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Monday January 7, 2008

Letter from England

Quiet week here, recovering from a cold. Got a paper written. Another to go.

Tories looking at incapacity benefit reforms. This might help with the 40% of the UK economy that's 'off the books'.

<http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/7173453.stm> <http://news.independent.co.uk/uk/politics/article3312831.ece

> <http://tinyurl.com/35abbr> <http://news.independent.co.uk/uk/politics/article3303637.ece

> <http://tinyurl.com/2zxk8j> <http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/7171580.stm

> <http://observer.guardian.co.uk/politics/story/0,,2236017,00.html> <http://tinyurl.com/yutqol >

Nuclear power might be part of the UK solution. Microturbines probably aren't. <http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/7173496.stm> <http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2008/jan/06/windpower.alternativeenergy

> <http://tinyurl.com/2r8kbv> <http://news.independent.co.uk/uk/politics/article3312836.ece

> <http://tinyurl.com/35bng9>

Religion and the UK <http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/7173599.stm> <http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2008/01/06/nislam206.xml

> <http://tinyurl.com/ysj766>

National Health Service grief <http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/7171601.stm

> <http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/7173026.stm> <http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/health/article3137490.ece

> <http://tinyurl.com/23ujcy> <http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2008/01/06/nhs106.xml

> <http://tinyurl.com/28zpfv> <http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/columnists/minette_marrin/article3137474.ece

> <http://tinyurl.com/yvrqqk>

Yobs... <http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/wales/south_east/7172768.stm>

Universities beginning to ignore 'soft' A-levels <http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/education/article3137747.ece

> <http://tinyurl.com/25qjfw> <http://news.independent.co.uk/education/education_news/article3312844.ece

> <http://tinyurl.com/2gdoyb>


"If they do that with marks and grades, should they be trusted with experimental data?"

Harry Erwin, PhD


Jerry: Revenge of the Air Force Bureaucracy.

How totally unsurprising:

"For some Air Force pilots, that means climbing out of the cockpit and heading to places such as Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada, where they can remotely fly the Predators ... About 120 Air Force pilots were recently transferred to staff the drones ... Some National Guard members were also called up ... more will be doing that in the coming months, as the Air Force adds bases where pilots can remotely fly the aircraft. Locations include North Dakota, Texas, Arizona and California, and some are already operating. "

"All this means that piloted drones actually demand more personnel than normal aircraft."

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2008/01/04/flyboy_equals_drone_boy/ <http://www.theregister.co.uk/2008/01/04/flyboy_equals_drone_boy/

Astonishing. But see below.


Subject: s/V screwball screwdriver

Dear Jerry,

My plumber just broke my husband's S/V screwball and I went on- line to find a replacement. Do you know where I can lay my hands on one? thank you.


If you find out, LET ME KNOW. That Screwball is the most useful tool I have, and I have looked for a source of those for twenty years and more.

Alas, this http://www.gadgetsuk.com/Swiss-tech-Screwball-p-16413.html isn't what I had in mind. I'll do a photo of the one I like. This looks interesting, and perhaps is what Meredith wanted...

This http://www.lowes.com/lowes/lkn?action=
productDetail&productId=239377-16878-60233&lpage=none isn't the one I have either, but it looks useful. Thanks to
Stanley.Schaefer for finding the reference for me.


Subject: Don't Dream It, Be It

Thanks to my LiveJournal Friend Roadskoller for reminding me of this.

In 1981 the buildings which made up the Disneyland Hotel adjacent to the theme park in Anaheim had glass entrance doors (may still, for all I know) which slid open to either side from a motion sensor as you approached them, much like the pocket panel doors on the ENTERPRISE on STAR TREK. I attended a science fiction/fantasy convention there in 1981 during which part of the time I wore a costume with a cloak. I quickly figured exactly the timing so that I could walk through the opening doors without altering my pace, which was fast enough that the cloak would billow behind me from air pressure.

So picture this: a young bearded man in a brown tunic, green tights, and hooded green cloak floating backward behind him purposefully strides toward the building. Without breaking pace he crosses his arms across his chest, then quickly flings them outward to full extension on either side of himself. The doors suddenly fly apart and on in he goes.

A mundane hotel guest actually came up to me, astonished, wanting to know how I opened the doors. Was it *magic*?!?, she asked, her voice trembling.

Of *course* it was magic! This was, after all, Disneyland, I told her.


I remember that convention.


Subj: Perpetual war: will the Middle East follow the Scottish pattern?


>>It is instructive to contemplate the virulence and length of the English struggles with the Scots (and also the similar, more recent battles with the Irish), given that their cultural and religious differences are trivial compared to those separating Israelis and Arabs. Attempts to end such conflicts before both sides are thoroughly exhausted are likely to have no more success than the Treaty of Northampton, which was supposed to end the Anglo-Scottish dispute in 1328.<<

Rod Montgomery==monty@starfief.com

Perpetual War for Perpetual Peace...

Of course King William and successors "solved" the problem: they created a desolation and called it peace.

And see below


'One might expect computer scientists to be fans of computer-based vote-counting devices, but it turns out that the more you know about computers, the more likely you are to be terrified that they’re running elections.'


-- Roland Dobbins


Subj: Is it true that "piloted drones actually demand more personnel than normal aircraft"?


>>June, a busy month for most U.S. and coalition forces conducting and supporting combat operations throughout Iraq, was a record setting month for the 46th ERS. They recorded a record number of combat sorties and flying hours for the Predator during the month. More than 175 combat sorties were generated, producing 3,279 flying hours.<<

Now 3279/175 = 18.7 hours/sortie.

How many man-on-board aircraft are going to be fully functional towards the end of an 18-hour sortie?

And how long after the end of an 18-hour sortie is the pilot of that single-seat aircraft going to be in shape to make another one?

And -- for the long-duration surveillance missions currently required -- what is the difference in *effectiveness* between a single-seat "normal aircraft" and a Predator crewed by a pilot and a sensor operator, with potty breaks, coffee breaks, regular meals and relief crews, and who live at home with their families?

That Register piece doesn't come right out and say it, but it seems to imply that each Predator deployed needs *both* a full-time pilot in-theater, for takeoffs and landings, *and* a pilot back in the US. But surely this is nonsense? Takeoff and landing can't possibly take more than an hour of an 18-hour Predator sortie. Surely a single pilot in-theater could handle takeoffs and landings for more than one Predator?

I vividly remember reading Alain Enthoven's _How Much Is Enough?_, in which (among other things) he tells the story of the Navy's fulminations, during the Vietnam War, about its "pilot shortage". Digging under the surface, it turned out that, had the Navy actually had the number of pilots it said it needed, it would have been in an excellent position to claim it had an *aircraft* shortage.

Now I was never a military pilot, and I'm exiled from even the small-airplane private pilot's version of "slipping the surly bonds of earth" I once enjoyed. I can barely imagine the sadness of a fighter jock exiled from his cockpit.

But with all due respect to the gallantry of those who put themselves at hazard in the "footless halls of air", between their beloved Homeland and the War's desolation, I can't help but see a parallel between some of the fighter jocks' laments and the nostalgia of the old horse cavalrymen when the Age of Mechanized Warfare came clanking in. Honor the Light Brigade? Sure! But please don't let's send horse cavalry to charge tanks.

Which is not to say that horse cavalry can't still be useful -- if, for example, the horse cavalry can call down smartbombs.

Rod Montgomery==monty@starfief.com


There must be violence against women - Yemen Times 

Doctor Pournelle,

I have never before seen so clearly stated a mindview quite this alien. It's as if a Motie wrote on proper social structure, only this is reality and it is a human that wrote these words. I would have every Jacobin pundit read this piece, They ought have it tattooed on their inner eyelids. I am tired of hearing on radio and reading in journals that these people truly yearn to be Enlightened and in their hearts crave Freedom.

