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Mail 190 January 28 - February 3, 2002

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

Note that if you don't put a name in the bottom of the letter I have to get one from the header. This takes time I don't have, and may end up with a name you didn't want on the letter. Do us both a favor: sign your letters to me with the name you want posted.

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

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This week:



Monday  January 28, 2002

Begin with a summary of the state of nuclear weapons technology from Roland Dobbins. I am always rather careful about what I write on this subject since I have to quote published materials due to previous work. Here is what Roland says he has "picked up over the years."

To date, the only proven way to initiate a thermonuclear explosion is with a fission primary. Of the various exotic methods posited to initiate 'pure' fusion event, super-powered lasers and magnetic confinement appear to have the greatest chance of success. Of these two, magnetic confinement appears at the present time to be the easiest to weaponize.

In the meantime, super-high-yield fission explosions may be obtained by making use of tritium doping, achieving up to 50% fission efficiency (as compared to about 1.4% for the Hiroshima/Nagasaki devices, and 20% for more modern unboosted designs). The largest known fission yield, making use of tritium doping, is around 500kt with the abovmentioned 50% efficiency.

Typical multi-stage weapons (fission-fusion or fission-fusion-fission, the latter of which results in an atypically 'dirty' release, even with airburst) achieve anywhere from 75% to 97% fusion yield, but are very difficult to design, build, maintain, and store without risk of predetonation. Lithium hydride/hydride-deuteride mixes and other fairly exotic materials are required to build reliable and stable multi-stage weapons; this sort of manufacturing is beyond the capabilities of all but the wealthiest entities.

Another way to design a low-efficiency (on the order of 20%) thermonuclear device is with the Teller/Sakharov 'Alarm Clock' concentric implosion system. This design makes us of a typical fission core surrounded by a U-238 fission tamper, followed by a layer of lithium-6 deuteride/tritide, a U-238 fusion tamper, and the HE implosion shell. A yield of 720kt has been achieved with this design by making use of tritium doping.

Pa-231 has a fissile potential, and can be obtained by relatively low-tech chemical-separation techniques. To the best of my knowledge, it has never been used in any actual weapon designs, but the potential is there. Anyone using chemical-separation techniques in order to build a fission weapon based on a Pa-231 core is unlikely to have the requisite funding and infrastructure to create a multi-stage weapon. Increased yield via tritium doping should be possible with a weapon of this type, however.

------------------- Roland Dobbins 


And from another discussion:

I am speechless.;


Teachers Commit Many S.Africa Child Rapes - Study

IN, 24 i 02

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By Patricia Reaney

LONDON (Reuters) - A third of all child rapes in South Africa are committed by school teachers, researchers said in a new report on sexual violence against young girls.

"The world needs to wake up to the fact that schools are a major site of sexual harassment and rape for children," said Dr. Rachel Jewkes of the Medical Research Council in Pretoria.

Jewkes and her colleagues found that 33 percent of South African women raped before the age of 15 were attacked by teachers, another 21 percent by relatives and a similar number by strangers or acquaintances.

The national survey interviewed 11,735 women between the ages of 15 and 49. Jewkes found that 153 women, or 1.3 percent, said they had been raped before the age of 15.

When I visited South Africa in the 70's I came away with this observation: "I don't know how to run their country. I don't think they do either, but I certainly don't."

The government which I visited no longer exists. There is a new one. And I can only echo my correspondent's speechlessness. I still don't know how to run their country, and I still don't think those running it know either. I suspect they all, Afrikaans and Coloured and Black and English and Jews now wish they had the British Empire back. But that too is a guess.

At last some opposition

to political idiocy...and given Powells's background, I'm surprised it took him this long to speak up.


WASHINGTON, Jan. 26 Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, breaking with other cabinet members, has asked President Bush to reverse himself and declare that captives being held in Afghanistan and at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, are entitled to protection by the Geneva Convention on prisoners of war, administration officials said today.


Bush declared the "War on Terrorism". Well, if it's a war, then prisoners are entitled to protection under the Geneva Convention, da? Our political leaders in this country now seem to feel entitled to make their own policy, the Constitution and international agreements aside. Does anyone have any argument that we are no longer a democracy? I'd love to hear it.


Angry and getting angrier by the day. What happened to the "freedom" we were guaranteed? What has happened to due process in our country? Does anyone really feel justified in voting for this controlling moron? Since when do the people in this country support mistreating anyone?

I fear I do not share your views here. Not all those taken prisoner in a war are automatically prisoners of war: were these in uniform and under a national command? Or even mercenaries under a Code? Their status is not as clear to me as it appears to be to you.

Moreover, while I do not support US interference beyond our borders without good reason (and beyond this hemisphere without even better reasons) I do support the notion that those who harbor our enemies ought to be in fear: to know that we will change their governments for them. The true test will be what we do after we win: do we stay and try to "help" or do we come home?

 The plight of the prisoners here is not really a lot more severe than the plight of, say, Christians and Jews under the government they opposed (even those Christians and Jews who were NOT prisoners). 

My notion of a Republic is not naive. I know there are enemies beyond our borders. I also think I know that we aren't very good at running other people's lives for them. Yes, our proconsuls Clay and Macarthur did well for us in Germany and Japan, but those were quite special circumstances which I don't see repeated here.

And I still look for US troops in Baghdad by the Fourth of July.

Dr. Pournelle: I was able to enjoy this @ my 33.2 connection - but not sure how this will look on your 'bounce' connection. - Highly Recommended

As Always I am in your debt for the fine content you provide.


Thanks! Quite illustrative. Works fine with the satellite connection.

From Clark Myers: 

JOHN BALZAR is a Los Angeles Times columnist.

Terminally timid Cowed passengers are resigned to suffering any indignity or discomfort dished out at the nation's airports, says California columnist John Balzar. By JOHN BALZAR

Balzar Have you been barked at? Bullied? Tortured while waiting in long airport lines? Share your torments and tips for survival. Forum

---------------------------------------------------------------------------- ----

I stood in line one day this week. Or the better part of one day. I watched a woman collapse flat on her back across from me after standing in line. Then I watched as people took advantage of the commotion to quickly step over her and gain advantage in the line.

I was barked at, snarled at, frisked, shoved and gouged. I studied the techniques of line breakers and marveled as fellow travelers were too exhausted, too cowed or too patriotic to object. I watched VIPs escorted to the front of lines in some new expression of class warfare.

I had wanted to see for myself how much indignity and discomfort Americans would bear. I took a round trip on our air transport system. I flew the one big airline that made money last year, presumably the model of business efficiency.

Friends, the future is bleak.

Just guessing, but I don't think what we're enduring now is a temporary blowback from Sept. 11. <snip>

And I have to agree. I am still dithering about accepting an invitation to the Air University in Alabama next month: I don't want to fly. I'd go for sure if I didn't fear the above scenes. 

Start with this:

I think I exemplify why Netscape failed and IE took over. When I first decided to give this Internet thing a try. So I contacted my computer club, paid the setup fee, and received the setup instructions. The instructions for IE were a bit shorter since it was already installed and ready to go. Because I was anxious to get started, I took the easiest route. Once I was familiar with IE, there was nothing in Navigator to compel to go there. Navigator might have had an edge if I was not running the 95b version of Windows with FAT32 that negated the Navigator advantage of storing bookmarks in a single file instead of a lot of small files.

That is what Microsoft banked on. Compaq's license to distribute Windows was threatened when they made a deal with Netscape that would have made Navigator as convenient for me as IE was.

Gregory W. Brewer Flow-Cal, Inc. Energy Software Solutions 

Well, it was more complicated than that. Recall that Netscape was boasting that they were going to take over the operating system market and Microsoft would be a small and irrelevant company. But having declared that war they didn't bother to fight it...

