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Mail 472 June 25 - July 1, 2007
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|This week:||Monday June
Space stations, per se, are not
--Brown becomes prime minister
--Blair converting to Catholicism
--NHS stays in the news
--Driving test scam--it takes even good drivers several attempts to pass. That produces very low auto/auto accident rates, but the UK laws do not protect pedestrians and bicyclists, so the auto/ pedestrian and auto/bicycle accident rates are high. Since most drivers do 30-40 in urban areas, the death rates from those accidents are also high. This driving test scam doesn't help.
--Related accident safety story
--Pakistan complains about Rushdie honour
--Legal system changes here
--Problems in the UK economy
--President of Afghanistan criticises NATO operations
--Where are the 50£ notes going?
--Problems in the worst UK schools
--I'm currently finishing my marking, dealing with assorted emergencies, and looking forward to a visit to the Orkneys and Shetlands. Have a good summer!
Harry Erwin, PhD
"Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety." (Benjamin Franklin, 1755)
Subject: Ancient Etruscans were immigrants from Anatolia
Modern science now has evidence to support the claims of the ancient historian Herodotus.
DNA analysis links today's Tuscany residents with modern Turks.
|This week:||Tuesday, June
Any thoughts on burning salt water to fuel autos?
The second law of thermodynamics?
June 27, 2007
Very odd. No art, no history, no numbers, no plans for the future. And here I've been operating on the assumption for a LONG time that thinking and acting empirically, based as much as possible on observable reality, is a GOOD thing.
I guess what's missing from them is sufficient understanding of time.
"Prometheus, they say, brought God's fire down to man ..."
Where on Earth Was Middle Earth?
-- Roland Dobbins
Bad NOAA Weather Stations and Global Warming Data
The site about faulty weather stations is now up and running. Just look at the heat records from a good vs "bad" station.
Indeed. One needs good data to make big decisions.
Jerry: The tunguska event caused global warming? The theory is that noctilucent clouds of ice crystals changed the world's thermal balance.
It always helps to find out what's going on...
Dear Mr. Pournelle,
I came across your name when I Googled "Survive" magazine.
I was probably one of those charter subscribers back in the early 80's, which would have been unusual, as I was in college at the time, but worried at that time about the state of the world.
I was reminded of your magazine this past weekend having lunch with my college roommate - we were lamenting that we are coming up on the 25th anniversary of our college graduation, and all that has transpired since. namely the scars of living - marriage, divorce, children, jobs, deaths of parents.
We always talk politics as well, and we were commenting on the fact that "Survive" magazine would be more pertinent than ever, given the instability in the middle east, global climate change, the rise of an industrialized (and creditor nation) China, the changes in the American economy and cultural changes here in the past 25 years.
I read your essay from 1983 about choosing to live in the city, and it brought back memories of having read it in the magazine all those years ago. Thank you for the reminder of simpler times and youth.
Thanks again, Bill
Hmm. Revive Survive. I wonder if Colonel Brown would be interested...
From the article pointed to by Roland Dobbins Sunday--
“According to a report of the CoE’s Parliamentary Assembly, creationists are dangerous ‘religious fundamentalists’ who propagate ‘forms of religious extremism’ and ‘could become a threat to human rights.’”
“Though one may disagree with people who take the Book of Genesis literally (believing that God created the world in six days and rested on the seventh)...”
No mention of Islam and the Koran. Are any mullahs being incarcerated for preaching creationism, or is this another case of some people (and beliefs) being more equal than others?
And there's more...
The Germans are at it again. Of course, it's their right to act like fools.
I wonder, though: How long until the Neo-Jacobins are back in power and howling for us to "liberate" the Germans from their ridiculous nanny-state?
"Germany has barred the makers of a movie about a plot to kill Adolf Hitler from filming at German military sites because its star Tom Cruise is a Scientologist, the Defence Ministry said on Monday.
Defence Ministry spokesman Harald Kammerbauer said the film makers "will not be allowed to film at German military sites if Count Stauffenberg is played by Tom Cruise, who has publicly professed to being a member of the Scientology cult". "
And there will be more.
