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Monday  June 1, 2009

Race, IQ, and Motivation


I have a strong suspicion that any racial differences that might be found in IQs and intellectual pursuits are caused by environment and motivation. While my observations are limited they are surprising.

The arithmetical skills of African-Americans have been called into question. I have found this to be somewhat amusing having seen many African-Americans at race tracks compute parlay payoffs in their heads much faster than I can and I have a degree in mathematics. This would appear to justify the view that motivation is a very important factor in acquiring skills.

Perhaps this is something that has escaped the attention of the Educator critters and others. In general it would appear that people of all ages must understand the NEED to learn something before they will expend the effort to learn it.

In what might have been the typical American Home, The parents provided the motivation and explained the Need by the following; "If you don't certain desirable privileges with be withheld."

Bob Holmes

Well said and provocative. Clearly motivation is a great factor.

I can only say that there have been enormous and expensive attempts to raise IQ. I will also point out that the Congress has the absolute power to do as it wills with the DC school system: if there is anything that CAN be done, Congress has the power to do it. And I for one wish them well. A general 5-point incres in IQ across the board would raise enormously the productivity of the United States, and if it can demonstrably be done in DC it will be applied across the nation.

Note the results of the national spelling bee, incidentally. Motivation certainly applies among Asians.


Murray's Math Example

Dear Jerry,

The problem with the math example posted in Sunday's View is one of context.

Remember what has taken center stage in schools these days and how the math questions need to be written to reflect those changes. I offer two options:

1. A small, hip company employs ninety workers. Ten percent of those workers have benefits as friends with one another. How many people in the company are engaging in sex?

2. Of the ninety workers employed by a company, ten percent of the employees deal drugs to the other workers. How many people are dealing drugs? How many people are buying? Extra credit if you can name the drugs being dealt.

<tongue in cheek>




Dr. Pournelle,

This is from the teaser for an article from this morning’s WSJ (6/1/09). I don’t have the subscription, but the teaser conveys the message: the whirlwind is coming.

A hedge fund firm that reaped huge rewards betting against the market last year is about to open a fund premised on another wager: that the massive stimulus efforts of global governments will lead to hyperinflation.

The firm, Universa Investments L.P., is known for its ties to gloomy investor Nassim Nicholas Taleb, author of the 2007 bestseller "The Black Swan," which describes the impact of extreme events on the world and financial markets.

Funds run by Universa, which is managed and owned by Mr. Taleb's long-time collaborator Mark Spitznagel, last year gained more than 100% thanks to its bearish bets. ...


John Witt

I have reviewed Taleb's books here. He's very much worth paying attention to. And I have my 3 pfennig stamp overprinted to 3 mird millionem marks...


Letter from England

I finally broke down and bought a mobile phone--an iPhone 3G. It's a nice toy, but I don't know how useful it will be.

Labour has given up--52 Labour MPs have asked for peerages. <http://tinyurl.com/mo64o4 >. 

Labour minister proposes state funding of political parties <http://tinyurl.com/lvqoqk >.  Individual donations would be capped at a few hundred pounds... I wonder if the BNP or the UKIP would get any of this money at all.

Upcoming EU election looks bad for Labour. <http://tinyurl.com/kw45sr>  <http://tinyurl.com/mkphgg

More stories on student visas. <http://tinyurl.com/kng7oq>  <http://tinyurl.com/nsmt3b >  <http://tinyurl.com/kng7oq>  <http://tinyurl.com/kpu2sb>.  What the Home Office seems to be requiring are daily attendance checks and frequent checks on where students are resident. This will probably not have as much effect as the severe difficulties foreign students now face getting student visas at all.

-- Harry Erwin harry.erwin@sunderland.ac.uk

Will there always be an England?

I have been reading some older Agatha Christie novels about the time between the wars. That England is certainly gone. I am not at all sure that its replacement is a better place to live. But I don't live there.


I may have already run this, but:

The "Obama is going after Republican car dealers" meme

Megan McArdle's reaction:


"My operating assumption is that this story is a red herring. Democratic and Republican dealers are unlikely to be found in the same place, and the rural counties that tend to be red are probably less profitable."

Nate Silver's mathematical analysis:


"It turns out that all car dealers are, in fact, overwhelmingly more likely to donate to Republicans than to Democrats -- not just those who are having their doors closed." ... "It shouldn't be any surprise, by the way, that car dealers tend to vote -- and donate -- Republican. They are usually male, they are usually older (you don't own an auto dealership in your 20s), and they have obvious reasons to be pro-business, pro-tax cut, anti-green energy and anti-labor. Car dealerships need quite a bit of space and will tend to be located in suburban or rural areas. I can't think of too many other occupations that are more natural fits for the Republican Party."

I expect there's a good bit of truth to that. On the other hand, we'll see what happens next.


Sequestration is capture, and cherrypicking chaos subjects again

Dr. Pournelle,

The British are attempting sequestration in significant volumes using what appear to be catalytic chemical scrubbers. This article about a feasibility study states lofty goals but has no mention of costs per kW/hr, nor what they plan to do with the gas after they catch it. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/

I'm going to start using "carbon capture," as preference over the term sequestration. It is more descriptive. Both words imply a potentially temporary situation, but "captured" implies the application of force, has fewer syllables, and is in common usage. Thank you, once again, BBC, for teaching me my native tongue.

Now, if my fellow Americans would just stop using "_Unmanned_ aerial vehicle," for remotely piloted aircraft: it is hard to remain serious when one thinks that one may as easily be discussing flying eunuchs or emasculated aircraft. Note to self -- don't chuckle while the general is speaking.

Perhaps one thing to do with the captured carbon is to leave it underground for several million years, then burn it, displacing carbon release into the far future (save it for after the next ice age). http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/
2009/05/090527110137.htm  but I can't see why burning carbon from mud shale is better than using coal, with which the British isles are amply endowed.

Windpower from inflatables http://www.sciencedaily.com/
releases/2009/05/090528092526.htm  but a prop or turbine based wind generator seems more efficient than generating power from a kite.

Steam power for those going off grid: http://www.defensenews.com/story.
php?i=4070490&c=FEA&s=TEC.  If one wants multi-fuel power at home, why not look at external combustion again? If it can be produced cheaply, a well-designed, multifuel, high-pressure steam generator would likely be more efficient and easily maintained than one with an IC engine optimized for a single fuel type. High-pressure steam production could be augmented by low-tech, low-volume solar heating. Leno's steam cars are still running efficiently, given restoration, many years after they were built.

Link to "Democracy in America" volume 1 on Gutenberg: http://www.gutenberg.org/etext/815  The HTML version, at 1.15 MB is the largest data size.

For perspective, one should perhaps read Mark Twain's description of a trip upriver from New Orleans, post-flooding, to gain an idea of how Americans once dealt with disaster. It is probably part of "Life on the Mississippi" but I'm having trouble finding which essay it was. A lot of Clemen's work is on Gutenberg and at http://www.mtwain.com/

Espresso books -- Didn't Heinlein write about a character who used print-on-demand technology for the newspaper? The story was predecessor to _Friday_.

