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View 476 July 23 - 29, 2007

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Monday, July 23, 2007

The lesson for today is from Aristotle and Livy: Tarquin the Proud, telling his son how to establish a tyranny. Tarquin was king in Rome. His son pretended to defect, and went to a neighboring city where he became a general. He sent a messenger to his father to ask what he should do next.

Tarquin took the messenger into the garden, and using his stick cut off the heads of all the tall poppies so that none stood out. Then he sent the messenger on his way without reply.

His son got the message.

The United States seems determined to plant Jacobin Democracy everywhere. Wherever Democracy is established, it always cuts off the heads of the tallest poppies. This is why Cicero and the other sages of classical times rejected Democracy as a form of government: it permitted no one to rise, so that the choices were mediocrity or a tyrant to overthrow the Democracy. The Founding Fathers of the United States understood this very well.

When I was in school, every pupil in the United States learned the story of Tarquin and the tallest poppies before eighth grade. Today I don't suppose anyone has. We sow the wind. The coming Democracy will reap the whirlwind. Perhaps we will achieve empire without going through that stage.

===========

As I say in the upcoming mailbag, what I really wish is that someone would take the 1999 Franklin Ascend, disassemble it, fix the Y2K problem, reassemble, and make it available. Ideally that ought to be Franklin-Covey but it's clear they don't intend to do that. Since many of us -- including me -- paid for Franklin Ascend and had no idea that the program would go away in 2000; and since Franklin didn't fix it but decided to sell us an "improved" program that can't be easily be copied from desktop to laptop and back again; I wouldn't feel at all awkward about using this. There was a time when I might have done that myself. I used to be pretty good at assembly language programs. Alas, I have neither the time nor the skills any more.

The bug is this: when you try to tell it to continue a task tomorrow, it says you can't transfer to an earlier date. The classical Y2K bug. Sigh.  I really could use a good task management program. I've tried many of them, and the 1999 Franklin Ascend was the best of the lot. Why Franklin doesn't fix it and sell it again I don't know. I sure would pay for it.

============

If you didn't see the lesson for yesterday, it may be worth your time.

 

 

 

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Tuesday, July 24, 2007   

  Thought for the day:

Former Guantanamo detainee blows himself up

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?
xml=/news/2007/07/24/wsuicide124.xml 

"A former Guantanamo Bay prisoner who took up arms alongside the Taliban after he was released from detention has blown himself up to avoid capture, Pakistani security forces said today.

Abdullah Mehsud killed himself with a hand grenade after he was cornered by troops at a house in the south-western Pakistani town of Zhob. He was wanted for the kidnapping of two Chinese engineers in 2004.

"My information is that (he) killed himself," said Atta Mohammed, the head of the police in Zhob. "Thanks be to God that only he was blown up and our men were safe."

Mehsud, 32, was released from the US detention centre in Cuba after two years in 2004 but immediately went back to violence when the Pakistani government began an offensive against the Taliban in the troubled region along the border with Afghanistan.

The one-legged militant was the leader of a group of fighters that kidnapped two Chinese engineers working on a hydroelectric dam project in South Waziristan . Pakistan was forced to apologise to China after one of the hostages died in the subsequent rescue attempt.

Mehsud escaped after the incident and has been hunted by Pakistani forces ever since."

Not exactly the first time this has happened.

Graves

============

Three things are pretty clear about Iraq:

o   If we leave in a hurry, it will come apart, and there will be civil war. I doubt those who call for US intervention in Darfur will agitate for us to go back in. The Turks will probably intervene in the Kurdish zone of Iraq. In Baghdad those who collaborated with the US and/or the US backed coalition government will probably be killed, some quickly, others over time. Their families are not likely to survive either.

o   The Civil war will be our fault. We broke it.

o   Any rational analysis of the situation would have reached these conclusions before we invaded. It was not only predictable but predicted. 

===================

More on the New AT&T:

Although we started on different companies -- mine was Pac Bell and Roberta's was something else -- both our phones are now New AT&T.  My home land line phone is the New AT&T. Yet the enormous bills I got for "roaming" in Washington DC were largely generated by calls to each other. Apparently AT&T doesn't have any provision for any kind of break when you are an AT&T "Loyalist" which I have been for a long time.

No more, of course. They're Back. We don't care. We don't have to. We're The Phone Company.

 

 

 

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Wednesday,  July 25, 2007

We'll be heading down to the beach house where I hope to finish dealing with the editor's notes on Inferno II. I'll catch up with mail tonight.

Meanwhile, contemplate this:

Essay from Dave Mackett, President, Airline Pilots Security Alliance ( http://hotair.com/archives/2007/07/16/a-pilot-on-airline-security/  )

Excerpt:

"Almost six years after 9/11, it is inexcusable that in an environment where TSA misses more than 90% of weapons, RON aircraft are not secured, and ground employees are not screened fewer than 2% of our airliners have a team of armed pilots aboard, fewer than 5% have air marshals, and the flight attendants have no mandatory tactical or behavioral assessment training. $24 billion dollars later, we are not materially safer, except in the areas of intelligence that prevent an attack from getting to an airport. Once at the airport, there is little reason to believe the attack won't succeed."

