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Monday May 5, 2008

There was considerable mail over the weekend; if you didn't see it, some was important.

Harry Erwin's Letter from England

The local elections were held, and the voters told Labour and Gordon Brown to "push off". Or as Cromwell supposedly said in a similar


"You have sat too long for any good you have been doing lately ...

Depart, I say; and let us have done with you. In the name of God, go!"


> <http://tinyurl.com/6jk45q>


> <http://tinyurl.com/58wuhk> <http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/interactive/2008/apr/14/localelection

> <http://tinyurl.com/3w6tvb> <http://blogs.independent.co.uk/independent/2008/05/today-in-poli-2.html

> <http://tinyurl.com/4n2nn5>

The Labour years have been a political education:

--I've seen how liberalism can go off the tracks.

--A career in politics or law does not usually prepare someone to run a large bureaucratic organisation.

--A government will most assuredly run out of ideas after a while.

That said, governments desperately need good ideas--they're rare and precious--and the narrower the talent base a government draws on, the faster it will run out of good ideas.

--Your personal beliefs often have nothing to do with whether the people in power regard you as an enemy. You might be just a good target.

--Checks and balances are a very good thing.

--The hardest lies to recognise are the assumptions you don't think about.

--People and organisations learn to game the system if you don't move the goal posts from time to time. The English class system has been very good at preventing class mobility and social innovation.

--Watch for unexpected side-effects. The English poor pay a very large percentage of their reported income in taxes, and this has produced a large grey economy and a high "volume" crime rate.

--Government policy can impoverish people by keeping them from actively improving their lot.

--A policy wonk without a curb can destroy in a week what took centuries to build.

By the way, Diane tells me that staple food prices in the UK are up about 60% over last year. I wonder if that also contributed to the Labour debacle.

Sunday news stories:

Businesses considering leaving the UK over taxes.


> <http://tinyurl.com/5m4oeb>

Government reaction to voter fury.


A Tory London, now.


> <http://tinyurl.com/5vqsuo>

Davos story.


> <http://tinyurl.com/5baa57>

Climate change.


> <http://tinyurl.com/6m9tfv>


"Truth is the intersection of independent lies." (Richard Levins, 1966)

Harry Erwin, PhD


Zakaria: 'I felt as if I were in Germany in 1910, speaking to a young German professional, who would have been equally modern and yet also a staunch nationalist.'

Despite his incomplete understanding of history, his failure to grasp that economic power/informational power *is* the new leverage of control, with broader reach than mere bullets and bombs, his pollyannaish view that 'billions are escaping from poverty' (it's more like their ruling elites are adding zeroes to their bank accounts, in most cases) and his failure to completely integrate and analyze his astute observations, this is worth reading, IMHO:


I'll note that in my observation of Chinese college students - necessarily the scions of the Chinese elite - rallying to observe the Olympic torch procession and harass pro-Tibet supporters, their nationalism reminded me more of Germany in, say, 1936 or thereabouts, than in 1910.

- Roland Dobbins

I will agree that it's worth reading for information, but have a bowl of salt handy. Chinese nationalism must never be underestimated.

Possony -- who represented Taiwan in the World Court in the Hague, and like me was very pro Republic of China -- once told me that the Taiwan controversy would end this way: We and Taiwan would be on one side of the table with the Chinese Mainlanders yelling at us. We would look away; and when we looked back, the Taiwanese and Mainlanders would be on the other side of the table yelling as us. And no one in the West would understand what had happened; not us, not our experts, no one; but many Americans of Chinese ancestry would not be surprised.


China may be more imperial than first assessed...

Asian Wall Street Journal May 5, 2008 Pg. 13

China's Naval Secrets

By Richard D. Fisher Jr.

Experts attempting to understand the strategic aims behind China's aggressive military expansion have generally focused on Taiwan. But a new naval base points at Beijing's significant and growing interest in projecting power into waters far from the Taiwan Strait. China, in fact, is equipping itself to assert its longstanding and expansive territorial claims in the South China Sea, and this plan could raise tensions well beyond the region....

Serving Officer

I understand that Navy planning people must pay attention to worst case, and that threat is determined by capability not by intentions (which can change; indeed having a capability can generate an intention). I was in that game for much of my life.

China has historically been concerned with two ambitions: to incorporate into the Empire (or People's Republic) all those parts of the historical Middle Kingdom that have been lost. Tibet is one of those. Taiwan less so, actually -- it wasn't under mainlander control much. Korea is a special case, historically a dependent subject kingdom, a protectorate, but never quite incorporated into the Empire. Parenthetically: I'd rather North Korea were under the control of China than what it is today.

The second concern of Chine has been overseas Chinese. This makes Vancouver, British Columbia, something akin to Hong Kong East.

China is a world power, whether we like that or not. They have a legitimate interest in the South China Seas. The US as a maritime power has an interest in open seas, open doors, freedom of the seas. Whether this is in conflict with China's desire to control adjacent waters is a matter for considerable attention.

Finally: we need to pay attention to what happens with Hong Kong and Shanghai as an indicator of possible futures for Taiwan. It is not likely that the US will be able to dominate the Straits of Formosa once China seriously brings technology and economic resources to bear.


IQ plus wannabe's


Re: the IQ discussion about smaller family size following IQ. Take a look at this paper (and many others) that draw the opposite conclusion.


I'm surprised that so many of your "High IQ" correspondents look at a data set and draw their own, self serving, conclusions.

Ephraim F. Moya
IQ = 100


Alert: World Sea Ice At 25 year high! - Global Warming Movement 'Unraveling' - Akin to Nostradamus? - Warming blamed for Shark Attacks? - Newsweek Slapped Down (Again) - Round up

May 5, 2008

Report: World Sea Ice reaches 'unprecedented' 25 year high in April! (By Climate data analyst Stephen McIntyre of ClimateAudit.org, one of the individuals responsible for debunking the infamous "Hockey Stick" temperature graph)

Excerpt: On a global basis, world sea ice in April 2008 reached levels that were “unprecedented” for the month of April in over 25 years. Levels are the third highest (for April) since the commencement of records in 1979, exceeded only by levels in 1979 and 1982. This continues a pattern established earlier in 2008, as global sea ice in March 2008 was also the third highest March on record, while January 2008 sea ice was the second highest January on record. It was also the second highest single month in the past 20 years (second only to Sept 1996).[…] Four of the past 5 months are “all-time” records for Southern Hemisphere sea ice anomalies, “unprecedented” since the data set began in 1979 as shown below: (See weblink for graphs)



MUST READ Sampling of Key Quotes from scientists reacting to last week’s peer-reviewed study finding ‘Global Warming Will Stop’- Warming Takes a Break for Nearly 20 Years? (LINK <http://epw.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?
_id=a17defa8-802a-23ad-4912-8ab7138a7c3f&Issue_id=>  )

