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Speaking as the EX-chairman of the San Antonio Tea Party . . . .

Dr. Pournelle,

First, let me echo the remarks of my friend Randy Christilles -- "Thanks for all you do!"

Second, an even better look at the space battleship "Michael" is at http://www.up-ship.com/apr/michael.htm 

Finally, speaking as the EX-chairman of the San Antonio Tea Party (February-July of 2009) I take great umbrage at the way your correspondent, Paul, characterizes the Tea Parties http://www.jerrypournelle.com/mail/2010/Q1/mail606.html#Friday

Neocons? Hardly. Never been a liberal; most of my fellow leaders were either Christian/Conservatives or Libertarians. The snide comment that got to me was about a coming revolt between "those who side with the Tea Party, and those who just want to be left alone." Was that a joke? Excuse me? It's the Tea Party people who just want to be left alone! We are reacting to a federal government that is injecting itself into decisions from how our toilets work to what light bulbs we can buy, and now wants to totally take over health care. ENOUGH! Read the enumerated powers in the U.S. Constitution and then the Tenth Amendment, and open your eyes, man!

By the way, you can find the San Antonio Tea Party (for whom I no longer officially speak) at: http://www.SanAntonioTeaParty.us

-- Robin Juhl http://www.TheyThinkYouAreStupid.com


Subject: Super-soldier exoskeleton to get 3-day fuel cell powerpack


Tracy Walters, CISSP


Under the circumstances, yes.



Letter from England

 Jerry, you may remember my complaining that the approval rate in the UK for science and engineering grant proposals had dropped below 10%. I just learned that most of the post-docs being advertised to staff approved grants are only for a year because the funding for the approved grants is being cut to one year.  That means a couple of things: the expected return if you write a standard one-man grant proposal is now about five or six man-weeks--less than the effort to write a good proposal--and the duration of these grants isn't sufficient to produce new research. (You have to allow six months for training and another six months for the post-doc to look for their next position.)

 If there isn't a national problem requiring immediate response, when the government of a first world nation shuts down research like this, it suggests they think spending that money won't make a difference for their citizens--i. e., they have successfully created their little paradise on earth and their citizen's lives are as good as they can be. And so let's look at some of the other stories of the week...


Perhaps the problem is terrorism. We hear that the threat level has been raised to severe <http://tinyurl.com/yj5x3dl>  <http://tinyurl.com/ylh3wf5>  <http://tinyurl.com/ycwe85m>,  but why then is the counterterrorism budget being squeezed? <http://tinyurl.com/yjajfty>  <http://tinyurl.com/yc6avhh>   <http://tinyurl.com/yfswe4x>  <http://tinyurl.com/ycybnfv>  <http://tinyurl.com/ybbksnx>  <http://tinyurl.com/ycwk9rp> . (Photographers are protesting over terror search laws <http://tinyurl.com/yzgvrdk>.)

 Perhaps the problem is health care or schools. <http://tinyurl.com/yflhsa2>  <http://tinyurl.com/y8areu4>  <http://tinyurl.com/ylgyrbh>  <http://tinyurl.com/yd8abzy>  <http://tinyurl.com/yet3d4u>  <http://tinyurl.com/ygxobvb>.  Again, why are the budgets under severe pressure?


Perhaps they want to redirect university funding to teaching the growing number of undergraduates <http://tinyurl.com/yafyrkk>  <http://tinyurl.com/y9ye4v2>  <http://tinyurl.com/yjmxok8>.  However, Labour's legacy appears to be reduced university access for working class students <http://tinyurl.com/ybfw6q3>  <http://tinyurl.com/yc74tre>  <http://tinyurl.com/y9atoz3>  <http://tinyurl.com/ydfvogq>

 Or perhaps they've simply been spending beyond their means and have run out of money. That would seem to be a less than optimal way to run a country in the long term.

 Interesting numbers: there are ~160 real universities and ~270 fake ones in the UK <http://tinyurl.com/yzfxqr7>  <http://tinyurl.com/ylxa5be>.  (The US has about 4000 real colleges and universities and about 900 fake ones.)

 Beat Poet Gary Snyder on Macs <http://tinyurl.com/yf4rw5a>


Harry Erwin, PhD

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

The notion of public-supported (that is, tax supported) education is that it's an investment in the future. The fact is that this is not universally true. It may be true to a point, but it's not one of those if a little's good more's better, so lets do best! situations.

The US has so many  colleges because the high schools are so bad. The remedy is obvious, but it is unlikely to be applied. Over time the US university system has to change; the prices go up, the return from going to those colleges goes down. And this still isn't Lake Wobegon. All the children are not above average. Half the children are below average, and all the caring and wishing will not change that. Perhaps 10% of the population would benefit from a traditional liberal arts 4 year education, and perhaps 30% (including the original 10%) actually benefit from the usual American college education. Sending in more than that reduces the benefits received from the 30% while doing darned little for the others.

Most intellectuals know this but sending everyone to college creates high paying jobs for intellectuals.


Niven's Scatterbrain on kindle 

Dr. Pournelle,

Amazon is intent on preventing kindle sales of Niven’s “Scatterbrain”… Some prices:

Hardcover: New $3.50, used $0.09.

