picture of me

Chaos Manor Home Page> Mail Home Page  > View Home Page > Current View


Mail 417 June 5-11, 2006






BOOK Reviews

read book now

emailblimp.gif (23130 bytes)mailto:jerryp@jerrypournelle.com

CLICK ON THE BLIMP TO SEND MAIL TO ME. Mail sent to me may be published.

LAST WEEK                                    NEXT WEEK


Atom FEED from Chaos Manor

Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat Sun

Highlights this week:


  If you send mail, it may be published. See below. For boiler plate, instructions, and how to pay for this place, see below.

line6.gif (917 bytes)

This week:


read book now


Monday June 5, 2006

Subject: Letter From England

Bruce Schneier has a link to this cartoon: <http://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2006/06/nsa_eavesdroppi_1.html

We had a Pentecost celebration at St. Peter's Church <http:// www.bbc.co.uk/wear/content/articles/2005/03/11/ sunderland_adopts_patron_saint_feature.shtml>  on Saturday, led by the new Archbishop John Sentamu of York <http:// en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Sentamu>  and our own Bishop Tom Wright of Durham <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/N.T._Wright> . The Church of England is trying to find its way in the 21st century, and part of that process involves a developmental search for inspirational and truly Christian leadership at all levels. John and Tom are part of that process, as are our local minster and the chaplaincy programme at the University of Sunderland. Please pray for us. <http://www.sunderland-echo.co.uk/ViewArticle2.aspx? SectionID=1512&ArticleID=1539392

The police story starts coming unwound. A standard theme in British police procedural TV series is the politicisation of the police. <http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/5047200.stm>  <http://www.guardian.co.uk/terrorism/story/0,,1790443,00.html>  <http://news.independent.co.uk/uk/crime/article625091.ece

UK view of US politics <http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,3-2211268,00.html

Dateline: Basra, Iraq <http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,3-2211182,00.html

If climate change is real, here are some of the consequences. <http://www.guardian.co.uk/climatechange/story/0,,1790471,00.html>  Being a farmer's son from Riverside, I know about falling water tables. The "mining" of water in the American Southwest is not sustainable.

Authority is when people do what you ask them to: <http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,3-2211140,00.html

Poincare conjecture proven. This relates to the stability of orbits. <http://www.intlpress.com/AJM/p/2006/10_2/AJM-10-2-165-498-Abstract.php

On-Line cryptography course <http://www.cs.washington.edu/education/courses/csep590/06wi/

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


Subject: Angry New Orleanians start public housing cleanup,



It seems that government inaction finally caused these people to realize that they can do for themselves. This is, of course, something that generations of public generosity could never do.


Golly. Self reliance? That could be dangerous to FEMA's welfare.


Threat keeps student from graduation.


--- Roland Dobbins

But it's probably more important to pacify Iraq than our own cities. Surely?






This week:


read book now


Tuesday,  June 6, 2006

Two Questions from Marty Winston:

1. I gutted Norton out of all my machines and replaced it with the new Microsoft Windows OneCare - everything is running faster and more smoothly and so far, at least as safely. But there's one bit of functionality missing - so...

I'm looking for a utility that's an effective banner blocker and nothing else. I'm compelled to stick with MSIE, so a different browser won't be a good choice for me. And I don't want to duplicate other utilities already here to block pop-ups, ad-ware, etc. So I'm looking for a recommendation on something that is a very single-purpose banner blocker - especially if there's a way for me to update its reference database - and doubly especially if it has its own mechanism for occasional updates.

2. Synchronizers tend to suck. Way too many build in no way to filter which of my Outlook contacts they'll transport. And when I try to do an N-dimensional synch - my main desktop Outlook to cell phones, notebooks (sometimes several) or PDAs (not that I have one) - they all get confused, especially when messages get deleted, moved or handled as spam. Has anybody ever found a world-class synch program for my scenario?


Martin Winston

I use a virtual drive situation with OneNote, but otherwise I don't use synchronization -- indeed that's one reason I gave up on carrying a PDA. I find that the best PDA is my TabletPC with the current Outlook.pst.


Subject: D Day thoughts

Indeed it is well to remember a few things about what these United States Of America accomplished on dune 6, 1944:

On D-Day, the Allies landed around 156,000 troops in Normandy. The American forces landed numbered 73,000. Ninety-five per cent of these American soldiers just 912 days earlier, on December 7, 1941, had been civilians with no military training, experience or even any great desire to be soldiers.

11,590 aircraft were available to support the landings. On D-Day, Allied aircraft flew 14,674 sorties. All of these aircraft had been built in less than three years. Ninety per cent of their pilots had never flown IN an airplane, much less piloted one, before December of 1941. Ninety-five per cent of the mechanics and other ground support personnel who maintained their engines and other systems had never set foot on an airfield, much less worked on an aircraft, prior to December of 1941.

Operation Neptune, the naval support operation for the Overlord landings, involved huge naval forces, including 6939 vessels: 1213 naval combat ships, 4126 landing ships and landing craft, 736 ancillary craft and 864 merchant vessels. Some 195,700 personnel were assigned to Operation Neptune: 52,889 US, 112,824 British, and 4988 from other Allied countries. A third of the ships were from the navy of these United States of America. 80% of those ships had been built since December, 1941. Ninety percent of the seamen and eighty per cent of the officers manning those vessels of war had never crewed more than a rowboat prior to December, 1941. A third of them had never seen the ocean before December 7, 1941.

A pipeline was laid under the ocean to carry fuel and lubricants to the allied forces. Two pre-fabricated harbors had been designed, built and towed through one of the most treacherous bodies of water in the world and installed on the Channel coast of France while under enemy fire.

All of this, and more, done in 912 days. All of it done without electronic computers. All of it done without fax machines, without cell phones, without voice mail, all of it done with manual typewriters and mechanical calculators and reams of paper and legions of men and women filing and stamping and checking and rechecking and working as if their lives depended on it. As if!

