picture of me

Chaos Manor Home Page> Mail Home Page  > View Home Page > Current View > Chaos Manor Reviews Home Page


Mail 577 June 29 - Jul7 5, 2009







BOOK Reviews

Chaos Manor Reviews

read book now

emailblimp.gif (23130 bytes)mailto:jerryp@jerrypournelle.com

CLICK ON THE BLIMP TO SEND MAIL TO ME. Mail sent to me may be published.

LAST WEEK                             NEXT WEEK


This page looks better if you set the default text to Georgia.

Atom FEED from Chaos Manor

Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat Sun

Highlights this week:


  If you send mail, it may be published. See below. For boiler plate, instructions, and how to pay for this place, see below.

line6.gif (917 bytes)

This week:


read book now


Monday  June 29, 2009

Another time & date coincidence


For those whose dating conventions are mm/dd/yy, at 5 minutes & 6 seconds after 4 a.m. on July 8th, we’ll have 04:05:06 07/08/09.

Aren’t digital clocks wonderful? <G>


Post hoc ergo propter hoc: Thousands of experiments have conclusively proven that beating drums and clashing cymbals brings back the sun after a total eclipse.


Harry Erwin's Letter from England

The 27 June New Scientist has an interesting article on solar modulation of beta decay <http://tinyurl.com/o269mn>. An electron neutrino (from the Sun) plus a neutron can produce a proton and an electron. There's some evidence that this produces seasonal (and longer-term) variation in decay rate measurements. I'm wondering how this might be used in a science fiction story. Perhaps radioactivity might depend on your local star.

 After twelve years, Labour may finally be getting it about the target culture. <http://tinyurl.com/nu5e6o> <http://tinyurl.com/ogdtgk> <http://tinyurl.com/pzaxna  > But I doubt it.

 Gordon Brown's proposal to oversee parliamentary expenses has implications for MP's freedom of speech. <http://tinyurl.com/o5gw45> <http://tinyurl.com/m4arcb  >

 Clear shuts down. Who gets the personal data it has collected? <http://tinyurl.com/m2tmsv  > <http://tinyurl.com/q2akgc>


Harry Erwin, PhD

See <http://www.phdcomics.com/comics/archive.php?comicid=974>

Interesting. I'll have to give that some thought. Are there energy implications? Does this correlate with sunspots? Now that would really be fascinating.


Subject: Waxman-Markey


I think you may be understating how bad the Waxman-Markey bill. I think a pretty good case can be made that it will actually increase global warming. Sec. 338 requires all projects connected with this act pay the "prevailing wage" as per Davis-Bacon. The "prevailing wage" is usually much higher the local construction wages and will drive up the cost of renewable energy projects. In some cases the "prevailing wage" is twice average construction wages. Previously this had only applied to projects being built by the federal government. They have also applied Davis-Bacon to other projects such as nuclear power plant loan guarantee program from the Energy Policy Act of 2005. I suspect this will gut that program.

I also suspect that the complaince and enforcement costs alone will far exceed the $176 per household that the CBO is predicting as the total cost of the bill. We are going to spend billions of dollars on the carbon accounting this bill requires. We are going to see many small farms and businesses driven to bankruptcy just by the paperwork this bill requires. I mean this is worse than the tax code.

Also, it isn't 1000 pages that no one has read, it is 1511 pages that no one has read. The bill submitted was 1201 pages and Waxman put in a amendment on the morning of the day that the debate was scheduled that was another 310 pages. I skimmed through the amendments and made some snarky comments in my blog.


Joel Upchurch


“President speaks of this as a jobs bill”

I have to tell you, my business is in commercial building automation and energy efficiency systems as related to HVAC and other climate controls.

In a time of economic downturn, we are incredibly busy. I personally know of $2 mil in projects that are possible because of stimulus funding, and a considerably higher amount that is waiting to see what happens with cap and trade.

You all miss the point on this legislation. Think of it as a domestic version of the Space Race from the 60s. President Kennedy set a goal to get us on the moon before the end of the decade. When Neil Armstrong set foot on the Sea of Tranquility, there were entire industries launched, new processes, materials and technology created that did not exist before. This computer I am writing this email on is a direct descendant of the systems installed on the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo spacecraft.

Carbon trading will jump start the green economy, which is real, not just some Democratic talking point. Open your eyes to the possibilities. Think outside the box. What energy saving technology is waiting in the wings that will have the same profound impact on society as the guidance computers developed for Apollo?


The guidance computers developed for Apollo didn't lead very far; the profound revolution came from the on-board computers developed for ICBM's. The Apollo program was run by very large mainframes.

As to jump starting a green ecology, we can all hope you are right, but the economics don't seem very favorable.


E-mails indicate EPA suppressed report skeptical of global warming


It certainly appears that science is secondary to government policy regarding Global Warming.


"Less than two weeks before the agency formally submitted <http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/
2009/03/24/politics/washingtonpost/main4888350.shtml>  its pro-regulation recommendation to the White House, an EPA center director quashed a 98-page report <http://cei.org/cei_files/fm/active/0/DOC062509-004.pdf>  that warned against making hasty "decisions based on a scientific hypothesis that does not appear to explain most of the available data."

The EPA official, Al McGartland, said in an e-mail message (PDF) <http://cei.org/cei_files/fm/active/0/
Endangerment%20Comments%206-23-09.pdf>  to a staff researcher on March 17: "The administrator and the administration has decided to move forward...and your comments do not help the legal or policy case for this decision.""

Click on the 98-page report link in the article to get a full download of the report pdf file. <http://cei.org/cei_files/fm/active/0/DOC062509-004.pdf

Must be nice to be a government official and not have to deal with reality.

As someone said, Global Warming has all the trappings of a new religion, where only belief is necessary.

Regards, Brian Claypool


Climate Change Deniers in the EPA Suppressed

I'm sure that this is salacious enough to generate a lot of media attention.


E-mails indicate EPA suppressed report skeptical of global warming

The Environmental Protection Agency may have suppressed an internal report that was skeptical of claims about global warming, including whether carbon dioxide must be strictly regulated by the federal government, according to a series of newly disclosed e-mail messages.

Less than two weeks before the agency formally submitted its pro-regulation recommendation to the White House, an EPA center director quashed a 98-page report that warned against making hasty "decisions based on a scientific hypothesis that does not appear to explain most of the available data."

The EPA official, Al McGartland, said in an e-mail message (PDF) to a staff researcher on March 17: "The administrator and the administration has decided to move forward...and your comments do not help the legal or policy case for this decision."

The e-mail correspondence raises questions about political interference in what was supposed to be an independent review process inside a federal agency--and echoes criticisms of the EPA under the Bush administration, which was accused of suppressing a pro-climate change document. [...] After reviewing the scientific literature that the EPA is relying on, Carlin said, he concluded that it was at least three years out of date and did not reflect the latest research. "My personal view is that there is not currently any reason to regulate (carbon dioxide)," he said. "There may be in the future. But global temperatures are roughly where they were in the mid-20th century. They're not going up, and if anything they're going down."

Carlin's report listed a number of recent developments he said the EPA did not consider, including that global temperatures have declined for 11 years; that new research predicts Atlantic hurricanes will be unaffected; that there's "little evidence" that Greenland is shedding ice at expected levels; and that solar radiation has the largest single effect on the earth's temperature.

[...] I'm sure it was very inconvenient for the EPA to consider a study that contradicted the findings it wanted to reach," Rep. James Sensenbrenner, the senior Republican on the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming, said in a statement. "But the EPA is supposed to reach its findings based on evidence, not on political goals. The repression of this important study casts doubts on the EPA's finding, and frankly, on other analysis the EPA has conducted on climate issues."