I am reminded of the reaction of the sixth century Romans to Martin Padway, the time traveler of L. Sprague deCamp's novel "Lest Darkness Fall", when he tried to teach them that religious freedom is a good thing: Of course it is. We have religious freedom; we have the freedom to kill anyone who does not believe as we believe.

http://yementimes.com/article.shtml?i=1117&p=community&a=6 <http://yementimes.com/article.shtml?i=1117&p=community&a=6

"This title may sound strange, but it’s actually not just a way to attract readers to the topic because I really do mean what it indicates."



Islamic extremism

Hi Jerry

We can all agree that the modern world is in a confrontation with fundamentalist Islam. That is not the problem. The problem is the abject failure of the mainstream Islamic world to grab the nettle and impose command and control through their religious leadership. Excommunication by a properly constituted governing religious body does work by putting the zealots on notice even if it is a little messy.

It is utter nonsense that any semi schooled nut bar like Osama can hijack moral authority and murder thousands. It is greater nonsense when we are stuck with the job of bringing him to heel rather than the community from which he sprung. Why us? We cleaned up our own house!


at http://globalwarming-arclein.blogspot.com 

And see below


Subject: Watching grass grow


You might (or might not) find this amusing:

One of the consequences of watching the local morning news (after commandeering the television away from Anime to watch the election returns) is that, news over, I'm being introduced to an NBC Saturday morning cartoon called "Jacob Two-Two." Today's entry involves Jacob's turn to watch his dad work.

His dad is an adventure novelist.

Needless to say, the episode's emphasis is on contrasting the excitement of the job with the excitement intrinsic in the product.


I'd sure pay money not to have to watch ME work...


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This week:


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Tuesday,  January 8, 2007

I missed this when it was first sent:

Subject: Hallelujah Chorus Nuns


Check out these "nuns" and their interpretation of the Hallelujah Chorus. Put down your coffee first.




Francis Hamit on Pilotless Drones

Dear Jerry:

I wrote feature stories for Advanced Imaging several years ago about the Predator and Global Hawk. The idea was ALWAYS to get pilots out of the line of fire. It costs millions to train them in addition to the cost of the aircraft itself. The skill set is not something you can get off the rack, and video game playing high school kids are better candidates than college graduates for the Virtual Cockpit. Cheaper too. As happened during the Vietnam War with U. S. Army helicopter pilots, look for lots of these slots to be filled with Warrant rather than Commissioned officers. Changing pilots in the virtual world happens a lot more often, so the crews are always fresh. It's a simple Human Factors solution. The bitching by pilots from the Top Gun culture is simply yet another instance of "silk scarf syndrome". Unless people can do it the difficult way of yore, it isn't really flying, no matter how much more effective it might be from an operational standpoint.

This is part of the US Military's grand scheme for Virtual Reality, exporting the cyber world to the real one. SIMNET, the military training system that started as an tank simulator, was integrated with the training range at Fort Irwin back in the 90s. Real units are integrated with real ones in maneuver. Robotic vehicles are also part of the mix, whether or not they are autonomous supply columns or remote controlled drones.

Predators are now armed, which is a change in doctrine. Spot a target and take it out immediately rather than calling in another aircraft to do the work. On the ground the same principle is used by combining the jobs of Sniper and Scout. There are limits to the efficiencies to be gained with these combinations. You still have to occupy ground to really control it. That basic principle of war hasn't changed.


Francis Hamit

Indeed. Thanks.


See above

Perpetual war

Jerry This comment for me is part of the worlds problem with individual freedom and personal responsibility that is or at least was core thinking of the Scots and Irish people. Your comment using the the King William variation of the Pax Romana method of killing those who want to live free until only those who are willing to live as slaves survive shows me you clearly understand the truth.

>>It is instructive to contemplate the virulence and length of the English struggles with the Scots (and also the similar, more recent battles with the Irish), given that their cultural and religious differences are trivial compared to those separating Israelis and Arabs. Attempts to end such conflicts before both sides are thoroughly exhausted are likely to have no more success than the Treaty of Northampton, which was supposed to end the Anglo-Scottish dispute in 1328.<<

The Arab/Israeli situation is similar to the problem faced first by Christian Europe from the Muslims in the eighth century which they were able then to halt the Islamic advance and eventually force them out some 700 years later. Then their own church applied the same tactics as the Muslims against the very best of all Christianity using the sword and burning stake against those who wished to choose how they wished to worship god. My ancestors then fought and died for the right to choose rather then be told. They emigrated here in the 17th and 18th century from Scotland, Ireland, Holland, Germany and France so they could live free from the rule of tyrants and choose for themselves as reasoning adults how and in what way they would worship god.

Now those who favor oppression and instigated religious and social oppression are at it again and only Israel and a small number of those who understand the difference between conforming slavery and freedom of choice survive in today's conformist politically correct society that wait with out held wrists for their sharia wahibi masters to place the chains on them.

-- James Early, Long Beach, CA

Pacifism is a shifty doctrine under which a man accepts the benefits of the social group without being willing to pay - and claims a halo for his dishonesty. Robert A. Heinlein


Subject: Islamic extremism


"arclein" says,

"We can all agree that the modern world is in a confrontation with fundamentalist Islam. That is not the problem. The problem is the abject failure of the mainstream Islamic world to grab the nettle and impose command and control through their religious leadership. Excommunication by a properly constituted governing religious body does work by putting the zealots on notice even if it is a little messy."

In my view the Western world is in a confrontation with Islam, period. There is little evidence that the "mainstream Islamic world" actually wants to control the "zealots". There is much better evidence that the mainstream Islamic world happily cheers the zealots on as they attack the Great Satan. The "religious leadership", as such, is not part of the solution, it is a major source of the problem. The religious leaders are not trying to control the zealots, they are sanctioning - and actively ordering - violence against the infidels. In short, arclein's construct of what is happening is wildly off the mark, even though it is in accordance with the "Islam is a Religion of Peace that has been Hijacked by Madmen" delusion so prominent in Washington.

But let us assume he is correct. Do we, in the "modern world", have the power to compel Islam to reform itself, or even to induce "mainstream Islam" to make the religious leaders control the "zealots"? No, of course not, any more than we had the power to compel or induce the Soviet people to make the Politburo control the KGB and the zealous Bolsheviks. The proper answer in both cases - Islam and Bolshevism - is Containment (military, political, economic, ideological, and demographic). Isolate them, eliminate their source of hard currency earnings (i.e. become independent of oil) and let them stew in their own juices.


James Perry



Regarding "Publisher's plan could spell the end of the literary hardback":

Snip from the article:

"The vast majority of literary fiction is only published in hardback because otherwise the reviewers won't review it. It's mad. They should be reviewing on the basis of content rather than the binding."

Some comments:

IMO it's not a "binding bias" so much as it's a simple matter of readability (for reviewers), and, for readers, readability *and* durability.

Paperbacks are harder to read. No ifs/ands/etc. about it. Smaller print on poorer quality paper, and physically unwieldy form factory make it *difficult* to read a paperback, compared to a hardcover.

Speaking from personal experience, with "my eyes are bigger than my stomach," I tend to acquire books faster than I can read them. I do *not* "speed-read" while reading for enjoyment. I read to *enjoy*! For someone who is *paid* to read, he will naturally favor books that do not make reading *difficult*.

I have on numerous occasions found myself making a decision on "what book to read next" based in no small part on the *format* -- especially if I've just finished reading a paperback. I don't *want* to read another paperback -- even if I *do* want to read the *title* that I've got in paperback. I sometimes find myself reading a book I am *less* interested in reading, simply because I've got it in hardcover edition. The paperback I would *prefer* to read stays in the "to read" pile.

I cannot believe I'm the only one subject to this phenomenon.

Then too, there's the durability factor. Paperbacks, with cheap paper that *will* crumble with age, and cheap glue that *will* result in pages falling loose -- and then *out* (regardless of how careful one is to avoid opening the book wide while reading), turn paperbacks into a non-durable commodity.