And today, with all our wealth and technology, our "leadership" tells us we cannot control our own borders, we cannot find Americans willing, at any price, to hew wood, draw water and break stone, that tell us daily that we cannot build a nation fit for heroes and the children of heroes without foreign labor to bake our daily bread.

The American military, despised in the 1920s and 1930s, under funded, officered by men who often came from the despised rural regions of the country. rose to the task and, for better or worse, did the job they were asked to do. Then they laid down their weapons, dismantled their armies and fleets, and returned to their plows, by and large.

When the leader of this great effort in due time rose to the chief magistracy of these united States, his final speech to the nation he had served so honorably was not a summation of military horns and laurels, all his to rest on, and more. No, he used that auspicious moment to warn his nation of the danger of the military if allowed too great an influence in society.

And today again the United States military is often mocked, easily despised, and all too often given tasks as "impossible' D Day in 1944. And it still accomplishes them.

You want industrialization of space? A moon colony? An outpost on Mars? Give the job to the military. While you whine about the militarization of space, they will quickly and efficiently accomplish it, and then hand the keys to your new world to you. And then return to their barracks.

We do not deserve them. We never have. But they are the best we have.

Petronius The Arbiter Of Taste

Indeed. Thanks.


A constitutional inquiry:

Dr. Pournelle,

I have a thought-exercise you might be able to help with.

I swore an oath to defend the constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.

My current highest ranking superior in my direct chain of command has proposed a constitutional amendment that would provide the constitutional justification for a set of existing and future laws discriminating against a class of people based on sex. This amendment would directly contradict existing constitutional guarantees of equal protections under the law, namely that in laymans terms, no law shall be passed that discriminates (either by inclusion or exclusion) on the basis of race, sex, or religion (creed).

The background behind this little thought experiment is that I recently realized that the majority of the justification behind banning same-sex marriages fall into two disturbing categories. The first set are the exact same justifications that were used to justify racial discrimination, and I won't rehash those. The second set of justifications however, based around the idea that the legal concept of marriage is intended solely to give protections and benefits to couples who can self-generate offspring (have children), would by logical extension forbid me and my wife to be "married" because we are (so far) unable to have children together.

That realization, that the arguments used to justify the sex-based discrimination behind the legal concept of marriage would apply to me and my wife, was only a hot burning ember in the back of my mind until our President proposed a constitutional amendment with the intent to create a specific case where it is constitutionally acceptable to discriminate on the basis of sex alone. I don't have to tell you the risks inherent in passing such an amendment...

If my direct superior carried out an act such as this, I would be legally bound to act. At what point in my chain of command am I permitted by my oath and legal contract with the US Government to ignore a direct assult on the rights and legal protections guaranteed by the US Constitution? Is it because he is a civilian? If so, what about an equal constitutional challenge generated by the Secretary of Defense? How about a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff? How about a retired General officer? Would an attempt to do the same thing, alter the constitution to allow legal discrimination on the basis of sex, by a foreign entity, be allowable?

Anyhow, it's something that's been on my mind. As a matter of fact, various similar issues have been on the minds of mid-level officers for as long as I've been in the service (16 years), and although the topic seems to come up more and more often I've never heard a good answer.

Fuel for the discussion is the recent Supreme Court decision that appears to remove whistle-blower protections from government employees. By extension, this appears to mean that attempting to carry out the responsibilities of my office would not be afforded any protection from retribution, so damned if you do and double-damned if you don't... Does this open the door for an appeal of Calley's conviction, that had he acted to stop the slaughter at My Lai he would not have been protected from retribution by his superiors because of the nature of government employment, as the layman's interpretation of the supreme court decision would appear to mean?

If you share this discussion, you might remove my name.




This week:


read book now


Wednesday, June 7, 2006

Today is deadlines day, so it's Short Shrift time.

Subject: Thought Experiment


regarding the recent thought exercise post

re: If my direct superior carried out an act such as this, I would be legally bound to act. At what point in my chain of command am I permitted by my oath and legal contract with the US Government to ignore a direct assault on the rights and legal protections guaranteed by the US Constitution?

-- The President proposed to amend the constitution. Which, if successful, would make the above argument moot.

 The good news is that we have a system that forces the executive to get approval from the legislative for things like this.

I'm a republican, conservative Christian, pro-life conservative and even I recognized this as nothing more than pure political grandstanding without a snowball's chance of passing. The very fact that President Bush proposed an amendment should tell you something ... it's almost impossible to amend the constitution, thus it's safe to suggest it because you know it's not going to happen.

This was pure PR designed to get the media and the population talking about something other than the mess in the middle east.

 Jim Coffey

"As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord." Joshua 24


Subject: Too bad, so sad Chinese lose AWACS development team


June 4, 2006: A Chinese AWACs clone, the KJ-2000, crashed killing all 40 people on board. This was more than just the loss of a prototype aircraft and its crew, for 35 of those on board were engineers and scientists involved in developing and, in this case, testing the systems installed on the KJ-2000. Even the Chinese media noted that the government was very upset at this particular accident, and an investigation into how it happened is under way.



Subject: Re: Petronius's email Tuesday 6th


Agreed. The UK and the US do not deserve their respective militaries. And there is, in my opinion, one other country that has a military as magnificent as these two countries’. I refer to Israel. After all, they have been at war for fifty-eight years now.



I submit that the UK’s military deserves even more respect. At least you Americans give your troops the tools they need; we do not. Our government appears to be more interested in helping the feckless and criminal.


But despite all that, one point needs to be made, which I will illustrate with Colonel Collins’  famous speech:

We go to liberate, not to conquer.

We will not fly our flags in their country

We are entering Iraq to free a people and the only flag which will be flown in that ancient land is their own.

Show respect for them.

There are some who are alive at this moment who will not be alive shortly.

