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Mail 173 October 1 - 7, 2001 

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This week:



Monday  October 1, 2001

I am in a rush and I'll have more mail tomorrow. Here's a bit to think about from Joel Rosenberg.

I like the breadth of the choices at  -- but I think he's fudging a little, on the three final choices. (See Mail172)

How, precisely, does he think that we *can* withdraw from the Middle East? You've got a possible solution in SPSS, but it's not a solution for this year, or this decade, even. It would take a long time to bring SPSS online, even with it as a top national priority -- and, right now, it's not even on the table, as a significant part of the public discussion -- and I don't see any other way that the US can withdraw from the Middle East, if only to guarantee the oil supply in the interim. Nuclear power is another option that might help, and I'd like to see -- as I said in my first published piece, on the NYTimes Ope-Ed page, some twenty-odd years ago -- more fission power plants, but that would take some time, even as a, err, crash program.

I think he accepts, uncritically, that using nuclear weapons is fundamentally different in nature than "simply" engaging in a lengthy, brutal war, and I think assumption ought to be looked at very carefully. Nuclear weapons have taken on an iconic status that goes beyond their simple destructive capability, and looking carefully at the message buried in the icons seems to me to be only sensible.

Question: how does the use of a nuclear weapon of, say, a ten-kiloton yield differ in a significant way from the use of say, a ten hypothetical one-kiloton conventional bombs? (Or forget the hypotheticals, and stack up twenty BLU-66 fuel-air weapons, with upwards of a half kiloton yield each, according to an ex-Air Force friend I just checked with. Fairly cheap, too, he says.)

Is there a difference? I think so. What *is* the difference, though?

>I want it to be in the interest of a great many people in the Middle East >to pound down anyone proposing another attack on the United States. >Hate us, yes; but be afraid. Be very afraid.

Agreed, certainly -- given that being loved by all sides is utterly impossible, as is being thought irrelevant.

Violence -- whether by a state or by individuals -- is always instructive, but it's worthwhile to consider what lessons it teaches. (I think Ossama bin Laden may have been thinking, for some time, very carefully about that very matter.)

We'd have to be very careful that the lesson we teach isn't "don't celebrate openly, and be sure that your government has plausible deniability over financial and other support to anti-US terrorism", but something less nuanced, if what we want is for people to think, in whatever their native language is, "omigod -- there's some nutcase next door/in the capital/out in the boonies about to bring death and destruction on everything I care about if I don't do my best to stop him, or at least alert the Americans so that they can send their bombers while I clear out."

Consider your Memorials -- given the list of states where bin Laden has been supported and/or cheered, there's got to be a lot of them. Would they be enough? I'm certainly willing to see it as a first cut at a solution. Wish it was on the table in Washington, but I'm also very sure that it would lead to the very "Muslim outrage" that the avoidance of which is stated and implicit national policy.

Newt Gingrich has, just in the past few days, made me for the first time unhappy that he isn't Speaker of the House -- and not just because of his answers, with which I agree, but because he's openly (albeit implicitly) asking the right question, which is not just "what do we to about bin Laden and the Taliban?" and the accompanying policy of "let's not think through or discuss the implications of what we are and aren't doing until we've finished doing that."

Denny Hastert may well be asking the same questions -- but he isn't doing so openly, not even in the elliptical way that John McCain, Donald Rumsfeld, and Paul Wolfowitz are.

"Give a boy a hammer, and everything looks like a nail." Colin Powell's hammer, of which he is fond, is the organizing of a broad but shallow coalition and the purchase of others' membership in such a coalition, with the consensus problems inherent in such.

Is that the right tool to get to "hate us [ -- or don't; we don't care -- my addition]. But be very afraid"?

Maybe not.

Assuming he agrees on the goal, he must feel that if bin Laden and his Taliban supporters are hit hard enough, that will discourage other folks sufficiently, even though he's carefully avoiding hitting others of bin Laden's and the Taliban's supporters and sponsors -- note, particularly, what's been done with regard to Pakistan.

(Is lifting the sanctions on Pakistan the right thing? Perhaps. Does it have consequences? Yup. Will others understand that it's not only safe but demonstrably profitable to promote violently anti-US governments that knowingly and openly harbor terrorists bent on murdering Americans on American soil -- as long as they're willing to honestly disavow them after the shoe drops? Hope not.)

I think his policy is suspect, given the compromises with the goal inherent in giving, say, Saudi Arabia or the Emirates a veto over strikes against bin Laden associates (and other terrorist organizations with their eyes on our response to Black Tuesday) in Syria.

My own hammer -- the belief that the US's and Israel's self-defense interests in the fight against terrorism directed at the the US overlap almost entirely -- is also certainly worth examining, as well, and I wish that those Congresscritters who don't think it's so would have engaged in a dialogue with Netanyahu the other day (they certainly had the opportunity), because I think the case for it is strong, and not to be dismissed with a wave of the hand, or accepted (as it was, at least apparently, by those present) without understanding that there are some *very* serious policy implications, including, among others, the much-to-be-avoided "Muslim outrage."

(Your own hammer -- SPSS -- seems to me a much more useful tool to make the US independent of the oil states and therefore able to let them work out their problems without it being the US's problem, and I don't think that's just because I liked the idea before. But I don't think it gets to "be very afraid" -- nor, obviously, do I think you intend it to be, except indirectly, by being able to add, "...because we don't need your damn oil".)

Yes, carrots have worked, but the stick is key -- note that Germany and Japan are both democracies, friendly to the US (despite the disagreements that democracies have with each other), but both came about after a huge loss of life among the indigenous population, and an understanding that the US was an enemy that would not settle for anything short of unconditional surrender.

I don't think that's the case in, say, Syria, not right now. Nor the Emirates, where bin Laden's financing has come from, at least in part, with, at best, the winking neglect of the governments. Nor Iraq. Nor . . . well, you've got the list, too.

One bright spot on the list: Sudan.

Sudan is an interesting case. The attacks -- clearly, acts of war, by any reasonable definition -- on what apparently turn out to have been a non-terrorist target, but was apparently thought to have been -- have been followed by a significant, useful change in Sudanese policy.

Post hoc ergo propter hoc?

Maybe. Maybe not. Worth thinking about, though.

Perhaps -- and my wishing it so doesn't make it so -- the message received was, "Be very frightened at the poassibility that we might have reason to think you're cooperating with terrorists bent on murdering Americans."

Others, apparently, haven't yet gotten that message.

Joel Rosenberg

---------------------------- There's a widow in sleepy Chester Who weeps for her only son; There's a grave on the Pabeng River, A grave that the Burmans shun; And there's Subadar Prag Tewarri Who tells how the work was done. -- Rudyard Kipling, "The Grave of the Hundred Head."

What we do know is that it is 3 weeks and not much visibly has happened. We can do little but have faith.

But I count it as the goal that the rulers of every nation are willing to expend great effort to keep their citizens from harming the United States: if that requires visiting the equivalent of the Plagues of Egypt on their heads, then so be it.

And another: 

Short form: there's some reason to believe -- nothing approaching proof, as of yet -- that Saddam's government was involved in Black Tuesday, and it's beyond doubt that it's been involved in other attempts, almost certainly including the previous WTC attack.

Question: if the Taliban are reduced to rubble and bin Laden is killed/captured/etc., what will the deterrent effect be on Saddam? (I don't think it's necessarily nothing; I do think it's an important question.) On others? Colin Powell seems to be working toward a "okay, this time we *really* mean it -- stop now" policy, as a way to build and hold a coalition. That may be wise, but it does bear some careful thought.

(Late news: the Saudis have, again, flip-flopped -- the Saudi bases, they say, can't be used for attacks against Arabs and/or Muslims.)

One minor point: the FBI wasn't, in retrospect, wise to so quickly dismiss the assassination of the much-hated Meir Kahane as the work of a lone gunman; the assassin was, although the Salon article doesn't go into detail, apparently part of "Ramzi Yousef's" organization.

(Full disclosure: I knew Kahane, slightly, in the early seventies -- before he clearly went nuts -- and liked the guy, then. Broke with him over the shooting into the Soviet embassy nursery -- I thought then, and think now, that he should have unambiguously condemned that. His short letter in response to me taking him to task for that was, to say the least, not gentle.)

"A man who calls himself Ramzi Yousef is currently serving a 240-year sentence in federal prison for masterminding the 1993 World Trade Center bombing in which six people died, though even his trial judge noted at sentencing: "We don't even know what your real name is."