Light weight artillery http://www.defensenews.com/
story.php?i=4112946&c=AME&s=LAN.  perhaps suitable for mounting on cargo aircraft for ground support?



Just a minute....

Dear Jerry:

The "no smiling" rule for driver's license photos is to allow the facial recognition software in the system to work and prevent someone from applying for a license under two different names. This prevents fraud and identity theft, among other things. It would also allow fugitives to be detected.

On the EBM. There is a fairly neat video online that shows it in action but it's currently operating in only about a dozen places in the world. The manufacturer is pushing it at the BEA show in New York but at $95,000 each, it's going to be a hard sell. Lightning Source was probably contacting vendors because they need separate agreements in writing to put our books in the system. They did this when they wanted to put all of my e-books into the Sony Reader format. It's going to hard for owners of these machines to make a buck even with the usual 40% discount because they will need to be attended and be in really great high traffic locations. Not that that will help the sales of any individual book. It's going to premium pricing all the way, much like what we pay for food at airport concessions. There is also an option that allows people to insert a disc and print out their own books on the spot. Now that would be an unusual book signing, wouldn't it?

There was an article in the Los Angeles Times about John Sayles and the problems he's having selling his new novel to a mainstream publisher. Considering how he broke into the film industry, it's not impossible or even unlikely that he would eventually publish it himself he can't find a good deal. Just another older author of historical fiction who can't get no respect.


Francis Hamit


That Bible Study Story

Jerry, I'd be willing to bet fairly serious money that the San Diego home bible study flap started out as a complaint by the neighbors about all the parked cars of the visitors, and the traffic getting those cars in and out of the immediate vicinity.

Hold a big party once in a while, and the neighbors will probably put up with it, especially if you invite them. Hold a big party every Tuesday night, every week, and sooner or later someone is going to get seriously ticked off. The police may or may not have been called, to ask people not to park there. The police may have told the neighbor which city office to call.

Every church I've ever seen had at least one large room, other than the sanctuary, that could accommodate all kinds of uses. Wedding receptions are one common use. Sunday School is another. The simple answer is for the pastor to recognize that discretion is the better part of valor and move the Bible Study sessions out of his house and into the church meeting room.


Perhaps. Note that my street fills every day with mothers parking to go get their children from the local school. It's part of living here.


Energy Costs

Dr. P:

Your correspondent Lindy Creede observed that I'd have been better off investing my $12K at 5% rather than installing PV and offsetting my electricity costs.

This isn't actually true, as I'll show below:

If I assume that my electricity costs are going to go up an average of 5% per year, which I believe is a little bit below the historical Colorado average, then my $700 electricity bill for 2007 when I installed the PV array would increase to about $1250/year in 13 years and would have repaid my capital outlay at that point.

But I'm overproducing with my system and getting an additional $100/year from Xcel (also indexed by 5%) which brings the capital payback down to 11 years.

If I had invested my $12K at 5% instead and continued to pay my electricity bill, my $12 would be worth about $8700 at the end of year 11, and would be gone on year 18.

On year 18 with my panels I will have offset $22K worth of power costs. If I work backwards from that, the point at which investing $12K at 5% is equivalent to offsetting my electricity costs is between years 14 & 15.

There are other factors at play that are less cold & hard, but not necessarily less relevant. In Colorado we generate a lot of electricity with coal, and while I don't necessarily agree with the "CO2 is poison" crowd, I'm pretty clear that I'd like to help reduce the other pollutants being being spewed by the power plant 10 miles from here. As well, my PV array offsets the need to spin up natural gas turbines in the heat of the sunny summer days - reducing the need to burn natural gas and lowering the rate at which natural gas rates increase.

And then there is the plug-in car I one day hope to own. My excess electric production will offset some of what I need to keep that vehicle charged - and offsetting the price of gasoline in a few years with electricity that I'm selling to the power company at wholesale rates can't be a bad thing.


The obvious answer is nuclear power as we develop space resources.


Tin supplies


Gregory Guida writes that we have about 35 years of tin reserves left. I wonder if he'd be up to making a version of the Julian Simon bet. Say, one dollar for each percentage change in the inflation adjusted price of tin a decade from now? If it's higher, he gets the money, and if it's lower, he pays out.

I think that bet is still a sore point with Paul Ehrlich.

..................Karl Lembke

I thought of saying that as answer to the mail but I was short on time. Thanks.


How Hawks See the World, 


It figures that videocams would get small enough to mount on birds. Now, How Hawks See the World:


YouTube version, with ads: http://www.youtube.com/

Peregrine and Goshawk in flight. Magnificent.


The first one without ads worked fine. Interesting!


Sotomayor and Twisting the Law

"Her ability to find good reasons for doing what she thinks we ought to do is not particularly remarkable. That is an ancient art."

Indeed it is. The famous judges in American legal history -- Cardozo, Holmes, Brandeis, Frankfurter -- are, at bottom, chiefly renowned as experts in twisting the existing law and precedent into providing a specious retionale that allows what Mencius Moldbug calls The Cathedral to do what it wants to do, law and Constitution to the contrary notwithstanding. The recent Kelo decision is only one of a long line of such cases. Researching the Gold Clause Cases from Roosevelt's semi-fascism were what persuaded me out of law and into an honest profession.

-- Tim of Angle

Cardozo and company were liberal but not judicial activists. I will have much to say on that shortly. But yes, they were able to find powers for Congress that would have astonished the Framers.

It is the Enlightened ruling to the benefit of the benighted. Or at least they see it that way.


I have referenced this elsewhere but if you have not seen it...


Pravda ("Truth") finally told the truth - American capitalism gone with a whimper, it says:


They talk about our descent into Marxism. Ironic, isn't it?


The Russians, who ought to know, sympathize at the same time they are astonished at our descent into Marxism. I've had problems getting to the site but it's worth it if you have not seen it. The Russians feel sorry for America...


Sotomayor vs. Summers controversies


I think the current controversy over Sotomayor's one liner will subside, and she will be confirmed to the Supreme Court in fairly short order. The statement generating the controversy is,

“I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn’t lived that life,”

I thought back to Larry Summers statement that caused him to become the former president of Harvard University, and I thought it might be interesting to compare it with the Sotomayor statement:

"It does appear that on many, many different human attributes -- height, weight, propensity for criminality, overall IQ, mathematical ability, scientific ability -- there is relatively clear evidence that whatever the difference in means -- which can be debated -- there is a difference in the standard deviation, and variability of a male and a female population. And that is true with respect to attributes that are and are not plausibly, culturally determined."

Both of these have to be taken in the context they were delivered; both of them have to be put in context with all the statements each individual made on the subject and the actions that they took. A key difference is that Summers is backed by lots of data, and Sotomayor is encapsulating her own anecdotal experiences (we like to say "life story" nowadays).

Of course, Summers was crucified, and the process made an utter mockery of "academic freedom". Probably, nothing much will happen with Sotomayor.

Will these have the same outcomes? That's what will make the point about where we are as a society.



Solar Cycles 


Nods: Drudge

Slow solar cycle could pack surprises...


