picture of me

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


Mail 630 July 5 - 11, 2010







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  July 5, 2010


The best people live in the best places. The authors got their causality backward.

Disease and intelligence: Intelligence tested http://www.economist.com/node/16510958 

Infectious disease may explain why some countries have cleverer populations

Jul 2nd 2010

HUMAN intelligence is higher, on average, in some places than in others. And researchers at the University of New Mexico have come up with an explanation, [31]published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society. Comparing the average IQ in a particular country with its disease burden (based on the reduction in life expectancy caused by 28 infectious diseases) reveals a striking correlation. At the bottom of the IQ list is Equatorial Guinea, followed by St Lucia, with Cameroon, Mozambique and Gabon tied for third last. These countries also have among the highest burdens of infectious diseases. At the opposite end of the scale, Singapore, South Korea, China and Japan show the highest intelligence scores and relatively low levels of disease. America, Britain and a number of European countries also place in the top left-hand corner of the chart.

I long ago in A Step Farther Out put forth the proposition that one major reason for the appallingly low IQ's in some parts of the world was not hereditary; those people were stunted.

The proposition that IQ is highly related to disease is interesting and important. I am not sure it is universal: are Chinese  healthier than average Americans? The average IQ in China is about 105. Clearly more research is needed.

It is an interesting and possibly a very important theory.


regarding the Flavinius quote and Bacevich

Hello !

this was too good, so I did a little checking

1) the alleged centurions name is Flavinius, not Flavius 2) the whole quote is a fake

it was invented by Roger Frey (French gaullist minister) as part of a psy-op to prepare the return of De Gaulle to power by making the comparison between the weak Paris (Rome) and the "betrayed" legions in Algeria longing for a new Cesar. http://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roger_Frey 

so Flavinius probably never existed and the quote cannot be found (as otherwise reported) in the works of the historian Suetonius.

the quote was initially reported in the best-seller "Les Centurions" of Jean Lartéguy. Lartéguy wasn't aware that the quote was a fake when he wrote the book but was informed later :

"About this famous passage, John Larteguy noted in his autobiography "The naked war" (Stock, 1976, p. 331): "Jean Pouget, whom I met in Algeria at the time of the May 13, gave me [for The Centurions] valuable information on Camp # ¡1 and the long march of survivors of Dien Bien Phu. As the letter of the centurion Marcus Flavinius, the legion Augusta, which is opening this book, which concludes with the prophetic words: "Let us beware the wrath of the legions!" It was a fake: I did not know then. It was produced by Roger Frey, in order to arouse the wrath of legions of Algeria to chase out of Paris, the new Rome, a weak government unable to address the problem of Algeria, and nominate an emperor . What was done [Charles de Gaulle] '.

It is amusing to note that at almost exactly, this text has become the chant of the Roman legions to the spectacle of the Circus from France, Ben Hur Life, and was recorded on vinyl: Here is the text of the song and the highlight of the Centurions....."

translated from


but probably McChrystal's team would find that a psy-op in Latin invented by a Free French (see wikipedia) with a brilliant military career in the Pacific and liaison officer to .....Mc Arthur (oh the irony) is... "so gay", if the Rolling Stone is to be believed...

The most interesting part is maybe that a professor of the magnitude of Bacevich should do a little background checking. Because the quote is "so good" that it goes around on strategy and military blogs and other op-eds.

And everybody takes it for granted.


Interesting and perhaps true. I first encountered the quote as the prologue to the hard bound edition of Larteguy's Centurions. Years later I had lost the book to the brotherhood of book borrowers and bought a paperback copy. The aphorism was gone and there was no comment on why. This was at the beginning of the Internet, and I could find no other reference to it. I thought of writing Larteguy, but it seemed a needless intrusion on his time.

I reconstructed it from memory and used it in some talk or perhaps a column, because it seemed appropriate. Whether it was 'true' in the sense that an actual Roman Legionnaire had sent it didn't seem establishable, and I suspected that Larteguy had made it up; I wasn't aware that he had commented on it.

I am not sure what it means "fake". In any event the letter from Flavius is appropriate, and it requires no stretch of the imagination to believe it was 'true'. Thank you for the enlightenment.


Subject: Lack of response to Russian Spy Ring

I can’t tell you how upset I am that our current administration is just going let this go with no response.


Tracy Walters, CISSP

Given that the most they can find to charge them with is conspiracy to commit espionage, and it is not shown or suspected that these spies sent home one thing that could not have been found through research in the public library, I'm not sure what we are supposed to do. It is one thing to actually steal some secrets; but from all the accounts I have seen, none of them ever managed that.


Not the NASA I knew.

I remember a different NASA (a long time ago) for which I was willing to pay, I don't see paying for this new one.

NASA Chief: Next Frontier Better Relations With Muslim World

The key quote: "When I became the NASA administrator -- or before I became the NASA administrator -- he [Obama] charged me with three things. One was he wanted me to help re-inspire children to want to get into science and math, he wanted me to expand our international relationships, and third, and perhaps foremost, he wanted me to find a way to reach out to the Muslim world and engage much more with dominantly Muslim nations to help them feel good about their historic contribution to science ... and math and engineering"


Jane & Clay Booker



What has a higher priority for NASA than actually sending people (and robots) into space?



Though international diplomacy would seem well outside NASA's orbit, (NASA Administrator Charles) Bolden said in an interview with Al Jazeera that strengthening those ties was among the top tasks President Obama assigned him. He said better interaction with the Muslim world would ultimately advance space travel.

"When I became the NASA administrator -- or before I became the NASA administrator -- he charged me with three things. One was he wanted me to help re-inspire children to want to get into science and math, he wanted me to expand our international relationships, and third, and perhaps foremost, he wanted me to find a way to reach out to the Muslim world and engage much more with dominantly Muslim nations to help them feel good about their historic contribution to science ... and math and engineering," Bolden said in the interview. <snip>



: Planck telescope - BBC report 

Hi Jerry

You may well have already seen this, but I think it will interest you; the first picture from the Planck telescope.



Kevin Crisp


Time to bury the corpse 

Dr. Pournelle,

If these are NASA's top priorities, there is no good reason to keep it alive.


Steve Chu


: Star Spangled Banner 

Jerry, I liked your piece by Isaac Asimov on the Star Spangled Banner. There are a couple points that I think are worth adding.

Right before the Battle of Baltimore the regular army was beaten. The British defeated them outside of Washington DC and took the city. They burned most of the government buildings including the Presidential Palace which was later painted white to cover up the burn marks.

With the army beaten and disarray who was left to defend Baltimore. It was the Baltimore militia that beat off the British and kept us from maybe losing the war.

Another thing that I always thought interesting is that the Battle of Baltimore wasn't strictly an artillery duel. The British attempted two (I believe) landings during the night to take the fort by storm. They were both beaten off.

This was another case of regular men doing extraordinary things.