“It’s All Unraveling” – Oh dear! The inevitable is happening. The ‘global warming’ trope is unraveling on a daily basis - scientifically, economically, and politically. The wheels are coming off the hysterical bandwagon, and it is not going to be a salutary sight watching the politicians and the media junkies jumping cart and trying to throw mud in everyone’s eyes.” […] How on Earth have folk been conned into believing such hubris? It is so like The Prophecies by Nostradamus” – May 2, 2008 - UK Professor Emeritus of Biogeography Philip Stott of the University of London. (LINK <http://web.mac.com/sinfonia1/
It%E2%80%99s_All_Unravelling.html>  )

“This whole climate change issue is rapidly disintegrating. From now onwards climate alarmists will be on the retreat. […] All indications are that we are now on the threshold of global cooling associated with the second and less active solar cycle.” – May 2, 2008 - By Professor Dr. Will J.R. Alexander, Emeritus of the Department of Civil and Biosystems Engineering at the University of Pretoria in South Africa and a former member of the United Nations Scientific and Technical Committee on Natural Disasters. (LINK <http://www.climatescience.org.nz/
images/PDFs/alexwjr.2-3.5.08.pdf>  )

“Their entire global warming scare was based on around two decades of warming in the late 20th century so if that is followed by 20 years of stasis and cooling, which one of those two episodes represents the trend? How can we be sure that there is ANY trend?” - Australian John Ray, Ph.D., who publishes the website Greenie Watch said on May 2


Fertility and College: Follow the Money

I don't know if this counts as "challenging the validity of the data" in Mr. Chu's letter, but perhaps we should consider that cost of higher education may play just as much, if not more, of a role in fertility than intelligence or educational level by itself.

Mr. Chu writes:

<<Assuming a replacement rate of 2.1 children per woman, women with bachelor's degrees are at 82%, and graduate and professional women are around 74%, compared to 118% for women without a HS degree. We may quibble about the exact figures, but there is clearly a positive correlation between IQ and educational achievement, and a negative correlation between educational achievement and fertility.>>

Higher education has both economic and opportunity costs. It is not uncommon for a recent college graduate from a middlin'-to-decent private school to have $ 40--$ 50,000 in student loan debt of various flavors. Professional (medical or law) school debt is even worse; in my line of work I see a great many recently-graduated lawyers, and most of them have $ 80--100,000 in student loan debt. This of necessity impacts the family-formation and child-rearing decisions of those holding the debt. In addition, students may forego starting businesses or investing in existing businesses to go to college; any return on the money invested would then be put off for years, if not permanently.

Also consider the tax code: student-loan interest is often fully deductible, while the costs of raising children are not. Add to that the incentives modern American culture provides towards a high level of material consumption (television advertising, for example), and one could legitimately marvel that the cited replacement rates are as high as they are. Finally, consider that the college-educated tend to marry each other, which reinforces the effect of these incentives. It takes a long time and a great deal of money to attain a high level of (credentials) education, which in turn reduces the time available to a woman (and her partner) to have children.

There are also two other developments to be considered in all this. Entry into many professional-level fields was once possible by way of an apprenticeship-style system ("reading law" in a law office, for example) which no longer exists. Getting the required piece of paper costs far more in time and money under an "academic" approach like this than being someone's understudy for five years. Sources of funding have also changed. With the vast and perhaps unwarranted expansion of "higher education" came a shift from grants and working one's way through college to straight loans. More students means more loans, more debt and more burdens militating against reproduction/family formation.

The level of debt burden among today's college graduates is at its highest level in history. There are more short-term pleasures available (and aggressively marketed) than ever before. Meanwhile, "globalization" and modern information technology provide more wage-reducing competition in the labor market than ever before. I'm not surprised that they are having fewer kids; our society is not set up to make it an attractive option. In short, "when all else fails, follow the money."


Mark Schaeber

P.S. In addition, let us also remember that simply having an advanced degree does not automatically mean a high level of intelligence. Not all advanced degrees are in medicine or the sciences (where a high level of intelligence may be legitimately presumed); a person may have a master's or Ph.D in education and still be an idiot. (This may explain school administrators and other members of the NEA.) Robert Heinlein once wrote that "catering to your mentors is necessary in any subject not governed by mathematics." I will wager large money at long odds that this maxim still holds true, particularly in education, sociology and similar fields.

I had nearly forgotten Mr. Heinlein's maxim. It is almost certainly true. Robert was an astute observer of society.


IQ and Families 

Dear Dr Pournelle,

Steve Chu has made a compelling argument that intelligence and family size are linked, but I wonder?

I can’t help but think that his argument is playing fast and loose with the statistics. First off, his sample set is rather narrow. His argument appears to argue that smart women have fewer children as if there is a biological link, where I think that highly educated _and modern_ women are choosing to have families of a smaller size. Intelligent women are not incapable of having a large family because they’re less fertile, but that they’ve decided that their job is to work and help bring home the bacon. Whereas the high school dropout (which doesn’t necessarily mean stupid!) considers their job to stay home and have kids.

What is the typical family size of Ashkenazi Jews? I have no data available, but I am presuming larger than normal.

If educated people are choosing to have smaller families, to the point where they are no longer replacing themselves, I’ll argue that they’re not being very smart!

I hope you are starting to feel better!

Bill Grigg

Or they're up to their eyeballs in debt.


Re: Declining Demographics: A Counter Trend


There is one counter trend I know about in the declining demographics of educated women. Within the homeschool demographics, there are a *lot* of larger families, and these kids are generally getting a great education and going on to do well in public universities as well. My wife and I homeschool, and this has been our general observation. (We have five kids ourselves.) This is probably a small percentage of the demographics overall. But many of these kids appear poised to move out into life and into roles of positive leadership and achievement in America.

Mike Cheek



new discovery - the "Memristor"


For me the following statement was interesting:

"Electronic theorists have been using the wrong pair of variables all these years -- voltage and charge. The missing part of electronic theory was that the fundamental pair of variables is flux and charge," said Chua. "The situation is analogous to what is called "Aristotle's Law of Motion, which was wrong, because he said that force must be proportional to velocity. That misled people for 2000 years until Newton came along and pointed out that Aristotle was using the wrong variables. Newton said that force is proportional to acceleration -- the change in velocity. This is exactly the situation with electronic circuit theory today. All electronic text books have been teaching using the wrong variables -- voltage and charge--explaining away inaccuracies as anomalies. What they should have been teaching is the relationship between changes in voltage, or flux, and charge."

THIS i call scientific progress - it affirms my belief, that science and engineering have NOT come to an end.

Maybe i am too pathetic now, but what you need is a society where you learn something but you are also free to think outside this "framework" without beeing punished for it. (The climate debate is definitely not carried by this spirit).