Regards, Rick Hellewell

We have crippled the airlines, infuriated passengers, made air travel an ordeal to be endured, and we are hardly safer than we were without any of this nonsense.

Of course we have found means of employment for people whose abilities make it unlikely that they could find any other useful work.

Does anyone think that the present TSA could prevent an intelligent person from bringing down an airplane if the attacker was determined to do it and expected to be killed in the attack? Our crack inspectors may be able to prevent idiot attacks, but neither they nor people a lot smarter than they can manage to save an airplane once a group with resources and determination decide to destroy it.

Meanwhile the lobbies of airports, including those long security lines at Dulles and Washington National, are enormously vulnerable to idiot attacks, particularly if the attackers don't mind being killed; but in fact it wouldn't be that hard to take out several hundred people at National on a Friday afternoon (lots of important people in those lines!) without being killed. I am sure any one of you can think of scenarios.

We need to rethink our anti-terrorist strategies and tactics with some cold-eyed rationalism. What do the measures cost us? Including in national dignity: at the moment the TSA is indistinguishable from an organization whose major purpose is to humiliate the people and make certain Americans understand they are subjects and not citizens. How easily can they be circumvented by intelligent and determined people? What new targets do our security measures create?

It is pretty clear that you can't stop intelligent and determined people from destroying airplanes if the attacker doesn't mind being killed. You can prevent the airplanes from being taken over and used as cruise missiles against other targets. We all know how that can be done. Strong cockpit doors, armed pilots, air marshals not dressed in 3-piece suits and short haircuts on randomly selected flights. We all know how that can be done.

We need to assess the real threats and deal with those. When we do, we will find that one of our more powerful weapons is our citizenry. If we really believe in freedom and the republic, we would enlist the citizens in this war on terror. Actually, we clearly don't believe in any of the ideals we want to export to other nations. Instead, we disarm the citizens, express horror at the notion that people can assist in protecting themselves, and we allow conspirators to set up the citizens and then sue hell out of them. It is as if we are determined to progress from republic to empire.

========

Now go read Fred on education. http://www.fredoneverything.net/Desegregation.shtml  As you know, Fred and I are friends; and while I don't necessarily agree with everything he says, I have considerable respect for him. We also grew up in the rural South, and perhaps we have a different perspective from most. In any event, what he says today is worth paying attention to.

Do we or do we not trust our citizens? Do we still believe, as Adams once said, that in America we believe that each man is the best judge of his own interest? We certainly do not act as if we believe it. Worse, we treat many of our citizens -- "minorities" -- as an underclass, unable to know their own interests, unable to better themselves through their own efforts, and forever condemned to exist on the benefits of "entitlements." We don't make them tug the forelock in deference to the bureaucrats, but if you visit the offices of public largesse you will find something very like that...

If we do not believe that each man is the best judge of his own interests, then who shall have the power to tell each of us what we want and need? The technical term for those people is "rulers".

===================

My friend Bob Thompson asks me why I don't endorse Ron Paul for President.

The short answer is that it's a bit early. There's little Congressman Paul says that I disagree with in principle. I do not agree that the proper course in Iraq is immediate and precipitate retreat. That may be the best policy, but many people I respect do not agree; and it does not appear to me that the Legions agree.

Before I would adopt an Iraq policy, I would want to know a great deal more about what the Legions believe we must do. We sent them; we required them to bleed and die in Mesopotamia, to see their comrades killed and maimed, and to assume the burden of knowing they have brought more death and destruction to Iraq than Saddam ever did. Surely we owe them a loud voice in our future policies.

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Thursday,  July 26, 2007

We are at the beach house.

We have a letter concerning yesterday's notes on Ron Paul. I have posted it with my own comments, and added some other views.

My thanks to all the recent subscribers and those who have renewed their subscriptions. I am particularly grateful since these past few weeks I have been deep in fiction work, I hope not to the neglect of this place.

 

Now it's time for me to spend some more time in Hell.

 

==========

ON THE MORALE OF THE LEGIONS:

Subject: Spotted this

Dr. CIV V Corps Deputy G5, CIMIC/US Executive, Maneuver Programs; Giangrego, Salvatore Mr. V Corps G5, Manuever Management

To: All Commands

Subject: U.S. Navy Directive 16134

Ref: ComMidEast (mip://03620fb8) For Inst 16134//24 K All commanders promulgate upon receipt.

