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Monday September 17, 2007

Pinkerton's essay The Once and Future Christendom


I appreciate the thoughtful discussions in Chaos Manor.

I wish the world worked as simply as the above article wishes. Yet Islam requires an enemy to survive. The enemy isn’t the Jihad of the heart as some would have us believe, but of all infidels – those that don’t believe in a particular sect of fundamentalist Islam. Partitioning the nations and putting up walls will not work any more than they work in Israel. Islamists will tunnel under, cut through, or shell passage points to make them useless. I’m afraid we face an implacable enemy from whom we cannot hide.

Now, setting up world-wide interlocking alliances makes sense. I wonder where the beginning of this might take place.

But it appears more and more like we are headed into the final days as outlined in the Bible, the Talmud, and the Quran. As a Christian believer, I hold to the Bible’s version of events. But I think we may be as close as 5 years away from the beginning of the final countdown (beginning of the seven years of trouble). Some important events must take place before this time begins. One of the bigger events is the destruction of Damascus (Isaiah 17). Damascus is the longest continuously-populated city on the planet. With Israel’s destruction of Syria’s nukes this past week (http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/middle_east/article2461421.ece) , I wonder what Syria’s response will be.

Keep up the thought-provoking articles and discussions. Congratulations on finishing Inferno II. I can’t wait to PURCHASE a copy.

Doug Roberts
 Senior Curriculum Developer

At some point I must discuss Pinkerton's article; in particular I have letters from a secular Turkish friend who not unnaturally disagrees. Having said that, I still recommend that everyone read what Pinkerton says.

If the salt has lost its savor...

But for how I have to run. I'll get back to this later:


Harry Erwin's Letter from England

One of the five largest mortgage lenders here in the UK, Northern Rock, is experiencing a run. They built up their business by financing risky mortgages with investment money (rather than being in the savings and loan business).
<http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/business/6997197.stm> <http://observer.guardian.co.uk/uk_news/story/0,,2170336,00.html> <http://tinyurl.com/3c7jf6> <http://observer.guardian.co.uk/business/story/0,,2169917,00.html> <http://tinyurl.com/2ppm3h> <http://news.independent.co.uk/business/comment/article2966851.ece> <http://tinyurl.com/2q3k65> <http://www.telegraph.co.uk/money/main.jhtml?xml=/money/2007/09/16/cnrock116.xml> <http://tinyurl.com/2mztmy> <http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/6997174.stm> <http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2007/09/16/nrbank216.xml> <http://tinyurl.com/2nxg3z>

The Madeline McCann story continues to unwind. I'm an administrator for a DNA-based genealogy study and know the human mutation rate is quite low--perhaps one marker in 100 per generation. That means sloppy police work and closely related people can make DNA identification a bit dodgy. Add that to a politicised police force and stir well.

War in the Middle East?

Greenspan on Bush--UK reports.

Miscellaneous (health, the environment, etc.)
<http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/6997205.stm> <http://www.telegraph.co.uk/global/main.jhtml?xml=/global/2007/09/11/working-abroad.xml> <http://tinyurl.com/33ysj8> <http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/6996044.stm> <http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/wales/south_west/6994947.stm> <http://observer.guardian.co.uk/uk_news/story/0,,2170329,00.html?gusrc=rss&feed=11> <http://tinyurl.com/2jn2a6> <http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20070916/ap_on_sc/switzerland_weather_monks> <http://tinyurl.com/34cktq> <http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2007/09/16/nedu116.xml> <http://tinyurl.com/yq5nu9> <http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2007/09/16/nsick116.xml> <http://tinyurl.com/27azwp> <http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2007/09/15/ndentist115.xml> <http://tinyurl.com/2nx5hf>

Harry Erwin, PhD
"Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety." (Benjamin Franklin, 1755)


Some depressing news:

http://www.africancrisis.co.za/Article.php?ID=17459&  32,073 VIOLENT DEATHS IN SA IN 2006 Date Posted: Wednesday 12-Sep-2007 Submitted by Adriana Stuijt:




JOHANNESBURG, South Africa. 32,073 deaths from 429,849 armed criminal attacks against South Africans last year -- this is 'the gangster's paradise' !

The biggest increase in any specific crime-category last year was shown in the 12,761 armed attacks against 'residential properties' i.e. armed attacks against families inside their own routinely heavily-fortified homes have soared!

The annual crime statistics published by the South African Police Service showed that between April 1 2006 and March 31 2007, police received formal reports of 19,202 murders, 12, 871 culpible homicides; 20,142 attempted murders; 218,030 armed criminal assaults with intent to commit serious injury; 12,761 armed attacks against family homes; 13,599 armed 'car-jackings'; 6,689 cash-transit robberies and 126,555 'aggravated robberies".

Thus a whopping total of 429,849 armed criminal attacks were carried out against South African residents last year alone -during which 32,073 people had died due to this combined criminal violence and 250,103 people had also been criminally-injured.

Also, more than 100 members of the police were targetted on duty and killed in that time period.

The country has a total of 47-million residents, officially.

The number of bank robberies have more than doubled since last year and there also was a dramatic increase in the number of armed burglaries and violent car hijackings.

The biggest increase however was shown in the 12,761 armed attacks against 'residential properties' i.e. armed attacks against families inside their own routinely heavily-fortified homes:

LINKS: http://www.saps.gov.za/statistics/reports/crimestats/2007/_pdf/category/robbery_resident.pdf 

Seeall the latest 'official' crime statistics on the website:

LINKS http://www.saps.gov.za/statistics/reports/crimestats/2007/crime_stats.htm

Louis Andrews

Stalking the Wild Taboo


When we did Oath of Fealty, it looked as if Rhodesia might transition into a normal state and set an example for the rest of Africa. That did not happen. Now it looks as if RSA is decivilizing. It is not something the US can do anything about, although we had a great deal to do with setting the stage.


Subject: US in Iraq

Dear Dr. Pournelle,

As a friend of the US, I am appalled at their immensely wasteful foreign policy in Iraq. The strategy might be understandable, the tactics are hopeless.

This policy denies reality. The “insurgents” would not last very long if they did not have the support of most of the population which does not want to take US orders on how to organize itself. So the US army, short of the extermination of all its enemies, cannot expect to make any progress in Iraq. The much publicized strikes against the “insurgents” which have been dealt for 4 years, kill some of course but do not achieve anything of importance as they later regroup with the support of the population. In fact the US army cannot but entrench itself in fortified bases and helplessly watch a civil war. Guerilla wars supported by a population have never been won in a palatable way for Western democracies. It seems that lesson has not penetrated so many thick brains.

Iraq has large oil reserves but Iraqi oil production has not recovered. High prices and their negative for the US economy are guaranteed on the world oil market.

Now what solution? Since the strategy appears to establish permanent forces in the region to counter terrorists and as a consequence, secure a vital source of oil, why confront the Iraqi population? Why not move the existing entrenchments to and around the oil wells and pipelines and let the population decide its government however it wants to? The US could thus start seriously pumping Iraqi oil and influence the market price while weighing on any hostile state or forces in the region. The US could be the trustee of the oil revenues for the Iraqi people and use this position as a lever to seriously foster political compromise in Iraq.

Marc Banet-Rivet

I think you seriously underestimate the trouble a small but dedicated terrorist faction with outside support and sanctuary can do: it doesn't take a majority of the populace to support the insurgency. A small group of support and enough terror can manage that.

However, a strategy of pumping oil and letting Iraq govern itself, doling out oul revenue as needed, is worth considering; indeed it is what I thought they would do once it was clear we could not dissuade them from invading Iraq.

And see below for a comment by a serving officer


Food Preservation 

Jim wrote:

"..My son has been raised to an urban lifestyle; we planted a few tomato plants a couple of times with variable success, but haven't done significant gardening. I've recently had cause to reflect that he knows nothing about food preservation (and the opportunity that he had to learn something about the subject passed unheeded)."

While farming is a complex skill best learned at the knee of an expert, canning and freezing can be quickly learned by an absolute novice with a copy of Joy of Cooking or, I believe, Fannie Farmer. I know this because the results were delicious and safe, often on the first try. Don't despair.

-Tim Herbst




This week:


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Tuesday,  September 18, 2007

Student tasered for asking a question? 

Good grief, Jerry. When did we move to the USSR where just asking a question can get you tasered by campus police?


I don't know what went on before the police arrived, but the gent is clearly unarmed. He's struggling not to be arrested, but I probably would also if all I wanted to do was ask a question. I should think 4 police officers would be able to arrest one struggling student without the need for this kind of violence. This has gone beyond ordnung when you can be seriously injured for just asking a question.