Letter from England

My students are worried about finding jobs in computing. <http://tinyurl.com/2wsjons> <http://tinyurl.com/3a77y3d> <http://tinyurl.com/34smsdq> <http://tinyurl.com/37vh657>. I do outreach to private industry, and those companies need to hire graduates to staff the projects I help define. My own experience is that finding *qualified* computing graduates for that work is hard, partly because most candidates lack the suitable background in data structures, algorithms, and numerate applications areas, and partly because Government pay levels are higher. I think a fourth year in the degree to provide time for the missing areas would strengthen their qualifications quite a bit. The content of the current MSc in Computing at most UK universities is below these requirements.

 In the past, I've sponsored final year projects in science to give students an experience of working in research. Next year I will be expanding this program to second year students to encourage more to consider going on to a PhD. University as a pathway to a career to research and hard science is emphasised much more in America than in England.

 Nick Clegg (Lib-Dem) is proposing to scrap unnecessary laws. The response has been overwhelming. <http://tinyurl.com/2v2ojyd>. He has electoral reform proposals, too. <http://tinyurl.com/372wu5d>

 Government debate over anti-terror policies. <http://tinyurl.com/26pg79b> <http://tinyurl.com/26pg79b>


Harry Erwin, PhD, Senior Lecturer of Computing, University of Sunderland. Computational neuroscientist modeling bat bioacoustics and behavior. http://osiris.sunderland.ac.uk/~cs0her



"For ages, the government has condoned a materialistic value system, and now they are reaping the fruits of it."


--- Roland Dobbins




 read book now




This week:


read book now


Tuesday,  July 6, 2010


forgotten man 


These headlines from Drudge suggest that we're in for a repeat of the Great Depression -- and that government has, and is, making it worse rather than better. Obama apparently hasn't read his copy of The Forgotten Man...



Roughly a million Americans have dropped out of the jobs market altogether over the past two months. That is the only reason why the headline unemployment rate is not exploding to a post-war high.

Let us be honest. The US is still trapped in depression a full 18 months into zero interest rates, quantitative easing (QE), and fiscal stimulus that has pushed the budget deficit above 10pc of GDP.

The share of the US working-age population with jobs in June actually fell from 58.7pc to 58.5pc. This is the real stress indicator. The ratio was 63pc three years ago. Eight million jobs have been lost. <snip>


The Dow Jones Industrial Average <http://data.cnbc.com/quotes/.DJIA>  is repeating a pattern that appeared just before markets fell during the Great Depression, Daryl Guppy, CEO at Guppytraders.com, told CNBC Monday.

“Those who don’t remember history are doomed to repeat it…there was a head and shoulders pattern that developed before the Depression in 1929, then with the recovery in 1930 we had another head and shoulders pattern that preceded a fall in the market, and in the current Dow situation we see an exact repeat of that environment,” Guppy said. <snip>



It's time to call Obama what he is: The Great Jobs Killer. With his massive spending and tax hikes -- rewarding big government and big unions, while punishing taxpayers and business owners -- Obama has killed jobs, he has killed motivation to create new jobs, he has killed the motivation to invest in new businesses, or expand old ones. With all this killing, Obama should be given the top spot on the FBI's Most Wanted List.

Meanwhile, he has kept the union workers of GM and Chrysler employed (with taxpayer money). He has made sure that most government employee union members got their annual raises for sleeping on the job (with taxpayer money). He made sure that his voters got handouts mislabeled as "tax cuts" even though they never paid taxes (with taxpayer money). And he made sure that major campaign contributors collected billions off government stimulus (with taxpayer money).<snip>


No. He has not read The Forgotten Man, or even Since Yesterday. He as with most Americans really believes that Roosevelt and the New Deal "got us out of the Great Depression." He also believes this is not a depression.

Until employment grows -- there are more new jobs than people leaving the work force in despair -- we are not recovering. Technically this is a recession, but it sure looks like depression to those looking for work.


RE: White House

Dear Dr. Pournelle,

As a Canadian, I was educated, that British troops attacked and burned the Presidential Palace in 1814, which was subsequently painted white, giving it its modern name. However, it is not true. Many people do not know (or choose not to remember!) that Upper Canada Governor-General Sir George Prevost requested the retaliation after American troops attacked York (now Toronto) and looted the city and burned the Legislative Assembly. It was a simple mission, attack and burn the symbol of American leadership, and retreat. No casualties were reported, and the British troops did not resort to the looting that the American soldiers did in York.

The Presidential Palace had been referred to as the White House as early as 1811, three years before the burning. The building was constructed using porous sandstone, and was covered by a mixture of lime, rice glue, casein and lead, which gave the familiar color. It was certainly white-washed to cover the char marks, but it did not get its modern name due to the burning.

The differences between the British version of the War of 1812, and the American one is interesting. Canadians are told how Americans, greedy for Canada’s resources, attacked Upper Canada, while Americans are told that the war was started due to the British habit of shanghaiing American sailors from merchant vessels. We are also told that the war was a tie, with no clear winners. I disagree, the US most certainly won, as the British were forced to recognize the US as a sovereign nation. The cause is, I’m sure, a mix of both stories.

Stay well!

Bill Grigg

It also gave us Andy Jackson.




Regarding Afghanistan: IMHO the only viable exit strategy requires that the Taliban shall not be a future threat to the stability of either Afghanistan or Pakistan -- otherwise, we'll have the same thing to do over again in five years.

Unfortunately, the only ROE that leads to that exit without a decade-long commitment involves "The Grave of the Hundred Head" writ large -- or what was, in the days immediately following 9-11, called the "Lake Afghanistan" option with pained, dark humor.


You may recall I advocated monuments. Far less expensive than wars and occupations.


NASA - "New" Primary Mission

This just cannot be believed.


Paul Gilles

Yes we can. We are the ones we have been waiting for.



This just arrived on my virtual desk top. It deserves to be widely circulated.


David Couvillon Colonel, U.S. Marine Corps, Retired.; Former Governor of Wasit Province, Iraq; Righter of Wrongs; Wrong most of the time; Distinguished Expert, TV remote control; Chef de Hot Dog Excellance; Collector of Hot Sauce; Avoider of Yard Work 

It certainly makes it graphic for those who don't think in big numbers.


: Finally Some Good News! Implantable telescopic eye!


Finally! I've been waiting my whole life for this. http://www.fda.gov/NewsEvents/Newsroom/

By the time I am your age, I am hoping I'll have thermal and night vision eyes, dermal plating--giving an exoskeleton over vulnerable areas, wired reflexes--allowing me to react before I even know I am reacting, and muscle replacement--making me strong enough to lift a car.

These are the simple dreams of an American citizen in 2010. =)

-- BDAB,



You TWIT, 

Dear Jerry:

It was fabulous seeing you on TWIT.( http://twit.tv/twit TWIT 255) And while I understand that your memory doesn't work quite as well as it used to (what does?), and the exact right word is sometimes hard to find I loved the fact that through persistence and weight of logic you got the panel to (finally) agree that a "signal strength" meter on a digital device doesn't make a ton of sense.

Except in this case: I use my iPhone with a wired headset almost 100% of the time, and thus have the opportunity to actually watch the signal strength as I move around. When I see the bars drop I'm warned that signal strength is fading and I may soon be disconnected. A binary red/green "gumdrop" would only tell me what I'd already know; the bars give me some (however limited) prognosticative ability.