The revelations could prove embarrassing to Jackson, the EPA administrator, who said in January: "I will ensure the EPA's efforts to address the environmental crises of today are rooted in three fundamental values: science-based policies and programs, adherence to the rule of law, and overwhelming transparency." Similarly, President Barack Obama claimed that "the days of science taking a back seat to ideology are over... To undermine scientific integrity is to undermine our democracy. It is contrary to our way of life."

"All this talk from the president and (EPA administrator) Lisa Jackson about integrity, transparency, and increased EPA protection for whistleblowers--you've got a bouquet of ironies here," said Kazman, the CEI attorney.

Tim Boettcher


Rutan's X-Prize flight glitch 


When mentioning this in Thursday's Mail, you wrote: "The reason that Rutan's X-prize flight unexpectedly went into a spin has to do with engineering details of the kind of engines selected for the prize flight. None of that figured in our early science fiction about the glories of a space faring society."

Strictly tongue-in-cheek, allow me to disagree. In RAH's 'Blowups Happen', there is a fortuitous accident that leads to quick energy release needed to use water as a rocket fuel (that just so happens to wreck the testing rig). The line(s ), compliments of webscriptions, are:

"But," the psychiatrist pointed out, "you don't know which isotope blew up." "Nor care," Harper supplemented. "Maybe it was both, taken together. But we will know—this business is cracked now; we'll soon have it open." He gazed happily around at the wreckage.

I've always loved that last line. <manic grin>

Your main point, that small-scale feasibility testing is wise, is uncontestable (unless one is Too Big To Fail...)

Best Regards,

Doug Hayden


NASA Wants Your Ideas for Digitizing Wernher von Braun's Notes, 


NASA Wants Your Ideas for Digitizing Wernher von Braun's Notes:


"NASA is taking the rare step of reaching out to the public for help. The space agency is looking for the best way to analyze and electronically catalog a precious collection of notes that chronicle the early history of the human space flight program.

"We're looking for creative ways to get it out to the public," said project manager Jason Crusan. "We don't always do the best with putting out large sets of data like this."<snip>

A rare admission for such a bureaucracy. Must be they think it's really important.



California's Fiscal Crisis: The Legacy of Proposition 13 

Doctor Pournelle,

From "Time", better known hereabouts as "The News Magazine Of Alternate Realities", the stunning revelationt hat California's fiscal crisis is the fault of thoe Bad Old Conservatives:

"And at the root of California's misery lies Proposition 13, the antitax measure that ignited the Reagan Revolution and the conservative era. In Washington, the Reagan-Bush era is over. But in California, the conservative legacy lives on."


You just cannot make this sort of thing up. It's like a drunk driver blaming the accident on the tree tht got in his way!


The truth is that even with Prop 13, California has average to high average property taxes relative to other states; while other taxes are near the top. California is not under-taxed.


Once again, Tom Clancy was prescient

I wish I was still working there…. J

NSA will manage the Cyber-Force


Matrix like VR world to test Cyber-Force tools


Tracy Walters, CISSP



 Dear Jerry

Lest we forget, Geoengineering began an eon or two before man set foot in the Americas, and its ongoing effects did not escape the attention of the Founders :


-- Russell Seitz




 read book now




This week:


read book now


Tuesday,  June 30, 2009

Stimulus Packages, Cap and Trade and Broken Windows

Dear Dr Pournelle,

Anyone, including President Obama, arguing that the recent stimulus package (or any other recent legislation) is a “jobs bill” has forgotten their Frederic Bastiat. Surely these arguments are merely examples of the Broken Window fallacy? See http://bastiat.org/en/twisatwins.html.  I think Bastiat has been referred to from these pages before.

Best wishes,

Simon Woodworth.

Bastiat is worth reading. I forget that few hear of him in college or college prep education any longer.


NASA reacquires original Moon landing footage, 


It appears that NASA's moon-landing tapes were in Perth, Oz:


Well, it seems as if the lads from The Dish came through again.


Richard C. Hoagland says that NASA deliberately "lost" the tapes, and is now busily editing out pictures of alien structures and other artifacts on the Moon. On the other hand 'The Sunday Express notes that "if the visual data can be retrieved, NASA is set to reveal them to the world as a key plank of celebrations to mark the 40th anniversary of the landings next month".' according to the Register story. By the time of the actual Apollo mission I was involved in local politics in Los Angeles and had little to do with the mission; I was at a political meeting fund raising for Barry Goldwater Jr. when the Eagle landed. (We won, and he was on the space committee.)  TV in those days wasn't very high resolution, but it's astonishing that NASA just plain lost the high definition tapes.

Of course they have closed the Goddard facility that might actually have been able to read the tapes, but perhaps they can manage something new. Surely they know the format.


sabre rattling 

Dr. Pournelle,

Is it sabre rattling when you actually hit what you're aiming at... 3 times... or is it just bragging?


Is this more "testing" along the lines of our satellite shootdown? We'll never know of course, but it's hard to ignore the timing of the shot. Regardless of why the missile was shot, the comparison is funny... 3 warheads lofted on a missile type that can be put on nearly instantaneous alert hitting a target thousands of miles away, compared to the last guy who lofted missiles in our direction needing weeks of careful preparation to loft one missile that has tended to break apart before the end of boost phase.

Yes our missiles used to "always blow up" too, but that was a while ago.

On another topic, Rush pointed out that the recent SCOTUS decision about the firefighters specifically excluded the core constitutional issue behind racial bias in personnel management. Both the majority and dissenting opinions were apparently pretty clear that this was a limited case because existing law was sufficient to decide this one without digging any deeper. The opinions pointed out that the constitutional issue will need settling eventually, but this apparently wasn't the right case.

Crystal ball time... With Obama's first nominee already making it known that her status as a minority makes her more qualified than any white guy, I wonder what the "right case" will look like. My guess is that it'll involve an illegal immigrant who eventually received citizenship, and the constitutional test will revolve around the question of if ANY measure of qualifications (other than where one fits within affirmative action racial quotas of course) can be fair to someone who doesn't even speak the language in use by the employer. Equal protection under the law (14th amendment?) will be twisted to mean something like if the law states that only 50% of promotions can be white men, then that is "equality" and therefore constitutional.

But that's just what my warped and cynical crystal ball tells me. Maybe it'll work out ok... I'm not holding my breath though, and the empty shelves at every sporting goods store in the nation tell me that Americans are stockpiling ammo. Not a good sign in a republic during "peacetime".



Buzz Aldrin’s Plan for NASA - Scrap Ares I, Fast-Track Orion and Colonize Mars

Hi Jerry,

Interesting proposal-it even appeals to the Iron Law by keeping the Shuttles' minions employed for five more years:



Rod Schaffter

-- "I loathe populism. But if there ever has been a moment when reasonable men's hands itch for the pitchfork, this must surely be it." --Jonah Goldberg


Ares 1x problems 


Here's a news story on that Ares 1X I was talking to you about after lunch last month. You know, the cobbled-together initial flight demo of something sort of like the actual planned version of NASA's new "The Stick" crew launcher? No surprise, it's got problems.




: Mars warmer recently? 

It looks like Mars was warm enough to have liquid water on the surface as recently as 2 to 8 million years ago. See http://www.psi.edu/press/ , currently the most recent Planetary Science Institute release there. (The next release down is interesting too - uranium and thorium spotted on the Moon via gamma-ray spectrometry. Nice to know there's something to burn while we're still figuring out how to use all that helium-3.)