Well, I have sold a movie option on Birth of Fire; perhaps someone will make that movie...
Attack Of The KiIller Penguins
If you meet their happy feet, run away on yours
Subject: The next generation of information storage?
------------- A team of chemists at Brown University has devised a simple way to control both the size and the composition of iron-platinum nanorods and nanowires. Nanorods with uniform shape and magnetic alignment are one key to the next generation of high-density information storage. ... -------------
**** "A Sherman can give you a very nice edge." -- Oddball (Kelly's Heroes)
AAAck! It's Iron! Sigh.
While trolling the previous weeks' reads I came across this:
"I was astonished at Burbank airport: there was not one single black porter. Last time I flew out of there all the Skycaps were American blacks. They were efficient, too."
While passing through JFK International (four hour layover) enroute to Helsinki in April, American blacks were the *only* American workers I saw, apart from some whites working for TSA. And they were the only workers who spoke English or had any manners. Arrogant, rude, insolent, unresponsive and don't speak English describes the rest of the labor force. The terminals themselves are doggy and aged. But let's face it. These days these terminals are only for peasants and yeomen traveling steerage class. It's been a decade and more since the rulers saw anything besides separate VIP terminals handling executive jets and airliners refitted for private service. I can only speculate here, but I'm confident the conditions are significantly different at those terminals in the NYC area.
I have never understood why the American Black leadership does not get involved in the immigration issue. Importing unskilled workers who will work for less than American citizens is arguably the worst possible policy for black Americans, worse even than the segregation with paternalism I grew up with.
June 27, 2007
Since you've been covering biofuels, I thought you might be interested in this link covering recent work on 2,5-dimethylfuran:-
This fuel seems to have something in common with butanol used as a fuel, which http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biobutanol shows has been considered for a while now.
This would fit with the early 20th C warming which went up to 1940. However it then leaves the warming from 1975 to 1998 (promised to start rising again real soon now since 1999 to 2007 to be merely statistical outliers). This may not disappoint the warmers but the real lesson is that we do not know.
However if putting more water into the stratosphere really turns out to induce warming & it seems already agreed that putting up sulfur reduces it we would have our hands on the levers of climate control without having to declare war on fire.
Actually the idea of our present political leaders being able to easily control the climate, however much it undercuts the warming scare, is not particularly reassuring.
As you say, the bottom line is that we do not know.
Where I work, we recently were talking about this example from the White House web page, about the value of innovation:
(scroll down to see the example of an iPod)
But, today the NY Times has this piece about who profits from an iPod:
and the more detailed analysis is here:
Some interesting points:
The USA manufactures only $8 of the components that go into an iPod.
Apple makes $80, service and retail distribution industries get $75 (but that's only on sales within the USA) and ALL THE REST is foreign companies building the pieces that go into the iPod.
My commentary on this: Note that all of the technologies referenced on the White House web page were either developed in the USA or the technological foundations were based on USA research. Yet, nearly all the current value added or income to the US goes to Apple for a clever assemblage of parts that are made abroad, and the entire device is built abroad. "Made in the USA" now means, "conceptualized in the USA".
The only other significant revenue to the USA is for retail distribution; we don't get that money for sales outside the USA.
I am left wondering just what it is that people in this country DO to earn the money to pay for an iPod? We don't do manufacturing. Is everyone in the USA now just sitting around conceptualizing things that others build and working in the service sector? Am I alone in thinking this is unsustainable?
I'd be interested in what you and your readers think of this....
Either you believe in free trade or you don't. Abraham Lincoln on the subject: if you buy a shirt from England, you have the shirt and England has the dollar. If you buy it from New England, you have the shirt, and the dollar is still in America.
"But you haven't read Ricardo!" is the invariable answer from the economists when one questions the value of free trade.
At the moment the United States is selling itself in order to buy junk. Since capitalist free trade has no inherent taboos, how long will it be before we begin to sell people (for spare parts, or as labor) to pay the enormous trade deficits we accumulate? I suspect I will live to see a lively export trade in American girls as "entertainers". I hope I am wrong, but I see no end to the deficits, and since we owe the entire capital value of the United States already, I do not know where additional money will come from.
