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Monday  February 25, 2008

Today was eaten by locusts.




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Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Harry Erwin's Letter from England

The UK Government continues experimenting with Stalinist management approaches...

Traveller details to be taken and stored:


> <http://tinyurl.com/ytlk5r>

A database containing the details of every child in the UK:


> <http://tinyurl.com/2mm9vh>

On the other hand, they're backing off a proposal for a national DNA




> <http://tinyurl.com/2x58tr>


> <http://tinyurl.com/2tl9mk

Police call for abolition of 24-hour licensing (drinking hours) due to the major surge in alcohol-related crime after it was introduced:

> <http://tinyurl.com/2e5x6c


> <http://tinyurl.com/3xm4ll>

(This won't happen as the new licensing rules were introduced by Labour as a sop to their younger supporters.)

Parliament investigates Catholic influence in Catholic schools:


> <http://tinyurl.com/2bt7qs>


Harry Erwin, PhD

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


Subject: How the muse muses

Dear Jerry:

I am, as are many of your correspondents, a long-time Byte reader. I am sorry to hear of your illness. I hope that you are able to recover to health as soon as possible.

I visit your site on occasion to read your writings and catch up on how things are with you.

I write to ask you how the current design of the site came to be. I find it to be very difficult to read, with the odd-colored background, the variety of font sizes, and the haphazard placement of headings, subheadings and paragraphs.

A sparing use of CSS could be just the change needed to bring the look of the site into a reader-friendly harmony. I wonder if you can keep this comment in mind when you consider making some design changes on the site.

Best regards, Carole

Most of my mail indicates that changing this site design is a very low priority item among the users, and very much so among the subscribers.

The variety of type sizes probably ought to be changed, but with most browsers changing type size as you read is trivial, and I don't mind assuming that most of my readers are reasonably computer literate, at least as far as operating them goes. I find the parchment easier to read; I detest some sites with tricky background colors, and I find that a white screen puts out too much light; I like the background.

As to placement of heading, subheadings, and paragraphs, I like to think I have a system in mind, even if I can't always explain it. Thanks.


Subject: Academic accomplishments?

Dear Jerry,

I thought of your comments on our crumbling culture when I read this.

Betty Strohm 

Liberal arts?

==== Second Acts ==== == by Marilyn Penn== http://politicalmavens.com/index.php/2008/02/23/second-acts-2/

 It was F. Scott Fitzgerald who wrongly proclaimed that there are no second acts in American lives. Quite to the contrary, it seems to be what Americans are best at. This coming Sunday, one of the nominees for an Oscar for best original song is Jamal Joseph, a former Black Panther who served time in several prisons for being implicated in many different crimes including robbery, murder and harboring a fugitive. Most recently, Mr. Jamal has been employed as Chairman of the Film Division at Columbia's School of the Arts. Mr. Jamal earned two degrees while he was imprisoned and lest you think, as I did initially, that this is an unusual story, you should know that there are many ex-cons and former terrorists who find a second life in the welcoming groves of academe.

I note that the old SDS hacks have good academic tenure. See:



Subject: The Milky Way 

Dr. Pournelle,

I find it abhorrent that there are so-called "scientists" that want to drastically revise the estimated size of the Milky Way galaxy. There is scientific consensus on the size of the galaxy. These galactic size deniers are obviously in the pocket of Big Astronomy.

Steve Chu


Math tests


According to this gent, this test was given to third graders. "The test is a putrid example of how bad these standardized tests are. As near as I can tell, it's a combination of testers being proud of how well they can trick third graders, and utter ignorance of basic mathematical principles. Without further ado, I present the most obnoxious questions…"

And reading the example, I would agree. I'm glad I've moved out of the states.



My Yahoo!

Dear Jerry:

I'm doing my morning routine and this pops up and refuses to go away.


My initial reaction is "I don't have time for this! Go away! I'm working here." But of course I will have to look at it because Yahoo refuses to let me do anything else. Their idea of customer service is to impose their vision of what I need rather than the page which I have carefully designed and am happy with and which already meets my needs. This is a common fault of people at the these large online companies with too much time on their hands. They will "improve" themselves to the point where most of their customers look elsewhere. Really stupid.

End of rant.


Francis Hamit


Global warming orthodoxy


Sanity in the Senate?



I heard an interesting guy on the radio today who is on Senator James Inhofe’s staff in the US Senate (Republican from Oklahoma, the ranking minority member of the Senate committee on the Environment and Public Works). Attached is a copy of a guide they have compiled for debunking global warming alarmism. I haven’t read this in detail yet but it was stated to be based upon peer reviewed scientific work with all the sources documented and all I can say is its about time to see someone stand up and start doing this in the US. You can find other work they have published here:


Global warming may or may not be happening, who can really tell given all the hype on both sides, but this focuses on the key point to me: Whatever is happening it is not something to panic about. I find it ironic that the Bush administration is regularly chastised for being fear mongers about terrorism (something that some 3,100 US citizens found all too real a threat just a few years ago) and are stymied at every opportunity by the opposition, yet the global warming alarmists expect their case to be taken as gospel and acted upon without rebuttal even though their own projections say that none of the actions they promote as a solution will have a meaningful effect even 90 years from now. That is just a weird sense of priorities to me.

My view is show me the data and let me decide and this is part of my humble attempt to follow that instinct.


Are we slowly coming to our senses? I doubt it.


Subject: Revolving Door


"Here's the translation, broken down, in plain English.

• The TSA has a work force of 43,000.

• TSA blogger Christopher [White] says TSA has had a total of "more than 110,000 employees" in its six-year history.

• That means more than 67,000 individuals who entered into employment contracts with TSA have left the agency over this period of six years."

Very disturbing, if true. An organization losing more than 40% of its workforce each year is in lots of trouble.




The Few, The Green, The Proud

And , not coincidentally, the solitary nasty brutish and short:


Russell Seitz


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Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Subject: How not to measure temperature -


I don't know if you've seen this or not, but I think this guy is performing a very important service, by demonstrating "hardware propaganda" in action.

He's documenting the *bogus* placement of official temperature monitoring stations, which seem to be strategically located to "prove" an increase in global temperature (or perhaps more correctly termed "tamper-ature," given the apparent agenda).

Here are two examples:



BTW this is the same guy who's got the chilling (in both terms of the word) page on the sunspot situation, which reveals (for the first time that I've seen) that the sun more or less "shut down" in October '05:


PS: As I type this, the hourly news spot on the radio just announced that it's the coldest winter, most snow cover, since something like 1976, and, "there's no salt left in Michigan" (which is sort of a shocker, given that Detroit sits over a *huge* salt mine).

In my part of the state (the "West Coast") the winter has been beyond brutal, with no sign of letting up. Starting to get worried about garden season; I'm thinking the ("standard") "Last Killing Frost" date may be meaningless this year, which makes gardening (and farming!) a real gamble...

I think I'm gonna go heavy in peas, "coles," and potatoes, and real light on tomatoes, peppers, and summer squash.


But wait. There's more.


Forget global warming: Welcome to the new Ice Age 


 The last time the sun was this inactive, Earth suffered the Little Ice Age that lasted about five centuries and ended in 1850.


 Snow cover over North America and much of Siberia, Mongolia and China is greater than at any time since 1966.


And remember the Arctic Sea ice? The ice we were told so hysterically last fall had melted to its "lowest levels on record? Never mind that those records only date back as far as 1972 and that there is anthropological and geological evidence of much greater melts in the past.