It occurs to me that Earth was considerably warmer back then too. Almost like Solar output might be a common factor dominating climate change on both planets... Interesting.


You think?


Subject: Toyota Brain Wave Driving Tests a Success

What I really want to know is when I can play World of Warcraft in a completely immersed environment….


Tracy Walters, CISSP


Sotomayor - 

Hi Jerry,

The issue with Sotomayor isn't that she was overturned in a split decision, it's that the entire court, in a footnote, indicated that the means by which she reached the decision was deficient. Rather than evaluating the case on the merits, she issued a summary judgement based on her background and opinion. The fact that even the liberal wing took issue with her methods, indicates that she's not an appropriate choice for the Court.



I saw that, but I think is was only one of the dissenters. Perhaps I mistook. In any event I believe the case ought to have been sent back for actual trial on the issues, but given that this wasn't to be done, I'm not sure that a long opinion by an appellate court on this would have been useful: it was clearly headed for the Supreme Court no matter what.

The problem here is that we don't need the court acting as a legislature. There's already too much legislation, and it conflicts. No one wants to straight out say that the law is to be color blind, because we can predict the results of doing that: under representation of Blacks and over representation of Orientals in state supported colleges and universities. What we have, then, is dissembling, which enriches lawyers and creates just a lot of work for courts.


Air Force Culture Change

Pushing Culture Change AFA Daily Report John A. Tirpak Air Force Secretary Michael Donley thinks that Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz and he have succeeded in changing the culture of the Air Force in the past year. He told reporters at the Pentagon June 26 that the decisions on cutting the fighter force
May%2021%202009/The2010HitList.aspx>  by 3.4 wings and terminating F-22 production

April%2007%202009/RaptorCutoff.aspx>  are “broadly understood” in the service, “especially by the leadership.” He acknowledged that “it doesn’t mean they’re all of the same mind (see below).” But he said the unconverted are informed by their “personal and professional backgrounds,” which may reflect a prejudiced view of the service’s myriad missions. “The vision of the Air Force as flying fighter aircraft and doing air-to-air combat and dropping weapons from fighter aircraft is a very monocular and narrow-focused vision,” Donley said. Schwartz and he have been trying to steer the service away from undue influence by the bomber and fighter pilot communities, and have made a strong effort to take a “more inclusive view of the contributions of every airman to this work,” Donley said. (For more from Donley’s June 26 press roundtable, read It’s Around Here Somewhere
Somewhere.aspx>  as well as Take a Deep Breath

June%2029%202009/TakeADeepBreath.aspx>  .)

Interesting, if true, because this seems to be leading the Air Force in the direction you have advocated for some time.

Braxton Cook

I have watched somewhat breathlessly. I gave those lectures at the Air War College some years ago; I wonder if they had any effect?



Dr. Pournelle:

A conservative congresswoman (Michelle Bachman, R-Minn.) recently announced that she would fill out only the number of persons in her household, because she saw no authority for the census to ask the rest of the questions.

For the record, I'm going to fill out the form, correctly, having no wish to face federal prosecution, but I do think her question has merit.

Please feel free to tell me I'm completely wrong, but here's how I see it:

1. The Constitution requires a decennial census for the purpose of apportioning the House of Representatives.

2. As the Constitution also mentions "Indians not taxed" I can see some authority for asking if a respondent is a Native American.

3. The enumerated powers of the government under the Constitution do not include the right to ask other questions.

4. First Amendment rights of free speech include the right to remain silent.

Therefore, the Census has no authority under the Constitution to ask questions other than those necessary to properly apportion the House of Representatives.

I know that it has been suggested that we give the Constitution to some other country because it served us well and we're not using it any longer, but as to the matter of the census, is the above wrong, assuming that anyone pays heed to the Constitution?

The census people have never, to the best of my knowledge, answered this question directly. They state that the information gathered is of crucial importance and the census maintains strict adherence to laws about privacy.

My question is not whether the data remain private, nor whether the answers to census questions provide crucial data, but whether the Census Bureau has any right whatsoever under the Constitution to even ASK these questions.

Or am I completely off base?


Under a very strict construction you are correct; but I think it has been a very long time since we had any such interpretation. I once put it to Newt Gingrich (when he was Speaker) that (1) it required the 18th Amendment to make constitutional the Volstead Act that prohibited the possession and/or  consumption of alcohol, and (2) that Amendment was repealed. Under which Article is it legal for the Federal Government (as opposed to the states) to prohibit possession and consumption of marijuana? (We could ask about other substances like opium as well. Shipping interstate may be prohibited, but what about growing pot for one's own consumption? Isn't that clearly for the states?  His only answer was "It's all different now." We understood each other quite well, I think.

I do not know what questions the first census asked. It might be interesting to find out. And there was the question of slaves, who were counted, so one would have to answer questions about the number of slaves in a household (and they are mentioned in the representation clause).

I think this question was debated when the Census Bureau was first set up. It might be interesting to find those debates.


For a PDF copy of A Step Farther Out:



 read book now





This week:


read book now


Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Ant mega colony takes over world



Post hoc ergo propter hoc: Thousands of experiments have conclusively proven that beating drums and clashing cymbals brings back the sun after a total eclipse

Mama mia! Now if that colony ever becomes conscious we have a heck of a story...  Seriously, this is a manor ecological change. Man Made.


New Haven Fireman's Case 

Jerry, while the city of New Haven may have had a legitimate fear of being sued if they had stuck with their guns, that hardly makes it illegal to discriminate against firefighters because of the color of their skin.

Having a fear of litigation makes the New Haven City Council less of a villain, but does not excuse their behavior.


As I said, I doubt that I would have voted with the majority in New Haven to scrub the test and start over; but I don't think that imposing federal control over a local decision is a great idea either. The problem is, as I said: if you apply any kind of g-loaded test, you will get racially disparate results. The law needs to be made clear on which procedures can be relied on, and which will get you sued.  Congress has the constitutional authority to enforce "equal protection of the laws," but it has acted in an ambiguous manor, leaving situations like this one. As I have said, I probably would have acted differently from Sotomayor in this case, but it's pretty hard to say she was far off the line in what she did.


Cyber Command

Dr. Pournelle,

I'd like to inject a note of caution into the discussion about NSA taking over or creating any sort of cyber command.

The likelihood of the NSA ending up owning a military command is very low. The Reuters and AP stories have miserably few details because the Pentagon press releases had few details. It seems like reporters have jumped to the conclusion that, because the new command will reside at Ft. George G. Meade in MD (home of NSA HQS), it makes sense for the Cyber Command be its bailiwick. What they're not remembering is that the BRAC (Base Realignment and Closure) will relocate DISA to Ft. Meade in a couple of years. Right now, The (Three Star) Director of the Defense Information Systems Agency is also the Commander of the Joint Task Force for Global Network Operations, currently under STRATCOM purview. What I have seen of the Pentagon noise suggests that JTF-GNO will lose its task force status and become the cyber command.

While I would be surprised if the new command didn't work closely with the NSA, I would be positively shocked if the NSA had any real control over it. JTF-GNO has long needed a broader charter and I was pleased to hear that it would be a command and not another civilian agency.

Hope this finds you well. I just finished Red Heroin and Red Dragon and I'm wishing you'd write more spy novels (the nautical angle was good, too.)

v/r -Scott



Gov't efficiency LOL

………..The explanation is really quite simple, and it’s provided here <http://www.heritage.org/Research/
HealthCare/wm2505.cfm>  by Robert Book of the Heritage Foundation. The statistic cited by [liberal columnists] Alter and Krugman uses administrative costs calculated as a percentage of total health care costs (For Medicare it’s roughly 3 percent and for private insurers it’s roughly 12 percent).