Paperback: New $1.95, used $0.01

Kindle: $9.99

What the hell? I don’t need another paperback on my shelf, because I re-read almost everything I buy and I’m out of shelf space to keep books around for years. The kindle is my obvious solution, but $9.99 for a book I can get for a penny plus a buck or two shipping, and not have to worry about dropping or squashing if I throw it in my travel bag?

Plus, buying used means Niven gets zero, zip, zilch, nada, of the sale price.

$9.99 is the price for new NYT bestsellers. Niven needs to give Amazon a call and inquire as to why they are ensuring nobody buys his book in a format that gets him paid.



Why Amazon won't launch its own tablet, but will use Apple's.

My hardware Kindle gathers dust, as I've been using the Kindle for iPhone App exclusively for the last year:


Roland Dobbins

Your eyes are better than mine...  And I suspect your AT&T coverage is better too.


subject: color electronic paper

Dear Dr. Pournelle,

Phillips has found a process to make color electronic paper for electronic books. See http://physicsworld.com/cws/article/news/41473


William L. Jones

That could change things a lot. Thanks.


Tech: The Good, and the Bad and Ugly 

Dr Pournelle,

A pair of items from the opposite ends of the technology (and reality) spectrum; first, at the bad end:

**** Police arrest MD of dowsing-rod 'bomb detector' firm ****

A British businessman who has made millions selling dowsing-rod "explosives detectors" to the Iraqi security forces has been arrested on suspicion of fraud.


ATSC's ADE "Advanced Detection Equipment" is said by its makers to be able to detect "all known drug and explosive based substances", using "non-vapour" methods. A simple plastic holder is fitted with a special piece of cardboard which has been prepared using "the proprietary process of electrostatic matching of the ionic charge and structure of the substance" to be detected. There is no power source or electronics - the device is said to be "charged" by the body of the user.



more details at:


I don’t know which is worse here; the seller of this "detector"’s utter lack of regard for the lives he’s putting at risk by peddling this fakery, or that the Iraqi military’s assessment of it was so cursory – or so easy to disregard – that they spent 10s of millions of pounds on it.

On the "real and working" end of the scale:

**** Super-soldier exoskeleton to get 3-day fuel cell powerpack ****

A radical powered exoskeleton under development for use by the US military is to be fitted with fuel-cell power supplies which will increase its endurance from hours to days - and furnish juice for the burgeoning load of electronics carried by modern soldiers, too.


Starship Troopers (or, maybe more realistically, the loader rig from Aliens) here we come!


Ian Kirk

Oxford, England


“Please only use the online services when traffic conditions allow you to do so safely."


---- Roland Dobbins


"Fifty years ago, many children would have been given regular doses of cod liver oil, but this practice has all but died out."


--- Roland Dobbins


Doctor's Office Hit By Meteorite.


-- Roland Dobbins


'Despite this apparent accessibility, Obama's reliance on a teleprompter for flawless delivery made for boring and unemotional TV, compounding his cerebral and unemotional style.'


-- Roland Dobbins

His drop in approval in the first year is unprecedented in recent times. All Presidents lose points after the honeymoon, but Obama does seem to have lost a lot more than most. Perhaps he is not making enough speeches, and having too many press conferences.


: Panel warns NASA on commercial spaceflight - 


The government really doesn’t like competition.


Thanks for doing so much for us all.

E.C. "Stan" Field

Recent governments don't like competition. At one time government didn't think it ought to have a monopoly on so much. Now we have an enormous reserve of swine flu vaccine.


“Private space stations edge closer to reality”




Once you're in orbit, you're halfway to anywhere.

Robert A. Heinlein



: China Hackers

Hi Jerry

You mentioned today that Northrup Grumman got hacked and suspected that others did too. In my local paper today, the Columbus Ohio Dispatch, was an article about Chemical Abstracts Service getting hacked. This is important because a lot of data about patented or potentially patented chemical formulae and processes are in their databases. Here is a reference to the article:


As for Tzolkin and Dynamic DNS, I got curious and did a little checking. They are an American company, based in Massachusetts. Their Dynamic DNS allows you to access your server from the internet in the face of having the IP address change randomly as your ISP gives it new addresses. My guess is that you probably don’t need it, as I doubt that you need to access this server remotely. If you want to check on the company, their web page is at


Hope this is of help to you.


The China Hacking Attack is serious and will get worse. We do not seem to be taking it very seriously, so far as I know. Perhaps something is happening in the covert world, but I'd be astonished if there was any great effort I don't know about.


Heckuva way to try and win a war - 


The congressman wrote, "The fact that fellow U.S. service personnel initially raised the accusations against Petty Officers Huertas, McCabe and Keefe strongly suggests that we have created a culture within our armed forces where our military personnel are now more concerned about protecting themselves from legal jeopardy for every action or statement than they are about fighting the enemy. Our troops and these SEALs need to be bold and decisive in combat, not hesitant and over-thinking every action for fear of prosecution."


Beware the fury of the Legions


FTL electromagnetism?!


- Roland Dobbins



See <http://www.spaceref.com/

Apparently it doesn't violate special relativity.