Andreas Reichl (Germany)

Mit freundlichen Grüßen/ With best regards

Dr. Andreas Reichl Software Development ISRA SURFACE VISION GMBH



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Tuesday,  May 6, 2008

Just when you think you’ve seen every type of bridge possible. [Pics]


Michael Zawistowski

That is one strange bridge! 


Debt and Education

Jerry- Regarding the discussion of 'bonehead english' and other such freshman courses offered in US Universities: I graduated from a LAUSD High School in the 1980's. Some of the teachers were worthless, others were very good.

On the strength of many AP tests taken, I was able to enter a college of my choice with enough college-level credit to bypass the usual freshman classes and rank as a sophomore. Many of my friends did the same. Importantly, most of us had earned enough during our high school summers to supplement our college jobs and escape from college with degrees and little to no debt. It was hard, no doubt, but I did it. I didn't drive a new car or go skiing on weekends, but I did receive a BS in math with a minor in computer science. In other words, 'the system' does (or did) offer avenues around the usual wasteful process.

Those that are truly interested in an education, rather than a certificate to begin a worker-bee career in some anonymous cubicle, will find a way to make it happen. Pity that the system is making it ever harder to do so.

Thanks, get well soon

- -Jim

It's possible, but the floods of money to the universities allow them to hire people to teach French Narrative Theory in Freshman Comp all the same.

What's needed are some real alternatives to the credential system.


Chilling out.


-- Roland Dobbins

Extract: Vast tracts of the Pacific, Indian, and Southern oceans have not yet been seeded with networks of instrumental buoys, and most of these read only the surface. For all practical purposes, the influence on climate of seas covering well over half the world’s surface are “maria incognita.”

Conversely, information about human contributions to the world’s climate is only too plentiful, thanks to the global craze for gathering economic statistics. We have every reason to believe it is quite small, yet the mere availability of mountains of data about it confers a systemic bias on any computer modeling, as on any other kind of statistical analysis. You go with the numbers you have, and draw very big conclusions from very narrow assumptions.

This is a routine flaw in all modern scientific thinking, which scientists themselves are loath to consider, just as we all are loath to consider facts of life that must tend to make us very, very humble. To be charitable to the scientists who take the pay of the IPCC -- though only for the briefest moment -- myopia is a universal human condition. We all imagine that what we know is intrinsically more significant than what we don’t yet know, or even cannot know.


Freshman Composition at Northwestern


Students at Northwestern are required to demonstrate writing proficiency during their two "freshman" seminars, typically during the freshman year, though science and math majors with heavy required course loads sometimes take the second of these seminars in their second year.

Infrequently, remedial education is necessary, such as for those students who have a first language other than English or for those with a uneven distribution of academic talent. These students enter the "Writing Program."

Your implicit assumption that Northwestern has lax academic standards is mistaken. The academic program at Northwestern is quite rigorous. That was one reason why I elected to matriculate at Northwestern.


HPME Northwestern Class of 1982

I replied

I hope you enjoy French Narrative Theory


Too little data to tell. I do enjoy French toast…

This silly lady will apparently be a research assistant at Northwestern. In this capacity, she will have little or no influence on the Northwestern curriculum or the education of undergraduate students. My understanding is that she was not offered a teaching assistant position because of her foolish behavior at Dartmouth.

You will note that last week, Northwestern's School of Theology withdrew the offer of an honorary degree to Senator Obama's retired pastor. At least the error was recognized.

I was in the Honors Program in Medical Education (2 years college + 4 years medical school), so outside of my areas of core competence, I am largely an autodidact.

I did take several "off-topic" courses during my two years as a college student at Northwestern: the Honors mathematics sequence, Compiler Design, Turing Machines & Computability, Transformational Grammar, Soviet Politics, Ancient History. Each of these courses was taught with enthusiasm and rigor. Not much fluff and nonsense at Northwestern, at least in my experience…



Global warming "hiatus"

This is actually a brilliant move by global warming scientists. By predicting "cooling" for many years, but eventual drastic warming by and by, they have just swept all the evidence issues off the table. No matter what the climate does for the next ten years, what the temperatures are, what the ice and glaciers do, it can't disprove their "modified" theory.

They did something similar with the ozone hole, which continues to maintain its size despite a constant decrease in the manmade catalysts in the atmosphere. Scientists now say that the ozone hole will only heal long after they're all dead. End of controversy.

Tom Brosz




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Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Subject: Obama's improbable history


"Tom Maguire <http://justoneminute.typepad.com/main/
2008/05/dont-know-much.html>  caught this passage:

I trust the American people to understand that it is not weakness, but wisdom to talk not just to our friends, but to our enemies, like Roosevelt did, and Kennedy did, and Truman did.

Maguire comments:

Obama's supporters are too young to know any of this, but Roosevelt led the United States in the war against Hitler; the Allied policy was unconditional surrender, so there was very little for Roosevelt and Hitler to discuss, and in fact, the two did not meet at all (but they did exchange correspondence before the war).

So my guess is that Obama is thinking of the Yalta Conference with Churchill and Stalin as talking to "our enemies," although of course we were still allied with the Soviet Union against Germany and Japan at that point. Beyond that, is the Yalta Conference something Obama and his advisers view as a success worthy of emulation? Puzzling.

And the United States has been talking with Iran right along in any event. It's not for lack of communication that Iran has been conducting its war on the United States."

All I can figure is that the people who keep saying if we only talk to the bad guys, we can get results, have never been on a playground. Talking to bullies got me nothing but heartache, but when I decided they might beat me, but they weren't going to push me around, they stopped bugging me. It's almost like economics, raise the price of something and it gets less attractive. Lower the price...

Oddly, FDR, JFK and LBJ were all at war with enemies, and were able to speak from a position of at least some strength. Obama wants to seek a position of weakness in order to ... I'm not sure what, but he is certain it'll help. The thing is, our enemies don't need to talk to us, they are sending the message already. Obama would be the one needing some result, some reason to say the talk was successful, and thus the one needing to make concessions to get something. How we expect to get good results out of that escapes me. Yet we cite Roosevelt, of Unconditional Surrender, as a source of validity for this. I do not grok this plan.



They're changing their rhetoric from 'global warming' to 'climate change'.

Mark my words, the bureaucrats won't give up the power they've discovered they can exert based upon unfounded theories of anthropogenic 'global warming' . . . once direct experience makes it impossible for the Big Science Politburo to continue pushing the fiction of 'global warming', they'll already have changed their tune and will be harping about 'climate change', irrespective of the direction or type (or cause) of said change, so that they can push for ever-more-draconian social controls and ever-larger taxes and 'fees' from us proles.

--- Roland Dobbins


Global warming "hiatus"

This is actually a brilliant move by global warming scientists. By predicting "cooling" for many years, but eventual drastic warming by and by, they have just swept all the evidence issues off the table. No matter what the climate does for the next ten years, what the temperatures are, what the ice and glaciers do, it can't disprove their "modified" theory.

