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Mail 490 October 29 - November 4, 2007







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Monday  October 29, 2007

Harry Erwin's Letter From England

Letter from England

I've been upgrading my Macintosh systems to MacOS X 10.5 (Leopard) this weekend. The automatic backup system (Time Machine) needs work-- it fights with Norton Autoprotect and Apple's automatic disk indexing (Spotlight) for disk access and takes forever (two days, half done) to do the initial backup. On the other hand, it's low priority and doesn't insist on running all the time. Some of the design decisions that Apple made are non-optimal. I really like the multiple desktops and new Finder interface. I wish there was an easy way, though, to reassign windows to desktops. Applescript is much slower and less reliable, especially when interfacing to the Internet, and that will have to be fixed, too-- <http://db.tidbits.com/article/9265>  <http://db.tidbits.com/article/9269

BBC survey of Sunday news. As you can see, not much happening... <http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/7065996.stm

Turkey versus the Kurds-- <http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/7065111.stm>  <http://observer.guardian.co.uk/world/story/0,,2200576,00.html

A UK cop on the beat in Second Life? <http://www.theregister.co.uk/2007/10/26/virtual_worlds/

Does Brown give a hoot about liberty?
_constitution_liberty_freedom_id_cards_journalism_war/  <http://tinyurl.com/28w5rv

Warn the public, rather than police. The crime that the police in the UK don't even try to address is labelled 'volume crime'. My forensics students are studying it currently. <http://www.theregister.co.uk/2007/10/26/acpo_mobile_hoarding/>  <http://tinyurl.com/2zvzme

Expert comment on the over-concern with bullying in the UK <http://observer.guardian.co.uk/uk_news/story/0,,2200697,00.html

UK education of Iranians in nuclear physics. The vetting is required for anyone not from the EU--including Americans.
<http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/education/ article2753498.ece

Moore's view of the NHS in Sicko is widely inaccurate-- <http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/
columnists/minette_marrin/article2753620.ece >  <http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?
xml=/news/2007/10/28/nhealth128.xml >  <http://tinyurl.com/299rh9

Problems with marking in UK universities--
story.aspx?story_id=2038788>  <http://tinyurl.com/34suw8

-- Harry Erwin, PhD, Senior Lecturer of Computing, University of Sunderland. Computational neuroethologist: http://scat-he-g4.sunderland.ac.uk/~harryerw/phpwiki/index.php/AuditoryResearch


Where the word "terrorist" comes from

Jerry: Interesting guest OP-ED piece from NYTimes:



"The thing that's wrong with the French is that they don't have a word for entrepreneur." GWBush


Does trade spread AIDS?




Does trade spread AIDS?

Tyler Cowen

Emily Oster tackles this question <http://home.uchicago.edu/%7Eeoster/hivexports.pdf>:

I generate new data on HIV incidence and prevalence in Africa based on inference from mortality rates. I use these data to relate economic activity (specifically, exports) to new HIV infections in Africa and argue there is a significant and large positive relationship between the two: a doubling of exports leads to as much as a quadrupling in new HIV infections. This relationship is consistent with a model of the epidemic in which truckers and other migrants have higher rates of risky behavior, and their numbers increase in periods with greater exports. I present evidence suggesting that the relationship between exports and HIV is causal and works, at least in part, through increased transit. The result has important policy implications, suggesting (for example) that there is significant value in prevention focused on these transit-oriented groups. I apply this result to study the case of Uganda, and argue that a decline in exports in the early 1990s in that country appears to explain between 30% and 60% of the decline in HIV infections. This suggests that the success of the Ugandan education campaign against HIV...has been overstated.

Since I used to believe Samuel Brittan when he argued that trade spreads sex, this result accords with my intuitions.

I thank Scott for the pointer. There should be an algorithm informing me every time there is a new Emily Oster paper. If Scott is indeed such an algorithm, I am pleased. And of course I am that algorithm for you.

October 27, 2007 at 07:05 AM in Economics <http://www.marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/economics/index.html>  | Permalink <http://www.marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2007/10/does-trade-spre.html> | Comments (2) <http://www.marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2007/10/does-trade-spre.html#comments

Not entirely sure I know what to do with this information...


Reminder and update


I had my knee replaced October 1st, let no one tell you this is an easy operation....GAD. The one good thing its done for me is allowed me to re-read Jacques Barzun's amazing From Dawn to Decadence. Gad, to have that kind of grasp of history.


I am not sure hip replacement would do me any good since I think many of the pains are artificial from spinal arthritis.


Leadership: The Day of Reckoning,


"The past is catching up with the Air Force."


I'm sure this will come as no surprise to you.