<snip> <http://science.nasa.gov/headlines/
9main_flare_sxilabeled_HI.jpg>  "If our prediction is correct, Solar Cycle 24 will have a peak sunspot number of 90, the lowest of any cycle since 1928 when Solar Cycle 16 peaked at 78," says panel chairman Doug Biesecker of the NOAA Space Weather Prediction Center.<snip>"Even a below-average cycle is capable of producing severe space weather," points out Biesecker. "The great geomagnetic storm of 1859, for instance, occurred during a solar cycle of about the same size we’re predicting for 2013."<snip>In recent months, however, the sun has begun to show timorous signs of life. Small sunspots and "proto-sunspots" are popping up with increasing frequency. Enormous currents of plasma on the sun’s surface ("zonal flows") are gaining strength and slowly drifting toward the sun’s equator. Radio astronomers have detected a tiny but significant uptick in solar radio emissions. All these things are precursors of an awakening Solar Cycle 24 and form the basis for the panel's new, almost unanimous forecast.

June 1 Frost in upstate New York


Local gardeners may want to take special measures to protect their plants this evening as a frost advisory has been issued for much of New York state, including Oneida County.

The advisory issued by the National Weather Service remains in effect until 8 a.m. Monday.

Temperatures are expected to fall into the mid-to-low 30s overnight, and a hard frost is likely as temperatures in colder areas approach freezing.<snip>



Charles F Adams on Imperialism, 


I am reading a couple of pieces by Charles F Adams called "Imperialism" and "The Tracks of Our Forefathers," from 1898, in which he "discussed the question of extra-territorial expansion from the historical point of view."

In the first, he notes the end of the Spanish Empire in America and the recent defeat of Turkish forces by Greece. He says, "The two, Ottoman rule in Europe, and Spanish rule in America, now stand at the bar of history; and, scanning the long four-century record of each, I have been unable to see what either has contributed to the accumulated possessions of the human race, or why both should not be classed among the many instances of the arrested civilization of a race, developing by degrees an irresistible tendency to retrogression." Strong stuff.

Having won the Spanish-American War, "A wholly new problem was thus suddenly presented to the people of the United States. On the one hand, it is asserted that, by destroying Spanish government in these islands, the United States has assumed responsibility for them, both to the inhabitants and to the world. This is a moral obligation. On the other hand, trade and commercial inducements are held out which would lead us to treat these islands simply as a commencement--the first installment--in a system of unlimited extra-territorial dependencies and imperial expansion." He discusses the changes in our principles that would be required, then he says, "as historical investigators, and so observing the sequence of events, it cannot escape our notice that on every one of the fundamental principles discussed,--whether ethnic, economical, or political,--we abandon the traditional and distinctively American grounds and accept those of Europe, and especially of Great Britain, which heretofore we have made it the basis of our faith to deny and repudiate."

It's a great snapshot of that moment. He saw it leading to a potential fault line in American development. I can't help but think he was right.


Never did he dream that his bullet's scream ...


Another comment on Charlie Adams, 


Oh, the man is nasty funny. The sarcasm can be bitter. He foresees the problems that will come from abandoning our industrial and labor protections. He foresees that Asian labor will be quite cheap indeed. He even - well, I'll let him tell it:

"To others, older perhaps, but at any rate more deeply impressed with the difference apt to develop between dreams and actualities, the situation calls to mind a comparison, more historical it is true, but less inspiriting so far as a commitment to the new policy is concerned. At the risk, possibly, of offending some of those present, I will venture to institute it. In the fourth chapter of the Gospel according to St. Matthew, I find this incident recorded: "The devil taketh him [the Saviour] up into an exceeding high mountain, and showeth him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them; and saith unto him, All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me. Then saith Jesus unto him, Get thee hence, Satan. Then the devil leaveth him, and, behold, angels came and ministered unto him." Now, historically speaking, and as a matter of scriptural exegesis, that this passage should be accepted literally is not supposable. Satan, on the occasion referred to, must not be taken to have presented himself to the Saviour _in propriâ personâ_ with his attributes of horns, tail, and cloven hoof, and made an outright proposition of extra-territorial sovereignty. It was a parable. He who had assumed a lofty moral attitude was tempted by worldly inducements to adopt a lower attitude,--that, in a word, common among men. It was a whispering to Christ of what among nations, is known as "Manifest Destiny;" in that case, however, as possibly in others, it so chanced that the whispering was not from the Almighty, but from Satan. Now if, instead of recognizing the source whence the temptation came, and sternly saying, "Get thee hence, Satan," Christ had seen the proposition as a new Mission,--thought, in fact, that he heard a distinct call to Duty,--and so, accepting a Responsibility thrust upon him, had hurried down from the "exceeding high mountain," and proceeded at once to lay in a supply of weapons and to don defensive armor, renouncing his peaceful mission, he would have done exactly--what Mohammed did six centuries later!"

He is wordy, but that was a good speech he made!



No Smiling revisited


Francis suggests, "The "no smiling" rule for driver's license photos is to allow the facial recognition software in the system to work and prevent someone from applying for a license under two different names. This prevents fraud and identity theft, among other things. It would also allow fugitives to be detected."

Can we not just get software that works? I'd like to keep smiling, even though I feel less incentive to do so by the day. Software should accommodate people, not the other way around.

Besides, if I'm a fugitive, I'm going to grow/shave a beard, get tinted contacts, cheek inserts, collagen injections, plastic surgery, use makeup, dye my hair, etc.

The more I think about this, the more it sounds like the Kabuki play "security" we all go through at airports; the appearance of effectiveness, not the reality. Face scanning software can be defeated so many ways that have nothing to do with facial expression.

Instead, let's all keep smiling :).


Well, this iteration gets the stupid fugitives. Or should we all just grin like crazy when in public?




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Tuesday,  May 2, 2009

Liberal Activist / Conservative Activist Judges? v

Dear Jerry -

I must take polite exception to your classification of Sotomayor as a "liberal activist judge." So far as I can see, the term is pretty much as meaningless as the term "conservative activist judge", except perhaps in terms of emotive content.

I can't think of any judge that could be labeled as "liberal" except in a very narrow comparison to other, even more conservative judges. While I agree that the scope of what judges should be doing has been exceeded, I am not sure that the clarity of the discussion is enhanced by those terms.

As for activist, judges who take sides are not judges for long. Except perhaps on television shows.

Of course, I understand you knew all those considerations and expected your audience to be able to encompass them as well. But it doesn't work that way. :)

I reproduced for your convenience, part of the judicial code of conduct below. I think by pretty much any definition, a judge who was truly a 'liberal activist" would not be able to remain seated under this code.

Yours, -Paul

I have taken the liberty of putting a bookmark to my reply for those who do not want to read this code.==========

------- insert here ------

21-300. A judge shall perform the duties of office impartially and diligently.

A. Judicial duties in general. The judicial duties of a judge take precedence over all the judge's other activities. The judge's judicial duties include all the duties of the judge's office prescribed by law. In the performance of these duties, the following standards apply.

B. Adjudicative responsibilities.

(1) A judge shall hear and decide matters assigned to the judge except those in which disqualification is required.

(2) A judge shall be faithful to the law and maintain professional competence in it. A judge shall not be swayed by partisan interests, public clamor or fear of criticism.

