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Mail 547 December 1 - 7, 2008







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Monday  December 1, 2008

Harry Erwin's Letter From England

Wacky Jacqui's Plumbers in Action:

 Conservative shadow immigration minister arrested by terrorism police for obtaining leaked Government documents. BBC coverage <http://tinyurl.com/6ebqqk  > Guardian story <http://tinyurl.com/5m8qwa> London Times story <http://tinyurl.com/6oefxc  > Independent story <http://tinyurl.com/6fqvur> Telegraph story <http://tinyurl.com/5wbh9t  >.

 This may be pay-back for the Conservatives' forcing Sir Ian Blair from office as head of Scotland Yard. It also raises the question of whether the police have been politicised by Labour.

 Follow-ups on story: Wacky Jacqui under pressure (Telegraph) <http://tinyurl.com/695r3l  >, Scathing comments by the Financial Times <http://tinyurl.com/

6p23s7>. Tories filmed the police raid on the MP's office in the

Palace of Westminster (Times) <http://tinyurl.com/66z6zh>. Declaration of political war (Mail comment) <http://tinyurl.com/5dror7> <http://tinyurl.com/57pcz4  > Is Labour now using the police? <http://tinyurl.com/5me4bf>. Ordeal of MP's family (Evening Standard) <http://tinyurl.com/59y35g>. What triggered this plumbing operation (Telegraph) <http://tinyurl.com/

695c25> <http://tinyurl.com/695hv3>. Expert view (Times)

695c25> <http://tinyurl.com/6ggux3

 > Abuse of power <http://tinyurl.com/5rag76> Show trial? <http://tinyurl.com/5hadwq  >. PM accused of contempt for parliament (Guardian) <http://tinyurl.com/6kysd3  > ZANU-Labour (Times comment) <http://tinyurl.com/66dgl9>

(Independent) <http://tinyurl.com/5ok2yj> Related leak case thrown out of court <http://tinyurl.com/5muvvg>

 Note that the BBC is not covering this story with the interest that the independent papers are. <http://tinyurl.com/5djqv9>

 We're also following the events in Mumbai.

 Mop-up completing: (BBC) <http://tinyurl.com/58me3j> (Guardian) <http://tinyurl.com/5o7hpp  > (Times) <http://tinyurl.com/6d73dt>

 UK links played down: (Guardian) <http://tinyurl.com/6qfeaw>

(Independent) <http://tinyurl.com/6hu3no>


Harry Erwin, PhD

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


Tax and Spend

New Labour is gone: (Telegraph) <http://tinyurl.com/678cag>.

See <http://tinyurl.com/5t4l4s>. Gordon Brown was never New Labour.

 -- Harry Erwin, PhD "If you can't be a good example, then you'll just have to be a horrible warning." (Catherine Aird)


UK police vet live music for terror risk

Live music is now a terrorist threat in the UK: <http://tinyurl.com/6ds9o3 >.  They're particularly concerned about black urban musical styles.

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


Just got a Kindle

Okay my wife just got me a Kindle. Wow do I love it but at the same time is scares me. It is so small and light. I can carry hundreds of books with me at all time. It is so easy to read. I can click on any line and do a dictionary look up with it. Even the web access is very handy. The lack of color makes some books less than useful as do the small screen size but other than that it is just great.

Okay the scary things:

You can't lend a book to your friend. If I read a great book on the Kindle I can not give it to a friend when I am done.

No more used bookstores. I have bought some great books at used book stores that you just can't get any place else.

The books of my father. I have some old books that my grandfather and father gave me.

On the plus side.

No book should ever go out of print. Really why should they? It costs nothing to keep a book available on the Kindle.

Books should cost a lot less. No print runs, no shipping, no returns. Publishing should be more available. This is a double edged sword. I fear that I will see about 900 junk books for every good book if that. Oh why can't we have a technology that all good?

I do wish that that it supported PDFs right from my PC.


I will probably run this in Chaos Manor Mail. Regarding  pdf files, there are probably other ways but what I do is send myself email to myusername@kindle.com with the pdf file attached. A few minutes later it appears on the Kindle and I owe Amazon a dime. Works just fine.


Time to get off the internet...


The application of the CFAA in this case is more than a little troubling. If you violate a web site or provider's terms of service, you can be prosecuted.???

John Harlow, President BravePoint

I don't think the situation is that bad, but I have not studied it. I have trouble reading that stuff just now.


"I think they see this, in their own twisted way, as a win for diversity."


-- Roland Dobbins


Most Planets May Be Seeded With Life?


-- Roland Dobbins

I have always been partial to the panspermia theory, but then Sir Fred Hoyle was an old friend. (See Evolution from Space).


The Orbit of the Moon around the Sun is Convex!


-- Roland Dobbins


Pushing students toward engineering and manufacturing majors


I have watched with great interest your suggestions, and those of your readers, to push college students away from studies in accounting, finance, Womyn’s Studies, Gender Studies, etc., and towards majors dealing with engineering, manufacturing, medicine, nursing, and such. I have also seen comments regarding student loans, student work, and related matters. While interesting, the issue is at least 20 years late. And it pushes too many of my buttons to ignore. May I introduce some anecdotal evidence? Personal, in this case. I worked my way through college. Part-time student, full-time employee, totally self-supporting throughout. Studying engineering with a focus on manufacturing. Graduated 16 years ago, owing no one. The results? Success? Comfortable living? Sense of accomplishment?

Well ….. The manufacturing company I worked for originally, after I had just started my studies, closed its doors a year after I started. Some of the people had been there for more than 20 years. The second one, my home for more than 6 years, was a division of one of the Big 3, is now part of the spun-off components operation, and what little is left in the US is mostly invisible and dying. They once employed thousands in that town, but it is down to a few hundred and is on a death watch. The third, once a major player in its field, downsized in a big way as I was about to graduate and is now on its 3rd or 4th owner since I left, and barely alive. I was there 18 months; others had been there for 20 years or more. The fourth was once the most admired corporation in America, was sold off by the descendants of the founders, underwent extensive ''rationalization'' to suit the green eye-shade types with MBA’s, and now exists mostly now as a label on a box of product produced in China or Mexico. I was there for more than 6 years having moved across state lines to take the position. The fifth was a Tier 1 to a major American manufacturing corporation with products in most American homes. Which corporation is busily relocating to Mexico and the plant that formerly housed me is closing, as are most of the other Tier 1 and Tier 2 suppliers. My co-workers from my 5 years there are kicked to the curb like trash. That was another move across state lines. The sixth closed the plant I was based in, and most of what is left elsewhere is now in Mexico as ‘more efficient’, after I’d been there less than six months and had moved across state lines to get there. The plant manager, my boss, was unemployed for a year, and I fed my family from a succession of low-level jobs while sending resumes everywhere.

The seventh is barely hanging on after several rounds of RIF’s, one of which included me and the person who hired me, after only a year and after I had, again, moved across state lines..

The eighth .... but need I go on?

You want engineering and manufacturing in this country? So do I, more than you can imagine. But in the last 16 years I have moved my family across state lines multiple times, not willingly or chasing career advancement, but out of brutal necessity. I like manufacturing and engineering, and am well-regarded by those I have worked with. But I have grown weary of going through plant closings, outsourcing, ‘right-sizing’, rounds of management fads, and being lectured by beancounters who could not locate their rectums with both hands and a flashlight. In my networking across the country, I have found that my story is by no means unique. Meanwhile, I was just lectured by an executive recruiter (a.k.a. “headhunter”) about my too-frequent job changes. Had I the option to do it over, I might have become a ‘snivel servant’ and paid my dues to AFSCME or their co-thieves. At least I wouldn’t have had to uproot my family and careen across the company like vagabonds, always to be strangers in town.

There are good people in this country, people who have worked hard and been real contributors and have added value to the organization, people I have been proud to know and to work with. Some of them are working at Wal-Mart now, or are working for temp agencies, or are ‘’independent consultants’’ living in roach motels as they take on various temporary projects trying to feed a family 500 miles away. Some have tried the ‘headhunter’ route. While, generally, the finance wonks and beancounters have holed up in their McMansions and are living off the golden parachutes and the other rewards accumulated as a result of gutting their companies. The hollowing-out of American manufacturing has some real human casualties and I have been at Ground Zero for some of it. It is not a theoretical matter for me.