Netscape death by suicide:


Netscape killed itself; it wasn't murdered. Charles Ferguson has described that with painful clarity in _High Stakes, No Prisoners_ (1999: New York, Times Books; ISBN:0812931432), a book I strongly recommend to anybody who is still living in the Microsoft-disparaging fantasylands of 1995.

I myself don't use Microsoft Windows or Internet Explorer, strongly preferring Netscape/Mozilla on either Linux or MacOS 10. But what I personally *like* has very little to do with the hard realities of adult behavior that the real world requires. Say what you will about Microsoft (and I can flame it cheerfully when I want to), it is at least run by adults whose effective IQ is well above their body temperature in Fahrenheit. I don't think that could really be said about the management of most of Microsoft's putative (and now defunct) competition.

_Stakes_ is available from Amazon:


and has an interesting book review at:


--Erich Schwarz

Precisely. Now AOL is playing legal games they will probably regret. What we need is resources going to development engineers, not lawyers.




This week:



Tuesday,  January 29, 2002

I ran across aa couple of interesting sites off of memepool tonight. Seeing as how you've complained about long and abtuse URLs a couple of times check these sites out.




The first one can take a URL like:


and turn it into something like this: 


Arrin Withey

Actually, I find that letting the link generate then breaking the silly things up as I did above works well and is faster than bringing in a third party, but thanks.

You mentioned Duchess, a compaq professional workstation with dual 200Mhz cpus. I just setup Linux on a very similar machine, a compaq professonal workstation 5000. All the devices are supported: the matrox video card, the on-board scsi, the proprietary on board ti/dec ethernet chip (thunderlan or tlan), and dual processors. The on-board sound is apparently also supported, but since the machine was going into a rack in a computer room without speakers, I didn't bother. Nice machine even if the cpus are only 200Mhz. It did take longer to setup than a new machine as it would with any old slightly unusual hardware without documentation and I had to build a custom kernel.

The only small problem is that it won't warm boot an SMP kernel due to something about the way the bios initialzes the interrupts (and compaq is not ever going to come out with a new bios to fix the problem). However, it boots fine after a power cycle and runs rock solid. If you can live with the cold boot issue, its not a bad choice as a linux box.


Actually Princess, but yes, we have thought of doing that. If Roland ever gets down here for a weekend that will probably be what happens to her. Good old girl, still running just fine.

Note that these cells run on methanol; no "hydrogen farm" required. -AG,1282,49717,00.html 

Fuel Cells That Fit in a Laptop By Reiner Gaertner 2:00 a.m. Jan. 23, 2002 PST

COLOGNE, Germany -- In the world of portable electronic devices "Whose lasts longest?" is usually more relevant than "Whose is the strongest?"

Working on that theme, a startup from Munich, Smart Fuel Cell GmbH, has developed a micro fuel cell that runs on methanol and provides much longer life than any other portable battery.

The race for micro fuel cells that power devices is heating up. Several companies -- among them Mechanical Technologies, Motorola, Manhattan Scientifics, Ball Aerospace, Fraunhofer Institute and Samsung -- are frantically working on developing micro fuel cells for mobile and portable devices.

While many micro fuel cell companies have yet to show any real product, Smart Fuel Cell has been rapidly advancing its micro fuel cell line. In late January, the Bavarian company will roll out a pilot production of its first portable methanol fuel cells -- just three months after having unveiled its first prototype <snip> "Our first potential OEM (original equipment manufacturer) customers are already holding their first units in their hands," said Manfred Stefener, CEO of Smart Fuel Cell.

Smart Fuel Cell currently manufactures its products in Munich and expects to produce up to 2,000 units by the end of this year. <snip> Nevertheless, portable fuel cells are in their infancy. Investment costs to generate 1 kilowatt are still very high, around $10,000 to $100,000 dollars per produced kilowatt.

But Stefener said portable fuel cells may swiftly become cost competitive. "Just in a couple of years, micro fuel cells could be competitive with Lithium-ion batteries, which are commonly used in notebook computers."

Still, the success of micro fuel cells will likely be highly dependent on the infrastructure and their ease of use. Smart Fuel Cell has designed small tamper-proof methanol cartridges that snap right into the unit.

Recharging the battery will only involve replacing the liquid fuel and won't require shutting down the computer. "The content of our prototype cartridge holds 120 ml methanol and generates about 150 Wh -- enough to power a 15W notebook computer for 10 hours," Stefener explained.

There aren't any methanol wells either, but almost anything can be made to yield alcohols. Obviously at those initial costs there aren't going to be huge sales, but it's an interesting development.

I still believe that solar power satellites to generate electricity plus rechargeable fuel cells will be the way to go in the next century, but I admit I have not done the analysis in any depth.

About half of my employment career was devoted to government work and I will have to agree with you about it's primary function to be to employ people working for the government.

To this I will add that it is alloyed to continue to exist because it performs a function in a tolerable fashion. It endures because it is endurable.


Not only endurable, but I am among the first to say necessary. I am no anarchist. We need government, and strong government at that. However, we need it broken into small and responsible areas of jurisdiction. I am all for giving school boards nearly absolute authority over schools -- so long as they don't govern more than a few thousand students at most, and have to be elected by those who live in that district and send their kids to those schools. And so forth.

Humans are not angels, and need government. Unfortunately those they set up to be the government are not angels either. 

And endurable is quite a lot to ask for....

And Roland says

The world turned upside down: 

Joel Rosenberg on the path to desktop Linux:

Well, I've been thinking, and I think I do have an elegant, if not likely, solution to the Linux desktop problem, but it can (I'm not saying "will") work only if I'm right about what the most serious problem is.

The problem: despite some serious issues -- file format exchange problems (which is being worked on, and being improved), lack of Open Source implementations of proprietary protocols -- the main problem with Linux being adopted on many ordinary users' desktops (for many values of "ordinary users") is the lack of good, solid, frequently updated user-level documentation, rather than lack of applications, or of widespread hardware support.

A good documentation set could be developed fairly quickly, if enough money was thrown at it, and maintained well . . . again, if enough money was thrown at it. (My ballpark estimate is six months and ten million dollars for the first pass, but I think I'm being conservative.) Documentation for every flavor of Linux, of course, is a problem of a whole additional order of magnitude, but given the pre-eminence of either Mandrake, Red Hat, or SUSE, were there to be created and maintained a freely available documentation set for any one of the three, or of a new distro, that would serve many users of many distros quite well, particularly since, if there was such a thing available, it would have a great impact on how future distros chose to configure themselves.

Let me take one example, just before moving on -- where do binary files, installed by the systems administrator, go on the / structure? That influences some other decisions -- like, say, the path structure for a new user -- and there's no technical reason that I'm aware of to prefer one over the other. /opt, /usr/bin, /usr/local/bin all seem to be used by a fair number of folks, and all of those work just fine. (And, in fact, Mandrake, which I'm using, uses both /usr/bin and /usr/local/bin, pretty much promiscuously.) All sorts of basic configuration issues flow from that kind of decision, which is why the KDE rpms for Mandrake are different than for Red Hat, etc.

So: what large entity is likely to adopt some reasonably non-limited Linux distro, and is going to have to produce such a documentation set anyway?

See  .

Right now, it's all in an early stage, and the folks in the project seem, to my untrained eye, to be merely working on kernel and security issues, rather than making a full-blown SELinux distribution available to both internal and external "customers", but they do seem to have institutionalized Eric Raymond's many-eyes notion, at least in terms of this level of stuff, and all (yes, one I'm aware of the irony in the "all") that needs to be done is for them to move forward from what they've already done, with a view to making an entire, full-blown distro, complete with documentation, available.

And note what they've got in their "tasks remaining to be done" list.