Indeed. I need to write a new essay on structuring the Legions. I remain convinced that an Army and a Navy are enough; Air Force may once have needed to be a separate organization but no longer. Or so I believe. I can be convinced otherwise, but I haven't seen a good argument.



HG Wells as prophet...


The human race will one day split into two separate species, an attractive, intelligent ruling elite and an underclass of dim-witted, ugly goblin-like creatures, according to a top scientist.

100,000 years into the future, sexual selection could mean that two distinct breeds of human will have developed.

The alarming prediction comes from evolutionary theorist Oliver Curry from the London School of Economics, who says that the human race will have reached its physical peak by the year 3000. <snip>



"Human race will 'split into two different species'"


Excerpt: # # #

The human race will one day split into two separate species, an attractive, intelligent ruling elite and an underclass of dim-witted, ugly goblin-like creatures, according to a top scientist.

100,000 years into the future, sexual selection could mean that two distinct breeds of human will have developed.

The alarming prediction comes from evolutionary theorist Oliver Curry from the London School of Economics ...

# # #

Naturally, all members of both groups will have identical IQs.




Well, this may be one scientist's speculations -

- but it sows that the hypothesis put forward in The Marching Morons (Cyril Kornbluth's 1951 classic) has not yet been disproved.



This seems to be all over the TV and Internet now. It was of course put forth in The Bell Curve as a possibility, but everyone was so busy denouncing Murray and Herrnstein that they paid no attention. Eloi and Morlocks indeed. The Eloi were childlike and unintelligent. The Morlocks were predators but not much brighter. One doubts THAT will be the direction of evolution in a welfare state, but it is not PC to speculate on what will.

As to the Marching Morons, there is no disproof. It seems to be happening in Europe, and will shortly do so in the US; couple the disparity in childbearing with an education system guaranteed not to produce people able to sustain a First World Civilization, and the result is predictable.

[The Time Machine is in the public domain in the United States, Canada, and Australia, but does not enter the public domain in the European Union until January 1, 2017 (1946 death of author + 70 years + end of calendar year).]


myth of tech grad shortage 

This is an interesting story. It proposes to debunk the idea that there is a huge shortage of tech grads in the US. I liked the comments section already: tech companies really just one H1B to use cheap imports to solve the shortage of CHEAP engineers and scientists.

Would a EE or ME or ChemE grad from the 50s, 60s, or pick your decade, be a better thinker than the current? In some ways I would find this easy to believe: without Google, Excel, and ridiculously fast (but not fast enough!) and cheap computers, high speed networking, and storage available everywhere the previous generations of grads had to be better at estimation, algebra, and the nitty gritty of quantitative methods; manipulation problems until they were solveable by extant methods. In any event, I always enjoy a contrarian view.


The Science Education Myth Forget the conventional wisdom. U.S. schools are turning out more capable science and engineering grads than the job market can support

  Jay R. Larsen MBA, CNE, MCP 

This is much worth discussion, but I don't have time just now.


Follow-on to Roland Dobbins' comment

>> 'Many years ago we understood that civilization was a prerequisite for healthy government.'

"If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be."

--Thomas Jefferson to Charles Yancey, 1816.

"Every government degenerates when trusted to the rulers of the people alone. The people themselves, therefore, are its only safe depositories. And to render even them safe, their minds must be

improved to a certain degree." --Thomas Jefferson: Notes on Virginia, 1782. -

- Bob Halloran Jacksonville FL

----- "They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither." - Benjamin Franklin


Subject: 'I Don't Think This Place Is Worth Another Soldier's Life'

Jerry, there's no point to this.

Gregory Cochran


'I Don't Think This Place Is Worth Another Soldier's Life' After 14 months in a Baghdad district torn by mounting sectarian violence, members of one U.S. unit are tired, bitter and skeptical.

By Joshua Partlow Washington Post Foreign Service Saturday, October 27, 2007; Page A01

BAGHDAD, Oct. 26 Their line of tan Humvees and Bradley Fighting Vehicles creeps through another Baghdad afternoon. At this pace, an excruciating slowness, they strain to see everything, hoping the next manhole cover, the next rusted barrel, does not hide another bomb. A few bullets pass overhead, but they don't worry much about those.

"I hate this road," someone says over the radio.

They stop, look around. The streets of Sadiyah are deserted again. To the right, power lines slump down into the dirt. To the left, what was a soccer field is now a pasture of trash, combusting and smoking in the sun. Packs of skinny wild dogs trot past walls painted with slogans of sectarian hate.

A bomb crater blocks one lane, so they cross to the other side, where houses are blackened by fire, shops crumbled into bricks. The remains of a car bomb serve as hideous public art. Sgt. Victor Alarcon's Humvee rolls into a vast pool of knee-high brown sewage water -- the soldiers call it Lake Havasu, after the Arizona spring-break party spot -- that seeps in the doors of the vehicle and wets his boots.