Perhaps I am still in a funk?
From another conference:
Paris Hilton and Lady Astor
The joys of Diversity
City Journal Bowling With Our Own Robert Putnam's sobering new diversity research scares its author. John Leo 25 June 2007
Harvard political scientist Robert Putnam, author of Bowling Alone, is very nervous about releasing his new research, and understandably so. His five-year study shows that immigration and ethnic diversity have a devastating short- and medium-term influence on the social capital, fabric of associations, trust, and neighborliness that create and sustain communities. He fears that his work on the surprisingly negative effects of diversity will become part of the immigration debate, even though he finds that in the long run, people do forge new communities and new ties.
Putnam's study reveals that immigration and diversity not only reduce social capital between ethnic groups, but also within the groups themselves. Trust, even for members of one's own race, is lower, altruism and community cooperation rarer, friendships fewer. The problem isn't ethnic conflict or troubled racial relations, but withdrawal and isolation. Putnam writes: "In colloquial language, people living in ethnically diverse settings appear to 'hunker down'-that is, to pull in like a turtle."
In the 41 sites Putnam studied in the U.S., he found that the more diverse the neighborhood, the less residents trust neighbors. This proved true in communities large and small, from big cities like Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston, and Boston to tiny Yakima, Washington, rural South Dakota, and the mountains of West Virginia. In diverse San Francisco and Los Angeles, about 30 percent of people say that they trust neighbors a lot. In ethnically homogeneous communities in the Dakotas, the figure is 70 percent to 80 percent.
Diversity does not produce "bad race relations," Putnam says. Rather, people in diverse communities tend "to withdraw even from close friends, to expect the worst from their community and its leaders, to volunteer less, give less to charity and work on community projects less often, to register to vote less, to agitate for social reform more, but have less faith that they can actually make a difference, and to huddle unhappily in front of the television." Putnam adds a crushing footnote: his findings "may underestimate the real effect of diversity on social withdrawal."<snip>
Since "diversity" is our number one social engineering goal, this is fairly interesting. But after all, it is better to DO SOMETHING than to leave things alone until you understand what you are doing.
June 29, 2007
I marked this for posting but it didn't get in.
So there are a few sane administrators at Yale, but Trachtenberg upholds the traditions.
I missed this one too:
How to prepare for alien invasion.
- Roland Dobbins
So much for anthropocentric global warming.
- Roland Dobbins
Subj: SciFi.com interviews Michael Flynn
"In _Looking at History Through Mathematics_, Nicholas Rashevsky discussed how in principle various historical processes could be described mathematically. How large can a village grow before it has to split? ..."
Also of interest: what he learned from collaborating with Niven&Pournelle on _Fallen Angels_.
The O'Flynn is always worth paying attention to.
Subject: home digital video and politics
www.hotair.com is a website where, among other things, conservative blogger-types produce home-made political videos for Youtube distribution.
Think about that for a second. You don't need a studio or a half million dollars to get a reasonable quality message across to millions of citizens (and voters). You just need a DV camcorder and a modern PC. Anyone, on the left or right, can do it.
Attack ads. Detailed analyses of complex issues (that you'll never see on "real TV"). Takedowns of posturing politicos. Uncomfortable truths. Truly embarrassing moments captured forever.
No "fairness doctrine", no $100,000 per minute ad fees. Just $3000 in equipment and a free Youtube account. And once it's on Youtube, viewers will just email their friends the link, and many will watch the video over and over and over. Try buying enough air time to do that on the networks!
Here's an excellent sample, possibly the "Dean scream" moment for Senator Brownback's presidential aspirations:
Election 2008 is going to be very interesting.
Indeed. Actually I doubt that it requires $3,000 in equipment. Perhaps some readers have recommendations on equipment that will do the job.
Subject: Those who haven't read Ricardo . ..
Good afternoon, Dr. Pournelle;
But what do those who have read Ricardo think of Gomory <http://www.thenation.com/docprint.mhtml?i=20070430&s=greider> ?
