives of Mauritania, Mali, Algeria, Libya, Niger, Chad or the Sudan would complain if this appreciably lowered their summer temperature. Sunlight doesn't warm the air, sunlight warms the earth and the earth warms the air. Reflect the sunlight before it strikes the earth and you're going to be cooler than if you hadn't. The Sahara was a pastureland at the dawn of the Holocene.

I've just read an article on Charles Paull, a geologist with the University of North Carolina, who has found some methane hydrate deposits off the north shore of Alaska and the Yukon and Northwest Territories that have been bubbling up methane since being covered with water at the dawn of the Holocene.


Methane hydrate is an ice like solid that forms when bacteria in ocean sediment creates methane, which then combines with sea water and freezes, staying on the ocean floor. Additional methane created afterward is trapped by the methane hydrate solid. Oil companies have been investigating these beds as a possible power source since the '70s but have been deterred due to the cost and the difficulty in handling the stuff. The attraction was in the estimated amount; 10,000 gigatons of carbon, roughly twice the world supply of petroleum. That estimate was made through seismic mapping in the 70s, and since then more deposits have been found in non seismic reflective areas.

Paull and other geologists have found offshore depressions "500 to 700 meters wide and 20 to 30 meters deep" caused by methane hydrate loss to the atmosphere. This may occur suddenly and catastrophically, and several underwater landslides have their suspected cause in the phenomenon. This is also a reason energy companies are less than enthusiastic about attempting to harvest this resource. Losing a drilling rig to a tsunami puts a pinch in the profit margin.

From the September 1996 Science News Online: http://www.sciencenews.org/pages/sn_arch/11_9_96/bob1.htm 

"James P. Kennett of the University of California, Santa Barbara has recently discovered intriguing evidence implicating methane hydrates as an instigator of climate change. Sediments off the California coast show signs that carbon isotopic ratios in the ocean shifted quite dramatically and quickly at several times during the last 70,000 years. Because methane has a distinctive isotopic fingerprint that matches the shifts, Kennett suggests that large volumes of methane must have poured into the ocean at these times."

Sea bed methane and the current increase in the solar magnetic field are both recently proven to severely affect the world climate, but neither offer hope of political power. The Communists knew to execute their political rivals when they had the chance. Now that they've renamed themselves to Environmentalists (having switched their perversion of science from history and economics to ecology) they're laughing at us for not learning their lesson to history.

-Ben Capoeman


Paris Hilton

I know is theoretically a very low-brow and silly story, with the infamous Paris Hilton getting out of jail after only three days and ensuing outcry. Sort of celebrity pap, right?

But I found it very interesting that the Judge and Prosecutors were angry enough over her sentence being commuted that they’re pondering action against the Sherrif’s department… and they managed to have her arrested again and hauled up in front of a judge!


Apparently the huge outcry was a factor. I guess someone up in LA wants people to think the law is actually fair and applies to the rich. Whodathunk it?

Bit of a punch in the nose to anarch-tyranny, huh?

David N. Scott


Unremitting justice. Without mercy. Careful what you wish for.

Jerry Pournelle Chaos Manor



Hmmm. Sir, thou hast perturbed me. I'll have to think on that angle.

I've added your thoughts to what was previously a more cheerful take:


As to be a bit more fair.

I suppose the person being chosen to be the example has many reasons to think it unfair, even if it seems fair for there to be examples.


David N. Scott


Subject: DOD investigating Solar Power Satellites 

Hello Dr. Pournelle,

It seems that the DOD (not DARPA) actually has a team doing a feasibility study on solar power satellites. This article from Wired <http://blog.wired.com/defense/2007/06/post.html>  names LTC M. V. Smith (USAF) as one individual involved.


Through the study, officials are also trying to “identify all the collateral-type of technologies that go into building space-based solar power <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solar_power_satellite>  so that we can break those down and perhaps identify those with additional emphasis as we press forward with budgeting and programming over the next several years,” Smith said.

Scientists who have considered this concept are either enthusiastic or skeptical, Smith said. “We’re pretty confident that the truth lies somewhere in the middle.”

He added that the study is not a way for DOD [Department of Defense] to jump into a “new program with wild enthusiasm, but it is a time to take a look at a new concept with prudent caution and step forward smartly.”


This is only a feasibility study, but this is the kind of long-range (multi-decade) planning that few, if any, private companies do anymore. Most such studies are simply shelved, I know, but hopefully, this one will be one of the exceptions.