I hope Leo has you back soon!

I was also heartened to hear you are turning into an iPad fanboi. Me, too. It's like you've always said about cameras: the one you'll use is the one you have with you. I carry my iPad everywhere, and that's exactly the result.

Second best thing overall, I think, is the "no delay" startup and shut down. I've had a bunch of ASUS laptops with their "Expressgate" Linux quick-start OS but it's basically useless in function and still takes 15 seconds or more to boot. With the iPad, on the other hand, if I want to check a fact on the Net it's the matter of a second or two and I have full access. That instant effect is seldom discussed but, in my opinion, is one of the iPad's best features.

You take care & stay well,


Thanks for the kind words.


Andy Grove on US Jobs -

Hi Dr. Pournelle,

I just ran across this article <http://www.bloomberg.com/news/
before-it-s-too-late-andy-grove.html>  by Andy Grove on Bloomberg. He seems to be expressing the same sort of concerns you've written about on many occasions about jobs for the large number of folks who are, for whatever reasons, simply not able to perform "high value-added" jobs.

Bill Hembree

We've mentioned the Grove article before but for those who missed it, it's worth reading. The times are critical.


What kind of society,


And Grove, in his excellent piece, asked, 'But what kind of a society are we going to have if it consists of highly paid people doing high-value-added work -- and masses of unemployed?'

Cyril Kornbluth predicted it in 1951, with his story, "The Marching Morons." Falling birthrates among the intelligent, burgeoning births from the dim. "Would you buy it for a quarter?" Indeed.


I think the "Would you buy it for a quarter?" was from "Search the Sky" by Pohl and Kornbluth, wasn't it? But it was the same theme. And "The Little Black Bag" by Kornbluth was I think the best story on that theme.

The normal state of mankind is subsistence poverty with a layer of rich oligarchs above it. I think we're headed there again. At the moment Federal employees get 14% higher pay than private workers with the same job. I expect that to rise to 114% percent soon enough. (It's already that for the jobless, of course. And the federal workers can't lose their jobs.)


'China is destroying itself and threatening the rest of us. And, like useful idiots, we are helping the Chinese do it.'


-- Roland Dobbins


'If many children growing up in these neighborhoods think of education as the exclusive domain of whites, that's because they think of almost every mainstream aspiration as the exclusive domain of whites.'


-- Roland Dobbins



Natural rights & Ninth Amendment

Hi Jerry-

I don’t believe that humans are endowed with supernaturally-derived “natural rights.” On the other hand, I do think that humans cannot be fully human without having and exercising what others would call “God-given natural rights.” So I am interested in learning from where Kagan (and you, for that matter) think the unenumerated rights cited by the Ninth Amendment come. If the Ninth Amendment means anything, it means that humans have rights that are not listed in, or even implied by, the text of the Constitution. How do we discover what those rights are? If the rights aren’t “natural” (that is to say, I suppose: arising out of our “nature” as human beings), then are they un-natural, and if so, what is their source? Is the concept of rights merely a religious concept? But if enshrined in an amendment to the Constitution that supersedes previous text guaranteeing freedom of/from religion, then is religion actually a fundamental, original part of our Constitutional system, regardless of what the First Amendment says?

Anyway, I think Kagan dodged a question that a potential Supreme Court Justice should definitely answer, it not completely and in detail, then at least more thoughtfully than she did during recent confirmation hearings. I don’t think you can understand the Ninth Amendment, much less swear in good conscience to protect a Constitution that includes it, without having a definite (if not well-developed!) concept of unenumerated rights, which I’ll bet most people would call “natural.” What do you think?

James Anderson Merritt

I think the Framers included people like Adams who were familiar with English history, believed that government was a dangerous friend and a fearful master, and understood that without strong government there would be chaos and worse; that creating government from scratch was extremely dangerous and had led the English to restore the monarchy; and understood that most of the people were far more loyal to their states than to any "United States". They did not want a democracy. TRhey had to unite or die, so they built a limited government leaving the question of ultimate rights and natural rights to be determined in state legislatures and courts, because they could never agree on what were the "natural rights" of mankind, or for that matter just who held them.

The Constitution was a series of compromises not an exercise at establishing perfection. The tricky questions could safely be left to the states. Some would go one way, some another.

Which is still the best way to settle such matters. Get the Feds out of state affairs and yes, that will result in some places in what many will consider injustice. Union and Liberty, now and forever. Only that does not seem to be seriously believed by anyone now.

The pursuit of perfection is the destruction of both government and liberty.


: Daily Kos on Why Liberals Should Love the Second Amendment.

Of course, they fail to mention all the *restrictions* and *regulations* abridging First Amendment rights which liberals typically support, and say nothing at all about the Tenth Amendment - nevertheless, a strong polemic based upon and in support of originalism from a surprising source:


Upon reading, it's hard to escape the conclusion that authors of this piece haven't really thought through all the implications of their rather strident call for originalist consistency in Constitutional interpretation - else they'd not be liberals, anymore.

-- Roland Dobbins

The Constitution was a contract. The Parties to the contract were both the People (in general) and the States. Like most contracts it was a series of compromises. Trying to make it something else has nearly destroyed it.


California Budget


Once again, the first of July has come and gone and the California Legislature has failed to meet it's responsibility to create and pass a budget for the new fiscal year. This really isn't surprising, it seems to happen every year.

I would propose that a ballot initiative to amend the State Constitution is needed.

This initiative would amend the State Constitution so that the following events would occur if the Legislature failed to adopt a budget prior to July first.

The previous year's budget with all items reduced by ten percent would be deemed to be adopted.

Both Houses of the Legislature would be dissolved and new elections to fill the remaining terms would be held on the first Tuesday in August. Current holders of the seats would not be allowed to stand for election to their existing seats or any other seat in this special election.

A real "throw the rascals out" moment.

Bob Holmes

Sent from my iPad


Subj: Genetics vs Insurance: Economic Questions


>>[S]cientists have identified genetic markers for the proclivity to live a long life. ... Will insurance companies start offering better life-insurance rates to those with these markers? Will they require annuity purchasers to take this test and offer the long-lived worse rates? ...<<

Etc. Etc. Etc.

Rod Montgomery==monty@starfief.com


For those who need enlightenment:

: Women, mores, society, hooking up, etc

You really should spend time reading through the archives at roissy.wordpress.com, or at the-spearhead.com, or at any of the variety of other blogs discussing "Game" and human biodiversity. The analysis is not too complicated, it just requires abandoning the illusions equalitarians and liberals have left us with.

Some essential points:

- Women are hypergamous. A woman wants a man of higher status than she is. If she perceives the man to be of equal or lesser status, her desire fades, and in the absence of strong restraining factors she will abandon him and move to another.

- A woman wants a man other women want, because all those other women can't be wrong. A woman doesn't want a man other women don't want, because all those other women can't be wrong. The analysis hardly ever goes past that level.

- Women not subject to traditional restrictions imposed by society - in short, women such as the feminists and women's libbers aim for - are utterly amoral and cruel. They have, on balance, no concept of objective justice or ethics; it is always defined subjectively.