"What is known about him is that he entered the United States in 1992 on an Iraqi passport bearing Yousef's name, and then promptly sought political asylum. Shortly afterward, he began organizing a group of Islamic radicals in the Jersey City, N.J., area who had been planning to pipe-bomb government officials and Jewish leaders in retaliation for the imprisonment of one of their martyrs, Meir Kahane assassin El Sayyid Nosair. However, Yousef promptly escalated the plot into one with a bigger target -- namely, the World Trade Center. "


"Woolsey contends that even if no further evidence links Saddam to the Sept. 11 attacks, the Bush administration should at least look into the evidence now in hand, and determine if he was behind the 1993 bombing. "If they determine that Iraqi intelligence was behind '93, that should be enough. We got Al Capone not for the many murders that he contracted for, but for income-tax evasion.

"In the '93 bombing, although six people died, it was certainly not as major a thing as what happened on Sept. 11. There's no statute of limitations on terrorism, and as far as I'm concerned, if he did the '93 bombing, that's enough to get him on the list of folks who need to have their regimes changed."

Joel Rosenberg

I need to think on some of this. Thanks.


From: Stephen M. St. Onge

Subject: Abolish the air force?

Dear Jerry:

After due consideration, I think the question is wrongly phrased. There are really at least three general questions here.

First, what are armed forces for? Leaving aside the near-meaningless ("Ensure National Security"), my answer is that they exist to destroy actively resistant, intelligent targets, or as Uncle Rush might put it, "To kill people and break things, even though the target is fighting back."

From this point of view, the whole idea of "Service" organization is suspect. We need to be able to put 17-year olds with rifles on the real estate of defeated enemies, but do they need to be "Army," or "Marines" or "Naval landing and occupation troops," or just "Ground fighter small arms specialists?"

The idea of being able to drop bombs and missile warheads on people half to all the way around the globe seems sensible, and it might be a good idea to have a "Long Range Bomber Force" for this. We might also wish to include land based missiles in said service, and possibly sea-based missile carriers as well. Last I looked, the Ohio class boomers lived in their own little world ("We hide with price"), apart from the rest of the Navy. They look like they'd fit well in such a "Strategic" bombardment force.

Or maybe not. Maybe the subs should all be in the same branch, even though some are independently operating boomer, some are independent hunter-killers, and some are protecting surface flotillas. They use highly similar technologies, after all. Besides, technology isn't the whole of war. Service pride and tradition count for much when the fighting starts. The whole subject needs thinking about.

Second, should the 'fighting' functions be in the same organization as the support functions. Since the 17-year olds with rifles have many incurable bad habits, such as eating and expending ammunition, we need to supply them with stuff, but do we need an Army land based transport service, a Navy sea based service, and an Air Force air transport service, a single unified logistics service, or what?

Note that the job of an infantry man has no civilian equivalent except maybe SWAT team member, while the job of naval cargo carrier has a nearly exact equivalent in merchant marines. There are good arguments for having your supply people subject to military discipline at least some time, but perhaps rather than have a land/naval/air transport commands, we should subsidize civilian firms but require all employees to be Reservists in the "Logistics Service," and call them up as needed during hostilities?

Finally, if we're going to have a long range bombardment capability, what do we wish to bombard, and why, and with what? The greatest weakness of SAC specifically, and the Air Force generally, is that it ends up being commanded by people who enjoy flying aircraft. Combined with the fact that most services spend the majority of their time at peace (thank God), it produces a mentality that sees inputs as ends in themselves. Success is counted by the number of sorties.

As you noted, this leads to a lack of thinking about strategy. In WWII, the RAF and USAAF both went into the war believing "the bomber will always get through," and quickly found that against determined defenses, unescorted daylight bombing was impossible. What they didn't realize till after the war was that their choice of bombs to destroy factories was wrong.

It's easy to damage walls and floors with HE bombs, but remarkably hard to destroy machine tools that way. Only when it lands almost directly on the lathe, drill press, or whatever does the bomb destroy its target. What works in destroying factories is fire. As we were just grimly reminded last Sept. 11th., when steel gets hot enough it softens, and gravity will do the rest.

When it came to target selection, 'strategic' bombardment didn't really become strategic till the run up to D-Day. Then the USAAF and RAF were compelled, much against their will, to drop bombs on bridges and railroad marshaling yards, and put mines in canals and rivers. This was done to keep the Wehrmacht from rapidly reinforcing the troops attacking our beachheads, but in the event it damaged the overall German war effort so badly it was adopted as a general strategy, and came damn close to shutting down the German economy on its own.

Note in this connection that when le May took over the bombing effort against Japan, he went almost immediately emphasized firebombing and attacks on transport. The air assault against Nippon left very few factories functional for long, outside of the five cities he was forbidden to bomb (Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Kokura, Kyoto, and one I forget) -- but bombing of harbors, ferries and bridges, and the air delivery of sea mines disrupted raw materials delivery so badly that factories were largely idle even when undamaged.

And note that in WWII, Korea, and Viet Nam, we tried to strangle the enemy front line supply with "tactical" aviation, and failed each time. Yet in Desert Storm we succeeded. The reason is that Saddam's supply convoys couldn't hide, while Hitler's, Mao's, and Ho's could. The secret of tactical air success thus lies in detection of moving targets. That, in turn, will usually probably require someone on the ground, reporting via radio. But these are jobs we give to Rangers, SEALs, LRRPs, and CIA deep cover agents -- that is, people whose only common factor is that they don't talk with the Air Force.

So maybe what we really need is to require the heads of the Air Force to have spent the first five years of their career doing something not concerned with getting planes in the air, and the last five before high command not being pilots!

Best, Stephen

There is also this:

Dear Dr Pournelle, "It's worth noting that during World War II, aircraft carriers were the sine qua non of seapower - and that the only nations with worthwhile carrier fleets were those nations that did NOT have an independent air force."

Um. The Royal Navy in World Wars I and II had a carrier fleet which did great execution among Italians, Germans, and Japanese. Britain also had an independent Air Force - the Royal Air Force has been a separate service since early in World War I; it grew out of the Army-based Royal Flying Corps. There is a Fleet Air Arm serving the same purposes as Naval Aviation in the US; that grew out of the Royal Naval Air Service. It was not confined to fleet actions.

Was it a worthwhile fleet? There is a case to be made that the UK had better aircraft carriers than the US. This became clear in the closing stages of the Pacific War, when the large British contingent besieging the islands of Japan alongside the Americans came under the same kamikaze attacks, but suffered very little damage in comparison. The British carrier's decks were steel; impacting planes simply bounced off. US decks were of wood.

Evolution of different British services followed availability of different aircraft types. It had very little to do the intraservice rivalries, though these could be bitter (cf. Bader and Leigh-Mallory vs. Dowding and Park).

The RAF was divided into 'commands' with distinct functions and traditions. For example: The Desert Air Force flew in support of the Eighth Army. Service traditions were not allowed to get in the way of ground-support innovation, like tank-busting Hurricanes (armed with humongous cannon whose recoil practically stopped the aircraft in midair).

I've never seen it put in so many words, but the Brits tended to use Fighter Command in a manner similar to cavalry, Bomber Command as an extension of Artillery, ungodly hybrids like the Mosquito squadrons as raiders. Ground support fell to Hurribombers, Tempests, and Typhoons. There was a lack of something like mounted infantry, eventually supplied by the Harrier jump-jet. (By no coincidence, the US Marines decided that they wanted Harriers too, appropriately modified and made under licence in the US).

It was all very efficient, but you see it had to be, because their country's future depended on it. That is why debate about merging the US Air Force back into the Army is sterile. Military philosophy is not helpful here. The real issue is how much a military service sees itself as part of a greater whole. One has only to look and the bitter disputes between US Generals like McArthur and Marshall or Eisenhower to see that if you bring disputes under one roof, they won't be any more easily solved. If you're going to do any such thing, you had better have a Commander in Chief with unchallengeable authority.

Regards, TC

-- Terry Cole BA/BSc/BE/BA(hons) ( System Administrator, Dept. of Maths. & Stats., Otago Uni. PO Box 56, Dunedin, NZ.


The US did all right with Navy and Army for a long time. I think we could again. USAF doesn't seem to have any useful missions. We need to keep long range heavy bombers, but I don't think fighter pilot generals are all that useful at figuring what to do with them.