Bill Hembree


Subject: Compassion?

Dr. Pournelle,

You stated (several times) in today's Current View:

> Unremitting justice without compassion.

Which seems to also be your view of how to handle illegal immigrants.

I have seen very little compassion from the 'compassionate conservatives'.

As for Ms. Hilton, she's thumbed her nose at the law long enough. It's time she paid the piper.

Regards, Jim Young

Primo, I have never claimed to be a "compassionate conservative." Just a plain old conservative, a student of Edmund Burke and privileged to be a protégé of Russell Kirk.

Secundo, as I have often said, the proper way to deal with illegal immigrants, is (1) close the border, (2) pay a bonus to any who will voluntarily leave -- say $4,000 or so, which is significant to them but still a savings to both nation and state; (3) instruct the police that any who come their attention as misfeasors of any serious degree be turned over to the authorities for detention and deportation and make that stick, (4) offer citizenship to any who spend 8 years in the armed services ending in honorable discharge, and (5) wait to see what happens then. I have no idea whether you would call that compassionate. It seems very reasonable to me.





This week:


read book now


Saturday, June 9, 2007

Julie Woodman recommends:

If Only Greens Saw The Forest For The Trees



"People here have no jobs," Mark Fenn admitted, after taking documentary producers on a tour of his $35,000 catamaran and the site of his new coastal home. "But if you could count how many times they smile in a day, if you could measure stress" and compare that with "well-off people" in London or New York, "then tell me, who is rich and who is poor?"

Fenn is coordinator of the World Wildlife Fund's campaign against a proposed mining project near Fort Dauphin, Madagascar. The locals strongly support the project and want the jobs, development, improved living standards and environmental quality the state-of-the-art operation will bring.

People there live in abject poverty, along dirt roads, in dirt-floor shacks, and are hardly able to afford food on their $1,000-a-year average incomes. There is little power, no indoor plumbing. The local rain forest has been destroyed for firewood and slash-and-burn farming. People barely eke out a living.

But Fenn claims the mine will change the "quaint" village and harm the environment. He says he feels "like a resident," his children "were born and raised" there, and the locals "don't consider education to be important" and would just spend their money on parties, jeans and stereos.

Actually, Fenn lives 300 miles away and sends his children to school in South Africa. And the locals hardly conform to his insulting stereotypes. "If I had money, I would open a grocery store," said one. "Send my children to school," start a business, become a midwife, build a new house, said others.<snip>


Subject: Very Interesting

Sandy Berger, Bill Clinton's national security advisor, who plead guilty to removing, retaining, and destroying classified documents, surrendered his law license on May 17.

MSNBC has very bland coverage. http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/19106937 

The interesting bit is found in the Washington "Times" piece. http://washingtontimes.com/national/
20070516-113137-9942r.htm  "In giving up his license, Mr. Berger avoids being cross-examined by the Board on Bar Counsel, where he risked further disclosure of specific details of his theft."

The question then becomes: Just what question is he that desperate to avoid having to answer?

A decent, if slightly strident, analysis:


I doubt he will starve. And prosecutorial power seems more to be directed at Martha Stewart than Sandy Berger.


Thompson forms presidential committee 

And finally the real candidate steps from the shadows:


This man is formidable in many ways, and would eat Hillary's lunch. Obama? A piece of cake for dessert..


A fellow Tennessean. Of course so is Al Gore. But I like Thompson, from what I have seen.


Heinlein strikes again


"Children without sex is what the future holds, claims inventor of the Pill" says the headline.

It seems that the fertility docs are finally catching up with Podkayne of Mars:



Such a brave new world


Perhaps it is no longer important to be able to produce steel. Perhaps.

The Daily Reckoning PRESENTS:

You may not be surprised to learn that Germany lost thousands of steel mill jobs to China. But you may be surprised to learn that it also lost the steel mill itself. Once in Dortmund, Germany, the same mill now works on the banks of the Yangtze in China. Chris Mayer explores…


The Ruhr Valley was the heart of Germany's industrial might. For more than 200 years, the smokestacks in this northwest corner of Germany pounded out the steel and iron that would form the backbone of the nation's industry. And when the war drums rumbled, these factories supplied imperial Germany with its field guns, armored tanks and shells.

Prosperous communities grew up around these old blast furnaces and mills. People took pride in the stuff they could make with their hands. Tens of thousands found work in the factories of the Ruhr. Generations passed with the knowledge that their sons and daughters could make a life here and carry on the legacy of such a place. For a long time, that was the way it went.