The ice is back.

Gilles Langis, a senior forecaster with the Canadian Ice Service in Ottawa, says the Arctic winter has been so severe the ice has not only recovered, it is actually 10 to 20 cm thicker in many places than at this time last year.


Last month, Oleg Sorokhtin, a fellow of the Russian Academy of Natural Sciences, shrugged off manmade climate change as "a drop in the bucket." Showing that solar activity has entered an inactive phase, Prof. Sorokhtin advised people to "stock up on fur coats."

He is not alone. Kenneth Tapping of our own National Research Council, who oversees a giant radio telescope focused on the sun, is convinced we are in for a long period of severely cold weather if sunspot activity does not pick up soon.

The last time the sun was this inactive, Earth suffered the Little Ice Age that lasted about five centuries and ended in 1850. Crops failed through killer frosts and drought. Famine, plague and war were widespread. Harbours froze, so did rivers, and trade ceased.



Throw another log on the fire ... 


I'm glad the rad treatments aren't keeping you from your walks. I wish I had your dedication to some physical activity. Maybe if I had Larry Niven to walk with ...

I'm sure many will send you a link to this article: "Temperature Monitors Report Widescale Global Cooling"

+Report+Widescale+Global+Cooling/article10866.htm) .

The subheadline is "Twelve-month long drop in world temperatures wipes out a century of warming", and it reports a 0.65 to 0.75 degree C drop in global temperature (whatever that means) over the last year.

It includes lines like "For all sources, it's the single fastest temperature change ever recorded, either up or down" and "Scientists quoted in a past DailyTech article link the cooling to reduced solar activity which they claim is a much larger driver of climate change than man-made greenhouse gases."

The concluding paragraphs sound like they are right out of Fallen Angels:

"Let's hope those factors stop fast. Cold is more damaging than heat. The mean temperature of the planet is about 54 degrees. Humans -- and most of the crops and animals we depend on -- prefer a temperature closer to 70.

Historically, the warm periods such as the Medieval Climate Optimum were beneficial for civilization. Corresponding cooling events such as the Little Ice Age, though, were uniformly bad news."

Maybe burning food will be necessary ...

Regards, Richard Clark

Most of my morning walks are with Roberta, who bullies me, thank God. She has help from Sable. If you own a Husky, you WILL take daily walks. Between them my best girls keep me going. Niven comes over a couple of times a week, and yes, that is a good way to reward yourself for getting some exercise. Of course Sable goes mad when she sees Larry, because she knows that we'll go up the hill, not just walk out on the flats.

I only wish Mike Flynn lived near here. And yes, I think we got some of it right in Fallen Angels.


How not to measure temperature, part 52


This stuff is downright spooky. They're about one notch shy of erecting the temperature monitoring stations on top of bunsen burners.

This stuff would be hilarious if it wasn't so serious.

They move the monitoring stations into the most artificially hot locations imaginable -- and lo and behold, the charts spike UP as soon as the readings come in - and *then*, they "adjust" their seeekrit algorithms -- to make the bogus readings even *more* dramatic!

Then, they burn the heretics at the stake...




Maybe it's that they were doing so well in the debate, but recently have run very badly afoul of the fact-checkers. Therefore fact-checkers must be demeaned and fact-checking itself must be prevented. The very term gatekeeper in regards to scientific process is an infuriating concept. A concept that is not only profoundly unscientific, but outright insulting. And an affront to liberalism itself.

They (not all, but most) are saying that those who question are not nice. I am getting mightily tired of smiling back at them and telling them we are nice. One of the things that stuck a blow that sent me reeling was an answer to why pseudonyms are used: it is because the brownshirt denialists will harass and physically threaten them and their families if they reveal their identities. As if they were some sort of brave partisans in Nazi-occupied Denmark during WWII. What face! What presumption!

I have been sticking to the very basic point that the historical climate data has problems and needs to be checked. The response is not, fine, check, you will find you are in error. It is that no checking need be done, no checking should be done, and that any checking that is done is and will be a lie and is to be discouraged on all levels. With an implicit (or not so implicit), who do you think you are, anyway?


But this is getting worse than the game I was a part of back in the 70s and 80s when arguing against the panics regarding population and resource depletion. In those days there were those who applied labels to the other side, but not even the extremists were talking Population or Resource Nuremberg or seriously encouraging the jailing of their opponents.


While I still do not think it will come to that, it is finally beginning to dawn on me that there is an honest-to-God intellectual war going on here, not a sometimes-impolite discussion among professional peers and interested amateurs. One in which careers may be ended and lives ruined.


Careers have been ended and lives ruined. Greg Benford and I are working on an article that touches on modern academic integrity.


GM exec stands by calling global warming a "crock"

Fri Feb 22, 2008 3:08pm EST

DETROIT (Reuters) - General Motors Corp Vice Chairman Bob Lutz has defended remarks he made dismissing global warming as a "total crock of s---," saying his views had no bearing on GM's commitment to build environmentally friendly vehicles.

Lutz, GM's outspoken product development chief, has been under fire from Internet bloggers since last month when he was quoted as making the remark to reporters in Texas.

In a posting on his GM blog on Thursday, Lutz said those "spewing virtual vitriol" at him for minimizing the threat of climate change were "missing the big picture."

"What they should be doing in earnest is forming opinions, not about me but about GM and what this company is doing that is ... hugely beneficial to the causes they so enthusiastically claim to support," he said in a posting titled, "Talk About a Crock."

GM, the largest U.S. automaker by sales and market share, has been trying to change its image after taking years of heat for relying too much on sales of large sport-utility vehicles like the Hummer and not moving faster on fuel-saving hybrid technology.

"My thoughts on what has or hasn't been the cause of climate change have nothing to do with the decisions I make to advance the cause of General Motors," he wrote.

Lutz said GM was continuing development of the battery-powered, plug-in Chevy Volt and other alternatives to traditional internal combustion engines.

GM is racing against Toyota Motor Corp to be first to market a plug-in hybrid car that can be recharged at a standard electric outlet.

Lutz has previously said GM made a mistake by allowing Toyota to seize "the mantle of green respectability and technology leadership" with its market-leading Prius hybrid.

A 40-year auto industry veteran who joined GM earlier in the decade with a mandate to shake up its vehicle line-up, Lutz is no stranger to controversy.

As part of a campaign against higher fuel economy standards, Lutz wrote in a 2006 blog posting that forcing automakers to sell smaller cars would be "like trying to address the obesity problem in this country by forcing clothing manufacturers to sell smaller, tighter sizes."

Automakers ended their opposition to higher fuel standards in 2007 when it became clear that proposed changes would become law with or without their support.

In December, President George W. Bush signed a law mandating a 40 percent increase in fleetwide fuel economy by 2020, the first substantial change in three decades.


'Snow cover over North America and much of Siberia, Mongolia and China is greater than at any time since 1966.'


-- Roland Dobbins

And relevant:

Half of world to live in cities by end '08.


--- Roland Dobbins

He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.

Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what I've tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To say that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.

Robert Frost


TSA turnover

Dear Jerry:

The comment about the turnover at TSA can be easily explained. These guys and girls are basically security guards and that is one of the most boring jobs in the world. Take it from one who used to do it. When I was a Captain, running 200 or so guards at 24 large corporate accounts in the Chicago suburbs I got my full and complete share of post time. I had five Lieutenants and a co-Captain, but when we ran out of guards it was just me. So I got ninety hour weeks that year. I got hurt on that job and moved over to sales, and was pretty effective because I knew what I was talking about from first hand experience. I had to be able to work any post but the nuclear power plant (I had no NRC clearance and my involvement came because it was in my territory; it ran self-contained as a separate enterprise.) Selling guard service is a low base salary and a small commission, except the dollars on that last can be huge because the billings are huge. Two percent of hundreds of thousands of dollars the first year adds up.