OK, there's the arena. So now what?

IF some publishers do go down the road mapped out in that article, I expect that *other* publishers will go down a currently unmapped road. What will happen is that there'll be a proliferation of trade paperbacks -- larger pages, more readable type, on better quality paper.

And, I would not be surprised to see the a nontrivial aftermarket in third party library binding services for those who *care* about their books.

This middle-way between hardcover and paperback books could easily become more than a niche market, and, if retail prices reflect the lower cost of production (and economies of scale), it *could* breath new life into the printed book medium.

Markets react dynamically. If "everyone knows" that "you can only sell literary fiction as hardcover or paperback" -- and then tries to steer the industry toward paperback -- *someone* is bound (har har) to forge a new path down the middle. When that happens, I expect there'll be enough pent-up demand for high (physical) quality books, at less-than-hardback prices, to support that new market.

Where do ebooks fit into this? They will be taking a sharp stick in the eye, so long as the industry persists in making them *less* attractive than *real* books.

When ebooks are widely available at prices that reflect the drastically lowered production costs -- and, are *not* removed from the "first sale doctrine" that traditional (real) books enjoy -- and, finally, when readers are $25 commodity items (which will be inevitable, and probably sooner than anyone expects), THEN we can begin to take ebooks seriously.

If things *do* go down that road, it won't be *bad* for authors, who will receive equal or greater royalties than they do under current practices.



You know, I used to think that it would be interesting to write a one page article for Newsweek ("My Turn") comparing Arthur C. Clarke's old story "I Remember Babylon" to our modern world. Except the folks who read Newsweek wouldn't get it. And I would never be able to get it published. No big deal.

This is not the future I signed up for, no. No real space program, bizarre politics, and a suicide wish in Western culture. Truly Heinlein's "Crazy Years."

But at least it is *a* future, and I wasn't sure about that while the Soviets were around.


 Mark O. Martin, Ph.D.

Not the future I predicted with my CoDominium stories, either. BuScience isn't in your laboratory suppressing research...


Subject: New Solar Cycle has started 

"Solar physicists have been waiting for the appearance of a reversed-polarity sunspot to signal the start of the next solar cycle. The signal for the start of a new cycle is sighting a particular kind of sunspot. That wait is over."

"Solar Cycle 24 has been the subject of much speculation due to competing forecasts on whether it will be an highly active or a quiet low cycle. If it is a low cycle, it may very well be a test of validity for some CO2 based AGW theories. Only time will tell."


Tim Boettcher


Subject: George Will's Iron Law 


George Will's Iron Law (which I think is a deducible corollary of Pournelle's Iron Law):

I thought you might find George Will's Iron Law, and the paragraph leading up to it, an interesting take-away of his criticism of Mr. Edwards and Rev. Huckabee:


<snip>The way to achieve Edwards' and Huckabee's populist goal of reducing the role of "special interests," meaning money, in government is to reduce the role of government in distributing money. But populists want to sharply increase that role by expanding the regulatory state's reach and enlarging its agenda of determining the distribution of wealth. Populists, who are slow learners, cannot comprehend this iron law: Concentrate power in Washington and you increase the power of interests whose representatives are concentrated there.<snip>



Subject: Heat Engine

Dr. Pournelle,


Popular mechanics is touting this as a new solar power source but it's really just a very efficient heat engine which could be utilized with some big mirrors. A sterling engine on steroids if you will. However, it could give you all the benefits of a sterling engine in space, with few/none of the downfalls: a heat engine with a differential of hundreds of degrees, but with no moving parts. The only real issue I see with it would be potential hydrogen leaking (it uses hydrogen as its operating fluid). It should be interesting to see if anything eventually comes of this or if it gets pushed by the wayside.


Ryan Brown

Looks interesting. I think a Sterling engine has a piston but is external combustion? And thus has moving parts.

Direct conversion by solar cells is now sufficiently efficient that I'd try that for solar power satellites, but I haven't done the math in a decade.

The problem with space solar power isn't generating the electricity or transmitting it to Earth; those are solved problems (although improvements would be welcome); the problem is lifting the stuff to orbit and developing space suits that riggers can use to get the work of on orbit assembly done.


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This week:


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Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Subject: The civilian/military divide


Some worthwhile commentary on one of the effects of an all volunteer army: http://news.yahoo.com/s/csm/20080108/cm_csm/ygudmundsson_1 

"During this presidential campaign, voters will hear much about the divergent economic realities between "the rich" and "the middle class." Yet there is another partition in America that is less visible, but no less troubling. The great divide between the civilian and military communities leaves the nation and its electorate ill-equipped to make informed judgments about military and international affairs."

CP, Connecticut



Talk about talk about duty, honor, and unit cohesion. Wow!


Charles Adams, Bellevue, NE


"William Rigby and his identical twin brother John were in 4 Rifles. On their 23rd birthday, John was up in the hatch of a Bulldog when a bomb detonated and a piece of shrapnel struck his head, mortally wounding him. William was by John's side when he passed, and accompanied his brother home. The Regiment gave William the choice to stay home or return to Basra. When he elected to return to see the mission through, William's personal strength added fiber to the Battle Group. I'd heard soldiers-including senior officers-mention his name with admiration."




071 <http://adamant.typepad.com/photos/uncategorized/2008/01/02/071.jpg>  Images <http://adamant.typepad.com/photos/uncategorized/2008/01/02/images.jpg>  Much gets lost in cultural translation along the border separating Canada from the wild hill tribes of New England . Our "most immediate interest " in Pakistan, says Mark Steyn, a NeoPundit reporting from his outpost in New Hampshire is whose who in Waziristan

He has _no_ idea how little things have changed there


-- Russell Seitz


Subject: Huckatax article


The chart in the article is most alarming. The fact that the middle class in this country does not pay for most of the country's expenditures is obscene. To me, it means the middle class is no longer the middle class, but the upper lower class. This has to change.



Fair Tax...

You said "The "Fair Tax" would change that by abolishing the income and payroll taxes (i.e. income tax and FICA) and putting all revenue on a sales tax of -- they say 23%, but you and I would call it 30%."

Unless some provision was made to address the situation of folks who had post-tax savings (including Roth IRAs), they would be hit twice -- once when they paid income and payroll taxes on money they then saved and again when they paid taxes to spend that money. Pre-tax retirement savings (conventional IRAs, 401k, 403b, etc.) would also be double taxed but not as badly, since they were only taxed for payroll taxes going in.

If at any time the bathwater of our present federal tax monstrosity is thrown out in toto, there will be a lot of people injured who had made investment decisions in good faith based on the laws and regulations existing when the decisions were made. The rich and well connected will not face the same difficulties from such action as will the working class (or middle class if you prefer).

Warren Buffet has "complained" that his secretary pays federal taxes at a higher average rate than he does. As far as I know, the US Treasury is still accepting donations if he wishes to raise his average. He has apparently shielded the bulk of his future estate from death/inheritance taxes by pledging to give it to the Bill & Milinda Gates Foundation. So he obviously isn't very concerned about his unfairly low tax burden...

The income tax code is riddled with special exemptions for the well connected. I recall studying one in my graduate school days that never mentioned a business by name, but was structured so that it could apply to only one transaction. Does anyone really think the same would not happen with a totally new tax code? Congressional staff members will continue to insert clauses in bills between the conference committee meetings and the final floor votes and our elected representatives will continue to approve bills they could not possibly have read.

Charles Brumbelow


Subject: Fair tax

To Jerry Pournelle, first let me say that I support your proposal of a general tariff, though it ought to be differentiated according with how workers and environment are protected compared to the US. The European Union should institute a similar tariff on all imports. Do you have any calculations on how much extra revenue a 10% general tariff would generate, compared to the present tariff system?