This week:



Wednesday, January 30, 2002


Mr. Pournelle,

I just read your Orchids and Awards. I would like to point you to a useful utility for people who are running Windows 98. 98Lite will help speed up your Windows 98 machine by replacing the Windows Explorer of 98 with one from Windows 95 and disables the Windows/IE integration. The website is .

I know that you are currently using Windows 2000 mostly but I thought you may try it or pass it along.

I have no connection with the developers, I just appreciate the project and thought I would pass along the information.

Ray Connolly


Dr. Pournelle, >From Reuters, via Forbes,  'A lot of the people that got badly burned on Enron are just terrified of the fact that this could happen twice," said David Memmott, head of listed block trading, Morgan Stanley. "They're just bailing out of Tyco, regardless of whether the rumors are factual." '

I've been thinking that the possibility of a market crash caused by this sort of fear was a good reason for tighter government regulation of the analysts and accountants. Many people say that it is the fault of the Enron stockholders that they lost so much money. They should have diversified. My question is, how should they have known? Investing techniques are not generally taught to all students in high school, or college. I read recently that, thanks to the 401k, something like 70% of the people in the US are invested in the market. Are all these people really expected to take the time to study all the relevant data so that they can invest wisely?

The last time I looked at my 401k allocations I spent 20 hours (not all at once, but over the course of a week, about three solid hours a night) checking out the possible investments. It was recommended to me to check those allocations every 3 or 6 months. So am I expected to spend 40 to 80 hours a year managing my retirement? Admittedly, I don't have a wife or children, so I have the time. Someone who is married, and has children, is going to have trouble finding 2 weeks a year where he can isolate from the family in order to manage his retirement.

Reading the prospecti (prospetus's?) of the various funds is difficult, at best. They are written by, and for, stockbrokers and MBAs, but average investors with no training or experience are supposed to be able to figure out what those prospecti say.

So if the average investor doesn't have the free time to learn how to do this, should his employer train him? At company expense? Does he take vacation time to learn this? And do the allocations? Or should there be regulations of the brokers and analysts and other thieves on Wall Street? Regulations that require some more transparency?

Kit Case

The main problem was that the accounting firms didn't do their jobs. Outside accounting firms ought not be consultants earning more from their consulting than they do from certifying the books. 

Enron cooked the books, but it was clear to any0ne actually looking at them that they didn't have the revenue they claimed. No cash flow, just lots of "profits" based on acquisition of partnerships that didn't have any revenue just yet but were expected to. I am no CPA, but had I access to those books I would have known it was time to get out. Andersen must have also. But they were making beaucoup money from consulting, so...

A P/E ratio of 50 means that in 50 years the company will earn enough money to cover the price you paid for the stock. And accountants and analysts ought to be made to write "I will not forget basic business principles" about 2,000 times before being allowed to say one more word on the subject.

Have a look at Carey Sublette's Nuclear Weapons FAQ at . Even though it is a FAS-hosted site, it's chock-full of fun data.

Actually, the whole FAS High-Energy Weapons site at  is pretty good (I have the Ivy Mike image  as my windows wallpaper). I see they have a fairly recent article by Sublette with the title "Osama, Suitcase Bombs, and Ex-Soviet Loose Nukes" which I intend to read now.

Wade Scholine

Well, I have to say I know that FAS has made up data in the past. Perhaps they are not doing so now. Perhaps. But during the Nuclear Winter stuff they thought winning the political battle far too important to let mere science and data get in the way.

And when people cite FAQ's as if they were data I worry. But I am told that this particular information seems to be good, and hasn't been updated in some time, but isn't politically tainted.

From Bob Thompson:

See this article on The Register ( .

At first glance, a bug that allows an intruder to steal your cookies might not seem too severe. But remember that cookies are often used to store usernames and passwords in clear text, so someone who gets your cookies could impersonate you on any site that you have joined.

Also, human nature being what it is, if an attacker gets your password for one site, he may well be able to use that same password elsewhere. I know I have a bad habit of using the same password on many sites (although I do use secure passwords for stuff that really matters), and I suspect many people do the same. -- Robert Bruce Thompson 

Indeed. I do have a password system that I doubt anyone will figure out, but I would hate to have someone search all my cookies...

Roland says

The BBC goes mad...

---------------- Roland Dobbins <> // 

And from Tracy Walters, we duck and run:

Finally, something written from a guy's perspective.




1.) Learn to work the toilet seat. If it's up, put it down. We need it up, you need it down. You don't hear us bitching about you leaving it down.

2.) ALL men see in only 16 colors. Peach is a fruit, not a color.

3.) If you won't dress like the Victoria's Secret girls, don't expect us to act like soap opera guys.

4.) If you think you're fat, you probably are. Don't ask us. We refuse to answer.

5.) Birthdays, Valentines, and Anniversaries are not quests to see if we can find the perfect present yet again!

6.) If you ask a question you don't want an answer to, expect an answer you don't want to hear.

7.) Sometimes, we're not thinking about you. Live with it. Don't ask us what we're thinking about unless you are prepared to discuss such topics as navel lint, or the shotgun formation.

8.) Sunday = Sports. It's like the full moon or the changing of the tides. Let it be.

9.) Shopping is not a sport, and no, we're never going to think of it that way.

10.) When we have to go somewhere, absolutely anything you wear is fine. Really.

11.) You have enough clothes. You have too many shoes.

12.) Crying is blackmail.

13.) Ask for what you want. Let's be clear on this one: Subtle hints don't work. Strong hints don't work. Really obvious hints don't work. Just say it!

14.) No, we don't know what day it is. We never will. Mark Anniversaries on the calendar.

15.) Peeing standing up is more difficult. We're bound to miss sometimes.

16.) Most guys own three pairs of shoes. What makes you think we'd be any good at choosing which pair, out of thirty, would look good with your dress?

17.) Yes, and No are perfectly acceptable answers to almost every question.

18.) Come to us with a problem only if you want help solving it. That's what we do.

19.) Sympathy is what your girlfriends are for.

20.) A headache that lasts for 17 months is a problem. See a doctor.

21.) Foreign films are best left to foreigners. Unless it's Bruce Lee or some war flick where it doesn't really matter what they're saying anyway.

22.) Check your oil.

23.) It is neither in your best interest nor ours to take the quiz together.

24.) No, it doesn't matter which quiz.

25.) Anything we said 6 months ago is inadmissible in an argument. All comments become null and void after 7 days.

26.) If something we said can be interpreted two ways, and one of the ways makes you sad or angry, we meant the other one.

27.) Let us ogle. We're going to look anyway; it's genetic.

28.) You can either tell us to do something OR tell us how to do something, but not both.

29.) Whenever possible, please say whatever you have to say during commercials.

30.) If it itches, it will be scratched.

31.) Beer is as exciting for us as handbags are for you.

32.) If we ask what's wrong and you say "nothing," we will act like nothing's wrong. We know you're lying, but it's just not worth the hassle.

Thank you for reading this; Yes, I know, I have to sleep on the couch tonight, but did you know we really don't mind that, it's like camping!







This week:


read book now


Thursday, January 31, 2002

Another from Tracy Walters:

This is incredible. A security hole that Microsoft didn’t develop.

Oh, wait…the Anti-Microsoft crowd has the answer. Microsoft hacked Netscape and installed the security flaw.

Yeah … that’s the ticket.


But wait, if they hacked Netscape, then it must have a security flaw, but no, it can’t…it’s not Microsoft.

Oh … I’m so confused..

Netscape Flaw Leaves Cookies Unsecure

A security flaw in recent versions of Netscape's Navigator Web browser and earlier versions of the open-source browser Mozilla could allow information stored in a user's cookies to be stolen.