They did something similar with the ozone hole, which continues to maintain its size despite a constant decrease in the manmade catalysts in the atmosphere. Scientists now say that the ozone hole will only heal long after they're all dead. End of controversy.

Tom Brosz


Debt and Education

Dr. Pournelle,

Does it strike anyone that the idea of saddling our children with tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars of debt before they have even started their working lives is simply crazy? Are there any other successful industrialized nations which do this?

It seems to me that the most successful period of real (not virtual) economic growth came in the wake of the largest publicly financed education effort in history – the GI Bill.

I’m sure that some, if not most, of my fellow Chaos Manor followers hate the “liberal” idea, but expenditures on infrastructure really are investments. And, there could be few more important aspects of our infrastructure than higher education. Just as a well-armed population can be an insurance against tyranny, so can a well-educated one.

In other words, higher education should be free to all who qualify for it. That is, it should be paid for out of the pockets of taxpayers. Did I really say that? Yup.

Richard York

It's certainly crazy.

As a product of the Korean GI Bill I can hardly denounce the concept. The problems really came when the intellectuals convinced people that "investment" in trade schools and such like wasn't as desirable as "investment" in higher education meaning universities. At the same time, the State Colleges became "State universities" and in the "upgrade" put more into graduate schools to the detriment of undergraduate education. We then poured more money into the "university" system which is quite unsuitable for education of more than about 25% of the population (I'd put that at a lower figure, but we can stay with that).

Now a lot of students who would do well at "college" level education can't get that; they have to go to "universities" and learn French Narrative Theory in Freshman Comp.

If investment is needed in "education" -- and it is -- it's in training in technical skills. Most of that could be done in high school. Of course the high school teachers don't want to work that hard and will stand in union solidarity with the college professors who want the large number of students willing to borrow money to go listen to foreign graduate students teach introductory math courses in incomprehensible dialects, but it's "world class" isn't it? Doesn't everyone deserve a "world class university education"?

So we continue to neglect the great majority of our citizens to benefit a handful of intellectuals. And they never catch wise.


And more on education:

I do sympathize with the universal angst over the way the education system operates. This is hardly a surprise for a broadly distributed and barely managed system that is working toward a common outcome while dealing with a wide spectrum of input. they can keep the job.

I have one comment. A major unvoiced role of the educational system is to provide behavior training for the developing mind. This is totally independent of content which has actually ranged all over the map throughout the world.

I think it is a viable outcome if a disciplined socially adept intellect is produced. Real success must be measured by how much the student was prepared to challenge himself and his appetite for further knowledge.

I think education needs to be vastly more flexible regarding content while more focused on developing learning behavior. We may find that we are doing a decent job


I agree with your major premise. I don't agree that we are doing that. French Narrative Theory is not the product of a disciplined mind.


Your comments about Ms. Venkatesh, and who should and shouldn't be going to universities

A few minor observations:

(1) A bachelor's degree these days is largely nothing more than a white-collar union card. Most companies don't care WHAT you have your degree in - the question is, do you have one.

(2) 4-year schools have, for the last 20+ years, become not much more than advanced vocational schools. The quality of education that you received for your BS is now reserved for those pursuing a masters or higher.

(3) 30 years ago, an Associates degree was still something indicating that one had done a fair amount of work. Today an AA suffers from the same defects a peso does - can't buy anything with it, and it's too stiff to use for toilet paper.

(4) If one were to wish to ascribe causes to this, one should look no further than the "Me" generation, who apparently decided that Everyone Should Have a University Degree, And The World Is Unfair If They Don't.

(5) One should also note the credentialization of America. When I started in the tech industry, knowhow was important, but willingness and ability to learn, and drive, mattered more. That's why I was able to pay my way through college writing books on computer software. Today, if you don't have fifteen different certifications, don't bother applying. Do those with the certificates know more? Actually, oftentimes they know _less_. But certifications are easier for HR departments to check off, and they can be scanned for by automated systems, rather than requiring someone to actually READ a resume. It's buzzword bingo as a career development path.

Charlie Prael

I agree about the effect of credentialization, but not the cause. The cause is affirmative action including Americans with Disabilities Act. Personnel officers don't want lawsuits, so they look for "objective" criteria for hiring employees. Accumulated credentials including degrees are an easy choice.

Personnel officers really would like to hire people who will do well for the company, but that has become a very risky practice indeed. Fare fewer lawsuits if you stick to credentials.

As to AA degrees, my mother taught first grade in rural Florida in the 1920's; she was always a bit ashamed of only having an AA rather than a four year degree. On the other hand she was an excellent teacher.

I also note that when I went to work at Boeing in the mid-1950's, about half the engineers did not have engineering degrees from universities; many of them started as draftsmen, and learned to be engineers through an apprenticeship program that led to a professional engineering certification by examination. By the time I left Boeing in 1964 that was no longer true, and nearly all the new engineers were e-school graduates. There are virtually no non-degree engineers in aerospace today.


Good paper on global cooling 


The link below is to a good paper on climate change. It is long but a good summary of why “global warming” is bunk. 


Do we live in a special time in which the laws of physics and nature are suspended? No, we do not. Can we expect relationships between the Sun’s activity and climate, that we can see in data going back several hundred years, to continue for at least another 20 years? With absolute certainty.

In this presentation, I will demonstrate that the Sun drives climate, and use that demonstrated relationship to predict the Earth’s climate to 2030. It is a prediction that differs from most in the public domain. It is a prediction of imminent cooling.

Mike Plaster







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Thursday, May 8, 2008

Student debt

Dr. Pournelle,

Richard York asks:

"Does it strike anyone that the idea of saddling our children with tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars of debt before they have even started their working lives is simply crazy? Are there any other successful industrialized nations which do this?"

The short answer is "yes". The UK does this exactly. Newly-qualified (medical) doctors, to pick just one example, typically have debts in the £50-60K range (note, that's not dollars). And not infrequently, thanks to our wonderful centrally-planned government healthcare system, there will be no jobs for quite a few of them.

Of course, one could quibble as to whether the UK these days counts as either successful or industrialised, so perhaps the rhetorical question stands.

Best regards,

Andrew Duffin


gibbon's 'decline and fall' on marching morons

Dr J-

Gibbon's 'tendency of luxury in the female to destroy fertility' may be upstream of the marching morons worry. Clever spinsters will always be a minority. Upper middle matrons who hate risky hard labor, not.

Chesterton thought less breeding of Britons came from women seeing too few men die in battle to feel inspired to die in childbirth- this was a little before WWI.

Cheap, safe abortion we got; test-tube babies not. When the tech level rises a notch, maybe we can outfox Gibbon and GKC both.

All the best,

Bruce Purcell


Hi Jerry,

Don't know if you've seen this.

"This is the story of educational romanticism in our schools - its rise, its etiology, and, we have reason to hope, its approaching demise"...

