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Mail 199 April 1 - 7, 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 and address you didn't want on the letter. Do us both a favor: sign your letters to me with the name and address (or no address) as you want them posted.

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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Monday  April 1, 2002


From an overjoyed reader:

Dear Jerry, CNN says you have won an annual journalist report:



I was totally shocked by the CNN article about you:

Ah, well.






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Tuesday,  April 2, 2002

Begin with one I hope you all know about:

Dear Jerry

You may well have this information by now:


Henry Nash



I've just read your latest Chaos Manor (1st April) re the Hitachi CM 721F monitor. It's no April 1 comment either.

I agree with you completely, I find it a dream to use. And the flat screen has negligible beam-landing errors (bad focus at the corners), the best I've seen in a monitor in this class. (Just one point, I wish it had rotary knobs for the contrast and brightness; but that's a forlorn hope as digital designers consider the incorporation of an analog component a form of pollution that outweighs any ergonomic advantage it might provide.)

In the last 20-plus years (since before your "Godbout CompuPro--Gollum I think it was) I've read your advice, but for once I seem to be in the vanguard as I've had my CM 721F since last September.


Grahame Wilson Sydney, Australia

P.S.: I paid $749 AUD for my CM 721F, that's pretty close to $390 USD

And worth it...


Hi Jerry!

Enjoyed your column as usual. Noted your mention of the 780 which you soundly recommended to me a couple of years ago that I purchased online.

Sounded like you hadn’t seen them around—and by now, someone has probably sent you the following, but thought I would anyway, as I appreciate your column and suggestions so much. 



Actually hadn't seen that. Thanks. Also from former BYTE.COM editor Daniel Dern, on the MobilPro has some in the $600-range, surplused. While there's a few on eBay in the 200-300$ range, I've come to the conclusion that, like monitors, devices like these are worth spending a little more on to get one you can count on. At a price differential of $300-$400 between eBay and CDW, maybe it's worth trying for the bottom price bargain... a few months back, I finally got a Jornada 820 on eBay for ~$350; versus another fifty or eighty bucks for an as-new one.

For the money I saved, I've got what turns out to be a few sticky keys (Q and 1) and I'm short an adapter cable, I think.

Anyway, you might advise your readers to check CDW.

NEC still touts the 790 -- it replaced the 780 -- at  with links to their resellers 

>From a still-happy 780 owner (much better keyboard than the HP Jornada 820 -- the HP I got for the full-factor screen shape, for email reading.)

Daniel *----------------------------------------------------------------------* Daniel Dern - Freelance technology writer ddern at world{dot}std{dot}com or <> Contributing Editor, Comic book columnist,

Daniel arranged for my first look at the MobilePro 780, for which he has my long lingering thanks. I love that little box.

Last week you had a reader who had uninstalled Windows Messenger only to have a MS Critical Update re-install it.

There is an article in The Register about this: 

If someone has previously uninstaller Messenger and had the Critical Update re-unstall it, Messenger can be turned off in Outlook Express: Outlook Express/Tools/Windows Messenger/Options/Preferences, and turn it off.

Hope this helps. Charles Butler


From: Charles N. Johnson e-mail:

If this had surfaced yesterday, I would have given it short shrift.

Just a reminder to those who think that the "evil empire" is co-extensive with Microsoft!

Cheers-- Charles

Yeeps! On that, this from Roland: 


"You hereby grant (Brilliant) the right to access and use the unused computing power and storage space on your computer/s and/or Internet access or bandwidth for the aggregation of content and use in distributed computing," the terms of service read. "The user acknowledges and authorizes this use without the right of compensation."

On another subject:

Subj: DiskOnKey vs Electrostatic Discharge?

The DiskOnKey you describe in your 1 April column sounds neat.

But how easy is it to kill with electrostatic discharge? Do you or any of your readers have any experience with the device in low-humidity environments? Or know of any formal testing?

A Zip disk should be relatively immune to ESD but DiskOnKey must be a semiconductor device.

Rod Montgomery ==

I can only say I have carried mine around in my pocket, and once of them came apart to reveal the little circuit boards inside, and there have been no problems at all.

On Republic and Empire,

Hi Jerry,

Confirmation of what you have been saying for a long time!!!! 

Stay well,

Tony Brown

I would rather be wrong.