Question for the house: what is the point of cranking out more graduates in fields that require a lot of real effort and lead to Wal-Mart jobs?

Sign me,

Not Too Bitter

Which is the best argument I know of for reasonable -- not excessive, reasonable -- protective tariffs. I could say a lot more on this, but surely the point it made? Would we rather have more engineers or sociologists given that tax money will be paid to produce them>


Financial concerns about hyperinflation

Hi, Jerry:

I have studied the last economic cycle in the 20s and 30s a bit.

The US started out guaranteeing $700-850 billion in October.

Already we see http://www.newsday.com/services/

Government rescue of financial system tops $7.7 trillion BLOOMBERG NEWS November 26, 2008

The $7.76 trillion includes a Fed program to buy as much as $2.4 trillion in short-term notes, called commercial paper, that companies use to pay bills, begun Oct. 27, and $1.4 trillion from the FDIC to guarantee bank-to-bank loans, started Oct. 14.


"Whether it's lending or spending, it's tax dollars that are going out the window and we end up holding collateral we don't know anything about," said Rep. Scott Garrett (R-N.J.), who serves on the House Financial Services Committee. "The time has come that we consider what sort of limitations we should be placing on the Fed so that authority returns to elected officials as opposed to appointed ones."



According to Bloomberg News, the government has committed more than

$7.7 trillion

to rescue the financial system. Here's a breakdown: http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&q=%247.7+TRILLION.+&btnG=Google+Search&aq=f&oq= $4.75 trillion by the Federal Reserve

$1.55 trillion by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp

$947 billion by the Treasury Department

$300 billion by the Federal Housing Administration

As much as $200 billion to bolster Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac hasn't been allocated to any agency


only about $670 billion floats world-wide as circulating American currency in the form of actual paper money


Now I really dont think most of this carnival of guarantees will go bad but that is not the point.

Just as Greshams Law


states that bad money drives out good, so anyone with a lobbyist is going to try to offload private failure onto the public back. In a possible runaway chain reaction, bad (govt-guaranteed debt by fiat) will push out good- (private guaranteed debt with liquidatable assets)

IF and when foreign lenders get tired of (lose confidence in) financing this locust feed, a hyperinflationary depression is possible if rather than accepting defeat failed decison makers try to repudiate the debt through monetization ie printing, issuing debt, etc.

If I wanted (and had the inclination to) write a scary financial book now (I don't really) this would be the theme.

In my view UK is far more vulnerable than USA (fewer untapped resources) is to this but USA is not immune. They are essentially tapping the financial resources they would use for example to finance a world war now. I will guess the ultimate size of those reserves to be around 3 years GNP (World War 2 standard). I sure hope the politicans don't get used to spending on this scale for their pet programs-- or the last six months will be one... spectacular... blowout...

This would have financed the colonization of space... alas.


PS I am thankful you are better again. May you have a long and productive time ahead. As the (new) Vulcan curse says, "live very long and prosper--- you need to pay off your share of the new enlarged national debt!" :)

China had a period of hyperinflation after WWII. The result was Red China. Germany under the Weimar Republic had inflation to the point that a 3 pfennig stamp was overprinted to be worth 3 mird millionen Marks. We are hardly safe from that here.


food and water availability in the future

Dear Dr. Pournelle,

You mentioned a hydroponics greenhouse on Friday. Do you think the coming depression is going to be so severe that we won't be able to get food?

Debra Kraber

 Poway, California

It's partly a matter of transportation: gasoline prices are down now, but there are things the Administration can do in pursuit of "green" that can run the prices up very high; at which point the price of fresh food will skyrocket. How much is it worth to have fresh tomatoes and fresh lettuce? One can live on bean soup. The Gurkhas are said to be able to live on rice and rat meat when that's necessary. One assumes there will be food, but the variety may not be what you like. What you grow in a fenced in back yard is your business, and having done the hydroponics thing back when I was an editor of SURVIVE Magazine, I can tell you that it's not even particularly onerous once you get it set up properly; and the yields can be astonishing. Keeping things in a greenhouse keeps the bugs out (alas also the bees, so for some crops you have to be your own honeybee or have the kids do it with artist brushes, but that never took more than an afternoon).

If you are at the edge of starvation then I doubt the hydroponics setup will do you much good -- you'll have other problems -- but some fresh vegetables can brighten up otherwise cheerless meals.  Will it come to that? I don't know. I do know there are mistakes the government can make that will bring us to the brink of ruin.





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Tuesday,  December 2, 2008

Pirates fire on US cruise ship in hijack attempt.


--- Roland Dobbins

I would think tracking them to their mother ship might be a useful thing to do... They need to be taught that there are some ships one ought not mess with. But was this a US flagged ship?


on arming crews to prevent piracy

Dear Dr. Pournelle,

I have to comment on Mr. Kirchners proposal. Somali pirates take care not to harm crews. It would take a foolish crew to give battle to pirates to avoid spending a few weeks on the African coast at worst. There is a time for individualism. This is not one of them. The pirates' bases in northern Somalia are known. It will take naval action to solve this issue.

Regards Oliver Neukum


AP Continues to drool over "brazen" Pirates


"There has also been a legal opinion by the Foreign Office in London that captured pirates cannot necessarily be sent back to whatever authorities can be found in Somalia, in case they are subject to harsh treatment. That would contravene the British Human Rights Act. The pirates captured in the Royal Navy action have now been handed over not to Somalia, but Kenya.

The Law of the Sea Convention places limitations on daring action. Under Article 100 of the convention a warship has first to send an officer-led party to board a suspected pirate ship to verify any suspicions.

The warship cannot just open fire. Any inspection has to be carried out "with all possible consideration". That sounds rather tentative."

You mean a UN treaty might be flawed and encourage evil? That's unprecidented...



Hi Jerry,

The lessons learned from the USA's very early dealings with the Barbary pirates is instructive - paying them off did not work. Destroying them did. That lesson has yet to be learned by modern day ship owners and insurance companies, I fear. It's time to take it out of their hands before the problem gets worse.

However, some of your correspondents have suggested arming the boats. That's really not useful - if a boat is captured, the boat's arms will be the pirates, and not the crews arms to bear. Other forms of negative reinforcement are needed, not small arms - which are a valuable black market commodity in their own right.

From first principles, pirates need four things to run a profitable crime:

a) Means to find and reach the vessel at sea b) Small arms for boarding the vessel and keeping the captured crew under control c) Capturing the ship and its cargo for the ransom (or indeed its value on the black market) d) Holding the crew hostage, as many nations will not deliberately sink ships with innocents on them

There has to be several prongs to a partial generic solution:

Obviously, increased patrols by huge navy ships are not currently making much head way against small fishing vessels and speed boats. There needs to be more aerial surveillance and quick response to likely threats. Australia has skills in this area - patrolling more than 20,000 km of coast line for a couple of decades now. They're not perfect at it, but it's better than most. Australia also sinks every single ship seized in illegal migration, reducing the total number of ships available for this purpose. I'm sure such skills and ideas can be adapted.

Reducing small arms availability is basically like flapping arms at windmills, especially as the USA exports most of them and has been decidedly against curtailing their sale when everyone else on the planet is against this scourge. There's now so many weapons floating out there, I doubt much can be changed in the short term, but if the USA banned the export and sale of all small arms to non-military purchasers would be a great first step.

Reduce or eliminate the likelihood of being paid - Legally prevent insurance companies and ship owners paying off the pirates. Don't let payout be an option. We've already learnt this lesson, and we should not repeat the mistakes made the last time.

Reduce the likelihood of boarding - Technology to detect and avoid approaching objects. I'm sure someone can come up with infrared or other technology to scan the nearby area whilst at sea to highlight approaching vessels, and take evasive action such as turning into them and speeding up. This would give crew a chance to take other actions against the approaching vessel(s), raise the alarm and declare an emergency, or at least wake up if they're asleep literally at the wheel. Realistically, ships are still going to be boarded regardless if you know the pirates are there or not, so the next stage is to deny the pirates the ransom, boat, and crew as much as possible.

Reduce the likelihood of capturing the vessel in a useful form. Physically stop the ships getting to (pirate) port. This requires a few extra routines in the ship's navigation software. All large and many medium size ships have auto pilot and have computer control of the engine, rudder and other directional devices. If the crew has time, they should be able to trigger an irreversible "Emergency - pirates" mode. In case the crew don't have time, the mode should also be triggerable remotely by the boat's owners. In anti-pirate mode, whilst the engines run and the rudder is under the control of the software, the ship will automatically make full steam to the nearest known safe haven where navy boats will be, preferably in a jurisdiction known to prosecute pirates properly.