But it has a lot to say about your arguments on the current educational mess.

Robert Hickey


China: an opinion

Hi Jerry,

"Finally: we need to pay attention to what happens with Hong Kong and Shanghai as an indicator of possible futures for Taiwan. It is not likely that the US will be able to dominate the Straits of Formosa once China seriously brings technology and economic resources to bear."

It is my belief that China will mostly try to avoid that game. I expect they will put enough "presence" to keep the US on their toes while their real intention is to become a high ground power which would allow them to invalidate at a stroke, the enormous advantage the US has in military power. Their pride in their current space program is like what the Americans pride used to be in theirs in the 60's

While they may lack the individual initiative and "can do" attitude that Americans used to have, they are a very very industrious and determined people.

It is a race that the Americans can easily win (for many reasons), but to win, they have to be willing to enter the race.

- Paul



Students at Northwestern are required to demonstrate writing proficiency during their two "freshman" seminars, typically during the freshman year, though science and math majors with heavy required course loads sometimes take the second of these seminars in their second year.

Infrequently, remedial education is necessary, such as for those students who have a first language other than English or for those with a uneven distribution of academic talent. These students enter the "Writing Program."

Your implicit assumption that Northwestern has lax academic standards is mistaken. The academic program at Northwestern is quite rigorous. That was one reason why I elected to matriculate at Northwestern.

-Steven HPME Northwestern Class of 1982

Thanks. But I do note they couldn't wait to hire the French Narrative Theory teacher...


The Sad State of College Education and the Labor Market

Mr. Pournelle,

While I agree that not all middle-class citizens need a university education, if they want to rise above the middle-class, it is almost imperative for an American to get such an education. This is what is frustrating me. For individuals to get into certain industries that could be taught just as simply with on the job training, they must acquire at least a bachelor's degree.

What ever happened to apprenticing?

One thing that really gets my goat are "prerequisite classes". Until recently, I was attending college for a Computer Science degree on GI Bill funding. However, for the past four semesters, I was stuck with completing prerequisite material before I could even get to the classes that were relevant to my major. I know such things are considered "necessary evils", but do I really need to learn what a keyboard is when I have been using one since I was 5?

College curriculums are in serious need of modernization, especially those that deal with computers and technology.



Debt and Education 

Trout Rader did an economic analysis of free education's role in long- term maximisation of domestic productivity. Remember <http://www.jerrypournelle.com/science/firstdark.html#Erwin > ?

In Economics of Feudalism, Rader also showed that the inheritance of debts from generation to generation (or, equivalently, the inability of families to build up capital) would lead over time to a highly in-egalitarian society, with almost all families in debt slavery, and with a very small domestic product primarily serving the consumption of the (small) elite class. To avoid concentration of wealth, the social system as a whole has to invest in children so they can start out free of debt and with valued skills.

-- Harry Erwin, PhD, Program Leader, MSc Information Systems Security, University of Sunderland.

I would have thought that building a large state school system with resident tuition at pretty low levels was a heavy investment. In my time the resident tuition was small enough to be negligible: the big problem was staying alive while getting through school. Sure, tuition at Harvard and Yale was ruinous without scholarships and assistance, but it wasn't that important to go to one of those schools. I never even considered it.

Now, though, you end with debt even in state scho0ls -- which use the high tuition to ape the "intellectual" schools. The California State College system used to be dedicated to education and the benefit of undergraduates. Now --




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FridayMay 9, 2008

Subject: What might have been -- our government's plan for post-invasion Iraq


"Doug Feith was not only privy to the planning, he did much of it. And in his new, invaluable, book War and Decision <http://www.amazon.com/
War-Decision-Inside-Pentagon-Terrorism/dp/0060899735>  , Feith describes what the plan was, how it was developed, how the State Department fought against it, how President Bush approved it, and how L. Paul Bremer cast it aside. (In Feith's account, the vaunted "Future of Iraq" project was not a governance plan; it was just a series of ideas which, contrary to the conventional narrative, the so-called neocons thought were mostly fine).

In this post, I'll focus on the Defense Department's plan. In a follow-up post, I'll examine with more particularity the State Department's opposition to that plan. And I'll describe how Richard Armitage advocated a multi-year U.S. occupation even though he understood that it likely would result in instability and possibly terrorism against U.S. forces. Armitage was motivated by a determination to ensure that "externals" – Iraqi exiles and Kurds – would not assume leadership in Iraq. In the end, of course, we got both instability/terrorism and the "externals."

The Defense Department's plan might have avoided much of the instability and terrorism. It was predicated on the idea that the U.S. should not be viewed as an occupier because that perception would breed violence. Thus, it was vital to get the Iraqis involved and out-front promptly. The original concept, developed by Feith, was to follow the Afghanistan model. That meant installing a provisional government immediately and placing it largely in charge of governing the country."

Having done that planning thing with the Army for longer than I care to remember, I can state without reservation that there is a plan for everything, usually more than one so whoever is in charge can make a decision about them. I wasn't in the right place to see pre-war planning, but I can easily believe that DoD and State were fighting over what to do and how to do it. Trying to run two plans at once is also a great way to ensure neither works.

Serving Officer

I am in the process of reading Feith's book, which will likely be the book of the month next month. It is a remarkable document. As most know, I didn't want us in Iraq either time, and for the same reasons. The first time we were faced with the intolerable dilemma of raising false hopes only to dash them and cause the deaths of tens of thousands -- the course we chose the first time-- or of staying an trying an incompetent occupation --the course we chose under Bush II.

As to why those were our choices, rather than choosing competent empire, I've written about that before. Democracies are not good at empire. The Athenians showed us that, and we've been learning it ever since. One reason for the collapse of the Roman Republic was acquisition of Sicily and other provinces that were never going to be admitted to the Republic but which were governed by Rome. The consequent inevitable corruption did much to destroy the old ruling class. Lots of money with little accountability.

Wealthy Republics do not last long. Wealthy Republics that try their hand at governing subjects soon cease to be wealthy republics. Often they cease to be neither.


Subject: Teaching to the right side.

Jerry When I look back on my own experience in High school I am continually thankful for the shop classes that taught me basic skills for surviving in the base job market. Even though I have moved into MIS and technical positions at work I started as a mechanic and machinist because those were easy starting jobs at decent pay when I came out of school in the late 50s. Even then I noticed a tendency of some teachers to concentrate on those students they felt would or could go to college.

Those they felt would go into trades or would not make good college material were virtually ignored and while not specifically told to drop out and go to work they given the feeling that they were wasting the teachers valuable time by just being in the classroom. Today from my observations the situation is much worse, if the teacher does not feel the child is capable of being able to go to college then the child is made to feel unable to be anything worthwhile, and then drops out of school. And because they do not having the basic comprehension of working for a living given by shop classes they get into gang activities and end up in prison.