But here’s the catch: because Medicare is devoted to serving a population that is elderly, and therefore in need of greater levels of medical care, it generates significantly higher expenditures than private insurance plans, thus making administrative costs smaller as a percentage of total costs. This creates the appearance that Medicare is a model of administrative efficiency. What Jon Alter sees as a “miracle” is really just a statistical sleight of hand.

Furthermore, Book notes that private insurers have a number of additional expenditures which fall into the category of “administrative costs” (like state health insurance premium taxes of 2-4%, marketing costs, etc) that Medicare does not have, further inflating the apparent differences in cost.

But, as you might expect, when you compare administrative costs on a per-person basis, Medicare is dramatically less efficient than private insurance plans. As you can see here <http://timerealclearpolitics.files.
wordpress.com/2009/06/admincosts1.gif>  , between 2001-2005, Medicare’s administrative costs on a per-person basis were 24.8% higher, on average, than private insurers……………………


Article on Polar Bears and Climate change


You might find this article on a Polar Bear expert being banned from a conference because he does not belief in Climate Change


Yours Kevin Law

Scientific objectivity in action.


Here's another space program spinoff:

Michael Jackson Cited Astronaut Shoes in Patent

"In addition to writing catchy pop-tunes and executing gravity-defying dance moves, the late Michael Jackson apparently had an inventive streak. It has come to light that the singer holds a patent on shoes that help create 'an impressive visual effect' in one of his famous dance moves.

"The patent on a 'system for allowing a shoe wearer to lean forwardly beyond his center of gravity by virtue of wearing a specially designed pair of shoes' was granted in 1993. The effect in his music videos was created using cables, but the star wanted to recreate it for live shows. The shoes allow the wearer to connect to hitches in the stage in order to lean over. Prior art mentioned includes footwear worn by astronauts in zero gravity as well as on tools for removing rubber overshoes without having to bend over."



David K. M. Klaus




RE: 1990s your fallen electrical distribution tower power spike

Hi Jerry,

This reminded me of your incident with the 40 KVA electrical transmission tower that fell on the local power grid and fried everything in your house that was not protected by the UPS units you had all your computers connected to. I recall none of the computers suffered any damage.

Now that UPS systems are more affordable, maybe it's time more of us protect the $5,000.00 home theater, computers, all the other electronic devices we've installed over the past few years. Better to replace a UPS than to fight with the insurance company or be faced with the rate increase they mention.

Cheers, Ray Edmonton, Alberta Canada

Claims for lightning damage in the U. S. have risen 45 per cent since 2004 as the value of home electronics has increased.

Photograph by: Gene Blevins, Reuters, File, Canwest News Service



The cost of claims by U. S. homeowners whose property was damaged by lightning topped $1 billion last year for the first time since at least 2004 as the value of home electronics increases, the Insurance Information Institute said.

Insurers may have to adjust rates accordingly, the institute says.

Insured claims have risen 13 per cent since 2007 and 45 per cent since 2004, the year the institute began collecting data, as the cost of consumer electronics that are insured has risen, and with it the value of electronics affected, according to the data.

The U. S. averages 20 million to 25 million lightning strikes a year, according to John Jensenius, a lightning safety expert with the National Weather Service.<snip>

For the record, that was a Falcon UPS. I still use Falcon UPS for just about all of my systems.


The Return of Russell Seitz

Dr. Pournelle,

I trust you are well and I am happy to see your productivity returning to something you consider "adequate". The rest of us would surely consider your work-load untenably large.

It was with GREAT relief that I noted the Russell Seitz byline in your mail at the end of Monday 06/29/2009. I have followed his contributions to your discussions for a number of years and frequent his journal/blog http://adamant.typepad.com/ .

Having seen nothing updated on his site since before the election and with the only known contact for him being his hometown aol page which was shutdown in November 2008


I had become concerned.

I realize Mr. Seitz on occasion trundles through the jungles of South America or sails about the world but lack of ANY reference to him or news of him for many months had become worrisome.

Sorry to be so long winded but please if you would, extend to Mr Seitz my sincerest greetings and wishes for his continued good health.

Thank you Mark Smith







 read book now




CURRENT VIEW    Wednesday


This week:


read book now


Thursday, July 2, 2009

NASA's future goes under scrutiny formatted, cleaned up, better version 

Doctor Pournelle,

The writing is on the wall:


: > And meanwhile, the clock is ticking for thousands of workers at > Kennedy Space Center, whose jobs will vanish when the shuttle is > retired. And depending on the committee's findings, KSC's future could > be bleak. >

> Augustine, an aerospace veteran considered independent and smart, > acknowledged last month that the group will have to determine what > sort of manned-space program the U.S. can afford.

I am calling it right here, right now: NASA as anything more than a space trukking service for the International Space Station is going to be out of the manned space flight business by the end of this calendar year, 2009.

That's right. No moon, not in 2020 or ever. No Mars. No nothing other than flying aging Ph.D. astronauts to a moribund suite of soon-to-be-obsolete Cans-In-The-Sky for dead end research and "prestige. Oh, and not to forget: the occasional billionaire.

In eleven weeks, this Presidential Commission will issue the death warrant to all that NASA bloviation about "Back to the moon".


What did anyone really expect from a hard-left, Democratic president who plans to revamp the entire financial industry of the largest economy in history, also reconfigure the largest health system in history AND simultaneously totally reconfigure the entire energy structure ot said largest economy ever, and do all of that in his first year?

What, did anyone really think such a person actually gave a thought to getting the human race out there among the stars?

Imagine Bill Cosby's voice, "RI-i-ight!"

He's a Big Spending, "I Feel Your Pain" (Excepting that pain he inflicts), Caring, DEMOCRATIC True Believer who is cut from the same cloth as every other whining "Why do we want to send billions into space when we have problems right here in River City!" baloney spouting demagogue of the past half century.

He's a smarter, milder spoken version of Senator William Proxmire.

The Augustine Commission is meant to do one thing, the only thing it might possibly be able to accomplish in the ELEVEN WEEKS (!) given it: Provide the fig leaf of "Too Expensive, Too Dangerous, Too Many Problems Right Here On Earth" thus to make it politically safe to expediently Kill The Dream. It's parliament voting to Kill The Queen so Henry VIII can have a new wife.

End Of Story.

There is Zero Probability, as in Nada, Bupkis, Zilch and Goose Egg, Ice Cube In The Inferno chance of the United States of America ever getting a human being beyond Low Earth Orbit again im our lifetimes, eaach and severally. That's it folks, end of game, the circus is holding its; tents and never coming back to town. It's gonna all be up to private enterprise and the Chinese, from here to inifinty.

Which is why:

I anticipate that those private sector "birds" will be the next target in the gun sights of this administration. Expect to see, within six months to a year, a bill offered up to the Boys On The Hill that, if passed, will inflict a "Death By A Thousand Regulations" upon the fledgling private sector space companies. My best guess is that it will get mixed up with green politics and "these people need to be regulated for their own good and the public's safety!" arguments. After all, rockets are big, scary, noisy and dangerous things that only government ought to be entrusted with. Besides, they create carbon dioxide, not to mention other nasty things that are unhealthy for children and other living things.

Count on it.

I hope I am wrong.

But don't count on that.

I'm not. I'm learning Chinese, so when the next man lands on the moon, I can understand what he's saying.