The airport security at the time was detailed to the airlines themselves and their attitude was to comply at the lowest cost possible. Also not to have anyone who would actually do anything and upset the passengers. Publishing is not the only business to be compromised by the marketing department. A few minimum wage outfits like Argenbright soon captured the business nationwide and the regular companies that had things like hiring standards and mandatory training and field supervision were shut out. They paid minimum wage, did no training and hoped for the best. In Security, like everywhere else, you get what you pay for and what this paid for was the events on 9/11. The terrorists slipped through what passed for security at the airports. No one noticed or cared about who was getting on those planes. By comparison, 16 security officers died at the WTC, standing their ground with the cops and the firemen. Six high level security directors making six figure salaries also died, trying to get their people out. One of them was Rick Rescorla, of Morgan Stanley, who had, over the objections of WTC management, held periodic evacuation drills for their employees, making them use the stairs. He was one of just four people out of 800 of their employees who died there. (Further details can be found in "The Heart of a Soldier" by James Stewart.)

By comparison with what was there before, TSA is a hundred times better and more effective because it does provide a career path, but a lot of people come into the business for a short time as an economic refuge. I had Ph.Ds who couldn't get any other job working for me, and that's not rare. Turnover in the Security Guard business in Chicago when I was there was about 300% a year. For most at the lowest levels it is a job, not a career. TSA at least provides a career path for those that want one. And they train people, which the private contractors did not.

I dislike all of the new rules as much as you do, but I comply because the job is tough enough. Those periodic news stories where someone slips something by the screeners are easy meat; entirely predictable. Try this; stare at your television for a hour straight and tell me how many times you break eye contact. Then try it for four hours or eight hours with a ten minute break every two. That's what the screener have to do. You'll find it not so easy to do.

TSA turnover is not going to go down. It's not that great a job and most people can't do it well anyway. It only looks easy.


Francis Hamit


And in a less serious vein:

Alternate Explanation for Revolving Door...

Possibly instead of rapid turnover at TSA, maybe only 43,000 of the 110,000 are actually working....

Charles Brumbelow


Revolving Door

"Very disturbing, if true. An organization losing more than 40% of its workforce each year is in lots of trouble."

Depends on the organization.

I worked for a fast-food stand at the mall my senior year of high-school - the first six months I was there we had 80% turn-over. The organization was fine as long as the manager knew her job and could school new-hires.

Organizations can adapt to that turn-over - but the high cost to train replacements does disturb me. What is so damned expensive about teaching screeners to look for bad stuff?

I suspect most of the turn-over involves jobs that are seemingly as simple as serving good tasting food to people. Which is to say that the job itself is simple but the task is not.

Working security is mind-numbing - I did my share of that in the Marines and even Marine Corps NCOs are hard pressed to keep junior enlisted from having their fun when they think no one is looking (and even when they might be). We worked hard, we played hard and on occasion got the two mixed up.

So .. low paying, mind-numbing but complex work. I'm surprised the turnover rate is not higher.

-- Brian Dunbar
System Administrator Liftport -
The Space Elevator Company


Universal Health Care

Jerry, you wrote, "It should be obvious that if you give away a valuable good for free, the demand will be infinite. There is no end to the amount of "health care" that can be absorbed at a price point of zero. In my case, I would have loved to have consultations at UCSF and UCLA was well as Kaiser, and there is a commercial firm that offered me a discount to have a look at my records; but I can't afford all that. I am quite happy with Kaiser, I do have free consultation with some of my readers who are physicians, and things seem to be going well. My point, though, is that there's not much limit to how much health care I can absorb at need."

Anyone who understands supply and demand has to agree with that statement. Price inversely affects demand so dividing by a price of zero gives you infinite demand. I submit, however, that there are more factors at play that will control demand. If price is not a consideration then inconvenience will be what controls demand. It is inconvenient to have to wait 2 weeks to get an appointment to see a doctor for a sore throat so patients will only go to see the doctor when the sore throat becomes something that is far worse. An increase in the number of scarlet fever cases will therefore result.

Poor service will also make a visit to the doctor more inconvenient. I currently have an HMO because I hate forms. I am happy to see the doctors on their list so long as I don't have to deal with the miles of Blue Cross of Virginia red tape my parents had to go through when I was a child. That red tape will come back with a vengeance under Universal Health Care and I still will only be able to see doctors on the approved list. The staff will also become overworked, underpaid, and highly obnoxious. Just thing DMV.

Wasted time is also an inconvenience. Under my present HMO, I sit in my doctor's waiting room at most an hour. It's a good thing too because that office has four doctors and the waiting room is small. Under UHC, the number of doctors will have to decrease or the size of the waiting room increase in order to seat the influx of people, though the above listed factors may diminish the demand somewhat.

So, no cost UHC will allow more people to see a doctor - good thing, IMHO. No cost will drive up demand for health care - bad thing, IMHO. Increased demand will also allow for increased inconvenience - bad thing, IMHO.

Instead of creating a bureaucratic nightmare of a health system, why not teach children better while encouraging them to become doctors and nurses? Part of the increased education can be in how to better take care of themselves and how to use over the counter medications properly so they know how to prevent diseases and they won't have to see a doctor every time they get a cough. Increased reading skills will allow them to read power tool instruction manuals better so injuries will be prevented. Just sending Roberta 1% of the money proposed for UHC for one year so she could supply each child with her program would do a lot more than all of the money spent on UHC combined. She would also be one VERY wealthy woman and you might then be able to afford becoming Emperor.

An increase in the number of children becoming doctors will drive the price down. If insurance companies have 100 doctors in an area they have to pay a lot more to get 20 of them to work for them than if the number in the area became 500 and they still only need 20. That supply and demand thing again.

Tort reform to drive down the number of silly lawsuits would help lower the price of seeing a doctor also. How about requiring that the punitive damages not be a part of the settlement figure used by the lawyer in calculating how much they are owed? How about not paying punitive damages to the injured party but instead giving it to a charity that deals with a similar issue? For example, if a doctor is sued for a cancer-related issue punitive award money should go to a cancer-related charity.

In short, how about lowering, not eliminating, price to let more people have access to quality care instead of doing away with price while also doing away with quality?

Braxton S. Cook

If it were left to me, I would increase supply of non-physician practitioners. But then if it were left to me I would entirely revamp the public education system in this country to emphasize practical skills in addition to intellectualization. And that is a large enough topic that I don't intend to get into it here.

As to your legalities, the punitive damages are what cause the lawyers to take the case. Otherwise there would be none. And that's the problem. Punitive damages are FINES and CONFISCATIONS, but they are settled by civil, not criminal rules of evidence and jury action; and that can be a real problem. But that too is another topic of vast dimension.


The Universal Health Care Experiment in Canada

Dr Pournelle:

I can't speak for how the Universal Health Care system works in the rest of Canada, but I can tell you how things work in Alberta.

For the better part of the last seventy years or so, Alberta has been rigidly conservative, in one form or another, in its government. The reason behind this is simple: the vast majority of the voting power is in the hands of the farmers, who distrust the Liberals and absolutely despise the New Democrats.