- For a woman, everything is derived from and dependent on her emotions. Anything a woman does can be traced back to emotion, not reason. There are exceptions, but not many. Whatever a woman says, if you assume she is motivated by emotions and act to manipulate her on that basis rather than appealing to reason, the odds of a positive outcome are much higher.

- A matriarchal society is incapable of accomplishing complicated things or maintaining a technological civilization. It depends on the focused energy of men, which in turn depends on those men being invested in children they know, without a doubt, are theirs. Sexual "freedom" destroys the point on which it all rests, and recreates the black ghetto for everyone.

- What women say doesn't matter. NEVER matters. What matters is what women do. Usually this is the exact opposite of what they say.

- Men must understand these points and act on them. Civilization depends on men. Society depends on men. When men abdicate their responsibilities, everything collapses.

I suppose all this adds up to a rather horrifying worldview. I would be rather inclined to agree with such a characterization but after spending the prime of my adult life trying with limited success to navigate this utter wreck of a society your generation bequeathed us, I'm about out of patience with "little white lies". I've seen too many female-initiated divorces and breakups among my friends and family. I've seen too many men acting honorably get treated like dogshit by women. I've seen too many women lying to themselves in complete hypocritical obliviousness. I've seen too many women all chasing the same alpha assholes while complaining that there are no good men. (The sex differentiation of rates of herpes infection is a relevant data point here whose significance no professional researcher will dare admit)

The truth, however unpleasant, MUST be openly recognized. Women's nature is not that of men. Women are not generally suited for government or leadership or sexual freedom - not if the goal is a prosperous and technological civilization. Either our highest good is a happy and prosperous nation, in which case there must be restrictions on freedom and an end to what has been called "women's rights", or our highest good is individual self-determination of every human being, in which case the end result is the society of the black ghetto and a civilization of grass huts.

Also, I am a scientist. Applying the principles of Game works. Applying the principles of chivalry, in the absence of a society that imposes corresponding restrictions on women's behavior - as I and countless other young men have been taught to do by teachers, sexual harassment training, nerd-gets-girl movies, and so on and so forth throughout our lives - does not. More than anything else, it is real-life experimentation that has convinced me that Roissy and Welmer and the pick-up artists have it right, and the pedestalizers of women who have done great evil.

Do you have any idea how angry a young man can be at discovering that everything he's been taught, about one of the most important aspects of life, is not only wrong but a deliberate and total lie directing him into doing everything exactly the opposite of what he should have been doing?

This society is going straight into the dustbin of history. Feminism and sexual freedom are both a symptom and a cause of that. "White knight" men who champion women's rights and encourage the abominable family court and divorce system under the pretext of punishing "deadbeat dads" are not just symptoms and causes, they are also traitors and fools. The very term "white knight" has become a pejorative.

The society that replaces this one will be one where the men exert control over their women. It may be Islamic. It may be derived from more traditional strands of European history and society. Libertinism, however - along with the idea that women can be treated the same as men - has reached its limits.

I could say much much more about this. I get angry easily on this subject. I like women - love several, actually - and know more than a few that are capable of holding themselves to a higher standard than what I have described here. Most, unfortunately, do not. The younger generations have been deliberately taught things and deliberately encouraged to behave in ways that are totally self-destructive and self-defeating, by the older generations, whose task it was to teach them to avoid such things. We have been betrayed on an unparalleled scale - and this betrayal is just one aspect of a multitude of betrayals developing within this world. As awareness mounts (and it is mounting, quickly) blame will follow.

I don't suppose anyone has ever said any of these things before, so I suppose it's my duty to provide this.


'Mr. Wu dictated a basic sentence for the boy to write down. It was riddled with errors.'

So, instead of teaching the children to read and write and do their sums, the schools are instead playing online detective/mediator for parents too cowardly and irresponsible to supervise and discipline their children:


-- Roland Dobbins

This story isn't what the pull quote might make you think. It does fit the mores and signs of the time theme.



: home-made shelter

Hi Jerry.

Here's somebody who took survivalism seriously!



Mike Casey



For a PDF copy of A Step Farther Out:



 read book now





This week:


read book now


Wednesday, July 7, 2010


>>I have no idea what ADHD is: it didn't exist when I was in graduate school in psychology.<<

Yes, it's existed for at least 50 years as a formal diagnosis, though it grossly over-diagnosed these days. It's the result of slow neurotransmitters. Probably caused by ingestion of toxins by pregnant mothers, though that's just a guess by researchers. The usual course is for it to get progressively worse from birth to latency then progressively resolve from latency to adulthood. Puberty seems to help in forcing the neurotransmitters to catch up with the rest of the system. A psychologist I know gave a great explanation of ADHD. Imagine a child staring at a wall of 100 television screens. All of them are on, all on different channels and all have the sound on. And you are trying to talk to the kid with ADHD out of number 27. The problem is, all input to the kid's perception tends to come in at relatively the same intensity. Makes it tough to focus attention and calm down. With kids that really have this diagnosis, the change with medication is marked. They come in for a landing and can focus on a mostly normal level. There are, however, multiple side effects that, in some cases. are worse than the problem. When you put kids that don't really have this problem but have other behavioral disturbance on this medication, you get a kid with behavioral problems on speed.

Now, having said that, the frequency of confirmed ADHD is about 10% of the cases that end up receiving the diagnosis. I blame it on a school system that feels that all young male behavior is abnormal. The local school here would put Adderall (a medication for ADHD) in the water if they could. Little boys don't act like little girls and so must be abnormal. I have a lot of interesting discussions with teachers (all female) about this.

Interesting world we've created.

Randy Powell, MA, M.Ed

Actually, by 1960 I was in engineering psychology and systems analysis, and long past abnormal psychology. I do note that ADHD isn't in Henderson and Gillespie A Textbook of Psychiatry which was the standard handbook and text in the 1950's although I suppose it may have been in some of the other texts. It's hard to understand the state of the psychological sciences in those days. Freud and Jung and others of that ilk were considered both respectable and nearly essential for understanding how people tick despite the utter lack of coupling their psychological hypothetical concepts like ego and id to physiological structures.  And in those days there were not many psychoactive drugs, so there wasn't anyone out pushing them.

Even as late as the 1970;s the new "reality therapy" school didn't have ADHD as a major factor.

Back when I was in grad school, Psychologists and Psychiatrists were often natural enemies, because psychiatrists, being medical doctors, like physical treatments, only they didn't really have any, so they used insulin shock and electro-convulsive shock and various brain surgeries, some of which were not justified, or at least the psychologists didn't think so. There was no DSM (and that's another story).

Now, we are told, some large fraction of the population is down with a disorder that few had ever heard of in 1958. A neighbor "found himself" at age 45 or so and left his wife and two kids to go camp out in his mother's basement and life on alimony from his ex-wife. He found himself when it was discovered that he had ADHD and had it all his life which is why he had to take the bar exam twice. The ADHD treatments allowed him to find himself, apparently.

I know other such stories.