Braxton Cook

Fortunately we still have courts of law; perhaps this is not the end of the story. But one expects this sort of thing as we transition away from the Republic. One wonders why a Senator of the United States stood by while this was going on. But then he is a former war hero, and perhaps unduly loyal to Order and Power?

I know I would not care to have any relative of mine attend that university.


Subject: Jacobins, View, Monday, September 17, 2007


To be very brief, you have to remember that Jacobinism has not only an ideology, but a tactics as well, going back to Jean-Paul Marat. Again, I can't speak to the mainstream Democratic Party, or to mainstream journalism, but for the case of academia, if you look into the activities of David Horowitz and Daniel Pipes, and their various associates, you will understand why so many professors were strangely silent, for fear of losing their jobs. In the last couple of years, the pattern of attacks has shifted, towards campuses in rural/conservative states where no faculty member has ever published an outspoken attack on the NeoCons. The Jacobins are using the usual mix of agents provocateurs, etc., to attempt to drive people who have been lying low out into the open. I suppose something similar has been happening in a couple of hundred newsrooms, etc.

Andrew D. Todd




"After spending weeks in information-gathering mode, a Pentagon analyst says the idea of putting satellites in orbit to harvest solar power and beam it down to Earth has lots of merit - and a test of the concept could be set in motion by 2015."

That sounds familiar.




Though nostril-curling penguin colonies are an occupational hazard of meteorite hunting in Antarctic ice valleys, last year searchers scented an even smellier meteorite.

Isotopically unique, and reeking of brimstone and phosphine it is speculated that it may hail from one of Jupiter's moons

http://adamant.typepad.com/seitz/2007/09/we-dont-wan-you.html <http://adamant.typepad.com/seitz/2007/09/we-dont-wan-you.html

Russell Seitz


APOD: 2007 September 16 - To Fly Free in Space


Sometimes, you see something that is just . . .






The More Things Change...

If you can handle a REALLY detailed dismembering of David Brooks' silly article, Alex has done it here http://www.gnxp.com/blog/2007/09/progression-of-iq.php  with scalpel and bone saw. Lots of bio-sci jargon.



ZAP GUN 101: Gamma Ray Lasers Go Nuclear

Many have tried and failed to stimulate isomeric isotopes into emitting high energy photons enough to serve as a gain medium and produce a coherent gamma ray beam that might serve as a laser for purposes civil and military.

Princeton's Richard Wheeler surface the idea of matter-antimatter annihilation serving this purpose decades ago, but only now have electron-positron molecules been observed to condense into quantum states that may eventually prove of technological use in applications as diverse as space propulsion and medicine : achieving a Bose-Einstein condensate of Dipositronium may help realize such dreams


Russell Seitz


 Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and Streptococcus 

Doctor Pournelle,

On 09/13/07 you posted a link to a Time magazine article on Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder : "When Worry Hijacks The Brain"

The evidence related in the article for OCD resulting from Streptococcal infections, which I have come across before, was particularly interesting.

"Last year investigators from the University of Chicago and the University of Washington studied a group of 144 children-- 71% of whom were boys--who had tics or OCD. All the kids, it turned out, were more than twice as likely as others to have had a strep infection in the previous three months. For those with Tourette's symptoms, the strep incidence was a whopping 13 times as great."

I have OCD. Its' mild a an adult, but at the age of 8 it turned my life upside down, and continued doing so for years. Worse, no one knew about it at the time (early 1960's). I was just a "weird kid". When I first heard of the Strep connection to OCD. I remembered: when I was 8 I had a severe strep infection, one that required me to receive several weeks of regular antibiotic injections. I recall mainly because the experience cured me of any fear of hypodermic needles, which theretofore I had (like any sensible child) feared greatly.

For what it;s worth, I believe there is a connection between Streptococcus and OCD. I've lived through the change from being "normal" to suddenly looking under the bed ten times before being able to sleep.

Interestingly, the "exposure Therapy" touted in the article (seeking out those things that "ring the danger bell" of the brain, desensitizing yourself to them) was something I hit upon myself as a teenager, and largely cured me of the malady.

My advice to parents (and I have an nine year old son), is to watch the behavior of their children careful if they have a strep infection. Any sore throat that lasts more than a day should be checked as possible strep, and knocked down immediately.


If you take evolution seriously, then you must wonder how apparently hereditary problems that but an enormous burden on reproduction survive. The most logical explanation is that such things are caused by infectious diseases.

One of my problems with modern psychology is that enormous insurance fraud called the DSM http://www.psychiatryonline.com/

in which almost anything can be called a syndrome or disorder. Psychiatric diagnosis has always been fuzzy. When I was in grad school we sent some drama department students to student counseling; the students were coached to give textbook answers to questions about symptoms; but the counselor and interns and even fully qualified psychiatrists weren't very good at getting the right diagnosis even though, as I said, these student actors were coached on how to act like a classic case.

That pretty well cured me of the notion that there was much science in psychiatry. Now every kid in America has some disorder, and most of those require expensive drugs. Odd, that.

I cannot imagine how my generation survived.

But to return to the point: many disorders are real, of course, and impose an enormous genetic burden, yet they are said to be hereditary or have hereditary factors involved. Note that diseases run in families also, and the notion of a semi-contagious disease as an explanation for conditions that have huge genetic burdens makes more sense.

That's if you take evolution seriously.  Most people don't.


RE: Show us your papers

Dr Pournelle,

Some time ago, when I was in graduate school, I got the bright idea to pick up a second major. It just happened to be in Business and Organizational Security Management so I know (knew) a little about this fellow’s situation and what led to it. Most states have what are called “merchant’s privilege statutes” which allow the abuse of the rights of anyone suspected of shoplifting. They also convey a pretty good legal shield for the business. Depending on the state laws in Ohio, the Circuit City very well may have been within their rights to search every bag he had on exit. Refusal may be considered a tacit admission of guilt allowing detention until the police can arrive and determine a proper resolution. Fortunately this is a double edged sword and the other edge is the threat of Tort if the accusation and detention is false or malicious with the result that businesses are usually pretty good about not being excessive with this. Physical detention without cause is kidnapping which usually has a hefty price tag in damages. The loss prevention guy stopping the car from departing is physical detention. Circuit City has DEEP pockets and would very likely let this situation go entirely (and maybe a significant sum) if faced with a lawsuit.

Unfortunately, the police are allowed to use “Obstruction of Justice” as a charge for pretty much anything they can’t think of a better one for. Any refusal to cooperate with an officer of the law regardless of the situation can result in this charge. Don’t ask me how I know this.

Guy T. Tate

Indeed. If the chap in question had been meticulous about cooperating with the police, this would have had a different outcome. He summoned the police; showing them identification would not be unreasonable under those circumstances. I find his stand: I have the right to protection from the police but I need not do them the courtesy of identifying myself because I HAVE RIGHTS! to be as far from a conservative position as one can get. One should limit the scope of the public authorities and bind them with rules; but one should not treat them as enemies and be rude to them.

He was kidnapped by Circuit City employees. He summoned the police to his rescue. It was then incumbent on him to cooperate with them, not taunt them. Or so say I.


Regarding the Chinese muscle flexing, this was sent in a couple of weeks ago:

Dear Jerry,

So what if the Chinese choose to destroy their own savings? The Federal Reserve can buy every last US Treasury Bond that China holds with a few keystrokes, should China start selling them and no other buyers appear. When your name is Tim Bernanke, US Treasuries are legal collateral for the paper you yourself emit.

The emission of an additional $800 bn USD *might* have a devalueing effect on the USD, especially with respect to the renmimbi. This however has been the goal of rapidly growing numbers of people. The first internal effect the Chinese would notice is they are no longer collecting interest on their US paper, which has suddenly depreciated in value. And they would notice their external oil bill going up rather significantly (so we would we). Another effect would be noted in the US Treasury and budget. Since WWII the Fed has remitted all its profits from operations to the US Treasury. These include interest collected on US Bonds and Notes held by the Fed and collateralizing Federal Reserve dollars.

As for inflation, who does anyone think anyone is kidding? It's already well underway from the perspective of middle class and working class folks. Look at the recent rises in a) real estate; b) milk and food in general and c) fuel costs, all against the background of stagnant to falling wages and salaries. I'm far from persuaded that what the Chinese Communist autocrats now threaten is ultimately that bad for these folks and their kids. I don't see any happy ending for them in the present economic regime.