(3) A judge shall maintain order and decorum in judicial proceedings.

(4) A judge shall be patient, dignified and courteous to litigants, jurors, witnesses, lawyers and others with whom the judge deals in the judge's official capacity, and shall require similar conduct of lawyers, and of staff, court officials and others subject to the judge's direction and control.

(5) A judge shall perform judicial duties without bias or prejudice. A judge shall not, in the performance of judicial duties, by words or conduct manifest bias or prejudice, including but not limited to bias or prejudice based upon race, sex, religion, national origin, disability, age, marital status, sexual orientation or socioeconomic status, and shall not permit staff, court officials and others subject to the judge's direction and control to do so.

(6) A judge shall require lawyers in proceedings before the judge to refrain from manifesting, by words or conduct, bias or prejudice based upon race, sex, religion, national origin, disability, age, marital status, sexual orientation or socioeconomic status, against parties, witnesses, counsel or others. This subparagraph does not preclude legitimate advocacy or consideration by the court when race, sex, religion, national origin, disability, age, marital status, sexual orientation or socioeconomic status, or other similar factors, are issues in or relevant to the proceeding.

(7) A judge shall accord to every person who has a legal interest in a proceeding, or that person's lawyer, the right to be heard according to law. A judge shall not initiate, permit, or consider ex parte communications, or consider other communications made to the judge outside the presence of the parties concerning a pending or impending proceeding except that:

(a) Where circumstances require, ex parte communications for scheduling, administrative purposes or emergencies that do not deal with substantive matters or issues on the merits are authorized; provided:

(i) the judge reasonably believes that no party will gain a procedural or tactical advantage as a result of the ex parte communication, and

(ii) the judge makes provision promptly to notify all other parties of the substance of the ex parte communication if it might reasonably be perceived that the party contacting the judge may have gained a tactical advantage.

(b) A judge may obtain the advice of a disinterested expert on the law applicable to a proceeding before the judge if the judge gives notice to the parties of the person consulted and the substance of the advice, and affords the parties reasonable opportunity to respond.

(c) A judge may consult with court personnel whose function is to aid the judge in carrying out the judge's adjudicative responsibilities or with other judges.

(d) A judge may, with the consent of the parties, confer with the parties and their lawyers in an effort to mediate or settle matters pending before the judge. Ordinarily the judge will meet jointly with the parties.

(e) A judge may initiate or consider any ex parte communications when expressly authorized by law to do so.

(8) A judge shall dispose of all judicial matters promptly, efficiently and fairly.

(9) All cases decided by an opinion of an appellate court shall be by a collegial opinion. Before an opinion is placed in final form, the participating justices or judges shall attempt to reconcile any differences between them. Each justice or judge on each panel is charged with the duty of carefully reading and analyzing the pertinent submitted material on each case in which the justice or judge participates.

(10) A judge shall not, while a proceeding is pending or impending in any court, make any public comment that might reasonably be expected to affect its outcome or impair its fairness or make any nonpublic comment that might substantially interfere with a fair trial or hearing. The judge shall require similar abstention on the part of court personnel subject to the judge's direction and control. This subparagraph does not prohibit judges from making public statements in the course of their official duties or from explaining for public information the procedures of the court. This subparagraph does not apply to proceedings in which the judge is a litigant in a personal capacity.

(11) A judge shall not, with respect to cases, controversies or issues that are likely to come before the court, make pledges, promises or commitments that are inconsistent with the impartial performance of the adjudicative duties of the office.

(12) A judge shall not commend or criticize jurors for their verdict other than in a court order or opinion in a proceeding, but may express appreciation to jurors for their service to the judicial system and the community.

(13) A judge shall not disclose or use, for any purpose unrelated to judicial duties, nonpublic information acquired in a judicial capacity.

C. Administrative responsibilities.

(1) A judge shall diligently discharge the judge's administrative responsibilities without bias or prejudice, maintain professional competence in judicial administration and should cooperate with other judges and court officials in the administration of court business.

(2) A judge shall inform and require the judge's staff, court officials and others subject to the judge's direction and control to observe the standards of confidentiality, fidelity and diligence that apply to the judge and to refrain from manifesting bias and prejudice in the performance of their official duties.

(3) A judge with supervisory authority for the judicial performance of other judges shall take reasonable measures to assure the prompt disposition of matters before them and the proper performance of their other judicial responsibilities.

(4) A judge shall not make unnecessary appointments. A judge shall exercise the power of appointment impartially and on the basis of merit. A judge shall avoid nepotism and favoritism. A judge shall not approve compensation of appointees beyond the fair value of services rendered.

D. Disciplinary responsibilities.

(1) A judge who receives information indicating a substantial likelihood that another judge has committed a violation of this Code should take appropriate action. A judge having knowledge that another judge has committed a violation of this Code that raises a substantial question as to the other judge's fitness for office shall inform the appropriate authority.

(2) A judge who receives information indicating a substantial likelihood that a lawyer has committed a violation of the Rules of Professional Conduct should take appropriate action. A judge having knowledge that a lawyer has committed a violation of the Rules of Professional Conduct that raises a substantial question as to the lawyer's honesty, trustworthiness or fitness as a lawyer in other respects shall inform the appropriate authority.

(3) The requirements of Subparagraphs (1) and (2) of this paragraph do not apply to any communication concerning alcohol or substance abuse by a judge or attorney that is:

(a) intended to be confidential;

(b) made for the purpose of reporting substance abuse or recommending, seeking or furthering the diagnosis, counseling or treatment of a judge or an attorney for alcohol or substance abuse; and

(c) made to, by or among members or representatives of a lawyers support group, Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous or other support group recognized by the Judicial Standards Commission or the Disciplinary Board. Recognition of any additional support group by the Judicial Standards Commission or Disciplinary Board shall be published in the Bar Bulletin. This exception does not apply to information that is required by law to be reported or to disclosures or threats of future criminal acts or violations of these rules.

(4) Acts of a judge, in the discharge of disciplinary responsibilities, required or permitted by Subparagraphs (1) and (2) of Paragraph D of this rule are part of a judge's judicial duties and shall be absolutely privileged, and no civil action predicated thereon may be instituted against the judge.

E. Definition. As used in this rule, "court personnel" does not include the lawyers in a proceeding before a judge.

[As amended, effective March 1, 1991; February 16, 1995; August 31, 2004.]


Paragraph A The commentary to Rule 21 100 NMRA also applies to Paragraph A of this rule.

Paragraph B (4) The duty to hear all proceedings fairly and with patience is not inconsistent with the duty to dispose promptly of the business of the court. Judges can be efficient and businesslike while being patient and deliberate.

Commentary B (5) A judge must refrain from speech, gestures or other conduct that could reasonably be perceived as sexual harassment and must require the same standard of conduct of others subject to the judge's direction and control.

A judge must perform judicial duties impartially and fairly. A judge who manifests bias on any basis in a proceeding impairs the fairness of the proceeding and brings the judiciary into disrepute. Facial expression and body language, in addition to oral communication, can give to parties or lawyers in the proceeding, jurors, the media and others an appearance of judicial bias. A judge must be alert to avoid behavior that may be perceived as prejudicial.