King's calculations of a sales tax up to 40% is unworkable. First I very much doubt his calculations (the 25% VAT in Denmark brings in a LOT of revenue to the state), second a so high sales tax would cause tax rebellion everywhere, with lots of energy expended in circumventing the tax. I think pretty much everybody in Denmark agrees that the present 25% VAT is the highest possible level.

Another question: How do the US sales tax differ from the european VAT? Can businesses deduct the sales tax in the US? If not, is sales tax then added at every step in the supply chain?


Bo Andersen Denmark


On spending.

'Clearly the message is that society doesn't want you to increase your income, improve your property, or save money. Instead, we want you to spend it all lest we fine you for keeping it.'

This is a direct legacy of the New Deal policy of penalizing businesses and individuals from investing in infrastructure or equity of any sort in favor of stimulating consumer spending in the belief that price inflation was necessary for economic recovery. The real issue was currency deflation brought on by moving away from the gold standard coupled with a refusal to focus on management of the money supply, but since addressing these issues didn't lend itself well as a justification for class warfare, FDR and his advisors refused to even think about the issue, and persecuted those who did, such as Andrew Mellon.

As much as the Democrat Party has an economic philosophy (the GOP are no better in this regard), this is their animating philosophy, at core. While it was at least somewhat understandable mistake in the context of the heavy agricultural economy of the 1930s, it makes even less sense today in our post-industrialized society, especially given the monumental changes we've seen in the definitions and scarcity of and even definition of 'goods'.

--- Roland Dobbins


: Naval Error in the Gulf

...and this follows the craven way the mighty British Royal Navy responded when their people were taken prisoner by Iranians a couple months ago.

Colonel Bill Haynes

Begin forwarded message:


Here's a guy who has obviously given this thing some thought. I think his analysis is right on!


New York Post

January 8, 2008

Iran 1, USA 0

Naval Error In The Gulf

By Ralph Peters

EARLY Sunday morning, the US Navy lost its nerve and guaranteed that American sailors will die at Iranian hands in the future.

As three of our warships passed through the Straits of Hormuz, five small Iranian patrol craft rushed them. As the Revolutionary Guard boats neared our vessels, an Iranian officer broadcast a threat to our ships, claiming they'd soon explode.

The Iranians tossed boxes into the water. Mines? Just in case, our ships took evasive action.

The Iranians kept on coming, closing to a distance of 200 meters - about two football fields. Supposedly, our Navy was ready to open fire but didn't shoot because the Iranians turned away at the moment the order was given.

We should've sunk every one of them.

Not because we're warmongers. But because the Iranians had made threats, verbal and physical, that amounted to acts of war. When will we learn that resolute action taken early saves vast amounts of blood and treasure later?

Oh, from Washington's perspective we did the right thing by "exercising restraint." But Washington's perspective doesn't amount to a gum wrapper in a gutter. What matters is what the Iranians think.

They now believe that the Bush administration, our military and the entire United States are afraid of them.

It goes back to the politicized and irresponsible recent National Intelligence Estimate that insisted the Iranians had abandoned their nuclear-weapons program years ago.

They didn't. They're pursuing enriched uranium as fast as they can. That's what you need for bombs. At most, Tehran ordered its weaponeering efforts to parade rest - until it has the ingredients it needs, after which building bombs won't take long at all.

Forget Washington's trust-fund-twit view of all this: Here's how the train of thought rolled down the tracks in Tehran:

"The Americans have told the world we don't want nuclear weapons, even though they know we do want them. That can only mean that America is afraid to confront us, that their weak, defeated president needs an excuse to back down.

"We can push these cowardly Americans now. They've had enough in Iraq. Their spirits are broken. Their next president will run away like a gazelle pursued by a lion.

"Even their military is frightened of us. On Sunday, America's might bowed down to us. They are frightened and godless, and the time has come to push them."

Sunday's incident wasn't a one-off event improvised by the local yokels after a long Saturday night at the hookah bar. It was blessed and carefully planned in Tehran and had practical as well as political goals.

At the tactical level, the Revolutionary Guards' naval arm was testing our

responses: How soon do the American weapons radars activate? At what range do the lasers begin to track targets? How close can a small vessel get to a major American warship? How do the Americans respond to possible mines? Can we use phony mines to steer them into real ones? How long does it take an American commander to make a decision?

Above all: Does an American commander have the courage to make a decision on his own? When he doesn't have time to deflect responsibility onto his superiors?

And it wasn't just some madrassa dropout with salt spray on his glasses scribbling notes on the lead Iranian boat. On shore, the Iranians would've had all their intelligence facilities tuned in to map our electronic profile as our ships prepared to defend themselves. Rent-a-Russian military experts would've been onhand to assist with the newest gear purchased from Moscow.

The Iranians may even have had an escalation plan, in case we opened fire.

President Ahmedinejad and his posse may seem contemptible to Washington, but the Iranians think several moves ahead of us: We play checkers, they play chess.

On Sunday, the Iranians tested us. We failed. They'll probe us again. And every time we fail to react decisively, we raise the number of future US casualties.

Remember the USS Cole? You bet the Iranians do. They plan to better that attack by an order of magnitude.

For almost 70 years, we've deployed the finest navy in the history of the world. But it looks increasingly as if we've gone from "Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!" to "Will this interfere with my next promotion?"

Ralph Peters' latest book is "Wars of Blood and Faith."

Classification: UNCLASSIFIED

Caveats: NONE


Subject: Online Professors Become International Celebrities

I like the idea of videos of our best professors lectures being available to everyone. I hope someone is trying to preserve these videos so they can inspire new generations of students.



Why isn't the new edition of _Oath of Fealty_ available via the Amazon Kindle Store?

--- Roland

The Baen electronic book copy is easily read on the Kindle...


Subject: Another copyright flap

Dear Jerry:

I sent you a link to the Appeals Court decision on the Electronic Database Copyright Settlement, which may cheer you up. They trashed the whole thing on jurisdictional grounds, which took the lawyers on both sides greatly aback, since it was an issue no one had raised. Seems that the courts are going to go with Black Letter Law on Copyright wherever the issues are raised. Here they said that the Federal District Court could not consider the unregistered copyrights in question because (egad!) they were never registered and if they aren't registered then their owners have no standing in a Federal Court. Nor any other. Not for copyright infringement and related torts.

Oliver Wendall Holmes once remarked that if someone will not defend their rights, he cannot expect the courts to do it for him. The 99 percent of claims that were never registered cannot be recognized until they are. But then you can sue. Based on my own experience I recommend doing that as an individual rather than accept the crumbs from the table left after the lawyers have feasted on their fees in a Class Action. I pleaded with other writers several years ago to get their works registered, but it fell on deaf ears. I even put on a Copyright Registration Clinic at LASFS. Which the National Writers Union declined to support or endorse.

The upshot of all of this is that everything is back at the start line, still being infringed all over the world. Except for me. I'm the nasty bastard who actually sued and won. Black Letter Law can also be your friend.

Crying all the way to the bank,

Sincerely Yours,

Francis Hamit


Good morning, Jerry

Did you know about and intend to have links to the Electronic Frontier Foundation on your home page? Two insignificant hyphens above "Current View" button on the left side of the home page are links to that site. I discovered them quite by accident but they're really there.

Best regards Mike

Thanks. At one time I had a link to support EFF when it was acting responsibly; but their bullying letter to SFWA changed that. Incidentally, I have a letter from a scridb official who says that letter was sent at the instigation of Cory Doctorow, not of scridb, although the letter says it is on the behalf of scribd. This is a very odd thing to do: threatening an author association in the name of a client who has not asked them to do that because an employee asked them to do it.

I will say that scribd seems to be working at acting responsibly, and the entire dustup seems to have been beneficial to all concerned.

I have fixed that phantom link.