But the winds of change patiently grind away at even the most impressive of advantages. In the early 1990s, the industrious workers of Asia powered the mortar and pestle that would crush the Ruhr's traditional way of life.

It was a slow process, but the endgame was not hard to see. While the South Koreans became the most efficient producers of steel in the world, German workers were agitating for a 35-hour workweek. While the Chinese worked all day in their mills and new factories sprouted up like spring peepers all through China, Germany increased taxes and expanded its bloated government programs.

By the turn of the millennium, no one could ignore the stark reality any longer. The mills and factories of the Ruhr started to close - forever. In his terrific book China Shakes the World, James Kynge tells the story of ThyssenKrupp's steel mill in Dortmund, one of the largest in Germany. The Germans called it the Phoenix, inspired by its rise from the ashes of bombing raids in World War II.

Within a month of ThyssenKrupp closing the mill, a Chinese company bought it with the idea of disassembling the entire mill and taking it to China, near the mouth of the Yangtze River. Soon after this Chinese company bought the mill, 1,000 Chinese workers arrived in Germany to begin the process of taking the plant apart and bringing it to China.

The Germans got an up-close lesson in why they could not compete. The Chinese worked seven days a week for 12 hours a day. The Germans started to complain. So the Chinese, in deference to local law, took one day off.

In the end, the Chinese dismantled the mill in less than one year - a full two years ahead of the time ThyssenKrupp initially thought it would take.

When the Chinese departed, they left the makeshift dormitories and kitchens they occupied for a year neat and clean. There was, however, a single pair of black boots left in one of the dormitories. The boots carried the brand name Phoenix, which was the same name of the plant the Chinese just took apart. The boots also carried the label "Made in China." Kynge writes, "Nobody could tell, however, whether the single pair of forgotten boots was an oversight or an intentional pun."

Over 5,000 miles away, the Chinese rebuilt the steel mill exactly as it was in Germany. As Kynge writes: "Altogether, 275,000 tons of equipment had been shipped, along with 44 tons of documents that explained the intricacies of the reassembly process." Doing all of this was still cheaper - by about 60% - than building a new mill. Plus, in China, the demand for steel was such that the mill could start producing steel immediately at full capacity.

As recently as 1975, China's entire output of steel could not match this one mill in Dortmund. Now, the Dortmund plant itself stands in China. And in Germany, you have a dying industrial city, unemployed steelworkers and the scarred earth where the mill once stood. Germany is thinking of turning the site into parkland and perhaps creating a lake and marina. But as one burly steelworker says in Kynge's book: "Do we look like yachtsmen to you?"

This remarkable vignette captures, on many levels, how the game has changed. Comfortable workers in the factories and mills of America and Western Europe have no idea what they are up against. Even so, the nature of global competition keeps shifting.

Perhaps there is a lesson here. Perhaps.




CURRENT VIEW     Saturday

Subject: Just Kids?

Dear Jerry,

In your mail Cecil Rose tells us that those victims of the shooting were just kids, students without any real knowledge of the world around them.

Is it just my imagination or isn't a large portion of those men and women in our forces in Iraq the same age as those "just kids" whose inaction allowed even more deaths?

I'm not blaming the students as much as the school mind you. They were allowed to remain stupid children in a world that is tougher and meaner than college professors are willing to admit.

Tom Kunich


This week:


read book now


Sunday, June 10, 2007      

Los Angeles to host Jules Verne film festival

Oh, now THIS is just cool:


Paris's longstanding Jules Verne Adventure Film Festival will shift to Los Angeles this December, with sponsors hoping to make the US celebration of the early French science fiction writer an annual event, they said Friday.
Set for December 10-15, the festival, themed "from the abyss to the stars," is an extension of the festival of films based on or in the spirit of Verne's novels, like "Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea" and "Around the World in Eighty Days," that has been held in Paris for 15 years.

Organizers, led by legendary US astronaut Buzz Aldrin, presented their plans Friday to Los Angeles officials, saying in a statement that the event would celebrate "the spirit of adventure and the preservation of our planet."

Hope to see you there!


Buckley: Yes, Free Libby.


-- Roland Dobbins

For what it's worth, I agree. Since there was no crime in the first place, the investigation ought to have been ended well before Libby was involved. I do not know why it is proper to make it a crime to lie to Federal busy-bodies when you are not under oath; the lesson is not to talk to them at all without legal counsel, and to answer questions only with yes or no. Volunteer no information.