-- Harry Erwin

If it can reliably be shown that information -- any information -- can be transmitted faster than light, the universe changes. A LOT. And Quickly. More than Special Relativity goes...


Subject: U.S. Shifted Party, Not Ideology

What is said in this article is probably a good representation of what happened across most of America:


Tracy Walters, CISSP

The American people elected Obama thinking he really would be different, an alternative to the Nuts and the Creeps. He turns out not to have been so. I warned at the time that whatever his intentions the Ravening Wolves would be too much for him. He may have started with good intentions although "Guess what -- I won" argues against that; but he did not start equipped to battle with the Nuts who wished to co-opt him.




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Tuesday,  January 26, 2010

From another conference:

This was a discussion of science policy. The opening question was asked as part of an ongoing discussion, Mike Flynn wrote an answer that I thought so well constructed as to be of general interest on the nature of scientific thought.

 The opening question: So, if we can't trust scientists, and scientists are the ones telling us we can't trust other scientists, how can we trust the scientists telling us not to trust other scientists?

I dunno. Maybe because it's not a categorical statement about the {universal}, but only a contingent statement about particulars?

There is on the one hand the Platonic Ideal called {scientist}, which exists only in the world of Forms, and which has certain attributes imputed to it. On the other hand, we have Professor Adam Apple, Dr. Betty Boop, Academician Charles Cheese, etc. -- "this scientist and that scientist and the other scientist" -- who have sensory existence in the material world and who vary in their properties. These particulars participate "more or less" in the ideal form and, being material beings, will fall short of this ideal in one regard or another. So the controversy may only be old one between Idealists and Realists.

A comparison: Consider any material triangle -- say, one made with chalk on a blackboard, cut from green felt with a scissors, drawn in pixels on a screen, etc. None of them, on close examination, will conform perfectly to the Ideal {triangle} of Euclid. Perhaps a line will not be perfectly straight, or will resolve under magnification to a series of square pixels; perhaps an angle will not be completely closed. That is, every material triangle falls short of the Ideal Form of {triangle}.

In like manner, every scientist falls short of the Ideal Form of {scientist}. Ockham's argument would be that {scientist} has no material existence and we should not multiply entities by positing such a thing. (Most folks quoting Ochkam's Eraser don't realize what it was that nominalism was attempting to erase.) Platonic Realists and Aristotelian Realists take slightly different opposing views of the {universals}.

A second, and related point, is that the term "trusted" can be divided into several senses. It does not necessarily mean that the other is venal, corrupt, deliberately deceptive, etc. We may distrust him because what he says goes against the accepted paradigm, as is the case of Galileo or of the "denialists." Or it might be uncertainty whether a model has included all the relevant factors, or whether there might be multicollinearity among the factors or the resultant variance inflation factors have been deleted from the model. (As my cosmologist friend puts it: with any seven factors, you can create a model that fits the data, provided you can play around with the coefficients.) Perhaps it is because a scientist is drawing conclusions that are political and not scientific, as was the case with eugenics. Or perhaps the scientist is out of his league, as when Sagan makes a boner about history or Dawkins tries his hand at philosophy. Perhaps it is an honest mistake, like polywater, or a mistake driven by the desire to see what one wants to see, like N-rays. The scientist may be blinkered by prior beliefs: Planck for a long time did not believe in the electron, although he admitted later that if he had, his development of the quantum theory would have proceeded more easily. Schroedinger, in an early essay, expressed disbelief in the quanta. He was a "wave" man. And, as I have said, Laplace and Lagrange were working from concepts of "pressure" different enough that an experiment that confirmed an hypothesis for one school disproved it for the other. He may hold some other set of values in greater esteem than the values of science: let's say, saving the planet (e.g., the "alarmists") or saving souls (e.g., the "creationists"). Or it may be as simple as keeping his job and feeding his family.

But it is only the particular, individual scientist who has these attributes, not the universal {scientist}.

Even if it does come to dishonesty, it only wants a few dishonest scientists in key positions. If, for example, they control access to the data; or the only equipments capable of running a specific experiment. Choke points and bottlenecks can be gamed in ways that more easily replicable experiments cannot. And I just thought of a story possibility... Hmm.

If "trust" in authority were all that mattered in science, no one would ever try to replicate another scientist's experiments.

__ (*) Recall that when Adams and Le Verrier "predicted" the size and location of Neptune, their respective calculations took over two years to complete. No one was going to replicate that just to check their arithmetic. It was only coincidence that the two of them were doing so at the same time. And they came up with two different sizes and two different orbits, and neither one was very close to the real Neptune. Leverrier's Neptune lies at 35-38 AU with a year of 207-233 yrs. Actual Neptune: 30 AU ans 165 yrs. Had Le Verrier done his calculations 40 years earlier or later, he would have had Neptune in the wrong part of the sky entirely.

Mike Flynn

Printed with permission.


Project Orion Battleship resin model



This was an application of the Orion nuclear pulse unit spacecraft to the M.A.D. doctrine. It was to carry about three Poseidon submarines worth of ICBMs, and be on-station in Lunar orbit. This would be out of reach of any Soviet weapons. Apparently President Kennedy was horrified at the concept, and canceled the project.