"When we first got here, all the shops were open. There were women and children walking out on the street," Alarcon said this week. "The women were in Western clothing. It was our favorite street to go down because of all the hot chicks."

That was 14 long months ago, when the soldiers from the 1st Battalion, 18th Infantry Regiment, 1st Infantry Division, arrived in southwestern Baghdad. It was before their partners in the Iraqi National Police became their enemies and before Shiite militiamen, aligned with the police, attempted to exterminate a neighborhood of middle-class Sunni families.,<snip>

Our tax dollars at work. It is hardly rule of law. It may become democracy.

Beware the fury of the Legions.




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TuesdayOctober 30, 2007

Subject: Unintended consequences

It had to happen. A way to assuage the conscience of a greenie with an SUV. This is very much like the Catholic Church selling indulgences.


John Witt


Subject: Iraq and Afghanistan are bleeding our army white . . . but not the way you think

Dr Pournelle

The problem with Iraq and Afghanistan is not combat losses; it is attrition from soldiers who choose to leave after serving their contract obligation.

"The U.S. Military Academy at West Point was founded to educate career officers for the Army, and upon graduation each officer owes Uncle Sam five years on active duty. The hope is that most will remain for a full career, and historically just 28.8 percent have opted out after five years.

"A total of 35 percent of the West Point Class of 2000 left the Army in 2005; 46 percent of the Class of 2001 left in 2006, and a staggering 58 percent of the Class of 2002 left active duty when their obligation expired this year."

-- Joseph L. Galloway, "Asking Too Much of Too Few", McClatchy Newspapers, Oct 24, 2007

I respect your opinion on matters military and naval. Tell me, sir: can an army survive with attrition that high in its officer corps?

h lynn keith

No. Not an Imperial army, anyway. But USMA isn't the only source for professional officers.


Three kinds of driver's licenses


It has come to this, "Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff and he hastily announced a new plan, a revised three-tiered licensing system for New York’s drivers. Not all the details are available, but it looks like bad government policy and a bureaucratic nightmare in the making."

Three tiers of "driver's licenses". Instead of enforcing immigration laws, we'll now have accommodations like this. Sort of fractional citizenship. Funny, I never knew that US citizenship could be decomposed into components; I always thought it was an all or nothing proposition.




Colleges of Education...


"The short story is that our colleges of education are giving Ph.D.s to researchers who aren’t qualified to hold a Ph.D. These people, in turn, are providing the research on which public school policy decisions and teacher training is based."

"In general, the research questions were unworthy of a doctoral dissertation, literature reviews were dated and cursory, study designs were seriously flawed, samples were small and particularistic, confounding variables were not taken into account, perceptions were commonly used as proxies for reality, statistical analyses were performed frequently on meaningless data, and conclusions and recommendations were often superficial and without merit..."

"In 1998, Massachusetts required an academic skills exam for prospective teachers near the completion of their college careers. Fifty-nine percent failed the test. The state Board of Education chairman rated the exam at about the eighth grade level. Newspapers reported misspellings worthy of 9-year-olds, an inability to describe nouns and verbs, and the inability to define words such as ‘imminent.’"

"Education schools are cash cows for universities, and the public education system is a cash cow for unions. The beneficiaries of the status quo have thrown children and taxpayers under the hooves of a stampede."

Charles Brumbelow


Engineers vs the job market

Dr. Pournelle-

As one who has recently had the misfortune to be out there job hunting due to a layoff, I can tell you for a fact that there are far more engineers out there than there are jobs. I have my BSME, 17 years of experience as a drafter using AutoCAD before I got my degree, two and a half years experience in a semiconductor plant, two and a half years experience in a polymer plant, some HVAC experience and even some experience designing a robotic weapons platform.

And yet, even with several headhunters (excuse me, they don't like that term- employment recruiters) looking for positions for me, even with tons of classified ads to answer, even with my newly revamped resume (edited by one of the recruiters), it still took me two months to find a job of any sort. I took the first one I could get, for a few thousand a year above an entry level salary, and was damn glad to have found that.

If anyone tells me that there is a shortage of engineers and that having a BSME means that you'll always be employed, I will give them a sarcastic chuckle and a Dope Slap.

Paul Martin


Scientists Find Oldest Living Animal, Then Kill It 



"Its death is an unfortunate aspect of this work, but we hope to derive lots of information from it," postdoctoral scientist Al Wanamaker told London's Guardian newspaper. "For our work, it's a bonus, but it wasn't good for this particular animal."


I wonder if it got fried or sautéed...