Now. Our domestic steel industry is in the best shape since the 1970s. We have steel companies like Steel Dynamics that have the ability to clone entire mills in a year. They even know how to make iron without using coke or blast furnaces. We have 275 trillion tons of proven coal reserves. Our electric power generation is no longer 20% dependent on oil like it was in the late 1970s. A lot of nuclear plants came online since then. At the end of the day the Japanese will sail with whoever can physically guarantee continued oil deliveries. That navy is not controlled from Beijing.

So a very feasible general attitude to the Chinese government is; "Screw you, do it". Take your currrency manipulations, your lead painted toys, your industrial chemical laced food products, your chemical laced footwear, your not-so-secret plans for territorial expansion, your cheap pirated designs built to substandard specifications, your negatively skilled high cost frontmen (and women) like Deborah Ligocki masquerading as 'industry executives', and the low wage no medical coverage retail chains that push your substandard junk and shove every last bit of it you know where. It's a measure of our vast remaining natural and infrastructure wealth that we could not only pull through but come out far better after 5-7 years.

So do it. We'll check back in six months and see if the current Beijing regime or even a unitary Chinese state is still standing.

Best Wishes,


Agreed that the Chinese having bought all those US securities have a wolf by the ears, but it's not impossible to let go. And if they stop buying new paper...


Well, let's capitulate to the Muslim bullies who threaten to kill us if we don't bow down to their ways and their god. Good grief. This is a religion of compassion?

Note the two stories below.


No eating in front of them during Ramadan:


[I guess I should have complained during my school years when Non-Catholics ate meat in front of me on Fridays?]

Let's called God Allah?! I don't think so.


Bishop: Call God 'Allah' to ease relations Roman Catholic leader stokes already heated debate on religion The Associated Press Updated: 11:29 a.m. ET Aug 15, 2007

AMSTERDAM - A Roman Catholic Bishop in the Netherlands has proposed people of all faiths refer to God as Allah to foster understanding, stoking an already heated debate on religious tolerance in a country with one million Muslims.

Bishop Tiny Muskens, from the southern diocese of Breda, told Dutch television on Monday that God did not mind what he was named and that in Indonesia, where Muskens spent eight years, priests used the word "Allah" while celebrating Mass.

"Allah is a very beautiful word for God. Shouldn't we all say that from now on we will name God Allah? ... What does God care what we call him? It is our problem."

A survey in the Netherlands' biggest-selling newspaper De Telegraaf on Wednesday found 92 percent of the more than 4,000 people polled disagreed with the bishop's view, which also drew ridicule.

"Sure. Lets call God Allah. Lets then call a church a mosque and pray five times a day. Ramadan sounds like fun," Welmoet Koppenhol wrote in a letter to the newspaper.

Gerrit de Fijter, chairman of the Protestant Church in the Netherlands, told the paper he welcomed any attempt to "create more dialogue", but added: "Calling God 'Allah' does no justice to Western identity. I see no benefit in it."

A spokesman from the union of Moroccan mosques in Amsterdam said Muslims had not asked for such a gesture.


Texas Startup Says It Has Batteries Beat


(AP) -- Millions of inventions pass quietly through the U.S. patent office each year. Patent No. 7,033,406 did, too, until energy insiders spotted six words in the filing that sounded like a death knell for the internal combustion engine.

An Austin-based startup called EEStor promised "technologies for replacement of electrochemical batteries," meaning a motorist could plug in a car for five minutes and drive 500 miles roundtrip between Dallas and Houston without gasoline.

Bill Shields

Terrific if true.


I just saw this.

electric.car.batteries.ap/index.html >

 "AUSTIN, Texas (AP) -- Millions of inventions pass quietly through the U.S. patent office each year. Patent No. 7,033,406 did, too, until energy insiders spotted six words in the filing that sounded like a death knell for the internal combustion engine.

A Austin-based startup called EEStor promised "technologies for replacement of electrochemical batteries," meaning a motorist could plug in a car for five minutes and drive 500 miles roundtrip between Dallas and Houston without gasoline."

As long as we have enough energy production to charge the capacitor! I think it would require a lot of nuclear or coal-fired power plants to handle the load. I haven't run the numbers.


Charles Adams,

We don't have the kilowatts; but if we have the mobile technology we can get kilowatts.


Google's 30 million dollar X-Prize 

I read that Google has announced a 30 million dollar prize for the first team to successfully soft-land a payload on the moon:


Jerry, for years you've been talking about X-prizes. I sincerely hope you can take some satisfaction from all this.

There is also a bit of irony here which you may appreciate. For many years you advocated long and hard that the government should get out of the business of space vehicle development, and instead offer X-prizes to private industry to get the job done.

Well, it seems that you just didn't go *far* enough: What neither you nor anyone else imagined is that it would be private industry *awarding* the prizes as well as receiving them!

-- Talin

I wish it were $3 billion, but yes...



Rich Mexicans are now living and working in the US to avoid the kidnappings in Mexico:


As a society, there are responses to a plague of kidnappings, as Colombia has shown. But what should an individual parent do? And if these people work here and do not have green cards, should they be treated any differently from chicken workers?



A billion light years of,,, Nothing!



The universe has a huge hole in it that dwarfs anything else of its kind. The discovery caught astronomers by surprise.

The hole is nearly a billion light-years across. It is not a black hole, which is a small sphere of densely packed matter. Rather, this one is mostly devoid of stars, gas and other normal matter, and it's also strangely empty of the mysterious "dark matter" that permeates the cosmos. Other space voids have been found before, but nothing on this scale.





This week:


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Wednesday, September 19. 2007


Cooperating with Police


The gentleman in Ohio did, in fact, identify himself to the police officer by giving his name. There is no requirement to present a drivers license as identification unless you are operating a motor vehicle. Police are habituated to asking for a drivers license for ID, and may expect everyone to comply, but it's not required by any law I am aware of, other than while operating a motor vehicle. I fail to see how an obstruction charge arises out of refusal to present a drivers license when the suspect is not sitting behind the wheel.


Ross McMicken

Arr! This be true enough, but when fighting one enemy it is better not to make another. Matie, he would have had to identify himself in order to make a complaint! Why not do so from the start? He called on the police for help, is it not better not to treat them like scumsuckers?

It may be well to make the point that Circuit City had no right to detain him. It may be well to make the point that one need not show a driver's license. But surely it is best to deal with each issue in its own time? One wants the police as allies against Circuit City.


Dread Pirate Jerry,

Arrr, but the victim did identify himself to the bluecoats. And still he is to swing from the yardarm. Methinks there are three people involved in this story: the Circuit City employee, the Police and the “Victim”. And in my eye, they all should be keelhauled for being asshats. Circuit City for overstepping his legal rights, the Police for being officious, and the Victim for not being smart enough to pick his battles in order of appearance.


Billy (Blackheart) Grigg

Well stated, Matey.


How this 12inch miracle tube could halve heating bills | the Daily Mail

Not quite free energy, but they are going commercial with it


Mike 'Z' Zawistowski

I'd like to know a LOT more about the secret catalyst: how much is needed, how long it lasts, what it costs...


Subject: Show us your papers

Belay your loose jabber regarding kidnapping, ye bilious excuse for a doddard. As any respectable pirate would know, ye 'ave t'move a body afore you can be 'eld to 'ang for a kidnapping under the common law. O' course, Ohio 'ad t'muddy ta waters, and enact a law that kidnapping includes forcibly restraining the liberty of a person, so long as t'purpose of the restraint was for some nefarious purpose (exempli gratia: to hold for ransom, or as a shield or hostage; to facilitate the commission of any felony or flight thereafter; to terrorize, or to inflict serious physical harm on the victim or another; to engage in sexual activity contrary to the wishes of the victim; or to hinder, impede, or obstruct a function of government). The behavior of the merchant's blackguard would nay constitute kidnapping under the common law or the law of Ohio. If Circuit City be a pirate, it'll nay be 'anged for kidnapping. On t'other 'and, the law might ponder "unlawful restraint," which is naught but a misdemeanor and nay is an' 'anging offense. Kidnapping be a serious crime matey, an ye nay want to be accused o' slander.

"Rapacious" Rene Daley

But they be keelhauling The Juice for kidnapping...


This is one of several with this message:


Dr Pournelle,

I just watched the Fox clip you provided about the student who was tasered "for asking a question." Now that's just being silly. He was tasered for resisting arrest. Were I the arresting officer, I would not have used a taser. Instead I would have collapsed his knees and held him down in a jujitsu hold while my colleague handcuffed him. These officers were particularly gentle with the resisting suspect. Police officers have protocols for when to arrest; when those protocols are met, they have a responsibility to coerce compliance with the law. As for what John Kerry was doing - ask yourself this; what would you do were you the guest lecturer?