It would carry several landing boats http://up-ship.com/blog/?p=5167  These remind me of the boats featured in PRINCE OF MERCENARIES and THE MOTE IN GOD'S EYE.

Winchell Chung


UK Science Tsar Admits Fundamental Uncertainty in Climate Change 

See <http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/

-- Harry Erwin

The IPCC position seems to be coming apart. The Acceptors (as oppoed to The Deniers) are saying it's all an oil company plot, or a typographic error, and since Venus is hot and Venus has lots of CO2 Arrhenius Global Warming is obvious so Deniers ought to be prosecuted and jailed. I wish I were making that latter up.

If we don't adopt Kyoto or Copenhagen or Do Something NOW! then the Earth will turn hot, and end up like Venus. So it is said.

My view remains: we have no idea how to model climate. We don't know what the feedback loops are or how they operate. The Earth cycled from a snowball Earth to Temperate to Temperate with Ice Sheets to Temperate again without any help from human beings (or if human activities had any effect it would have been warming us up from the Ice). We don't have any model that explains those cycles. But This Time For Sure.

Meanwhile the fundamental uncertainties remain.





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Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Is America a failed state? 


Spengler asks, Is America a failed state?


"Barack Obama won the Democratic nomination and then the presidency by offering the same program that Peter Pan gave the Darling children: Close your eyes, think happy thoughts, and you will be able to fly. "Yes we can" in the meantime has changed to "No he can't," as America lost five million jobs in 2009 and its effective unemployment rate, including so-called long-term discouraged workers, rose to 22%, a level unseen since the Great Depression."



America is not a failed state, and that kind of gloomy question is not well asked. We are, however, in trouble: we have forgotten that the strength of America is in self-reliance and our own sense of exceptionalism and initiative; we have been taught to rely on government for that which government can never give anyone. When Rome became bureaucratized and the Iron Law took over, it survived a long time until the barbarian hordes overwhelmed it. A nation that used to be a nation in arms was unable to raise enough Legions to withstand barbarian armies smaller than the Old Republic had routinely defeated after first having their consular armies wiped out. The spirit was gone.

Our spirit is not -- yet -- gone. We yet have time to learn again what we once knew. Not all of us have forgotten that we knew it. A Dark Age is not when you can't do what you once could do. A Dark Age happens when you have forgotten that you once could do it. Take reading: at one time we understood that all children of minimal IQ could learn to read: that is, a 90% literacy rate. My mother, a first grade teacher, could remember every single pupil who did not learn to read by the end of first grade, and as she put it, "They didn't learn anything else, either." The usual result of first grade was that children left it able to read. Second grade was for building vocabulary and sight reading skills after you learned how to "sound out" words. Today the education theorists don't even know that we once had 90% and greater literacy.

Conscript studies show that the number of illiterate draftees who had been through 4th grade and higher was essentially nil -- there were illiterates, but they hadn't been to school at all. The idea of an illiterate in the 8th grade was simply bizarre. Now, of course, many high school graduates are functionally illiterate, and we think that sad but "normal." We have already reached an educational Dark Age.

We are not -- yet -- a failed state.


APOD: 2010 January 20 - The Known Universe


The Known Universe:




Election Spending

Jerry -

I'm sure by now that someone has told you how to copy a Firefox configuration from machine to machine, so I'll stick to mentioning that, yet again, a Canadian named David Warren has nailed an important event here Down South. The entire article is worth reading, but the paragraph that led me to refer this to you is:

"There are many and huge ramifications, but the chief one is that the decision attacks the contemporary lobbying system. In effect, those advancing special interests are condemned to lobbying the entire electorate, instead of just lobbying the politicians behind closed doors. This directly undermines the political class. It goes to the heart of their ability to broker deals not in the public interest, and pass them into law without public debate."


Unquestionably true both sides of the border, and very possibly zeros-in on exactly where some oxes have been gored.

David Smith


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Thursday, January 28, 2010

Bob Holmes on iPad


A lot of "experts" seem to be disappointed with the iPad. I think that they have completely missed the point.

The is a lot of griping about the aspect ratio of the screen. It is 4x3 and the pundits think that 16x9, the aspect ratio of HD TV would be better. Well, the primary functions of the iPad are associated with documents and 4x3 is a better aspect ration for this. Movie viewing, while possible, is only a secondary function.

The iWork applications seem to have been missed by many who express disappointment. Once again this is a document oriented device with some rather nifty secondary functions.

The inability to display Flash content in web pages is also cited as a minus. Just wait until the iPad is ready to ship. I am reasonably sure that Adobe will have this base covered by that time.

As I watched the presentation unfold I began to think about what price I might be willing to pay and thought that $600 would be the price point that might get me to wield my credit card. As it turns out, the 32GB WiFi iPad at $599 is what I will probably get.

Jerry, you have said that it won't Tweet. I don't Tweet and I don't got to Twitter and I don't plan to, so not gotcha for me.

With the 9.7" screen and color the iPad sure looks like a Kindle DX killer. The only concern that I have is how good the PDF capabilities will be. I have been looking for something to easily carry literally hundreds of user manuals and technical documentation. I was considering a MacBook Pro 13.3", but if the PDF reader is up to snuff the iPad is it for me.