Braxton Cook


Doing away with dark matter 


Doing away with dark matter... http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,305996,00.html 

If I recall correctly, Moffat is the developer of the bimetric theory of gravitation that was originally introduced about the same time as Joao Magueijo's variable-speed-of-gravity theory popularized in "Faster Than The Speed of Light." I found several papers by Moffat at arxiv.org and skimmed them, but I haven't had time to pursue further (drat it).

The logical suggestion becomes that dark matter may be evidence of the possibility of faster-than-light transportation...

Or could the nonlinearity of general relativity, or the breakdown between GR and quantum mechanics, be becoming evident?

Renegade Astronomers: 'Dark Matter' Is Bunk

Monday, October 29, 2007

By Ker Than

Two Canadian astronomers think there is a good reason dark matter, a mysterious substance thought to make up the bulk of matter in the universe, has never been directly detected: It doesn't exist.




A REAL iBrick


The Lego i-Phone


1 in 10 U.S. high schools is a 'dropout factory'



U.S. putting new emphasis on boosting graduation rates for high schools

 = Image: Dontike Miller http://msnbcmedia1.msn.com/j/msnbc/Components/

Dontike Miller, 23, works on math problems at the YouthBuild Public Charter School's GED program in Washington, D.C., on Thursday. He attended and left two high schools on the "dropout factory" list.

View related photos http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/21531926/displaymode/1176/rstry/21531704/

 Jacquelyn Martin /  AP file

Updated: 2:29 p.m. CT Oct 29, 2007

WASHINGTON - It's a nickname no principal could be proud of: "Dropout factory," a high school where no more than 60 percent of the students who start as freshmen make it to their senior year. That description fits more than one in 10 high schools across America.

"If you're born in a neighborhood or town where the only high school is one where graduation is not the norm, how is this living in the land of equal opportunity?" asks Bob Balfanz, the Johns Hopkins researcher who coined the term "dropout factory."

There are about 1,700 regular or vocational high schools nationwide that fit that description, according to an analysis of Education Department data conducted by Johns Hopkins for The Associated Press. That's 12 percent of all such schools, about the same level as a decade ago.

While some of the missing students transferred, most dropped out, says Balfanz. The data look at senior classes for three years in a row to make sure local events like plant closures aren't to blame for the low retention rates.<snip>





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Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Jerry, Can this be happening in the United States?


Brave Newark World By Mike S. Adams Wednesday, October 31, 2007

The University of Delaware has just become one of the most Orwellian campuses in America. Students in its residence halls are now being subjected to a re-education program that is actually dubbed - in the university’s own tax-payer funded materials - as “treatment” for students who have incorrect attitudes and beliefs.

Delaware now requires nearly 7,000 students in its residence halls to adopt specific public university-approved (read: government-approved) views on issues ranging from race, to sexuality, to philosophy.<snip>


Deleware and "Higher" Education...


"The University of Delaware has just become one of the most Orwellian campuses in America. Students in its residence halls are now being subjected to a re-education program that is actually dubbed - in the university’s own tax-payer funded materials - as “treatment” for students who have incorrect attitudes and beliefs."

"According to the university materials, the goal of residence life education is for students in the university’s residence halls to achieve certain “competencies” that include statements like: “Students will recognize that systemic oppression exists in our society,” “Students will recognize the benefits of dismantling systems of oppression,” and “Students will be able to utilize their knowledge of sustainability to change their daily habits and consumer mentality.”

Charles Brumbelow

I know nothing more that what you see here. It seems perfectly in keeping with the new Politically Correct Universities that absorb so much of our taxes.



There was an audible thunk as four sentries secured the cell-phone proof Faraday doors of the briefing bubble.

The first Top Secret slide to light the un-photographable overhead screen bore DAPRA's shield logo, of The Agronauts aboard The Golden Razorback ramming and sinking the JASONS' pitiful cockleshell. Below it was the meeting's topic:

Fiscal 2007 War On Terror Budget Earmarks


-- Russell Seitz



Has Google jumped the shark?

While trying to pursue my family history researches, Google has been arbitrarily changing the search terms on me.

For example, while searching on names containing variant spellings of my name, Google will search also on similar but different words that I didn't search for. It seems to be assuming that I have misspelled the word and searches instead on the word that its thinks I meant.

This is annoying when I enter a search string that should have, say, 100 matches, and instead get 10,000 matches to a completely different search string because Google assumes I meant something I didn't type. And I've not found any way to turn this feature off.

Google is no longer useable for me, for some of my key searches. And they don't respond to my error reports.