Paragraph B (7) The proscription against communications concerning a proceeding includes communications from lawyers, law teachers and other persons who are not participants in the proceeding, except to the limited extent permitted. It does not preclude a judge from consulting with other judges, or with court personnel whose function is to aid the judge in carrying out his adjudicative responsibilities.

To the extent reasonably possible, all parties or their lawyers shall be included in communications with a judge.

Whenever presence of a party or notice to a party is required by Subparagraph (7) of Paragraph B, it is the party's lawyer, or if the party is unrepresented the party, who is to be present or to whom notice is to be given.

An appropriate and often desirable procedure for a court to obtain the advice of a disinterested expert on legal issues is to invite the expert to file a brief amicus curiae.

Certain ex parte communication is approved by Subparagraph (7) of Paragraph B to facilitate scheduling and other administrative purposes and to accommodate emergencies. In general, however, a judge must discourage ex parte communication and allow it only if all the criteria stated in Subparagraph (7) are clearly met. A judge must disclose to all parties all ex parte communications described in Subparagraphs (a) and (b) of Subparagraph (7) of this paragraph regarding a proceeding pending or impending before the judge if it might reasonably be perceived that the party contacting the judge may have gained a tactical advantage. On rare occasions the judge may, with the consent of the parties, meet separately with the parties.

A judge must not independently investigate facts in a case and must consider only the evidence presented.

A judge may request a party to submit proposed findings of fact and conclusions of law, so long as the other parties are apprised of the request.

A judge must make reasonable efforts, including the provision of appropriate supervision, to ensure that Subparagraph (7) of Paragraph B of this rule is not violated through law clerks or other personnel on the judge's staff. See Paragraph E of this rule for the definition of "court personnel".

If communication between the trial judge and the appellate court with respect to a proceeding is permitted, a copy of any written communication or the substance of any oral communication should be provided to all parties.

Paragraph B (8) In disposing of matters promptly, efficiently and fairly, a judge must demonstrate due regard for the rights of the parties to be heard and to have issues resolved without unnecessary cost or delay. Containing costs while preserving fundamental rights of parties also protects the interests of witnesses and the general public. A judge should monitor and supervise cases so as to reduce or eliminate dilatory practices, avoidable delays and unnecessary costs. A judge should encourage and seek to facilitate settlement, but parties should not feel coerced into surrendering the right to have their controversy resolved by the courts. See Rule 11-408 NMRA of the Rules of Evidence relating to communications relating to compromise.

Prompt disposition of the court's business requires a judge to devote adequate time to judicial duties, to be punctual in attending court and expeditious in determining matters under submission, and to insist that court officials, litigants and their lawyers cooperate with the judge to that end.

The practices of a judge in the enjoyment of hours of personal holiday or recreation should leave no public perception that the business of the court is not a full-time demand or that the avoidance of delays in the administration of justice is not dependent upon active management of the judiciary.

Paragraphs B (10) and (11) Paragraph B (10) and (11) restrictions on judicial speech are essential to the maintenance of the integrity, impartiality and independence of the judiciary. A pending proceeding is one that has begun but not yet reached final disposition. An impending proceeding is one that is anticipated but not yet begun. The requirement that judges abstain from public comment regarding a pending or impending proceeding continues during any appellate process and until final disposition.

Subparagraphs (10) and (11) of Paragraph B do not prohibit a judge from commenting on proceedings in which the judge is a litigant in a personal capacity, but in cases such as a writ of mandamus where the judge is a litigant in an official capacity, the judge must not comment publicly.

Paragraph B (12) Commending or criticizing jurors for their verdict may imply a judicial expectation in future cases and may impair a juror's ability to be fair and impartial in a subsequent case.

Paragraph C Appointees of the judge include officials such as referees, commissioners, special masters, receivers and guardians and personnel such as clerks, secretaries and bailiffs. Consent by the parties to an appointment or an award of compensation does not relieve the judge of the obligation prescribed by this subsection.

Paragraph D Appropriate action may include direct communication with the judge or lawyer who has committed the violation, other direct action if available, and reporting the violation to the appropriate authority or other agency or body.

Paragraph E The definition of "court personnel" was taken from the Model Code of Judicial Conduct "terminology" section. It is used in Subparagraph (7)(c) and Subparagraph (9) of Paragraph B of this rule.

[Revised, effective August 31, 2004.]

Effect of amendment notes: The 2004 amendments, effective August 31, 2004, added a new Subparagraph (11) of Paragraph B prohibiting a judge with respect to cases, controversies or issues from making pledges, promises or commitments "that are inconsistent with the impartial performance of the adjudicative duties of the office", redesignated Subparagraphs (11) and (12) as Subparagraphs (12) and (13); amended the commentary to change the heading "Paragraph B (9)" to "Paragraphs B (10) and (11)"; added the first two sentences after the rewritten heading relating to restrictions on judicial speech; and revised internal references in the commentary to be consistent with the 2004 amendments.

It is difficult to conceive of a "conservative activist" judge, but there are plenty of examples of liberal activist judges; as well as of judges who are liberal but not activist. The "Three Musketeers" of Roosevelt's time were liberals, self proclaimed so, but they were not activists. They were eager to find that the legislature and even the executive had the power to put various social programs in place, but they did not purport to find the power to do so themselves.

That is what my view of the difference between liberal activism on the bench and mere liberalism on the bench. The activist acts without legislation, as for example Roe v. Wade and Brown v Board. Whether Brown v. Board was 'liberal' and whether preserving segregation is conservative I will leave to another discussion. What doomed segregation was not, really, Brown and various court decisions as the Civil Rights Acts, and in particular federal enforcement of voting rights in the South. Kennedy was the principal author of the Voting Rights Act (although Johnson signed it). Johnson was the principle architect of the Civil Rights Acts. Those were the real instruments for change and desegregation; and of course Congress had always had the power to enforce the Civil War Amendments.

As to the canons of judicial behavior, are they not more honored in the breach than the observance?



"The doctors x-rayed my head and found nothing" ... Dizzy Dean

I waited to see if you would paraphrase the above to describe your recovery; if so, I missed it. Meanwhile, I finally landed a contract to produce a software upgrade, and I'm celebrating with a Platinum subscription!

I just reviewed Griggs v. Duke Power Co. (1971) that established "impact discrimination," where the defendant applied allegedly irrelevant tests after 1965 to exclude blacks from positions they were overtly denied before 1965. Burger delivered the opinion, and, in his words, for such tests the "touchstone is business necessity." However, the opinion did not conclude that, in the presence of disparate impact, the employer must show that there is "no better way" to make promotion determinations.

"Nothing in the Act precludes the use of testing or measuring procedures; obviously they are useful. What Congress has forbidden is giving these devices and mechanisms controlling force unless they are demonstrably a reasonable measure of job performance. Congress has not commanded that the less qualified be preferred over the better qualified simply because of minority origins. Far from disparaging job qualifications as such, Congress has made such qualifications the controlling factor, so that race, religion, nationality, and sex become irrelevant. What Congress has commanded is that any tests used must measure the person for the job and not the person in the abstract."