On Windows XP and Activation:

Avoiding reinstallation of Windows XP - a tip from 

Doing so might mean that you have to re-activate the operating system, right? Nope. Not if you backup the license file first.

Believe it or not, the entire hoopla about Windows Product Activation comes down to one little file. For whatever reason, one of my PCs just suddenly decided to freak out, and since it had been upgraded from Windows 2000 anyway, I figured it was time to start from scratch, but didn't want to have to place that call to Microsoft. No sweat. Just backup the c:\windows\system32\wpa.dbl file, install Windows XP as you normally would, restart in Safe Mode with Command Prompt.

Replace the wpa.dbl file with your backed up version, and you should be back in business. Mind you, the information in that file will be specific to the product ID entered during installation as well as being tied to the hardware in that machine only. If you try moving this file to another computer, it won't work, even if it's the same model, right down to the amount of RAM.

This is because of unique information obtained from the network card, processor, hard drive, etc., so when it doesn't match up, it will gripe.

===== -- John E. Bartley, III - telcom admin, Portland OR, USA - Views are mine. Wireless FAQ for PalmOS(R) Handheld Cellular Data FAQ Review of SPH-i300  You are granted to store this informationTM in your brain for private, not commercial use. Commercial use of this information whether in your brain or other bodily parts requires the express written consent of its license holders and property owners.

Interesting. I will have to try that.

"But those who are likely to blow up a plane with their shoes aren't likely to look like you or me."

I think it's false comfort to believe that we can be safe if airport security officials focus on people who are suspicious because of their apparent ethnicity. Does Ahmed Alnami look remotely suspicious in this photo? to19.html -- Rogers Cadenhead, on 1/31/2002

Why stop there? Let's make everyone strip, and fly naked, in chains, with hoods, chained to their seats. That might make everyone safe.

Perhaps we can require every citizen to submit to random searches, and have their houses searched, lest they be harboring bombs and dangerous devices.

My point is simple enough: while there may be a few people willing to blow themselves up to knock off an airplane, there aren't many. Most of those look like the kind of people who would do that. And that isn't the danger in the first place.

We kill more than 100 people a day on the highways. We aren't about to stop automobile traffic to "save lives". The 55 mph Federal restrictions turned out to cost, not save, lives, but they were intended to "cut down on the highway slaughter". They were immensely unpopular.

Life is not without risk. The big risk was using a hijacked airplane as a cruise missile. That we can stop. If someone wants to blow up an airplane and is determined to do it, you aren't going to stop him: I can pack enough explosives into a computer battery to make a pretty good mess of things, and seal it well enough that no dog is going to smell it after the various cleansing agents have got done with it. Detonation is simple enough. 

And when I finish with all that, I will have killed a couple of day's worth of highway accident victims. That doesn't shut down a country.

My point is that turning a bunch of MacDonalds rejects into Agents Of The Imperium, and shutting down airports and harassing people all over the US because one of those sharp pencils didn't notice that someone's shoes had "traces" of some kind of explosive, is not a sane way to run a transportation system; nor is searching 83 year old retired Marines because we don't want to be accused of "profiling". If you are going to pull people out of line and search them, your search victim selection process ought to reflect the probability that the person you search will be a bad guy. That means non-zero on elderly white haired gentlemen, but it sure as hell does NOT mean that the probability of the elderly gentleman being searched ought to be the same as the probability of a wild-eyed foreigner with an accent. Sorry, but there it is. We know something of the table of probabilities here. Use it.


In the never-ending story of how the bureaucrats will all make us safer after 9/11 comes this episode that happened to a friend of mine in the last couple of days.

He and his wife are going to Hawaii within the next few weeks in order to escape, for a while, the depths of winter here in the Great White North. To simplify things at the border he suggested that his wife get a passport (he already has one). She is a born Canadian citizen so this is not a problem. After filling in the applications, submitting the forms and delivering the appropriate paper work they were told there would be a 10-day delay. The person at the desk apologized as usually this is 5 days but since 9/11 the time has been extended. Assuming this was for extra background checks and the like, my friends agreed cheerfully.

The 10-day waiting period was actually up yesterday. However, my friend and his wife were in town the day before that (after 9 days of waiting) and on the off chance that the passport might be ready, dropped into the Passport and Immigration office. It was late in the afternoon (about 1645, the office closes at 1700) and the passport was there. However, the clerk would not release the passport because the waiting period had not expired.

My friend's response was something along the lines of "you're kidding me!"

However, the clerk added that if they wanted to pay a $30 early pick up fee they could take the passport now. In fact, as it turns out, if they paid the extra $30 they could have picked up the passport after 5 days (the same waiting period as before 9/11!).

My friend's response is not printable here.

So what is the purpose of the extra 5-day wait? Obviously there is no extra information being solicited, no security enhancements; it seems as just a way for the government to grab an extra $30 out of already harried travelers. I would like to assume that the extra money is being spent on real security enhancements but somehow I think not.

Sincerely Art

Why am I not surprised? The purpose of government is to hire and pay government employees. Sometimes this is to serve a pressing need. When that need is over, it then becomes necessary to find things for them to do. The new activities may actually exacerbate the problems they were hired to solve in the first place, but this is of no matter compared to being certain they are paid.

It's the same the whole world over,
it's the workers who get the blame
it's the Raj what gets the gravy,
Now ain't it a blooming shame...

Dear Dr. Pournelle,

I was interested to read the study you posted. Sadly, the only thing I see happening is that instead of designing paper spaceships, now NASA is making Power Point spaceships. And I have had enough of the Power Point Army to last a lifetime....

NASA is still dying, poisoned by its own waste and bloat. I have supported your Space Prize legislation since I first read about it in DESTINIES. Numerous letters to many congressmen and several presidents have yielded not even a "Thank you for your letter" response. It is fine for Newt Gingrich to be in favor of such prizes Now. Where was he on the issue when he was Speaker?

My nine year old daughter wants to be the first person on Mars. She wants to build the first city there. I encourage her, but I do NOT tell her that when I was her age I had the same dream. I do not see anyway to avoid having her encourage Her daughter to be the first person on Mars. Sigh...

Dejectedly yours, Frank Luxem

I have no comments. In 1986 we said in "America, A Space-faring Nation Again," (Report of the Citizens' Advisory Council on National Space Policy, J. E. Pournelle, PhD, Chairman) "Build more spaceships. Fly more spaceships." We need X projects. We needed them then. We need them now.

I don't usually post press releases, but I have no quarrel with this one:


Don't let people tell you that video editing and post production -- analog or digital -- is tough. It's not!

Millions of real people do it every day to punch up their personal and family videos, to show people construction/design projects, to show people their products and services, to help kids and adults excell at sports and simply save their personal and professional memories.

Imagine -- Shoot some video, do as much editing as you want and then copying the finished work to tape, CD, DVD or even send it across the Internet. The video may not qualify for the Sundance Festival but it will give parents and grandparents a lump in their throat. It can help an architect, designer or realtor sell a project better than hundreds of still pictures. It will help golfers, runners, swimmers and skiers analyze how to improve their performance. It can help small businesses sell more by showing products and services in action. It can help HR people train their people.

All without costing an arm and a leg.

Pinnacle's new Studio Deluxe is making it even easier for people who have tons of videotapes or got a new camcorder. In a couple of hours they can load their video on their Windows PC and do all those neat titling, authoring and special effects things they've seen the pros do. They can easily copy and share their new video on tape, CD or even DVD.

They are real people...just like your readers. For example, a grandfather in Portugal...a new father in Oregon...a young man documenting his family's heritage...a British volunteer youth leader promoting a range of outdoor activities for kids...a first-time entreprenuer who is promoting his business...a dad who captures a year's worth of band and cheerleading activity and makes copies for parents...and more.