If the pirates try to disable the software, rudder, or engine(s), the ship should automatically deploy its sea anchors, and set the rudder to a safe turning radius so the ship goes in circles in a fixed location, all the while triggering emergency beacons so the ship can be located as a ship in distress by emergency services and the various navies. This then becomes a stand off / siege, where the pirates are at a considerable disadvantage as proven by the Indian navy last week.

Obviously, this shifts the issue to more vulnerable smaller vessels, but this also reduces potential booty for the pirates, and may make the entire thing unprofitable / too risky for the pirates.

Arming pirates is a dumb idea which will not work. Any long term resolution to this particular bout of piracy has to involve getting Somalia back on its feet, eliminating the profit and denying them the cargo, capturing more pirates, and prosecuting them to the full extent of the law. There will always be piracy, but it hasn't been this bad for a long time because we've not learnt the lessons from history.

thanks, Andrew


Subject: Who is to blame for the piracy off Somalia?

Dr Pournelle

Why, the answer is those greedy American corporate CEOs, don't you know. At least according to James Carroll, op-ed writer for the Boston Globe.

"CEOs, regulators, investors and governments chose short-term self-interest over long-term fairness. It did not work. A reform of the globalized economy is urgently needed. But piracy off the coast of Somalia is equally a sign of needed global reform."

For more --> http://www.iht.com/articles/2008/11/24/opinion/edcarroll.php 

And most assuredly the greedy stockholders are the culprits behind tooth decay and the heartbreak of psoriasis.

(I have only one question: Who is smart enough and wise enough to reform the global economy to please Mr Carroll?)

Live long and prosper

h lynn keith

 [I was born with a photographic memory but it never developed.] PS How does one hold a rational debate with such as Mr Carroll?

There is a reasonable case to be made that piracy is all that's left to Somali because Kenyan and other fishing nations have overfished their waters, leaving the Somali fishermen with no means of making a living. I don't have the time or inclination to go into the US intervention into Somalia. My son Phillip was an ensign on a the USS Tripoli, a helicopter carrier, when then President George W Bush visited the area (and stayed on the Tripoli) so I paid some attention to the region at that time. Our interventions don't seem to have been useful or effective; perhaps loaning them coast guard cutters would have been the best thing we could do; enforce the fishing ban? It would provide good and exotic training for the Coast Guard, and probably be a lot cheaper than pouring foreign aid into a sinkhole. We certainly have interests in keeping the seas open. The US has often intervened to enforce freedom of passage. We are a maritime nation (even if we have few US flagged merchant ships).

One must feel some sympathy for the Somali fishermen. That would not for me extend to encouraging piracy.

And see below




"Bianco Research crunched the inflation adjusted numbers. The bailout has cost more than all of these big budget government expenditures – combined:

• Marshall Plan: Cost: $12.7 billion, Inflation Adjusted Cost: $115.3 billion • Louisiana Purchase: Cost: $15 million, Inflation Adjusted Cost: $217 billion • Race to the Moon: Cost: $36.4 billion, Inflation Adjusted Cost: $237 billion • S&L Crisis: Cost: $153 billion, Inflation Adjusted Cost: $256 billion • Korean War: Cost: $54 billion, Inflation Adjusted Cost: $454 billion • The New Deal: Cost: $32 billion (Est), Inflation Adjusted Cost: $500 billion (Est) • Invasion of Iraq: Cost: $551b, Inflation Adjusted Cost: $597 billion • Vietnam War: Cost: $111 billion, Inflation Adjusted Cost: $698 billion • NASA: Cost: $416.7 billion, Inflation Adjusted Cost: $851.2 billion

TOTAL: $3.92 trillion

That is $686 billion less than the cost of the credit crisis thus far.

The only single American event in history that even comes close to matching the cost of the credit crisis is World War II. Original Cost: $288 billion, Inflation Adjusted Cost: $3.6 trillion."

Doesn't that make you feel better about it.



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Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Send 'em up pilgrim...

Sent by a Marine Pilot

In addition to communicating with the local air traffic control facility, aircraft are required to give the Iranian Air Defense Radar (military) a ten minute 'heads up' that they will be transiting Iranian airspace. This is a common procedure for commercial aircraft and involves giving them your call sign, transponder code, type aircraft, and points of origin and destination. I just flew with a guy who overheard this conversation on the VHF Guard (emergency) frequency 121.5 MHz while flying from Europe to Dubai . It's too good not to pass along. The conversation went something like this... Air Defense Radar: 'Unknown aircraft at (location unknown), you are in Iranian airspace. Identify yourself.' Aircraft: 'This is a United States aircraft. I am in Iraqi airspace.' Air Defense Radar: 'You are in Iranian airspace. If you do not depart our airspace we will launch interceptor aircraft!' Aircraft: 'This is a United States FA-18 fighter. Send 'em up!' Air Defense Radar: (no response ... total silence)


About education

"Lessons From 40 Years of Education 'Reform' "


"- Abolish all local school districts, save 70 (50 states; 20 largest cities). Some states may choose to leave some of the rest as community service organizations, but they would have no direct involvement in the critical task of establishing standards, selecting teachers, and developing curricula."

--  Paal Steinar Berg

Possibly the best formula for disaster I have ever heard; straight out of Jesse Unruh who consolidated all the local school districts in Los Angeles into the ungovernable and ineffective LS Unified School District, where parents have to schedule appearances before their School Board 6 months in advance and get precisely 3 minutes to make their presentation when the finally get their appointment; and which has some of the worst schools in the country.

It is straight out of the educationist playbook, and would put total control in the hands of Washington -- Washington which spends the most per kid for the least effect of any school district in history.

It confirms the principle of centralization. It used to be that there were three enormous failed bureaucracies: the Soviet System of Agriculture; NASA; and the US system of education. They all failed for the same reason, that  bureaucracies are always subject to Pournelle's Iron Law of Bureaucracy no matter how important the goals of the organization. One of those bureaucracies is gone. The other two continue. (And of course this is not an exhaustive list; merely what I thought of off the top of my head when I was looking for examples.)

The remedy to US education problems is not more centralization, it is more dispersion. It is repeal of the miserable principle that the US Supreme Court jammed down our throats when it forbade local district financing of its schools, thus making certain that the goal of the schools would be attendance not education and stripping local school boards of any power over their schools.  Good Grief! If your goal were to destroy the schools, csan you think of a better way than decoupling financing from local school board control? If the goal were to send more money into the inner city schools, then send them money; but no, the Us Supreme Court in its infinite wisdom decided that the Constitution -- which never mentions education at all -- requires an imbecile system of school financing in which schools get paid for attendance without regard to performance, strips the local boards of any real means of control, and then for good measure allows Washington bureaucrats to impose No Child Left Behind which means that No Child Shall Ever Get Ahead.

If we want good schools the first thing to do is create good schools. The Congress has full and final authority over the District of Columbia. Let it assert that and install school officials who can educate the children in DC. It has full authority to drown them in money if that will do the job. It can do anything it likes: let the Congress, then, experiment with the DC school system. Let it create charter schools there. Let it create anything it can conceive of in its infinite wisdom. When it achieves success, then it will be no problem exporting that success. A good example -- given local control, anyway -- will be compelling to everyone else.

And for that matter, overturn the idiotic decoupling of financing from control imposed by the ideologues on the Supreme Court.

Transparency and subsidiarity -- i.e. local fiduciary responsibility: those are the keys to good government. See Jane Jacobs Dark Age Ahead for some details and more arguments on how to avoid the Dark Age Ahead -- assuming we can avoid it.

I quote from myself:

On the other hand, Jane Jacobs has shown us that Dark Ages, in which we not only have forgotten how we used to do certain things, but have forgotten that we could do them at all, can still happen. Take, for example, the education establishment, which is entirely unaware that at one time there were essentially no children who had been through four years of schooling and remained unable to read. Illiteracy used to be confined to the unschooled.

And conclude that what the US has done, the US can aspire to...