Subject: astronomy picture of the day 



Paul Walker


Information Warfare: The Chinese Three-Headed Monster


Some interesting info on a cyber-superpower:




going home

Hello Dr. Pournelle:

Well, it only took ten years, though for the government, this could be considered to be fast work on any issue that does not involve raising taxes, or pandering to voting blocs. Arizona is making it difficult, if not impossible to run a business, using illegals (yes, we are still allowed to call them that). The law has not even gone into effect yet, and already it is working. According to the article: "People are calling me telling me about their friend, their cousin, their neighbors — they're moving back to Mexico," said Magdalena Schwartz, an immigrant-rights activist and pastor at a Mesa church. "They don't want to live in fear, in terror."

What makes this interesting is the weighted language, the language of activism, used here. People are living in fear and terror, because of this? Right. The new law is about fining, and eventually closing down, businesses that use illegals to the detriment of American citizens. There are no provisions for police state tactics. The houses of illegals will not be broken into, nor will these people be carted off to jail, beaten, killed, or even given the third degree. At the very worst, they will lose their jobs - jobs they are not legally entitled to hold anyway, and they will find it difficult to find new ones. The article gives an example of the fear and terror generated by this decision to enforce the law, as felt by an illegal planning on returning to Mexico. He says: "I don't want to live here because of the new law and the oppressive environment," he said. "I'll be better in my country."

So we have fear, terror, and oppression here. It doesn't sound like the kind of place where I would want to live. We should indeed all go back to our own countries. If the millions of illegals out there will return to theirs, perhaps we Americans can return to ours.


Neal Pritchett


Caught on tape: Death star galaxy 

One wonders if perhaps some civilization in the larger galazy came up with the Ultimate Weapon?

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20071217/ap_on_sc/death_star <http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20071217/ap_on_sc/death_star

"If Earth were in the way — and it's not — the high-energy particles and radiation of the jet would in a matter of months strip away the planet's protective ozone layer and compress the protective magnetosphere, said Evans. That would then allow the sun and the jet itself to bombard the planet with high-energy particles."

File under "It's A Hard Rain Gonna Fall"





CURRENT VIEW    Wednesday


This week:


read book now


Thursday, January 10, 2008

Have you seen Dr Bussard's work on inertial electric fusion? If not read these links, the future is about to change to non-carbon based fuel sooner than most think. An incredible skunk works story! RIP Dr Bussard, what a legacy!

Video http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=1996321846673788606  Paper http://www.askmar.com/ConferenceNotes/Should%20Google%20Go%20Nuclear.pdf 

Thank you,

Bob Petersen

Bob Bussard was an old friend, and I much admired him as well as appreciated the friendship. I miss him.

I don't know enough about his fusion studies; my last venture into learning about inertial confinement was years ago at Sandia, then a series of interviews with the fusion research people at Los Alamos. I didn't come away encouraged that they could make neutrons; it looked as if there were brute force ways to get better than even on energy balance, but I haven't followed the research since.

I'd appreciate some words from someone who has been closer to Doc Bussard's latest work; we hadn't seen each other for a couple of years. Brilliant man, and I hope it works, but I don't know enough to have a good opinion.


Subject: The Army and Marines and Military Government


I thought this would be of interest to you.



Dear Dr. Pournelle:

In your MAIL section, you printed my recent e-mail to you about these current "Crazy Years." You wrote, in reply:

"Not the future I predicted with my CoDominium stories, either. BuScience isn't in your laboratory suppressing research..."

I can see you haven't written grant proposals to the NSF or NIH recently.

No snark intended. But government (and private) granting agencies certainly do reward some scientific approaches and discourage others.

What kind of luck does a climate scientist who investigates NON-anthropogenic global warming have of being funded? Oh, sure, the normal riposte is to ask when phlogiston research (a better example, "N rays") will be funded. But it isn't the same thing. Funding agency preferences do drive research.

I don't have a better solution, other than Heinlein's Seredipity, Inc from "TIME FOR THE STARS."

How did Heinlein get to be so bloody smart?

Best wishes,

Mark Martin


Cory Doctorow & Copyrights

Jerry (and I suppose Larry),

It's more than a bit refreshing to hear someone else express the same opinion regarding Cory Doctorow's stance on copyrights even if was a good natured exchange. It seems he's willfully ignorant of the difference between a professional writer and a writer with a day job.

I do agree ridding ourselves of onerous and vendor tying DRM would be better for all but I think accountability is absolutely necessary. I would be in favour of digital signing so that 'pirate zero' is culpable and traceable (If you can discourage the first non-fair-use( backups, moving the story to another device the purchaser owns should definitely be allowed) copy you shouldn't have to worry too much about the rest once a few of them have been dealt with (fine = retail price * number of copies ).

Kelly Brown


Subject: Ex-CIA Agent Philip Agee Dead in Cuba

He died of a post operative infection in the Socialist Workers paradise.


HAVANA — Renegade former CIA agent Philip Agee, whose naming of agency operatives helped prompt a U.S. law against exposing government spies, has died in Cuba, his wife said Wednesday. He was 72. Agee quit the CIA in 1969 after 12 years working mostly in Latin America at a time when leftist movements were gaining prominence and sympathizers. His 1975 book "Inside the Company: CIA Diary," cited alleged misdeeds against leftists in the region and included a 22-page list of purported agency operatives. The list created an uproar around the world and helped prompt Congress to pass a law against naming clandestine U.S. agents abroad. It also led the State Department to strip Agee of his U.S. passport. Vince Cannistraro, a former CIA counterterrorism chief, said Agee's book "was considered a very serious blow to CIA's clandestine operations." "It had a major impact, some people had to be pulled out," he said. Former CIA colleagues and some U.S. officials called Agee a traitor and alleged he was linked to Cuban and Soviet intelligence agencies. Agee denied the allegations and said he thought of himself as part of the American tradition of dissent and as "a critic of hypocrisy, a critic of crime in high places." His wife, Giselle Roberge Agee, said Agee was hospitalized in Havana on Dec. 16 and underwent surgery for perforated ulcers. He died Monday because of a related infection and his remains were cremated. He is survived by her and two grown sons from a previous marriage. Agee said she and her husband lived in Hamburg, Germany, but kept an apartment in Havana's Vedado district and frequently traveled to Cuba as part of Agee's business, a Web site specializing in bringing Americans to the island despite Washington's decades-old embargo. "He was a friend of the Cuban revolution," she said. Granma, Cuba's Communist Party newspaper, published a small story Wednesday, describing Agee as "a loyal friend of Cuba and fervent defender of the peoples' fight for a better world." Brian Latell, a former top Cuba analyst at the CIA, said he never met Agee, but "of course I know him by his reputation, by his betrayal of his former colleagues and of the CIA and of his country." Soviet and Cuban defectors alleged Agee had received money or aid from communist intelligence services, and critics noted he spent several months in Cuba after retiring from the CIA. In denying Agee a new passport in 1987, Secretary of State George Shultz cited CIA reports that said he was a paid adviser to Cuban intelligence, had trained Nicaraguan security officials and had instructed security officials in Grenada before a U.S. invasion toppled a communist government there. Agee attorney Melvin Wulf called those charges "a tissue of lies." Agee was never prosecuted in the United States. Cannistraro said that was because officials feared a trial would expose Soviet defectors living in America under new identities. In 1989, Vice President George H.W. Bush _ a former CIA director _ said he had "nothing but disdain" for Agee: "Those who go around publicizing the names of CIA people abroad are despicable." Agee sued Bush's wife, Barbara, over an allegation in her autobiography that Agee had exposed the CIA's Greece station chief, Richard S. Welch, who was later killed by leftist terrorists. She settled the issue by dropping the reference to Agee, who had not mentioned Welch in his book. Instead, she blamed a magazine Agee worked for that also named alleged CIA agents. Agee's defenders said that Welch's identity was already known. While Agee's actions inspired the law against exposing covert U.S. operatives, he drew a distinction between what he did and the naming of CIA officer Valerie Plame, the wife of former Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV, who had raised questions about the basis of President Bush's Iraq policy. "This is entirely different than what I was doing in the 1970s," Agee said at the time. "This is purely dirty politics in my opinion." Agee said that he disclosed the identities of his former colleagues to "weaken the instrument for carrying out the policy of supporting military dictatorships" in Greece, Chile, Argentina, Uruguay and Brazil. Those regimes "were supported by the CIA and the human cost was immense: torture, executions, death squads," he said. After years of living in Spain and Germany _ occasionally underground, fearing CIA retribution _ Agee began spending more time in Havana, where he opened the travel site with European and Cuban government investors in 2000. It offers package tours and other help getting to an island that is largely off-limits to Americans because of the embargo. One of Agee's last essays was published in Granma International newspaper in 2003 shortly after the Cuban government arrested 75 leading dissidents and political activists. "To think that the dissidents were creating an independent, free civil society is absurd," he wrote, "for they were funded and controlled by a hostile foreign power and to that degree, which was total, they were not free or independent in the least."