I certainly don't have your background in economics,
but I do find your opinions to be cogent and certainly succinct. I find
myself thinking of healthcare, which no one seems to be able to do to its
population's satisfaction. The US spends on the order of 16% of its GDP on
healthcare vs. about 12% in the rest of the developed world, yet the number
of days it takes to see a doctor in the US is second worst only to my home
and native land of Canada <http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/18674951/>
(I fortunately live in the middle of nowhere in Canada <http://maps.google.com/maps?f=q&hl
Surely there must be a productive and effective middle ground methodology that can deliver excellent health care in a cost effective way, but I'll be dipped in that gooey stuff they put in Spam if I can figure out what it is.
-- I must study war and politics so that my children shall be free to study commerce, agriculture and other practicalities, so that their children can study painting, poetry and other fine things.
-- John Adams
"Getting your moral direction from politicians is like getting health tips from Keith Richards."
-- Scott (no relation) Adams
Subject: Ricardo, free trade, and outsourcing
Hello again Dr Pournelle,
Since it comes up fairly often in the discussions, I thought to read a bit of Ricardo:
<<The Beneficent Effects of Free Trade and National Profit Equalization
Under a system of perfectly free commerce, each country naturally devotes its capital and labour to such employments as are most beneficial to each. This pursuit of individual advantage is admirably connected with the universal good of the whole. By stimulating industry, by rewarding ingenuity, and by using most efficaciously the peculiar powers bestowed by nature, it distributes labour most effectively and most economically: while, by increasing the general mass of productions, it diffuses general benefit, and binds together by one common tie of interest and intercourse, the universal society of nations throughout the civilized world. It is this principle which determines that wine shall be made in France and Portugal, that corn shall be grown in America and Poland, and that hardware and other goods shall be manufactured in England.
In one and the same country, profits are, generally speaking, always on the same level; or differ only as the employment of capital may be more or less secure and agreeable. It is not so between different countries. If the profits of capital employed in Yorkshire should exceed those of capital employed in London, capital would speedily move from London to Yorkshire, and an equality of profits would be effected; but if in consequence of the diminished rate of production in the lands of England, from the increase of capital and population, wages should rise, and profits fall, it would not follow that capital and population would necessarily move from England to Holland, or Spain, or Russia, where profits might be higher.
—On the Principles of Political Economy and Taxation (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1983), 133–34.>>
Can I assume when he says "perfectly free commerce" he is referring to some alternate reality wherein US goods can enter other markets just as easily as the goods of other countries enter our markets?
And in the last sentence, Ricardo seems to be saying that rising wages and falling profits should NOT cause capital to move elsewhere in search of higher profits. Am I missing something?
In my own very unscientific poll taken from casual everyday conversations, many of my acquaintences have expressed a willingness to pay more for something if it was made here. I know there are internet sites that track such things, perhaps there is an entreprenurial opportunity for a chain of Made in the USA stores?
I get really rankled when a longtime US manufacturer of high quality, relatively expensive products moves production to China, but keeps retail prices the same, or higher than when production was here. Several years ago, I willingly paid $200.00 for a pair of very well made hunting boots. They were made here in the US by the Danner Boot Company of Portland, Oregon. Today, you can spend $250.00 and more for Danner hunting boots that are made in China.
Maybe the ever increasing list of Chinese products that seem to be toxic will stem the outsourcing tide.
Respectfully, Dave Porter
There is a finite limit to how much of our capital resources we can sell; and a limit to the "services" we can provide to the rest of the world.
More important though is the question: what shall happen to the citizens rendered useless by free trade? Is it better to have citizens who can buy cheap goods but are kept docile by bread and circuses, or to pay more for goods made by those citizens who see themselves as productive and useful members of the community?
June 30, 2007
Been following the iphone. I think of it as more of the hand held computer from "The Mote in God's Eye" than a phone.
Here's a link to disassembly:
Here is a another disassembly and part way down is a block diagram of the main chip:
Note that the main chip contains most of the system. Still not everything on one chip as in "The Mote", but getting a lot closer.
At 6PM yesterday, Apple's on line store ground to a very slowwww crawl. I was able to buy an iphone, but the ship time was 2 to 4 weeks. I'll probably cancel and check them out in the apple stores.