I would put the percentage of kids diagnosed with ADHD who have some real psychiatric disorder in need of actual treatment (as opposed to stern discipline) at much lower than 10%, but I have no real data to base that one. I do know that if the diagnosis existed when I was in school it would have been applied to me. As it was, I learned to control myself out of fear of the rod, well, actually, a paddle. By the time I got to high school corporal punishment was still very much legal and the Brothers had the parents permission to apply it -- you didn't get into CBC if they didn't -- but in fact it wasn't needed in my case. I did get assigned lines to write, usually coupled with some research project to find the text I was to copy, and that was more than sufficient.

Enough rambling. I know that something like ADHD exists. I know several kids who certainly have some real problems. I also know that in the case of at least one, he's a bright boy, and his father's unrelenting devotion to getting him through growing up was the lad's salvation. He may end up as a writer. I am not arguing that ADHD doesn't exist but I refuse to believe that some large percentage of young people are not afflicted with some disorder that was only discovered a few years ago. And I am not much impressed with the results of the diagnosis in the case of the man who found himself.


Dr Pournelle,

I don't have the benefit of an education, but from our experiences with our son in grammar school, I'm pretty sure that ADHD exists so that teachers can medicate children by proxy. This negates the need to learn how to apply discipline in the classroom, and lays off the responsibility for teaching.



Subject: Federal vs Private Workers

I don't understand the Wall Street Journal story comparing salaries of Federal and private workers. I worked 28 years for the Federal government in the Washington D.C. area. Private workers are paid more here than Federal employees. I retired, got a job, and now earn more than I did as a Federal employee. The formula here is simple with a few trade-offs:

Private workers are paid more but have less job security Private workers are paid more but Federal workers make the decisions

There is much wrong in the Federal workplace. The biggest wrong is that low-skilled workers are over paid while high-skilled workers are underpaid. As a BS, MS, PhD I was paid the same as many high school-only graduates. Why did I stay with it? I was too long in the system before I learned of these problems.

-- Dwayne Phillips

I think at higher levels it is easily possible to earn more in the private sector; as you say, the pay correlations are not linear. Many leave the Pentagon on retirement and find higher pay among the Beltway Bandits. On the other hand, it is necessary to take all the compensation including pensions and health care into account when making the comparisons.

I am actually more concerned with people doing things I'd as soon should not be done at all.


Federal Workers

I generally respect the job that WSJ writers do but in this case there is at least one aspect that is very skewed. They talk about government workers receiving a defined benefits plan that is not at risk, and while that is actually true for some workers it is by no means true for all, or by this point, probably even most. That plan was replaced by the Thrift Savings Plan many years ago. I have not worked for the government in over ten years but when I started with them over 20 years ago, I missed the opportunity to be under the old defined benefits plan by a number of years. In whatever year the TSP was implemented, current federal workers had the choice to opt in to the new plan but after a certain date, new workers had no other choice than the TSP. Also keep in mind that while a number (or a lot) of federal employees are overpaid in comparison, they also don’t have the same opportunity for rapid advancement that can occur in the private sector. In general, once you accept a position with the federal government, you cannot be promoted for at least 12 months regardless of your performance. Admittedly this tends to be less of an issue the further up one gets in an organization can be very frustrating as an employee.

The federal government tends to be like most huge companies in that 10-20% of the workers perform 80-90% of the work. It’s just a little harder to fire them.

Bill Hamilton

Private companies have some success at firing the lower 80%.

Of course teachers are the worst offenders here: few to none ever get fired for incompetence, including those who apparently sleep on the job.


Bob Holmes' solution to California's budget problems

Hello Jerry,

Mr. Holmes has the best idea I have heard yet. The job of legislatures is to do things like compile realistic budgets. If the legislature cannot or will not do its job, replace it with one which will. Along with the default ten percent reduced budget. Extend the principle to Congress, which just announced that it wasn't going to bother producing a budget this year either.

Thanks for publishing Mr. Holmes' letter.

Bob Ludwick


Atomic Explosions

Thanks for the link to the Flash Demonstration of the atomic explosions around the world. A great many of those (all of the US ones since 1963) have been underground, of course. If you have trouble visualizing the numbers, point your Google maps here, set it on 'satellite' view, and 'fly around' a bit.

[Bad link] See Below for proper links

The area is a little west northwest of Las Vegas. Incidentally, fly over the ridge to the northeast of Yucca Flats (which is what you're looking at here) and that dry lakebed with the runway through it is Area 51 (Groom Lake). Isn't open technology wonderful?

I notice they don't credit Israel with any explosions.


Cecil Rose


Subject: The Oil Spill Response as Mayor Bilandic and the Great Chicago Snowstorm of '79

Dr. Pournelle:

There is a lot of conspiracy-talk out on the Web about the inept handling of oil-slick skimming and beach protection in the Gulf.

How about this model regarding what is happening: Chicago Mayor Mike Bilandic, the immediate successor to the legendary Richard J Daley, the Chicago Blizzard of 1979, and the political aftermath of it all.

What I think is happening is that the oil spill is overloading the capacity of what the bureaucracy can do, left to its own devices. Add to this a President who is unable to make decisions in "real time" -- Stimulus and Health Care left to the Congressional bosses, months of pondering the decision to "surge" in Afghanistan, and so on.

Paul Milenkovic

The important point is that government cannot do everything, and the further away government is the less it can do to fix things. Government can always send in the army to break things and kill people, or bureaucrats to bring useful work to a halt, but what it can accomplish is almost always less than most imagine.

Government is good at routines. It is not good at innovation. It is particularly not good at institutionalizing innovation.


Where was Algore when we really needed him?

Man-made global warming started with ancient hunters: study http://www.physorg.com/news197131477.html 

June 30, 2010

Even before the dawn of agriculture, people may have caused the planet to warm up, a new study suggests.

Mammoths used to roam modern-day Russia and North America, but are now extinctand there's evidence that around 15,000 years ago, early hunters had a hand in wiping them out. A new study, accepted for publication in Geophysical Research Letters, a journal of the American Geophysical Union (AGU), argues that this die-off had the side effect of heating up the planet.

"A lot of people still think that people are unable to affect the climate even now, even when there are more than 6 billion people," says the lead author of the study, Chris Doughty of the Carnegie Institution for Science in Stanford, California. The new results, however, "show that even when we had populations orders of magnitude smaller than we do now, we still had a big impact."

In the new study, Doughty, Adam Wolf, and Chris Fieldall at Carnegie Institution for Sciencepropose a scenario to explain how hunters could have triggered global warming.

First, mammoth populations began to dropboth because of natural climate change as the planet emerged from the last ice age, and because of human hunting. Normally, mammoths would have grazed down any birch that grew, so the area stayed a grassland. But if the mammoths vanished, the birch could spread. In the cold of the far north, these trees would be dwarfs, only about 2 meters (6 feet) tall. Nonetheless, they would dominate the grasses.

The trees would change the color of the landscape, making it much darker so it would absorb more of the Sun's heat, in turn heating up the air. This process would have added to natural climate change, making it harder for mammoths to cope, and helping the birch spread further.<snip>


[But see below.]


"I have received a request for digital rights for an illustrated novel. The film rights for that book have already been sold and I am trying to establish whether digital rights would infringe the film rights."