And at only $299 using Studio Deluxe is not only not brain is very affordable. Best of all, people tell us that even though they can barely turn on a computer and do a word document, they can knock out a video people really enjoy watching.

Bad video gets hidden away. Good video gets shown...again and again.

Want to help your readers produce good videos? Let us know. We'll get you a copy of Studio Deluxe and give you information on everyday people who actually enjoy editing, authoring and producing great videos.


Andy Marken Marken Communications 

And here's another side to the BBC Story

Dr. Pournelle, I think the Reg. had better comments on the BBC story. Very good take on where security breaches really are within organizations,etc.  Historically, PDAs have overwhelmingly been owned by individual staff, rather than issued by the employer, and as connectivity has got better the staff have more and more started to sync their PDA files with those on their desktop machines. And they're also starting to copy sensitive company files to them so they can work at home and on the move, so the corporate crown jewels are walking out the door in people's pockets, and the devices aren't even adequately passworded.

Or at least that's what MIS, its paranoia fuelled by 'anytime, anywhere' propaganda, thinks. The reality of course is that maybe 1 per cent of relentlessly anal-retentive corporate PDA users regularly sync substantial quantities of data between their PDA and their company desktop. Mostly, people keep a few phone numbers, diary, some notes, maybe pick up some email remotely (clue here about how sensitive data gets out of building without legs or pockets being involved at all), and if they've got company documents they want to work on, they print them out, shove them on a disk, email to themselves and work on a portable and/or home PC.

What is it anyway, you may ask, that people have access to on the corporate network that is both sensitive and likely to be receptive to fitting onto and working on via a PDA? There really is not a lot that staff would innocently transfer then accidentally leak or lose, and if they deliberately want to steal and leak company data, they'll get it out of the building without the assistance of a blacklisted PDA anyway.

Peter Lawrence

And on Linux Documenatation

Joel Rosenberg wrote:

> the main problem with Linux being adopted on many ordinary users' desktops > (for many values of "ordinary users") is the lack of good, solid, > frequently updated user-level documentation, > ... > Let me take one example, just before moving on -- where do binary files, > installed by the systems administrator, go on the / structure? > That influences some other decisions -- like, say, the path structure > for a new user -- and there's no technical reason that I'm aware of to > prefer one over the other. /opt, /usr/bin, /usr/local/bin all seem to > be used by a fair number of folks, and all of those work just fine.

Actually, there are reasons certain files are put in certain places, usually having to do with system recovery and single-user mode (think safe-mode in Windows). Roland can probably explain them better than I can. The problem is that most people don't know or understand what those reasons are, so the just dump things willy-nilly.

The Linux Standards Base is working on addressing issues of file, library and application locations: 

so that application developers know where to expect things, what to expect, and where to put their stuff.

The LSB just came out with version 1.1 of the Spec, for the IA-32 (Intel) platform. Most Linux distros follow it as much as they can (they're certainly moving towards it if they aren't there already). Obviously application developers need to do the same.

Pete Flugstad

I suspect Linux will fragment as prima donnas get into the act, but we will see. I am setting up my new Linux systems now. More on this:

Joel Rosenberg has a point, but efforts in this area are, I think, a lot further along than he realizes. Most of the vendors ship pretty decent documentation with their retail sets; I wasn't terribly impressed by the 320-page Mandrake manual, but it was a passable user-level introduction. I hear SuSE's documentation is far more extensive, and my own Debian system currently has a bit over six megabytes of compressed text documentation installed.

User guides and technical documentation are different, of course, and I look mostly at the latter, which by and large is in good shape.

Standardization is also key, as he mentions, to documentation, and this is being addressed: 

For example, the answer specified there (as I understand it from a quick scan) to his binary installation issue is that /opt is mostly for compatibility with older package standards used in other unixes; /usr/bin is for user-executable, non-critical binaries that can be shared among multiple hosts (eg, via network mounts), and /usr/local/bin is for user-executable, non-critical binaries that may not be shared by other hosts. The various distributions, with some grumbling, appear committed to supporting these standards with all due speed...

- Mike Earl





You've written about school funding in the past, so I thought you might be interested in an editorial that goes into specifics: 

To summarize: 
36% kindergarten through 12th-grade classroom: on teacher salaries, books, supplies. 
18% services for students with special needs (special programs for the gifted, the disabled and potential dropouts). 
14% administration 
32% operating costs: everything from heating, air conditioning and lighting to maintenance, buses and cafeterias, and the cost of managing those functions. Also included in that chunk was the cost of adult education and preschool, plus libraries, nurses and counselors.

Jim Lund 

 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 1984: The prize was awarded jointly to: 
JERNE, NIELS K., Denmark, Basel Institute for Immunology, Basel, Switzerland, b. 1911, d. 1994; 
KÖHLER, GEORGES J.F., Federal Republic of Germany, Basel Institute for Immunology, Basel, Switzerland, b. 1946, d. 1995; and 
MILSTEIN, CÉSAR, Great Britain and Argentina, MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology, Cambridge, b. 1927 (in Bahia Blanca, Argentina):

 "for theories concerning the specificity in development and control of the immune system and the discovery of the principle for production of monoclonal antibodies"

Interesting. My view is mostly that those in charge of any given school must be in charge and be held accountable for getting results. Set things up that way, and you will get results. Nothing else will. What we have now is a system that insures that NO school will be set up that way.

Hi Jerry; You wrote in response to a recent email:

There aren't any methanol wells either, but almost anything can be made to yield alcohols. Obviously at those initial costs there aren't going to be huge sales, but it's an interesting development.

I still believe that solar power satellites to generate electricity plus rechargeable fuel cells will be the way to go in the next century, but I admit I have not done the analysis in any depth.


Well, one could consider Iowa a methanol well. They certainly have the capacity to produce a lot there, and do. I know, I was born there and lived there for quite some time. Methanol can be produced most every farm with inexpensive technology. Transport and distribution are of course another story.

About initial costs, the article noted that these were investment costs, not retail costs. I still have been able to find no solid word on the retail costs; but I suspect from what I've read they will be in the neighborhood of what laptop batteries started at (ie, about $200/batt) but should scale up to production easier, as they require lower costs materials to some extent.

The problem with solar power satellites and receivers, as I see it, is that they will require investments that only very large corporations and governments can afford. Not to mention low cost / pound to orbit; and I don't see either of those happening soon. Not with the current political climate anyway, which is Very Sad. It'd be a nice thing for a lot more than just this application.

We also need better rechargeable battery technology; but that's a different subject.

Educate, Don't Legislate.


Prizes would get us to orbit.

"The Congress directs the Treasurer of the United States to pay the sum of $3 billion (Three Billion US Dollars) to the first US owned firm that shall build three spacecraft each of which shall launch from the Continental Unites States, go to orbit around Earth, remain there for 3 orbits, return to the launch site, and within a period of three days after landing do so again; and shall do this six times during a period of three months.

"This payment shall not be subject to Federal taxation. No sums shall be paid until the results above have been achieved."

Now I don't know if any company can do that, but I bet several will try: and it costs the taxpayers nothing unless one of them succeeds, and that would be cheap at the price.

And from JoAnne:

Regarding a man's rights after divorce:,2933,44183,00.html 

This is a good article pointing out how hopeless many men feel and how this leads to their suicides. The courts are incredibly biased against men in divorce courts. This is not a good thing. It merely completes the breakup of a broken family.

I am (pleasantly) quite surprised a "feminist" reporter has brought this issue to light. But these days, perhaps it requires a feminist reporter, because the male reporters are never accorded any right to speak out on such issues these days.