German family seeks asylum in US because they home-school

Dr. Pournelle:

http://www.citizenlink.org/CLNews/A000008782.cfm  (website affiliated with /Focus on the Family/)

The Homeschool Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) is supporting a first-of-its-kind application for political asylum by a German home schooling family.

Uwe and Hannelore Romeike left their home in Bissingen, Germany, to escape government persecution directed at them because they home-school. They arrived in the United States in August and are settling in Tennessee.


Political asylum is available to people in the United States who fear returning to their home country due to persecution or who have a well-founded fear of persecution.


Is comment required?



Somali piracy background - misplaced efforts?

Dr. Pournelle,

There is always a second side to every story, and finally CNN explains a bit of the history behind the Somali piracy. According to an interviewed Somali pirate, one key reason they are attacking unarmed merchants is that foreign fishing poachers have depleted the fish stocks off of Somalia due to a lack of fishing rights enforcement. When the Somalis attempted to ward off the illegal fishing boats the fishing boats armed themselves and fought back. With the collapse of the local fishing industry and no way to protect what probably should rightfully be a Somali natural resource, the out of work fishermen turned to another source of income for survival - piracy against unarmed merchant boats.


This makes the "accidental" attack against an alleged non-pirate fishing boat a whole lot more explainable. Apparently the fishing boat fired on a military vessel with heavy weapons, was identified as a pirate mothership, and was sunk in the ensuing battle. Some nation claimed that the boat was just a fishing boat but gave no explanation as to why it was so heavily armed. If armed fishermen are poaching in Somali waters, that certainly explains a lot.

Korea and Japan have this sort of problem, but their governments work very hard to enforce territorial waters. Maybe someone ought to loan the Somalis a coastal fleet to enforce their territorial rights instead of just going after the pirates who saw their livelihood destroyed by illegal fishing. Directing efforts against a wronged and desperate people isn't going to work while helping enforce internationally recognized territorial resource rights would help cure the underlying problem.

Of course, the home countries of the fishermen would cry foul and that would be a pretty big problem. A major nation needs to really sort out the problem and launch an international PR campaign explaining what's really going on before anyone cracks down on illegal fishing. Just because a country can't enforce its territorial rights doesn't mean it's ok for everyone to sail in and loot the place.


Does it mean that it's our business? We are a maritime nation; keeping shipping lanes open is very much in our national interest. But is foreign aid to a failed state?


Dr. Pournelle,

Keeping shipping lines open is certainly our business. My point was in part that altering the underlying state of affairs that led to the piracy may lead to a cheaper and more beneficial solution than simply chasing around fairly desperate RPG wielding pirates who are driving under-utilized fishing boats. That is not cost effective even if the moral questions surrounding the destruction of out-of-work fishermen turned pirate is not considered. That alternative solution deserves some consideration beyond dismissal as being none of our business.

The idea that the USCG could send or loan a "training" detachment to Somalia is a good one, and I think that is probably the sort of deal the Somali govt (however dubious it's authority) is hoping to get with Russia. Rather than focusing on killing pirates who might be perfectly happy going back to fishing, the focus would be on lawful conduct by all parties in the AOR including shipping, fishing, etc.



Re: Somali Fishermen

Well, it's not really useful to enforce Somali territorial waters against Kenyan fishers--because the Somalis would immediately fish the grounds to extinction exactly like the Kenyans did. Exactly like EVERYONE did. Wild fish gathering, for all its mechanization and scale, is shockingly primitive in technique--we're doing the same things that they did when nets were plant fiber and boats were made of skin, only now we have bigger nets and faster boats. If the meat-animal were run like commercial fisheries, we'd still be going after herds of wild buffalo!

The problem is that people criticize fish farms for being dirty, or for allowing disease to spread. Well...those are the same difficulties faced by land-based farms, and they seem to manage (although not well enough to suit the squeamish attitudes of modern Americans.)

-- Mike T. Powers

See EXILE -- AND GLORY!! by Jerry Pournelle. Farming is always more efficient that hunting/gathering. But farming requires property rights.


Dr. Pournelle,

I too feel sympathy for these Somali Fishermen. Like yours, my sympathy also ends at piracy. If the solution to the Somali problem lies anywhere outside of Somalia then it lies with Africa as a whole and perhaps the Arab world, not the West. The African continent has all the resources it needs to become wealthy and prosperous. It only needs the political will and organization to use them. Enough said on that.

Back to the matter at hand; after reading the various suggestions on different ways to curtail piracy and in particular why allowing ship’s crews to arm themselves would not work/be foolish, I am now more convinced than ever that allowing crews to arm themselves is the only lasting way to stop piracy.

First, let’s examine just who these ship’s crews would be fighting (for a change). They are former fishermen. They are not former SEALS or Marines or Commandos. They have no formal training of any kind. From the pictures I have seen, many of them are just scrawny kids. The media likes to make believe they are Black Beard incarnate but it just ain’t so. Basically, they are yahoos with guns. Nothing that a trained man need worry about.

Next, let’s look at what they are armed with and the platforms from which they are firing. All evidence says that they sortie out from “mother ships” in small boats. Media photos show small, outboard-powered skiffs. Ever try to fire a weapon from a small boat? I have. It’s hard (and that was in calm water, not rolling seas). Unless you have a well-made pintle mount, you basically can’t hit much of anything.

3 years ago, when they tried to hijack the Sea-borne Spirit, they managed to hit the ship with an RPG. Reports are that they fired over a dozen. One lucky hit. No one was hurt (They are also very short ranged. 300 meters on a moving target).

A large oceangoing vessel on the other hand provides a very stable firing platform. If you had look-outs posted on, say, all four corners of a ship armed with practically anything in 7.62x51mm NATO Standard (M14, FN FAL, H&K G3 or their civilian counterparts) you could easily keep small boats of this kind at bay well outside their max effective weapons range. Any of the weapons I mentioned (and scores of others) can be made effective to a minimum of 600 meters with an optic and a rifle rest. Remember, the pirates are out to make money, not get killed. As soon as they take effective fire, they will break off their attack.

What I’ve given here is just one scenario, which I came up with off the top of my head while I was writing. I am sure there are lots of ways to do it. Some more gutsy Captains and crew might like the idea of letting them start to climb boarding ladders and letting them have it then, when there can be no ambiguity as to who they are or what they are about. Leave it up to the crews. They can best determine how to defend their ships.

Notice that what I am talking about is letting crews arm and defend themselves, not governments arming crews or stationing cops or soldiers on ships or hiring private security. Home invasions go down when burglars know that people are armed. This has been pretty well proven. I suspect it would be the same with Piracy. Once they know that the crews are likely armed and will fight back, they just won’t bother anymore.

That’s my solution. It won’t be allowed of course. Governments do not trust their people to be armed unless they are under strict control (in the military or police). That’s another discussion, but you can see how it applies here.

I did find some of the other proposed solutions to be of great interest. I wonder what would happen if shipping/insurance companies just refused to pay ransoms or if governments forbade it. This is very interesting. What if the pirates then just kill crews until someone pays? It could happen if they are desperate/brutal enough.

As to programming ships to do whatever or go wherever if hijacked…… well I don’t really know how to respond to that. It’s a pretty ridiculous idea. How about this for a scenario; “Captain, take your ship to the port of Eyle or I will cut off your hand, then the other, then on to your feet…………… ”. Get the idea? Yeah, I can see that defense ending pretty quickly.

Finally, I would like to address the subject of taking military action against the Pirates, for example attacking their home bases. Without going into the details of past U.S. Military incursions into Somalia, let’s think a little bit about just what we would be doing there. I can accept that these Pirates may be fishermen who have fallen on hard times and do what they do out of desperation. Fine. You pay your money and you take your chances. They’ve taken theirs. What of the rest of the people who occupy these small fishing villages? Women? Children? Do they deserve to be attacked as well? I don’t know, but my own preference would be to err on the side of extreme caution on that one. Deal with the pirates at sea first. They are the combatants. Leave attacking their homes as an extreme last resort (my guess is that there would be no need if we could just let crews defend themselves).

Also, a little off the subject, but it was mentioned. If anyone thinks that the U.S. exports most of the world’s small arms, they should do a little research on the subject. We aren’t even in the top 3 (in fact, we import a lot of ours these days). Take a look at practically every insurgency and tin-pot dictatorship in the world (and particularly in Africa) and you will find that their guns come from one place; Russia and the former East Block. In fact, most such people are very derisive towards American small arms. They like the Eastern European stuff better. If you want to reduce the number of small arms in that area, you’re barking up the wrong tree.