Jerry A month or so ago you posted a good example of why civil defense is superior to a FEMA type organization with the piece that described how the first attempts Caesar made at landing in Britain were repulsed in the surf by local farmers reacting to his invasion attempt. I also believe that there were similar local defense reactions in Britain to infiltration attempts by German troops during WW2. A better example is the human body's primary defense against attack by virus and bacteria. The white blood cell is a on the job civil defense mechanism that springs into instant action automatically when faced with a hostile invader. Another example I use to those who lack understanding frequently is the performance of the two basic types of computer networking systems.

For me a strong central National Socialist type government is like the old mainframe systems with dumb input terminals where all the data storage and processing as well as handling data input was handled by the single mainframe computer even if it was multicore it still suffered from bandwidth considerations. This system is like a inverse pyramid with all the users at the top and the single mainframe at the bottom supporting all the rest. Defiantly unstable and inefficient by design, but very profitable for the organization selling support and maintenance contracts.

A true republican type government is more like a distributed wide area network system. This type uses many data storage servers with many times the data groups stored on local workgroup servers. Each smart workstation retains all of the programs needed for its regular duties and can obtain added emergency programs from the workgroup server. Because of this distribution local response is fast and usually complete with added support coming from higher level servers as and if needed just as with the human body local response solves most problems unseen and unknown if the local white cell system is well maintained.

James Early
Long Beach, CA

Good analogy.


A quick civil defense-related comment

Jerry-- Saw your note about LA County being more civil defense-oriented than most, and thought I'd point out a related set of data.

Dunno if you've ever heard of them, but one of FEMA's _good_ moves was to organize the FEMA-USAR teams. These are teams organized around the country to provide deployable urban search and rescue units. Each team has to be able to deploy and supply/support 62people for ten days from organic assets, anywhere, on 72 hours notice. They aren't responsible for transportation or mobility, but are responsible for everything else.

Nationwide, there are 25 teams. Here's a list, courtesy of San Diego's TF8: http://www.catf8.com/catf8_links.htm 

You might note that for providing 10% of the US's population, California provides 32% (8) of the teams. Other big states provide... less. Florida ponies up 2 teams, Texas has one, and New York has one. Of all the states participating, only 4 (CA, FL, VA, and TN) provide at least 2 teams. Oh, and you might note that historically, the entire thing is based on California's state-level USAR teams that were formed after the Loma Prieta quake.

BTW, those teams have been to every major disaster. I spent an engaging afternoon, a few years back, listening to some guys from CA-TF3 describing how they provided NYFD's dedicated USAR capability using 2 buses and 2 beer trucks, right after 9/11 (unfortunately necessary, since NYC's team had been completely destroyed when the Towers came down). And I still remember seeing pictures of the Florida teams doing their thing right after Katrina.



Data-free empirics

On Thursday 10/25, emailer Graves quoted a story where a blogger saw one of his discussions of an economic model quoted as though the model were reality.

Peggy Noonan writes something similar in a column: http://www.opinionjournal.com/columnists/pnoonan/?id=110010780 

"But this new leadership class, those roughly 35 to 40, grew up in a time when media dominated all...their knowledge, their experience, is necessarily circumscribed. Too much is abstract to them, or symbolic. The education establishment did them few favors. They didn't have to read Dostoevsky, they had to read critiques and deconstruction of Dostoevsky."

-- Mike T. Powers


Follow-on to Roland Dobbins' comment

>> 'Many years ago we understood that civilization was a prerequisite for healthy government.'

"If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be."

--Thomas Jefferson to Charles Yancey, 1816.

"Every government degenerates when trusted to the rulers of the people alone. The people themselves, therefore, are its only safe depositories. And to render even them safe, their minds must be improved to a certain degree." --Thomas Jefferson: Notes on Virginia, 1782.

-- Bob Halloran
 Jacksonville FL

----- "They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither." - Benjamin Franklin


Subject: article says US schools are doing fine in math and science



Says we are doing just great at graduating engineers and scientists. There are just not enough jobs in the US.

Dr. Wadhwa is a Harvard Law School Fellow.



Science education

Jerry: A very contrarian view on the state of science education:


One side or the other has to be right.

Chris C

In the space of one hundred and seventy-six years the Mississippi has shortened itself two hundred and forty-two miles. Therefore ... in the Old Silurian Period the Mississippi River was upward of one million three hundred thousand miles long ... seven hundred and forty-two years from now the Mississippi will be only a mile and three-quarters long. ... There is something fascinating about science. One gets such wholesome returns of conjecture out of such a trifling investment of fact. -- Mark Twain


Subject: Dobbins: SF liberal and democracy worship

Jerry, the last two links Roland sent you (the San Francisco liberal on his friend's inside view of the schools, and the article on democracy worship) go together profoundly.

The two authors might not agree politically, but they're both right, and there are deep links between the two sets of problems. And between those two articles and _Dark Age Ahead_ by Jane Jacobs.