And boy do I agree with this next one:

Dear Dr. Pournelle,

One of the cures for unemployment during the "Great Depression" was the Civilian Conservation Corps. It took young men off the streets, gave them jobs, and sent a good part of their wages to their families to help with living expenses. I am aware that many CCC projects were a waste of time, but the national parks and state parks still show the benefits of CCC labor. The young men went on to become the good soldiers and citizens of WWII and later. Now we are apparently fighting recession by having the unemployable guard us from terrorism at airports. They produce nothing and gain a lousy attitude. Vacant terminals and a ruined airline industry is not much of a legacy, and a nation run by subsidized bullies has already been tried several times. It always collapses, usually far later than it should.

regards, William L. Jones

Keepers of the Judgment, Suffer not the king!







This week:



Friday, February 1, 2002

1. State of the Union Speech: One thing I've noticed is that those few who have commented negatively about the "axis of evil" comments have entirely missed the point. Patrick Buchanan's commentary on WorldNetDaily is a case in point. His opposition to wars against Iraq, Iran, and North Korea are essentially the same as his previous oppositions to the Gulf War and the Kosovo actions, as if he were filling out a form letter. The fact is that if America wants, it can eliminate these three regimes, and it probably will. The question is: will it be worth it? For the record, my own answer is "probably yes," but arguments can be made to the contrary. I wish that opponents of Empire would cease their Chicken LIttling and get serious about whether we should get involved in projects where winning is inevitable, but subsequent peace and order are not.

2. Why haven't you mentioned the cancellation of the ABM Treaty? This has been one of your pet projects since the 1970s, and yet I haven't seen you mentioning it. I think a little gloating over the political corpses of its opponents is in order.

3. I was glad to see that Newt Gingrich is now being his own geeky self. His career went steadily downhill once he went "mundane" on us and stopped talking about space and technology, instead talking about balanced budgets and line item vetoes. I think he may have been stung by the hit piece in the Nation calling him "Senator Moonbeam"--though why anyone would think it a negative to be hated by this magazine, I can't imagine. Now that Gingrich is out of office, he seems to be concerned about real issues once again.

Yours truly,

Kenneth P. Norlie

Point 1: Yes, it could be worth it to eliminate those regimes. The lesson ought to be "don't muck with the United States and don't stand next to people who are doing so." I would not want to see Iraq have The Bomb or really good biologicals. Iran I think would get the lesson without our having to do anything. North Korea would fall in days to a serious effort to push it over.

Then we get the heck out of there and come home and develop our technologies, particularly energy technologies.

Point 2: Well, I suppose I should. I've been after getting rid of that silly treaty since 1980. Hurrah for Bush for coming to his senses.  And if the opposition wants to waste its energy and talent on that, let them.

Point 3: Gingrich is a smart man. He was a great opposition tactician. He got surrounded and captured by a palace guard as Speaker and stopped listening to his old friends. Now he's a smart man with some experience, and thus worth listening to.

Am I the only person who finds it ironic that on the same page you have stated you could build a suitable bomb in the battery of a lap top, and then followed the progress of a pressurized vessel holding methane to replace batteries?

I do not believe Fuel for Fuel cells will be allowed on a plane. Talk about bringing back the Hindenburg!

David Spiciarich Nullum Gratutium Prandium

I would have thought that fuel cells were mostly for automobiles and the like; we don't need them for laptops, or I had not thought so. Regular batteries will do for that.

What we need is a way to generate electricity, with nuclear plants or solar power satellites; then to use that electricity to substitute for oil and gasoline. Oil and coal burning power plants are automatically eliminated if we have "electron wells" i.e. good sources of power. Using that power to run transportation is tougher. You can make propane with electricity, but fuel cells might be a better way for cars. 

We already know how to run laptops from batteries and I doubt tiny portable fuel cells are needed.

Incidentally have you ever calculated the Joules in even a small battery? Explosions are suddenly released energy. It's the suddenness that makes it explosive.



Subject: SPAM and stuff.

Dear Dr.Pournelle,

I work for an ISP and we are using a DCC system on our incoming email that blocks SPAM. We dumped over 1.2 million SPAMS in January. You set up reject list based on content and it throws it away really quick and accurately. We are still fine tuning it but it really works. The DCC is neat stuff. If you can preprocess your mail on a Linux box it will help a lot. Mr Bahr (sic) might be interested too.

We are a UNIX-Linux house and tolerate very little Microsoft products. NONE of our servers are Microsoft products.. We run a newspaper as well as the ISP and we can' t tolertate the down time of Microsoft products. By the way with UNIX Linux 'Code Red' what??? Even our AP Server (they own it---win 2000) is behind our firewall and it didn't get Code Red or Nimba either. We have a Russian email system (Communigate) and we are runng a Russian Virus Detection system that really works . We have not had a rampant infection among our customeers since we installed the checker. Before they would just pass it around and around.

Like your WEB Site and find it very informative and always interesting!



Much of my stuff is filtered through the NetWinder, and one of these days I will probably use the Penguin to filter mail before I get it. I keep hoping for DSL after which I will set up a Linux box to run a mail server for me. But for now I have to keep playing with subject filters and other spam sorters. I hate it.

From: Stephen M. St. Onge

Subject: reading and Progressive education

Dear Jerry:

In re the column on reading by Brent Staples : during my never-ending research on Dewey and his educational methods, (final report coming Real Soon Now) I branched off into the phonics/whole language controversy, which was frequently part of the 'progressive vs. conservative' debate.

In 1965, Jeanne S. Chall wrote a book, TEACHING TO READ: THE GREAT DEBATE. It was the result of a study she'd done for the Carnegie Foundation on the teaching of reading, aiming to see what worked. The results were interesting, in the sense that Hiroshima survivor accounts are interesting.

What Chall found was that 'whole word' was urged as the replacement for phonics BEFORE there was any research comparing the two methods. Also, that it was hard to tell what methods were actually used when there research finally began, because the teachers used eclectic mixes of methods based on personal preference, experience, and the perceived needs of the students. In addition, parents, other adults, other children, and the students themselves contaminated the studies by using multiple methods of learning to read. And when she could get a handle on what was done in the classroom, she found the 'Summary and Conclusions were contradicted by the raw data (frequently, the studies were too vague and subjective to allow independent judgment), or simply irrelevant to the question "How well do these methods work in teaching children to read?"

Still, to the extent that the conclusions could be drawn, she came down unambiguously on the side of "code emphasis," that is, phonics. Rudolf Flesch had reached the same conclusion ten years before in WHY JOHNNY CAN'T READ.

Chall followed up her original study. in the early eighties and mid nineties, and came to the same conclusion, with better support. A minority of children figure out the correspondence between letter sequences and sounds on the own. Most need explicit instruction in the phonetic system.

In the 1995 edition, she also notes that the debate had become more irrational and abusive as the evidence came in. The early debates could be polite and thoughtful, because there was no data. When it came in, and uniformly supported phonics, the defenders of 'whole language' had to lie, be abusive, accuse their opponents of being part of a malign political conspiracy, or discuss things other than success in teaching reading.

Chall's explanation for all this is that there are strong ideological currents in USAmerican thought that lead people to adopt 'whole language' without evidence, and defend it passionately in spite of the fact it doesn't work. I think she's right there, but only partially.

A lot of the books on teaching reading mention ancient writing systems, such as cuneiform, hieroglyphics, and Chinese ideograms, and quote from the lessons used to teach student those methods. It's noteworthy that a lot of surviving teaching materials boil down to 'learn to read and write; being a scribe sure beats working for a living.' Alphabetic methods of writing seem to have been invented by business people who wanted a way to write that was quickly and cheaply learned. But even after the Greeks perfected the alphabetic methods they copied from the Phoenicians, most people remained illiterate. Knowledge was not widely available, and much that was known was deliberately restricted, e.g. by guilds, to increase the status and income of those permitted to have it.