Anyway, let the crews defend themselves. It is the only practical, affordable, sustainable way to convince Somali Fishermen that they had best stick to their chosen profession instead of diversifying.


Matt Kirchner

Houston, TX

Well we no longer bombard ports as a way to induce better behavior....


Cruise ship flies Marshall Islands flag

Good question, "was this a US flagged ship?"

According to the World Shipping Register  http://e-ships.net/ships.htm   the Nautica flies the flag of the Republic of the Marshall Islands. She is owned, through a couple of subsidiaries, by Apollo Management, L.P., based in New York.

-- Jim Bennett


Pop culture wars 


Sheesh. From the battle front of the Pop Culture Wars:


It appears that Burger King is pushing out a new ad campaign based on flying Burger King "Whoppers" and Macdonald "Big Macs" to isolated locations (rural Thailand, Rumania, Greenland's Inuit, etc.) for taste tests by persons who've had neither before.

I suspected when I saw the headline about an "offensive" ad campaign that the offense had to do with the use of the term Virgins in the ad. No, according to the article, it's because of the crass commercialism involved, the carbon footprint of the project, and mocking these unsuspecting peasants by pushing such patently unhealthy high-fat food off on them.



On Internet Governance

And you can print this...

I just started receiving the attached crap from the UN's "Internet Governance Forum". I never asked for it, I wouldn't want it if asked, and was given no option to opt-out. I guess they're supposedly deciding the fate of the Internet in Hyderabad starting today, hence the press crap.

There was an attachment, a Word document, too. That's two major rookie mistakes, from an organization supposedly smart enough to make worldwide decisions about the most revolutionary communications network since the self-dialed telephone.

If that wasn't bad enough, their own reflector doesn't screen out e-mail from outside their own domain, so the dozens of "I don't want this!" messages from enraged recipients are appearing in my inbox.

No wonder people in Africa run as soon as they see the blue helmets arrive.

--Alex Pournelle

I refer you to Pournelle's Iron Law of Bureaucracy. There is no bureaucracy quite like a UN bureaucracy; nor one more bound by the Iron Law.

Begin forwarded message:

From: press@intgovforum.org Date: December 3, 2008 9:46:52 AM PST To: press@intgovforum.org Subject: [Press] UNSUBSCRIBE


Am 03.12.2008 um 18:10 schrieb press@intgovforum.org:

MEDIA CONTACT -- To set up interviews with experts on issues such as cyber-security, expanding Internet access, Internet governance, and child on-line protection, please contact staff in the IGF media centre: Aparna Mitter, (+91) 929-280-2203, mitter.aparna.igf@gmail.com ; Vinod Janardhanan, (+91) 929-277-3306, vinod@unicindia.org ; Pragati Pascale, (+91) 929-270-2040, pascale@un.org . For a complete schedule and list of speakers, see www.intgovforum.org .


(3 December) -- The third meeting of the Internet Governance Forum officially opened today in Hyderabad , India , focussing on the overall issue of "Internet for all". Participants from government, the private sector, civil society and the Internet community are gathering for the next four days to share information, experiences and best practices and to explore how the Internet can be used to its full potential for the benefit of all while combating its use for harmful purposes.

The meeting will address five main themes: reaching the next billion; promoting cyber-security and trust; managing critical Internet resources; taking stock and the way forward; and emerging issues -- the Internet of tomorrow. In addition to plenary sessions on these themes, there will be open meetings and thematic workshops to discuss specific issues and share best practices.

At the opening of the meeting, participants stood for a minute of silence to commemorate the victims of the terrorist attacks of last week in Mumbai, at the request of the UN Assistant Secretary-General for Economic Development, Jomo Kwame Sundaram, who expressed, on behalf of the Secretary-General, his condolences to the families of the victims of the attacks.

Opening ceremony

The UN Assistant Secretary-General said India was a very appropriate venue for this meeting. Here, in India 's Silicon Plateau, we see at first hand how well the savvy application of information and communication technologies has accelerated the nation's development. The Internet has become the backbone of our globalized world and is transforming our lives, and thus we should all take an interest in how it is run and managed. That is very much the spirit of the Internet Governance Forum (IGF), a space for frank and enlightened debate, shaping and informing the decision-making processes. The IGF has become a valuable melting pot for forging a common understanding of complex Internet issues from diverse points of views. The year 2010 will represent a turning point for the Forum, when the General Assembly will decide on whether or not to extend the initial five-year mandate of the IGF. Mr. Jomo announced that the 2010 IGF meeting would take place in Vilnius , Lithuania .

Though we are on the way to a not too distant future when the next billion people will have access to the Internet, providing access alone is not enough, Mr. Jomo continued. Access needs to take into account the diversity of the world's population -- the diversity of languages but also the diversity of people of different abilities. Clearly, the IGF has much work ahead of it, in terms of suggesting further ways to bridge the digital divide, particularly through dynamic coalitions to foster inclusive governance and evolution of the Internet. The IGF will continue to accompany the evolution of the Internet and provide useful counsel to decision-makers and policy-makers on the further deployment and equitable development of the Internet and how best to use it, while coping with abuse and threats to its security. Furthermore, the IGF will both build bridges between the various actors involved and deepen their understanding of how the Internet works and is governed.

Nitin Desai, Special Advisor to the Secretary-General for Internet Governance and chairman of the Multistakeholder Advisory Group, said the real challenge for Internet governance which has led to the formation of this forum is the future. The Internet has become central to the economy. It is central to politics, it is central to society, with the growth of social networking sites. In this respect, he mentioned that when the events happened in Mumbai, the blogs and social networking sites played a major role in keeping people informed. Much of the expansion is taking place in developing countries, in countries where English is not a language of choice, where Latin is not the preferred script, Mr. Desai continued.

Recalling that the IGF is a multistakeholder forum, Mr. Desai said that underlying this, essentially, is a dialogue between two groups of people. On the one hand, people who feel that the present modalities of management of the Internet are working and will work, even in the future, who are afraid that any major change in the way in which these arrangements are set up would compromise the Internet in some form. And on the other hand, many people who are dependent on the Internet for their activities – whether economic, social or political -- feel that they have to have a say in the public policy issues which affect how the Net runs. "The purpose of the IGF is, in fact, to get these two groups who do not normally meet to come together and listen to each other,” Mr. Desai stated, “and I think we have succeeded".

Damodar Reddy, Minister for Information Technology of Andhra Pradesh, welcoming delegates, said that information technology and the Internet had transformed the capital of his state, its economic activities, education, health care, and other services. He expressed the hope that the IGF would focus on issues such as the challenge of universal and equitable access to the Internet for all and for the benefits of the common man, including people living in remote, rural areas. He underlined the efforts made by the state government to promote this sector, in its endeavour to improve the quality of life of the common man.

Andimuthu Raja, Indian Cabinet Minister for Communications and Information Technology, stressed the role of the IGF to build up an Internet society which is inclusive, human centred and geared to development. India believes that IT infrastructure is the key to rapid economic and social development of the country. In order to promote education and other services, and access to the Internet, the Government of India has embarked on a national programme to make the Internet available to the citizens through common service centres. Access to information by the people not only helps democracy by having transparency in the functioning of the government but also enhances the participation of the people in the governing process. Without appropriate information, people cannot adequately exercise their rights as citizens.

[For a more extensive summary of the day's discussions, please see the attached document.] <IGF3Highlights3Dec.doc>

Be afraid. Be very afraid.


Alex sent them this:

Dear supposedly competent person:

It appears (via another e-mail from another victim) that you are using the mail management application "MailMan". Unfortunately, with great power comes great responsibility, and, as you are hopefully now learning, great chances for self-inflicted wounds. Please reconfigure it, and if you are not competent to do so, immediately discontinue its use until you find someone who is.

You have now created a cosmic crapstorm of rage at the UN, the Directorate, and by extension any and all NGOs associated with the UN. In the future, please learn how to configure MailMan, what proper Internet etiquette (Commonly called "Netiquette", I suggest you search for the term and read up) looks like, what attachments should and should not be associated with mass mailings, what "opt-in" means, why you should always double-check a mass mailing before you send it, why you should stay in the office for at least an hour after sending ANY mass mailing, and why so many otherwise rational and pleasant people around the world now hate your guts.