Subsequent Civil Rights Act modifications and court rulings may have modified the above, and I do agree that Sotomayor's stance in the Fireman case is not in extreme left field. However, if the Act or subsequent rulings have extended the prima facie case against disparate impact, where good faith tests must be continuously modified until the results are pretty, then it's probably well for the high court to determine if "business necessity" has evolved into "no better way." This will be more important than the eventual confirmation of Sotomayor, who, as you noted, is about as good as we're going to get from this president--and it could have been worse.

It will be informative to hear what you and your readers have to say as this continues.


Thank you. I had heard Dizzy Dean's aphorism, but I failed to remember it when it would have been appropriate; thanks for reminding me.

Your analysis of Duke shows the problem: in these United States there are many groups eager to bring in lawsuits, and in the Fireman case the city council was afraid not of losing but of the costs it would inevitably incur; or so I understand. The problem is stark: almost any written test of general understanding will produce racially disparate results, even though it is not at all clear why that would be so. The test may have absolutely no racial factors, and be confined to learnable technicalities (as was the Fireman test as I am given to understand); it will still produce racially disparate results. When that happens there will be lawsuits; and since it costs nothing for a non-profit to bring a lawsuit and lose, it is predictable that if you have racially disparate results as was the case in the Fireman Case, you will have an expensive lawsuit. One could say that the council in this case acted from simple prudence. Of course that didn't work, but perhaps the defense in the present lawsuits is less costly than would be the defense if a number of civil rights associations were bringing the suit.

The only way out here is for Congress to act to create some kind of "safe harbor"; but of course it will not, for the same reasons that there will be no tort reform that would relieve the winner of cases like this of the expenses of the law suit. The legal associations have extremely powerful powerful lobbies, and they will not allow that sort of change. Of course they are more likely to allow some kind of safe harbor relief from the dilemma posed by the Fireman Case than that they would allow any kind of tort reform. The United States at present puts about 2% of GNP into lawsuits: this is a larger sum than the entire legal bills of the rest of the world put together (or so I am told; I do not find this unlikely). The cost of the American legal system is small only in relationship to the cost of the health care system.

Pournelle's Iron Law of Bureaucracy explains the rest.

I still believe that Sotomayor is as good as we are likely to get. I have little advice for the Republican party on tactics. I do believe that conservatives must make clear just what judicial activism means, and what the results are likely to be. About 40% of the American people call themselves conservative (as opposed to about 20% who call themselves liberal). It is important to explain to those who call themselves conservative what the conservative position is. My suspicion is that doing so will lose some who discover they don't as much care for conservatism as they thought; but we will lose them to undecided, not to liberal groups -- and we may well gain some new converts. It's a matter of whether or not you believe in rational arguments rationally presented.

In any event, that's what we try to do here. And thanks for the subscription.


Republican Elitists

Dr. Pournelle,

A blog post by �The Other McCain� is well worth reading if only for the two quotes of Hayek. McCain, however, points to the major problem of the Republican Party. �Hayekian, Reaganite, or Texan? Essay on the Arrogance of the Elite�


Having been an elected official, I agree with you that parties are for winning elections. To do so however, you have to have some party discipline. Without it you will fail to win elections. In winning elections you must educate and that's what the message is for. Movements can't be far separated from the party. You won't win elections for very long if you hold your base, which will be found in the movements, in contempt, and this is exactly what the Republican Party Elite has done.

I'm not sure that having Specter in the the tent is better than not having him there, given his inherent lack of discipline. Also, It is not a sure thing that Specter is the best we could do in Penna, given recent polls. If, as you presume, that Specter is the best we could do, then Toomey should not have been elected to the house by a left leaning district.

In the final analysis we will do the experiment. I don't think Specter makes a good candidate for either party, and it looks like Sestak is going to put that to the test next year.

Best wishes for continued healing.

Richard L. Hardison, PLS, PE, CFedS Waynesville, NC


Will there always be an England?

You observe,

I have been reading some older Agatha Christie novels about the time between the wars. That England is certainly gone. I am not at all sure that its replacement is a better place to live. But I don't live there.

I was born in Britain a long time after WW2. I lived for ten years as a child in Australia, and then moved to the United States. As far as I am concerned, all three of those wonderful countries are dead now. They've been changed beyond all recognition, and they're never going to change back.

Just this week I was thinking that we're almost at the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, and never in my wildest dreams in 1989 would I have imagined the country would be where it is now in 2009. It is one thing to read about a superpower collapsing due to corruption, incompetence and moral decay in the national leadership, and its another thing entirely to live through it.

James Perry

And now Pravda commiserates with us on our decline into Marxism!


Boffins: Ordinary lightbulbs can be made efficient, cheaply, 


Ordinary lightbulbs can be made efficient, cheaply, according to folks in Rochester:


"It's the efficiency-enhancement aspect of the studies which could make headlines, however. Both the US and European Union governments are now committed to firm timetables which will see incandescent bulbs phased out in favour of more energy-efficient alternatives, such as fluorescents. This is being done in order to save energy and so lower carbon emissions. But if it's as simple as Guo suggests to enhance an incandescent with his laser process, this may turn out to have been an unnecessary or even retrograde step."

Retrograde, as in We Don't Need The Mercury.


It will be interesting to see. I note that we don't need laws requiring conservation of diamonds or gold.





Just for amusement, I've been watching extensive high range snows in Colorado and Wyoming for the first day of June.

Of course, I remember the high alpine pass snows of summer from my grad school tenure at CERN...


The data stubbornly continues to resist confirming the global warming theories.


Found the section about the Father's Will

"A Tale of a Tub" by Johnathan Swift.


Regards, Everett Harper


Jerry -

I found the section about the Father's Will in Swift's "A Tale of a Tub". Search for the phrase "Section II" (note that is "eye-eye" not "ell-ell"). The first occurrence is in the table of contents. The second is the section itself, which opens with the Father giving the coats to the boys.

"Once upon a time there was a man who had three sons by one wife {70} and all at a birth, neither could the midwife tell certainly which was the eldest. Their father died while they were young, and upon his death-bed, calling the lads to him, spoke thus:-"

I stumbled around trying to find it for a while myself but eventually did. The word "will" is also heavily used as a verb, it seems.. It sounded in your last mention of it as if you had not found it.

The peregrinations and machinations of the sons are quite wondrous to behold as they torture every jot and tittle of everything they can find to get exactly what they want.

--Gary Pavek

Yes. Section II finds it. Thanks


Dear Dr Pournelle,

The tale of the brothers and the bequest of cloaks and their care is in Section 2 of "A Tale Of A Tub", about a quarter-page down. Mercifully, the 'f' for long 's' does not continue that far! (At least in this html page.) Yours, Stewart http://www.gutenberg.org/dirs/etext03/tltb10h.htm 

-- History does not always repeat itself. Sometimes it just yells, “Can’t you remember anything I told you?” and lets fly with a club.