Roland Dobbins

It's interesting, but I would warn readers to be very careful here. Agents earn their fees; it's very easy to misinterpret contract language, and the boiler plate in publisher contracts is often very tricky and almost certainly engineered to their favor. As of course it should be, it's their contract. It's up to you to negotiate it to be neutral. One of the things SFWA used to do was analyze publisher contracts and the exact meanings of the terms. The late Damon Knight was expert at finding grabs and specifying what language you needed, and which publishers would accept what contract changes.

And of course all that changes all the time. Electronic rights didn't exist a few years ago....


The Sun in June


June averages are posted. The numbers show both solar flux and sunspots trending downward, though the sunspots graph shows the number up slightly (I forget last month's number). Kevin at the web site promised by e-mail that he will update the "spotless days vs. cycle 23 minimum" chart through June sometime soon, so please keep an eye out for that. (Note that he's revamping his e-mail service throught he site since it got hit by spambots late last week.)

It looks like Spot 1086 has decayed, leaving spot 1084, which is a large but magnetically simple spot that has been visible since late June but has transited the disk with little X-ray activity.


Hathaway's prediction from NASA MSFC continues to show spots trending lower than predicted, but within the error bars.


But it is very hot in DC and New York so the public now believes in Global Warming again. Global Warming deniers are not quite fair game, but it's getting toward open season again.









 read book now




CURRENT VIEW    Wednesday


This week:


read book now


Thursday, July 8, 2010

Subj: Better Links - Yucca Flats and Groom Lake


Sorry, the link I sent you seems to have a problem, here's a better one for Yucca Flats in Flyover "Earth" mode:


and, as a bonus, here's one for Area 51/Groom lake:



Cecil Rose


re: AGW

“But it is very hot in DC and New York so the public now believes in Global Warming again. Global Warming deniers are not quite fair game, but it's getting toward open season again.”

In CO, there are near record lows, farmers are getting flooded out and pounded by hail and Trail Ridge Road(highest paved highway in the US) in the Rockies is closed because of snow. But since it’s not the East Coast(and NOT home to the mainstream media), you’ll never hear of it.



July snow

http://www.intellicast.com/National/Radar/Current.aspx?location=USWY0143  time 1530 GMT 06JUL2010, mountain snow and ice in vicinity of Yellowstone.

CONUS snow in July

 It's July 1, the last I checked. Intellicast regional radar for Tacoma, Washington indicates mountain snows in south-central Washington state. http://www.intellicast.com/National/Radar/Current.aspx?location=USWA0441 image dated 1445 GMT 01JUL2010



birch trees and persistence of snowfall


I disagree with the poster's comment about snow melting sooner under birch trees -


First, mammoth populations began to drop both because of natural climate change as the planet emerged from the last ice age, and because of human hunting. Normally, mammoths would have grazed down any birch that grew, so the area stayed a grassland. But if the mammoths vanished, the birch could spread. In the cold of the far north, these trees would be dwarfs, only about 2 meters (6 feet) tall. Nonetheless, they would dominate the grasses.

The trees would change the color of the landscape, making it much darker so it would absorb more of the Sun's heat, in turn heating up the air. This process would have added to natural climate change, making it harder for mammoths to cope, and helping the birch spread further.<snip>


I had to go back and read it again.

Due to 30 years of Seismic Surveying, in western Canada, Alaska's North Slope, and the High Arctic, I had lots of opportunity to see the difference between how long snow cover lasted,both on top of grass, and under trees (both evergreen and deciduous). The shade provided by the trees was enough to delay the snowmelt in the trees, come spring.

The primary difference was due to the snowdrifts in the cover of the trees, due to the lower wind speeds around their limbs and trunks. In other words, there are snowdrifts under the trees. On top of the grass, be it nice and flat, or be it the arctic tussocks, there is boo all for extra snow, unless in the lee of a hill.

Along the Eastern Slopes of the Rocky Mountains, in Alberta, the trees encroach upon the grasses about a yard a year. The Alberta Forest Service, and the Alberta Fish and Wildlife folks, plan and 'do' controlled burns, every so often, if natural forest fires, and logging does not keep the total area of grasses and new growth big enuf for the Deer, Elk, and Moose, populations.

Neil Frandsen

from Lethbridge, Alberta, where a cold, wet, Spring has delayed the Sweet Corn harvest about a month...

P.S.: I do wonder about just where those research folk live. Could it be, that they also believe that it is needful to hand plant poplar trees, if the mature poplar be harvested? I had the lack of know, by city folk, pointed out to me by an 82-year-old, farmer/rancher, {living NE of Edmonton, Alberta, near the hamlet of Opal}, who had fought the wild poplar tree ever since he was aged 3 - the Poplar _will_ send suckers out into a hay field, or out into a grain field, making using and harvesting such fields exciting.

Fascinating. Perhaps academics ought to get out into the field more?  But I really have no direct knowledge on any of this.


The Gulf Will Superheat this Year

 by JCR


 Jerry why so unconcerned about the laying waste of an ecosystem? You seem to be acting like this isn't a very big deal.   Yes there may be a small chance of a giant oil hurricane but if it's even .01% chance do I not at least deserve to be heard?

  I saw the NASA satellite images of the Gulf of Mexico that look about month old (oil was nowhere near Florida) and the entire central third of the Gulf was covered in a brown sheen. This year sunlight that would normally penetrate at least 125 feet I would think will instead be releasing its heat directly onto the now brown surface of the Gulf. To compound the problem there are large veins and pools of oil treated with dispersant that I'm told sit a foot or two below the surface. It was 102 degrees today in New York City, I'd imagine that sun down there is plenty strong. Ever put your hand in a shallow pool of water that has lay stagnant in a hot climate for a while? Those pools can get quite warmer than your hand, I don't see why there won’t be pockets where the water is 90-100 degrees in the next month. Add to this that the sheen of oil is impeding normal evaporation.

  And does a layer of oil act as a thermal insulator on water? Someone must know that. As if it wasn't enough fun already the lower layers of water are going to be cooler than normal by an unthinkable margin. This kind of thermal difference is going to be beyond the experiences of modern man. How do typhoons and water spouts form anyway? We can barely model normal situations, the variables are too great and too numerous for anyone to predict what will happen.

  I've been running the simulation in my head for ten days and cannot escape the conclusion that the Gulf of Mexico is going to be hotter than it has ever been in recorded history. Unless you know of a way to get half the worlds icebergs in the Gulf in the next 2 weeks I fear we may be well and truly screwed on an Old Testament scale.

  And do I even need to mention that if we get some kind of F6, 300mph doublewide Katrina that it's going to be filled with millions of gallons of oil and toxic dispersant.  Then the land could be covered in black, building up yet more heat. What will the fumes be like when the oil is so finely dispersed over everything like that? Oil being lighter than water it should sit up in a Hurricane just fine. It's already rained oil near the gulf.

  Over and over I keep coming to same conclusion. That while Al Gore is worried about a mere degree or two, the variance in surface temperature in the Gulf over previous years is likely to be many times greater than any scientist ever thought it possible. I hope more than anything I'm wrong but i'd like to some better trained minds than mine to look at this possibility.