The ruling conservatives decided some years ago that contrary to popular belief Universal Health Care is not free, nor should it be regarded as such. So they instituted a system in which every single Albertan over the age of 18 is required to pay health care premiums, in other words health insurance premiums paid directly to the government, in order to receive health care. If you don't have this coverage then you will still receive treatment, but your health care provider is going to make you pay for it up front.

All well and good, but the idea of Universal Health Care in Canada has been around for a long time, and the consequences of this are entirely predictable to anyone who understands both the Iron Law and simple reality: people have become so used to the idea of having this great boon that they take advantage of every chance they get. As a result, a lot of clinic and ER waiting rooms are clogged with people who go and see their doctors every time they get a minor sniffle. And with each passing year the lineups only get worse.

The system works reasonably well, as long as all you're after is basic care. However, physicians are so strapped for time that you're lucky if you can get ten minutes with your doctor before he's trying to scurry out for the next patient. Assembly line medicine at its best, that's our Alberta.

The system breaks down somewhat if you require a major procedure. Doctors have to jump through so many hoops just to get the damn thing scheduled because the system requires that they prove, beyond any shadow of a doubt, that you actually need it that by the time you have a date set you find that it's between six months and a year in the future. So, first you have to wait and endure an endless battery of tests, some of which are absolutely useless but have to be included anyway, because your doctor is required to present evidence just like a lawyer at a trial, and then you have to wait some more because there's either so much demand for your procedure that the providers are overwhelmed, or there's relatively little demand but also relatively few providers who are also overwhelmed.

I remember when I was growing up my parents were able to actually sit down and have a conversation with our family doctor when we went to see him. We were friends, and treated as such. That stopped being the case a lot of years ago. Last time I went to see my GP, about four years ago, I spent an hour in the waiting room for five minutes of his time. No pleasantries, just down to business.

Universal Health Care is a wonderful idea, in principle. But it ain't free and your mileage will vary.

Best of luck with your health issues and I look forward to reading your next novel.

-- Michael J A Tyzuk, CDOSB
 Tarnished Knight
 Scotsman With Nae Trews

And see below


Subject: The Famous Picture 

JEP wrote on 02/25/08: "I believe I recall seeing Herbert Hoover in an Sioux feather head dress..."

The one I remember was Calvin Coolidge (Hoover was a good guess!). Here he is, and doesn't he look splendid? Quite a headdress.


Someone in 1960 handed John F. Kennedy an Indian war bonnet, but he had the sense to hold it at arms' length for the photo op.

The staffer who first suggested, "Try it on, Senator!" is likely not in the running for a first floor, corner office, even if things work out in the campaign.

It is getting interesting out there.



Subject: re: The Universal Health Care Experiment in Canada 

This is a different view point to Mr. Tyzuk's on health care in Alberta.

I've lived in Alberta all my life and I've yet to meet a Canadian impoverished by medical expenses. As an independent consultant I've traveled in the US a great deal and I've met a number of high income (easily six figures) people who have suffered an accident or some debilitating disease that their coverage didn't pay for and are now spending large portions of their incomes to pay the medical bills.

As far as seeing my doctor goes, I sometimes have to wait up to 90 minutes before he appears. This is the price I am willing to pay for a doctor that will spend time with me and treat me like a family friend. I recently spent 45 minutes in the examining room with him. I understand that if I want a doctor who will spend time with me I have to be patient while he spends time with other people. Perhaps Mr. Tyzuk' needs to find another doctor.

While I was working in Maine a couple of years ago I had to go to the emergency room. The wait there was about two hours, approximately the same amount of time I'd have had to wait with a similar problem in Alberta.

As far as the waiting time for major procedures goes, Albertans can still avail themselves of the expensive medical services of the US and other countries, they haven't lost any access by being covered by Alberta Health Care.

Tim B


CURRENT VIEW    Wednesday


This week:


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Thursday, February 28, 2008

Warming debate

I have been using the term eco-fascist in debates on newspaper online comments. I can & do justify it in terms of the belief in "consensus" which was the heart of Mussolini's doctrine. It has not made me popular with some but others have started using the term too. I don't know how it is in the US but in the UK, while editorial is overwhelmingly on the alarmist side & letters chosen are strongly so, online comments, where they are not heavily moderated run heavily towards scepticism, even in middle class lefty papers like the Guardian.

I have to be in a really bad mood or writing about DDT to call them eco-Nazis.

Neil Craig

I selected this because I wanted to do a short note about the difference between Fascism and Nazi's, but I seem to be running low on energy. Look: either the words are meaningless noises conveying disapproval, similar to saying "Ugh!" or "Filthy! Disgusting!" or they are useful in actual discussion. Fascism is not the same as Nazi-ism. Fascism is an extreme development of the Progressive and Pragmatic movement, with roots in Jacobinism. Marx would consider it a heresy of his own social analysis. Fascism accepts the notion of class warfare, and would end the class struggle not by abolishing the classes, but by requiring them to work together within the State. "Everything for the State. Nothing outside the State. Nothing against the State."

Italian Fascism was not anti-Semitic and there were Jews in high places both in government and the Party until Mussolini, partly driven to isolation by Stalin's Popular Front Against Fascism, sought alliance with the Germans. At one point Mussolini threatened war with Hitler over the independence of Austria, but the Allies didn't like him, and eventually he found himself isolated.

Nazi-ism was a grab bag of techniques and postulates some mutually contradictory, and had more in common with the Communists than with the Fascists.

The modern "consensus" on man made global warming is in fact reminiscent of the Fascist approach to such matters.


Cal Poly to set up Saudi men-only program

Dear Jerry,

Just when you think public education can't get much worse, take a look at this scheme that the taxpayers of the state of California are being asked to fund.

Betty Strohm


Cal Poly to set up Saudi men-only program

SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif., Feb. 27 (UPI) -- California Polytechnic University, known for its efforts to nurture female engineers, plans an engineering program in Saudi Arabia that will be men only.

The proposal to develop a program at Jubail University College has angered some students and faculty, the Los Angeles Times reported.

The student newspaper, the Mustang Daily, said in an editorial that the plan would "jeopardize the honesty and integrity of our institution in the name of money." The mechanical engineering faculty voted 15-3 last fall to protest the move.

"No matter how you cut it, we're supporting the oppression of women," said Jim LoCascio, who has taught mechanical engineering at the school for almost 30 years.

Jubail has women students, although they must take classes separately from men. The engineering program would be open only to men.

The Saudi government has offered the university $5.9 million annually for five years to set up classrooms and curriculum, and train teachers for the program.


Mike Flynn on DNA

Subject: DNA as the Modern Pythia

"As to what to do after reducing uncertainty through DNA, that is very much worth discussion. I said elsewhere that I wish Mike Flynn lived near me. I'd like to talk this over with him."

Come on over an set a spell. It's not even three kilomiles.

Methinks Thompson overstates what the magical mystery DNA will ever tell us. Many a gene has been "found" for things like rage or other behaviors, only to be lost again when it becomes clear that the "gene" alone, absent the environment, is insufficient. A statistical association is not causative, period; although a causal relationship will likely produce a statistical association. Problem is, we don't live in a world of P -> Q, but a world where (P1+P2+...+Pn)->(Q1+Q2+...+Qm)

Now, will DNA tell us about sickle cell? Sure. But a blood test does so already. Will it tell us about Huntingdon's? Sure. But it won't tell us who will get pregnant or have a car accident; and heart attacks may have as much to do with what you eat as with your genes.