The only bright spot is that your do-nothing organization has no power (thank the Positive Role Model) other than to annoy, which you are doing in spades, hearts and diamonds. Good luck on your next career choice, which I hope has fewer chances for life-altering or -risking activity. I suggest sandbox attendant.

Disappointed, Alex Pournelle


Subj: Bug Bots, Body Regeneration at Army Science Confab


>>At most military confabs, if you haven't paid the zillion dollars to attend, you can't hear the speeches -- or see what research is being presented. This year's Army Science Conference is different, however. Not only is the Army webcasting most of the talks. All of the scientific papers have already been put online, before they're even presented. ...<<

Rod Montgomery==monty@starfief.com


'In one of the biggest heists in American history, the Daily News "stole" the $2 billion Empire State Building.'


-- Roland Dobbins


 read book now




CURRENT VIEW    Wednesday


This week:


read book now


Thursday, December 4, 2008

"You can't childproof your way out of this problem."


-- Roland Dobbins


A very SEXY form of pollution...


At least this will help us stay abreast of developments in oceanic currents. And, of course, it will help increase the world population of oceanic boobies.

-- Mike T. Powers


Subject: A Response to the Global Recession

Singapore has an interesting idea. If the economy is not doing well then the ministers responsible for governing will not do as well. How does this interact with the Iron Law?


Bob Donaghy

Dictatorships and very strong governments have ways around the Iron Laws. Or at least temporary ways around them, depending on the vim and vigor of the rulers. Some of the English Kings fired whole bureaucracies. But that was before democratic reforms....


More on Piracy

Attacking the fifth item of the "first principles" of piracy

Dr. Pournelle,

Your correspondent Andrew says: "From first principles, pirates need four things to run a profitable crime."

He missed the fifth: A home port. One can imagine a coalition of nations sending warships to the Somali ports with Somali government officials to inspect all "fishing vessels" (especially those leaving or entering the port) and disabling those equipped for piracy. Things might settle down in a hurry. You won't get them all in any one visit, but those considering a little piracy would have reason to find more legitimate means of making a living.

Absent the support of the Somali government, I say we blockade the ports. Yes, I know there are too many to cover them all, so do it on a random basis. Every ship seen gets inspected--especially those who run. Tolerating piracy must not be tolerated.

Now, what's the sixth thing they need?

Robin Juhl



The 'reasons' behind piracy don't matter

Hello Dr. Jerry,

I noticed Sean's recent notes concerning possible reasons behind WHY Somali pirates got started doing what they are doing. Whether Sean's comments are accurate or valid doesn't matter to me - I consider them irrelevant. Those arguments strike me as yet-another case of 'let me explain away my bad behavior'. In other words, if I have (or just invent) an explanation, you'll listen, believe it, and ultimately agree it was OK for me to do what I did - and I can keep doing it, because "IT'S NOT MY FAULT! *YOU* ARE MAKING ME DO THIS BAD THING!" (My private name for this process is "The Oprah Effect'.)

It's inappropriate to discuss 'moral questions' about WHY a lesser evil lead to a greater evil as though the ultimate source of the evil was the only thing we have to worry about. (How far do we have to go back and what qualifies as a 'cause' anyway?) Rubbish.

Point #1: Piracy is wrong. Point #2: Actions have consequences. End of story. I don't care WHY you started doing it - it's still WRONG. If you don't want to deal with the consequences of that action: STOP DOING IT... Sure, you may be dealing with some Real Problems in other areas. I understand and can sympathize. Yes, let's try to work on them... But do *not* ask me to condone or explain away your Bad Behavior just because you have what YOU consider to be a 'reason' for doing it. To proclaim, "If you want me to stop doing this Bad Thing, you need to do X first..." only serves to encourage Blackmail at best. It's almost as evil and wrong as the action itself.

Thanks for listening and Keep up the good work.

Best Regards,

Steve Green

Your view is widely held, and perhaps correct, but in foreign policy one must often settle for a lot less than justice: indeed. for a good while everyone paid tribute to the Barbary Pirates on the grounds that it was cheaper. Eventually they sent in the Marines. Millions for defense but not one cent for tribute .. Once you have paid him the Danegeld you never get rid of the Dane...


Blackwater and the Pirates


From the Wall Street Journal for 1.3/08. I thought about applying for a position with them, at least until I took the dog for a walk and remembered my age..

.lcdr jim dodd, usn (ret.)

San Diego

Blackwater Plans Effort Against Piracy


Private security firm Blackwater Worldwide began holding meetings in London on Tuesday with potential clients for a new business venture -- protection from pirates.

The Moyock, N.C., firm, which has grown rapidly through State Department security work in Iraq, has been courting shippers and insurance firms about protecting ships in pirate-infested waters. It's meeting with more than a dozen firms this week and hopes to drum up its first contract. <snip>



Subj: Mental illness prevalence - national epidemiologic survey results


I find it entertaining that my personal favorite -- "Obsessive-compulsive personality disorder" -- is the most prevalent (after "Nicotine dependence"), for both sexes/ages 18 and older, at roughly 80 per 1,000, followed by "Specific phobia" and "Major depression", tied at roughly 70 per 1,000 each.

I also find it entertaining that it's the *alcoholism* institute, not the mental-health institute, that's running the large-scale epidemiologic mental-health survey. Bet there's some interesting bureaucratic politics behind that one!

The full database seems not to be publicly available:


>>Due to increasing concerns for confidentiality of individuals participating in U.S. Government and other surveys, NIAAA has determined that the Wave 1 and 2 NESARC be designated as limited access data files. Information on procedures for accessing the Wave 1 and 2 Data are currently being developed.<<

It doesn't say when that development might be finished. I used their "Contact Us" facility to ask.

Rod Montgomery==monty@starfief.com

All are mad except thee and me, and sometimes thee art a bit queer...


Subj: Are almost half of college-age students mentally ill?


>>Face-to-face interviews were conducted in the 2001-2002 National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions (N = 43 093). Analyses were done for the subsample of college-aged individuals, defined as those aged 19 to 25 years who were both attending (n = 2188) and not attending (n = 2904) college in the previous year. ... Almost half of college-aged individuals had a psychiatric disorder in the past year. The overall rate of psychiatric disorders was not different between college-attending individuals and their non–college-attending peers.<<

Err ... am I the only one, whose first reaction to this was, "Wow! The definition of 'psychiatric disorder' must be far too broad, if it covers *that* large a fraction of the population!"?

Rod Montgomery==monty@starfief.com


Raising the world's I.Q., on the cheap.


This was particularly amusing: "One of the obstacles is the rumor that iodized salt is actually a contraceptive, a dastardly plot by outsiders to keep Muslims from having babies. That conspiracy theory spread partly because the same do-good advertising agency that marketed iodized salt also marketed condoms." I'm thinking that some folk like the idea of having cannonfodder that isn't too bright. I suppose if you and Mr. Niven wished to write more books in Hell, there's no end of fresh material, happy holidays to you and yours,

Tim Harness.


UN Data shows "Warming has Stopped!" - Climate Fears Called "Hogwash" - "Global Carbon Tax" Urged

Posted on Senate EPW Website

Part one: http://epw.senate.gov/public/

Part Two: http://epw.senate.gov/public/

UN Data shows "Warming has Stopped!" - Climate Fears Called "Hogwash" - "Global Carbon Tax" Urged Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Posted By Marc Morano – 4:34 PM – Marc_Morano EPW.Senate.Gov

UN Data shows ‘Warming has Stopped!’ – Climate Fears Called ‘Hogwash’ – ‘Global Carbon Tax’ Urged

Aussie Scientist Says ‘No relationship between CO2 and temperature’

So what else is new?



Gentlepersons: The ELCA is once more meddling in an issue that is far above your pay grade as ecclesiastics. Clearly, you have to be accepting a premise that you and all ELCA staffers can not evaluate the truth of yourselves ... namely that "Global Warming" is human induced ... if it is, indeed even happening at all. Contrary to what you are basing your latest excursion into non-ecclesiastic issues on, there is ample and well founded scientific evidence in support of a view contrary to the IPCC ... the International Panel on Climate Change of the UN. The most straightforward way to expose yourselves to a scientifically sound source of contrary information is to Google "NIPCC", to reach the Non-Governmental IPCC, here:


How can this be possible? How can a prestigious UN authorized scientific inquiry be in error?