And this can stand for a number of mails:

Dear Dr. Pournelle,

Saw the link to the "award". The stuff passed to the URL redirector translates to: 

which in turn translates to: 

as everything before the '@' is treated as a login name (in this case, ignored I expect). I looked up the address, and it belongs to

So, it looks like someone figured out how to play with CNN's URL redirector.

Not that I don't think you do a terrific job -- *much* better than the flacks and hacks who dominate the fetid remains of journalism today.

All the best,

Gordon Runkle

PS: I'm damn glad April Fools is about over, it gets more and more wearying every year...

-- "Far and away the best prize that life has to offer is the chance to work hard at work worth doing." -- Theodore Roosevelt

Thanks for the kind words.

Robert Strausz-Hupe, RIP

The Protracted Conflict, by Strausz-Hupe, Stefan T Possony, and William Kintner was a key document in the Seventy Years War. Strausz-Hupe was senior author, but he was not the sole author. He was one of Possony's mentors, and a great man in his own right.

Foreign Policy Research Institute A Catalyst for Ideas

E-Notes Distributed Exclusively via Fax & Email


April 2, 2002

Robert Strausz-Hupe, founder of the Foreign Policy Research Institute and first editor of Orbis, passed away on February 24, 2002 at the age of 98. He completed this document -- his last -- in December 2001; it is the introduction to the Spring 2002 issue of Orbis, which has a special focus on the war on terrorism.

Ambassador Strausz-Hupe founded the Foreign Policy Research Institute in 1955 and two years later published the first issue of Orbis. In 1969, he was appointed Ambassador to Sri Lanka and subsequently served as Ambassador to Belgium (1972-74), Sweden (1974-76), NATO (l1976-77), and Turkey (1l981-89). For more information about the Ambassador, visit our website (


by Robert Strausz-Hupe

In 1959 I wrote a book called Protracted Conflict, which became my most popular work. Perhaps this was because the central idea spoke to the times and because, although a professor, I did not let too much learning interfere with the theme.

What I proposed was simply that after a dozen years of Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union, a pattern was in place that would continue until one side or the other was transformed. Either the United States would cease to be a democracy or the Soviet Union would cease to be a Leninist dictatorship. The ideological divide was too deep and wide for any lasting peace, and while tensions might grow or diminish, these were tactical decisions dictated by geopolitical convenience, not strategic changes. Try as Western statesmen might to bridge this divide with detente or, from the Soviet side, with the ideological sleight of hand called "peaceful coexistence," the conflict would not end until one side or the other triumphed.

I thought it was supremely important for Americans and their statesmen to understand that we were in for a "protracted conflict." This ran against our national preference for quick solutions and our tendency to believe that goodwill and money would always turn an enemy into a friend. We would have to stay alert, dispense with illusions about the other side, and keep ourselves mobilized. It would indeed be a severe test of our democracy to prevail.

There were times when I feared we might persuade ourselves that the conflict was over when it was not, and that then the dangers would remain or even grow in the face of our weakness. Many wagered against us, impressed only by our material cravings, political cacophony, and apparent attachment to foreign policies predicated on avoiding a fight. But they were wrong. This was one story with a happy ending. The Soviet Union disappeared and that protracted conflict was over.

I have never been of an apocalyptic frame of mind, and so the end of the Cold War did not strike me as the end of history. The last decade, although peaceful and prosperous, was still disfigured by ethnic slaughter and the ascendancy of hostile doctrines, not least the simple envy of American success. The American people, led by their government, thought all of this was very far away. After September 11, we knew that it was not.

This struggle will be difficult and protracted. Our opponents deem us evil and some of them see an attack on us as the best and shortest route to paradise. This is a formidable stimulus to action. Terrorism is the instrument of the weak, and many of our adversaries are weak. Americans still want quick solutions, still like to be liked, and still see force as the very last resort. Our leaders must keep a psychological balance between despair and euphoria as the campaign proceeds, as most campaigns do, in fits and starts, on a field of battle obscured by smoke, some of it rhetorical. There can be no successful foreign policy without semantic leadership.