I used to be an Independent Air Force advocate but I think I no longer am.

For a reply see below.




This week:



Tuesday,  October 2, 2001


Mr. Pournelle,

I am a long time fan of your work, both fiction and nonfiction. I am a retired Lieutenant Colonel from the Army. My specialties were Armor (77-84) and Computers (84-98).

I have a couple of comments on your suggestion that we should have turned Kuwait into a constitutional democracy. I don't disagree, but you must remember that we were not fighting for Kuwait, liberty, and justice or even to punish/restrain Sadam Hussein. We were fighting to make the world safe for "Big Oil".

Now keep in mind that when it was obvious that there would be fighting, I volunteered to go to Saudi. I ended up in Saudi in late November and returned to the US in late April after the fighting was over. But, I never believed we were fighting for anything other that the big oil companies.

Sadam has always said that he was given the green light by the US to take Kuwait. I believe him. I think our government changed its mind when the oil company's got concerned. Then President Bush stirred us into a war frenzy by demonizing Sadam. Even though many of the "atrocities" committed by Sadam occurred when we were supporting him (while Bush was Director of CIA). Sadam is evil. But there are a lot of evil leaders in the world and we have not fought them. To continue my theory, that is a major reason Bush lost the election to Clinton. He created this demon in Sadam, and then did not finish him off. That left the electorate with a feeling of being unfulfilled.

Why didn't we finish off Sadam? No reason to. He was out of Kuwait and the world was once again safe for the big oil companies. We say it was because the Arab countries would not agree to his removal and there was no one to take his place. Yet he could have been replaced by a constitutional monarchy, lead by a traditional Hashimite (spelling?) leader. The Hashimites are related to the rulers of Jordan and would probably have been acceptable to the Arab leaders.

Just my two cents worth.


Certainly the restoration of the Hashemite dynasty in Iraq would have been preferable to what happened...

I am disturbed by one idea that I don't actually believe. My history professor back in college lectured us on the Spanish-American war. He told us that the decisive event for the US was the Spanish sinking of the battleship Maine. He went on to tell us that the historical investigation into that act has concluded that the Spanish were innocent of that act; it was perpetrated by a separatists faction that the US paid little attention to.

Afghanistan has demanded proof that Osama bin Laden was involved before they will hand him over. Is that unreasonable? Would we be willing to just hand over a US guest because some foreign power had overwhelming evidence they were behind an atrocity but refused to reveal the evidence? Is is possible that this is some elaborate frame designed by enemies of the Taliban? Perhaps the Northern Alliance?

I don't really believe there is anything to these questions but think they should be asked. I don't think that there is any evidence that would be sufficient to the Taliban and US fears that revealing the evidence would only help the terrorists evade detection are justified.

Gregory W. Brewer Flow-Cal, Inc. Energy Software Solutions (281) 282-0865

Every few years they come up with a new decisive study on what happened to the Maine. I have stopped reading them. The US was spoiling for a war to liberate Cuba because the Spanish weren't being nice. On the other hand, a umber of theorists believed this would convert the US to an empire and start the long train away from the republic. There as even a book called "The Conquest of the US by Spain."

They may have right.

It is one reason I wish we would declare war and state war aims (which could be unconditional surrender of Iraq and Afghanistan; both regimes have been hostile). 

Regarding guilt, bin Laden is indicted already for his role in the Cole and the embassies: there is ample evidence of his involvement in those. 

Dear Dr. Pournelle:

I simply must respond to Mr. Cole's comments.

During the interwar period, carrier aviation took very different paths in the U.S. Navy and the Royal Navy.

The USN, which developed and purchased its own airplanes, and manned them with Naval officers, was able to develop an extremely strong carrier fleet. The result was that by the start of World War II, our Navy had six (IIRC) carriers, each with an air group of roughly 90 aircraft. During the war, this fleet grew to over two dozen fleet carriers, plus light carriers, plus escort carriers - a formidable armada fit to fight Japanese forces that were of similar size (especially at the beginning of the war). Just as critically, aviators held senior command posts, and even non-pilots had been fully inculated in the art of using naval aviation in battle. The resulting well-balanced fleet turned in a highly creditable performance, even against an equally air-minded foe.

On the other hand, the RN was forced to rely on the RAF to supply airplanes and aircrews until the Fleet Air Arm was reestablished in the late 1930s. The resulting fleet had, IIRC, four carriers - and air wings of forty obsolescent airplanes each. And the numbers never grew quickly. The resulting force proved doughty after being reequipped with USN carrier-based aircraft, but never had the fighting power of its American counterpart. Against German and Italian opponents without aircraft carriers of their own, the RN showed well. In the Pacific, against Japanese naval wasn't pretty. Armored flight decks could postpone the inevitable, but it takes plenty of first-rate carrier aircraft, and the training/doctrine to use them as a cohesive strike force, AND commanders who are familiar with air operations to turn in a good performance against a top-drawer opponent.

My contention, that every combatant during the Second World War which fielded an independent air force also fielded a second-tier navy, stands.


Michael L. McDaniel

An interesting view indeed, and one I need to think on.

Do Prince of Wales and Repulse get into this discussion?



This week:



Wednesday, October 3, 2001

Continuing a discussion I am greatly enjoying:

Dear Dr Pournelle, "Do Prince of Wales and Repulse get into this discussion?"

Sorry, missed your note when I wrote my last little diatribe! Indeed they do. On the 3rd November 1941 the (spanking new) British fleet carrier "Indomitable" grounded off Kingston, Jamaica, so could not go with capital ships "Prince of Wales" and "Repulse". Had she been there the two big ships could have done their job - basically to frighten off the Japanese - without worrying too much about the threat from land-based aircraft.

God knows what the Sea Lords were thinking. I have a horrible suspicion Winston Churchill might have had something to do with it. It's not the only instance of blindness to the obvious either, but the RN didn't have a monopoly on that.

Regards, TC -- Terry Cole BA/BSc/BE/BA(hons) ( System Administrator, Dept. of Maths. & Stats., Otago Uni. PO Box 56, Dunedin, NZ.


The thing I remember when the Prince of Wales and Repulse are mentioned is Paul Johnson telling in Modern Times how the 200 front-line fighters planned for deployment to Singapore went to Russia in the fall of 1941 instead. They arrived in time to help with Stalin's December counter-attack, and may have made a difference there. But their absence in SIngapore may have been decisive in that theatre.

That probably wouldn't have happened to naval aviation assets....

 Michael Juergens on 10/02/2001 at 8:52:24 PM



Dear Dr Pournelle, "My contention, that every combatant during the Second World War which fielded an independent air force also fielded a second-tier navy, stands."

I put this proposition to crusty old watch officers and merchant seamen. It met with gales of laughter. Of course none were American. Do US naval officers seriously contend that the Royal Navy in WWII was a second-tier outfit? Surely you jest, folks.

"During the war, [the US carrier] fleet grew to over two dozen fleet carriers, plus light carriers, plus escort carriers - a formidable armada fit to fight Japanese forces that were of similar size... The [British] fleet had, IIRC, four carriers - and air wings of forty obsolescent airplanes each. And the numbers never grew quickly."

Oh dear. By the end of the Second World War the Fleet Air Arm had just under sixty aircraft carriers all over the world, not counting fleet and other carriers still under construction. During operations against Japan the Pacific Fleet (to the US, Task Force 57) had six new fleet carriers alone (Indomitable, Victorious, Illustrious, Implacable, Indefatigable and Formidable). All told over one hundred carriers of all types served with the RN during WWII. There were some losses in combat, which is why there were three Ark Royals.

"In the Pacific, against Japanese naval wasn't pretty. Armored flight decks could postpone the inevitable, but it takes plenty of first-rate carrier aircraft, and the training/doctrine to use them as a cohesive strike force, AND commanders who are familiar with air operations to turn in a good performance against a top-drawer opponent."

Well, the commander (during Okinawa) was Spruance. During the Okinawa attacks Indefatigable and Formidable were hit, but armoured flight decks didn't just postpone the inevitable, they prevented it outright. It took a few hours to clear the decks but then they were back in the fight.

If the Commonwealth pilots did badly against Japanese Naval Aviators it's the first I've heard of it. Don't try to tell an Australian that. For that matter, there were a lot of Americans on the RN payroll, including at least one squadron leader (Lt Cdr Epps commanding 894 sdqn FAA in 1942). None of them became aces though.