I hope you're wrong too. ============


Circular Error Probable

Dr. Pournelle,

Your Tuesday correspondent, Sean, seems to think it significant that the Air Force was able to launch a Minuteman and hit targets in the Pacific this week. He shouldn't. The U.S. has been doing this for many, many years, sometimes 5-6 times a year in the past, as part of exercising the stockpile to characterize aging of the components. One should do sample testing with any stockpiled ammunition, no matter how complex the system. In the case of ICBMs, it also gives a lot of people practice in the art of providing a deterrent. The CEP accuracy standard for Minuteman III was pretty much established by the 70's and has been improved slightly but steadily since. It is usually easy to miss the news releases of these events.

I used to help assemble test systems at Vandenberg, working for the organizations ancestor of one of the current AF test squadrons.

I found it mildly interesting that we are still firing MIRVs in test -- a configuration supposedly no longer found in the wild. But there is probably still a plethora of test RV components around even if the alert force is forbidden to use multiples by treaty.



Federal Road Tax

Jerry, I read in Slashdot this morning about... "The commission pegged 2020 as the year for the federal fuel tax, currently 18.5 cents a gallon, to be phased out and replaced by a road tax. One estimate of a road tax that would cover the current federal and state fuel taxes is 1 to 2 cents per mile for cars and light trucks.'"

I thought, what's the difference? If your car gets 18.5 MPG, its a wash at 1 cent/mile. After some thinking: 1) First, it will be 2 cents/mile, at least. So the effective equivalent fuel tax is 37 cents/gallon. Nice... 2) "phased out"??? Yeah, right, won't happen, you'll pay BOTH. So now we're up to 37 + 18.5 = 55.5 cents/gallon. 3) Highly efficient vehicles will lose out. At 37 MPG, they're currently paying at the rate of only 0.5 cents/mile. So now we're up to 55.5 * 2 = 111 cents/gallon, oh heck, $1.11 - go green!!! That's per gallon. 4) Then we'll go metric, but not adjust the tax, so $1.11/gal -> $1.11 / liter * 3.78L/g = $4.20 / gal equivalent. OMG!!!

Yes, the car you drive tomorrow's on the roads of tomorrow will cost you more than 22 times as much tax per gallon of fuel to drive than today's car costs today - and it will STILL get flats from the potholes!

v/r, David L. Curry

I do not understand why we tax Diesel fuel at a much higher rate than we tax gasoline, and we actually subsidize gasohol. Diesel is more efficient than gasoline which is considerably more efficient than methanol/gasoline mix. Does the new road tax repeal the fuel taxes? None of this seems consistent.


Twitter & the media


This was in the “Entertainment” section, but I believe it goes beyond that.



Believe nothing until it has been officially denied.


I have yet to twitter or tweet, but then I didn't buy Extra editions of the newspapers, either, and I don't spend a lot of time watching daytime TV. I do have the radio on sometimes.




Some responses to mail:

Regarding your correspondent Sean, I haven't checked the schedule but I believe the launch from VAFB was a periodically scheduled reliability test.

More significantly, regarding your correspondent Robert and his comparison of Cap and Trade to the "Space Race."

Cap and Trade is NOT comparable to the Space Race -- or rather, in a proper comparison, the United States would have paid for Project Apollo (approximately $5 Billion per year in then-year dollars) by taxing commercial air traffic at $25 billion per year and giving the surplus to Russia and China so that they could develop higher-performance jets, less 10% off the top for the bag carriers.

IF elimination of anthropogenic carbon dioxide were either necessary or desirable (I contend that the answer to both questions is NO -- though I will concede that some of the other pollutants which accompany fossil fuel combustion need to be better removed from the environment), the proper analogy to the Space Race would be a program like this:

> Objective goal that all replacement and new electrical generating capacity should be by low-carbon-emission (and by preference domestic) technologies.

> Objective goal that all transportation will be by safe low-carbon-emissions technologies by 2050.

> Electrical generation exceptions allowed on a case by case basis -- to be determined by local and state Public Service Commissions with public review and not by the federal government -- based on need, quality of grid, and local viability of alternatives based on current technology at time of installation. Nuclear is considered an essential element of the "mix."

> Government infusion of R&D funding in improved alternate generation technologies, storage, grid reliability and reduction of losses; government infusion of R&D for transportation. Research rules favor private spending over public (including national labs) and provides for strict guidelines on the ratio of direct plus overhead funding spent on non-technical activities to reduce bureaucracy.

> Government grants and tax credits to subsidize installation / use of reduced emission technologies where warranted.

Note that the research / subsidy portion of this portfolio would not cost more than what the Administration is proposing to divert from cap and trade fees to this purpose. The REST of the cap and trade money stream -- 50 - 80% of it -- goes into the pockets of the Cap - and -Trade middlemen (e.g. Gore) or to other politically favored purposes including third world grants. This portfolio could achieve -- or exceed -- the objectives of the Cap and Trade program at no more than about 20% of the cost.



Women & decivilization

I've seen you comment several times about women being the driving force behind civilization. So when I saw this, and particularly the included quote, I immediately thought of you.


" Men of the older generation are insufficiently aware how uncouth women have become. I came rather late to the realization that the behavior I was observing in women could not possibly be normal—that if women had behaved this way in times past, the human race would have died out.

The reader who suspects me of exaggerating is urged to spend a little time browsing women’s self-descriptions on Internet dating sites. They never mention children, but almost always manage to include the word “fun.” “I like to party and have fun! I like to drink, hang out with cool people and go shopping!” The young women invite “hot guys” to contact them. No doubt some will. But would any sensible man, “hot” or otherwise, want to start a family with such a creature?"

I must say, based on my experience with 20something and 30something women over the past decade or so, it is clear to me that Devlin (and Roissy) are correct and you are terribly mistaken. Women don't drive civilization, men do, and they don't build it for their women, they build it for their children. Marriage rates among white men are plummeting, and far too many people - particularly the older and supposedly wiser generations - are still under the impression that the problem is not enough chivalry and respect for women on the part of men, when the actual problem is that women are simply not deserving of respect right now.

The solution to this will be a reimposition of patriarchy and a return of women to the status of permanent legal children, whether any of us like it or not. The unresolved question is just how far we decivilize before these conditions are restored.



Firemen and Tests

The fireman situation is complicated by the idea that for some reason upper levels of management should be composed of people who have passed an objective test. But in the rest of the world, absent government stupidity, upper management positions are held by those who have shown subjective abilities to be good managers, not good test takers. An African-American majority firehouse would not necessarily choose another African-American as a supervisor unless they had confidence in that person’s ability to protect their lives and jobs. So there is always a subjective component in the selection of management, live with it. The best thing is to have interview boards which are representative of all groups, and let them make important decisions. In addition, the input of rank and file personnel is important in the evaluation of colleagues who may be selected for management positions. The people in the ranks have a better idea of the merit of a nominee than any selection board.


I would never use a pencil and paper test as a sufficient qualification for promotion; but it can be used as a means of selecting those eligible for promotions. The problem is that under the current civil rights laws and Affirmative Action attention to outcomes, it's very difficult for companies to avoid lawsuits. One means they use is insisting on "objective" qualifications such as college degrees. That way, when there is a disparity in promotions -- and there very often is no matter what means are used to select candidates -- there is the defense that objective measures were employed, what more could they do? Even though there may be no other reason to insist on college degrees.

The current system empowers gatekeepers who issued credentials; there is thus a powerful lobby to keep things more or less as they are.

I wouldn't say that someone who got the highest score on a written test about firefighting techniques was the proper person to promote to lieutenant. I would be inclined to think that someone who couldn't get a passing score on such an exam might not be the person to promote.