The world currently lacks sybils. In the interim, the DNA will gladly play the Pythia. Perhaps if Croesus' DNA had been tested it would have told him that if he attacked Persia a great empire would fall.

But I digress.


TSA & 9/11


Francis Hamit wrote:

"In Security, like everywhere else, you get what you pay for and what this paid for was the events on 9/11."

While I agree with all of his other comments, this is simply wrong and it perpetuates the buy-in to the current environment of security theater. On 9/11 itself there were two behaviors that we collectively exhibited that enabled the terrorists. First - and most important: 'give them what they want, do what they say!' That attitude - no, that policy - spelled doom. Second, access to the cockpit was still handled in a laissez-faire manner.

Box cutters were unnecessary and could have been substituted by many things that would still pass muster under TSA rules. They required control of the aircraft, which meant control of the people and control of the cockpit. Without those two critical behaviors that were institutionalized at the time, the terrorists could have killed a bunch of passengers (probably not all or even close to all) but they would have failed in their mission.

If those same two stupid behaviors were in evidence today, terrorists could do it again with only a very low chance of TSA stopping them. And this is no slap at TSA. The majority of the screening is simply meaningless (screening for bombs that could take down the plane is certainly meaningful). BTW, note that the presence of air marshals contravenes stupid behavior #1, it's not just the passengers and crew.



It is certainly the case that TSA is mostly security theatre and a jobs program. If what we want is to prevent hijacking, give every male passenger a framing hammer as he gets on board the airplane, and secure the hell out of the cockpit doors. Let's roll.


Why I am not too concerned about lighting


This is very sensible.


He notes the irony in trying to get people to use CFL bulbs just as we are at the beginning of practical solid state lighting. He also notes, correctly, that LEDs still have LOTS of headroom for improvement in efficiency and human pleasing color balance.

The lighting of the future is LED; CFL is a sideshow almost as useless as corn derived ethanol.


Certainly LED has much potential. But can't the market take care of this?


 Medical practice: what is the barrier to entry?

Your contributor Braxton S. Cook seems to think that the barrier to entry of kids into medical practice is motivation: not enough kids want to become docs.

But is it not rather the case that the medical schools are horrifically oversubscribed? Do we not have kids flying off to foreign medical schools, because they cannot get into American med schools?


Seems to me the need is not for more unsuccessful applicants to med schools, it's for more med schools.

That's if we keep the current set of limitations on what non-physicians are allowed to do. If we relaxed those limitations -- let nurse practitioners do more, for example -- I suspect we'd find the current number of physicians is perfectly adequate to provide excellent service at reasonable prices. Might need a few more nursing schools, though. Or maybe an apprenticeship system would be better?

The bad news is, I have no clue how we could get there from where we are, other than by God's miracle.

Rod Montgomery==monty@starfief.com


Subject: iPhone name


I admire your daily diary on your treatment. It is an encouragement to all.

As to your iPhone, I vote "Ernestine"--the telephone operator character of Lily Tomlin.


Keith Wright
Toronto, Canada



John Taylor Gatto's _Underground History of American Education_ is online


The technophiles among us might like to dip in here first:


>>A century ago mass production began to stifle the individualism which was the real American Dream. Big business, big government, and big labor couldn’t deal with individuals but only with people in bulk. Now computers seem to be shifting the balance of power from collective entities like corporations back to people. The cult of individual effort is found all over Silicon Valley, standing in sharp contrast to leadership practices based on high SAT scores, elite college degrees, and sponsorship by prominent patrons.<<

I have not yet finished reading UHoAE myself, and I don't agree with everything I've read in it so far. Nevertheless, Gatto's apply-two-by-four-to-cranium emphasis, on the difference between reforming *education* and merely reforming *schools* within the current pattern, seems to me to be worth pondering at length.

Rod Montgomery==monty@starfief.com


Subject: Hydrogen on demand

Has anyone noticed that the aluminum - water reaction is a low-temperature version of the thermite reaction? It works because aluminum is more reactive than hydrogen. To recycle the aluminum oxide, you electrolyze it in molten cryolite, using *much* more energy than you could get from burning the hydrogen. In fact, more energy than electrolyzing water directly. The aluminum-gallium-indium system looks like a good way to get hydrogen for specialized uses, because the alloy is easier to store than hydrogen, but I can't see it as a replacement for petroleum unless we come up with a *really* cheap primary energy source.


A little like burning food. Sometimes methanol makes sense. Sometimes not. But it's a costly distribution system. All the same with hydrogen I think. In addition, hydrogen is tricky, tricky, tricky. It really wants to escape.


Dear Jerry,

I'm you and other readers understood the key point of the announcement from Purdue University that the aluminum alloy is converted into aluminum oxide as the hydrogen is produced. Thus, the aluminum alloy is being used as an energy storage device, in other words, a metallic battery. Recycling the aluminum oxide into metallic aluminum requires the use of lots of electricity to reduce the aluminum oxide. Now, this may be a good way to store energy and refuel your hydrogen powered automobile but it is not a new source of energy. Electricity has be generated either the old fashioned way of burning fossil fuel or by an environmentally friendly method like nuclear power.

Bob from Sunny Tokyo

P.S. I heard Mr. Frum on a NPR podcast. I think that the adjective you use for that idiot is much too mild.

Or space solar power stations.


one more corn story

Anyone with access to a cornfield this coming Autumn might enjoy repeating my experiment.

I finally saw, a few years ago, on Rick Bayless's show, Mexico- One Plate at a Time, the actual method for making torillas. So I followed it. A friend and I went out to visit her mother, who still lived on the family farm. They rented their fields to others, and a corn crop had been harvested several days before. Giving my friend some time alone with her mother, I wandered into the field and acquired about five ears of dried yellow corn that had been knocked down and missed by the harvester. Hard as iron, they were, of course.

At home, I removed the kernals from the cobs by a twisting motion. They popped right off. Adding water and hydrated horticultural lime, I brought the kernals to a boil and then simmered them for an hour. I turned off the heat and soaked them overnight in this mixture, and the next day simmered them another hour. I wasn't sure how long it took to make hominy. I let the potful cool, and then poured it all through a strainer and rinsed the now-plumped hominy kernals several times. Using a food processor, which put quite a strain on the motor, I blended the corn into a perfectly textured dough. Through beginners luck, I had succeeded. It smelled sublime. Here, now, came my biggest error: I was, and remain, an abyssmally poor tortilla maker! I rolled out some awfully poor, raggedy specimens, and fried them in oil for some crunchy tacos. No good. And no way was I going to struggle through making the probably 200 tortillas that the dough promised. Surrendering, I covered the dough and put it in the refrigerator.

By the next day inspiration had struck. I fried some salted hamburger and onions and a little hint of salsa and chili powder and assembled a mess of hot tamales. This went much faster, did not take much skill, and used the dough quickly. Plus I could freeze the extra tamales. I steamed them in aluminum foil packets, and doused them with tamale sauce bought from a store. Delicious.

I used lard for verisimilitude and will never, ever do that again. I felt over the next few days that I could literally feel the stuff clogging my arteries. It is simply not necessary. A tiny bit of canola oil would suffice, and I suspect no oil whatever will do fine.