It is also true the RN used variants of land-based aircraft, as did the Japanese. Sea Harriers continue this tradition. It is not, however, necessarily a bad thing, nor does it imply the relevant navy is second-rate. Certainly Sea Harriers were not. The Skuas and Seafires did make some compromises for their carrier-borne rôle but were still excellent dive bombers and gun platforms respectively. As to the Swordfish, they were old, but the reason they were kept was because they were very well adapted to their job.

Michael makes some good points, especially the one about re-equipping with US carrier-borne aircraft. One fleet carrier commander in his memoirs (I think Fraser) vividly recalled, while seeing his US counterpart, whole parks of spare Corsairs waiting for assignment. He diffidently asked for a couple to replace lost aircraft. The US Admiral grinned quietly and delivered two entire squadrons. Similarly, the British Pacific Fleet was hard put to keep up with the extremely efficient American logistic chain. But to say they never had the fighting power of their US counterparts ignores the superior construction of the carriers themselves and the fact the Royal Navy had worldwide committments of which the BPJ was but a small part.

The RAF was merged with the (larger) Fleet air arm in 1918, following which during the 1920s and depression years the Admirals had to make do with the leavings of the RAF. From 1924 till 1938 they did have a separate administrative unit called the Naval Air Branch, and as Mr McDaniel points out for the interwar period there was no separate naval service. Still I don't see this makes any difference. First, the pilots still took orders from the Naval commanders; second, it was still the Fleet Air Arm during the period under discussion (WWII); and finally, there was still a combination of a separate Air Force and a first-rate navy.


-- Terry Cole System Administrator Dept. of Maths and Stats, Otago University PO. Box 56, Dunedin tel:64-3-4797739 NEW ZEALAND fax:64-3-4798427



Continuing the discussion re separate Air Force and the contention that any power which possessed one fielded a second tier Navy.

I am no expert, but was the British Navy in WW2 really second tier? Surely the requirement to defend the Empire ensured that the RN had the most powerful Navy in the world at the start of WW2. I think that it was as the war progressed that the importance of carriers increased dramatically and Britain had switched production from battleships to carriers by 1944. Wasn't this really just an indication of a technological shift rather than the Navy being damaged by the existence of an Air Force? Had the RAF not existed in the 1930's I would bet that the emphasis would have been on producing more battleships, better artillery, tanks etc. rather than carriers, and the development of fighter aircraft would have been delayed. If that had happened the Brits would now be speaking German.

In conclusion Jerry I agree with you, the USA probably doesn't need a separate Air Force, technological change coupled to the USA's geographical position has reduced the relevance of the Air Force.

On the other hand another technological change may reverse that conclusion. Maybe having three separate forces gives the maximum flexibility to respond to change....

Stuart Matthews


Just to reply to Mr. McDaniel's reply, there were ten RN fleet carriers, plus light carriers plus escort carriers. I don't know what wasn't pretty - there were few contacts between RN and IJN carrier forces in the early part of the Pacific war. Hermes was sunk with only a few planes on board but was a primitive light carrier from the experimental period post WW1. The Langley was sunk acting as an aircraft transport in early '42 which was a parallel occurrence. To add to everyone's useless store of knowledge, at one point in early 1943, the only allied carrier available west of Hawaii was HMS Victorious. What wasn't pretty was what had happened to nearly all of the pre-war USN carriers which were sunk, in serious repair or largely useless (Ranger). In any case, at its peak, the Royal Navy was considerably larger than the IJN was at its peak, in all categories of ships. Since there were only three large navies in the war, it isn't useful to pick apart the relationship of an independent air force to a naval air force. The sample size is too small.

To return to the main issue, the USAF has grown away from most of the relevant missions. Witness the neglect of really useful aircraft like the A-10 in favor of really expensive aircraft like the F-22. That is one of the reasons why you have a navy which has an army which has an air force. The Harriers of the Marine Corps are really useful planes, designed by the British, adapted for naval use and available for close support from ships less capable than a nuclear carrier. Funny how much a Wasp-class landing ship looks like an Essex-class carrier.

Point a finger at a Navy which prefers nuclear carriers and expensive submarines to Marines.

However, a similar finger can be pointed at the Army, which has never been enamored of Special Forces units and which has also allowed the armor to run down both in numbers and in quality. Many of the M1 tanks are in sad shape and it is doubtful that a force like the one that won the Gulf War could be reassembled very quickly. The drift appears to be towards units festooned with computers which will probably be a good thing in the long run, but full of glitches in the short run.


Tim Descheneau




Regarding the comments by someone earlier, I find it difficult to take their opinion seriously when they clearly have no understanding of the real situation.

Namely, SAC was abolished in 1992 and it's replacement, Strategic Command, does have operational command of the boomers.

But the idea of dumping the Air Farce is probably not a bad idea.

Frank Spinney, in "Spirit, Blood, and Treasure" (new in hardcover) pointed out that the 1997 defense review basically has the effect of saying that we will be using lots of 40 year old fighter aircraft in 2020, with the outrageous maintenance costs (and limited effectiveness) these clearly present. Basically we will either have a joke air force of several hundred fighters or we will have to use nearly the entire federal budget to keep them flying. All in the service of keeping ALL the existing USAF fighter programs running.

The situation for the bomber fleet is even worse, as USAF seems to think that 2040 or 2050 is a good time to replace the last B-52. As all the decision makers are fighter pilots, what do you expect? 80 year old bombers. Clever guys.

There are some similar issues with the Navy and the Army, but USAF is really outstandingly effective in designing national strategy that only reflects its organizational goals.

Anyhow, dumping USAF would probably be a good thing, but how do we get their from here?

Kevin Rose

I keep hoping for a good defense of the Independent Air Force. I grew up hearing all about about the importance of that. I have seen the films arguing the case. But lately I don't hear much...

Note I do not argue against Naval Air and and Army Air Force, nor against the Marines having their own airplanes. It's the "Independent Air Force" that seems wrong, since it insists on the troop support mission but despises it (resulting in a lot of helicopter development) and relegates transport to a sideshow. I admit I don't have a real solution, but abolishing Department of Defense and The Air Force and going  back to the Secretary of War and the Secretary of the Navy with War the senior service makes more sense than what we have.

Anyway, enough on this unless we get a good defense of the Air Force.


The check is in the mail for another year. Most of the sites on the Web satisfy Sturgeon's Revelation; yours is definitely part of the 10% of excellence in the universe.

Some years ago a television show called "Moonlighting" ran a Christmas episode in which an angel shows Cybill Shepherd's character a number of things, including what angels do for fun. It seems when an angel picks up an object, it vanishes from human perception. The human _swears_ it was _right here a moment ago_, then the angel replaces the item when the human looks away. Big laughs for the angel.

I find this plausible ;-)

Ralph Moss

So that's what happened!  Thanks

Now for several recommendations by Roland Dobbins. I can't keep with all he reads.


On the soft left: 

National Review Columnist John Derbyshire on what is a Paleo Conservative; this is from a different discussion group and is posted with his permission.

Well, I use the terms loosely and carelessly (pace David Hume) to refer to:


----Suspicious of state power 
----Determined to restrain the growth of the state 
----Fearful for the ancient liberties under increased state power 
----Inclined to anthropomorphize the state, imagining it to be a beast with a will of its own, seeking to extend its reach, sometimes by trickery, e.g. staging wars just so it can grab more power over citizens' lives 
----Inclined not to believe that the US really needs any serious involvement with other nations 
----Inclined to think that when such involvements occur, they do so as a result of rich & powerful groups (Foreign-policy elites, business interests, Jews) seeking to further enrich or empower themselves at the expense of poor Americans ("trade follows the flag") 
----Sustained, fundamentally, by an image of national self-sufficiency 
----Believe that if you hit a rattlesnake, he'll bite you 
----Believing in American goodness and in the beauty of the American vision, but wishing it to be only "a light unto the gentiles," which other nations can emulate or disdain as they please

Neos (Neo Conservsatives; Weekly Standard)

 ----Suspicious of state power 
----Determined to restrain the growth of the state 
----Fearful for the ancient liberties under increased state power
 ----Inclined to see the state as a loose collection of human beings, many with different interests & agendas, who can be appealed to individually with effect ----Inclined to believe that the US has no choice but to be involved with other nations, and determined to derive maximum advantage for the US from all such involvements 
----Inclined to think that such involvements are a natural consequence of commercial activity and sometimes need defending militarily to preserve US prosperity ("the flag follows trade") 
----Believe that if you hit a rattlesnake and he bites you, you didn't hit him hard enough 
----Believes that national self-sufficiency is a pleasant fantasy 
----Believing in American goodness and in the beauty of the American vision, and that the world will be safer and more prosperous, the more nations catch on to those things; and that judicious activities to promote that process are justified.