Still, we start with several advantages that the Cold War generation lacked. There is no serious domestic opposition to President Bush's strategy, at least not yet, no agitation for detente and no arguments over arms control with our enemy. Furthermore, all the major powers are ranged on our side. That Vladimir Putin's Russia has seen fit to ally itself with us is not an adverse development so long as we do not take it too far out of gratitude, for instance by extending Moscow a veto over NATO. As for the Atlantic alliance itself, this is another challenge to its role in a post-Cold War world and one that extends beyond welcome military solidarity to domestic affairs. Our European allies share with us issues of home security. One hopes also that this time at least, Turkey's indispensable contributions -- as a member of NATO and a Muslim state that seeks rather than rejects association with America and the West -- will be recognized. These are all important assets that must be conserved.

My main point, however, is that this protracted conflict, like the last one, will end only when one side vanquishes the other. Either the United States, at the head of the international order - such as it is - will forfeit its leadership, or international terrorists and the states who use them will find violence against innocent civilians a tactic too dangerous to be used.

I have lived long enough to see good repeatedly win over evil, although at a much higher cost than need have been paid. This time we have already paid the price of victory. It remains for us to win it.


FORTHCOMING April 2002 Orbis, Spring 2002

THE NEW PROTRACTED CONFLICT Introduction, by Robert Strausz-Hupe

Finding a Foreign Policy by Harvey Sicherman

The Promise of Decisive Action by Michael P. Noonan and John Hillen

The U.S. Army Special Forces Then and Now by Sam C. Sarkesian

Homeland Security Concepts and Strategy by Chris Seiple

Terrorism After the Cold War by Michael Radu

Intelligence and the War on Terrorism by Bruce Berkowitz

The Roles of Law in the Fight Against Terrorism by Jacques deLisle

The War and the West by James Kurth

The Islamist Syndrome of Cultural Confrontation by John Calvert

FPRI Members at the Associate Level ($125) will receive a complimentary copy.

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If you receive this as a forward and would like to be placed directly on our mailing lists, send email to Include your name, address, and affiliation. For further information, contact Alan Luxenberg at (215) 732-3774 x105. ----------------------------------------------------------

FPRI, 1528 Walnut Street, Suite 610, Philadelphia, PA 19102- 3684. For information, contact Alan Luxenberg at 215-732-3774, ext. 105 or email or visit us at


If the U.S. government has no knowledge of aliens, then why does Title 14, Section 1211 of the Code of Federal Regulations, implemented on July 16, 1969, make it illegal for U.S. citizens to have any contact with extraterrestrials or their vehicles?




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Wednesday, April 3, 2002

This is going to be SHORT SHRIFT.

From Duncan Macdonald, a very long letter on small computers, with wish list. If this is of no interest to you, click here.


Dear Jerry,

I would like to endorse your comments about the NEC 780, or rather the utility of small clamshell computers with a keyboard and the ability to be turned on and off like a light. Now that Psion has stopped making the 5mx/Revo the only ones on the market are the NEC790 and the HP Jornado 710/720 and their future seems uncertain; especially as there is no sign of an upgrade for the HPC operating system and HP have not yet increased the RAM on the HPC designs to match that of their Pocket PC models.

For more than 6 years I have been using a HP200LX. This is a DOS based design that came with a comprehensive suite of resident task-switchable software whilst being able to run most DOS applications that would run in base memory. What was unique about the 200LX was that it was a PC in miniature complete with a keyboard that included a numeric keypad, a serial port, and a type 2 PC Card Slot which could be used for a modem or flash memory. I added a 40Mb card and with that I am able to carry copies of almost all the texts I have written and many of the applications from my original DOS desktop. These include:

PC Outline, Grandview 2, XtreeGold, Norton Commander, Word 6 for DOS, Paradox 3, AskSam for DOS, Memory Mate (a superb freetext database), Norton Editor (for files larger than available RAM), selected Norton Utilities, Learn C, and Q Basic

I mention these simply to show what the little machine can do, as in practice the only apps I have used regularly are PC Outline (which will run in a DOS window whilst the rest require the resident software to be closed), Norton Commander and Norton Utilities. I have found the resident software to be more than adequate for most purposes.

What has delighted me and still surprises is how productive such an archaic system (?9MHz 80186) has proved to be and how much one can do with it in spare moments and in the most unlikely places. Highlights are:

Most days I use it to write at least 2 A4 pages. And I use it by preference for all drafts because of the feeling of freedom that comes with not having to be tied to a desk and a noisy PC.