Of the dead speak no ill. But I do not mourn him.



Isn't astrophysics wonderful- the worst thing that can happen to the solar system just keeps getting better and better.

At this weeks meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Austin Texas, Kelly Holley-Bockelmann of Vanderbilt University reported that, If intermediate-mass black holes do exist, they will be prone to merger

That could trigger the sort of gravity wave cusps that could spit them out of the clusters, and send them tearing through space at several per cent of the speed of light.


Russell Seitz


Subject: Phonics Study -

You've probably seen this already:

<http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/ 0,25197,23030580-601,00.html

I especially love the sentence:

"But eminent Australian literacy researcher Allan Luke, from the Queensland University of Technology, questions the validity of using evidence-based research in assessing teaching methods."

Or, "Don't bother me with evidence, I've already made up my mind!"



-- Stephen Fleming


Subject: Who Pays For U.S. Expenditures?

A reader wrote: "The fact that the middle class in this country does not pay for most of the country's expenditures is obscene." Don't be too misled by that chart. Non-discretionary is two or three times as big as discretionary spending and includes Social Security, Medicaid, Medicare, etc., etc. Discretionary spending is about half military, half DoJ/Education/Agriculture/etc. The "rich" end up financing almost all of the discretionary spending, but not so much of the non-discretionary spending because it's not paid for with income taxes.

I have a poster that hangs on my office wall:
For total spending, look in the lower-right corner. Click to enlarge.


-- "The presentation or 'gift' of the Holy Ghost simply confers upon a man the right to receive at any time, when he is worthy of it and desires it, the power and light of truth of the Holy Ghost, although he may often be left to his own spirit and judgment." --Joseph F. Smith (manual, p. 69)

Be pretty if you are, Be witty if you can, But be cheerful if it kills you.


read book now



CURRENT VIEW    Thursday


This week:


read book now


Friday,  January 11, 2008

"He was beaten to death for doing something which is becoming more and more common and which was a way to expose law-enforcement officers who keep on overstepping their limits."


-- Roland Dobbins

The end of history?


Heading for 3rd-world status 



California Seeks Thermostat Control

Next year in California, state regulators are likely to have the emergency power to control individual thermostats, sending temperatures up or down through a radio-controlled device that will be required in new or substantially modified houses and buildings to manage electricity shortages.

The proposed rules are contained in a document circulated by the California Energy Commission, which for more than three decades has set state energy efficiency standards for home appliances, like water heaters, air conditioners and refrigerators. The changes would allow utilities to adjust customers’ preset temperatures when the price of electricity is soaring. Customers could override the utilities’ suggested temperatures. But in emergencies, the utilities could override customers’ wishes.


There was a time when we sold electricity to Canada and Mexico. I guess those days are long dead and won't be back any time soon. Why are they trying to control our thermostats when they should be providing incentives to build more power plants? Could it be something as simple as the knowledge that shortages allow for more government control? There was a time when government trusted its citizens. Jerry, please tell me again how the U.S. won the Cold War in order to save us from an over-powerful and controlling government?

Braxton S. Cook


Subject: Russian forces in Korean War 

Doctor P,

This is fascinating, and perhaps of particular interest to yourself:


"First, by way of introduction, I would like to talk a little about Soviet involvement during the Korean War. During the war, it was well known that Soviets served as ground force advisor's to North Korean and Communist Chinese units and flew fighter sorties under the guise of being volunteers with the North Korean and Communist Chinese Air Forces.

The first unit to engage the United Nations was the 151st Fighter Aviation Division in early November 1950. Shortly afterwards, the Soviets activated the 64th Fighter Aviation Corps to engage the United Nations in Korea. During the next two and a half years, a total of 12 Fighter Aviation Divisions comprised of 34 Fighter Aviation Regiments, two independent Fighter Aviation Regiments, four Anti-aircraft Artillery Divisions comprised of ten Anti-aircraft Artillery Regiments, two Aviation technical Divisions, two Anti-aircraft Artillery Searchlight regiments, and a host of support units rotated through the 64th Fighter Aviation Corps.

General Georgij Lobov, one of the three war-time commanders of the 64th, wrote in an article that the total number of Soviets involved in the Korean War over its duration was approximately 70,000 with peak strength of 26,000. The Soviets flew roughly 74% of all communist combat sorties during the Korean War."

That's right, SEVENTY-FOUR percent. No wonder MacArthur wanted to bomb those airfields!



more sad but true bureaucratism in the UK

For Chaos Manor

Dr. Pournelle –

At first, I thought it was a prank, but it’s true. From: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/scotland/6234290.stm <http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/scotland/6234290.stm>  : Kilt wearers could face prosecution if they do not have a license for their sporran under new legislation which has been introduced in Scotland.

Is it funny or sad when legislation such as this comes from real life, and not from a Monty Python skit?

Henry Wyckoff


Subject: Inertial confinement fusion


Speaking of fusion, today I got to go on a tour of the National Ignition Facility at Livermore. That is one BIG laser system; the building is the size of 3 football fields, the whole thing cost $3.5B, and amazingly the whole scheme started with one tiny fiber laser that is amplified, and amplified, etc.

They seem confident that they will get "scientific break even", which means they'll get the target to fuse and produce more energy than is put on the target by the laser. That is NOT energy break even, because the the laser system is very inefficient, so they are perhaps at 1% of or less of the energy gain needed for energy break even. However, as the director talked, he noted several trivial improvements that can get them to 10% (use 70% efficient diodes as optical pumps instead of 10% flash lamps, etc). Getting to within a factor of 10 of energy break even is a big step.

I came away impressed. They have a very good engineering approach to building this thing, with a lot of attention to extreme reliability, and they answered honestly some fairly pointed questions. This is still a long way from anything like a powerplant, but it was encouraging to see this.


That's sort of where we were a decade ago. I am not sure why fusion research doesn't seem to be going anywhere. What I do know is that fission works, and we know how to build good and safe reactors.

For the wag who sent me the query "Do you still support nuclear power after Chernobyl and Three Mile Island?" the answer is yes. Chernobyl wasn't a power reactor and employs a positive void design that is illegal in the United States: Teller himself had it written into public law that no such reactor can be licensed here. TMI was an unplanned (and unwanted) experiment in safety. It was a very costly experiment, but it showed clearly t that in a worst case accident no one off site would be injured. No one off site was injured.


Britain backs new nuclear power plants 

Something New:

The British government on Thursday approved construction of the first new nuclear power plants in a generation, saying atomic energy could help fight climate change and secure the country's energy supplies in an increasingly unstable world.|

And Something Old: " "Britain joins a growing list of countries rethinking the long-unpopular nuclear option, driven by global warming, geopolitical uncertainty and rising fuel prices. Environmentalists, however, condemned the move as an expensive and dangerous folly that would divert resources from the search for genuinely clean forms of energy."


Plus ca change, plus ca meme chose!



Most of your regular readers are crazy

"We can all agree that the modern world is in a confrontation with fundamentalist Islam."