The first three points make us all conservatives. The rest we can discuss.

(This off the top of my head.)

John Derbyshire

When I asked permission to post this, I also got:

Thanks, Jerry. I don't mind if you do, so long as you point out that this was some off-the-cuff "talking points" to serve as the basis of a discussion, not any part of a carefully-crafted essay.

I see I didn't even mention immigration, for e.g., which tends to be a strong "marker" for the neo-paleo split. Not an infallible one, though: I consider myself a firm neo, favor US intervention & even take-over of failed states ... but I am a strong immigration restrictionist. So are most of the NR crowd (main exception Larry Kudlow).


John Derbyshire

Note that the neo-conservatives are very much in favor of immigration, and some of open borders.

It's a pretty good opening to a discussion of new vs paleo conservatives. I am not sure where I fit in any of that. I believe in the republic, prefer the republic, and unlike Cicero I am pretty well resigned to the empire...

We are the friends of liberty everywhere. We are the guardians only of our own, said Adams, and I can enthusiastically endorse that.


-----Original Message----- From: Jon Dowell [] Sent: Wednesday, October 03, 2001 8:46 PM To: Jerry Pournelle Subject: - Ebola-style killer virus sweeps Afghan border


I just saw this article, which was apparently posted just hours ago. I have to wonder whether this is a natural outbreak or an Taliban bio-weapon gone astray. 

-Jon Dowell

I have no idea. Scary, though.

Hi Jerry.

I just read your weekly Byte column, and got a good laugh out of your online shopping experiences. You see, I just went through something similar myslf while looking for a laptop online.

Basically, every site I visited was either gone, or some kind of script error prevented me from getting anywhere. It was unbelievably frustrating (I ended up driving to the computer store). In fact, it drove me to rant about it: 

Reading that it's not just me made me feel a little better.

Keep up the great work!


Heh. But I have got a lot of advice on where to go.



And finally for the day, a THOUGHT:

Dear Jerry:

Take a breath and think of what you are saying. You are unhappy that you, a private individual (not a government agency, branch of military service, or world power) cannot communicate with perfect reliability and ease to a world-wide network of millions of people and computers via a satellite orbiting the Earth from the comfort and security of your own home within the first week or so that you, again a private person, have owned such technology which in total cost you less than a third-hand used car, far less than a membership in an exclusive golf club, or little more than a few dinners out with friends with the opera after.

And this is a BAD thing?

Sure we all want this to be better faster easier cheaper. And it will be. I'll be ordering the Hughes system myself in 60 days or so and probably tearing what little hair I have left out trying to get it working, and asking you for help.

But just think if 20 years ago you wanted to "chat" with a friend in a remote area of, say, Africa - in real time. The only hope you would have had is if you both had many many thousands of dollar's worth of short-wave equipment, the training and knowledge to use it, and the right weather conditions. And anybody who cared to listen in to you could.

We're not at 24/7/365 perfect wireless Internet yet, but we will be. You're helping to blaze the trail - thanks! So take a good deep cleansing breath and get back to it because you're doing this stuff so I won't have to!

All the very best,

Tim Loeb

PS: The subscription check is in the mail.

Count your blessings, name them one by one, count your many blessings ...  You are right of course. We expect miracles routinely now.





This week:


read book now


Thursday, October 4, 2001


-From: Edward Hume [] Sent: Wednesday, May 02, 2001 7:21 AM To: Subject: Biscuits Wanted For Attempted Murder


(the actual AP headline)

Linda Burnett, 23, a resident of San Diego, was visiting her in-laws and while there went into a nearby supermarket to pick up some groceries. Several people noticed her sitting in her car with the windows rolled up and her eyes closed, with both hands behind the back of her head. One customer who had been at the store for a while became concerned and walked over to her car. He noticed that Linda's eyes were now open, and she looked very strange. He asked her if she was okay, and Linda replied that she'd been shot in the back of the head, and had been holding her brains in for over an hour. The man called the paramedics, who broke into the car because the doors were locked and Linda refused to remove her hands from her head.

When they finally got in, they found that Linda had a wad of bread dough on the back of her head. A Pillsbury biscuit canister had exploded from the heat, making a loud noise that sounded like a gunshot, and the wad of dough hit her in the back of her head. When she reached back to find out what it was, She felt the dough and thought it was her brains. She initially passed out, but quickly recovered and tried to hold her brains in for over an hour until someone noticed and came to her aid.

AND, yes, Linda is a blonde....

And I couldn't stand it. I just about fell on the floor laughing...


The thing about the woman, the biscuits, and being shot in the back of the head is apparently an urban legend. I'd never heard it and started to read it to Barbara. As soon as I started, she interrupted me to tell me that she'd heard that story from several sources, the earliest some years ago.

Too bad. It's funny enough that it should be true.

-- Robert Bruce Thompson

Ah well, I thought it was too good to be true.

Joel Rosenberg on the costs of coalition: 

You may or may not agree with Safire on the rest, but given your declared goal, I think you'll find the final question more than a little apropos:

"Over all, are we buying Phase I's retribution against one terrorist gang with a promise of no Phase II protective strikes against a terrorist nation?"

---------------------------- There's a widow in sleepy Chester Who weeps for her only son; There's a grave on the Pabeng River, A grave that the Burmans shun; And there's Subadar Prag Tewarri Who tells how the work was done. -- Rudyard Kipling, "The Grave of the Hundred Head."

And I just don't know.  The Bush White House is a tight ship, the least leaky operation I have seen in 40 years of White House watching.  We'll know when he wants us to know.

With all the griping I read from you about the woes of connecting to the Internet using a 28.8 modem, I wonder why you can't use a 56k modem. Does the quality of your phone line prevent this or is there another reason?

Regards, Stephen

I use a US Robotics external, which can in theory work at 53K but the actual throughput is generally under 30.


In October 2nd's "Current View", John Strohm noted the Global Consciousness Project ( results for September 11, 2001, and observed,

"It doesn't look like a hoax, but you never know."

It's not a hoax. I participated in the development of the software used to collect the data at the more than 40 sites around the world, host two sites myself in Switzerland, developed the utilities which collect the data reported by the individual nodes into a second-by-second database suitable for analysis, and provide off-site backup of the master data on the server at Princeton, synchronised and backed up every night to DLT tapes which are kept forever.

An overview of the rationale, history, methodology, and results to date from the project may be found in the following E-print (which you can read with Acrobat Reader or GhostScript): 

The hypothesis being tested by the project is that the output of hardware random event generators (based on processes such as noise across a back-biased diode junction) exhibits deviations from the expectations for a purely stochastic process in the presence of intense conscious activity.

Absurd...I know...but this is something one can *test* and, with a global network operating continuously over a number of years, obtain an up-or-own result which, while never satisfying either true believers or die-hard skeptics, should settle the question for the majority in the middle: is there anything here or not. If so, that's intriguing. If not, let's move on.

The network began collecting data in August 1998 with five nodes: three in the U.S. and two in Europe (the latter two in the same building where I'm typing this message). The network now consists of more than 40 nodes using three different kinds of hardware random event generators distributed around the world ( ), though still biased toward Europe and North America. Analyses of the data collected to date may be found at . Host machines include various varieties of Linux, Sun and SGI Unix boxes, and, more recently, Windows 2000 and 98/ME. Most systems run a Network Time Protocol client which synchronises the data they report to better than the one second resolution of the database. A majority of sites in the network have persistent Internet connections, but this is not required; opportunistic collection of data taken when off-line is supported and used by sites in remote locations.

My involvement in the project has been in developing the software, collecting the data, and insuring the integrity of the data set, which grows by more than three million synchronised random event measurements every day. Formulating hypotheses, testing them, and drawing conclusions I leave to others--go fingo! One important aspect of the project is complete transparency of the raw data, which may be retrieved from the server by anybody from the moment they are collected. The data set is thus available for independent verification of its integrity (e.g. that data, once posted, do not change) and correctness (do the random event generators misbehave in ways which would bias the results). Further, it may be used by anybody to perform their own analyses or to independently verify analyses reported by others. In May 2001 I established a control database which mirrors the structure and content of the data collected from the network, but with each sample replaced by one generated by a high quality pseudorandom algorithm; this can be used to verify whether "results" are in the live data or artifacts of ever-so-clever analysis.