Bob Holmes

I was egregiously incorrect in saying it didn't Twitter; of course it does, as it does email. It does not use a stylus. See Roland's note below.

I had hoped for something that would do TabletPC plus OneNote, which is the best research package I know. I would also want a camera or at least a USB port that I could plug a camera into. More in the column. Thanks


Roland reminds me again why I don't do topical news:

Of course you can tweet with it, sir. Why would you say such a silly thing?

And do zillions of other things you can do on an iPhone or iPod Touch. With a keyboard. With a larger screen.

And thank God there's no silly, annoying stylus to lose - although note that nothing *stops* you from using a stylus with it, which means handwriting recognition will in fact be supported on new apps based upon Apple's Inkwell, I'm sure.

It's Apple's netbook - no hard drive, 64gb, lightweight, long battery life, built-in 3G, voice via the Skype app for iPhone/iPod Touch. I'm definitely buying one, because I can do everything I need to do on a business trip with this thing, yet it's slimmer/lighter/has more battery life than my MacBook.

In fact, just about the only thing I can't do on the iPad is post-process photos. But I can sure store them via the iPad's SD card reader, and then upload them into my MacBook for processing when I return home.

You underestimate and misunderstand this product, sir, because you use only about .0001% of what your iPhone can do via apps. If you utilized your iPhone to its fullest potential, you'd be excited about the iPad, as am I.

--- Roland Dobbins

And one presumes that the iPad and the iPhone can connect together, so that between them they do the whole pocket computer thing. And the iPhone has the camera.

I suspect that it will take an iteration or so to shake out problems and let the applications designers work on this -- I can hardly wait for Dan Bricklin's reactions -- but I agree, it's something one might be enthusiastic about.

I still wish there were a really good update of the Compac HP Tablet PC I have now; just a good CPU improvement and Win 7 would make that the most useful machine I have.


ipad first impressions - 

Hi Jerry,

Apple released the iPad today. There's a number of links (www.macrumors.com) with feature lists, so here's the other side.

Key gaps:

1) No flash for the internet - the demo at the announcement even showed the broken plugin on one page! - bad form Apple 2) no camera (and thus no video conferencing) 3) no multitasking 4) accessories are extra $$ 5) apparently no USB, removable storage, speaker, microphone 6) AT&T data services (the worst network in the country just got even more overloaded).

The more I look at this, I'm not sure I want one - I'd rather have a 128GB iPod Touch that fits in my shirt pocket. Though since the iPad only has 64GB max, and is a bigger unit, that may be a long way off.

Would an ebook reader be nice? Maybe. It appears though, that the books are in epub format, so you'll probably be able to read them on your mac using third-party applications. However, I still prefer paper - but that's a separate argument. Is it a Kindle killer? Maybe - a bit pricey. But beyond ebooks, why would I want one of these over a small Macbook and an iPod Touch? Totally unclear. It's too large for daily carry (especially for men), and I'm not sure I'd want an extra couple of pounds in my carry on next to my computer and paper book (so I can read during takeoff and landing). So what about college students for textbooks? Perhaps - but only because of battery life. Otherwise, a MacBook makes a lot more sense if it can also read the downloaded textbooks.

For me at least, the iPad is an iYawn. I think that Apple made a strategic error in announcing them 60 days before release - there will be a lot of folks who have time to reflect and avoid the impulse buy. Again, in summary, a neat piece of engineering at a decent price. A very muddled target market.




Der Führer Disses the iPad

*heh* Apparently "Hitler" doesn't think any more of the iPad's feature set than I do. I kinda hate to find myself in agreement with Der Führer, but...


David Needham

-- “In a democracy (‘rule by mob’), those who refuse to learn from history are in the majority and dictate that everyone else suffer for their ignorance.”-third world county’s corollary to Santayana’s Axiom http://thirdworldcounty.us


The Iron Law in Science

Here is a blog post (with an unfortunate cut-and-paste duplication) on the institutional roots of scientific dishonesty. http://realphysics.blogspot.com/2010/01/inst-roots-sci-dishonesty.html 

"Furthermore, it is entirely normal and unremarkable for scientists to spend their entire professional life doing work they know in their hearts to be trivial or bogus – preferring that which promotes their career over that which has the best chance of advancing science. Indeed, such misapplication of effort is positively encouraged in many places, including some of what were the very best places, because careerism is a more reliable route to high productivity than real science...

Original at: http://medicalhypotheses.blogspot.com/

Mike Flynn


: David Warren and the Special Interest State


David Warren's column is correct. Little wonder that the Ravening Wolves will want to reclaim their power. But that power may already be waning. See: The American: Journal of the American Enterprise Institute.

The Coming of the Fourth American Republic

By James V. DeLong Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The Special Interest State that has shaped American life for 70 years is dying. What comes next is uncertain, but there are grounds for optimism.



Descriptive quote: "Much of the Progressive movement’s complaint was that special interests, often corporate, captured the governmental process, and its prescriptions were appeals to direct democracy or to administrative independence and expertise on the theory that delegation to technocrats could achieve the ideal of “the public interest.”