Well, go and see at NIPCC.

Before you do that, permit me to point out an example of a similar mass misapprehension that has now apparently slunk off the public stage without even a polite goodbye.

I speak of the so-called "Hydrogen Economy",,, remember that one?

Not more than a year or so ago that was going to solve all our air pollution problems, make us independent of foreign oil, in fact, make us independent of hydrocarbon fuels, basta, period!

Our esteemed governator here in CA was going to install a number of hydrogen filling stations on our freeways to help the "HE" along.

What happened?

An "inconvenient truth" rose up and smote the HE right out of the nation's awareness.

It would require far more energy from non-hydrogen energy generation to produce the hydrogen than the hydrogen could ever produce by being burned in turn. Now that's a law of physics that you will not find in the Bible, but that is woven into the reality that is God's Universe.

And where was all that energy going to have to come from?

Why by conventional power generation, including coal, petroleum and of course, a vast new investment in nuclear power plants. But did the once so enthused media sources formally announce the "Death of the HE"?

Of course not. That would be too embarrassing, and would generally undermine their credibility.

So, please, before our ELCA is once again led down a dead end garden path by a new array of enthusiastic dunderheads, at least expose yourselves to the hard facts available on the Internet that counter the dominant but false propaganda that has persuaded you and so many other well meaning, scientifically under-educated, enthusiastic would-be do-gooders that they will contribute to saving our precious world by ceasing what they are not doing: causing Global Warming. Please note:

Even if there is Global Warming (and that is also unproven) it does not automatically follow that it is human induced. Realize that in the '60s of the last century the threat was global cooling, and we were regaled with a flood of articles predicting an imminent "little ice age", and about the same time the "Club of Rome" was predicting world wide famine if the world population rose above 5 billion souls... it is now estimated at 6.5 billion.

One interesting example of an argument against the HIGW claim is this: When the same computer simulations used to support the claims of coming HIGW are applied to conditions say, 100 years ago, they fail to properly predict the actual global weather that was subsequently recorded.

Do yourselves, the ELCA as an organization and all of us parishioners a favor and open yourselves to the possibility , just the possibility that we are all being deceived.... yet again. Well, almost all!

And when you have confirmed that, think about concentrating in the future on the proper business of the church, and avoiding a vain search after virtue by climbing aboard the bandwagons pursuing solutions to every purported, claimed catastrophe that looms up in our so-gullible media. Very sincerely yours, William E. Haynes St Pauls Lutheran Church Rancho Palos Verdes CA

William Haynes Col. USAF Ret

But My God how the money rolls in...


Reason Article

You will find this worth the short time needed to read it:






 read book now




CURRENT VIEW    Thursday


This week:


read book now


Friday,  December 5, 2008


Jerry -

If you feel like it and can find a little time, would you post up a small essay about Mumbai? Even reading a dozen or so news articles leaves me in the dark about why this happened, and why the Indian society was particularly vulnerable. I do understand the intense tensions in India between the muslims and everyone else, and I have a vague sense that Pakistan, and the current turmoil in Pakistan are involved and somehow *important* in this, but other than that - mud.

Thanks -Paul

You are not the only one to ask. The situation is complex. We have friends who frequently go to Mumbai on business; one is a lady executive of fairly high rank. I am getting more familiar with the situation, and I'll write on it when I have something to say that I have some confidence in. It is astonishing that no more than a dozen men (plus, perhaps, some shadowy coordinators who never appeared on scene) could shut down the biggest city in the world. For days.


Subj: GM's *other* legacy: Kettering University



*Very* heavily into coop programs and distance learning.

May we have more schools like this, please?

Rod Montgomery==monty@starfief.com

Indeed. Distance learning is one of the most important developments of this new century, and it's growing by leaps and bounds. What is important is that it not be caught up in the academic bureaucracy and destroyed by the credentialist gatekeepers. I'll have a lot more on this fairly soon, early next year at latest. We have readrs who have much experience with the latest in distance learning and their stories are fascinating.


Russian Submarines - The First Soviet Giants.


-- Roland Dobbins


Money doesn't stink - even paleo money, it seems.

< http://article.nationalreview.com/?q=ZjFlZDdkZjE

- Roland Dobbins

National Review was once very concerned with building a Conservative Movement; but now it appears to be less so. But as Septimius Severus observed, money doesn't stink...


Saturday is Pretend to be a Time Traveler Day




From a new subscriber:

Comments: Here's for the cancelled subscription. "So far I have nothing but praise for Mr. Obama" can hardly be considered "right wing ranting and nothing more." You have never failed to keep up your end of our long standing contract: "You educate, entertain and keep me thinking and I pay you to keep doing it." Thank you, as always.

Respectfully yours, Frank

Thank you. I like to think I keep up my end of the contract...


Think tank comments on proposed 45% top rate in UK 

"Treasury could lose money from 45% tax rate." See <http://tinyurl.com/6ntgmn >  and <http://www.ifs.org.uk/bns/bn80.pdf>.  And that's not even taking into account the relative value of additional Government expenditure versus additional individual savings.

-- "an academic who listens to pleas of convenience before publishing his research risks calling into doubt the whole of his determination to find the truth." (Russell 1993) Harry Erwin


Also, the weapons were not AK's, but were actually H&K MP5's"

It is clear from a number of pictures where the shooters were caught on camera that they started out with AK47/AK74 weapons. If they picked up MP5 weapons it was from dead Indian security forces.

-- --- Al Lipscomb

That was my impression too, but I wasn't sure.


Subj: Frederick Jackson Turner, "The Significance of the Frontier in American History"

A recent column in _The Wall Street Journal_


(not sure that will work for non-subscribers)

led me to go looking for the original essay, which I found here (among other places):


Will we ever again have a President interested in opening the High Frontier, rather than in staging stunts there?

Personally, I'm inclined to put my hope in entrepreneurs, rather than in Presidents, but if God sends us one... .

Rod Montgomery==monty@starfief.com

I'd love to have America become a spacefaring nation. Obviously.


God has created a Universe of miracles and wonder


An Advent Calendar based on images from the Hubble Space Telescope.


What is Man, that Thou art mindful of him...



Below is the text of a front page column by Rio Rancho Journal's Jennifer Huard about "The Shenandoah Spy"

Francis Hamit

Front Page riorancho

Thursday, December 04, 2008


Author Knows History

By Jennifer Huard

Of the Journal

Although I am not a history buff, I do come from historical lineage. I am a Daughter of the American Revolution and have ties to the Civil War. To this day, I remember the old black and white photograph on my grandmother's piano of a uniformed soldier posing with a drum. It was my great-great grandfather, Albertis Demetrius Smalley, a drummer boy in the Civil War.

To take this whole historical connection one step further, I did live in northern Virginia in the early '80s where I shopped at many malls around the area that once were battlefields. That does count, doesn't it?

So when I walked into the Hastings in Rio Rancho a little while back, an author and book at the main table grabbed my attention. Francis Hamit was in town promoting his book, “The Shenandoah Spy,” a Civil War historical fiction on the life of a confederate spy.

“The book has many five star reviews, including the Military Writers Society of America,” Hamit modestly boasted as he handed me a copy of his book. This talkative cherub-faced author continued to pitch his book to me as he was doing to everyone else who walked through the door that Friday evening.

My interest was piqued and after 20 minutes of discussion and two antsy daughters later, I agreed to meet Hamit and his editor, Leigh Strother-Vien, for lunch the next day.

“This is a longtime project of mine,” Hamit told me. “I originally found this story by doing Belle's biography for the Britannica back in the '80s.”

We've all heard the term “walking encyclopedia,” but how many times do you actually meet one, other than your outspoken Uncle Frank at the Thanksgiving table? Hamit has been a professional writer for 42 years. He has written over a thousand articles for security and high tech industry trade magazines and numerous articles for the Encyclopedia Britannica in Chicago. In this story, Hamit intertwines real facts and fictional imagination into a fascinating story of the first woman in American history to be made an army officer by way of Confederate army spy.

I enjoyed the book and the story of the “Confederate Cleopatra.” The dialog was written in the authentic dialect of the time, a true time capsule of our history that puts the reader right alongside the cast of characters in Virginia in 1865. While the book tells Belle's story, it also gives a glimpse of the Civil War's trying times, how families and servants teamed up against the opposition, how pride and loyalty prevail and how sometimes it just takes strong feminine ingenuity to get the job done.