Steve Setzer



Subject: James Q. Wilson's article

Mr. Pournelle:

First a little identification. I am, and have been all my life a progressive, pinko liberal. I am also a fan of yours and Mr. Niven. I firmly believe that “The Mote in God’s Eye” ranks with the greatest Science Fiction of all time.

Now that that’s done, let’s look at Mr. Wilson’s piece and the past. I want to address the unintended consequences of various actions taken by different elements of the political spectrum.

These days one need look no farther than the Iraq war. The neo-cons were convinced that the US Military would be welcome with open arms, and that everything else would be fine. (What does the US fail to understand about invading or in other ways harassing other nations?) The unintended consequences of the insanity in Iraq are clear for all to see.

40 years ago, like many of my lefty peers, I fought hard against segregation and the draft. (I am, by the way, a non-combat veteran of the US Navy during the Viet Nam era.) Both of these fights were eventually, if painfully, won. Unfortunately, there are two direct, if unintended consequences of these results.

First, the most appalling consequence of desegregation was the almost complete abandonment of black communities by the most successful people in those communities. And, who could blame these people? They were as entitled to live the same good life of their white counterparts. However, we are all living with the results of the middle/upper middle class flight from the black communities. There are virtually no examples of achievement and hard work available today to children and youngsters in those communities.

Second, and more subtle, is the consequence of the abolition of the draft. When I was in OCS, I was with a bunch of guys (yes, it was only guys in that benighted age) from as diverse a variety of socioeconomic backgrounds as existed in that day. I was a doctor’s son with a private education through high school and college. My bunkmate was from a small family farm in Idaho. He had grown with a lot less than I and had gone to completely public schools through university. His social values were utterly different. Everyone of us was exposed to people we would never have met had our lives gone on as planned. And, we were trained from day one that we had full responsibility for ourselves and each other. I was a lot luckier than many of my colleagues in that both my high school and university had very strong Honor Codes. But, eventually, everyone of us got the message. If we didn’t, we didn’t get our commissions.

While there didn’t happen to be any black men in my class, there were in others.

Today, kids from middle and upper middle income families never have to work or deal with people from other backgrounds. The unintended consequence of the abolition of the draft is that we are in one of the most venal and crass periods in our history. We have a president who tells us we don’t have to pay for our wars. And, to help the war effort, we needed to buy more. (He is doing the same thing that LBJ did in the 60s, telling us we could have a vast array of social welfare programs and war at no additional cost to ourselves. Oh, and, if we were middle class white boys we could avoid service if we stayed in college.)

Let other people’s kids get shot up and die.

In addition, we have a celebrity culture which glorifies the most grotesque of activities. And, no I am not glorifying the past. I’m trying to glorify social and personal responsibility.

I firmly believe that everyone in this country, and I mean everyone, should be compelled to do public service for two years starting with their graduation from high school or within 6 months of their turning 18. Those who are willing to go into the armed services should be rewarded. But, everyone should be put into situations where they have to work with people with whom they would never have associated in the normal course of each other’s lives.

I know this proposal would be anathema to my Libertarian friends, and I don’t believe for a second that it would produce more progressives. What it might do is give a lot of people a sense of what really matters in life, and how our individual lives affect and are affected by others.

Were such a policy in place, there would be far less need to talk about diversity. And, possibly, we might have a culture which has a more balanced and sane view of reality.

That’s probably more than the 2 cents I deserve, but there it is.

Richard York

Universal manhood conscription with the forced mixing of social classes...

As a matter of curiosity, what did you expect me to disagree with?  Other than the obligatory slams at the administration?

I will point out that the Clintons got us into the Balkans where we had far less national interest than in the Middle East. They were even prepared to send in ground troops, and to get us into a direct conflict with Russia (a nation that believes in Pan-Slavic unity, and let us not quibble about how Slavic the Russian people are).

My point being only that I don't want us involved in foreign adventures, and I reject Jacobinism -- which is, after all, a liberal pinko doctrine, and one that every good progressive ought to agree with.

Surely you don't think I object to universal military service?  Or for that matter, to good public schools that actually work and require people of different social classes to get along. Alas, the schools we have don't work, so that the main thing kids can inherit is a good private education.

Public schools controlled by local school boards can attract students and do a lot of good in mixing social classes. They have to be truly local, under local control for both finances and management: in other words, the Feds need to be kept out of the mix. So does the state. Making enormous school districts doesn't mix social classes or races: they have the result of white flight, and universal contempt for the public schools.

The do gooders ruined the whole notion of public education. I suspect they'd do the same with universal manhood conscription. Egalitarian Jacobinism under the control of elitist intellectuals is the worst possible form of government.