Those who do not wish to go on that journey, we will not send.

As for the others, I expect you to rock their world.

Wipe them out if that is what they choose.

But if you are ferocious in battle remember to be magnanimous in victory.

Iraq is steeped in history.

It is the site of the Garden of Eden, of the Great Flood and the birthplace of Abraham.

Tread lightly there.

You will see things that no man could pay to see

-- and you will have to go a long way to find a more decent, generous and upright people than the Iraqis.

You will be embarrassed by their hospitality even though they have nothing.

Don't treat them as refugees for they are in their own country.

Their children will be poor, in years to come they will know that the light of liberation in their lives was brought by you.

If there are casualties of war then remember that when they woke up and got dressed in the morning they did not plan to die this day.

Allow them dignity in death.

Bury them properly and mark their graves.

It is my foremost intention to bring every single one of you out alive.

But there may be people among us who will not see the end of this campaign.

We will put them in their sleeping bags and send them back.

There will be no time for sorrow.

The enemy should be in no doubt that we are his nemesis and that we are bringing about his rightful destruction.

There are many regional commanders who have stains on their souls and they are stoking the fires of hell for Saddam.

He and his forces will be destroyed by this coalition for what they have done.

As they die they will know their deeds have brought them to this place. Show them no pity.

It is a big step to take another human life.

It is not to be done lightly.

I know of men who have taken life needlessly in other conflicts.

I can assure you they live with the mark of Cain upon them.

If someone surrenders to you then remember they have that right in international law and ensure that one day they go home to their family.

The ones who wish to fight, well, we aim to please.

If you harm the regiment or its history by over-enthusiasm in killing or in cowardice, know it is your family who will suffer.

You will be shunned unless your conduct is of the highest -- for your deeds will follow you down through history.

We will bring shame on neither our uniform or our nation.

The British military has, by and large, lived up to the ideals expressed in this speech. The American has not. The British have their ferocious, vicious killers who give no quarter in battle, and expect none. So do the Americans. But the British know when the killing should stop, and the Americans do not. And that fact gives aid to the enemy.



Ian Campbell


Subject: You said...

"What we really need is a Constitutional Amendment that leaves all these matters to the States, and bars judges from using the US Constitution as a basis for changing the will of the State Legislature in most social matters. I don't know how to draft that Amendment, but it would return the issues of Education, Religion and Separation of Church and State, Abortion, and nearly all such issues to State Legislatures."

The United States Constitution says...

"Amendment X The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

"Amendment XI The judicial power of the United States shall not be construed to extend to any suit in law or equity, commenced or prosecuted against one of the United States by citizens of another State, or by citizens or subjects of any foreign state."

Unfortunately a new amendment restating what Amendments X and XI already say is no more likely to be honored than the original two.


Charles Brumbelow

I have often said that we ought to have a new set of Amendments: the first ten, then another that says "Shall not be deprived of the equal protection of the laws because of race or color", and a final twelfth that says "And this time we really mean it."

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion. Etc.

That would leave religion, and most of the legal procedures, up to the states; leave social measures to the states; and start us back toward a Federal Republic.

Ah well.


And close today with an open-ended question worth taking up when we have more time:

Subject: Great Things -

Evening Jerry,

Here's a bit of a strange question for you - what great things are left to do? And can they be done?

This week the History channel has been running a series on the Revolution, and the National Geographic Channel a series on the space race to the moon. Both were great ventures in human history, with true meaning in the history of mankind. But what's left - or perhaps more appropriately - what do we have the will to do?

I'm reminded of a question from Revenge of the Nerds: "Would you rather live in the ascendancy of a civilization or it's decline?" Do we have a choice?

I fear that the passion, the drive, the sheer force of will to do great things has passed into history. Today we are focused more on making a quick buck and what Brittney Spears is doing with her kid than on Great Things. Are there truly momentous adventures left to us? And do we have the will - both personal and societal - to pursue them? Is there anything left? Or are we doomed to a relatively meaningless (in the grand scheme of things) existence?

To what would we pledge our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor?




Subject: Campbell

My first reaction to reading Campbell's response to Petronius was to cry BS. However, I think this is a better response. http://www.michaelyon-online.com/wp/hijacking-haditha.htm 

(Serving officer formerly in ME Theater)



CURRENT VIEW    Wednesday


This week:


read book now


Thursday, June 8, 2006

Subject: Monkey Chow

I remember you telling a story about this... perhaps on BIX? Or at a con somewhere?


-- Stephen Fleming

What I said was that I know a diet on which you can eat all you want as often as you want, so long as you eat only the one thing: Purina Monkey Chow.

It works. You won't overeat. Believe me. As a graduate student I ate monkey chow one day a week (I was animal room manager) to save money. It saved money, and I certainly didn't gain weight.


Subject: Constitutional Amendment


You said, "I have often said that we ought to have a new set of Amendments: the first ten, then another that says "Shall not be deprived of the equal protection of the laws because of race or color", and a final twelfth that says "And this time we really mean it."

I'd make it even simpler. I'd get rid of all of the amendments and put in just one.

"There is nothing implied in any paragraph of this document."

There's nothing explicitly in there about controlling speech, so they can't. Nothing about controlling guns, so they can't. NOTHING about the courts being able to strike down or write new laws, so they can't. Nothing about federally-funded schools or a federal police force or who can give how much to Congress-critters for electioning or...

Braxton S. Cook

That was the position of Alexander Hamilton and others who opposed adding the Bill of Rights: they said that the document said everything not permitted was forbidden, but the Bill of Rights would be interpreted as saying everything not forbidden was permitted.


Subject: Walter Williams today 



Walter Williams, commenting on John Stossel's book, "Myths, Lies, and Downright Stupidities"

<snip> if there's global warming, it might be a godsend. According to Harvard astrophysicist Sallie Baliunas, added carbon dioxide helps plants grow. Warmer winters give farmers a longer growing season, and the warming might end the droughts in the Sahara desert.