In spite of most reviewers criticism of the small keyboard I am able to type comfortably at 25-30 wpm, holding it in one hand and typing with 3 fingers of the other. I find this quite adequate for drafting and editing text (on a normal keyboard I type at upwards of 60 wpm). Reviewers in contrast seemed without exception to try and type two handed with the machine on a flat surface.

In 6 years it has crashed no more than ten times and on each occasion that has been when saving to the Flash disk when the batteries were relatively low. I suspect that there is a slight mismatch between the 200LX and the power requirements of the IBM disk. Since monitoring the voltage of the batteries and changing earlier than the built in warning this has not happened.

On only 2 occasions was some data lost and had to be restored from backups; on the others databases that had been corrupted were repairable with a utility called GARLIC.

Over more than 60 sets of batteries the average battery life has been 3-4 weeks and never less than 7, even with the most intensive use. A pack of batteries is therefore adequate for almost any conceivable trip (unless a PC Card modem were to be used frequently).

Once set up to my liking I have not had to spend any time trying to make up for deficiencies in the operating system. When I compare this experience with Windows and the number of utilities I have had to find and use regularly I am inclined to think that Win9x is a trojan; a game designed to entrap people who would not otherwise choose to install computer games.

It is always with me and fits easily into a padded compact camera case with a pouch for cable, spare batteries, and disks for the program that allows it to exchange files with a desktop.

It is very robust, has survived a number of knocks and after 6 years daily use the only noticeable defect is two or three columns of dead pixels at the extreme left of the screen.

It is very inconspicuous and does not attract the unwelcome attention that a full laptop does; especially in less law-abiding parts of the world.


A) Hardware

1. A brighter higher contrast screen, possibly with backlight (but only so long as battery life and visibility in daylight were not adversely affected) 2. A faster processor for searching across and through the contents of files. As this is only occasionally required an ideal would be a processor with a `turbo' mode that could be increased in speed for short periods. Even this might not be necessary as the slow speed of the 80186 shows up the differences in the speed of different search algorithms and the performance might be improved through software alone. One possibility would be selective indexing of a few user selected words (I suspect that for most writers most searches are for a relatively small number of keywords; a user-defined go-list rather than a stop-list) .

B) Software:

1. A built-in internet browser. 2. The inclusion of a full outliner, or outline features, such as in PC Outline. 3. Faster text search across files and in the text database. 4. The addition of simple calculations to the flatfile database application. 5. Possibly replacing Lotus 123 with a spreadsheet that has more modern controls (eg for opening and closing files, menus etc). This is a minor problem only because I don't use the spreadsheet very often.

With these even DOS would be sufficient for almost all of my needs. But a more modern OS like Symbian or Linux that allowed multitasking would be nice, provided the software available was as functional.

Given the vast increase in the power of computer hardware and the sophistication of software since the 200LX was designed, in practice soon after the invention of the PC, the above list seems remarkably modest and raises a question of what has really been achieved over the years. I suspect that the disparity is due to most of the increase in available resources being used for presentation rather than generating text or numerical content. For example, I prefer to use a text editor (Textpad) for drafting, save as a text file, and then only transfer to a full wordprocessor to improve presentation for specific purposes. And as far as I know there is no Windows or Mac application that can provide the range of tools glimpsed in Grandview 2 or even the elegance of the search facilities of a simple freetext database like Memorymate; somewhere along the way the needs of ordinary users have been eclipsed by those of more technophilic specialists.

I believe this leaves a rather large niche in the market for a machine similar to the HPs or NECs optimised for relatively undemanding (in computer terms) work with text and numbers and trading speed and absolute power for compactness, instant-on/off, cool, quiet, and long battery life. My experience has convinced me that having a machine that one can carry and use anywhere and that can be out of range of power sockets for long periods (which means also being able to run from easily available AA alkaline batteries) has a much more dramatic effect on personal productivity than sophisticated GUIs and multi-GHz speeds. And forced to make a choice, in the event of the apocryphal fire and without hope of any other access to the internet, only the absence of a browser would make me hesitate in choosing even the 200LX over almost any current PC (a neighbour in London when the flat next door caught fire made his escape with the FT and a banana).