Later I learned food-grade lime is available for commercial cooking operations. I used about 1/3 cup for five ears of kernals. I took a little risk with the horticultural grade, I suspect. All the rinsing reassured me, however. Those without any chemistry should know that the product is not "limestone." It is calcium hydroxide with H2O affixed. One assumes that historically a lye prepared from hardwood ash was used. I envision also a primitive method where hardwood and native limestone chunks are made into a fire and after the fire is burned out, the lime and ash used as a single compound. Lye or calcium treated corn is known as Masa nixtamalera. This process allegedly makes niacin more available nutritionally. And of course for cultural accuracy, corn husks or banana leaves would be used for steaming tamales.

In addition, the laborious grinding of dried corn is circumvented.

As one who formerly studied anthropology and maintains an interest in the field, I thoroughly enjoyed my experiment, and the resulting dinner as well.

Russell Newsome



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Friday,  February 29, 2008

Happy Birthday Captain Marvel

Dr Pournelle

I send this for your amusement -->


Respectfully h lynn keith



Subject: incarceration rates

Dear Jerry,

I sincerely hope that your health continues to improve!

I am also delighted to hear that you are most likely going to write another Falkenberg or Lysander story.

I'll be heading over to Iraq soon and I hope that I'll at least have Inferno and Mamelukes to take with me to read when we aren't on patrol. I'm in a Stryker Brigade Combat Team.

Anyhow, what generated this note to you is a tidbit I heard on the news this morning about incarceration rates in the United States.


I couldn't help but think of the disconnect in progressive/liberal thought. I see remarkable similarities to fascism historically.

It just bothers me immensely that so many "conservatives" have bought compassionate conservatism hook line an sinker, and can no longer see the forest for the trees.

I'm going to have to give this considerably more thought, but that was my initial reaction to this story this morning and in seems to be a trend that has been occurring for quite some time.



Give me the sword of state and I will create a beautiful world.

Much of the incarceration is due to the war on drugs. We have lost that war. It was never winnable. The first step is to remove the Federal government: the Constitution does not empower the Feds to forbid possession of drugs from marijuana to the hard stuff. Interstate shipment, yes; simple possession or sales, no. Those are state matters, and should be left to the states.

But that is a topic for another discussion.

We imprison people to help society; but we also mind other people's business. Compassionate Big Government Conservatism is Progressivism and has origins similar to Fascism. See Woodrow Wilson's writings for more on how the Constitution is a dead letter and all power needs to go to government so we can build a Darwinian society.


I don't agree with you about the space between Fascism & Nazism. Il grant that had things gone differently Mussolini could have sat out the war, as indeed he did till France was clearly defeated & he thought the war was all but over in 1940 & as Franco did.

The point about DDT & Nazism is that we have killed something like 70 million people by banning it but since they are very largely African children nobody mentions it.

Neil Craig

I am sorry you don't agree, but that's your problem. If words and history have any meaning, you are merely expressing "feelings". That's fine but not very useful in intellectual discourse. Sorry to be so blunt. This problem of confusing one's beliefs with reality is the mark of this age, and you are not the only one afflicted with it.

Your statement about DDT is correct, but again irrelevant to the definitions here.


Subj: Obama - disciple of Robert ("Bowling Alone") Putnam?

A while back, View mentioned the recent work on Diversity of Robert Putnam:


and scroll or search down for "Putnam".

I just started reading Putnam's book, _Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community_.


In his Afterword, about how the book got written, Putnam mentions the "Saguaro Seminar", which led to this:


which indicates that Obama is a "former Saguaro participant".

The most recent emission from Putnam appears to be this, in Jan-Feb 2008 _The American Interest_:


This may be of interest to those wondering which Harvard professors will contribute the ideas that guide the Obama Administration.

I need to figure out and meditate on the similarities and differences between Putnam's "social capital" and Burke's "little platoons".

I also need to figure out how both relate to John Taylor Gatto's critique of massified, standardized, compulsory education


and to the concerns in _The Bell Curve_ about the development of a caste system based on IQ.

Rod Montgomery==monty@starfief.com


Dr. Pournelle,

I finally got off my duff and subscribed. I've been compensating you for many years by buying your excellent books, but since your website has become an indispensable daily read for me I figured it was time to pay you more directly.

I am particularly interested in your musings on the state of our collapsing Republic and those things liberty-loving citizens can do to shore her up.

Please know, too, that I pray daily for your health. Do not feel self conscious about including details on what you're going through in your posts. A great many of us care about how you're doing and it helps us be specific in our petitions.

On a lighter note:

Your new Apple iPhone will no doubt have a quirky personality of its own. Therefore I recommend the name:


...after Lily Tomlin's eccentric phone operator. If you were a real glutton for punishment, you could probably engineer the ring tone to play a sample of her voice saying "one ringie dingie, two ringie dingies..."

Yours in sincere admiration,

Mark Gagen

Thanks! And that segues neatly to:


Subject: iPhone Name

Maybe Iapetus after the Titan or 8th moon of Saturn?

But I suppose you’d have to spell it iApetus.


Everett Harper


Dear Dr. Pournelle,

I hope this finds you feeling better?

For the iPhone, how about 'Claudius' ? In honor of the TV mini-series?

Cheers, and Best Wishes for Your Speedy and Complete Recovery!

Doug Hayden


Persephone, what else?

Regards Keith


Given all that the iPhone does - mostly remembering things for you, from music to phone numbers to taking messages for you, even to helping you navigate, she's worthy of this name:

Mnemosyne, the Muse of Memory and Recollection.

For a Latinate form, Moneta.

She is even, being made of glass (sand) and wireless conectivity, the daughter of Gaia and Ouranos.

Warmest regards; may the zapping ensure that we get to read more books from you over the years.

Ken Burnside


Sid. Then you would have Your Show of Shows.





Best wishes for your health. And may I suggest Tinkerbell as a name for the iPhone.


I am still working on this...


Subject: further notes on the TSA

Dear Jerry:

The motto of the Security Industry should be "They also serve, who stand and wait", because that's pretty much the job. But the entire industry has the cultural posture of Rodney Dangerfield. It gets no respect. People want good security, but they don't want to pay for it and when they get it, rather than proclaiming the officers who stepped up as heroes they are castigated as bums. Look what happened to Richard Jewell.

Pre 9/11, the level of "screening" at US Airports was an industry joke. A bad one that we grimaced at, because any one of us could have figured half a dozen ways to evade those flimsy precautions. That we did not talk about with civilians because there seemed to be nothing we could do about it. Terrorism was the stuff of Hollywood fiction, not real life. Within the industry we knew somehow, somewhere, an event like 9/11 was coming and that was a scenario right out of a Tom Clancy novel. But we simply could not get anyone to listen. Based on what I heard at a couple of industry conferences, I put together a long article called"The Politics of Terror" in 1991 and sent it around to some of the largest circulation magazines in the nation. The responses were that it was interesting, but too long, too complex and too scary for a general audience. No sale. That's where I learned to get the assignment first and then write the article.

One of my day jobs 20 years ago was teaching 20 hours a week in a night school for security officers. This way one of those Federally funded private vocational school schemes that promised much and delivered little. In California, the test for a guard card is open book and takes about three hours. It's on Powers to Arrest. In Illinois, where I also taught, the course was 40 hours of instruction on report writing, fire science, people skills, and the criminal code. This California school was following state guidelines for vocational education and used a textbook. Some of what the state mandated wasn't really relevant, like the history of the industry. You don't need to know about Bobby Peale and the Pinkertons to be a guard. You can tell that academics were working hard to make it difficult and worthy of the fees charged, which were enormous. The school attracted students by promising careers, not jobs, with rates of pay up to $14.00 per hour. There actually such jobs, but they are rare. (One of the students asked me if there really were jobs paying $14.00 per hour. I replied, "I teach here at $12.00 per hour. What do you think?" )

The students we got were people who could not get jobs at fast food restaurants, many of whom had not completed the current excuse for high school, and who were attracted by the pitch that they would be paid to attend. Every student was given a hundred dollars a week, not realizing that this was simply a debt they were incurring and part of the ten thousand dollar student loan they signed to get into the course. Most were from minorities or otherwise culturally disadvantaged. The school was owned by a guy from Russia and administered by one of the strangest, most dedicated and brightest guys I have ever met, who had his own agenda. I never did figure out what it was.