Subj: David Kilcullen's presentation to US Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Seminar, Quantico VA


and particularly the briefing slides at


Dr. Pournelle might find this useful -- perhaps a Spartan instructor will use it as a reference? -- when he writes the next installment in the story of the Spartan counterinsurgency (_Go Tell The Spartans_).

The slides provide substantially more technical detail than the Charlie Rose interview at

video: http://www.charlierose.com/shows/2007/

transcript: http://www.iht.com/bin/print.php?id=7807571 

Rod Montgomery==monty@starfief.com



CURRENT VIEW    Wednesday


This week:


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Thursday, November 1, 2007

Department of Hopeless Security, FEMA branch.

Hi, I enjoyed reading your piece.

BUT sorry: You can't run the Civil Defence organization with volunteers. A lot of the "cannonfodder" can be volunteers, yes. But you need to draw on the public employees and the public services organization. They are the ones with knowledge. They are the one who can do the planning. And they are vital for command and control in case of a real emergency. And they probably have a lot useful equipment which they know how to use.

Here in Norway I'm horrified at how the US Search and Rescue and Civil Defence is run.

In Norway, search and rescue is the responsibility of the police (The Chief of the Police is the chief of the rescue services in that area). Civil Defence is part of the Department of Justice. The rescue helicopters are operated by the Air Force (because they have plans for them in case of war).

It would be pretty big news if the rescue services (mainly police and volunteers - also Civil Defence and Home Guard) would not be able to find a lost airplane. If they were unable to find someone who was lost and had a working cell phone it would be a national scandal. It may be that the weather makes you temporarily unreachable, but you will be found. Getting a cell phone trace is the first thing the police does when someone is lost. If you are in a car you will be found. Pretty rapidly.

As far as preparedness is concerned. If we had the fire problems the Californians have, then 1. there would be a building code that did not allow people to build flammable houses. As we have seen, you have to protect people from themselves (big surprise). 2. Someone would be out clearing brush to avoid brush fires every year. 3. The trained firefigther managers would come from the fire brigades. They have the time to be trained. And if you train people from all over the state/country, you can draft them without gutting the fire departments they come from. If you train enough of them they can work shift and have the occasional day off to recuperate.

And BTW every county have emergency services. It is usually the ordinary public employees, but slightly re-purposed. Good chance for some nice over time. Of course we have the local Red Cross and volunteer organizations.

To be extremely flippant : In Europe we have control on the Lunatic Fringe. In your country they are running the country.

On the other hand : Americans probably think that the Lunatic Fringe is running the European countries.


Tarjei T. Jensen

That's one view; but what man has done, man can aspire to. We had a civil defense system that worked much better than FEMA. Jimmy Carter in his wisdom got rid of it. Reagan used FEMA for Continuity of Government and otherwise sort of ignored it. Clinton filled it with cronies including Arkansas state troopers.

The United States is big. We can imagine a European FEMA run from Brussells to manage emergencies from John o' Groats to Messina, and I don't think many would find that attractive. Imagine Estonian investigators coming to Madrid to manage a subway bombing. In the US, Baltimore managers aren't likely to be too useful in fixing problems on the Mississippi Gulf Coast (or, as actually happened, an Indian National Guard General in Jackson having to approve decisions by a local Mississippi NG captain resident in Biloxi about matters that affected Biloxi).

The US has a long history of first class volunteer fire departments. I can imaging Larry Niven's gated community owning and maintaining a big shiny new international orange fire truck, used mostly for parades, but available when the local hills catch fire, with the role of the state being mostly to assure quality, and of the Feds to be cheer leaders. Ah well.


Emergencies and the Incident Command System

Dr. Pournelle,

I was struck by the appropriateness of James Early's analogy to a distributed system and Civil Defense organization. There is a system in place in the US that originated, interestingly, in the teams that fight forest and wildfires. It is called the Incident Command System (ICS). The hallmark of the system is that it is flexible and scalable to meet rapid changes in circumstances of an emergency. The system was adopted officially some years ago and is available as a series of tutorials online from FEMA, the Coast Guard and others. I first encountered it while serving in the Coast Guard Auxiliary. It has been adopted by most fire departments, police agencies and many other agencies who's mission is response to emergencies.

One of the most interesting facets of ICS is the ability to take resources from a distant location and plug them into an ongoing emergency and have them immediatly fit into the command structure and be effective. Washington (state) recently contributed fire fighting teams from a number of Washington cities to the fire-fighting in Cailfornia. These teams and their equipment rolled into place and were set to work operationally in a few hours. The USAR teams also operate under this command structure.

Here's a link to the FEMA site that offers the courses. Anyone can take them. Start with ICS-100. They are useful to the individual citizen just to uderstand what is going on.