The following T-shirts are no longer to be worn on or off base by any military or civilian personnel serving in the Middle East:

A. "Eat Pork or Die" [both English and Arabic versions] B. "Shrine Busters" [Various. Show burning minarets or bomb/artillery shells impacting Islamic shrines. Some with unit logos.] C. "Napalm, Sticks Like Crazy" [Both English and Arabic versions] D. "Goat - it isn't just for breakfast any more." [Both English and Arabic versions] E. "The road to Paradise begins with me." [Mostly Arabic versions, but some in English. Some show sniper scope cross-hairs.] F. "Guns don't kill people. I kill people." [Both Arabic and English versions] G. "Pork. The other white meat." [Arabic version] H. "Infidel" [English, Arabic and other coalition force languages.]

The above T-shirts are to be removed from Post Exchanges upon receipt of this directive. In addition, the following signs are to be removed upon receipt of this message:

A. "Islamic Religious Services Will Be Held at the Firing Range at 0800 Daily. B. "Do we really need 'smart bombs' to drop on these dumb bastards?"

All commands are instructed to implement sensitivity training with respect to the above topics upon receipt.

-- Harry Erwin, PhD, Program Leader, MSc Information Systems Security, University of Sunderland.

===========

 

Jerry,

The Navy Directive 16134 on t-shirts and signs you put up today (Thursday) is bogus, and has gone around the Internet before.

I think I will get some of those made up.

jim dodd

LCDR, USN (Ret.)

Heh.  I rather liked some of those...

====================

The Star Road takes a fearful toll.

I have reports of an explosion at the Mojave Airport rocket test facility. Two of Burt Rutan's people have been killed. It will be on the news soon enough.

http://www.kget.com/news/local/story.aspx?
content_id=1a7fb8b5-d430-4ca3-98b1-da795e80caa5

I suppose there will now be agitation for closing all these dangerous places. There usually is.

===========

http://cbs2.com/topstories/local_story_207193129.html

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Friday,  July 27, 2007

I must get to work on Inferno.

There is mail including a dialogue on Iraq and other matters that may be worth your attention.

 

 

 

 

 

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Saturday, July 28, 2007

Working on the column. I also have an enormous biography of Oppenheimer which I am getting through for the rewrite of Inferno II. All this has kept me from getting more than 2/3 of the way through Harry Potter, so please don't send me mail about that book for another day or two.

This is worth your attention:

Subj: Counterinsurgency in a Tribal Society

http://smallwarsjournal.com/blog/2007/07/coin-in-a-tribal-society-1/ 

Short of extermination, how would one go about convincing the enemy, in a tribal society, that he is defeated?

If it is true that, in counterinsurgency, the social terrain is more important than the geography, what kinds of maps and ways of thinking will help the counterinsurgent understand the tribal social terrain in which he operates?

Rod Montgomery==monty@starfief.com

==========

On the Mojave Incident:

I know more about what happened than most, but at this point speculation is pointless. There will be an investigating commission, doubtless headed by a retired general from Edwards -- there are many of them out there -- and until the facts are in, it's nothing but speculation anyway. One thing is obvious from the -- very long range, 3 miles at least -- helicopter photos. There were civilian cars parked near the site, and several were damaged. There did not seem to be any of the -- excellent -- Mojave airport fire and damage control units nearby, and certainly this leads to the deduction that this was not a test of the engines, but some kind of routine fuel transfer operation. I don't know anything about the operational procedures employed, and/or whether they were followed.

Nitrous oxide is safer than peroxide, as peroxide is safer than red fuming nitric acid, but it can be tricky to handle in large quantities. Nitrous oxide is also far safer than aviation gasoline (although gasoline is a fuel, not a metastable oxidant). To put this into perspective, in the early days of commercial aviation there were numerous accidents and several fatalities caused not by airplanes or aviation, but by the presence of large quantities of highly volatile aviation fuels -- which are, pound for pound, more powerful explosives than dynamite. The airline industry learned to live with aviation fuel. High octane aviation gasoline is still used in some airplane operations. There are very few fuel transfer accidents and I think no recent fatalities.

It's time to let the investigators do their work. As an old operations research guy I am always inclined to think that the remedy to many problems is development of better operations procedures. My guess is that this incident will prove to be another such, and what we will learn from it is not that rockets and space travel are inherently more dangerous than NASCAR races and propeller driven airplanes, but that we haven't done enough such operations to have learned all we need to know. The amateur rocket people often have more experience than the professionals.

But that's all speculation; we'll have to wait for the investigation and report.

Meanwhile, what about them drunken astronauts? Given that the way the Shuttle works there's essentially nothing for the pilot to do on the way up, and even less for anyone else, does it matter? We used to drug the Mercury astronauts with Seconal because they had to spent so much time wearing that capsule waiting for the rocket to go -- in those days holds for hours weren't unusual -- and wake them up when things were ready to go. None of them were ever drunk that I know of, but it wouldn't have mattered a lot. The whole system was automated from going up to coming down until the capsule was afloat and it was time to blow the hatch. After Grissom's debacle there was serious consideration given to not letting the astronaut have access to the hatch cover detonator switch...

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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