Which is mainly taking the form of low-level guerrilla war against our unprovoked invasion of Iraq. A friend put it exactly: as a strategic struggle, the War on terror wouldn't even make a pimple on the butt of the Cold War.

These people are crazy, Jerry. I keeping hearing about threats that don't exist or that are exaggerated by factors of thousands. And, by the way, those numbers I mentioned early are correct: piracy is insignificant. So much so that the shippers can hardly be made to give a shit about it. And as for the idea that we have to worry a lot about Chinese piracy - am I to think that their government is going to let someone piss in the gravy? I think not.

You know, I'm gravitating to the notion that nearly everyone is crazy. It has explanatory power. Now I just have to figure out how to make money out of it. Should be a snap.

Gregory Cochran

Everyone in the world is mad except for thee and me, and sometimes thou art a bit queer...

I for one do not find the riots in France and the home invasions in England to be insignificant. I understand the point that most of it is their fault; but what of that? The fact is that until one recognizes an enemy is an enemy, you will not prevail.

I do not think the destruction of western values is really a move toward world civilization or US security. I do not think the slow spiral of Europe into the muck would be a good thing for the United States.

Now true: one should order one's priorities. The physical invasion of the US by millions of illegal aliens is probably the main threat to the continuity of American civilization. That does not mean that the confrontation between Western Civilization and the Muslim world is trivial. It is a cultural war, mostly, and yes, it would be easy to get out of with victory; but the fact that we do not is a data point you seem to ignore.

We live in the world we live in. Western values are corroding and vanishing. As Chesterton noted, when a man ceased to believe in God he doesn't turn to nothing; he will believe in almost anything, and usually does. The same is true regarding rejection of one's civilization. Liberalism has rejected the defense of Western values, largely by accusing the West of hypocrisy if it dares defend itself.

Perhaps, Scaramouch, you will become wealthy having been born with the gift of laughter and a sense that the world is mad; but I wouldn't bet on it. The next step is to assume that since all your fellow citizens are mad, they are fair game, and it is ethical to victimize them. This is known as perverting one's gifts -- in your case a very superior intellect. Fortunately you haven't got there yet.

I've already said what I would do as Emperor: Secure the borders, stop intervening in territorial disputes of European and Asian nations, find an honorable way out of our overseas wars that doesn't leave us as dishonorable wretches whose friendship inevitably leads to death, and do what it takes to secure energy independence, preferably in a way that makes oil cheap worldwide so that sitting on pools of it doesn't confer great wealth.

I doubt that's much different from what you'd do. The difference is that I see we're not doing that no matter that my advice is good and the nation and world would be better off it it were implemented; but I don't merely step back and say, well, they're all mad, so it's not my business any longer.



Dear Jerry:

The filter on hardbounds for reviewers existed when I was doing all those reviews for the Los Angeles Daily News. (1) We got thousands of books and I personally got hundreds, but no publisher ever sent a trade paperback because that was normally a secondary edition, not a first. It has to be a new book to even be considered for a review because if it's not new, it's not "news" either.

The recent advent of Print on Demand has changed that a little bit, but old habits die hard and every reviewer gets an order of magnitude more of review copies than there is time and space to review. The big dogs have the advantage here; big name author, big publisher....hard to resist because reviewers are only human and want to read the latest best seller too. (2) all the Print on Demand publishers (meaning those with actual plants) provide economical hardbound options and you can roll out multiple editions at different prices for different markets. Especially if you don't figure to make the cut from brick and mortar bookstores. Those houses that provide only trade paperbacks are for folks that don't figure to get many reviews anyway. (3) there are all sorts of instances where the above is wrong.

Finally, the regular paid book review is rapidly disappearing and this has been a subject of much discussion and not a little hand wringing in the journalistic community. Authors are required these days to be their own publicists, which is hard to do and takes you away from the core mission of writing more books. Added to that is the growing number of people who don't read and are proud of it.


Francis Hamit


Subject: E-book reviews

Dear Jerry:

A follow up on review copies which you can add to that last I sent.

The only way to get e-books reviewed is to provide a paper copy that is bound. I did this with "The Shenandoah Spy" and have gotten a few reviews. The logic is unassailable here; if you are a reviewer, which book are you going to review? The one that requires you to download it and squint at a computer screen for hours on end, or has to be printed out, or the one that is printed and bound like any other book? E-book products, in my experience, have not sold well because they require extra effort on the part of consumers that few are willing to make just to satisfy an impulse. Zipf's Principle of Least Effort says that people will buy something they are looking for at the first place they find it. That need has to be measured against the costs of acquisition and the more trouble that is, the more likely the customer is to move on and look elsewhere.


Francis Hamit

Thanks. I will add that to your epublishing page in Reports.





Track star Marion Jones sentenced to 6 months

Olympic track star Marion Jones was sentenced in a federal court Friday to six months in prison, two years of probation and community service for lying to federal prosecutors investigating the use of performance-enhancing substances.


Yet another wonderful example of why a person should never answer questions from any official. The prosecutor and judge did what any bureaucrat would do, they milked it for all it was worth and sent this "horrible" person to prison. I used to be proud of our justice system and this country. What a crock of horse-hooey.

Braxton S. Cook

Let me emphasize again: never talk to any bureaucrat on or off the record without paying not only a lot of attention to what you are saying, but in the context that this is an enemy who is seeking to advance his career by jailing you. Alas, that applies to the FBI Agent investigating a real crime: cooperation with them can lead to disaster. I wish that were not true.

There was a time when the police always assumed you were inaccurate, and the only time the perjury laws applied was when you were warned that you testified under penalty of perjury. You are not under penalty of perjury in a casual conversation with your friendly neighborhood government employee of any stripe.

Martha Stewart was jailed for denying that she did something that wasn't a crime had she done it. I could add many examples.

The judge in the Marion Jones case says he has imposed the maximum to "send a message." Think about the implications of being used as a horrible example to send a message.




A drug used for arthritis can reverse the symptoms of Alzheimer's "in minutes".

It appears to tackle one of the main features of the disease - inflammation in the brain.

The drug, called Enbrel, is injected into the spine where it blocks a chemical responsible for damaging the brain and other organs.

A pilot study carried out by U.S. researchers found one patient had his symptoms reversed "in minutes".

Other patients have shown some improvements in symptoms such as forgetfulness and confusion after weekly injections over six months.

-- Roland Dobbins


Asteroid to miss Mars; Gates donates to search for Near Earth Objects

NEO News (01/11/08) Mars safe & funds for LSST


PASADENA, Calif. (AP) - The possibility of a collision between Mars and an approaching asteroid has been effectively ruled out, according to scientists watching the space rock as it nears the Red Planet.

Tracking measurements of asteroid 2007 WD5 from four observatories have so greatly reduced uncertainties about its Jan. 30 close approach to Mars that the odds of an impact have dropped to 1 in 10,000, the Near-Earth Object Program at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory said in a posting on its Web site Thursday. Scientists said the best estimate was for the asteroid to pass at a distance of more than 16,000 miles from the surface of Mars, or at worst, no closer than 2,480 miles.

The asteroid was discovered in November. Initial observations of its orbit raised the odds of an impact to as high as 1 in 25 before further refinements came in. The asteroid is big enough to have blasted a half-mile-wide crater in the cold and dusty Martian surface, an event that astronomers would have liked to observe.

The NEO program normally looks for asteroids and comets that could pose a hazard to Earth.



Billionaire Bill Gates and former Microsoft colleague Charles Simonyi donate $30 million for telescope that can provide early warning of asteroid collision with Earth.

In the daytime the view from Cerro Pachon, a rocky, desolate peak high above Chile, offers a breathtaking vista of the Andes. Mountains of rock topped with snow and glaciers seem to touch the heavens. Come nightfall, the Andes disappear into gloom and then the real show begins. As if someone had flicked a switch, the gleam of millions of planets and stars studs the inky blackness overhead. The sky seems too immense to absorb, even for giant telescopes. They focus on one tiny portion at a time, pinpricks in the cosmos, because traditionally astronomers like to dwell on detail.