Arrrrh! -alex

Alex Rounds


Mr. Cook wrote, "I probably would also if all I wanted to do was ask a question..."

The problem is that the young man obviously didn't want to ask a question - he wanted to stage an event, outside the bounds of the rules of the event. In short, he was rude. But that rudeness turned to belligerance and disrespect of the event. Asked to leave, he refused and continued his act. That which followed became the consequences of his actions. He's willing to accept those consequences, fine. If he's not, then he's more than rude and disrespectful, he's a bore. Unfortunately, he'll get his 15 minutes instead of being ignored and ostracized as he should be.

Worthy of being tased? Maybe not. Before tasers, he'd have gotten a nightstick in the ribs, or about the shoulders... One resists the authorities at their peril.

David Couvillon


I know bouncers -- heck, a long time ago in another life I was one -- who could have got that guy out quickly, without using a potentially life threatening instrument. Tasers have a small but real probability of causing heart stops.

I agree the guy was working on being suppressed, and perhaps that's what ought to have happened to him. Suppressed by officers of the court...  But use of an instrument like that against an unarmed man does seem excessive. I still wouldn't want my kids going to that college.

And wow did Kerry miss a chance for some headlines!  I will defend to the death your right etc etc...


CURRENT VIEW    Wednesday


This week:


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Thursday, September 20, 2007


>>And wow did Kerry miss a chance for some headlines! I will defend to the death your right etc etc...<<

That's a thought! Find someone willing to be tasered in public to help promote Inferno II. You could denounce anarcho-tyranny in the foreground while the victim writhes in agony in the background. Cory Doctorow seems to like attention. Maybe he'll volunteer?

btw, I'm more comfortable now about printed books for my current and future projects. One of my engineer collaborators pointed out that technical books with reference quality are less likely to be resold for used than are works of fiction.



Tasered kid 

Hi Jerry,

Mr. Couvillon wrote, "One resists the authorities at their peril."

I'm certainly glad the folks back in 1776 didn't think this way. Of course, they actually did, if you bother to read what they wrote about the events in which they were embroiled. They fully understood that they could be hanged for speaking out against The Crown. Raising arms against The King was grounds for more than being hanged and all of them knew it and it scared the hell out of them, as it would any sane person. And they did it anyway...

Now, I would never put this kid in the same league as the men and women who stood their ground then and seriously stand their ground now. The question for me is, what law did the kid break before the police attacked him? And yes, I mean attacked. If there was no crime, court after court after court has upheld a citizen's right to resist police actions that violate their legal and moral rights. I've watched the video - several times - and I don't see a crime. I see obnoxious and obviously staged adolescent behavior, but I do not see a crime. The proper course would have been to turn off the microphone, let the kid rant for a while or until he actually broke a law, and then either let him wander out in disgrace or be led out after being told why he was being arrested. That's how it's supposed to work. I do something that a policeman thinks is breaking the law. He or she tells me I have broken the law and which law. I am then either cited or taken to jail. The police have no more right to smash my legs now than they did 100 years ago.

What scares me the most, Jerry, is how much of the, "if he had just done what he was ordered to do," I'm actually reading and hearing. Are these The People of which the government is supposed to be afraid and respectful? Have we truly become subjects and not free-thinking citizens?

As for Alex's question, "what would you do were you the guest lecturer?" I would have bolted out from behind that podium and told those officers if they drag that boy off they better get ready to drag me off as well. I would have asked for the audience's help in making a citizen's arrest of the officers in question and marched them off to the police station where as a Senator of the U.S. Congress and free citizen of the U.S.A, I would have filed charges against them for creating a public nuisance and any other charges I could think of. In short, I would have stood up for the rights of all Americans to speak their minds and assemble peacefully without harrassment by overzealous authorities looking to instill the proper respect for the law in yet another generation of men. That did not happen and that is the saddest cut of all.

Braxton S. Cook

p.s. And before anyone asks, yes, I have been assaulted by the police, handcuffed, and thrown across the hood of a police car for standing up for the rights of another. I did it then. I would do it again in a heartbeat.

First, whatever Colonel Couvillon's sentiments on revolution, his advice is sound. One does resist the authorities at one's peril; which is to say, pick your fights carefully, and be prepared for bad results. (And don't pick more than one fight at a time if you want to win either of them.)

Having said that, I have already said that any competent bouncer would have got the kid out of the room without having to taser him. Of course the victim was looking for the opportunity to make a scene; that is what he was there for. I can see one of my sons in that situation back when they were in college and belonged to campus political organizations. Heck, one of them used to appear at political events in prison garb and handcuffs.

Third, look how Kerry won his Silver Star and then think whether the actions you describe would be characteristic of him. Although I do think Senator Goldwater might have acted as you describe. He was quite a man in his day.


OJ Defense 

You rang?

I practice criminal defense (career public defender type). While frankly I'm not following the OJ chronicles your question is fairly easy to answer.

It's somewhat unusual to have a no-contact order between co-defendants, at least in my jurisdiction, but it doesn't necessarily prevent him putting on a good defense. Each defendant will have his own attorney and there will be some level of information exchange among the attorneys.

The state, of course, is hoping that one or more of the entourage will flip and provide testimony that OJ planned or directed the (legally) significant acts. The fear is that if he is allowed unrestricted access to them he can influence them--whether negatively, by threat of force; or positively, promise of reward--not to take the offer the the state is holding out. I would guess that you've read John Von Neumann on the "Prisoner's Dilemma." Isolation of the defendants is necessary for the state to be able to exert that pressure.

But, you say, that tilts the field too far in the state's favor! Well, yes--yes it does. The courts will, in most cases, make sure that the state is not unduly hindered in convicting the defendant. After all, he wouldn't be there if he wasn't guilty, now would he?


So we must hire lawyers even to discuss our defense; my lawyer can't talk to you, but must talk to your lawyer, thus providing full employment for those of the esquire persuasion...


On the Five Minute Car Charge

5 Minute Car Charge

Let's run some numbers.

Assume 50hp is required to travel 60 MPH. 500 miles would take 8.34 hours. 50hp is roughly 37.29kw. So we would need 311kwh to make the trip.

Let's assume an 800V battery and ignore all of the conversion losses. To charge this battery in 5 minutes would require over FOUR THOUSAND AMPS! (311KWH / 800volts = 390 Amp/Hours x 60 minutes/hour = 23,400 amps in one minute / 5 minutes = 4,680 amps) Lower voltage would scale the current upward proportionally.

I smell snake oil.

Gene Horr


This sounds very reminiscent of James Patterson's "cold fusion" hot water heater that was featured in a story on ABC's "20-20" news magazine back in January 1996. In that story, it was reported that he had made the celebrated "excess heat" effect consistent, repeatable, and was getting better than two watts of heat out for every watt put in. According to the report, he was going to start selling water heaters using that principle.

It didn't happen, obviously.

The innards of this device are entirely different from Patterson's, and they aren't saying the words "cold fusion", or even "palladium". Still, if they can get the amount of heat out that they claim, from devices that they can mass produce, I don't think anyone will much care whether the energy comes from cold fusion, a Casimir tap, siphoning off magic from Faerie, or putting a pirate tap into the Galactic Empire's broadcast power network.

At least, until a few decades from now, when collections agents of Galactic Power and Light show up with an electric bill in arrears.

I'm not holding my breath, of course.

-- Mike Van Pelt


Jerry, I'm not an engineer, but it seems to me that an electric socket provides power at the rate of one or two HP. You can't drive a car for 500 miles, 10 hours at something of the order of 50-100 HP, and plug it in for 5 minutes for a recharge. You need a 6,000-10,000 HP socket for that.

I made that guess in HP. As you can see it's about 10 megawatts. No such power in my house, I'm glad to say.

Regards, Adrian Camp



Ave Doctor Pournelle!

After reading James Pinkerton's essay "The Once & Future Christendom", I turned to Chesterton for some more sustenance of the kind. It may be that, along with "The Gods of the Copybook Headings" and "The Old Issue" you might like to point your readers (again, since people do sometimes need reminding) to "Lepanto":



White founts falling in the courts of the sun,
 And the Soldan of Byzantium is smiling as they run,
 There is laughter like the fountains in that face of all men feared,
 It stirs the forest darkness, the darkness of his beard,

 It curls the blood-red crescent,
 the crescent of his lips,
For the inmost sea of all the earth is shaken with his ships.

They have dared the white republics up the capes of Italy,
 They have dashed the Adriatic round the Lion of the Sea,
 And the Pope has cast his arms abroad for agony and loss,
 And called the kings of Christendom for swords about the Cross,
 The cold queen of England is looking in the glass;
 The shadow of the Valois is yawning at the Mass;
 From evening isles fantastical rings faint the Spanish gun,
 And the Lord upon the Golden Horn is laughing in the sun.