Because these individuals are not going into the job market we have a vacuum there that must be filled in order to provide materials and services to the community. This leads to illegal immigration of foreign workers desiring to fill these good paying jobs our young people either are unqualified for or feel they are to good to stoop to. It also leads to exporting jobs to areas where there are willing workers to take the jobs. So both job flight to off shore regions and the illegal immigration problem can directly be blamed on our school systems for not teaching the basic work skills and pride in them to those to the left side of the bell curve.

With a return to skills teaching we would solve many of the nations problems in one fell swoop.

Off shore job flight.

Overfilled prisons and lack of sufficient police.

Illegal immigration, might not stop it completely but it would be greatly reduced from what it is now. If there are no jobs for them to fill then they will not come!

It would also make it easier for an aerospace engineer who had his job position eliminated to get a better job than fry cook at the local fast food joint.

-- James Early, Long Beach, CA


Subject: Missing piece of the education puzzle maybe 

Dr Pournelle

Glad you are recovering. Will continue to pray for your successful recovery. And for strength for Roberta. (And for fewer software hiccups.)

I have seen much discussion on this site and others about the benefits of the GI bill. Only you give space to education for those not bound for college. But I think something has been forgotten.

The greatest educational benefit to World War II GIs -- at least in terms of numbers -- was not the GI bill. It was vocational skill training.

Congress -- in one of the few wise decisions it made in the 20th century -- realized that releasing into society 10 000 000 trained warriors without job skills was a recipe for rebellion; they mandated job skill training for enlisted men.

When my father entered the army in 1944 he was an unskilled farmhand. When he left the army in 1946, he had been trained in carpentry. He quickly found work as a carpenter. Over time, he rose to become a general contractor.

This is anecdotal, but it seems to me to be likely that my father's experience was repeated -- with varying degrees of success -- millions of times. During the 1950s and 1960s, the United States had the largest middle class the world has ever seen, as a percentage of the total population. I believe this was fueled by the blue-collar skills of veterans. Certainly more so than by the skills of intellectuals.

You yourself pointed out that draftsmen at Boeing rose to become engineers.

I think that if we search history, we may find that the schools never turned out many skilled tradesmen. (And by skilled tradesmen I mean skilled apprentices.) In fact, the vocational training given by the US Army after WWII fueled the boom of the 1950s and 1960s.

Does anyone out there have any data on this? More important, how do we reproduce it?

Respectfully h lynn keith

I am inclined to agree.


Debt, Education and Other Incentives About Children

Dr. Erwin writes:

<<In Economics of Feudalism, Rader also showed that the inheritance of debts from generation to generation (or, equivalently, the inability of families to build up capital) would lead over time to a highly in-egalitarian society, with almost all families in debt slavery, and with a very small domestic product primarily serving the consumption of the (small) elite class. To avoid concentration of wealth, the social system as a whole has to invest in children so they can start out free of debt and with valued skills. >>

The modern American social system is deliberately designed to discourage investment in children. Consider the following:

Any social system is a set of incentives and disincentives. The state (through laws) and the economic complex tells the individuals who participate in that system what is desirable and what is not.part of that system. Family formation, like any other part of the society, is subject to the workings of those same complexes.

In order to have families, one first must have potential parents. The current social setup discourages parenthood in several different ways;

a) a media environment that emphasizes immediate consumption and short-term pleasure-seeking. In the American case, this occurs through easily available credit-card debt, television/media programming that models consumerism and easy sexuality as moral ideals---"Friends" and "People" magazine, for example;

b) Extremely low-cost (if not "cost-free") and easily-available contraception and abortion; this reinforces the idea of consequence-free behavior as a social norm;

c) a legal environment that discourages stable relationships by making marriage easy to get out of, as well as relatively less desirable than serial monogamy ("cohabitation"). Corporations and the state allow those in all sorts of non-marital relationships to receive fringe benefits at virtually the same levels as married people, thus providing less incentive to remain together---why risk going through the hassle and potential expense of a divorce ?

d) A tax code that places the perceived cost burden of raising children squarely on families, while socializing the costs of consumption. Remember that it was not long ago that one could deduct credit-card interest on one's taxes. Most people in their child-bearing years grew up under such a tax regime. Also, the modern child exemption does not even begin to cover the costs of child-raising.

e) A credentials system that requires considerable expenditure of time and money to become marginally employable at a socially-acceptable standard of living. This reduces the time and money available for child-rearing.

f) As a corollary to e), a workplace environment on the elite/near-elite level that is relatively more rewarding than being at home raising children. (See A. Hochschild's "The Second Shift"). This reduces the desire to do the difficult work of actually caring for and raising the irrational little creatures we call "children".

End results: a reduced probability of stable, committed relationships, as well as a reduced probability of said potential parents wanting to devote time and resources to raising children once they are born.

What makes our present situation historically very unusual is that the vast majority of our public debt (and no small amount of our private debt) has been run up largely for the purpose of providing medical care for the (relatively unproductive) elderly. The Silent and now the Boomer generations have managed to set themselves up as a de facto mass elite class; State policies effectively subsidize the lifestyles of the elderly at the expense of children. One might be tempted to describe the current state of affairs as "intergenerational cannibalism"; where the older generations devour the young.

The long-term problem arises as succeeding generations arrive in numbers too small to maintain the expected lifestyles of the electorate. Cutting back on benefits and ease-in-lifestyle will end the power and tenure in office of the political class, so another solution has to be found. Often, this means importing poorer people from elsewhere. In Western Europe, this means Muslims from the Near East. In the US, this means Mexicans. Unfortunately, this is at most a two-generation solution. The new arrivals will, invariably, displace the old. America in 2100 may well be run from Mexico City.


Mark Schaeber


Nuclear power, Rocky Mountain institute, energy


Glad to hear your promising news about your treatment. God be with you and your physicians.

I've been reading and listening to a lot of material from Amory Lovins and his group at the Rocky Mountain Institute. (www.rmi.org).  I'd be curious as to your reactions to his work.

I was introduced to his work by watching a video podcast of him at the TED conference -- 20 minutes that shook up what I thought I knew about energy and transportation:


The talk is a precis of a book, "Winning the Oil Endgame," which RMI has made freely available for download:


In their recent newsletter, they have an article on nuclear claiming that far more cost-effective alternatives exist, even when carbon emission is taken into account -- interested in your take.


Finally, I was introduced to his work by a series of lectures he gave at Stanford on energy in building, transportation, industry, etc. He has also consulted extensively with the Pentagon, and is very concerned about security implications of our energy choices, both in terms of easily-disrupted infrastructure and geopolitical liabilities.

The lectures are here (large video with downloadable slides)


or here as audio-only podcasts:


Hope this is of interest.