That is not the way I was brought up. I was brought up to cooperate with the police. Of course police meant in those days the local sheriff and his men, or the town constable. When I got to Memphis and met big city police with their "everyone is a perp" attitude I got a quick education; the police are not your friends. Even so, they were public servants and one ought to cooperate with them. I never met an FBI agent until I was in college, but I listened to "The FBI in Peace and War" on the radio, and I knew they were good guys, and you ought to cooperate with them. That is, today, an insane losing strategy. Cooperating with Federal law enforcement officials can do you no good, probably does the society in general little good, and can end you in jail. Ask Martha Stewart.

I recently spent some with with retired spooks; retired covert agents given a sort of dispensation to speak about their former activities. In the course of the conversation l'affair Valerie came up. The opinion was unanimous among real spooks: this was ridiculous. She had been assigned to an overt job driving into the gates at Langley every morning (in a convertible, no less), and her name was in the phone book. She was no longer covered by the act, and investigating who told people she worked at the Agency was about the same as investigating who told people someone worked for the FTC. Most Agency employees, and nearly all those who work at Langley, are overt. Since there was nothing to investigate, the Libby matter is one of entrapment.

Leave that. The lesson to me is clear. Since anything you say may be questioned and end up putting you in jail, the proper thing to do when questioned by Federal agents is to insist on counsel, say as little to nothing as possible, and never volunteer information. This is not good for the nation, but the nation clearly doesn't have your good in mind. Ask Libby.


Hi Jerry,

I've been surprised to find a comment about you in the "El Mundo" newspaper, here in Spain. I have attached a scan of the news. A quick translation will be:


Science-fiction against the terrorist threat

The USA Interior Security Department (?) recruits a novelists group to imagine future terrorist attacks

“We are a few well-qualified mad men” jokes Jerry Pournelle. On “Lucifer’s Hammer”, Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle especulate with a comet impact on the earth and “how Humanity can survive the collapse(?) of civilization”. Niven is considered the precursor of hard (?) science-fiction and Pournelle was the American Science-Fiction Writers Association president.

Regards from Spain.


The word gets around...


I have been going through some previous mail, long by-passed. Given that my head is not working well, catching up with that seems a reasonable investment of time. This will be short shrift material.


A Tactics Primer.


- Roland Dobbins


Subj: The end of Divisional Artillery


Rod Montgomery


Scripted Responses


"In the wake of Monday's massacre at Virginia Tech in which a student killed 32 people, Dean of Student Affairs Betty Trachtenberg has limited the use of stage weapons in theatrical productions.

Students involved in this weekend's production of "Red Noses" said they first learned of the new rules on Thursday morning, the same day the show was slated to open. They were subsequently forced to alter many of the scenes by swapping more realistic-looking stage swords for wooden ones, a change that many students said was neither a necessary nor a useful response to the tragedy at Virginia Tech. "



Evil Counselor nominations

Le Corbusier - the architect who inspired the blast-everything-down school of "urban renewal", also the French suburbs into which the unassimilable Muslim immigrants were put.

John Dewey - the "reformer" who inspired the destruction of the American public schools as effective organs for education.


Dr. Pournelle,

A spot in the Inferno for those who invented null-terminated strings would please me. As well as those responsible for compilers which accept gobbly-gook like that at shown at www.ioccc.org .

A modification of Gresham's law: poor programming drives out good programming.

thank you for your site --krb


A Report on Mesopotamia, by T.E. Lawrence.


-- Roland Dobbins


The wave that destroyed Atlantis?


---- Roland Dobbins

I've been there. It's hardly a new theory; I am sure it's correct.


War College Study: Stop Fighting Insurgents


Apparently someone at the War College has figured out that the US is doing something wrong in fighting insurgencies:


Not sure I agree with his prescriptions, though.


I don't think this is part of a war college curriculum I would endorse. His prescription is more one for the politician and State department than for senior officers, to begin with.

He is right in some respects, but where he is correct he's not original, and where he's original he isn't talking to the military anway.




From many places and, apparently, over 70 years, a gallery of military vehicles - air. Land and sea - all Stuck.

Some of these make you wonder. The 2 B-36's, for example, could have been in a windstorm. Check them out:



I wouldn't call the last one "stuck," it was the normal condition when a flight ended with that ship.











The current page will always have the name currentmail.html and may be bookmarked. For previous weeks, go to the MAIL HOME PAGE.


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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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