And it's beautiful also!


And the last knight of Europe takes weapons from the wall


Dear Jerry,

I agree with much of the essay by Mr. Pinkerton. The Shire (Christendom) is essential to western civilization; however, the Shire is in dire need of reformation lest it become a hollow shell. Christianity has a number of problems some of which date all the way back to the apostle Paul. The first reformation was never truly completed. There exists in Christianity today a defeatist attitude among many. Christians revere the suffering of Jesus and conclude that suffering, and miseries are worthy goals. Consider that the first response to Pinkerton's essay to be posted on your site contained a reference to the end of days. I think it is more likely and desirable that a second reformation takes place. Some Christians seem to yearn for the end of our world like medieval supplicants eager to perform self-flagellation.

A strong and resurgent Christian church could easily resist any threat posed by militant Islam, but Christianity must first overcome internal problems. Popular culture has transformed much of Christian teaching into a naive belief in a God more like a fairy Godmother with a magic wand. A watered down touchy- feely Christianity will not produce the knights that Pinkerton refers to. I can just picture a group of Christians holding hands, singing Kumbahyah, and Give Peace a Chance. These people will not be much defense because they do not wish to understand history. Jesus of Nazareth clearly taught that peace is a worthy goal, but peace requires effort.

King David was a great tactician who found peace through military strength. Solomon found peace through negotiation, treaty, and trade. Jesus of Nazareth taught that peace could be found through change. Love your enemies and pray for those that persecute you. Change your enemies so that they are your brothers, and lasting peace is found. Each method of finding peace rests on the foundation of the other. Universal brotherhood is only one of the technologies of Christ. Forgiveness is another. A concept like the wheel can develop into a technology like turbine bearings with sufficient time and effort. The teachings of Jesus contain simple concepts with profound consequences for humanity. Forgiveness changes both the forgiver and the forgiven allowing both to progress forward. A society with no concept of forgiveness might look much like the Pashtun culture of western Pakistan. These are good and intelligent people with a tradition of hospitality and kindness, but they are not big on forgiveness. Hostilities between families can last for generations so they have difficulty moving forward. They also have few if any factories making gas turbine bearings.

I had an interesting conversation with a man from Syria who converted from Islam to Christianity. He had become disenchanted with the inconsistency in Islamic teaching, and the evasiveness of the Mullahs he spoke with. He had been told many falsehoods about Christian teaching, but he read the Bible and discovered the simplicity, power, and courage exemplified by Jesus, Solomon, Samuel, etc. He now lives near Dallas, and remains a devout Christian, but he considers most American Christians to be ignorant wimps. (My words not his--he's a polite fellow) His criticism of modern Christianity should be heeded. Islamic men may respect a courageous Jesus, but they will not respect the Disney version.

Islam is an Abrahamic faith that recognizes one God. The threat of Islamic extremism and its associated barbarity is real, but the Shire has overcome much worse. Starvation was common, the law was lost, and human sacrifice had returned when an eight-year old boy named Josiah became King. He sent his scribe into the ruins of the temple, and the law was found. Monotheism survived that day. The law matters because ideas matter. Some of the great teachings of our civilization come from Solomon, Jesus, Locke, Jefferson, etc. These teachings are our Shire. The first great reformation occurred partly because of the development of the printing press. The Internet will bring about the next reformation.

Kind Regards,

Ray Karcher


Captain McFadden reminds us:

Your Kipling recommendations would be well served by the addition of MacDonough's Song.

Yours Aye!



WHETHER the State can loose and bind
    In Heaven as well as on Earth:
If it be wiser to kill mankind
    Before or after the birth—
These are matters of high concern
    Where State-kept schoolmen are;
But Holy State (we have lived to learn)
    Endeth in Holy War.

Whether The People be led by The Lord,
    Or lured by the loudest throat:
If it be quicker to die by the sword
    Or cheaper to die by vote—
These are things we have dealt with once,
    (And they will not rise from their grave)
For Holy People, however it runs,
    Endeth in wholly Slave.

Whatsoever, for any cause,
    Seeketh to take or give,
Power above or beyond the Laws,
    Suffer it not to live!
Holy State or Holy King—
    Or Holy People’s Will—
Have no truck with the senseless thing.
    Order the guns and kill!

Once there was The People—Terror gave it birth;
Once there was The People and it made a Hell of Earth.
Earth arose and crushed it. Listen, O ye slain!
Once there was The People—it shall never be again!


Climate change, energy and health

Dear Dr. Pournelle,

"The Lancet" has an interesting article:

"The current debate on climate change neglects a number of issues concerning energy as a major determinant of human health, argues Dr Richard Horton in a medical journal. He urges the adoption of 'safe nuclear' as a bridge between fossil fuels and renewables."

I lived for ten years (1958-68) near Charleroi, Belgium, when the coal mines where still active. To quote Wikipedia, "Charleroi is in the center of a vast coal basin, called Pays noir" (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charleroi).  "Pays noir" means "black land", because of the coal dust that kept falling from the sky (and that my mother kept dusting off). Think of it as a slow motion Plinian eruption of Vesuvius...

A. Romain


The Hydrogen Myth


Since your mailbag has some questions about hydrogen, your readers might be interested in a talk I gave at DragonCon a couple of weeks ago on "The Hydrogen Myth." You can download a PDF of it here:


I had a standing-room-only crowd heavily populated with environmentalists, and I think I did a pretty good job of convincing them that we're not going to be burning hydrogen in our cars anytime soon.

You may be amused to note that I lifted my "Disclaimer" slide from the one you used to use for North American Rockwell. I gave you (verbal) credit in each of my five presentations; there was always a murmur of recognition in the room.



-- Stephen Fleming
 Chief Commercialization Officer
 Georgia Tech <fleming@gatech.edu>

As I have been saying since my "Hydrogen Economy" article in 1978, there are no hydrogen wells. It's a distribution system.

After our experiences with hydrogen rockets in DC/X I am no longer an advocate of hydrogen as rocket fuel; and for the same reasons, I don't like it much as an energy pipeline fluid. It's just too hard to contain. Hydrogen wants loose, bad...


Morning Jerry

> A Austin-based startup called EEStor promised "technologies for replacement of electrochemical batteries," meaning a motorist could plug in a car for five minutes and drive 500 miles round trip between Dallas and Houston without gasoline."

The engineer in me just had to start scratching on the back of an envelope:-

My car does 33 miles to the gallon (imperial) on a long run. 500 mile trip = 15.2gal = 69.1l

Wikipedia tels me 91octane petrol has 34.8MJ/l (Mega Joules per litre).

Therefore I consume 2400MJ on my trip.

Assuming 25% efficiency for the car that gives me 600MJ of energy for the 500 miles.

Assume 90% efficiency for battery/capacitor/electric motor transport = 666MJ for the trip.

Charging time = 5min = 300sec.

1 Watt = 1 Joule/sec

666MJ in 5 min = 2.2MW

Assuming 200V for the operating voltage gives an average charging current of 11,000A!!!! (and remember this is a capacitor based system so the initial current will be much higher.....).

A big filling station in the UK can refuel 10,000+ cars a day. Can you say on site multiple nuclear reactors :-)

I can only assume that the 5min is the time taken to swap out the capacitor pack but even so charging and handling thousands of packs a day is going to change the face of filling stations.

All the best

Ian Crowe


Jacobean concepts


 First we need to identify who and what the Neo-Cons are in reality before the average person can understand them. When Rockefeller, Morgan and Ford sponsored Adolph in the German National Socialist experiment other wealthy Democrats went along with them because it sounded good and fitted into their Jacobean concepts of industry and government in step together to the benefit of both. They also began implementing the same system in this country through first the colleges and then the public schools through the NEB.

When it became obvious to many of them even before the assault on Poland what Adolph intended many including Prescott Bush dropped out of the support for him. They stayed Democrats though and were to a great extent responsible for Truman and other moderately liberal democrats in government. Later with first Kennedy who they tolerated and then with LBJ who they despised these thin skinned Illuminati began deserting the democratic fold. They came to the republicans on the coattails of Reagan and became the new republicans with George HW Bush. They call themselves neo conservatives because they are new to the conservative concept and really do not have an understanding of what conservative means.