The course included baton, tear gas, and firearms training, all essential, but the academic part was a work in progress. I wrote a four hour block on terrorism And I delivered it a couple of times, to be met with boredom. "You guys are the first line of defense" I said, "Not the cops or the fire department." And that is the difference between the two; the authorities are reactive and private security is proactive. The basic job is "firewatch" or walking around to make sure the building is not on fire. For this Factory Mutual and other insurance companies offer huge discounts on premiums that make the service a cost benefit. Unfortunately, that works against those little extras that make the service truly effective, like decent pay and training. If the only reason you hired a security contractor was to save money, then you will go for the lowest bid every time. I saw contracts lost over a nickel a manhour lower cost.

One of my students, a young black woman, said that she had been airport screener. I invited her to share. Why wasn't she still? Seems she had been working the machine and had actually caught some nut trying to smuggle explosives on to a passenger plane. "I quit the same day, " she said, "I ain't risking my life for minimum wage!" This incident apparently never made the media, which makes you wonder how many such attempts fly under the radar and are never publicized. And she got no pat on the back, no promotion,no bonus, no award, for being heads up and possibly preventing a catastrophic event. I did say to her that perhaps she had chosen the wrong career and that putting her life on the line came with the territory. This was a little later, when I asked for a moment of silence for the two studio unarmed guards who had been killed by that nut who wanted to talk to Michael Landon. She angrily asked why she should care about two strangers. I replied that this, too, was a service and their memory deserved respect and if she didn't understand that, she understood nothing and should save her money and go elsewhere.

But you see why private security cannot be trusted to handle critical functions like airport security. It has the wrong culture and lacks the required dedication and sense of purpose. I agree that most of what TSA does now is a form of theatre. Every security job is. When I was a Captain, I emphasized uniform standards because a guard in a good looking uniform is part of the package. It make he or she an authority figure. The jewelry such as handcuffs, baton, leather belts, well shined shoes simply enhance the effect and reassures most people that someone is present whose job it is, is to handle the things they fear. I had one post where the client complained that one of the guards, who did a very good job, simply looked terrible and was drawing complaints from visitors. Given that he worked the truck dock, I knew there was a problem and got over there. He did look terrible, but the matter was a simple one; he had been issued a uniform several sizes too large and looked like a clown. I asked his supervisor, a Sergeant, why he had not dealt with the problem and got a lame excuse of the "not my job" variety. I informed to the contrary, told him I would pay both of them the four hour minimum to go to the office on their day off and get him proper gear, or he would lose his stripes. The 25 cents an hour extra wasn't that much to him, but he really loved being a Sergeant. My job was to make sure he acted like one and took responsibility. Next time I inspected that post the guard in question looked like a recruiting poster and the client was very happy. He and his Sergeant hated me, but that was their problem, not mine. I had been hired to handle such problems, based on my experience as an Army NCO, and I did.

If anyone wants an insight into what this work is like I have a novella on Amazon Shorts called "Sunday in the Park with George" which is based on my experiences in that industry and is part of a larger work of fiction I plan to eventually write. It's 24,000 words and the length is part of the story. It is partially inspired by a John Irving story called "One Long Mother of a Day"

The tragedy of the Security Industry is that it is a growth industry. It is the first line of defense against all sorts of things we want to avoid and it works very well. I had a friend at that school, another instructor, who had been the Security Director for one of the smaller studios and did a very good job; such a good job that he got fired when some beancounter asked "Why do we have all this security. Nothing ever happens around here." The whole thing is very Zen and I am happy to be out of it at long last. I don't even accept consulting jobs anymore and I gave my security research library to our local security department here.

As for TSA, that too, is a work in progress. But I will support them. They tried going back to private contractors to save money at five airports and failed miserably. TSA is here to stay because you get what you pay for. This kind of pro-active, preventive security is first line defense in the War on Terrorism and an essential function of government. But keep complaining. That's the only way it will get better.


Francis Hamit


Somewhere, Velikovsky is chuckling.


- Roland Dobbins


The Case For Nuclear Power...

I know that you and many (most? all?) of your readers would like to see nuclear power further developed in the United States, Dr. Pournelle. Here is an interesting article (from "Imprimis" February 2008) by a journalist rather than a scientist presenting the case.


"There is only one steel company in the world today that can cast the reactor vessels (the 42-foot, egg-shaped containers at the core of a reactor): Japan Steel Works. As countries around the world begin to build new reactors, the company is now back-ordered for four years. Unless some enterprising American steel company takes an interest, any new reactor built in America will be cast in Japan."

"In the 1980s, California built a Power Tower that focused hundreds of mirrors on a single point to boil water to drive a turbine. The facility covered one-fifth of a square mile and produced ten megawatts. It was eventually closed down as uneconomical. Last year, when Spain opened an identical Power Tower in Seville, U.S. News & World Report ran a cover story hailing it as a "Power Revolution." That facility, of course, is completely subsidized by the government."

"At an average 1,000 megawatt coal plant, a train with 110 railroad cars, each loaded with 20 tons of coal, arrives every five days. Each carload will provide 20 minutes of electricity. When burned, one ton of coal will throw three tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. We now burn 1 billion tons of coal a year-up from 500 million tons in 1976. This coal produces 40 percent of our greenhouse gases and 20 percent of the world's carbon emissions.

"By contrast, consider a 1000 megawatt nuclear reactor. Every two years a fleet of flatbed trucks pulls up to the reactor to deliver a load of fuel rods. These rods are only mildly radio-active and can be handled with gloves. They will be loaded into the reactor, where they will remain for six years (only one-third of the rods are replaced at each refueling). The replaced rods will be removed and transferred to a storage pool inside the containment structure, where they can remain indefinitely (three feet of water blocks the radiation). There is no exhaust, no carbon emissions, no sulfur sludge to be carted away hourly and heaped into vast dumps. There is no release into the environment. The fuel rods come out looking exactly as they did going in, except that they are now more highly radioactive. There is no air pollution, no water pollution, and no ground pollution."

Charles Brumbelow

Perhaps it is immodest of me to say so, but I wrote all that in the 1970's, and most of it is in A Step Farther Out. It is pleasing that the message is being revived.

It used to be that GE and Westinghouse built the majority of nuclear power plants throughout the world.


 Opinions of the Legions

Actually, looking at the rest of that survey, I find it looking more and more suspicious. For instance, I do not believe you can find 38% of any group in the Army that would support a new draft. The phrasing of some of the questions also looks odd, and I believe the answers would have been different in a few cases if the spin on the compiled answers was reflected in the questions. Oh well.



"One of the cornerstones of modern democracies is that civilian, not military, leaders make the strategic decisions regarding both war and peace. But that doesn't mean military commanders always agree with or have confidence in those decisions.