There's another consideration. For the past 800,000 years, there have been periods of approximately 100,000 years called Ice Ages, followed by a period of 10,000 years, a period called Interglacial, followed by another Ice Age. We're about 10,500 years into the present Interglacial period, namely, we're 500 years overdue for another Ice Age. If indeed mankind's activity contributes to the planet's warming, we might postpone the coming Ice Age.




"I fear that the passion, the drive, the sheer force of will to do great things has passed into history. Today we are focused more on making a quick buck and what Brittney Spears is doing with her kid than on Great Things. Are there truly momentous adventures left to us? And do we have the will - both personal and societal - to pursue them?"

I'm not sure that that empires are built by people who have the will to do great things. They may be maintained by them. The British Empire was built up in the pre-Victorian era & most of the builders were a bunch of freebooters - not unlike the robber barons who built up American capitalism.

Neil Craig


Swedish Models.


-- Roland Dobbins

A good analysis.

"SO IF THE Myrdals were right when they said that if the welfare state couldn't work in Sweden, it wouldn't work anywhere, what will it mean if Sweden's system fails? The answer seems obvious."

For a long time academics have used the Scandinavian socialist states as an example of how socialism can be made to work. This looks into why it did work and why it isn't exportable -- and probably not sustainable.

My Scandinavian ancestors have done great things. They have also made great mistakes. But I certainly don't want them angry with me.


Subject: AI on the Hill 

From a report in "Inside Higher ED" on the House Science Committee. As I understand this, the Representative wants high school science students to be taught to fear rogue computers that may take over the world.


"Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.) did not propose an amendment, but wanted further discussion and perhaps a report on a particular aspect of future supercomputing research. Sherman said that, based on the opinions of experts, there is reason to believe that in about 25 years a supercomputer will be built that “exceeds human intelligence.” Sherman said he hopes that some of the future researchers that the bills would cultivate will be steered toward the potentially emerging field of making sure that the super-intelligent computers “avoid self-awareness … and ambition,” he said."

Barry Rueger http://www.threesquirrels.com


Subject: Make your day photo


One of the rarest of meteorological phenomena, the circumhorizon arc is a type of rainbow that forms in high (20,000 ft) cirrus clouds under the proper conditions of sunlight and ice crystal formation in the cloud. This one, covering "hundreds of square miles," was photographed on the Washington-Idaho border on Saturday, June 3, 2006.

(Source: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/pages/live/articles/news/


Wow! Thanks!





CURRENT VIEW    Thursday


This week:


read book now


Friday,  June 9, 2006

A spokesperson speaks:

Subject: Give the teacher unions a break already


<!-- saved from url=(0066)
archives2/archives2view/view408.html   -->

>April 3, 2006 ...

>Over in mail we have another example of Pournelle's Iron Law of
>Bureaucracy at work. I have written the basic description of the Iron
>Law so many times that I want to put it down with its own title so I
>can refer to it in future:

>Pournelle's Iron Law of Bureaucracy states that in any bureaucratic
>organization there will be two kinds of people: those who work to
>further the actual goals of the organization, and those who work for
>the organization itself. Examples in education would be teachers who
>work and sacrifice to teach children, vs. union representative who
>work to protect any teacher including the most incompetent. The Iron
>Law states that in all cases, the second type of person will always
>gain control of the organization, and will always write the rules
>under which the organization functions.

They say that the rain falls on the just and unjust alike. Perhaps the bureaucratic organization member of the first type (the goal directed one) feels that the "protection" offered by their bureaucracy-directed peers is similar to the rain in this respect. Perhaps they see the bureaucrats' protection, including protection offered to the incompetent or otherwise unworthy, as part of what makes their own contributions possible. Perhaps there are people outside of their organization who also feel this way.

My own take on such glaringly obvious phenomena as your iron law is not generally to advance yet another iron law that empirically demonstrates that humyn nature is inherently--fill in the blank with whatever adjective satisfies the requirements of one's own ideology--selfish, violent, bureaucratic, oligarchic, territorial, irrational, rational, economic, least-resistance, hierarchical, unequal, etc. My own take on the obvious is that a teaching organization is a "group entity" (which is to say an entity that is not an individual humyn being, or organism) or what I tend to call an "institution." The board of education that they try to bargain with collectively is also an institution. So are competing (or enemy) institutions such as Mr. Whipple's infamous "Channel One" media organization or Mr. Edison's infamous charter schools. The battle lines between the individual and institutional realms knows no "sectors."

Just as self defense provides an exception to the rule that Violence is Bad, economic self defense in the form of attempted cartelization provides an exception to the rule that "free" markets are inherently good. Success at cartelization or the getting of "market power" is said by adherents to (neo)classical and (neo)liberal doctrines is theoretically impossible, anyway, so what are the free market fundamentalists afraid of, anyway? The labor movement as a whole is a case study in failure. The teacher unions are one of a small and shrinking number of such dominoes still standing. Their union is being busted successfully every day by smiling salescritters selling privatization packages to school boards all over America. So, instead of being run by institutions called school boards or teacher unions, the kids depend on for-profit or for-prophet institutions that have agendas that go well beyond misguided attempts at market power. As institutions, they're every bit as inherently bureaucratic and oligarchic as the ones they replace.

If you want an education, start studying. For things you can't learn from books, find some people. The trick, of course, is persuading them (given the Tanstaafl and therefore Evil universe we live in) that sharing their knowledge with you is something they can afford to do.

People of the "growth is good" religion claim that what people can afford depends on how much wealth they have. I am of the belief that it depends a lot more an how little scarcity they have. If the badness of scarcity didn't trump the goodness of wealth, the American (or general humyn) status quo we see today would not be possible. Specifically, Americans wouldn't fear the Pink Slip, or the nominally even worse Termination With Cause.