Spanish eco-jobs and Supreme Court activism

Dr. Pournelle,

In the 25 June and 29 June columns, George Will seems to agree with you on both the claims that the cap-and-trade will kill jobs (based on Spanish record of similar efforts) and that the Supremes' latest decision was unexciting. However, I'm wondering if some of your statements about the court decision aren't a little bit inconsistent--should we regret that the court did not create new legislature? While I agree that a new law (or change to an existing one) would be a better position, I am happy that this court chose not to engage in creating new legislation. Certainly we could both cite instances where previous courts did so to our loss and their discredit.

Your last statement serves to emphasize why we should not expect the law we would like to have from the current legislature. I see little likelihood that this (or any recent) congress would engage effectively on such a divisive subject.

In this case, I'm glad they stayed within their purview, and just ruled on the merits of the case. Sorry New Haven.


Were I a New Haven city councilman, I'd be happy enough: there shouldn't be a spate of lawsuits now, and that's got to be good news. And they can finally promote someone.


Cancer Research Has Become Jobs Program


There is an interesting article in the NY Times today about how cancer research has become timid and it has become difficult to fund innovative research that might lead to breakthroughs in treatment or cures for cancer.


Joel Upchurch

You are surprised that the Iron Law works? Finding truly innovative people is always difficult; and if you're in the grant giving business, you still have to shovel out the money, or go out of business. So it goes.


I'm watching a lecture by MIT urban planning prof Noah Raford about Collapse Dynamics and he has a slide, number 35, here:


"...the degree of heterogeneity determines whether a phase transition may occur, and it is closely related to the magnitude of the transition. We show that any social system in which individuals have some inclination to conform with their peers, and in which the population is not very heterogeneous, may undergo a phase transition."

Here's the video series: http://vinay.howtolivewiki.com/

So here's my question: Do ethnic groups differ in their willingness to conform with their peers?

If so, are some economies more unstable because the populaces of those economies are more inclined to become thundering herds?

I'm specifically interested in Japan, China, and Euro ethnicities. When China becomes the biggest national economy will that make the world economy more or less unstable?


An interesting question. Is this a cultural matter? There are many Oriental cultures; are they different in this? Same with Europe. We know that much of Europe succumbed to Nazi and Fascist and Communist movements. But some did not.


Kindle's Fine Print


Megan McCardle at the Atlantic has some disturbing news about the Kindle's user agreement fine print.

archives/2009/06/rethinking_the_kin dle.php

"...'Oh that's the problem,' he said 'if some of the books will download and the others won't it means that you've reached the maximum number of times you can download the book.'....And, here's the kicker folks, once you reach the cap you need to repurchase the book if you want to download it again."

This is not good if you have to wipe and reinstall.

For a long time I have been seriously thinking about buying the Kindle. Now I am not so sure. However, the fine print isn't a problem with the public domain texts of project Gutenberg.

Regards, Charles Adams

Would depend on how often you have to wipe out and what the max limit is, I think. I've never encountered the problem.


More on the Obama Steamroller to pass Cap and Trade (= Ration and Tax)

The fun never stops in Washington. Forcing votes on legislation without allowing the bills to be read or allowing meaningful debate is a form of tyranny.

Myron is with CEI. <http://www.cei.org/>  God Bless him for staying on top of this. Apparently we citizens get to keep our America as-we-know-and-love-it until after the 4th of July holiday.

Also see: Waxman-Markey Flunks Math <http://click.icptrack.com/icp/
flunks-math.html>  by Rich Karlgaard, Forbes, 30 June 2009. Long ago, Rich and I used to write under the same masthead. He's now a publisher at Forbes.


John D. Trudel

The bill flunks on all counts, and one would think that pretty obvious. At least I think it does: to be best I know, there are still very few people who have read the darned thing. But from everything I know of it, it doesn't do anything it purports to do. It's an enormous tax increase that won't change Earth temperatures by more than 1 degree in a century at best; but it will sure whack the US economy.








 read book now




CURRENT VIEW    Thursday


This week:


read book now


Friday,  July 3, 2009

California licensed to print money 


I note that California has started to issue IOU's ("state-registered warrants") and that a number of major banks have now said they'll accept these. Bank of America was the first to announce this, interesting given BofA's near-nationalized status under the TARP program.

In effect, the Federal government has now said that California can print money, since by implication the Feds will bail out banks that get into trouble for accepting the state's IOUs. There has been speculation as to whether the Federal government will bail out California, and whether the rest of the country would stand for such a raid on our wallets. While nobody was looking, it just happened.

My guess is that once the California Legislature realizes the state is effectively now able to print money, they will be even less likely to trim California's spending to match its means. As in, zero probability. The thing to watch for after Sacramento drags their feet for a while longer is the moment when banks threaten to accept the state's IOUs only at steep discounts unless the Feds make up the difference.

The California Legislature is welcome to go to hell in its own way. It's unfortunate they'll take California with them, but California elected them. However, the rest of us who just got hitched to their train willy-nilly may want something to say about it, once people realize. The Civil War established that secession is no longer an option, but said nothing about expulsion. Or, more moderately, Reconstruction...

just sign me


Now there's a frightening thought. I can see circumstances in which I will have no choice but to sell out and go somewhere else where I can afford the taxes. Assuming there's anyone to sell to. California has about the revenue it had some years ago. The legislature simply won't consider cutting back to the expenditures of that time.


Kids in their twenties

Hi Jerry,

I just had to reply to R's assertion that women have become uncouth. Allow me to digress...

Once upon a time, it was the case that you were working as a full adult by your mid-teens. Whether it was getting the crops in or apprenticing at the mill, childhood was over. Some time later you didn't start your trade until after high school; childhood had been extended to 17 or 18.

Now most kids go on to college. In many places, the drinking age has been raised to 21, reflecting the fact that this is another extension of childhood. The process continues. Marriage and family raising is now something to think about in your 30's. In your 20's, you may be working, but life is still a party. Many kids live at home for longer - this allows them more disposable income and more comfort. "Childhood", in the sense of independence and responsibility, has ist extending farther. This is a benefit of civilization: you do not have to work terribly hard to put food on the table.

This is what "R" is seeing in personal ads looking for "hot" dates. It's not uncouth - he just isn't 20 anymore, he probably isn't "hot" and he is a grump on top of it. I interact a lot with kids in their 20s (and isn't that a funny phrase) so I understand their point of view. Life is good, let's enjoy ourselves. And why not?




Re: the comment that women are behaving 'differently' now....

What has changed, of course, is the availability of birth control. Women typically had an early period of urges to be wild and experiment, which if indulged, would result in an early preganacy. In more primitive societies, well and good, that proves she's fertile, and so will make a good wife.

Now the wild phase is not cut short by pregnancy. But in any case, I think there's a more important consequence of freely-available birth control at women's option, and that's the birth rates below replacement we're seeing in many 1st world populations (like the entire EU). It seems to me that humans evolved a reproduction system that depends, to some degree, on women not being able to help getting pregnant. But in an eye blink, that thing has changed, and we see the result.

Women certainly and instinctively tend to bond tightly with their children one they bear them, but it appears that there is not just as strong a drive to have them in the first place, as has always been assumed. As long as there was a sex drive, a 'child' drive wasn't necessary, as the result was automatic. The is, it used to be automatic.

Mike Juergens


Jimmy Carter Jr, 


Spengler thinks Obama is creating a power vacuum:


The last time a president did that . . . well, I've always thought of our current prez as Jimmy Carter Jr. Spengler just makes the case.


We recovered from Jimmy Carter.  Unemployment is about where it was in his time. We'll get past this, and at least there's no Seventy Years War with communism. Maybe we'll discover how to be a republic again. Empire hasn't worked out as well as some thought it would.