When asked how much confidence they have in other U.S. government institutions and departments, the index's officers report low levels of trust nearly across the board. For instance, on a scale of 1 to 10, where 10 means the officers have a great deal of confidence in the department or institution and 1 means they have none, the officers put their level of confidence in the presidency at 5.5. Some 16 percent express no confidence at all in the president. The index's officers gave the CIA an average confidence rating of 4.7 and the Department of State, 4.1. The Department of Veterans Affairs received a confidence rating of just 4.5 and the Department of Defense, 5.6. The officers say their level of confidence in the U.S. Congress is the lowest, at an average of just 2.7.

These negative perceptions of U.S. agencies and officials may stem in part from the fact that a majority of the officers polled for the index do not believe that the United States' elected leaders are very well informed about the military they oversee. Sixty-six percent of the officers say they believe America's elected leaders are either somewhat or very uninformed about the U.S. military.

How can the military's perception of elected leaders be improved? In part, the officers say, by electing people who have served in uniform. Nearly 9 in 10 officers agree that, all other things being equal, the military will respect a president of the United States who has served in the military more than one who has not. The people we trust most are often the ones who remind us of ourselves."

I would have placed State, CIA and Congress lower, myself.










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Francis Hamit mentions in today's mail:

"If anyone wants an insight into what this work is like I have a novella on Amazon Shorts called 'Sunday in the Park with George'."

I found it to be a hell of a story. It deserves a much more dynamic shorthand description than "security guard procedural" and, anyway, like many good stories, it's the characters that make it so (not their job descriptions).

--Mike Glyer

Mike Glyer is a very well known SF reviewer.


I can't recall if I put this up before. Sorry. I find it interesting

Actually, the end of affirmative action and other similar things might indeed follow as a direct consequence of an Obama presidency, but probably not in the way you were suggesting.

Consider a few numbers. In the most recent round of voting, Obama's black support was generally over 90%, in some cases closer to 95%. And remember that this was coming against not David Duke or even just a conservative Republican, but against the wife of "America's first black President," who had herself started the campaign with 80-90% black approval and also with the endorsements of most of America's leading black political figures. And also remember that Obama isn't even a "real" American black, either by culture, ancestry, or appearance. This degree of racial/ethnic solidarity is quite interesting, and might now be matching that in e.g. today's Kenya. Similarly, the degree of fanaticism exhibited by pro-Obama activists---many of them black---on liberal blogsites is also quite remarkable.

One obvious consequence might be that Republicans/conservative might finally decide to reconsider their totally hopeless pursuit of significant black voting support. After all, if Bill and Hillary Clinton end up losing 90% of the black vote, what exactly are the prospects for any sort of Republican candidate?

Now assume that Obama becomes president. Given the unbelievably horrible economic, military, and social catastrophe Bush has made of so many things, I'd guess the poor Barack will have an extremely difficult time of things. I also tend to doubt he'll actually pull our army out of Iraq, and if we still have 100K troops in that hopeless occupation in Summer 2010, I suspect his approval numbers will be down around those of Bush's and the Democrats will be annihilated in the Congressional elections that year. The one exception will obviously be America's substantial number of black districts, which will therefore afterwards represent an even larger share of Democratic officeholders, while the party completely hemorrhages support among non-blacks. Any racially-oriented policies of President Obama---which may or may not be proposed---would further magnify this result.

Under this scenario, I could easily envision the rapid appearance of an American third party. It would be smallish, overwhelmingly black, and called "the Democrats". Political parties can eventually "tip" just like neighborhoods do.

Now under a parliamentary system of government, smallish, ethnically-based third parties can often achieve enormous political influence relative to their voting strength. But this is exactly the opposite for America's first-past-the-post system of presidential and congressional elections. A political party containing the overwhelming majority of American blacks together with those small slices of non-blacks who are of most similar ideological orientation would probably have negligible political influence. In effect, its voters would have been effectively removed from participation in American elections. This would obviously have an extremely significant impact on the American ideological landscape and the nature and dynamics of American politics.

As I've said before, we may be living in "very interesting times."


Subject: Careers in Science


Seems like every other week this is a dire prediction of the US falling behind in science and technology. This is usually accompanied by a plea to do something to boost student interest in science and technology. Then we have the article below, which describes the frustration of those students who actually decide to follow the path to a PhD: http://chronicle.com/free/v54/i04/04a00102.htm 

I think the phrase "cognitive dissonance" applies here.....

CP, Connecticut


Subj: Doctor Silicon Sees Invisible Injuries


>>Faster computers and better software are uncovering hidden medical problems. More powerful statistical analysis, of a growing number of new medical tests, has enabled U.S. military doctors to detect physical and psychological problems soldiers didn’t even knew they had, and that often would not turn into painful or debilitating conditions for decades (unless treated long before that.) ... The end result will be seen in four or five decades, when Iraq war veterans end up having fewer combat related problems than their World War II era grandfathers did.<<

Rod Montgomery==monty@starfief.com


Subject: 120 MM Cannister round




Subject: Good Analysis of Bubble Economics


I happened to come across a good, non-technical, analysis of bubble economics here:


The prediction at the end is that as one bubble bursts and the investors therein lose all their "fictitious value", another rising bubble must be found to stimulate investment and growth to assuage the effects of the bursting bubble. This author predicts that alternative energy will be the new bubble economy.

Chris Reichman


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Sunday, March 2, 2008      

Subj: Google Earth for grunts


>>The infantry now have their own version of “Google Earth” for combat. ... The troops call their mapping software TIGR (Tactical Ground Reporting System). It’s inspiration wasn’t Google Earth, but mission planning software the U.S. Air Force and Navy have been using for decades. The most recent versions of the mission planning stuff looks like a commercial (as in from a software store) flight simulator, but with a lot more information displayed.<<

>>The maps are updated by the users, like a Wiki, and by intelligence troops, so that the maps tend to show what is out there now, including recent construction or battle damage. But it’s second use is equally important. TIGR gives troops, especially patrol leaders, an easy way to report what they saw on their missions. It’s these reports that create a clearer picture of what the enemy is up to, and what friendly troops have been doing as well. Sergeants and lieutenants have long complained about passing along written patrol and after-action reports, and never getting much of anything back. Now they have all that stuff, from thousands of patrols and combat actions, at their finger tips.<<

Rod Montgomery==monty@starfief.com


Subject: Re: Careers in science

I was kind of on board with the article until I got to this: "Departments and students must recognize that the majority of science doctorate recipients no longer become professors, and that realization should cause a shift in the culture and practice of graduate education."

And then I realized that the article isn't talking about jobs in general; it's talking about jobs AS PROFESSORS. Jobs as pure-theory pie-in-the-sky professional-navel-gazers. It's not that PhD's can't get jobs; it's that they can't get jobs right there in the sausage factory, creating the next generation of people exactly like them. The article is complaining that today's students can't just stay in the soft, safe, academic womb forever.

-- Mike T. Powers


Entertainment Industry in China - 10 Imported Films Were Responsible for 70% of the Market with the Remaining 30% for 100 or More Domestic Films

DUBLIN, Ireland--(BUSINESS WIRE)----Research and Markets (http://www.researchandmarkets.com/reports/c84068)  has announced the addition of "Entertainment Industry in China - PEST Framework Analysis" to their offering.

China has one of the fastest growing entertainment industries in the world. The global entertainment industry is expected to show an annual growth of 10% in the next four years and that growth will be driven by China - movies, theme parks, media, etc. This growth in entertainment gives rise to many issues, including distribution, licensing, intellectual property, contract and investment.









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