I suspect I will get one when I finish my next book (or get a few hundred more subscribers). It will be of a piece with getting a good Intel-based Apple system. Apple is doing interesting things to the technology scene.
The other development that interests me are the small pocket computers (at about $2200 at the moment) we saw at WinHEC.
As I will say in the column this week, the day of the paperback book is rapidly coming to an end, and iPhone and pocket computers (actually their successors) will be the replacement.
On the decline of the west
Subj: Texas HS student barred from own graduation for recreating his school building in videogame
There seem to be a few sane adults in the community, though evidently not enough:
And this was Texas...
Subj: Why CEOs and Companies Break the Law
The thing unmentioned is that politicians and bureaucrats are at least equally susceptible to the same temptation.
Maybe Gandalf said it as well as any: "[T]he way of the Ring to my heart is by pity, pity for weakness and the desire of strength to do good."
This thought is similar to something I suggested a while back (and you did indeed print it, thanks very much!) To re-state: I'm getting the idea that the American business owner views his business much like British landlords viewed Ireland in 1840.
And why not? It's what the politicians think of the country.
You have been predicting that our cultural weapons of mass destruction would wreak havoc abroad. Well, one has - NIMBYism:
Note what it is that stirs the Chinese middle class to rebellion; it ain't their lack of democracy.
They were more Chinese than Communist; they are more Chinese than capitalist.
Subject: Global Warming Litigation
Had to happen. I'm just surprised it took so long. No wonder every company is trying to get out of the U.S. where your every move can result in you being sued. Between globalization and litigation less than nothing is getting done except lawyers and eco-friendly scientist getting rich.
Braxton S. Cook
But surely we can continue doing all that forever! Free Trade and Open Borders! That will do the trick.
|This week:||Sunday, July
American Scuba Schools on Alert,
I found this. It seems that current American Mass Media resembles Japanese Propaganda in WW2:
Sad, but the shoe does fit.
Hello Dr. Pournelle:
Well, I hate to tell you; but this comes from your home state ort Tennessee. http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,287546,00.html
"Comer Wilson is 66 years old with a long white beard, and he has not had to show his ID to buy beer in a while. But starting Sunday, he and everyone else in Tennessee will be required to show identification before buying beer in state stores — no matter how old the buyer appears. "It's the stupidest law I ever heard of," Wilson said. "You can see I'm over 21." "Supporters say it keeps grocery store and convenience store clerks from having to guess a customer's age. Democratic Governor Phil Bredesen said it is a good way to address the problems of underage drinking."
This is a rhetorical question, of course; but are these people insane? Carding bearded old men is going to address the problem of underage drinking? I particularly like the defense that clerks will no longer have to "guess" a person's age. They are not talking about guesswork here; they are talking about judgment. We don't want to have regular people out there making decisions and using their own judgment. Next thing you know, people might start thinking, and even questioning, and then where would we be?
This is right up there with the recent Wisconsin law (also supported and passed by a democratic governor) to require car seats until children are eight years old. After all, you can't have parents making decisions about their own childrens' welfare. Better to leave these kinds of decisions to those who really care --- like a bunch of professional politicians. None of these things, by themselves, are exactly hardships; but taken as a whole they make us something less than adult citizens of a free country.
Calling this the Nanny State makes it sound like a mere irritation, something benign and even a bit amusing. It is not. These people have the power to level fines, revoke licenses to drive, to work, or to do business, and to even impose jail time. They are not our nannies. They aspire to be our rulers, and every year come nearer their goal.
Well, Tennessee did produce Roy Acuff and Al Gore as serious politicians...
: US House votes to deny all aid to Saudi Arabia
Is sanity about to break loose on Capitol Hill?
"The US House of Representatives has voted to deny all aid to Saudi Arabia, despite repeated assurances by the Bush administration that the desert kingdom is cooperating in its "war on terror."
The ban is contained in a little-publicized amendment quietly slipped by a bipartisan group of lawmakers into a 34.2-billion-dollar bill that finances US foreign operations in the 2008 fiscal year."
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