So in real truth these neo-cons are nothing but moderately liberal democrats who were not able to contend with the New Left program and with what the Democratic Party agenda has become. But in their hearts they are still democrats with strong democratic beliefs in Jacobean philosophy and the feeling that if everybody becomes a democrat and if every government is a democratic government the world will then be a nice place to live. The biggest problem with George W is that he really with all his heart feels that he is doing the right thing and making the world safe for democracy. He lacks understanding of the evils of democracy as much as a Muslim suicide bomber lacks understanding of the evils of radical Islam.

James Early
 Long Beach, CA


Hopeless Tactics

Dr Pournelle,

 I read the letter from Mr Banet-Rivet. I'm wondering why he believes " The "insurgents" would not last very long if they did not have the support of most of the population" and appears to think the support of the population for our foes is a given. Anbar, a province widely considered lost a year ago, is now touted as a model for future progress. The people of that province threw their lot in with our foes, and discovered that this was a bad plan. It turns out our foes include evil people who seek to impose their own views on others. The Sheiks of Anbar learned that the US Army and USMC will let them live their lives pretty much as they will, instead. There are even former insurgents cooperating in joint operations with the US against AQI. As we shift to focus more effort against the Qods Force, we're starting to see Shia militias attempting to cooperate against our mutual foes in the south.

The fact is that since WWII, two thirds of insurgencies have failed, even though the Bipolar world was as good a medium for insurgency success as has existed in human history. It generally takes a decade to accomplish this defeat. Vietnam is a fine example. In point of fact, we have a historically cheap war, in terms of dead and wounded, reports from Iraqi morgues have never agreed with the high local death rate reported on the news, and we aren't operating behind the normal schedule for victorious fights against insurgencies. It is costing a fair chunk of change, but at least some of that is because the Peace Dividend cuts were too deep, and all concerned knew it at the time. Politics has always been the weak spot, but is 2003 Iraq really worse ground to grow a democracy than 1945 Korea?

Note also that the "much publicized strikes" that " do not achieve anything of importance" are in fact doing a fine job of attriting those experienced insurgents and terrorists, and it is easy to see in the reports of enemy operations the decreasing skill level, shown in terms of choices of attack methods and choices of targets.

Far from bunkering down, the US Army is aggressively patrolling and conducting offensive operations. Our big mistake has been to pursue priorities to reduce short term risk instead of pursuing the accomplishment of the mission, but we've set some good conditions to allow further progress and we're moving to put US troops in contact with the people. In my personal experience, this is the biggest and most important step in winning hearts and minds.

The Iraqi Army has grown from nothing to a collection of brigades, conducting their own operations and attempting to grow division and corps level headquarters. Each step up the echelon to a higher level headquarters adds complexity and the span of assets needed to synchronize, but I can tell you from experience that if you take a brigade's worth of trained and experienced troops, and make them verify the common skills that all soldiers are expected to know, the skills their individual specialties are expected to know, fireteam operations, squad level operations, platoons, companies, battalions and brigades, without conducting combat operations concurrently, and with no weekends off, the process takes around four months. This presumes that when you start, you have experienced colonels where you need experienced colonels, that where you need good supply sergeants, you have them, and so forth. We're doing a pretty good job of creating a professional army from scratch. I'll note that polls in Iraq show their Army is the most trusted organization in their government, much like ours is the most trusted organization in our government.

It also seems odd to attempt to train the Iraqis to lead themselves and get along with each other by keeping all power and control centralized in US hands. We tell people the way to learn is by doing, so shouldn't we let the Iraqis try to do those things we think they should be doing? If we don't, how will they ever learn, or show us they are learning?

The only place where we are really screwing up is the same one we've screwed up for decades. Information Operations. I can't tell you a good way to fix that which it might actually be possible to put into place.

A serving officer

It says a great deal about the United States that the Army is indeed the most trusted institution in the US, rating far above the Congress, the Courts, the Department of Defense, and all political parties.

We are attempting to create an Iraqi national army that will ally with us, rather than building auxiliaries. That may or may not be the best strategy; but it is certainly not a stupid one.


From another conference:


 Good Fences Make Good Neighbors

Science Daily - In the last century, more than 100 million people have perished in violent conflict, very often because of local clashes between ethnically or culturally distinct groups. In a novel study recently in Science, researchers report on a mathematical model that can predict where ethnic conflict will erupt.

The study, conducted by scientists at the New England Complex Systems Institute (NECSI) and Brandeis University, can be applied to many areas and its predictions were tested on distinct ethnic groups in India and the former Yugoslavia. The researchers applied a model of global pattern formation that differentiates regions by culture. They discovered that heterogeneous areas with poorly- defined boundaries were prone to ethnic conflict.

The research asserts that in highly mixed regions, groups of the same type are not large enough to sway collective behavior toward claiming any particular public space; likewise, well-segregated groups are protected by clear boundaries identifying their space. However, the study concludes that "partial separation with poorly defined boundaries fosters conflict."

In essence, as poet Robert Frost wrote in a well-known poem, "good fences make good neighbors." Well-defined borders help prevent ethnic tension.

"Our research shows that violence takes place when an ethnic group is large enough to impose cultural norms on public spaces, but not large enough to prevent those norms from being broken," said Brandeis researcher Dr. May Lim. "Usually this occurs in places where boundaries between groups are unclear."

Reflecting an emerging direction in science applied to social policy, the study applies the scientific principles of pattern formation--which are used to describe, for example, how chemicals separate by type or phase--to the huge social problem of ethnic conflict. The researchers discovered that ethnic violence occurs in certain predictable patterns, just as do other collective behaviors in physical, biological, and social complex systems.

"The concept of pattern formation, while it may have been originally developed to understand chemical systems, is really a scientific model of collective behaviors, in which you look at those aspects that control overall behavior," said co-author and NECSI president Yaneer Bar-Yam.

"This study provides an indication of where regions may run into trouble, and how to avoid conflict, said Bar-Yam, adding, "this research reflects a tremendous opportunity for us to address a wide range of social concerns with new scientific tools."

Note: This story has been adapted from a news release issued by Brandeis University.


From another conference, in a discussion of heredity and environment:

When describing the adult product as 90 per cent nature, 10 per cent nurture I am sure you would allow, perhaps by averaging or perhaps by merely excluding outliers, for the cases of disastrous childhood; Romanian orphanage to age 5, drunken foster parents thereafter, no books or stimulation. Apart from that clarifying or qualifying point, what do you class as Naure and what as Nurture. Clearly you would put foetal viral damage into the Nature category. But what about foetal alcohol damage? What about the very natural effects of the peer interactions that Judith Rich Harris has made so much of? That could raise the 10 per cent to perhaps 50, could it not??

I wrote forty years ago that many of those in West Africa were STUNTED, due to protein deficiencies in childhood and general debilitating diseases; and thus IQ statistics from Africa were meaningless when looking into heredity.

That doesn't mean that one can ignore the EFFECTS of low IQ in perpetuating these horrors.

The essay was for American Legion Magazine and the remedy I proposed was protein flour made from trash fish; distribute this stuff all over Africa and see if it had an effect. It would have been a hell of a lot lower cost than what we were sending to their masters as "foreign aid" and "AID" payments.

I even convinced a couple of US companies operating in Liberia to try this, and it looked to be having a positive effect but then the liberals in the US helped in the overthrow of the True Whig Party in Liberia in the name of Jacobin Democracy, and Liberia then went down its inevitable spiral to doom.

And in fact I have never endorsed 90/10 division. I am more inclined to 70/30. I also note that you can always degrade from a potential. Start with a Model T and a new Mercedes M class. Don't maintain either. Which will still be running in a couple of years?


Twelve Inch Miracle Tube Over Unity Water Heater


Jim Lyons at the University of York is quoted in the Daily Mail newspaper as saying that outputs from this device energy exceeded inputs by one and a half to two times. All the World's energy problems have been solved at a stroke.

How likely is this?

John Edwards

I still want to see the secret catalyst, and how long it lasts...

The Second Law has served us well for a long time. Perhaps it is time t0 discard it but I want to see the experiment replicated a few times before I do. Just as I would like to see some more evidence before I throw out Koch's Criteria. But then I am an old paleoconservative...


Two comments about EEStor, the capacitor company.

First, what they're talking about really is a capacitor, unlike the "ultracapacitors" Maxwell has been selling for years. Maxwell's products are basically just really fast batteries; they use a chemical reaction. EEStor is developing something that uses electrostatic charge, which is how capacitors work. I have no idea-- absolutely no idea-- whether EEStor's claims are physically possible or not, but I've seen reasonably well qualified opinions in both directions.

Second, this claim about a 5-minute charge for a 500-mile automobile trip is ludicrous. Those numbers work out to a 750-kilowatt supply!

No matter where the power is coming from, there's simply no technology known to mankind that supports connecting or switching this kind of power in a casual consumer transaction.