I have known Amory Lovins for more than twenty years, and I have great respect for him. He is charming and persuasive, and he spends a lot of time working on his position papers. You could make a good case for him as the father of the Prius and other hybrid automobiles. I have chaired panels with Amory as a guest, and I am always glad to speak with him. He knows and respects numbers. He is also a great debater.

Lovins has always said that the cheapest erg we can buy is to conserve one we have already generated. He makes a good case. I think he makes too much of a case, of course.

My point has always been that conservation alone will not do the job. Amory and I have disagreed on numbers for many years. Since he spends most of his time on this and I don't, he will often win any particular debate we have. I can only continue to say that if a nation could conserve its way to prosperity, Bangla Desh would be the wealthiest nation on earth. They conserve everything there.

We need new sources of energy.

I have no quarrel with conservation, only that it's not enough, and there are often hidden costs. Prosperity has a high negative correlation with the price of energy, and if energy gets cheap enough, it makes little sense to conserve energy at high costs.



apprentices and rockets

Jerry, Blake said "What ever happened to apprenticing?... College curriculums are in serious need of modernization, especially those that deal with computers and technology."

Well, some colleges and universities understand this. XCOR, Masden, and other rocket companies are working with various institutions including Embry-Riddle University to train engineers before they graduate. XCOR's internship program is six months hard work on the shop floor as well as engineering theory that usually leads to employment with us. If not us, then employment at Orbital or Scaled Composites or another excellent company in the business of producing new stuff.

Several other universities have recently written to us about internship programs. Even the U.S. air force and navy have inquired. While it's not a movement of any great size, it is something we didn't see ten years ago. This is very encouraging.


Truth in advertising: Aleta is a long time friend, having formerly been an L-5 Society manager back when I was Secretary, and now an XCOR executive. My son Richard is a VP of XCOR.

My stories written in the 1970's and 1980's had reference to engineers and scientists and managers who were "graduates" of Westinghouse, General Electric, and other major corporations, and mentioned apprenticeship programs much as Boeing used to train a good half of its own engineers.  I used to think that was the way the US would go, given the rapid deterioration of the universities.

Alas, American with Disabilities and the various Civil Rights Acts reversed those trends. It is very difficult to show why you have hire an apprenticeship graduate over a graduate of a prestigious university, even if it's pretty clear to everyone that the prestigious university graduate is less qualified and a benefit of affirmative action. (And no, I am not saying that all minority race graduates of prestigious universities are beneficiaries of affirmative action, or that all affirmative action beneficiaries are not qualified; I have given plenty of examples of my own students who are exceptions; only that there are enough that the suspicion is always there.) Credentialism follows quotas and lawsuits as the night the day. A personnel officer wants credentials to point to when a reject for a job cries "Discrimination!!!!"

I wish the internship/apprenticeship movement well, but I suspect the Trial Lawyers will end it soon enough, and I hope that the companies that attempt these programs can survive the inevitable lawsuits when someone notices they have not met their quotas.




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Saturday, May 10, 2008

 This day was devoured by lethargy.





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Sunday,  May 11, 2008     

"In this mindset, you are either on our side or you deserve to be stepped on forever.”


-- Roland Dobbins


Joseph Miko, RIP.

la-me-miko11-2008may11,0,1502916,full.story >

- Roland Dobbins

I knew him back in the 1960's when I was active in politics and ran the Los Angles/Southern California Captive Nations organization. Most will not remember Captive Nations week; it was part of the Cold War, and even that is rapidly being forgotten.

As the heroes of the Cold War vanish I suppose we will all forget those times. I do no think we should. History has not ended. Still, we do not need to be enemies with Russia now. Why we are choosing that policy I do not know.


"There will be a sustained level of risk from power shortages in the commodities markets. We are pricing bigger supply losses as a result."

Note that, irony of ironies, theft of copper power transmission lines is listed as a factor in the cobalt shortage;

["You could have taken copper previously and gotten a little money for it. Now you're actually making a significant return. It's simple economics."


 seems a good way to drive up targeted commodity prices and make a killing, or disrupt supplies of strategic minerals required by an adversary, no?

article/2008/05/10/AR2008051000151_pf.html >

-- Roland Dobbins


A long common sense screed on Climate:

Subject: What is 'climate change' and why should I care about it?

Hello Dr. Pournelle,

I read your 'View', your 'Mail', and a host of other miscellaneous stuff. A lot of it is about 'global warming' (now 'climate change', as if there were any other kind of climate), if only to confirm my view that 'climate change' is the greatest threat to humanity since Marxism was invented. Mainly because as near as I can figure it IS Marxism.

In the course of my reading I see graphs carefully plotting the 'global temperature', to a resolution of tenths of a degree, over periods of time in the tens, hundreds, thousands, hundreds of thousands, and even millions of years. I live on about 40 acres in Rappahannock County in Virginia. I would like to see someone who could supply me with the temperature history of my property, to +/- 0.1 degree (C or F; they get to pick the scale and the GPS coordinates of the measurement point), just since I moved here in 1993. Or for that matter, Rappahannock County or the state of Virginia. If they can't do that, please excuse me if I am a bit skeptical of their highly precise plots of the single value 'planetary' temperature over the last thousand years or so. Especially since thermometers, even crude ones, were not invented until the early 1600's.

More to the point though, in reading these discussions of whether the earth is warming or cooling, or how much, what (or who) is causing it, and what actions, if any, should be taken to correct the problem, a few things are missing.

First is the concept of 'the temperature of the earth'. Who defined it? How were the procedures for measuring it established? As late as thirty seconds ago, there were several data sets that supposedly represent the current or recent 'global temperature'. None give the same temperature to +/- 0.1 degree and in many cases even the trend lines over the last few years are in disagreement. Several have been produced by 'adjusting' the raw data. Which one is the 'gold standard'? Is there one? If not, do we have any reason to believe that ANY of them represent reality?

Next is the definition of the emergency. The basic problem, as stated by the 'warmists', seems to be that the temperature of the earth is ramping upward, out of control, and that THE cause is the introduction of CO2 into the atmosphere as a byproduct of supplying the energy needs of human civilization. The second part of the problem is that all effects of the temperature increase and that all effects of the increase in CO2 are postulated to be negative.

Taking the first part, assuming that the temperature is increasing (not universally supported by actual data--especially data that has not been 'corrected' by those with a political or financial stake in seeing an increase), there would seem to be no pressing need to do anything about it if the temperature was currently less than 'ideal' and was approaching the ideal from below. Assuming that we know the temperature now, what is the 'ideal' temperature? Who determined it? A single person? A committee? Has it been published? Where? What were the criteria for making the determination? Who selected the criteria? Is the ideal temperature different from the temperature of the planet on 11 May, 2008? Higher or lower? Keep in mind that in the mid 1970's, the crisis, according to the environmentalists of the time (many of them the same individuals warning of global warming today), was global cooling. Was the temperature in 1975 ideal?