The problem is Power (hierarchy, territorialism, inequality and/or scarcity, in short the phenomenon of "dominance") itself, not some bureaucratic tendency in humyn nature. Create a post-scarcity non-economy in which people have the luxury of being able to afford (there goes that word again) to treat their colleagues and fellow humyn beings in general as EQUALS, and your bureaucracy problem should evaporate without a single shot being fired. Bureaucracy is caused by the fact that some people have more Power (usually in the form of wealth, which Is Power) than others, not the fact that some people choose to expheriment with collective as well as individual strategies for living effectively in spite of the existence of Power.

Whether it matters or not, this comment comes after my first visit to your site, so I am not "well read" in Pournelle. The impression I have so far from cursory readings here is of YET ANOTHER SF writer advancing the cause of the "libertarian" Right. If I had a penny for every time some "libertarian" Rightist bopped me over the head with some hackneyed clich&eacute; to the extent that nobody's holding a gun to my head to keep going to my crappy temp job or sign some boilerplate (and therefore Evil) $ell phone contract, or participate in some other private sector exercise in "voluntarism" that I'd rather not, I'd be quite wealthy by now. Yet the SF writing profession every few decades or so demonstrates its redeeming value by producing the occasional LeGuin or Dick. Maybe you guys need a union.

It is certainly interesting to see the profusion of SF-blogs.

Lorraine Lee [mailto:n8chz@yahoo.ca

To the extent that I understand what was said here, it appears to be an apology for defending the lack of results in schools.

Telling parents who have little education that they should set their children to becoming autodidacts like Abraham Lincoln might be great advice for those with bright children, but for those of normal intelligence and below it is a bit like telling them to win the lottery as a remedy to poverty.

As to the "Libertarian Right", alas, my Libertarian friends wish mightily that I were more so. My view is like Larry Niven's: Libertarianism is a vector, not a destination, and for the moment it's the right vector for the lot of us: we have far too much interference with freedom in the name of bureaucracy. To that extent I am a part of the Libertarian Right, I suppose, but they don't accept me, given my conservative and reactionary tendencies...

It would probably come as a shock, but Possony and I were working on "The Strategy of Progress", which defends bureaucracy for certain purposes. Sometimes a bureaucracy is the only way to bring about certain results. The problem is that education isn't one of those cases. Public education requires a very great deal more attention from both public and private authorities than a bureaucracy can possibly give it. Among other things, public education requires that those in charge demand results, not credentials. But that is another story for another time.

In addition to being an SF writer I am a former aerospace operations research engineer, aviation psychologist, professor of political science, deputy mayor, campaign manager, and science correspondent.

Alas, I do not entirely understand what you are saying here.

And see below


18 Days of Reckless Computing.


---- Roland Dobbins


Subject: More on Ghost


I've been trying Ghost 10 out to see how it does on my main development machine. My current project is complex, spanning a USB 2 core in HDL, embedded firmware, Altera and Xilinx FPGA development S/W, a Windows XP device driver, and a Win32 console application. Whew! Long story short, stuff is scattered all over my hard drive, a 1TB 4 drive Raid 0 array. Not so easy to do a manual backup. At the end of a development day, I tell Ghost to make a complete backup. I told Ghost to create a backup set last week. No each day, what I see is that Ghost takes about 10 minutes to scan my C and D drives and uses about 2 gigabytes total to save the differences. I'm using a 500GB Maxtor One Touch III I bought at Fry's as the backup drive. Ghost is disabled form auto-scanning. I have to manually tell it to start. I also keep the Maxtor unplugged from the system and turned off except when I'm using it. Too many Windows Applications just have to spin up all the drives at odd times, especially Acrobat! Then you end up waiting while the drives spin up!

So far so good.



Re: Great Things

"I fear that the passion, the drive, the sheer force of will to do great things has passed into history. Today we are focused more on making a quick buck and what Brittney Spears is doing with her kid than on Great Things. Are there truly momentous adventures left to us? And do we have the will - both personal and societal - to pursue them?"

Truly momentous adventures? Does anyone who has ever read your works need to ask, Jerry? Sure, there are great things left to do – and the will to do them is being hijacked by bean-counters and bureaucratic empire-builders.

I refer of course to the Great Leap Outwards. I don’t have any kids and never will, but I would like to think that one of my sister’s grandchildren or great-grandchildren will have a chance to walk the snows of Enceladus, or wrestle a drill on some nameless asteroid loaded with stuff more valuable than gold, or sail a boat on the lake in the first L5 colony, or…

Apart from being a good thing to do for reasons few reading this will dispute (I hope), I submit that this would also help to heal the ills of our society. A thought I have often seen stated: One of the chief causes of our society’s problems is the lack of a frontier; a lack of somewhere for our troublesome young men to risk getting themselves killed in, a lack of somewhere to think that you might actually be helping to build something worth building.

And one way the Great Black Yonder is better than earlier frontiers; there are no troublesome native inhabitants that anyone will have to kill, suppress or enslave in order to do it.

As for treasure, well, there is enough and to spare to make everyone currently living a trillionaire many times over. Not that this is the way things would turn out; instead, after a couple of hundred years, if we wished, there would be enough for a trillion people (at least!) to live in comfort.

Disband NASA, and let’s get started! We have wasted a generation already!

Ian Campbell



Subject: Re: Climate change

In Harry Erwin's letter:

If climate change is real, here are some of the consequences. <http://www.guardian.co.uk/climatechange/story/0,,1790471,00.html>   

> Being a farmer's son from Riverside, I know about falling water tables. The "mining" of water in the American Southwest is not sustainable.

This reminds me of a documentary I heard on the radio a few years ago. IIRC, some of the highlights were: - that an early explorer called the Canadian Prairies unliveable. - Studies of sediment on lake bottoms in the prairies show the Dust Bowl of the 30's is the second mildest draught of the last millennium. - The Saskatchewan River today has 1/6th the flow it did in 1900, and the only reason there is a river in the summer is glacial meltoff.