I blogged about this part of EEStor's claims a little while back:


. png

I do not believe I will ever hear "I blogged" without flinching as the sheer ugliness of the word. But as you say, the numbers don't work very well.


Subject: Contractors?

Dr. Pournelle;

I believe I mentioned once before that the main difference between the 400,000 GI’s that occupied Germany post WW II and the 160,000 US Troups occupying Iraq right now…is the 200,000 odd “contractors” in country. However, I assumed those contractors were doing support work…driving trucks, logistics, that sort of thing.

What moron thought it would be a good idea to out-source security for the Green Zone and diplomatic travel? If there is a military action going on, when is it a good idea to give guns to people that don’t answer to the military authority? Who defines their “rules of engagement”?

I am continually amazed at the flat out stupidity of the folks at the top…and the lemming like blindness of the people that follow them.

Don Etling

No comment.


Subject: Keelhauling the Juice

Now thar's a pirate. A man responsible for decapitating his erstwhile bride and responsible for the death of her lover, yet naytheless evades the yardarm. And, to grind salt into the sores of his erstwhile in-laws, he lives a life of wanton ease whilst claiming he lacks the means to satisfy their civil judgment. A truer knave is seldom seen (except for the daily reports of similarly depraved individuals). Nevada be another one of them thar jurisdickthings that decided to fling offal on the common law and enact a statute providing that first degree kidnapping required no transport of the victim if the blackguard willfully holds or detains a person for the purpose of robbing the victim. (See Nev. Rev. Statutes Sec. 200.310(1)).

One is forced to contemplate how else robbery is to be effected if one does not forcibly detain the victim whilst depriving him of his chattel. (See Mendoza v. State, 122 Nev. Adv. Op. No. 23 (2006) for a discussion of the problems of obtaining a dual conviction for robbery and kidnapping). However, unlike the Circuit City hireling, The Juice was allegedly detaining his victims whilst depriving them of their merchandise under the apparent threat of force -- to wit robbery. Faster than you can say Davy Jones' Locker, you've got the makings for a first degree kidnapping charge. Now, to be sure, The Juice will be getting special attention from the proctologist, errr prosecutor, because of his notoriety. But is this a terrible thing Jerry?

Why, I remember but a few short moons ago when you were bewailing the fact that the fair maid Hilton was being treated as though she were a common wench. I understood your point to be that the prosecutor and judge should take the accused's circumstances into account when wielding the power of the state. Well, I think The Juice may be in for an extra strong dose of equality. What a sad state of affairs that Sin City, that den of inequity, will exact justice upon The Juice when our city of angels declared him to be not guilty.

"Ravenous" Rene Daley


Avast, scrivener!

Was the King's men to be clappin' me in irons, certain I'll be wantin' the bucko who marked me with the Spot to prove who he be! Else we turns into a land where a man gets packed up on nobbut the word of 'nonnamous informers, no better nor the Frenchies.


Matthew Joseph Harrington

e pur si muove



I had a hard time finding anything by “Helen McInnis” (sic) per your mention in today’s Current View until I tracked down the alternate spelling “MacInnes.”

Now I’ve a new author to look forward to … thanks.


Everett Harper

Thanks. She was the absolute master of her kind of intrigue story.


And just to nail this down:



The first thing I do when I read a story like this is get out the slide rule/calculator/ proverbial back of the envelope. Anyone with any training in science or engineering should do the same. Sturgeon's law is 90% of anything is crap. I should coin my own law, 90% of technology stories are marketing BS. See Mark Twain on statistics.

Lets look at a simple calculation. Say our car has a 100 kW electric motor. A reasonable value as this is 135 horsepower, equivalent to a mid-90's economy car. If you really pushed it (and avoided the Poletzei) you could drive 500 miles at 80 mph in 6.25 hours. So let's guess that we need half our horsepower to maintain our speed, and that whatever we use for acceleration is regained by degenerative braking. That gives us a requirement of just over 300 kWH of power. At 220 Volts you would need a 1500 amp circuit to charge that much power in 5 minutes.

Most homes have 100 amps total, 200 amps is standard for an all electric home. In other words, it's not the batteries that are the limiting factor, it's the wall current. Now if these ultracapacitors can significantly reduce the cost/watt of storing the energy that is pretty darn important, but talking about charging time is just BS.

FYI, Tesla motors has a survey on their web site asking folks to go out to their electrical panel, and calculate how much reserve capacity they have. Actually what they want to know is what percent of potential customers could legally install a 70 amp charging circuit per the national electrical code. I believe a full charge at 70 amps 220 volts would take 4 hours. That is just over 60 kWHs of power, and since the Tesla Roadster has around a 200 mile range, it looks like my numbers above are just about right (certainly pretty good for a Fermi Problem) . So far it looks like maybe half of their potential customers could support the power requirements.

Conclusion: any time someone says they can charge an electric car in under an hour (and by car I mean something you could drive from LA to Phoenix, not a glorified golf cart) they are selling snake oil.

Mark E. Horning,
 Physicist, L-3 Communications Night Operations
 Center of Excellence Air Force Research Lab; AFRL/HEA




CURRENT VIEW    Thursday


This week:


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FridaySeptember 21, 2007

Two Ultracapacitors?


Everyone has been running the back of the envelope calculations about quickly charging a car at home.

What if you had an ultracapacitor the size of a refrigerator in your garage?

It’s plugged in all the time, maybe charging at 10 amps. When you get back from your 6 hour trip, plug the car into the stationary ultracapacitor with a huge set of cables. The instantaneous power draw is between ultracapacitors, not from the grid down to your house. Unload the car, hit the bathroom, and you’re ready to go again.

Walter Yankauskas


Mark Horning: Conclusion: any time someone says they can charge an electric car in under an hour (and by car I mean something you could drive from LA to Phoenix, not a glorified golf cart) they are selling snake oil.

He makes a good point. Still, most people are accustomed already to having to "charge" their cars at a gas station, so maybe they won't mind going to specialized areas for a fast mid-day charge (assuming the nanotech battery/capacitor/whatever actually IS capable of being charged in five to ten minutes).

With enough demand, I expect gas stations will start putting in high-amp circuits for fast charging. Some electric welders throw around 1,500 amps at 80-100 volts. Having this kind of power or more at a commercial charging station is not infeasible, assuming the connection safety issues can be handled (then again, nobody seems to mind people pumping their own liquid explosives).

Meanwhile, there's always the leisurely overnight charge.

Tom Brosz


Subject: Evolution, genetics, and disease


Your comments about OCD, genetics, and infectious agents caught my attention because I had just finished reading Nicholsa Wade's book "Before the Dawn". In the book, he shows how recent finding in genetics have provided greater understanding of the recent human past.

The book is particularly interesting because it shows how some articles of faith among the politically correct crowd don't stand up to scientific scrutiny. Example: most sociologists strongly deny that there is a biological basis to race; they claim it is entirely a social concept. Yet geneticists can quite accurately assign a DNA sample to a particular racial group (continent of origin) by checking something less than ~100 characteristic markers.

With regard to the discussion of OCD: Wade cites a couple of cases where charactistic mutations can be found in certain racial groups. These mutations appear to have come from evolutionary adaptation to the pressure of certain infectious diseases. The most well known is the gene variation which produces sickle cell anemia, but also produces increased resistance to malaria. Apparently, there are several different genetic variations that provide better malaria resistance, but increase susceptibility to various blood disorder (i.e., evolved independently in different parts of the world).

He also notes that about 15% of Northern Europeans (Swedes) carry a distinctive alteration of the CCR5-delta-32 gene. Some believe that this was an evolutionary adaptation to the Black Death. (No good way to test that hypothesis, I suppose.) In a similar vein, the evolutionary pressure that appears to have elevated the IQ of the Ashkenazi also created an increased susceptibility to a variety of diseases.

The point is that exposure of populations to infectious diseases can lead to an evolutionary selection that provides a clear advantage in terms of immunity to a fatal disease, while carrying a lesser disadvantage in terms of non-fatal side effects.. I could easily imagine a mutation that gave increased resistance to a fatal disease, but also left the carrier susceptible to OCD after a strep infection.

CP, Connecticut


Subject: Contractors

That's an easy one. We have armed contractors because it makes a certain amount of sense. Imagine you are a State Dept official. How far would you go to show that you are independent of the US Armed Forces? What if you are an organization that needs to be covert? Might be easier to blend in with contract guards than if you had a military convoy with you when you left the green zone. How about if you are an NGO? Many, perhaps most, of those are pretty significantly anti-American, and won't use US Military guards. Add in that it is utterly normal practice around the world for those organizations to hire armed contractors to provide protection, and why not do it that way in Iraq, just like you would in Zimbabwe?