Air NZ rolls out naked safety vid 


Air New Zealand has a clothes-free safety vid. "Nothing to hide" is their slogan:


I guess not.


Eye Opening!


Several observations on a theme:

Promotions, testing and race: A question not yet asked 

Doctor Pournelle,

A question on the matter of conforming personnel management to Federal Civil Rights law.

How do the United States military and naval services do it?

I recall reading years ago that they are the most successfully example of racial integration the United States has. One reason blacks, as one example, are "over represented" in those services is because the system apparently promotes by merit and yet also avoids any appearance of bias. I've not heard of any cases such as the "Fireman" SCOTUS case involving the services.

Is that because they are exempt from the Civil Rights law? If not exempt, what are they doing that the rest of us can learn from?

If exempt, is it perhaps time to examine similar exemptions for public safety organs of government such as Fire and Police?

There seem, just by watching the news, to be more than a few members of minorities in flag rank positions. I've never heard anyone reputable claim those minority officers attained high rank in any fashion other than merit. Well, okay, merit and the usual minor politics/ring knocker back scratching that always occurs but is held in check by other traditions and the ultimate "Reality Check" of combat/sea duty. A ship at sea is stress and danger enough to serve as a form of low intensity combat for the purposes of weeding out time servers and incompetents, either by peer pressure or more Darwinian methods. That's one reason navies are fairly immune to the worst effects of the Iron Law of Bureaucracy IF enough of the officers actually spend a lot of time at sea.

I'd enjoy hearing from one of your subscribers that has current or at least recent service experiences especially any who were senior commissioned officers involved in personnel management.



Then we have:

facts are stubborn things -- and tests are hard!

Affirmative Action Debate Roils Naval Academy New Plebe Class Has Record Ratio of Minorities; Diversity Effort 'Dumbing Down' Corps, Professor Says

Fleming said some academy admission data support his claim. The share of plebes who scored less than 600 on the SAT math test was 22 percent this year, up from 12 percent in the Class of 2008. The number of freshmen coming from the academy's one-year preparatory program, designed for remedial studies, was 244 this year, the highest figure in at least 10 years. The data are not classified by race.

On the other hand, 76 percent of the Class of 2013 came from the top fifth of their high school class, about the same proportion as a decade ago.



The historic cutoff point for the officer corps was IQ 120 or above. There were enlisted jokes about this, but the troops do have the right to have officers with a certain level of intellectual smarts. And of course not all officers are entrusted with troops. ("If you can't trust an officer with troops, put him in Intelligence...") Charisma and competence are correlated but not perfectly so. Charisma without competence can be disastrous. Competence without charisma is often (but not always) ineffective. 

IQ correlates pretty well with judgmental reaction time (Three colored lights, three buttons, push the appropriate button when the light flashes; that turns out to correlate highly with IQ. Clearly not perfectly. Stephen Hawking would flunk out fast, and we can all think of other exceptions; still, the correlation is there.) There are lots of attempts to measure charisma, but I don' t recall that any of them are as good (valid) as IQ tests measure IQ and tests measure competence.

For junior officers, there's such a thing as "enough" competence.


Trooping the colour 

Doctor Pournelle,

I recently watched the full ninety minute BBC coverage of the 2008 "Trooping The Colour" ceremony held each year on the Queen's Official Birthday on the second Saturday in June. Edward VII chose that date for the ceremony on his accession to the throne, due to the vagaries of British weather in his actual birth month of November. The ceremony involves a regiment being honored by having one of its battalions parade with its battle colour before the Queen and Prince Philip, the regimental band playing, the Household Division of Foot Guards and Cavalry along with the King's Troop of the Royal Artillery with their "colour', which is to say their guns., always present and plenty of pomp, circumstance, ceremony and tradition on display.

What struck me was the the way the Queen and her consort arrive at Horse Guards Parade, take seats on a low dais (in curile chairs, I noted!) right in the center of the field, and then sit there, completely exposed, surrounded by perhaps one thousand armed men, most with an automatic weapon on their shoulder, not to mention plenty of sabers and swords, and NO VISIBLE SECURITY anywhere near the sovereign.

Now, I am sure there is plenty of security but a few steps away. Still, there is no burly man in sunglasses and black suit standing there ready to knock her down, cover her body with his and "take the bullet".

That's when it ht me. This was almost certainly one of the reasons this tradition was established. The sovereign, the head of state, HAS to have the trust of the army. It's a personal bond, If the Army is to offer its blood, literally, in service to the leader, then the leader must be willing to present himself to the army on a regular basis, with nothing shielding the him from the army but that mutual bond of trust.

Such rituals must go back to tribal times. What better way to ensure you had a leader who could actually lead the tribal levies than that the levies could remove him at will at one of these ceremonies, should he be incompetent or, perhaps, simply uninspiring. Of course, that's why Guard regiments came about, and is doubtless why the Household Division are ALWAYS ppresent at this ceremony, mounted and watching from the sidelines until their turn (at the end, significantly, after the line battalion has marched past the monarch). I imagine in the original ancient version of this ceremony, they were there Just In Case the regiment decided to take an active role in determining the succession on an ad hoc basis!

Despite all the vetting and security checks in the world, you know how easy it would be for ANY one of those marching soldiers to have a magazine of live rounds in a pocket, and "go berserker" if they felt the need to do so.

I think it speaks volumes for the power of that personal bond between Head of State and army that such a thing has never happened, and is quite unthinkable, not to mention quite simply un-British!

While I believe such a bond has and still does exist in our own system of government, I wonder what would be the reaction of our own elite if they had to follow the Queens annual example of trusting to honor and fidelity?

I don't see it happening.

I hope there will always be an England, if only to give us such examples.

Should you care to, the ceremony in its entirety (including eightieth anniversary of the RAF flyby!) is on YouTube:


It is more than worth the time!


An interesting observation.


What the Census Knows

What Does the Census Ask?

The earliest census records were destroyed when the Brits burned Washington. There are fragments. They listed:

1. Name of heads of families
2. Number of free white persons, incl. heads of families, subdivided:

2a. Number of males by age cohorts. (The number of cohorts changed over time.)
2.b Number of females by age cohorts.

3. Number of "All other free persons except Indians"
4. Number of "Slaves"

For example, in 1790, Morgan District, Lincoln Co., North Carolina, 8th Militia Company Hamontree, Wm. Males aged 16 and under: 2 Older: 4; Females: 4 (The frontier was divided into militia companies. The age division for males was evidently to get a tally of those capable of bearing arms.)

By the 1800 Census, the age cohorts were (0-10)(10-16)(16-26)(26-45)(45 up) for both males and females. And no, I don't know how they settled the ambiguity of the cohort boundaries.

1830/1840: as above, cohorts in 5-year increments; tally of Employment, Pensioners, Impairment, and Attending School 1850/1860: Dwelling #, Family #, Names of all people in household, Age, Sex, Color, Occupation, Value of Real Estate, Birthplace, Married within the year (y/n), Attended school within the year (y/n), Cannot read or write, Remarks. Evidently, the govt had grown tolerably curious about migrations, education, and marriage rates. 1870: All the above, plus Value of real estate/Value of personal property; father foreign born, mother foreign born, born in year (month); married in year (month), cannot read; cannot write; impairment; males eligible to vote; males ineligible to vote. [Note that earlier categories are being elaborated, split, etc.] 1880: All the above, plus: relationship to head of household; checkoff: single, married, widowed/divorced, married in census year; place of birth, place of mother's birth, place of father's birth. (In 1880 Sebastian Co. Ark., John Hammontree, his wife, and oldest son were born in Tennessee; but his three youngest children were born in Ark. Given the ages of the children, the genealogist can figure what years he must have loaded up the covered wagon.) 1890: destroyed in a fire. Somewhere I've got a 1900 Census; but you get the picture. They gradually added more and more stuff. Some things they don't ask any more; some things they ask only on a sampling basis.