As noted above, this only began to change about 1880. Public high schools sprang up, enrollment increased about 7% per year -- and that's when Progressive education discovered a need for a new and different method of teaching reading. It was also when the Progressive educators started emphasizing the great need to NOT study the academic subjects that most people had never had access to before. At the same time, there was a sudden 'discovery' that children shouldn't be taught to read 'too early', because the kids 'were ready yet,' and efforts were made to delay beginning reading instruction as long as possible. (This still goes on. Chall noted that U.S. and British education literature insisted that children needed a mental age of 6 1/2 years before they started learning to read, while AT THE SAME TIME British kindergartens routinely started teaching children to read at five, with great success).

So in the end, Progressive education generally and the 'whole word' method specifically look a lot like a deliberate attempt to prevent education.

Perhaps I'm just too much of a cynic ... but consider some evidence. Chall reprinted the following story from a 'Dick and Jane' type reader.

--------------------------------------- Something pretty

Mother said, "Look, look. See this."

"Oh, oh," said Sally. "It is pretty."

"Yes, yes," said Jane. "Mother looks pretty."

"Look, Sally," said Jane. "Here is something pretty. Something pretty for you and me."

"Oh, Jane," said Sally. "I want something. I want something red. I want something blue."

"I want this," said Jane. "And this and this. Three for me. Three for you. Something yellow. Something red. Something blue"

"Look, Mother," said Sally. "Red, yellow, blue!"

"Look, Mother," said Jane. "We look pretty."

"Oh, yes," said Mother. "Yes, Jane, yes! You look pretty. Sally looks pretty too."


It's not just that no one talks this way, or that there are only 25 separate words in this 100 word 'story,' or that my spell checker kept yelling "repeated word" at me when I proofed it. What's most important it that its incomprehensible. Without the five illustrations that accompany the original, you can't tell what's going on.

'We teach you to read things nobody writes, when they're accompanied by pictures, then turn you loose in a world where most text isn't illustrated, and the vocabulary is tens of thousands of words.' Somehow, I find it hard to believe this was ever a serious attempt to teach children to read.

Best, Stephen

All of which my wife wrote 30 years ago, but thank you for finding it again. Yes. We have known most of this for a long time. Alas.

Roberta's reading program WORKS. A few schools use it, and they always get great results.  I wish I were better at advertising her program.

From: Stephen M. St. Onge

Subject: various matters, at least one important

Dear Jerry:

The important matter first: if you haven't had a flu shot, go get one, soonest. I've been laid up over a week with the latest variety. Really nasty, so take precautions.

Btw, I left the house today for the first time since Christmas Eve, and saw The Fellowship of the Ring. My review: WOW!

On the Onions and Orchids nominations, A bushel of rotten onions for Microsoft in any place connected with 'security.'

On the essay concerning 'the military coup of 2012', I just checked the relevant sections of the U. S. Constitution, ( , and  ) and our mutual friend Joe Zeff appears to be wrong. The Constitution authorizes Congress to "provide for the case of removal, death, resignation or inability, both of the President and Vice President," but it does NOT clearly provide for a situation where the VP is able to take office, but refuses to do so. Possibly there is statute law on this subject, but I'm not up to doing a prolonged search for it.

[It does: the language in the Constitution is "shall fail to qualify." Refusing to take the oath meets that situation.]

Meanwhile, former President Hotpants is reported to be trying to shore up his sagging legacy. See  for some sources. The first two are especially recommended for details on what was and wasn't done about terrorism, and the current excuses.

On the Independent Air Force question, I've come to the tentative conclusion that the fundamental problem is the whole idea of "Air Power" as an analogy to "Sea Power" and "Land Power." It makes sense to speak of Sea and Land Power, because they represent 'ways of life.' That is, we live on land, and we can live at sea _continuously_ for months at a time, but short of Bucky Fuller's dirigible cities, we can't stay in the air for more than a few hours. Also, land power had little _direct_ effect on the sea, or sea power on land (see Napoleonic Wars, passim) but control of the air profoundly effects operations over land or sea.

So in reality "Air Power" is just different from Land and Sea Power. It still makes sense to have an independent Air Force, operating from the homeland or allied bases, to reconnoiter and bomb 'strategically,' but the idea of one Air Force providing all ground combat support or air transportation makes as much sense as having the Army guard all Naval and Air bases 'because that's ground warfare.'

Therefore, the Army should get back its close support planes, AND its 'isolation of the battlefield' planes, AND its own air transport planes. It won't, but it should.

Best, Stephen

Well land power affects sea power if you take the bases. And that applies to air power as well. But you are correct, Air Power is an extension of one of the other. And Air Supremacy is important, but once achieved you need to DO things with it. Which we have been doing in Afghanistan, so perhaps some lessons got learned.





This week:



Saturday, February 2, 2002

LA Opera matinee. See View.






This week:


read book now


Sunday, February 3, 2002

Oath of Fealty, anyone???? Ahead of your time, you were............

Chris Christopher CAPT Chris Christopher, USNR Deputy Program Executive Officer Director, Navy Marine Corps Intranet Service Program Executive Office for Information Technology Voice 703-685-5510 Fax 703-685-5564


By E.J. Mundell Reuters Wednesday, January 30, 2002 

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - It may seem like science fiction, but scientists say they have developed a technology that enables a monkey to move a cursor on a computer screen simply by thinking about it.

The breakthrough could someday help totally paralyzed, "locked-in" patients "operate external devices such as a robot arm, or a computer to surf the Internet," explained researcher Daniella Meeker of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.

Meeker described her team's findings at a recent meeting of the Society for Neuroscience.

Their work focuses on a section of the primate brain known as the posterior parietal cortex. Using high-tech brain scans, the researchers determined that small clumps of cells in this region -- as few as 16 -- were active in the formation of the desire to carry out specific body movements.

Armed with this knowledge, Meeker's group implanted sensitive electrodes in the posterior parietal cortex of a rhesus monkey trained to play a simple video game. The monkey's brain was first analyzed on high-tech MRI as it used its hand to touch dots on a touch-sensitive computer screen. <snip>

Fascinating! Thanks.

Let this stand for many like it:

3 February 2002

Dear Jerry

Do try that Linux install that you have kept on about over the past week. It may be very much easier than you think. I took the big step back in December after picking up a copy of the SuSE 7.3 home user distribution in December. The ease of the process amazed me. None of the noting down interrupts and DMA channels I just booted off a floppy and within an hour had a working system running KDE2, Internet access (with a choice of browsers that includes Opera 6 plus a basic firewall) and StarOffice. The YaST2 (Yet Another set up Tool) installer had recognised ,and provided access to, my Windows ME drive, 100 and 250 Mbyte parallel port Zip drives, USB HP printer - even my Logitech Trackman Marble+ pointing device - with no assistance from me.

As far as documentation goes the SuSE box includes an installation manual, a configuration manual (that I've not needed so far) and an application manual that introduces products like the GIMP (Graphical Image Manipulation Program) that are not available to Windows users. In addition to these there is a library of 8 e-books which are both readable and useful. So far about the only online Linux resource I've needed to use is the SuSE update site to install the latest updates to my system. (A process which is done automatically through the YaST2 installer).

After just a few weeks of running Linux I'm becoming reluctant to fire up Windows again. It feels so kludgy and requires so much maintenance. There is just one Windows application, the AMEOL off-line reader for Nextra's Cix bulletin board, that is leaves me wanting to boot Windows at all.

So come on Jerry, take the plunge into Linux. You could well find that you're having much more fun as well as making far better use of your hardware's resources.


Robert H

I am doing it. But you can't play Everquest through Linux...

It's not so bad around the Waldorf-Astoria.