  Has anyone even taken the surface temperature? Do we know how hot the water is that sits in shallow pools scattered throughout the Gulf? I've seen pictures of clouds down in Louisiana that looked liked smoke rings, the locals found that odd. We have to have the meteorologists on this right away. I would also ask the men who fish the Gulf their opinion of the differences. I think we need some data and immediately.

  Please Jerry, say it ain't so. 


Say what ain't so? I have no expertise in this matter. I don't think Obama's management is correct, but I doubt that saying so would be productive.

As to the disaster scenario, it seems unlikely: we have had comparable oil spills without that effect. This may be larger than the previous Gulf leak, but it's not orders of magnitude larger.

It's not that I am not concerned, it's that I don't see I have much opportunity to have an effect here.


Nothing to add? What happened to bayesian analysis and all of that? Your site is the greatest collection of minds on the net and we need them on this. Here's the NASA satellite imaging from the gulf as of May 24th. You'll see by the last frame most of the central portion of the gulf is covered in sheen or goo. That was almost a month and a half ago. What does it look like now? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JfOinnQeHIY 

My friends and I once sunk a black pool cover to the bottom and left if there all summer. We swam into October that year and that was when September reliably brought the cool air. An extra month+ of swimming because the liner was a different color.

A report prepared for President Medvedev by Russia's Ministry of Natural Resources <http://enc.ex.ru/cgi-bin/n1firm.pl?lang=2&f=1245>  is warning today that the British Petroleum (BP) oil and gas leak in the Gulf of Mexico is about to become the worst environmental catastrophe in all of human history threatening the entire eastern half of the North American continent with "total destruction".

Did that get your attention? The EU has been similarly briefed. Or how about this.

BP's calling on Sagalevich after this catastrophe began is due to his being the holder of the World's record for the deepest freshwater dive and his expertise with Russia's two Deep Submergence Vehicles MIR 1 and MIR 2 <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MIR_%28submersible%29>  which are able to take their crews to the depth of 6,000 meters (19,685 ft). According to Sagalevich's report, the oil leaking into the Gulf of Mexico is not just coming from the 22 inch well bore site being shown on American television, but from at least 18 other sites on the "fractured seafloor" with the largest being nearly 11 kilometers (7 miles) from where the Deepwater Horizon sank and is spewing into these precious waters an estimated 2 million gallons of oil a day.

Maybe they're lying but I don't feel good about it. And here are some real scientists from America, scientists scared about the oilcane scenario.


Maybe you're more swayed by credentialed men than by some street kid from Queens but although my numbers are likely wildly off, my scenario is dead on the mark. And lets not forget the methane levels have been off the charts, there has been mass extinction from plankton to whales and all of that has been rotting and baking in the sun. A continent could smell like dead fish. If you watch networknews and read regular newspapers you likely know almost nothing of whats going on down there. Youtube, blogs and message boards tell the real tale. No one I work with is even talking about it with any seriousness. you have to be actively seeking this information to find it.

I just read that the southern waters where hurricanes form are hotter this year than they were during Katrina. Add to this that the higher heat in the gulf is likely to leave thinner, lower pressure air over the oiled water, attracting storms like a magnet. Their force will want to sweep in to the low pressure. I estimate the odds at 75% of an incident happening to us, the real question is if so then to what degree? Conditions this odd could make it sweep sideways for all we know.

If oil is finely misted over a tree and you were to take that tree and calculate the total surace areal leaves and all I imagine it would be quite high in relation to the size of the tree. if we have that kind of dispersal and the black coating adding even more to the heat issue on land what will the fumes be like? I can't fathom how a man so literate in climate science doesn't think a few thousand square miles of water covered with brown is a really bad thing and maybe even worthy of discussion. I can't bear to read or listen to politics while Lucifer's Cauldron bubbles. The hammer lies beneath the surface but we may yet see it's rise.

Things are way beyond bad down there. I've never been so in fear for the nations future and I'm well studied on the Communist puppet masters who rule our land through the running of the Federal Reserve. I always knew they would bring about the end of the country, but never even dreamed it could be this fall.

And on Obama, who cares if people have fuel to call you anti Obama? He swore an oath to protect these shores and has been criminally negligent in his execution of it. I think he should be tried for treason, I could care less if people think I hate him. I do. And you shouldn't care either. Every oil sucking ship in the world could have contained this had they been on site immediately. Now it's hopeless. Even without a hurricane I don't think people have quite caught on to the severity of just what's sitting out there now and how it will be wrecking shoreline and food supply for years. The gulf is the 11th largest body of water in the world and especially rich in edible sealife. It was anyway.

I hate to have to admit it, but I can't do everything. Not even everything I have to do.

I try not to simply talk off the top of my head, and I haven't the time to bone up on oil recovery methods.

Were I in charge down there I'd probably proclaim that anyone who can recover any oil can have it, and not worry about what percentage of oil is in the water returned to the Gulf by the recovery system: that is if you can suck up oil and water and what you put back is 15% oil, that's better than extracting none at all. But whether I'd pay public money for such things is another story: do they get in each other's way? What are the drawbacks? But had I been in charge I would have acted differently.

But the time to assign responsibility for failure is probably not during the efforts to fix it. That will come later.

I haven't enough data nor the resources to acquire more data. I don't disagree that the situation is bad, but I also don't doubt that many people with more resources than I can muster understand that. As to the threat of a mega-disaster, I can't evaluate that, nor do I know anyone who can, although it's possible we have someone among the readers. I'd hope, though that those who actually know how to clean up such messes are out doing it, not reading this -- but perhaps they have some spare time. I do have an astonishingly talented readership.



 read book now




CURRENT VIEW    Thursday


This week:


read book now


Friday,  July 9, 2010

Subject: Gulf of Mexico Sea Surface Temperatures are Normal

Hi Jerry,

If a huge area of the Gulf was overheated, I suspect that it would appear as a large "warm spot" on infrared satellite imagery.

So far, nothing obviously dreadful is brewing:


There's nothing that indicates that the Gulf is experiencing anything terribly unusual. The northern US East Coast is warm, but a week-long record-breaking heat wave explains that reading.

It's possible that the oil is somehow masking or interfering with sensors that are calibrated for sea water, but at first glance the data doesn't back the "Category Six Hurricane Imminent" scenario of doom.

Eric Krug

That certainly appears reasonable to me.


: Natural rights

IIRC, the concept comes out of Aquinas. Humans, like other distinct kinds, have a nature [form] and 'good' is defined as that which perfects our nature. (Which is why we tend to say things like "exercise is 'good' for you" or "that food is 'bad' for you.") This informed the concept of "natural law" as in later "laws of nature and nature's God." But Thomas did not write terribly much political stuff. One key item:

"If to provide itself with a king belongs to the right of a given multitude, it is not unjust that the king be deposed or have his power reduced by that same multitude if, becoming a tyrant, he abuses his royal power." -- Thomas Aquinas, On Kingship, I:6

Not even Tommy Jefferson could have said it better.