I can't find the name of original documentary on the CBC site, but here is a more recent news story.

Looming drought on Prairies will be worse than Dust Bowl days of 1930s: experts


Brian Moore


Dear Dr. Pournelle:

Perhaps you have achieved sufficient wisdom that you can honestly and reasonably try to address a point raised by someone who advances "humyn nature" into a discussion. Me, I'm pleased that MS Word's spellcheck still puts a squiggly red line under "humyn." Of course, the etymologies of "man" and "human" reach back to two entirely different language families....

Anyway, I think what she meant to write (one sample paragraph):

'My own take on such glaringly obvious phenomena as your iron law is not generally to advance yet anothyr iron law that empirically demonstrates that humyn nature is inhyrently--fill in the blank with whatever adjective satisfies the requirements of one's own ideology--selfish, violent, bureaucratic, oligarchic, territorial, irrational, rational, economic, least-resistance, hierarchical, unequal, etc. My own take on the obvious is that a teaching organization is a "group entyty" (which is to say an entyty that is not an individual humyn being, or organism) or what I tend to call an "instytution." The board of education that they try to bargain with collectively is also an instytution. So are competing (or enemy) instytutions such as Mr. Whipple's infamous "Channel One" media organization or Mr. Edison's infamous charter schools. The battle lines between the individual and instytutional realms knows no "sectors."'

With such vigorous proponents, I'm shocked that unions, even teachyr unions, are losing public esteem.

But we can all agree that LeGuin and Dyck are very good writers.

_ Christian J. Schulte
 Deputy District Attorney


Subject: Humyn nature

I confess I didn't quite follow every point in the humyn nature essay. But I think I got the gist.

On the other hand, I think what you have said about teacher's unions is clear and easy to follow. Teacher's unions are devoted to getting the best possible deal for teachers; this is not the same thing as delivering the best possible education for the students. So, you can be in favor of giving the kids the best possible education, *or* you can be in favor of giving the teachers the best possible deal; it's easy to say "the latter ensures the former" but I don't buy it. If it's difficult to fire incompetent teachers, how does that help the kids?

As for libertarian thinking: I consider myself a libertarian. As you say, it's a vector, or in my favorite analogy it's a train you can ride. Very few people in America today would want to ride that train all the way to the end of the line, but I'd like to see them ride it as far as they will go.

Anyway, the libertarian observation on the schools is: state-run schools are run on tax dollars, thus giving parents the choice of paying *twice* for schools, and sending their kids to a private school; or paying just once, and sending their kids to a public school. This makes it much more difficult for private schools to compete with public schools. If you rode the train all the way to the end of the line, there would be no government-run schools; all schools would be private and competing with each other. If you only ride the train part way, you might have the government collect tax dollars but then issue vouchers good at any school; this would at least put all schools on an equal footing to compete. If you ride the train even less, you might keep the public schools open but issue vouchers to any parents who want them, and see what happens.

If you want the kids to get the best education possible, the best thing is to get the schools competing with each other for students. The best teachers will be in demand; the incompetent teachers will find it harder to keep a job. This all sounds good to me.

-- Steve R. Hastings
"Vita est"
steve@hastings.org http://www.blarg.net/~steveha



If Libertarianism a vector, then of necessity, bureaucracy is a vector. The problem becomes that both are the (vector) sums of a number of component vectors.

In the case of libertarianism, some of those component vectors are racial equality/egalitarianism, religious freedom, freedom of consumption (ranging from the choice between vegetariansm and beef consumption, to freedom regarding narcotic chemicals including alcohol, tobacco, and marijuana), and economic freedom including tax freedom. The fallacy of libertarianism, and in particularly of currently organized libertarianism, is that some of the component vectors are pursued to excess at the expense of a unified whole (e.g. the drug legalization issue), while others have been co-opted by wholly non-libertarian influences (e.g. egalitarianism pursued to the politically correct extent of banning not only obvious racism, but even complaints that the political correction process itself is anti-libertarian in form and execution).

In the case of bureaucracy, the Iron Law clearly delineates two of the most obvious component vectors: pursuit of the objectives for which the bureaucracy was formed, and pursuit of the bureaucracy as a structure in its own right. The principle that the Iron Law enunciates is that in most bureaucracies, the second component will eventually become the dominant component, and in extreme cases may become the sole component, at which cases the first component will attain zero magnitude, or even go negative (the bureaucracy operates contrary to the objectives of the bureaucracy).

The fact that Public Education has reached the stage where the bureaucratic component is so dominant that the objective component is in many locations (an important distinction) net negative or significantly overdampted is not necessarily a fallacy of the bureaucratic approach in this case, but it is true that the dismantling of the bureaucracy (viz. "retirement of the system at the end of the system lifecycle," to apply a more control-theory oriented terminology) is more likely to achieve the ostensible objective of the bureaucracy than the identification and application of appropriate controls to the bureaucracy to assure that teaching can proceed effectively.

And this is probably as much double speak as your correspondent's missive.



“Underpaid Teachers” Richly Rewarded.


--- Roland Dobbins


Subject: "humyn"


When I skimmed Lorraine Lee's dissolute and decadent diatribe (I seldom read anything that screwed up in depth) my impression was that she was something akin to a distaff version of Rand's Wesley Mouch. A search for occurances of "humyn" would seem to confirm that taxonomy:


That tells me all I care or need to know about Lee. And the idea that such a creature has any connection, however remote, to the task of teaching children pretty much sums up the essential condition (as well as the genesis of that condition) of public school education today.


Which pretty well states the point I was trying to make in posting that letter. I didn't do it to ridicule Ms. Lee; but alas, the view she states is not uncommon.