The real-world answer imposed by the New Deal and its progeny turned out to be special interest capture on steroids."

The Great Society institutionalizes class warfare. The unions for a while resisted all this but the public service unions have strong incentives to tax and spend. The whole point of Civil Service was to keep the Civil Service out of politics; now they get job protection while unions campaign for them to get more public benefits. In the Spoils System they were routinely turned out at a change of administrations.


Subject: David Warren's article

David Warren’s column on the change in politics was a great read…and I hope the assumptions from it follow through. Special Interest groups catering to politicians behind closed doors is a bad thing for everyone, and if the recent events mark a sea change in the other direction it’s a welcome thing.

However, the discussions on health care continue behind closed doors with a select few in attendance. I suspect that either directly or indirectly big Insurance is buttering the bread of the Congress Critters in those meetings, as their interest in what is happening has huge dollar signs attached to it. Probably a host of others, too….AMA, GE, large Health Care organizations…all of them flush with cash and ready to influence things their way.

I’m probably a marked man now.


State of the Union thoughts

Dr. Pournelle,

I know I'm just a kid, but for the first time that I can remember in 20 years of watching these speeches, this was the first one that was not in large part a long list of new spending initiatives. You know the standard template, I have a great idea and I propose spending $200 million on it, blah blah blah. This was something different, and I really wonder how Washington will handle it.

Mostly I think the problem will boil down to 3 basic issues. First, he threatened the hell out of the "special interest" lobbies that in many cases determine the success or failure of re-election campaigns. That much influence behind that much money simply won't sit back and accept this, and there will be consequences. Second, he chastised both houses and both parties for not playing well together. Instead of coming up with bi-partisan ways to spend money, he told them that they need to quit bickering and start governing. Some of them will fall in line, but some of them are going to make it their life's work to make him pay for publicly berating them as a father would a son (or daughter). Third, his proposals might actually cause some change in how our government works, and in the same way that massive health care reform scares the hell out of normal citizens, big changes in how govt works will scare hell out of the government itself, no matter how good that change might be.

Not only that, it is going to be tough for people to argue that much of what he said is patently false. He told a few whoppers such as saying the Bush administration actually tried to implement conservative republican theory, but politicians complaining about this speech are going to look like whiny children.

Still, the criticizing may be the biggest negative of the speech. He threw darts at the supreme court, both parties in both houses, govt administrators, the military (effectively a direct verbal order on national TV to eliminate the homosexual elimination policy) and the media. He even threw a dart at the public when he claimed that opposition to health care reform boils down to "what is in it for me". I personally think people are scared to death by the huge unexplainable changes, and they are really asking "what is it going to DO to me?" but maybe he doesn't think we're smart enough to be scared.

Regardless, it was an interesting speech and certainly a departure from previous litanies of who is going to get how many millions of dollars in new deficit spending initiatives. He surely gave priorities for spending, but it sure sounded like he is going to leave it up to congress to implement those initiatives such as more nuke power plants and more "green" jobs. I disagree with some of what he said, but the way he said it sure matches how I was taught the president was supposed to lead. Provide guidance, stick, carrot, but leave legislating up to the legislating body. I wonder how badly they're going to come down on him for acting presidential.


That was not my interpretation of what I heard.


UK Science czar calls for openness on climate questions 

Original URL: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2010/01/27/climate_data/ 

UK Science czar calls for openness on climate questions

Reveal the things we know we don't know

By John Oates

Posted in Environment, 27th January 2010 10:30 GMT

The government's chief scientific adviser John Beddington has called for openness and honesty in the debate over man-made climate change.

He said climate scientists should release the data behind their predictions and be less hostile to those who disagree with them. He said that more openness about the uncertainties of climate science would increase public confidence rather than undermine it.

He said: “I don’t think it’s healthy to dismiss proper scepticism. Science grows and improves in the light of criticism. There is a fundamental uncertainty about climate change prediction that can’t be changed.”

Beddington is particularly dubious about the use of computer modelling. He told The Times http://www.timesonline.co.uk
#cid=OTC-RSS&attr=797084 ): “When you get into large-scale climate modeling there are quite substantial uncertainties. On the rate of change and the local effects, there are uncertainties both in terms of empirical evidence and the climate models themselves.”

He also said climate scientists should release the data on which they base their predictions. He said: "Wherever possible, we should try to ensure there is openness and that source material is available for the whole scientific community."

He added: "There is a danger that people can manipulate the data, but the benefits from being open far outweigh that danger.”

In other news, Rajendra Pachauri, chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, will not resign because of mistakes in a 2007 report which claimed that Himalayan glaciers will disappear by 2035 or sooner.

He dismissed the mistake as human error and said it did not detract from the fact that glaciers were indeed melting, nor would it undermine confidence in climate science as a whole. ®

Tracy Walters, CISSP

Hurrah. I'll go for that!


For the last ten years or so I had pretty well given up on ever seeing space exploration that was envisioned in 60’s and 70’s science fiction but this article just seems to drive a knife into what little hope was left.