So we move on to William of Ockham, who did write on politics; esp. in his "Ninety days' work." He said that a right is that which is universally acknowledged as being just to defend. Everyone will defend his own life and others will recognize that he is justified in doing so - even if he is drowning in the middle of the ocean; even if he is a prisoner in the dock. Pace Heinlein, this has nothing to do with being successful in that defense. A natural right is not something you are entitled to and which someone must give you; it is something you simply have by your nature as a human being. William went on to say that no Prince could take such rights away. They were not alienable from human nature itself. The Prince did not give them to you, either. They are not a grant by the sovereign.

A second such natural right he suggested was liberty. A man struggling to preserve his liberty is generally acknowledged to be justified in doing so. This is true even for a prisoner in chains. Even if you and I think it is right to hold him prisoner, he is justified when he disagrees and argues for his freedom. He may tunnel out of prison and we will put him back; but it is human nature to desire liberty. The third natural right was the right to property, which again we see that another is justified in defending his property. However, William was of the "Spiritual" wing of the Franciscan Order and so he said that one could renounce his own right to property in the pursuit of a greater happiness, i.e., in God.

These ideas proved potent. Fr. Domingo De Soto, a Dominican like Thomas, would later argue "Those who are in the grace of God are not a whit better off than the sinner or the pagan in what concerns natural rights." IOW, these "natural" rights are "human" rights.

Notice that these are distinct from positive rights. If I have a right to property, that means I am justified in defending my property from expropriation. It does not obligate you to supply me with property.

Thus far my top-of-the-head recollections on the nature of natural law. No warranties expressed or implied.

Mike Flynn

That is my understanding of natural rights as well: but note that the Framers did not incorporate any such thing into the Constitution of 1787.


1814 and all that

The American militia who burned York were acting against orders - or more accurately, were not under good discipline. The British blew up the magazine at the fort and the explosion not only killed Canadian prisoners of the Americans, but a hurled boulder struck Brig. Gen. Zebulon Pike (he of Pike's Peak) on the back and head, killing him. With him died any semblance of discipline among the troops. "Granny" Dearborn, a superannuated Revolutionary veteran was in nominal command, but in spite of orders to the contrary, soldiers began looting. One American officer said he was getting payback for when the British looted his home in their raid on Ogdensburg, NY. No one knows who started the fire in the parliament building. Some said it was in outrage over a scalp found hanging above the Speaker's Mace in place of the usual speaker's wig. Folks on the Northwest Frontier associated that with the sponsoring of Indian scalping expeditions and may have set the fire for that reason. Dearborn then caved in and ordered the military buildings burned. Afterward he was severely reprimanded by Armstrong, the Sec. of War.

The Brits burned Washington in retaliation, but they also burned every town and village they could reach.

The US did not start the war in order to conquer Canada. Western congressman had predicted that the Canadians would welcome liberation from the British - mistaking the British of 1812 for the British of 1775 - but the US armies invaded Canada for the excellent reason that that was where the British armies were. None of the war aims, Western optimism notwithstanding, had to do with annexing Canada.

The regular army did not break in front of Washington. It stood firm, including the US Marines who had hauled the cannon off the ships they scuttled. So too did the Maryland militia. It was their state, after all. The "Bladensburg Races" were run by the rest of the militia, and that collapsed the line. Even so, they might have held except that -- for the last time in history -- the president was on the field as commander in chief, along with his cabinet, and Sec. Monroe galloped about the field altering the troop dispositions. General Winder was no genius, but he knew more about deployment than the Sec. of State! An interesting counterfactual: Winfield Scott was laid up in hospital after being badly wounded at (iirc) Lundy's Lane. Had he recovered sooner, he would have been available to take command at Washington; and it is likely he would have obtained a more congenial outcome. Adm. Cockburn was not really in a good position.

Baltimore was defended by the Maryland militia under command of the governor and led an excellent defense - including the land attack mentioned by an earlier correspondent. The commander of Ft. McHenry was George Armistead. His wife was due to give birth and had taken refuge with her family out west in Pennsylvania, a town called Gettysburg. Years later, Armistead's nephew Lewis would also visit Gettysburg, where he died leading Pickett's Charge.

The War of 1812 is nearly forgotten today, and it surely had its amateurish moments; but afterward Britain could no longer treat the US as of no account.

Mike Flynn

We were taught in 7th grade in Tennessee that the War of 1812 was a draw, but it increased national pride and set Andy Jackson of Tennessee on his way to the presidency...


NASA and Muslim Self Esteem

From Wednesday, July 7, 2010:

"I suppose it's a good idea to raise Muslim self esteem, but I would think we could safely leave those objectives to the diplomats in the State Department?"

Or even more reasonably, to Muslims themselves. Self esteem comes from within. NASA should stay without. NASA is for getting to space, not for hand-holding.

Bolden said that Obama told him the first three priorities were to "help re-inspire children", "expand our international relationships", and "foremost - reach out to the Muslim world "

Is there anything in there about some sort of space program? It's a good thing Grissom, White, and Chaffee aren't around to see this debacle

Mike Zorn



As you may or may not recall, I'm a long-time employee of a NASA field center. The general reaction around here to the recent "Muslim-gate" revelation is embarrassment. I am glad I was not out among the public when this came out, as I would have been wishing for the earth to open up and swallow me whole. I have to say it's the dumbest thing I've ever heard a NASA administrator say, and that is quite an accomplishment over my nearly 40 year career, where I've witnessed an equal amount of brilliance and idiocy. The most common reaction amongst the old-timers (who all, like me, remember a time when we were pushing the frontiers of science in aeronautics and space) was: "WTF?" So now our mission is making people feel good about themselves. I looked in the Space Act of 1958, Amended, and couldn't find that reference. Perhaps I missed something?

I suppose that I should have expected this; it's pretty much the direction we've been headed for a long time. Any sufficiently mature bureaucracy mostly consists of mediocre performers, with a few outstanding ones and many who are only concerned with maintaining their positions. Now WHO was it that said THAT?

Regards Ed


What do you think of NASA's space computer games?

"Moonbase Alpha" is a quick little game of the 'Solve the technical problem or die' genre.

"Astronaut: Moon, Mars and Beyond" is a massively multiplayer game in the astronaut universe.



Haven't tried them


Re: Laffer Curve

Dear Dr. Pournelle,

A thought on the Laffer Curve: The point of maximum return on taxes is probably not the ideal point, except perhaps during time of war.

I don't really want the government to spend every last possible dime. Society is healthier if people have money to spend, for themselves, their families, charities or whatever they choose.

A rich culture doesn't come from government spending, and the people need money to freely create culture. The gap between what you spend on your basic needs, and your total income is where you get the funds to buy or do the creating.

I often get the impression that those in control, left and right, like to have taxes past the peak return point. They argue on how far past that point we should go, but they like to be in control more than they care about the little people having that bit of extra that allows freedom.


Tom Bridgeland




 read book now





This week:


read book now









 read book now




CURRENT VIEW     Saturday

This week:


read book now







 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, 2009, 2010 by Jerry E. Pournelle. All rights reserved.

birdline.gif (1428 bytes)