— John W. Campbell



This was on truthout.org: http://www.truthout.org/comment/reply/48367

To which I tried to post a comment, but have been unsuccessful - to wit:

"Empathy and disdain are the province of the legislative and excutive branches of our government in creating policy and law. The judicial branch is encumbered with assuring that policy and law are followed as written, and that such policy and law is within the construct of current law (i.e. the Consitution). Lacking explicit written law, then criminal and civil cases before the judicial branch are expected to be considered on a basis of justice - not empathy or disdain. "

-- David Couvillon Colonel of Marines; Former Governor of Wasit Province, Iraq; Righter of Wrongs; Wrong most of the time; Distinguished Expert, TV remote control; Chef de Hot Dog Excellance; Collector of Hot Sauce; Avoider of Yard Work Please reply to captcouv@cox.net




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Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Subject: Average is not Half

Hi Jerry,

In a recent post on your website you said:

"A major problem in education is that half of the children are below average."

I can accept the fact that I may not have logically deconstructed the intent behind your sentence. If that is the case, please accept my apologies and, if you have the time, I would love to hear what you really meant to say. I would also be interested to hear if, providing I am correct, this causes you to alter the position you are asserting in the post.

Taken at face value, it appears as if you are implying that the average (also known as the arithmatic "mean") of a population axiomatically forms a dividing line at the middle of the population. This is certainly not the case as the following artificially constructed example will show:

Consider the test scores of the following five students:

S1: 100% S2: 95% S3: 93% S4: 90% S5: 30%

The average score in this population is (100 + 95 + 93 + 90 + 30)/5 which comes out to 81.6%.

Thus, based on the average, four students are above the average and one student is below the average.



I am not sure I understand the point you wish to make. I have a few remarks on this over in today's view.




-- Roland Dobbins


Pennsylvania Politics and the Mean ol' Median

Pennsylvania Politics

The key to Pennsylvania politics is that there are three Pennsylvanias: Democrat I: Pittsburgh. The old blue-collar, union Democrats. Enclaves in various other former manufacturing centers, like Erie, Scranton, or Bethlehem in Toomey's former district. These "FDR Democrats" want the Economic Agenda -- but otherwise they "cling to their guns and Bibles," as someone once said. They like to go hunting and tend to be suspicious of the Social Agenda. Democrat II: Philadelphia. The social liberals often called the "chablis-and-brie" set. Enclaves in State College and Harrisburg. They prefer the Social Liberal agenda - welfare, anti-gun rights, pro-abortion, etc., etc. Republicans: Everywhere else. The Northern Tier plus the Middle; sometimes called the "T". What happens is this. For statewide offices, the Social Liberals in the Main Line have the money, and pretty much call the shots. Philadelphia goes along. That means the Democrat primary often nominates candidates for whom the blue collar Pittsburgh faction finds little enthusiasm. Pittsburgh sits on its hands more or less, and the Republicans tip the balance. So PA often winds up with one Democrat and one Republican in the Senate. For the recent presidential election, the three regions and their enclaves stand out clearly: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/25382301/race/president  If you cursor the counties, you will see that a couple of anomalous counties tipped just barely for the Democrat. Toomey's old district was Northampton [my county], Lehigh, and [iirc] Schuylkill. Results there are usually more mixed.

+ + +

Means, Medians, and Modes.

While your letter writer was correct in the broad sense, all data to date on IQ measurement has been roughly Normal -- Bell Curved; and for the Bell Curve, the median and the mean coincide. Normal distributions result when you have a great many causes in the system, no one of which is dominant, and their effects are additive. If the effects were multiplicative, you would get a lognormal curve and the median would be more appropriate.

As for the mode, that is the most frequent measurement - the peak of the distribution. If the most frequent measurement in a sample were 3.14159, you would have pi a la mode.

I'm sorry. I could not help myself.

Mike Flynn

You are clearly more familiar with Pennsylvania than I will ever be, and to some extent my "analysis" was more of a guess; but you confirm my view, that there isn't going to be a straight libertarian/conservative senator from Pennsylvania. I'm not in the political consulting business any longer, and if I were I would have done a lot more study before expressing an opinion on the current matter. I do recall that Specter was sound in the Clarence Thomas hearings.

For a very long time the Democrats had to put up with the Southern Democrats who insisted on preserving segregation. One needs only to look up some of the speeches and activities of Byrd back in the days of the Civil Rights Acts. Political parties exist to win elections. I am more concerned with political philosophy...






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Thursday, June 4, 2009

The Biggest Mystery in American History

From the article your link pointed to:

"I could reel off a list of 50 failed pedagogies, none of which lived up to the hype or the hope, things such as New Math, Reform Math, Constructivism, Bilingual Education, Self Esteem, et cetera."

Having raised my children through the public schools of the 80's and 90's, I can tell you that any pedagogy with the word "Whole" in it is a disaster. (ie: Whole language, Whole math, Whole word, etc..)

My son grew up in an elementary/middle school environment which used "whole language". The school system requested parent feedback on their curriculum each year and each year I dutifully wrote up what a disaster it was (with specific examples.) Oddly enough, I thought I'd be upsetting my sons teachers with such a write-up, but every one of them thanked me, They hated it. (One friend of mine who taught 4th grade 'gifted' programs bought grammar texts for her students with her own money and almost lost her job because of it.)

When my son reached high school here in the NE suburbs of Atlants, he could not write a coherent sentence, much less a paragraph.

I have to say, that the thing that excited me most during the1996 freshmen + parents orientation meeting was when the head of the high school's English department told us that they were strict grammarians and that by the end of the school year most freshmen would be writing on an 11th-12th grade level.

I don't know how it worked for other students, but my son learned to write that year and it was wonderful.


John Harlow

The single most important thing that parents can do for their children is teach them to read before they go to school. Roberta Pournelle's reading program will do that (so will other techniques, but Roberta's is systematic, and we know it works.) (The order system is broken; if you want to buy the program send me email. I am in process of moving her site and setting her up with paypal tabs as it has become onerous to maintain the merchant account and credit card processing. Obviously you can send her a check; Sorry to be so long in catching up on administrative stuff.)


"Paul" and the judicial code of conduct

Paul misses the key weakness of judicial codes of conduct: there is no meaningful enforcement of any code against US federal judges.

There is no way to remove a judge other than impeachment. In over 200 years under the US Constitution, only 13 federal judges have been impeached, and of those only 7 were removed from office. Only one Supreme Court justice has ever been impeached (Samuel Chase), and he was acquitted.

I would guess that probably 5000 or more lower court judges have served in the past 200 years, meaning that less than a quarter of a percent have ever been impeached.

So, if we are to trust to a code that is not enforced, then we must critically examine each potential judge's character, to see if that person can be trusted with awesome power and little accountability. "Activism", or the willingness to override written law in favor of personal belief, is an element of character the Senate dare not overlook in its one and only chance to evaluate a proposed judge.

Steve Setzer

Well said


Bible study, Poker Night, and Bumper Stickers -

Dear Jerry,

Street parking on a public street is fair game.

I lived in the same town as the pastor who is in the news regarding the Bible study and still sometimes deal with similar issues. 15 people, assuming they are all in addition to the hosts, usually represent 7 - 9 cars. If you saw any of the pictures, 2-3 could be accommodated by doubling up in the host's driveway, 4-6 if the hosts park in their garage. 1 -2 can then park blocking the driveway with no problem as they are all together inside anyway. There really isn't anything to be a legitimate gripe to the neighbors, so long as none infringes upon the neighbor's driveways. EVEN if they took up all street parking for a couple hours once every week, there is no legal gripe.