Next is the assertion that the temperature increase is being caused by the human production of CO2. In the first place, even using the suspect graphs of temperature over time, there does not seem to be a strong correlation between temperature and CO2 and, to the extent that there is, according to most data sources the CO2 profile lags the temperature profile, leading one to suspect that CO2 is not causal. Also, human contribution to CO2, while a large absolute number of tons, is relatively small compared to the total amount of atmospheric CO2 and even (as I understand) compared to natural sources of CO2 emission. Nevertheless, there seems to be universal agreement that we need to reduce our production of CO2. Why? Atmospheric CO2, never mind the greenhouse effect, is essential to all life on the planet. The calls for a reduction in human production seem to be based on the assumption that there is an 'ideal' amount of CO2 in the atmosphere and that our activities have already driven us past the ideal point. Who made the determination? What factors were considered? It is clear that an increase will have a positive influence on plant growth, which in turn would seem to be a positive in a world with increasing population. Is that the only one? Are all positive effects clearly overshadowed by the negative effects? Keep in mind that the very nature of 'fossil fuels' implies that ALL the carbon in them was in the atmosphere at one time or another and has been sequestered over time. Would our lot be improved by de-sequestering a bunch of it?

Since the temperature variance over time has been established (decreed?) to be a function atmospheric CO2 (Remember, the science is settled; don't be a 'denier'.), it would seem to be relatively simple to take the previously established ideal temperature, plug it into the function that describes the relationship (which one of the dozens of models would that be?), and come up with the percentage of CO2 that would produce the ideal temperature. Once that was done, it would then be equally simple to determine, after subtracting out natural contributions, how much CO2, if any (remember, the temperature increase is postulated to be a catastrophic emergency), that humans would be allowed to produce. Has this been done? What are the error budgets on the output of the temperature vs CO2 model? Are they greater or less than the natural variability of temperature? What IS the natural temperature variability, absent human influence? Other than the exhortations to 'reduce' human produced CO2, where are the data that demonstrate the need? Once atmospheric CO2 has been established at the calculated ideal percentage, what guarantee is there that it will produce the ideal temperature? Once the target CO2 level is established, how long until the earth's temperature stabilizes at the target temperature? How stable will the temperature be? How do we adjust OUR production in conjunction with natural variations in CO2 caused by volcanos etc to maintain the CO2 at the ideal level? How do we measure the non- human contribution? Do we establish production quotas for next year based on CO2 measurements made this year (measured where? how often? single data point? average? over how many years, months, days?) What is the tolerance window for temperature/CO2 over which no action is required?

You can go on forever, listing questions for which there are no discernible answers, ALL critical in determining whether or not we should take action and what action is required. Other than the mantra 'the earth and all that dwell therein is being destroyed by human CO2 production and the catastrophe can only be averted by giving government absolute power over every human activity' (which, coincidentally, seems to be the solution to a lot of OTHER pressing problems which, also coincidentally, have been identified by the same folks who discovered catastrophic anthropomorphic global warming ) there doesn't seem to be a lot of concrete answers to any of them.

Since the only absolute certainty, never mind the actual observed data, is that we are faced with an emergency and that the ONLY solution is for the government to take charge of all resources and all human activities, it would seem to me that the only real emergency is that the world is not currently subject to a Marxist dictatorship.

THAT one, thanks to global warming (which we are now told is on hold for 20-30 years to make way for some global cooling--temporary, of course) and other crises, is well on the way to being solved nicely.

Bob Ludwick


Subject: Not forgetting the Cold War 

Dear Jerry,

An intriguing paper:


The Soviet Collapse: Grain and Oil by Yegor Gaidar

Best Wishes,



Subject: 6,000 year old earth

Sorry that this is in regards to a conversation that ended some time ago, but I was out of the country and am just getting caught up.

In the conversation on intelligent design, you mentioned in passing that you were not aware of anyone still believing God created the world in six days in 4004 BC. Unfortunately, there are those that believe this passionately. I grew up in such a church as well as a Christian school that taught young earth creationism as scientific fact. Not theology; provable scientific fact. I never bought into it, but learned early on not to say anything. This continued for several decades. When I finally made my views known, I was kicked off the deacon board and removed from my teaching position in the church my wife and I attended. I was even removed from the rotation for running the sound board during Sunday services. I've never been much of a "pew warmer" so I left the church after a couple weeks and haven't darkened the door of a church in the nearly three years since.

This particular brand of Christian fundamentalism believes every silly thing you've heard the like of Dawkins arguing against. I know much of it sounds as if it has to be a straw man concocted to make Christians look stupid, but it hasn't. Six-day creation, global flood with two of every "kind" on a big boat cared for by eight people, Joshua causing to sun to stand still; every last bit of it. They believe it so passionately, they spent millions to build the Creation Museum (http://www.creationmuseum.org/) . Not millions to feed the poor, care for widows and orphans, or even help out the guy that sits in the pew next to them every Sunday who is laid off and in foreclosure.

There is a siege mentality in this particular brand of evangelicalism, and they are casting the creation debate as their last stand. I don't expect them to fare any better than Custer, but they seem determined to go down swinging.

 Ric Frost 

Perhaps I was unclear, but what I meant to say is that I don't know anyone who believes this. I am sure such people exist. I am sure there are some who actually believe the world is flat. I just never meet such people, and if I did they are not likely to have much influence on my life.

I put it to you that the 6000 year old Earth people have not a lot more influence on your life or mine. This being a free country, they have the right to believe this; indeed, I would say that if they could gain control of a school district they have the right to teach their views, although I doubt that (1) there is a school district they could ever gain control of, and (2) even if there were they would go farther than to have their views treated as an alternative to what the rest of the world believes.

But then I am all for local freedom so long as I have the freedom to move away from local districts with weird views. If the Blue Belly Baptists want to have laws requiring that everyone who goes out in public on Wednesday evening must not expose a belly button unless it is painted blue, I'd let them have their law, and then I'd have to decide if I ever wanted to be in that town on a Wednesday. I suspect I am nearly alone in my view of local control and local community freedom, and I don't argue the case much; but I can think of State and Federal laws that annoy -- Yea frighten me -- more than the Blue Belly Baptists laws would. Or than allowing local districts in Kansas to teach that evolution is a theory and to teach alternatives to it. The world won't end if Resume Speed, Kansas, has a sixth grade class in Creationism. I suspect the kids in that class would be subject to more real science courtesy of scientists than most students everywhere else. The debate might even be good for them.

Either you believe in rational discussion or you don't. If Darwin wins out in rational debate with the best of the Intelligent Design advocates, I would not think the world harmed.

Of course I spent a good part of my life as the protégé of Stefan Possony, and that was his favorite point: If you believe in rational discussion, then you act as if you do. A great number of 'rationalists' don't.









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

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

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


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Entire Site Copyright, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008 by Jerry E. Pournelle. All rights reserved.

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