When the White House <http://www.orlandosentinel.com/topic/politics/
PLCUL000110.topic>  releases his budget proposal Monday, there will be no money for the Constellation program <http://www.orlandosentinel.com/
constellation-program-ORGOV0000166.topic>  that was supposed to return humans to the moon by 2020. The troubled and expensive Ares I rocket that was to replace the space shuttle to ferry humans to space will be gone, along with money for its bigger brother, the Ares V <http://www.orlandosentinel.com/topic
ares-v-launch-EVHST0000219.topic>  cargo rocket that was to launch the fuel and supplies needed to take humans back to the moon.

There will be no lunar landers, no moon bases, no Constellation program at all.

"We certainly don't need to go back to the moon," said one administration official.

This last quote really gets to me. I guess “The Man Who Sold the Moon” got to me at an early age. I have always wanted to see “Luna City”.

At least “D.D. Harriman” may not be dead yet.

There will also be funding for private companies <http://www.orlandosentinel.com/
companies-corporations-04016046.topic>  to develop capsules and rockets that can be used as space taxis to take astronauts on fixed-price contracts to and from the International Space Station — a major change in the way the agency has done business for the past 50 years.

Maybe a private party who sees the potential profit of a moon base will be able to raise the money and “Luna City” will really be founded as envisioned.

Thanks, Greg Coley

A Earth farmer who always wanted to be settler on another planet

I seem to have lived to see the first man on the moon, and the last one...


Class in the UK 

Apparently Labour's free spending has not produced what might be considered the desired effects--the class gap has widened during their stewardship, and their policies seem to discourage social mobility.

This is not really surprising. Most people in the UK working class dislike social mobility, as the down-side is a lot worse than the up-side opportunity. They absolutely hate taking on debt, and they prefer to invest in their homes and in tangibles.

Financial Times: <http://tinyurl.com/y9vwlkf>  Telegraph: <http://tinyurl.com/yzmcfk9>  BBC: <http://tinyurl.com/ycm94hw>  <http://tinyurl.com/ygccaud>  Guardian: <http://tinyurl.com/ygpaeal>  Times: <http://tinyurl.com/yjvat25>  <http://tinyurl.com/yewz8rt

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




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From Spider Robinson and John Varley>

God Goofed


I wouldn't put it quite that way. Would we have the Moon if we had rings (or the other way around, would the rings be stable if we had our Moon)? One is reminded of the Spanish king who, when told about epicycles, remarked that he could have taught God something about efficiency. Redesigning the Solar System -- or humanity -- is a popular pastime, but generally such Gnosticism has had rather disastrous results.


Global guessing

Hello Jerry,

A long (PDF) paper about the state of the climate monitoring system.


The bottom line: 1. If the global temperature monitoring system were viewed as a lab instrument it never saw one day on which it would even remotely be considered to be 'in calibration'. EVER.

2. Not only is the instrumentation 'uncalibrated', it is systematically being 'adjusted' to ensure that it shows a warming trend. Huge numbers of data points are simply 'made up' (interpolated) from stations located, in some cases, over 1000 km from the 'data point'. A single station supplies all the data for Canada north of 65 degrees, for example. Other stations showing cooling trends are dropped.

3. The main climatology centers are collaborating in producing fraudulent evidence of anthropogenic global warming, actively concealing data which contradict them, and attacking individuals and groups who question them.

4. ALL of the major climate experts are funded by governments, national and international, for the express purpose of providing a technical justification for the vast expansion of government power worldwide.

Bob Ludwick

I wouldn't state things in quite such drastic terms, nor do the authors of the document. Their conclusions are supported by  the data they present. As to your final conclusion on motives, I do not think any of us have real evidence about motives and motivation. The important conclusion is that we don't really know what many of our experts have been assuring us that they do know -- and that political officials including the President of the United States are far more certain of the "science" than scientific evidence warrants.

1. Instrumental temperature data for the pre-satellite era (1850-1980) have been so widely, systematically, and unidirectionally tampered with that it cannot be credibly asserted there has been any significant "global warming" in the 20th century.

2. All terrestrial surface-temperature databases exhibit very serious problems that render them useless for determining accurate long-term temperature trends.


3. All of the problems have skewed the data so as greatly to overstate observed warming both regionally and globally.


4. Global terrestrial temperature data are gravely compromised because more than three-quarters of the 6,000 stations that once existed are no longer reporting.


5. There has been a severe bias towards removing higher-altitude, higher-latitude, and rural stations, leading to a further serious overstatement of warming.


6. Contamination by urbanization, changes in land use, improper siting, and inadequately-calibrated instrument upgrades further overstates warming.


7. Numerous peer-reviewed papers in recent years have shown the overstatement of observed longer term warming is 30-50% from heat-island contamination alone.


8. Cherry-picking of observing sites combined with interpolation to vacant data grids may make heat-island bias greater than 50% of 20th-century warming.


9. In the oceans, data are missing and uncertainties are substantial. Comprehensive coverage has only been available since 2003, and shows no warming.


10. Satellite temperature monitoring has provided an alternative to terrestrial stations in compiling the global lower-troposphere temperature record. Their findings are increasingly diverging from the station-based constructions in a manner consistent with evidence of a warm bias in the surface temperature record.