The Iron Law is clearly at work.




As regards your discussion on the Constitutional authority of the Census, I've spent some time with the published census data as part of my family history research:

For Census years 1790 - 1840, the only information collected was name of head of household, and a count of number of persons in the household (with provisions for accounting for slaves). In 1790 - 1820, only coarse measures of age and gender were collected (roughly, pre-teen, teen, adult, and older adult - 44 being the cutoff) by gender, and with accounting of minor and adult slaves by gender. In 1830-40, binning is by decades of age (lustrums for minors).

Beginning in 1850, the names, age, race, literacy, and occupation of every person is counted, and there is some measure of value of property suitable to verify the tax rolls. This becomes embellished by 1930, the last year of data which is publicly available, with birth dates and the state of birth of the parents of each individual noted. Up to that point, the data is call collected by census takers who interviewed each household individually (for example, I have one year in the 1870s where the census taker, a cousin of the wife, recorded the family in her maiden name instead of her husband's surname).

As a family historian, I consider the census of c. 1900 - 1930 as the pinnacle of data which should reasonably be collected as part of the census because of the utility to future generations of having the collected genealogical information (though it has been noted that some of this information is now accessible for identity thieves). Anything more than that represents the government collecting statistical data to support various functions of modern government which are not constitutionally necessary (e.g. as a data service for advertisers).

For what it's worth,


As Mike says, the Iron Law is at work. Actually it's more Parkinson's Law in this case. Whether it has grown beyond Constitutional limits depends on your view of Constitutional limits. "Everything is different now," many say. But clearly the Framers recognized limits on what the census could ask.



This is a plain an example of how our schools have become indoctrination centers rather than places that equip children for the realities of life: http://www.nytimes.com/

As someone who has spent far too much time making "stuff" that makes lives better I find this just insulting. I just wish that the education elite's image of how we do things could get out of the Nineteenth century. I would challenge any of them to walk through the industrial park where I work and figure what is inside each building.


Obama was booed when he spoke of teacher merit pay at an NEA convention. Teachers unions are adamantly against any evaluation of teachers, any pay based on merit or performance, or any "credentials" other than those given by the standard educationist institutions. So it goes.


Portrait of Leonardo da Vinci discovered in Basilicata?


-- Roland Dobbins

I found this looking at old mail. Interesting.





 read book now





This week:


read book now


Saturday, July 4, 2009

Happy Birthday America

I am taking the day off.







 read book now




CURRENT VIEW     Saturday

This week:


read book now


Sunday,   July 5, 2009    

'When his guns froze, Reusser used the propellers of his F4U-4 Corsair to rip through the Japanese plane's tail section, sending it crashing to the sea.'


--- Roland Dobbins

Home of the brave...


CompuServe Requiem.


- Roland Dobbins

I have forgotten my old CompuServe address, but I can still remember the password they assigned me. We developed BIX as a rival to CompuServe and had McGraw Hill had the imagination to invest in its development, we might have been AOL. BYTE certainly had the technical talent. What we didn't have was the funding from McGraw Hill. Alas. There was also GE Genie, which caught on for a while, but it was mostly using spare cycles from the GE computer system and they didn't invest in new servers for it.  AH, well.


....China and India aren't going to cut back on their use of coal and oil


This may not be the most useful way to approach it.

China is in an unprecedented ET (Energy Technologies) turmoil.

Obama's exhortation about preserving America leadership position looks out of place.

In six giant projects, 15Gigawatts each, in just one of the renewable energy type, China is ahead of all its cost and delivery projections.

Their two new coal fired power plants a week are now one a week and the rate keeps dropping.

For a moment try to look past greenhouse, financial 'innovations' and 'services'.

What are the new industries of the future?

Without them making 'things' within a particular currency border one won't have a state.

Residing within the world reserve currency border just muddies the picture for a while.


I am sure of a few things. First, energy cost has a high negative correlation with economic growth: the best growth engine we know of is cheap energy and low regulation. (Yes, absence of regulations encourages a lot of practices that do great harm; unrestricted capitalism will eventually lead to human flesh sold in the market place.) China continues to produce energy using all feasible sources. They just reported a fifth consecutive quarter of economic growth, but of course one doesn't have great confidence in official statistics.

I am not sure what your point is. Mine is that if the US cuts back on coal and oil use, that will raise the costs of energy in the US, and the higher the energy costs the lower economic growth -- at least historically that has been the case.


Hello Dr, Pournelle:

Joe Biden today announced that “We misread how bad the economy was.” In other words, this is still George Bush’s fault, and the huge pork package that was disguised as a stimulus package is not failing – it just looks like it is, because George Bush screwed the economy up so badly, or perhaps, secretly, he somehow still is. Biden also sagely advises us that the best thing to do when being threatened by missile launching potential nuclear nations, like Korea, is to simply ignore them. They will soon get discouraged and go away. That’s not how it worked with the Russians; but that must have been a fluke. Biden appears to be very caught up in the idea that while Obama is away, he is in charge – sort of. He is just showing us how good a president he would make, should the day ever come. For all of his faults, I think I prefer Obama. It seems to be a great American tradition that the vice president either makes a complete fool of himself, or is a total non-entity. I guess it is clear which path Biden will take. It is still amazing to me that enough Americans voted for this pair to get them into office.



 Biden has been touring overseas.  Today's paper had a picture of him in Iraq. He was wearing a suit similar to our previous proconsul Bremer, but I could not tell what footwear he was wearing, and I haven't found on-line pictures of his Independence Day Iraq tour. I doubt that Biden will be given proconsular authority.


Regarding the possibility of electronic submissions to science fiction magazines



I no longer do short fiction so I hadn't  known. Interesting. I suspect that they get enough paper submissions, and simply haven't time to deal with electronic submissions. Of course the magazines aren't doing very well on subscriptions.









 read book now





The current page will always have the name currentmail.html and may be bookmarked. For previous weeks, go to the MAIL HOME PAGE.


If you are not paying for this place, click here...

IF YOU SEND MAIL it may be published; if you want it private SAY SO AT THE TOP of the mail. I try to respect confidences, but there is only me, and this is Chaos Manor. If you want a mail address other than the one from which you sent the mail to appear, PUT THAT AT THE END OF THE LETTER as a signature. In general, put the name you want at the end of the letter: if you put no address there none will be posted, but I do want some kind of name, or explicitly to say (name withheld).

Note that if you don't put a name in the bottom of the letter I have to get one from the header. This takes time I don't have, and may end up with a name and address you didn't want on the letter. Do us both a favor: sign your letters to me with the name and address (or no address) as you want them posted. Also, repeat the subject as the first line of the mail. That also saves me time.

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

Monday -- Tuesday -- Wednesday -- Thursday -- Friday -- Saturday -- Sunday

 Search engine:


or the freefind search

   Search this site or the web        powered by FreeFind
  Site search Web search

Boiler Plate:

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

If you subscribed:

atom.gif (1053 bytes) CLICK HERE for a Special Request.

If you didn't and haven't, why not?

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

Patron Subscription:

Search: type in string and press return.


For platinum subscription:

For a PDF copy of A Step Farther Out:

= = = = = = = = = =

For a Regular Subscription click here:

= = = = = = = =

Strategy of Technology in pdf format:

To order the nose pump I recommend, click on the banner below:

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

birdline.gif (1428 bytes)