Or, being more succinct: you can't make this stuff up.





This week:


read book now


Saturday, June 10, 2006

Subject: Lucifer's...tack hammer?


Lucifer's ... tack hammer?


Record meteorite hit Norway

As Wednesday morning dawned, northern Norway was hit with an impact comparable to the atomic bomb used on Hiroshima <snip>

"I heard the bang seven minutes later. It sounded like when you set off a solid charge of dynamite a kilometer (0.62 miles) away," Bruvold said <snip>

One would think that there'd be some damage reports somewhere but I have heard none.

Note that something of the sort happened in Medieval France, wiping out most of a city.


This one ought to scare the daylights out of any self-respecting security troop:

Social Engineering, the USB Way.


--- Roland Dobbins


BofA: Train your replacement, or no severance pay for you.


-- Roland Dobbins



CURRENT VIEW     Saturday

This week:


read book now


Sunday, June 11, 2006

Subject: Hive Mind Has Serious shortcomings

Here's the essay over at Edge


that suggests that there are definitely serious shortcomings in the hive mind, as exemplified by Wikipedia.

Julie http://walkingwalkingprescott.blogspot.com 

Digital Maoism

<snip> The hive mind is for the most part stupid and boring. Why pay attention to it?

The problem is in the way the Wikipedia has come to be regarded and used; how it's been elevated to such importance so quickly. And that is part of the larger pattern of the appeal of a new online collectivism that is nothing less than a resurgence of the idea that the collective is all-wise, that it is desirable to have influence concentrated in a bottleneck that can channel the collective with the most verity and force. This is different from representative democracy, or meritocracy. This idea has had dreadful consequences when thrust upon us from the extreme Right or the extreme Left in various historical periods. The fact that it's now being re-introduced today by prominent technologists and futurists, people who in many cases I know and like, doesn't make it any less dangerous. <snip>


Grendel: Modern Monster Opera.


--- Roland Dobbins

We had opening night tickets, but it didn't open on opening night. Our tickets are for next week. We know some of the singers and they like it a lot. I will reserve judgment until I have seen it. After all, I'm an unrepentant Viking...


A new Fourth Dimension:

Randall-Sundrum braneworld model.


-- Roland Dobbins


Peters: Blood borders.


---- Roland Dobbins


Armay Blue, Armay Blue...

Army switches to dress blues, full-time.


--- Roland Dobbins


Subject: teacher's unions

The teacher's union controls educational departments - even at conservative confessional Christian colleges. The teacher's union is not merely a bureaucracy, it is also an ideological faction. It is, in fact, a militant religion/political organization with an agenda to change American society and governance. Improving the lives of teachers takes a back seat to this. Even in a conservative setting, we are taught teacher union rah-rah, and a very biased, left-wing, anti-Christian view of the history of education over the past couple millennia. We our taught that our purpose is to change the beliefs of children to conform them to the Progressivist agenda. Some texts set as educational standards, the training of children to engage in political protest, and in pressuring their parents and officials in society to subsume society under the auspices of the government schools. If we can use the term "Islamo-facism" even though Muslims do not deny the transcendent-objective, signified, then perhaps we can coin "edu-facism" for this agenda of everything for the schools (as defined and controlled by the unions), nothing outside the schools, and nothing against the schools.

Name withheld for the sake of the children

And see next week's report from a student


On Perjury and Lying to the Government


Perhaps there are some lawyers among your readership that can provide some more detail, but it seems that it is illegal to lie to federal US agents:

Title 18, United States Code, Section 1001 makes it a crime to: 1) knowingly and willfully; 2) make any materially false, fictitious or fraudulent statement or representation; 3) in any matter within the jurisdiction of the executive, legislative or judicial branch of the United States. Your lie does not even have to be made directly to an employee of the national government as long as it is "within the jurisdiction" of the ever expanding federal bureaucracy. Though the falsehood must be "material" this requirement is met if the statement has the "natural tendency to influence or [is] capable of influencing, the decision of the decisionmaking body to which it is addressed." United States v. Gaudin, 515 U.S. 506, 510 (1995). (In other words, it is not necessary to show that your particular lie ever really influenced anyone.) Although you must know that your statement is false at the time you make it in order to be guilty of this crime, you do not have to know that lying to the government is a crime or even that the matter you are lying about is "within the jurisdiction" of a government agency. United States v. Yermian, 468 U.S. 63, 69 (1984). For example, if you lie to your employer on your time and attendance records and, unbeknownst to you, he submits your records, along with those of other employees, to the federal government pursuant to some regulatory duty, you could be criminally liable.


-- David Magda <dmagda at ee.ryerson.ca> Because the innovator has for enemies all those who have done well under the old conditions, and lukewarm defenders in those who may do well under the new. -- Niccolo Machiavelli, _The Prince_, Chapter VI

I do not like to say this, so perhaps I should put it in the form of query:

Is this now the best advice? Is this now the best action?

Since you cannot know when you have committed a crime while communication with Federal Officials, the safest policy is to say NOTHING. Do not deny that you have done anything. Say NOTHING to them. Plead the Fifth Amendment no matter how trivial the question, and demand that all interviews take place with your lawyer present, at a time convenient to both of you.

Now that is not the advice I brought my children up to follow. I always thought it was MY government, and that cooperation is a civic duty; but it is now clear after the Martha Stewart case (and others) that one must say NOTHING WHATEVER to ANY Federal Agent without the advice of counsel. If you are a witness to something that is legitimately the object of a Federal Investigation, your safest course is to insist on submitting a written statement, witnessed and signed which has been vetted by your lawyer, and to make sure that it contains no speculation, conclusions, inferences, or statements of opinion.

Note that denying that you have committed an act which is itself not a crime can send you to jail. Being mistakes about when you committed actions that are not themselves crimes can send you to jail. Cooperation with Federal Agents has become a losing activity.