BTW, I'm awaiting Inferno II with Christmas level anticipation. Will you offer both books as a set? My copy of Inferno has been gone for some years.

John Witt

The old Civil Defense system offered intangible rewards to volunteers. As I said, in Tennessee and Kentucky, the Colonels were important people. I suspect such titles -- which carried no authority except in emergencies -- would still be prized today.


RE: Has Google jumped the shark? 

J. writes that he is getting many "fuzzy" or close matches to words he is googling.

I've found, but have no concrete proof that it always works that way (no Official Google Blog to back me up), that surrounding a single word in quotation marks produces an exact match, while still offering the first line "did you mean..."

Just as an example: the search combination [tests colours videos designs] produces a first (lucky) result that unluckily possesses none of the single terms in the search result, which shows 'video' 'color' 'design', while the second result contains 'testing', and the total is almost 39M results. The combination [ "tests" "colours" "videos" "designs" ], on the otherhand, produces 179K results and all of the highlighted terms, at least in the first few pages, is exact.

Hope that works for your correspondent as well.

Best regards, James Siddall jr


"J" and Google

Your reader "J" indicated that Google had become essentially useless to him because it arbitrarily changed search terms and then gave him the results for the changed terms rather than the ones he entered.

It may be a worm or virus or other malware infection doing the changing. I have a vague memory of a similar problem some time ago which was solved by some scans and problem fixes and/or uninstalling and reinstalling Google.

Hope this helps.

Charles Brumbelow


Subject: "Human race will 'split into two different species'"

The human race will one day split into two separate species, an attractive, intelligent ruling elite and an underclass of dim-witted, ugly goblin-like creatures, according to a top scientist.

100,000 years into the future, sexual selection could mean that two distinct breeds of human will have developed.

This scenario does not factor in cloning technology. Natural reproduction is very risky. It is both heartbreaking and expensive when a kid turns out to be mentally ill, mentally deficient, or has some horrible disease. And why would I want to play the genetic lottery, and risk having a kid who will die at 40, like my mother did? When I could clone my grandfather who lived a healthy life up to 91?

Cloning technology will be used, and it will change things.

-- Cynthia

Interesting. See also Beyond This Horizon by Heinlein.





CURRENT VIEW    Thursday


This week:


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Friday, November 2, 2007

The Falling Dollar...

I don't know the extent to which you follow Pat Buchanan, Dr. Pournelle, but his column today about the United States dollar is -- dare I say it -- "on the money".


"The euro, worth 83 cents in the early George W. Bush years, is at $1.45.

"The British pound is back up over $2, the highest level since the Carter era. The Canadian dollar, which used to be worth 65 cents, is worth more than the U.S. dollar for the first time in half a century.

"Oil is over $90 a barrel. Gold, down to $260 an ounce not so long ago, has hit $800.

"Have gold, silver, oil, the euro, the pound and the Canadian dollar all suddenly soared in value in just a few years?

"Nope. The dollar has plummeted in value, more so in Bush's term than during any comparable period of U.S. history. Indeed, Bush is presiding over a worldwide abandonment of the American dollar."

"...there is an element of comedy in seeing the United States going to Beijing to borrow dollars, thus putting our children deeper in debt, to send still more foreign aid to African despots who routinely vote the Chinese line at the United Nations.

"The Chinese, whose currency is tied to the dollar, and Japan will continue, as long as they can, to keep their currencies low against the dollar. For the Asians think long term, and their goals are strategic.

"China - growing at 10 percent a year for two decades and now growing at close to 12 percent - is willing to take losses in the value of the dollars it holds to keep the U.S. technology, factories and jobs pouring in, as their exports capture America's markets from U.S. producers.

"The Japanese will take some loss in the value of their dollar hoard to take down Chrysler, Ford and GM, and capture the U.S. auto market as they captured our TV, camera and computer chip markets.

"Asians understand that what is important is not who consumes the apples, but who owns the orchard."

"The chickens of free trade are coming home to roost."

The Germans dealt with currency devaluation (aka inflation) after World War One because of reparations demanded by some of the allies, which led to Hitler and World War Two. How close are we to our own Hitler? And who/what will be his/her scapegoat?


Charles Brumbelow

Falling currencies make it difficult to import. The proper solution is to make things. Or make do. As we did in World War II "Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without."  "Don't you know there's a war on?"

Of course we don't act as if there's a war on, trade or otherwise.

But what a nation has done, a nation may aspire to.





This week:


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Saturday, November 3, 2007

Work today





CURRENT VIEW     Saturday

This week:


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Sunday,  November 4, 2007

Guy Fawkes Day Eve     

Here's at least one article link on the subject of an impact in prehistoric times.


Tom Brosz






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