A Mixed Mail Bag


Mail 747 Saturday, October 27, 2012


Publuis Speaks

Dr. Pournelle —

27. October 1787: The first of the Federalist Papers are published.

It’s a fascinating time to be studying the Federalist Papers.

However, looking at all that is going on, it would be worthwhile to also study the writings of the anti-federalists as well.


The anti-federalists were concerned that the Federal Government would become too powerful and suppress the liberties of the states and of the people…

Patrick Henry was one of their leaders. He would not go to the Convention of 1787 saying he smelt a rat. George Mason was another.


RFID for Public School Students

Dr. Pournelle,

I think we now have conclusive proof that these are the Crazy Years. Students in San Antonio public schools are being tracked by RFID. The administrators are unashamed to say they are trying to raise their take of state money by increasing attendance.

If this goes nationwide I expect more libertarians and conservatives will use private schools and homeschool. This would accentuate a bifurcation of society into Taxpayers and Citizens, to borrow your taxonomy.




Best wishes,

Nathan Raye

Given the uselessness of much of the public school system, and the terrible expense of the official credentials of education, there are few ways out. Go into debt in order to pay the absurd costs of our universities which teach what used to be taught free in high school; keep the debt for life.

The solution to much of the cost of ‘higher education’ is to return to competent high schools. But the teachers unions will insist – probably believing it – that this is impossible even if we once did it. They say they can’t do it now. They’re right of course. They can’t.

What we need is some kind of cheaper way to certify that you are educated.


Jacques Barzun, RIP.

Fitting that he outlasted Hobsbawm, if only by a hairsbreadth:




Roland Dobbins


Dear Dr. Pournelle:

Lena Dunham put out a Pro-Obama ad saying that "your first time should be with someone who cares".


If this actually puts him over the top, I won’t move to Australia because I have family obligations here. But I would really, really, really, wish I could.

Of course, it’s also possible that people will be offended by so unserious approach to such a fundamental question. I mean, if you REALLY want to compare voting for a president to a sex act, the comedic potential is unlimited, but I suspect you really don’t want to hear it. Even if my second thought involves the word "prison". My first thought is unprintable.


Brian P.

I am never surprised by what political operatives will say.


Like Niven says, Any damn fool can predict the past. Seems like there’s a lot of damn foolery going around on this topic.

Meanwhile, from a G.W. Bush-era former CIA analyst:


And, from the archives, a piece on "creeping determinism":


Key quote from the piece, explaining the phrase:

"None of these postmortems, however, answer the question raised by the Yom Kippur War: Was this pattern obvious *before* the attack? This question–whether we revise our judgment of events after the fact–is something that psychologists have paid a great deal of attention to.

For example, on the eve of Richard Nixon’s historic visit to China, the psychologist Baruch Fischhoff asked a group of people to estimate the probability of a series of possible outcomes of the trip. What were the chances that the trip would lead to permanent diplomatic relations between China and the United States? That Nixon would meet with the leader of China, Mao Tse-tung, at least once? That Nixon would call the trip a success? As it turned out, the trip was a diplomatic triumph, and Fischhoff then went back to the same people and asked them to recall what their estimates of the different outcomes of the visit had been. He found that the subjects now, overwhelmingly, "remembered" being more optimistic than they had actually been. If you originally thought that it was unlikely that Nixon would meet with Mao, afterward, when the press was full of accounts of Nixon’s meeting with Mao, you’d "remember" that you had thought the chances of a meeting were pretty good. Fischhoff calls this phenomenon "creeping determinism"–the sense that grows on us, in retrospect, that what has happened was actually inevitable–and the chief effect of creeping determinism, he points out, is that it turns unexpected events into expected events. As he writes, "The occurrence of an event increases its reconstructed probability and makes it less surprising than it would have been had the original probability been remembered.""

Hoping this finds you well,

— Hal


This is all I know though I have heard part of this from other sources. This is commentary /analysis, so…


This is my first look at that web site and I know nothing about it or its staff. Nor do I know much about the relationship of the Clintons in these times.


Five-second Rule

As I recall, the Mythbusters’ examination of the rule found that a handful of seconds didn’t really make any difference. Moist, flat, food picks up bacteria immediately. Food that is dry and doesn’t present a broad contact surface doesn’t really do any worse in 6 seconds than 2. This doesn’t seem surprising to me.

Mike Johns

Ah well.


Synopsis of the Wizard of Oz.


Roland Dobbins


: Occasional virus double-checks

While online virus scans are convenient, I think a better choice for an occasional double-check would be a Linux-based Rescue CD. You know how adept today’s rootkits are at hiding themselves from the OS itself. The boot CD completely bypasses those tricks.

Obviously, it’s less convenient. But if you run it overnight then it’s not that big of a deal. Or, you can try to find useful work to do on a nearby machine while it’s running.

Drake Christensen

Agreed, and I actually have done this.


APOD: 2012 October 22 – A Space Shuttle on the Streets of Los Angeles, a video:


I want one of those transporters. Looks perfect for parallel parking.


It was quite a sight.


Subject: Italian court convicts 7 scientists for failing to predict earthquake

I wonder if it’s too much of a stretch to wonder when they will start convicting scientists for not agreeing with Global Warming alarmism:



I wondered that too. But we still do not know the entire story about the case in Italy. Just wh said what, and when…


Louisiana Mushroom Cloud – Rods from God?

Hi Jerry;

Really iffy source but you got a call on a conspiracy web site. The speculation is that a recent Louisiana mushroom cloud that the government blames on a ammo bunker explosion is really a test of the Project Thor Rods from God concept you developed in the 1950s at Boeing. They were even delivered from the X37 space plane that was recently relaunched.


Bill Baggott

First I have heard of this. The whole point of Thor is that there wouldn’t be a mushroom cloud…


novels and quality

One of the problems with the “revolution in publishing” we are seeing is the proliferation of really bad books that are available. Finding good books is more difficult than it used to be or maybe I’m just getting old and irascible.

The problem even extends to publications in medicine.


When I wrote about information utilities and using them for self publication in A Step Farther Out, I did point out that this would make necessary some new ways to sort out the gold from the dross. That seems to be happening.

But one man’s drech is another’s pleasure, and it’s astonishing how many individual authors now have their niche readerships. I expect to see more of that.


Air + Water = Gasoline


* * *

"Mad Science" means never asking, "What’s the worst that could happen?"

–Schlock mercenary

I’d have to see a lot more evidence before investing in this…


Sanitary towel firm’s ‘CEO’ sets traumatised man straight (don’t be drinking coffee when you watch the video):






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