11. NOAA and NASA, along with CRU, were the driving forces behind the systematic hyping of 20th-century "global warming".


12. Changes have been made to alter the historical record to mask cyclical changes that could be readily explained by natural factors like multidecadal ocean and solar changes.


13. Global terrestrial data bases are seriously flawed and can no longer be trusted to assess climate trends or VALIDATE model forecasts.


14. An inclusive external assessment is essential of the surface temperature record of CRU, GISS and NCDC "chaired and paneled by mutually agreed to climate scientists who do not have a vested interest in the outcome of the evaluations."


15. Reliance on the global data by both the UNIPCC and the US GCRP/CCSP also requires a full investigation and audit.


Modeling in general, not just climate

Hi Jerry,

Listening to NPR the other evening, I found it interesting and amusing,...in a pathetic sort of way, that a company as large as Boeing can have its stock prices drop due to lower earnings in a three-month period than expected, and yet many other computer modelers seem to be perfectly willing to trust their models for years into the future. Surely Boeing has more, and more accurate, data about its operations and prospects than most, and yet they still can't get it right over such a short period. Kinda makes you wonder, doesn't it? I m also reading Chaos by James Gleik, and he makes the point throughout at least the first chapter that chaos theory got its start largely due to the idea that weather COULD NOT be predicted more than a few days in advance, with decreasing accuracy over that period. I understand that weather and climate are not the same thing, and long-term trends can be statistically significant, but where did anyone get the idea that chaos theory applies to weather but NOT climate?...or, for that matter, NOT economics? Umm...or politics, or large organizations, or interacting with the real world in any way, shape or form, or...umm, well, anyways:)

Leslie Rubinstein

I have always considered Chaos Theory a confession of ignorance. In some cases the ignorance may be profound and not correctible without a great increase in modeling capabilities and probably in basic science. I don't think we know the basics of oceanic temperature predictions and given the probable importance of volcanism we may never know them; they aren't truly chaotic but some feedback systems are just so complex that they may was well be.

That is, I take the view that the universe is orderly, but we can discuss the limits of human understanding. I once chaired a AAAS session on the limits of knowledge. That was many years ago.


iPad Reaction - Stephen Fry Likes It and So Do I



I have no need of a cell phone, but I would have gone for the iPod Touch except for the small screen. The iPad is perfect for me: a wireless Internet and media device in a tablet form factor. I've considered a Windows netbook, but for casual browsing from the rocking chair, it would not be much more convenient than my 13" MacBook, and the screen orientation is wrong for ebooks. The iPad, though --- I could tell from my pulse and respiration during the intro that it's spot on. It might even replace my Kindle, if the screen proves comfortable enough for extended reading.

I'm already on Apple's notify list, but I guess it's a little early to drive down to the Apple Store.

Bill Dooley


Subject: Jerry, two thoughts on the iPad and Kindle


Long time no talk (I'm the guy who knew you from the Valdocs days and went onto Activision and Lightspan).

Two thought pieces:

The iPad is a Game Changer for Games.


"The Pad is official now. Why does it matter for the game industry?"


Coulda Been A Contender, Kindle Finally Gets Apps, Two Years Later.


Today Amazon announced a SDK (Software Development Kit) which will allow software developers to build and upload applications that will be available in the Kindle Store later this year.

So Amazon has ‘discovered’ the App Store, no doubt motivated by rumors of a soon to be announced Apple Tablet.

“We’ve heard from lots of developers over the past two years who are excited to build on top of Kindle,” said Ian Freed, vice president, Amazon Kindle, in a statement. “The Kindle Development Kit opens many possibilities — we look forward to being surprised by what developers invent.”

I guess we (PlayScreen) were one of those developers.....


William Volk

Valdocs was a great idea ahead of its time: computers weren't really powerful enough to run it then. Even so Lester del Rey proudly showed me his Valdocs system after Del Rey Books bought Gold Medal in order to get the Lucifer's Hammer and Footfall contracts...

I can see the iPad making a big difference in gaming. Now it's Amazon's turn to embrace and extend..


UNICODE vs.ASCII (Microsoft Word dictionary problem)


This won't solve your problem but at least you'll know more than you knew before.

ASCII represents the most common English letters, punctuation, and the digits. In its 127 codes, it also has room for 33 control codes. There's not enough room for all the English letters, much less letters from other alphabets, e.g. Cyrillic, Vietnamese, German.

UNICODE addresses this. It is a larger code, taking multiple bytes (usually two bytes, but there are various encodings with different byte counts) to represent a letter. The first 128 codes happen to be exactly ASCII. (I think the first 256 codes are ASCII plus the IBM extensions as codified by an international standard 20 years ago.) When you look at a UNICODE file, e.g. by using the MS-DOS "TYPE" command, you'll see that every other byte looks like gibberish. That's because (with the two byte encoding), the lower byte is ASCII and the upper byte is the rest of the UNICODE encoding for that character.

Why did Microsoft switch to UNICODE for the dictionary? Probably to let the dictionary represent words in languages other than English.

Of course, if you switch from Microsoft software to something else, such as wedge impressions in soft clay or knots on rope, this problem will go away. Perhaps that's not entirely helpful...

-- David Schachter










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