The street right outside my door is often too full of parked cars for my guests to park. My friend with a handicapped placard gets to claim a parking spot belonging to my condo HOA. The rest we either accommodate in our own reserved parking or they have to walk a couple blocks. This gets people riding together to cut down the numbers of cars.

I don't care how often we meet!!! Once a week, every two weeks, every day....DOESN'T MATTER!

If the neighbors complained then why was the pastor's wife asked if they prayed, said "Amen," and "Praise the Lord"? If the traffic complaint was valid and not a pretext did it matter WHY they were meeting? It very well could have been a weekly poker game or football party. (YES! There are MANY of those and they go on unmolested.) That the officer ASKED those kinds of questions shows that the parking, if itwas the parking, is a pretext.

You, me, we, have the right to peacefully gather.

I have had communion services in my home, does that mean I must have a special use permit and expensive church buildings?? Sorry, the first amendment was intended to protect people doing lawful activities from these kinds of aggravations. There are easily as many actvities outside the church buildings as within...and it is right and good that it stays that way!

The same kind of mindset seems to be evident in the HOA that is picking on the vet with the bumper stickers. I think that one is called "free speech."

I am VERY AFRAID! That no one can DO so many protected activities unless they are willing to put up with the harassment is a horrible sign of our losing real rights. The rights in our constitution are being limited and the vague "rights" coming from an implied penumbra to our constitution are becoming paramount.

The First Amendment:

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

Seems to me that most of these items have taken a hit with these incidents.

R, Rose

Liberty is not much in fashion now.








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FridayJune 5, 2009

An existing experiment in doubling school budgets

The Kansas City school district was ordered by a federal judge to spend vast amounts on education in an effort to reduce segregation. It might be a bit different from the experiment that you advocate congress trying with the DC schools, but it is similar, and I don't think you will find the results remotely surprising. Here is the link: http://www.cato.org/pubs/pas/pa-298.html 

Mike Johns

Yes, I have been aware of the Kansas City experiment for a long time. It certainly suggests that pouring money on the problem will produce little to no result.

If you assume that anything you can do will raise the lower half of the bell curve to performance levels above average, you will fail. You may be able to raise a few of the lower half, and once in a while have a dramatic result; but in general, all the evidence is that you won't produce a lasting result, and you will spend a lot of resources doing it. This is not to say that one cannot devise a useful and valuable "education" for the left half of the bell curve. Even way below average students can learn some useful skills. An old phrase, perhaps unduly insensitive, among programmers was "You never appreciate how smart a moron can be until you try to program a robot." Of course no one would say that now, but it is in fact true. One need not be very bright to learn useful skills, presuming that one has the correct attitude, and that one wants to work and be useful. At one time that was precisely what most people wanted: to feel valuable and useful and to earn their own way.

The best way to stifle that attitude is to insist that people can do things they can't do. We have, all of us, probably run up against things we just can't do. I just can't do that. With the readers here it's more likely to have been something physical, but if we are honest we all know we have limits: there are things we are just not smart enough to do no matter how hard we try, and nothing is more infuriating than to have our noses rubbed in that. "You just didn't try hard enough." Fortunately we find ways to get past that feeling: but suppose that were true for a very great part of what you are told you have to learn. "You can learn algebra if you just try." Now imagine that someone is saying it to you about tensor calculus and the curl of vectors.


Manhattanhenge :


It makes sense, of course.



 Watching Things Come Off in the UK 

The Brown Government is starting to shed ministers involuntarily: <http://tinyurl.com/ps4mef > <http://tinyurl.com/q4q8ue>. In any case, this certainly isn't as bad as it was in Germany during 1932-33--Britain will survive.

To address a short-term funding short-fall, the UK Government is seeking long-term cuts in physics and astronomy: http://tinyurl.com/om8z3y . Cavendish, Maxwell, and Faraday are probably spinning in their graves.

-- Harry Erwin


Decline of Science Education in England 

Half the comprehensive secondary schools in England fail to teach chemistry, biology, or physics--most only teach general science. http://tinyurl.com/rypj3y   To study those individual subjects (in preparation for A-level courses, which prepare for entry into science courses at university), 14-year-olds have to attend public schools or grammar schools.

-- Harry Erwin


Thinkpads, Budweiser, and Hummer

Hi Jerry,

Well, it looks like GM's selling Hummer to the Chinese: http://www.foxbusiness.com/story/

This seems like a great strategy in an economic war. The Chinese fund our debt by buying government bonds and lending us money. We use it to inflate housing values, cash out the false equity in the house to buy Chinese-made consumer products, crash the bubble, borrow even more money from them, and then sell the remaining US companies to those same Chinese. They're financing our own fire-sale to them, while we're slowly committing economic suicide.





Despair is a sin, eh? Now, the website:






Pirate Cruise

My son sent me a link to the Pirate Cruise advertisement someone mentioned earlier. Looks like a lot of fun:)


Michoel Reach

I have posted a link to this before I think. Clearly it's a bit insensitive...




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Saturday, June 6, 2009

D Day

I have taken the day off






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Sunday, June 7, 2009      


Freeman Dyson: "It is also true that the whole livelihood of all these people depends on people being scared."

Actually, this quote, which is classic, could be applied to entire levels of government now.

Be afraid, be very afraid.


One can -- and some people have done -- write whole books on political movements that depend entirely on keeping people restless and afraid. They are usually liberal. It is one of the marks of conservatism to be temperamentally opposed to alarmism (which is why we differentiate between some of the movements that call themselves conservative but seek to arouse hot passions and rash actions from what Burke and Kirk meant by conservative -- and yes, I understand, that sometimes conservatives must act and must be aroused -- but not kept in a constant state of dither. More on that anpother time; I think my meaning is plain enough here.


"People are beginning to understand that innovative ideas could generate a lot of money."

2009/jun/07/international-flight-levy-un-climate-change >

--- Roland Dobbins

There is great wealth to be had in global warming. No doubt about it. And we will all pay. The question is one of benefits. Are we preserving the earth or enriching some of the people on it?


Lawyers and Rocketry

Re. Lawyers & Rocketry


Unreasonable Rocket, one of the teams developing for the Lunar Lander X-Prize Challenge, posted this on their blog at <http://preview.tinyurl.com/pncpcr>  <http://preview.tinyurl.com/pncpcr>  :

A long time ago a normal mortal could buy rocket grade peroxide. Then someone crashed their rocket pack and sued the peroxide supplier. They won and the supplier lost more on that suit than they had ever made on the small rocket grade peroxide sales. So they did the smart thing and stopped selling rocket grade peroxide to anyone that did not have a government contract.

So they’ve been preparing to refine their own rocket-grade (85–90%) peroxide from food-grade (50%) or semiconductor grade (70%), but since they are unwilling to go the shady route and disguise their intention to fly rockets nobody will sell them any peroxide. “No discussion of what insurance do you carry, what sort of liability release will you sign etc… Just no.”

—Joel Salomon

I remember Werner von Braun telling us he hated peroxide.





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