“The positive thing is that we are still selling some. I'll risk seeming immodest and say that it is a good book, which people like. We just got our sixth five star review,” Hamit said in a recent e-mail.

Hamit will be back in town Dec. 11 for another book signing at the Hastings on Candelaria at 4 p.m. A signed copy of “The Shenandoah Spy” would make a wonderful holiday gift for the history buff on your list.

Quote of the Week: “By May the tenth, Richmond had fell, it's a time I remember oh, so well.” — “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down,” The Band, 1969.

Jennifer Huard's column appears each Thursday. She welcomes your emails at jhuard@abqjournal.com.




On Somali Pirates

Hi Jerry

I do not understand why the USA in this particular case does not simply hang an aircraft carrier of the coast close by the prime port looking for targets of opportunity. Particularly since the USA is the default sheriff of the high seas in any event, or should we have a naval arms race to get other players up to speed? There must be a good reason for all those aircraft carriers besides the need for more admirals.

The moment that the odds on losses becomes real this nonsense will end.

The huge surveillance and response envelop is ideal for this type of problem. It would be a nifty training cruise.



I will let the naval experts comment on this. My view is that it doesn't take a carrier group: something like the Tripoli (alas she is no more) would seem more appropriate.


On Health Care

Hi Jerry

The tragedy of supplying health care is that it can be criticized in detail with little fear of rebuttal or broad defence of the system. The Canadian system has had to absorb this type of self serving attacks since it was implemented. The result is that the consensus among Americans is that an universal system cannot deliver care properly.

In fact it does an excellent job of doing just that for well established protocols. The secret has been the placing the provinces in charge of all administration aspects. They are local enough to respond effectively to local problems.

Our experience also showed us that having provincial leadership made it possible nationally.

The perceived weakness is that it is slow to implement new methods. However, that is true everywhere except at a handful of primary medical facilities. Otherwise, why would we need the Mayo Clinic

The US tragedy is that most of the available money is spent on perhaps two thirds of the population. In Canada, much less is spent on a per capita base while one hundred percent of the population is covered. And if you are struck down, help is immediately made available with no questions asked.

My sister in law was struck down with a brain aneurysm in Regina. She was ultimately flown by air ambulance to Toronto for a rare operation by a top surgeon that involved opening the skull and repairing the problem. She has had an excellent recovery. The cost would have impoverished a wealthy family.

can it be better? of course! can it be worse? We only have to look south and see the private tragedies that unfold among friends and acquaintances to find much worse.


But is the Mayo Clinic legal under the Canadian system?  Would it be under an American single payment system? I know that Sweden has severe limits, and at one time physicians were paying 110%  - no mistake, 110% -- taxes on additional income.  My Swedish physician friend traveled to the US for AAAS meetings because they were not only free (deductible) but in fact MADE HIM MONEY by reducing his income.

 I am not very familiar with the Canadian system except that I have friends up there who come here for medical treatment.

I do know that the demand for a valuable free good can be infinite: health care can absorb all the resources put into it. Add to that the militant egalitarianism that says that a skid road bum on his last days should have the same chance at a new heart as would Carl Sagan and you get an impossible situation. I do not pretend to have a proper solution but I do know there need to be limits and some kind of rational allocation.



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This week:


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Saturday, December 6, 2008

I worked on the column all day.









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CURRENT VIEW     Saturday

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Sunday,  December 7, 2008     

: Chinese Spacewalk

Dr. Pournelle, I was watching footage of the recent Chinese spacewalk

, and noticed something interesting. At approx. 5:50 into this clip, a bubble appears at the bottom of the right taikonaut's faceplate, and it accelerates upward along his faceplate and then upward into space. Have you heard anything about this? Considering that this is the same space agency that released the transcript of this launch several hours before it actually occurred, it seems that they released video that was actually shot in an underwater training tank. There are other bubbles to be found, for example between 6:40 and 6:45 coming out of the hatch, and this is the most official video I could find on YouTube. Stunts like this make it harder to prove the Moon landings to the skeptics.

David Trawick

I guess I don't know any "skeptics"; surely there are few sane people who still believe we never went to the Moon? I know there are members of the Flat Earth Society, but I suspect that's a put on.


Dr. Pournelle,

What Steve Green and many others are missing, is that explaining the WHYs behind piracy is not making an excuse for the pirates. Instead, it can give us insight into more effective ways to combat the problem. Nobody is excusing their behavior, but EXPLAINING it is important if we want to take effective action. Curing the disease is generally better than chasing symptoms, no matter how annoying or inexcusable those symptoms are.

I restate that it is not cost effective to send a modern navy to chase around RPG wielding fishermen in dinghies. An approach that deals with the underlying problem will likely be cheaper, more effective, and gain us more international prestige than simply killing pirates and sinking any fishing boats flying the Jolly Roger.

The mindset of “hey pirates are bad so let’s chase pirates, eh!” is dumb and overly simplistic, but that’s what it sounds like Mr. Green is proposing. If you only have a hammer then of course you spend your time bashing nails, but the SecState and SecDef have a rather large toolkit so we don’t HAVE to restrict ourselves to a futile attempt at exterminating desperate men.



What to do about pirates from a former Naval person -

I don't know if I qualify as an expert any more, as I've been out of the Navy longer than I was in, but I'll comment anyway ...

Given the large area of operations and small size of the boats they are primarily using, it seems to me to be a very daunting problem in sea control to try and put a significant dent in the pirates operations just at sea. Even if we were to treat the area as a free fire zone at sea (I don't recommend it, just saying, even if), it would require a very substantial and sustained commitment of surface combatants that would impact operations elsewhere in the world.

When one is weeding the garden, one has to get the weeds out by the root. That's the only solution I see here. From what I've heard in news reports, these pirates are operating from one port and gaining local popularity for bringing prosperity to the area.


I believe that you are correct. One amphibious task force centered around one of our modern cousins of USS TRIPOLI would be up to the task of paying a visit to Eyl and leaving things in such a state that it was clear that such piracy was not a profitable endeavour for the region. After 9/11 you suggested a monument. I think it's time to think about that again.

Scott Kitterman


Subj: USS Tripoli - decommissioned, but serving still?!

Have you ever noticed that God has a funny sense of humor?


>>[D]ecommissioned in 1995, [Tripoli] has a high-tech role as a launch platform with the nation's developing ballistic missile defense program.<<

Rod Montgomery==monty@starfief.com


This Little Piggy Went to Market; This Enormous Piggy Went Feral




Filmmaker Plans to Install Camera in His Eye Socket,


A clever way of making lemonade when life hands you a lemon - replace your prosthetic eye with a camera and make movies wherever you look:




Regarding the prevalence of mental disorders in the news

Dr. Pournelle;

I would encourage anyone with an interest in psychiatric diagnosis to read: Stuart Kirk and Herb Kutchins (1992) The Selling of DSM: The Rhetoric of Science in Psychiatry. When I taught graduate students in rehabilitation psychology I included this in my syllabus. The authors tell the story of how psychiatric diagnosis was turned into a money making tool for the publishing house that prints the manuals and a coding system to allow efficient billing of insurance companies. The science behind the DSM was remarkably poor (and I don't subscribe to the generalized Voodoo Science position that you endorse- there is good science in psychology and some silly stuff).

Jim Thomas, Ph.D.


67 years ago . . .


- Roland Dobbins

Possony always thought that Roosevelt set up Pearl Harbor, but that he (Roosevelt) thought all would be well: the cruisers were sent off on a thoroughly improbable mission, the carriers were sent out to deliver airplanes to Midway, and everyone in the Navy was certain that the BB's might take damage but they would give as good as they got in an air attack. They also thought they'd get enough warning to build up steam.

There's a lot about Pearl Harbor in Perpetual War for Perpetual Peace. Years ago I was friends with Admiral Chambliss, who was Kimmel's counsel.

Roosevelt certainly acted as if he were trying to get the Japanese to attack the fleet at Pearl -- and also as if he thought most and probably all of the battleships would survive, having got the cruisers and carriers out of the way. It's a very complex situation. If it's certain that the "winds" message never got to Washington that changes things a little but not a lot. After all, when Hopkins saw that long telegram on Saturday night 6 December 1941 he said "This means war."





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