I'll also add that I've had contractors work for me. The fact that they were not in the military chain of command was useful, since they were able to tell irate field grade officers that you can't get in without the correct badge, the correct information on the list, or the approval of (Me), and the contractors could do it without fear that it would bite them later on.

The vast majority of contractors are doing support work. This varies from driving trucks to servicing generators to cleaning porta-potties. Many of those are armed, but relatively few are the armed contractors we are talking about here. I won't comment on the rules of engagement, but a quick look at the real news stories on Blackwater, rather than the reporters who merely want to show or create bad things, shows that State had a contract with Blackwater which provided them with their rules on the use of force.

In this particular situation, it seems pretty clear that this is a play by elements within the Iraqi government to show they aren't US lapdogs and to provide things to trade for a deal of some sort.

Here is something to think about. Compare the population of Iraq with that of NYC, a much tighter geographic area. Compare the size of the NYPD with the Coalition, and remember that Congress has more than one limit on the size of our forces, both in terms of what they are willing to pay and hard limits on manpower. Consider what it takes to increase those numbers, since you need training centers to be expanded (all of the excess capacity was cut), you need instructors to be trained, you need new units set up to take these new bodies, isn't it reasonable to at least consider hiring an organization made up almost entirely of former US soldiers to guard a convoy, manage a gate checkpoint, direct traffic on a base?

A Serving Officer


Mercenaries in Iraq

Most of the contractors there are doing civilian stuff: maybe 20,000 are doing some kind of security. Blackwater, I think, is the elite: my impression (and this would have to be checked) is that they hire only British and Americans, ex-Special Forces, ex-SAS, etc. There are a number of other private security operations in Iraq that aren't as picky. They hire South Africans and Colombians, for example, who are cheaper. The CPA issued an edict, exempting all of those organizations from Iraqi law. I believe it's called extraterritoriality. Last year Congress decided that they should be subject to the UCMJ, but that hasn't been implemented yet. For the last few years, and at the moment, they're not subject to any law all. Think about it, Jerry: this is the ideal job for a certain kind of man. The pay is good, sometimes very good and you get to kill people. On general principles, I would expect that there are some real psychos in some of these groups, mad-dog killers. Maybe someday we'll hear some of those stories Right now, I think they are obscured by the background of ethnic civil war, murder, torture, explosions, infinite corruption, and cholera. I would say that there are opportunities for true adventurers, as well as psychos. There have been some very odd unsolved multi-hundred-million dollar bank jobs in Baghdad. You have to wonder why the US government is bidding against itself for for highly qualified Special Forces-type personnel. I don't believe that that has ever happened before. Because of this new system, we now have to pay huge reenlistment bonuses to people with that kind of experience.

Gregory Cochran


Subject: Sea green

Dear Jerry,

Interesting brief article in the Economist on using ocean fertilization to fight climate change with a twist, the algae is harvested to produce biofuel. Gee, this sounds similar to some ideas in one of your books from 30 years ago ....

Sea green

Sep 20th 2007 From The Economist print edition Using the sea to grow biofue



Some fun listening and time to renew my subscription.

Hi Jerry,

I use international talk like a pirate day as my marker for renewing my subscription, so you can expect that forthwith.

Something your readers might find great fun is a recent podcast from the Astronomy Cast website on science in science fiction. They focus on TV and movies rather than books, but it was still good listening.


I particularly enjoyed the bit where they discuss what happens to the human body when exposed to vacuum; you don't freeze and you don't explode. Instead you suffocate and get the bends, but that's not instantaneous death so you would have a few seconds perhaps even minutes to live.

Anyway, keep up the good work. There's still no place like Chaos Manor.

Regards, Craig Arnold


Women and software


Higher Order Software, Margaret Hamilton and Saydean Zeldin. Part of the original NASA effort towards zero-defect software.



Subj: Women writing software

Here are a few women on the Princeton faculty who look like they may have (co?)written some non-trivial software:



Rod Montgomery==monty@starfief.com


Subj: Women writing software - some Carnegie-Mellon faculty & staff

I suspect at least some of these women have written non-trivial software:









Rod Montgomery==monty@starfief.com


Women software developers

I don't know if your corespondents would consider it "significant," but a woman name Roberta Williams made a name for herself writing adventure games for the Apple ][ in the late '70s and I think for the PC through the '80s. That was just the first person who jumped to mind when I read your View, today.

Drake Christensen

Which ought to be enough on that subject.


Wing Commander Novel

Dear Dr. Pournelle, I was looking through scans of Origin Systems' company newsletter from the early 90s and I found you mentioned in a note about then-upcoming Wing Commander novels. It says: "The third book may include the death of the Tiger's Claw, but it won't hit stores for 18 to 24 months. This one will be penned by Jerry Pournelle of BYTE fame and once again, Ellen Guon." I was wondering what might have become of that project (if you even knew about it). Seeing a Wing Commander novel from you would have been very interesting!

(You can find a scan here - http://www.wcnews.com/loaf/pointoforigin/Vol.%202,%20No.%2017.pdf  ... the article is on pages 3 and 4)

Ben Lesnick

I don't remember how that news got out. I much admired Ellen's novel, but I certainly never had a contract to do a Wing Commander novel. Lost in the mists of time, I guess. I liked the Wing Commander game series a lot, and Privateer is certainly among my top five favorite games ever.


un-nails "capacitanks"


(just to sell the nails to pilgrims)

I think storage of power for vehicles has two major technical problems.

FIRST - the stored energy poses great danger if damage to the tank can cause uncontrolled release.

The BEST CASE is a release as heat, which requires enormous amounts to damage bodies and property. A tank full of "N-ane" (gasoline) yearns for air, to produce half a ton of incandescent flame; but it's slightly limited by being a liquid.

A flywheel will fail by liberating kinetic energy: The pieces will fly away at ballistic speeds. I can imagine how grisly accident scenes will look then.

A capacitor is also "dynamically unstable". Like the Soviet Empire, once the insulation of dielectrical materialism begins to break down, current events make more heat, producing more breakdown in a vicious cycle. A failing capacitor is quite spectacular - according to reports I've heard. Finally, there could be a danger of large currents at high voltage getting loose - that's a very energy-efficient way of producing casualties.

SECOND - to run the vehicle, your mechanism must draw and convert power fast enough to accelerate it. However, you must load the energy aboard the vehicle much faster than that. If the storage tank (hydrogen bottle, capacitor) is nailed into the vehicle, the tank must include that expensive mechanism for fast loading.

In this case, "expensive" is in terms of engineering and safety, not just cash flow. Imagine filling your gas tank by backflow through the carburetor.

However, if the tank can be removed as empty and replaced as full, recharging the vehicle becomes even faster than the "in-ane" process at service stations today. A charged tank could be bought at the station, if your other tank and a home trickle charger are overdrawn by your current driving needs - or you don't have one. Some elaborations of this idea are obvious.

Of course, "buckets of electricity" could be shipped and stored. In residences, or anywhere else with heavy jolts in consumption, capacitanks would "leyden the jars".

-- Bill Kilner


Following with permission of John Derbyshire

The Nature-Nurture Discount

Nature=the child at birth.

That includes a lot of nonheritable stuff--notably mistreatment of the pregnant mother's body, by herself, or others, or natural calamity. It's the natural way to think, though, & the basis of folk wisdom. Also the starting point for Hazlitt's essay,


which I find very simpatico.

I also get a strong impression from scanning the literature that the individual human personality is like one of those "shape memory" alloys


that can "remember" its original geometry. Hence middle-age IQ correlating better with parents' than 20-something IQ. I feel sure, at any rate, that at age 62 I resemble myself at 12 more closely than at 37. Sam Beckett wrote a play about it.


I find it harder and harder to imagine anything happening to me that would have left me other than as I am. (Though that may of course be a mere failure of imagination.)

I agree with Harris that our peers give us far more than our parents--most of our language & imagery e.g.--but they are still only coats of paint on a pretty well-formed structure.

Cue the Popeye song.....






This week:


read book now


Saturday, September 22, 2007

From Derb

Thanks, btw, for yr kind remark about my Kipling reading... though I don't take kindly to having my commentary called "academic." Isn't a decent restraint called for when speaking of colleagues?

Try my "Danny Deever." http://www.olimu.com/Readings/DannyDeever.htm 



Didn't realize that was yours! Should have gone up to the page top:


I wasn't as enamored of the Copybook Headings comments as I was of the others. This is a delightful web site








CURRENT VIEW     Saturday

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I took the day off





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