I've worked in that area for 7 years. President Clinton used to do far worse at the W-A, because a presidential motorcade shuts down buses and pedestrian traffic for up to an hour: nobody crosses the path between Laguardia airport and W-A, restaurants which overlook it are closed. I'm relieved by Bush's lack of pomp so far. Clinton would visit about 4 times per year.

This week there have been police checkpoints at specific blocks. A block in that area is one corporate tower with retail tenants at ground floor. Some of those blocks, you can only walk on the sidewalk if you work in that tower, so shops are closed.

The inconvenience for shops is probably less than when Hilary had to go Christmas shopping.

In the end, the huge number of cops have done their job. (Maybe the cold rain Thursday helped.) There have been 4 NYPD tow trucks outside my office since Tuesday, standing by, doing very little, which is a relief. The protesters, such as they were, were mostly inaudible from one block away. Our morning crazy prophet, who addresses the clear sky without a megaphone, is a more effective speaker, but he has been practicing for at least 7 years.

Incidentally, the J18 organizations were recruiting protesters for this event on 9/10. Maybe that explains the small turnout.

Erik Olson

The day after the Puerto Rican nationalists shot up Blair House (where Truman was living while the White House was being renovated) Truman took his daily walk in Washington with half a dozen guards. When told he should not expose himself he said "It comes with the job."

Closing cities because the Imperium is present is as wrong as having a poet meet the Imperial entourage with a poem of praise for the Emperor. Those are not the ways of a republic. It is up to the World Trade Federation to have its meetings without making a mess of the rest of the nation.  The alternative is fairly grim. I am glad it is not as bad as was described in the LA Times.

From Joel Rosenberg on State of the Union and on Linux:

I think a lot of folks -- me, included; if I'm pointing fingers, I'll start with myself -- tend to read too much into Presidential speeches, the SOTU included. We tend to treat them like Papal Bulls too often -- and while, I know a bull isn't _ex cathedra_, it usually is a statement that's very carefully considered -- and not just for what the words mean, but what message they might send to the faithful. Few speeches Presidental are that binding. Which is just as well.

That said, I thought it was a good speech, but that I think George W. is simultaneously biting off too much and too little. Too much (aside from your point about nationbuilding, which, as will be no surprise, I'm in full accord): we're not going to settle North Korea's hash now, and implying that we need to is a bad idea. (Whether or not we should have, way back when, is another matter about which I have mixed feelings. It would have required at least a credible threat to go nuclear, and I'm still not sure if that would have been as bad an idea as is the general consensus, although I would tend to go with Harry Truman's gut on the matter. Not the brightest man to ever sit in the Oval Office -- and I think he was wrong about a lot of things, including despising the Marines -- but that stiffnecked bastard had a moral compass that never wavered, and enough common sense to overrule Marshall, the one time that Marshall was dead wrong.)

Too little: in order to maintain credibility, you've got to announce what you're going to do, in general terms, and in advance, and then make it happen. We didn't make enough of an example of the Taliban, not because US forces failed to remove them from power and send them scurrying -- they sure did (I'd say "we," but the only thing I did was pay my taxes) -- but because they were, in retrospect and counter to the conventional wisdom, a soft target. We couldn't make the lesson clear with the Taliban; it'll require at least one more, and it's necessary, IMHO, to make the point with a harder target. Of the three he mentioned, Iraq is the softest target, but a lot harder than Afghanistan. Necessary to make some deal about Kurdistan with the Turks, I think, and that'll be tricky.

I keep coming back to the Hama Rules . . . and while I'm no fan of Friedman (my sister, who used to report from the same reason, became fluent in both Hebrew and Arabic, something he never bothered with), I think his analysis of that is spot on.

On to Linux . . .

I appreciate Pete Flugstad's and Mike Earl's comments, but I think they point to the same problem I'm concerned about. Mea culpa: I didn't research the /opt vs. /usr/bin vs. /usr/local/bin matter well enough to get the right answer, manifestly, and I have no doubt that it's out there, but I'm not the dumbest guy on the planet, and I did look, and if it was buried, as it clearly was, in a lot of noise, that suggests that the problem I spoke of is still there: too little good, user-level documentation, drowned in an ocean of bad writing, and stale information and misinformation.

Honest: I've done user-level documentation, and I've sat in the next cubicle/antiproductivitypod to the poor slobs who have to support users on a complex piece of software, and I've got some idea about how cut and dried you've got to make it for folks who are new to the product.

Not easy, not something that just anybody can do, and it doesn't scale the same way that code writing does, in part because it's harder to test.

(Speaking of which, I'm playing around with procmail to handle some spam, and am finding that a few simple recipes cut it down tremendously, although the problem of stuff that I want to read but doesn't have my address on the To: line is one that the obvious recipe doesn't handle.)

-- ------------------------------------- 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. -------------------------------------

I am still willing to bet small sums that we will be in Baghdad by July 4th and the rest is smoke screen.

If I had DSL I would have Linux mail servers and stuff; as it is, it seems a lot of work for not so much gain.

Subj: Biography of Col. John Boyd now available

Grant T. Hammond, _The Mind of War: John Boyd and American Security_, Smithsonian Institution Press, 2001, ISBN 1-56098-941-6

Have just started reading it, but so far so good. Hammond is evidently a Boyd disciple. From previous reading, I knew that Boyd was one of the great formulators of modern military command and control theory -- as in the Observe-Orient-Decide-Act "Boyd Cycle". And I knew he was a leader of the "fighter mafia" that conspired with sympathetic Congresscritters to ram the "lightweight fighter" concept down the throats of unwilling USAF leadership, yielding the F-16. I had not realized that he was also instrumental in designing the F-15.

Rod Montgomery ==

Thank you. I will have to find the work. Oddly enough "Makers of Modern Strategy" has not one contribution from an Air Force officer...  It should. Air War is not like the other two media, and in fact needs to be done in concert with Sea and Land war; but Air Supremacy has a logic and requirement of its own.

We need Strategic Defense because while the best way to defend against hornets is to destroy the nest, some hornet nests are just too big to preemptively destroy: those hornets have to be swatted.

The next I post without comment:

I didn't see the show, but forward the following comments from a trusted source, a fellow Gunsite graduate, with permission. Police SWAT tended to shoot better than the post Clinton military. Lest we give full credit to government schools, the SWAT officer who shot well is, by one unverified report, a master class IPSC competitor and thus almost certainly a graduate of the better private shooting schools. Perhaps this is why the Marines and SEALS send so many instructors to Gunsite.

Harry Schneider

I was watching the Survivor spin off, Combat Missions, on ze tube. 4 mixed teams of six men who have never seen each other comprised from Delta Force, Navy Seals, CIA, SWAT.

One of the competitions was to open a box, pull gun parts out, assemble them and fire one round down range.

Weapons in box were M4, M9, AK and one other AK variant.

Two observations.

ALL of them were inept at the task. Took them wayyyyyy too long to perform the task. Gun handling was terrible after assembly.

Secondly and most importantly:

CIA spec ops team member had rifle assembled pointed at 90 degree angle to bench to the left. He was shown holding it in upright horiz position with muzzle depressed slightly downward at about 20 degrees and he bumped the pistol grip butt on table and the weapon discharged. What an idiot. Not being there could not tell if he had chambered a round and left it off safety, or if chamber was open and it slam closed bolt and fired.

The looks on the faces of the team behind him were incredulous to say the least and one Navy Seal I think said Holy S%$#. The CIA person was completely caught off guard.

In addition to this, the general marksmanship of all the participants with the exception of one SWAT officer has been terrible. Tactics they have used on the "missions" have been questionable at best. The SWAT guys have outperformed the military folks.

Boy the state of affairs in military/CIA Special Ops if this can be taken as an example is sad.

One question for the group. How accurate is the MILES system in terms of hitting where sights point on an M4?




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