Of course you'll want to weight all of the above by where you place this correspondent along the "hard-headed engine-ear" to "new-age bubblehead" continuum--visit my Web site ( ) and draw your own conclusions. I don't really have the time right now to discuss and/or debate this in E-mail--I'm trying to get a new release of Speak Freely for Unix out the door and that's occupying me pretty much full time. I thought that providing some context on the Global Consciousness Project might be useful for readers who've seen only the results for September 11.

-- John Walker

And that is really fascinating. Thanks.

In case you missed the nightly news tonight, our first military mission over Afghanistan is about to take place. The U. S. Air Force will be dropping...

It also said the State Department is talking with the Afghani king-in-exile.

My impression is that U.S. forces are going in not as the attackers of bin Laden, but as the liberators of Afghanistan.

------------------------------------- David K. M. Klaus 

I'm the only person I know who can have an anxiety attack about being late for a Zen Garden ceremony. -------------------------------------

Indeed. Installing kings in Afghanistan, Libya, and Iraq won't upset the Saudi types and...









This week:



Friday, October 5, 2001

(Passed along by one of my cousins, who said: If we can find nothing to smile about, then we have lost our spiritual

Balance ...)

The President has asked that we unite for a common cause. Since the hard

line Islamic people cannot stand nudity, and consider it a sin to see a

naked woman that is not their wife, Tonight at 7:00, all women should run

out of their houses naked to help weed out the terrorists. The United States

appreciates your efforts, and applauds you. God bless America.

-- Jeff Hecht, writer of science fact and (a little) fiction

We're ready here at Chaos Manor

Thought you might enjoy this . . . ________________________________

Subject: What to do when passing a peace rally.

What to do if you happen upon a peace rally by naive hemp-shirt-wearing college idiots, to absolutely teach them why force is sometimes needed:

1) Approach student talking about "peace" and saying there should be, "no retaliation."

2) Engage in brief conversation and ask if they believe military force is appropriate.

3) When he says "No," ask, "Why not?"

4) Wait until he says something to the effect of, "Because that would just cause more innocent deaths, and we are just as bad as the terrorists if we exert this 'unneeded' aggression."

5) When he's in mid-sentence, punch him in the face.

6) When he gets back up to up to punch you, point out that it would be a mistake and contrary to his values to strike you, because that would just lead to more violence and make him just as bad as you.

7) Wait until he agrees not to commit additional violence.

8) Punch him in the face again, harder this time.

Repeat steps 5 through 8 until they understand that sometimes [when you have an unrelenting aggressor] it becomes absolutely necessary to punch back.

Dave Colton

At my age I might have a bit of a problem in case the conversion takes place quicker than I anticipated. Still, I do walk 5 miles a day...

Good morning, Jerry

Here is a link to an article that compares the heat tolerance of Intel and AMD processors. From reading articles by this author before it is clear that he's no friend of Intel. I would guess that this link has a limited life and that the content of his web-mag changes. 

Regards, Mike Detjen

Tom's Hardware is often a good place to go. On the other hand he rates Western Digital disk drives highly. That would not be my preference.

From Ed Hume: 


HP creates off-the-shelf supercomputer

By CNET Staff

October 4, 2001, 10:50 a.m. PT

By Matthew Broersma

How to build your own supercomputer: Take a few off-the-shelf, stripped-down PCs, add some network switches, a maze of Ethernet cabling and some homegrown Linux software, and you'll be well on your way.

Hewlett-Packard, together with a national laboratory in France, tried this recipe out and, to the great surprise of many scientists, it worked.

What they ended up with is the "I-Cluster," a Mandrake Linux-powered cluster of 225 PCs that has benchmarked its way into the list of the top 500 most powerful computers in the world.


"These are really standard machines; we didn't even open the box," said Bruno Richard, program manager with HP Labs Grenoble.


The individual machines that made up the I-Cluster are now out of date, each running on 733MHz Pentium III processors with 256MB of RAM and a 15GB hard drive. HP introduced a faster version at the beginning of this month and will launch a Pentium 4 e-PC by the end of the year.


Serious computing

The project shows that standard computing power--like the unused processing power on an office network--can be harnessed for serious computing work. In the business world, CAD designers and chemists are among those who need intensive computing power, Richard said.

"You could gather the latent power from office PCs using this technique," he said. "We eventually want to scale it higher, to thousands of PCs."



HP's Richard said the use of Linux--version 7 of Mandrake's distribution, in this case--was important because low-level changes could be made easily to the software, and then the alterations could be shared freely with other scientists, something that would have required a special agreement with Microsoft if Windows had been used.


Staff writer Matthew Broersma reported from London.

Distributed  Computing indeed...

Mandrake gestures hypnotically...

From Robert Racansky:

What's wrong with this picture?

After the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, 17-year old Eliza Guager created what has become one of the most downloaded images relating to the incident, and the best seller at the artistic web site

"Mommy Liberty" depicts a Statue of Liberty-esque figure holding a baby wrapped in an American flag with one arm, and a revolver in the other hand. "The most dangerous place in the world is between a mother and her children" is written to the side.

Ms. Gauzer's web page is:  , and "Mommy Liberty" merchandise can be purchased at  (all profits go to the Red Cross).

According to the Fox News web site, Ms. Gauzer received an e-mail from a National Guard member who "wanted to use the image in a newsletter but couldn't print it if it had a gun in it." Ms. Gauzer was asked if she "could change it to a sword." Fortunately, Ms. Gauzer denied the request. ["Sketch Becomes Sign of the Times" 04 Oct. 2001.,2933,35664,00.html  ]

Somehow, this story does not make me feel safer about having armed National Guard soldiers at the airports. Maybe they would feel better if we gave them swords instead of M-16 rifles.

Perhaps the National Guard can have Michael Morris -- the principal of Jefferson Middle School (Fort Wayne, Ind.) who removed a musket from the painting of his school's minuteman mascot ["Tongue Tied." 01 Oct. 2001,,2933,35435,00.html  ]-- can lecture Ms. Gauzer on why a gun has no place in her painting.,2933,35435,00.html 

Tongue Tied: A Report From the Front Line of the Culture Wars

Monday, October 01, 2001 By Scott Norvell

The minuteman mascot at Jefferson Middle School in Fort Wayne, Ind., has had a makeover, writes columnist Kevin Leininger of the News-Sentinel. Gone is his musket, because the principal says guns have no place in schools.

The image still stands on a wall just inside the main door of the school, but was repainted recently to exclude the firearm.

Principal Michael Morris, who took over at the school in July, said: "The mural needed to be repainted anyway, and this sends a stronger, better message about patriotism. Everyone loves it."

Not everyone. "Those who would purge violence from American history do more than dishonor the sacrifices made to write that history: It gives children the inaccurate and dangerous notion that our freedoms were won and can be maintained without a struggle," writes Leininger.

This needs no comment. But perhaps we can revise our slogans. "Eternal fuggheadedness is the payoff from--"

mommyliberty.jpg (39226 bytes)

I don't usually print PRESS RELEASES but this one is SPECIAL:

First Phase of Flight Test Program Completed.

Mojave, CA October 3, 2001: XCOR Aerospace today announced that it has successfully completed the first phase of its flight test program for the EZ-Rocket. The EZ-Rocket is the world's first privately built rocket powered airplane.

At 0900 hours today the EZ-Rocket took off from the Mojave Civilian Flight Test Center to an altitude of 6,200 feet before gliding back to Runway 30. The EZ-Rocket is powered by twin 400 pound thrust rocket engines designed and built by XCOR Aerospace. The flight test program passed its first milestone by flying with both engines for an engine run time of 96 seconds and total flight time of five minutes and twenty seconds.

XCOR's test pilot is retired United States Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Dick Rutan, a Vietnam veteran and world-famous test pilot. "I ignited one engine and the crew said everything looked good, so I lit the second engine and we started moving," said Lt. Col. Rutan. "As I rolled down the runway Mike Melvill flew overhead in another Long-EZ and served as chase plane. The plane took off 1,200 feet down the runway and once airborne the vehicle rapidly accelerated to 160 knots. The rocket power provided positive, firm acceleration. Once we started running out of liquid oxygen I shut down both engines. Mike inspected the airplane visually and reported it was clean with no leaks. We entered a standard flame-out [landing] pattern and glided back to the runway."