Not any more. Cerro Pachon is to host the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST), a near $400 million (£203 million) project that will survey the entire sky several times a week - something never done before. Every 15 seconds it will take an image seven times the diameter of the moon, adding up, every three days, to a full panorama of the heavens. Boasting 3,200 megapixels, it will be the world's biggest digital camera.

"Most telescopes look at a tiny part of the sky, to look deep and in detail. We want to look broadly, to cover everything," Victor Krabbendam, the deputy project manager, said Friday.

This week the telescope took a step closer to reality after donations from two geeky philanthropic billionaires who are entranced by the technology and its possibilities.

Bill Gates gave $10 million from his private fortune and a former Microsoft colleague, Charles Simonyi, gave $20 million through his Fund for Arts and Sciences. Gates, one of the world's richest men, said the telescope would turn astronomy into a software issue by writing code and database queries to mine the night sky and recover its secrets.

"LSST is truly an internet telescope which will put terabytes of data each night into the hands of anyone that wants to explore it. [It is] a shared resource for all humanity - the ultimate network peripheral device to explore the universe," he said.

The donations will keep on track the construction of three large mirrors and three refractive lenses which are the most important and expensive part of the machine.

The first stages of production for the two largest mirrors are under way at the Mirror Laboratory at the University of Arizona. Launched in 2000, the project is a partnership based in Tucson, Arizona, and split among 23 universities, laboratories and private entities. Once the mirrors are ready they will be hauled up the 2,690-meter peak and installed in a dome due for construction in 2011. "First light", as astronomers call their scoping, should begin four years later.

The camera is expected to take more than 200,000 pictures. Processing that information is expected to be the most technically difficult part of the project.

The camera's 15 second exposure should be long enough to record images of even very faint objects such as asteroids and so-called near-Earth objects. By monitoring them night after night, it should be possible to infer their orbit around the sun and hence how likely they are to slam into Earth.

That is how the project's director sold the LSST to congressmen in November. "The ability to detect virtually every potentially hazardous near-Earth object and determine its orbit with precision transforms that statistical threat into a deterministic prediction," said Anthony Tyson, at the University of California, Davis.

It will also be useful for basic science. Its time-lapse images can be used to create 3D maps of the mass distribution in the universe. That should not only help to trace billions of galaxies, but also tell cosmologists more about the mysterious and recently discovered "dark energy" that is driving the expansion of the universe.

Every night the telescope will pull in 30 terabytes of image data (about 190 times more than a top of the range iPod) which will be made available free on the internet. "People can find out what's going on everywhere in the sky, and no one has ever done that before - not even come close," said Donald Sweeney, the project manager. "There are lots of things that happen every night in the sky, and no one has been able to track them and detect them."

Cerro Pachon, located in northern Chile near the city of Vicuña, is a foothill of the Andes but high enough to escape haze and light pollution. It was chosen over a site in Mexico because it hosts two other large telescopes known as Gemini South and SOAR, delivering a ready-made astronomy infrastructure.

"It's very beautiful up there, very rocky and quiet. You can see glaciers in the distance," said Krabbendam.

This week's donations would keep the project on schedule by enabling the early fabrication of large optics and other long-lead components of the telescope system, said Sweeney.

When working together at Microsoft, Gates and Simonyi became fascinated with stretching software and the internet's possibilities. Simonyi, estimated to be worth $1 billion, is also obsessed by space. Last year be became the fifth space tourist and the second Hungarian in space.

"There is a similarity between the telescope and these two guys," said Suzanne Jacoby, a project spokesperson. "It's very innovative and the technology is very cool. It appeals to technologically minded people."

-- +++++++++

NEO News (now in its fifteenth year of distribution) is an informal compilation of news and opinion dealing with Near Earth Objects (NEOs) and their impacts. These opinions are the responsibility of the individual authors and do not represent the positions of NASA, Ames Research Center, the International Astronomical Union, or any other organization. To subscribe (or unsubscribe) contact dmorrison@arc.nasa.gov. For additional information, please see the website http://impact.arc.nasa.gov. If anyone wishes to copy or redistribute original material from these notes, fully or in part, please include this disclaimer.


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This week:


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Saturday, January 12, 2008

Subject: Are Jerry Pournelle and I related?

Read "The Fifth Miracle," by Paul Davies before you answer. If his thesis is right, we are all much more closely related than most people think. Very important book.

We have known for a long time that the universe is expanding. Expanding into what? What is outside the universe?

Approximately next May CERN will activate the most powerful particle accelerator the human race has ever built. If the Higgs particle is found, it will make headlines around the world.

Yours truly,


Statistically we are all descended from Genghis Kahn.

My last engineering associate at North American Space Division was named Norm Epstein. Good man. Alas, he married and was killed in a car accident on his honeymoon. He had been a very promising young man; North American used to assign some of their up and coming young engineers to my team for the experience. It was part of my job.


Subject: Tariff & Global Warming

Dr. Pournelle,

As an advocate of tariff as a means of "leveling the playing field" for American manufacturers who must bear the costs of OSHA, ADA, EPA, etc., you may find the following of interest:

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/12/16/business/16view.html <http://www.nytimes.com/2007/12/16/business/16view.html

The gist is, if we're going to impose regulatory costs on American producers in the name of fighting global warming, we ought to also tax imports from countries - e.g., China, India - that fail to impose such costs. I.e., a tariff - although she doesn't come out and say it.

Matthew Ing

I am unabashedly in favor of a 10% tariff across the board so that some US manufacturing jobs will stay here to provide work for the general population. Why not?


Dr Pournelle,

In Friday's View you said that Fred Thompson seemed to be the only candidate who was talking like a conservative. Is Ron Paul not talking like one? I know you have misgivings about Dr Paul, but I would be very curious to hear your view on exactly what it is about Fred Thompson that sounds more conservative than Congressman Paul.


Matt Kirchner

I have great regard for Dr. Paul's views on states rights and strict construction, and I agree with him about general foreign policy: avoid entangling alliances and stop getting involved with overseas territorial disputes, from Kossovo to Kuwait.

Having said that, I can't support him because of his stand on Iraq. We had no business invading Iraq, but now that we are there, we have acquired obligations. The Legions have acquired obligations. We do not want or need half a million Iraqi refugees to be settled in the United States; yet we cannot simply abandon all those who have helped us to be slaughtered as collaborators. We did that in Viet Nam. We did that in the First Gulf War in which Bush I encouraged uprisings in the south, then abandoned the rebels, resulting in the utter destruction not only of the Marsh Arabs but of the Marshes themselves.

There is such a thing as national honor. Dr. Paul seems to believe that once the nation and the Legions have given their pledged word, it is of no consequence if a later Commander in Chief abandons it on the grounds that the pledge should not have been made. No, it should not have been made; but it was made, and I for one do not want to see another slaughter of those whose crime was believing that America's word was worth something.

Dr. Paul has said unequivocally that he would simply cut and run in Iraq. I cannot accept that. If we have to do something of the sort, then we can conquer a territory within Iraq and resettle our allies in it; and defend its borders. We have nearly done that with the Kurds.



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CURRENT VIEW     Saturday

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Sunday, January 13, 2008      

I believe you're misinformed regarding Rep. Paul's position on Iraq, sir.


-- Roland Dobbins

I see that he wants to get the Congress involved. That seems reasonable. Perhaps that's the best way. But it was the Democrat controlled Congress that abandoned Viet Nam to a foreign invasion after we had guaranteed its protection, and left all those who had aided us to be slaughtered or sent to the camps.

The war was wrongly conceived and badly executed. We had no business going into Iraq.

The argument is that because it was a mistake, we can simply say, well, that president was wrong and we quit. Have a nice day.

I suppose that's the expeditious thing to do. But what do we then do with our allies in Iraq? Abandon them? Bring them here?










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