I have just about decided that I will no longer answer questions put during security investigations, and  no longer allow myself to be listed as a security reference; my memory is not what it was, and the likelihood that I will incorrectly recall some incident is high.

There was a time when we understood what perjury meant. There was a time when one could and should be proud to cooperate with the government. That time is, alas, long past. I would that it were not so.

Note that in a Republic it is both reasonable and necessary to expect the citizens to cooperate, willingly and enthusiastically, with their government.

And see next week



Wired, but unglued:

Courtesy John Ringo's page on Baen:


Don't Try This at Home

Garage chemistry used to be a rite of passage for geeky kids. But in their search for terrorist cells and meth labs, authorities are making a federal case out of DIY science.


The (Consumer Products Safety Commission's) war on illegal fireworks is one of several forces producing a chilling effect on amateur research in chemistry. National security issues and laws aimed at thwarting the production of crystal meth are threatening to put an end to home laboratories. In schools, rising liability concerns are making teachers wary of allowing students to perform their own experiments. Some educators even speculate that a lack of chem lab experience is contributing to the declining interest in science careers among young people.


The push to restrict access to chemicals by those who have no academic or scientific credentials gained momentum in the mid-’90s following the bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City. In the years since 9/11, the Defense Department, FBI, and other government agencies have strategized ways of tracking even small purchases of potentially dangerous chemicals. “The fact that there are amateurs and retired professors out there who need access to these chemicals is a valid problem,” acknowledges Rice University chemistry professor James Tour, who consulted with the Pentagon and the Justice Department, “but there aren’t many of those guys weighed against the possible dangers.”


Ironically, a shadow of suspicion is being cast over home chemistry at a time when the contributions of amateurs to the progress of science are highly regarded. In recent years, citizen scientists have discovered comets and supernovas and invented tools for gauging Earth’s magnetic field. Peer-reviewed journals like Nature now welcome papers coauthored by auto-didacts like Forrest Mims III, who studies solar storms and atmospheric conditions at his home observatory in Texas. Personal computers, digital cameras, and other consumer electronic devices are putting more accurate means of recording and measuring phenomena into the hands of home tinkerers than were available in high-end labs just a few years ago. The Internet is the ultimate enabling technology, allowing amateurs to collaborate with their counterparts at NASA and other organizations.

<snip> (continues through two more pages I haven't read yet)


I made nitroglycerin at age 11. 'Twas a dangerous thing to do, and I do not advise anyone to try it.


Letter From Istanbul:

Subject: Your columns

Dear Sir

It is true the your columns are extensively read by the geeks here. I'm also among those sending links from your site. You and your seemingly bottomless well of expertise and experience aklways shows in your all parts of your work. Quality will always out, and will be appreciated.

Do keep your faith in liberty and the free markets. If an allegedly "free" market seems to be failing, you can bet the reason is always a bundle of obtuse regulation that is *rigging* that market and cartellizing it to the benefit of some invisibly entrenched interest.

I'm of the opinion that had we shaken of our age-old habits regarding pricing and control of copyrighted material, you'd find an infinitely wider audience. But most people are reluctant to do that because they sense that in such an interconnected world the mediocre will be easier to spot because of its statistical frequencies. In that world, a Pournelle with books sold for $2.00 will have millions (perhaps tens of millions) of readers, while others of much lesser intellect and quality who happen to earn comparable to Pournelle because of a cartelized system will simply go to the dustbin of history. Which is why there's such a reluctance to go ahead with such changes.

My two cents.

Kind regards -- KE


Jerry P:

I volunteer at a science museum and find serious divide between the educated students who come there and the rest, who feel like it is a recess. I wonder if the difference is due to the majority of teachers coming from the lower quintile of college graduates, those who struggled just to survive and not the enthusiastic types who thrive on information and education. Not that the lower quintile is deficient in the interest in educating the young, but that they never were pushers and so don't push their students. I can always tell those students from charter schools and home schooled students by their approach to the exhibits and their questions.

Charles Simkins









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


If you are not paying for this place, click here...

IF YOU SEND MAIL it may be published; if you want it private SAY SO AT THE TOP of the mail. I try to respect confidences, but there is only me, and this is Chaos Manor. If you want a mail address other than the one from which you sent the mail to appear, PUT THAT AT THE END OF THE LETTER as a signature. In general, put the name you want at the end of the letter: if you put no address there none will be posted, but I do want some kind of name, or explicitly to say (name withheld).

Note that if you don't put a name in the bottom of the letter I have to get one from the header. This takes time I don't have, and may end up with a name and address you didn't want on the letter. Do us both a favor: sign your letters to me with the name and address (or no address) as you want them posted. Also, repeat the subject as the first line of the mail. That also saves me time.

I try to answer mail, but mostly I can't get to all of it. I read it all, although not always the instant it comes in. I do have books to write too...  I am reminded of H. P. Lovecraft who slowly starved to death while answering fan mail. 

Monday -- Tuesday -- Wednesday -- Thursday -- Friday -- Saturday -- Sunday

 Search engine:


or the freefind search

   Search this site or the web        powered by FreeFind
  Site search Web search

Boiler Plate:

If you want to PAY FOR THIS PLACE I keep the latest information HERE.  MY THANKS to all of you who sent money.  Some of you went to a lot of trouble to send money from overseas. Thank you! There are also some new payment methods. I am preparing a special (electronic) mailing to all those who paid: there will be a couple of these. I have thought about a subscriber section of the page. LET ME KNOW your thoughts.

If you subscribed:

atom.gif (1053 bytes) CLICK HERE for a Special Request.

If you didn't and haven't, why not?

If this seems a lot about paying think of it as the Subscription Drive Nag. You'll see more.


Search: type in string and press return.


Strategy of Technology in pdf format:


Entire Site Copyright, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 by Jerry E. Pournelle. All rights reserved.

birdline.gif (1428 bytes)