The EZ-Rocket is a research and development test bed for XCOR. "Routine operations must be the primary criterion for rocket engine development," said XCOR Chief Engineer Dan DeLong. "Our approach is to build safe and reliable rocket engines first, then progress to the higher performance needed for orbital launch vehicles."

XCOR president Jeff Greason said, "We passed a major milestone today. This is a significant technical achievement for a variety of reasons. First, once you get two engines working in combination it is significantly easier to cluster more engines for larger vehicles. Second, we were able to keep the engine and fuel flow running smoothly during the flight."

The official roll-out and flight demonstration of the EZ-Rocket will take place this November at Mojave airport. Check the XCOR ( web site in the next few days for details on the event.

EZ-Rocket Specifications The EZ-Rocket is a modified Long-EZ homebuilt aircraft. The aircraft is powered by twin 400 lb thrust regeneratively cooled rocket engines and fueled by isopropyl alcohol and liquid oxygen. The EZ-Rocket includes an external composite fuel tank and an insulated internal aluminum liquid oxygen tank. The modifications were performed at XCOR Aerospace's Mojave, CA shop. Tests are performed at the Mojave Civilian Flight Test Center.

About XCOR Aerospace XCOR Aerospace is a California corporation located in Mojave, California. The company is in the business of developing and producing safe, reliable and reusable rocket engines.

### Editors: Photos and video of the EZ-Rocket and Col. Rutan are available by calling (303) 469-7479 or visiting .

xcor1.jpg (683790 bytes)

Getting ready for flight. Warning: this picture is BIG. It takes a while to download even with the satellite connection.

Regarding coughing your way out of a heart attack, Dr. Hume (psychiatrist) says now:

My thanks to Mr. Montgomery and Dr. Pournelle: the breathe-and-cough procedure is a hoax. 

I'd seen it before in print, thought it was real medical advice. Well, it's not.

Just goes to show: believe half of what you hear, a tenth of what you read .

Ed Hume

I left it up long enough to get a response. I do that sometimes.







This week:



Saturday, October 6, 2001

The Clash of Civilization (Computer Game) 

The Clash of Civilizations is a computer strategy game we are developing that attempts to sketch out pretty much the whole of history in game form. The player(s) of such a game make decisions about their civilizations economic stance (guns vs. butter), military and diplomatic actions, and a host of other things. Moving from antiquity into the current time, fostering technological and social progress of the civilization (civ) is generally a main concern of the player. Arguably, the modern progenitor of this sort of game is "Sid Meiers Civilization", now about a decade old (and its sequel, imaginatively named Civilization II or Civ II).

I started this project because, although fascinated with the general concept, I got disgusted with all the many games of this type available. I had different quarrels with different games, but the biggest problems shared by most of these games were fairly poor AI, huge amounts of unnecessary busywork, and that they just didn't feel right in terms of the "history" they produced. The Clash of Civilizations will try to answer these defects in the others. We are now a group approaching 20 members, with similar views, working to get a game out that fixes these defects.

The Clash project is still looking for people to join. Especially needed are Java programmers with an interest in this type of game, since the biggest bottleneck right now is coding. As the project gets further along we'll also need more graphics people, and playtesters. We also need people who can criticize all the aspects of the game, from a perspective of economics, military history, AI, etc. The criticism group is needed because I think getting Clash as close to reality as possible will make it both a significantly better game and of some educational value. If the project works out as well as I think it will, the game will be put out as shareware (free demo, pay for full version). Collaborators will earn returns depending on the amount of work they've put into the project (TBD). If you're interested in participating drop me a line.

- Mark Everson

Defects in the other Civ-type games that Clash will address

Pathetic AI AI simply takes a lot of thought and work (modern desktop processing power does help a lot). Either the programmers of the previous games didnt have a good enough grasp of their own games to see the glaring problems in the AI, or weren't willing to devote even a minuscule fraction of the clock cycles to AI. I'm not talking about rocket-science stuff here. To write an AI that would beat someone that is very good at strategic games would be Very difficult. I am not blaming the industry for not producing AI at That level... Its relatively simple things, like the Glaring defects in the Civ2 AI. Once typical games get out into the wider gaming community there are Lots of people capable of winning vs. The AI on the hardest settings every time. The current fascination with "real-time" strategy games doesn't encourage me that substantial improvements in AI of commercial games is likely in the near future.

In Clash we plan to: * make sure the AI understands geography as well as practical (this is a tough problem, but I have an approach that I think will be substantially successful) * use genetic algorithms ( A common AI technique that hasn't much been applied to games yet ), Java's thread support for background-thread double-checks of AI strategies, good heuristics ( and many other dangerous words ;) to make the AI in this game as tough as any player could desire * if all else fails, use variable parameters to give the AI any arbitrary advantages that the player desires (hopefully this wont be necessary)

Too Much Busywork Busywork, as opposed to value-added actions that are crucial to putting ones own stamp on the game, is rampant in these titles. There are several general problems: * Poor GUIs considering what the player has to do, and how many windows must be seen simultaneously to keep track of the situation - enough said * Another big problem is having to implement a basically global decision in each of the many subdivisions of your empire. For instance if you decide "Joe Blow is going to attack me soon, I need more military units." you would typically have to crank through ten to twenty sub-divisions of your civ and increase or modify military unit production in each! - We have tried in the design to require the absolute minimum amount of work (consistent with enough versatility) to establish economic / military changes for the civ. Another importance of having good AI is that the player can give some of the work to the AI if they can trust it to not screw up too badly. * Things like building roads or fighting with an enemy usually require player attention for every square you intend to affect. In a game with literally thousands of squares this is a problem if you have a life! - we want to implement shortcuts for road building etc., like a draw routine to simply and graphically indicate what the player wants. You can then draw major roads on the map and assign them a priority for being built and then forget about them. In the military area, what is needed is a football-play-type diagram. For instance, "on this front attempt to break through here and here with this many armored divisions, go this far and then hook (shown by arrows indicating motion drawn by player on map) and surround and crush this resulting pocket of the enemy".

Unrealistic "History" The extant games of this variety generally model economies, cultures and cultural interactions, technological change, and changes of military power with technology very poorly. What we're trying to achieve in each instance with Clash is to at least get the right feel of the balances of economic, military and political power throughout the ages. * Culture and government types have played a dominant role in shaping the world we live in. These generally get very cursory, if any treatment in commercially available games. * If things work out right, a reasonable "snapshot" of any historical period, and it's central issues, should be achievable within the game framework. That means having the right number of people, producing about the right amounts of food and finished goods given the economic inputs. Military capabilities, including range of action due to supply limitations, should also be correct for the period. * Peoples, when conquered by an outside force, should not immediately be resigned to their new status. History is full of Cultures conquered by outside powers that generations later were able to throw out the descendants of the invaders.

Civ2 AI Comments, as an example...

Here's a brief critique of the AI in Civ2 (Based on limited information I don't think SMAC or Civ:CTP are much better). I'll suggest a couple of obvious improvements the AI could use (IMHO anyway). The suggestions are specific to this game, so if you aren't familiar with it, this stuff might not mean mucy... Since I'm a programmer I'll start couning with 0... ;-)

0) AI needs to expand more quickly, especially at the start. It is waaaay too conservative, and incurs huge "opportunity costs" in size due to slow expansion.

1) AI should mass units for attacks (right now the AI throws individual units at enemies)

2) AI should have some concept of distance and "striking range" of each civ. I chuckle every time I extort money out of an AI civ half way around the world, that I'd be Very fortunate to wound in the slightest way. The AI also caves into pressure Much too easily IMO. It should take a Very serious threat to make it give up money or tech.

3) AI needs to understand the probablility of success of attacks. NO more attacking fortified units on mountains....

4) AI should properly execute surprise attacks (rather than not attacking at all, or with a single unit). When a human surprise attacks it is usually with masses of troops on the frontier or offshore.

5) AI should build more diplomats/spies and Use Them. Even used in a ham-handed manner they are pretty nasty.

I haven't included anything in this list that is hard IMO... I think just improving these could help the AI to be a significantly better challenge.

When you get into difficult things I'd add: a notion of geography; with this goes fewer defensive units in interior cities; using diplomats to cancel ZOC restrictions like people do; having the AI build cities in niches on the shore that have only a few land squares but could develop into decent sized cities with a harbor...

That's probably enough ranting for now.

Links [You'll have to click on the URL at the top to go to the links.]

Artificial Intelligence in Games Stendahl's Computer Game Programming Links Amit's Game Programmer Information Amit's Comments on the A* Algorithm Amit J. Patel's A* Implementation (in C++) An optimal pathfinder for vehicles in real-world digital terrain maps Two Shortest Path Algorithms

Genetic Algorithms FAQ CRAIG: Campaign for Real AI in Games - Games Domain Review

Games Domain - Games Games Games Games GameSpot's Home Page for Strategy Games COMPUTER GAMES STRATEGY PLUS ONLINE

Clash Forum Apolyton Civilization Site. The Clash Team My Home Page

All of which is interesting to those interested...

Well, sometimes I can't keep my mouth shut....this is one: Turn the Air Force into the Space Force (call it the Star Fleet if you want!) about which we've all thought, written and dreamed. Let them have 45 minute bomb runs or recon. or whatever to all parts of the globe.

Who needs permission for sub orbital hop through anybody's airspace?

Silly considering the satellite system (which may be vulnerable to a dozen types of attack) and missiles (which we seem to be intent on getting rid of) still, nothing beats having a human mind THERE at any given time.

And could kill NASA and give the new Space Force their mission!

Or maybe I should go on this new diet, shut my mouth and sober up. It'll never happen but sounds loverly! =8^)

Best regards,

I don't disagree with that notion. With cheap access to space we can have solar power satellites, tell the arabs to drink their oil, and build Thor and similar weapons. But NASA can't do it.

I wonder where this will lead:

University asks historian to defend his research on gun ownership book


By David Mehegan, Globe Staff, 10/3/2001

Emory University historian Michael A. Bellesiles, author of a controversial book on gun ownership in early America, has been asked by his department to write a detailed defense of his research for the book.

The 2000 book, ''Arming America: The Origins of a National Gun Culture,'' won the prestigious Bancroft Prize for history, but a story last month in the Globe appeared to confirm a pattern of questionable research claims.

''What is important is that he defend himself and the integrity of his scholarship immediately,'' said James Melton, Emory history department chairman. ''Depending upon his reponse, the university will respond appropriately.''

Melton added, ''If there is prima facie evidence of scholarly misconduct, the university has to conduct a thorough investigation. Whether it be a purely internal inquiry, or the university brings in distinguished scholars in the field, will depend on how Michael responds. It is important that he be accorded due process.''

Bellesiles's book argued that few Americans had owned guns in early America, and that more than half of those that were owned were old or broken. The book set off a storm of protest by gun-owner organizations, but independent scholars also raised serious questions about the veracity of Bellesiles's research. The Globe story confirmed allegations that San Francisco probate records, which Bellesiles had cited in his book as one of his sources, had been destroyed in the 1906 earthquake and fire. It also confirmed that an article by Bellesiles on his Web site, defending his work, misstated the contents of some 18th-century Vermont probate records.

David Mehegan can be reached by e-mail at

This story ran on page C5 of the Boston Globe on 10/3/2001.

If they actually ask people to be responsible for what they say in universities where will it all end?

Condoleeza Rice on what may be the runup to the founding of the CoDominium.


John Strohm


Hello, Jerry!

I read with wry amusement kj's rant about shopping on the Net. It is indeed amazing how bad sites specializing in computer equipment and stuff can be - confusing and badly organized in many cases, let alone with script errors, in contrast to places having nothing to do with computers, like Barnes and Nobles, or the Science Fiction Book Club. I guess people working with computers can't resist jazzing their sites up with scripting do-dads that might not quite work right.

I would not normally send you an editorial cartoon link, but I think you will appreciate the September 12 and 13 cartoons by Mike Luckovich. They still choke me up: , and . (dangit, I'm tearing up again.) I had never heard of the guy before I saw someone make reference to it, but these cartoons are good. (Some of his others are so-so, but you've *got* to see these two.)

Thanks for an interesting Web page,

William Harris







This week:


read book now


Sunday, October 7, 2001

School rallies to retain sign: The ACLU says the message 'God Bless America' divides kids by religion and is unconstitutional. By Ryan McCarthy Bee Correspondent (Published Oct. 6, 2001)

A demand by the American Civil Liberties Union that Breen Elementary School in Rocklin remove a "God Bless America" sign prompted angry parents, students and administrators to rally at the school Friday evening.

About 250 people, many clad in red, white and blue, gathered to support the message, which was placed on a marquee in front of the school after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the United States. Linda Kosturos, an instructional aide at Breen, said, "Rocklin has been closer than ever in the wake of the terrorist attacks. It's so sad this has arisen."

The ACLU contends that the words broadcast "a hurtful, divisive message."

The organization's Wednesday letter to Breen Elementary calls the message a "clear violation of the California and United States constitutions, as well as the California Education Code."

"It must be replaced immediately," says the letter from Margaret Crosby, staff counsel for the ACLU of Northern California, based in San Francisco.

Phillip Trujillo, an attorney representing the Rocklin Unified School District, said the words don't violate laws on the separation of church and state.

"It's simply not a religious expression," he said. "It's instead a patriotic expression."

His written response sent to the ACLU on Friday describes as "absurd" the argument that the phrase "God Bless America" represents a "hurtful, divisive message."

"I would like to think that the ACLU would not attempt to preclude or inhibit the free expression of patriotism and goodwill at a time when it is most appropriate, helpful or even healing," he said.

Mark Forbes, president of the district's board of trustees, said he was "disgusted" by the ACLU request. "I would like someone to explain how 'God Bless America' hurts anyone," he said.

ACLU attorney Crosby said Friday that "this is a time when we need to promote unity among Americans of all faiths. Many schools are flying flags to instill a sense of unity in a time of trouble."

"By displaying a religious message, the Breen Elementary School is dividing its young students along religious lines," Crosby added. "School officials are hurting and isolating their schoolchildren of minority faiths when they should be supporting them and the values of pluralism and tolerance."

Displaying such a message is not only unconstitutional "but implies only students who share the faith are truly patriotic," she stated.

A parent whose child attends the school and is "greatly troubled by the sign" spurred the request, the ACLU said in a written statement.

Before receiving the letter, Rocklin Superintendent Kevin Brown said he had received calls from two people asking that the statement on the marquee be removed.

He said that with the district's response Friday, "The ball's in the ACLU's court."

Stella Richardson, media relations director for the ACLU of Northern California, said, "It is entirely unprecedented" for a school not to take down a message such as Breen displays.

Richardson said she is not aware of ACLU involvement at other schools over similar issues.

Terry Thornton, Breen Elementary principal, said the words on the school marquee reflect a grass-roots effort following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

"We are planning on keeping up our message," Thornton said.

"Liberalism is a philosophy of consolation for the West as it commits suicide." James Burnham.

The link below is to an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal titled "21st-Century Piracy: The answer to terrorism? Colonialism." 

>From the opening paragraph:

"The West has no alternative but to wage war against states that habitually aid terrorists. . . . It could be that a new form of colony, the Western-administered former terrorist state, is only just over the horizon."

Jim Riticher

Yes. If that is what we want.

And bottom line on the Heart Attack Awareness bit:


I've a vague recollection of discussing this with you at some point in the past. Lets see if my answer in consistent! I know of no research looking at this. However, there is little chance one could harm oneself by coughing should you have a heart attack, except by not seeking medical attention. I'd also suggest that there is little chance that "cough cpr" would keep one from passing out with ventricular fibrillation. Thus, I doubt that "cough cpr" will be very useful.

For most patients, a heart attack occurs when a blood vessel supplying the heart closes and blood flow to the heart muscle in that region stops. That can produce electrical instability in the heart muscle and can lead to ventricular fibrillation. That, in turn, decreases cerebral perfusion and loss of consciousness. Most people don't know the decreased blood flow is happening and the loss of consciousness is sudden. You've got a few seconds before you are out...most of us aren't very sharp as blood flow begins to fall. I've had people cough when ventricular fibrillation starts and have never, ever had anyone maintain consciousness as a clear result of coughing.

Best thing to do...get your family and friends to learn basic life support (BLS)! Really! It saves lives. Local fire departments offer free courses, given at the YMCA, local hospitals, etc. Takes a couple of hours and is easy to learn. If you want, I'll mail you a BLS book.

Mark Huth

I love my country, not blindly, but with unblinking awareness! Scott Simon

And I would love to have a BLS book. Is there an on-line source?





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