Which leaves the question of why so many companies seem to have lost faith in this sector. I am convinced that this is due not only to a lack of imagination and recognition of the need for education and consciousness-raising, but also sufficient care to ensure that devices were easily available for potential purchasers to try. In the case of the Palm one can see at a glance what one is not getting and can probably assume that what is left works. But if a small keyboard is a dominating feature whether it is usable or not is likely to be a major factor in deciding what to purchase.

To my knowledge neither HP nor Psion ever tried to show potential customers how to use their products; for example how to make the best use of the keyboard. And although there have been a few comparisons of typing speed using different keyboards and methods, such as between Grafitti (average around 20 wpm), other pen based input systems, Psion 5mx, and full sized keyboard these are not well known and as far as I know have not been used for promotion or usability testing.

The closest HP got was once when they produced a brochure for the HP200LX in the form of an actual size replica on card that folded like the clamshell. This allowed me to convince myself that it would be possible to use the keyboard single handed. And that was all the more essential as even in London at that time the 200 was distributed not by specialist computer shops but through consumer electronic outlets that sold closed packages and were very reluctant to open one for demonstration; I am sure that is still the case. The result was that the machines were not really visible to anyone who had not already learned about them and was prepared to go well out of their way to find one.

And I also believe that many of the people who would find the 200 most useful are not technically or gadget oriented. They are more likely conservative in their habits and confident in being able to get their work done with tools to which they have become accustomed. They will not seek new ways or gadgets but they are likely to appreciate the advantages of new tools - provided that these are brought to their attention in the right way. In other words they need to be sought, whilst most who buy a Palm probably do so for reasons that have more to do with fashion and peer competition; manufacturers do not have to seek them out.

I hope that the recent appearance of thumb keypads on devices like the Blackberry and Sharp Zaurus hint at a new recognition that handheld PCs with keyboards are feasible and practical and that many have a need for entering more than contacts and the occasional short note. But though I have yet to try one I am sure that none will surpass the utility of the design of the 200LX and its descendents even if they abandon DOS for Symbian, HPC2000, or Linux. I would consider a Jornado 720 but although probably having a better idea of their capabilities than most potential users, not having been able to handle one I am not sure if its keyboard would be as functional (for me) as that of the 200LX.

Best regards


Thanks. A good analysis.

Science Gone Wrong:


This is what happens when political agendas change the way science is done, Its a crying shame well trained and educated persons fall into the intellectual fallacy of predetermining the science.

Skeptics allege bias in funding

Allan Mason BA MpA Financial Analyst

Regulatory science is to science as duck hunters are to ducks.

Subject: American Empire Now Mainstream

Mr. Pournelle:

Having been long intrigued by your discussions of republic vs. empire, this article caught my eye:

-- Allen Moore


From Richard Pournelle:

There are some interesting facts in this article

Money for NASA was no object. By the mid-1960s, nearly 4 cents of every U.S. tax dollar was going to the space agency, more than five times the portion being spent today. Public and political support was so solid Congress occasionally added millions to NASA's budget request. At the high point of the Space Race, more than 1 million Americans lived in households that earned their living through the space program. 

For what NASA spent we ought to have full von Braun wheel space stations and be halfway to Alpha Centauri. It wasn't money.

Roland on Microsoft: 


 -- Roland Dobbins <> 

"Rather than form a federation with Microsoft and work with what we had already created, there was this notion that the world should be offered an alternative."

-- Craig Mundie, Microsoft CTO, speaking at WCTI 2002

From a reader who signs himself "A very unusual green":

Much of my political attitude was fostered by you, Larry Niven, and Robert Heinlein.

"Give my children the lightning" is a very powerful statement to put before a teenager a quarter century ago. Senator Jellison's (sic?) speech belongs somewhere in every discussion of energy.


Here's a sobering comentary about loss of US ideals, from a congresswoman. At least, Deo Gratias, we are still able to read and distribute such commentary.

I fear that we shall be (and already are) one of the nastier empires in history, but that's easy to say, and perhaps wrong. However, when I read the MIM Notes (Maoist Int'l. movement, iirc) and the IWW (revived!) newspaper, I find myself surprised at how much content looks plausible and which I agree with.

Star Wars looks like a huge gift to the defense industry, not something workable, afaik. If true, it's really obscene.

I feel something like a sheep, but, at age 66, might be forgiven for having a little less energy.

Best regards, and keep the faith! 

Nicholas Bodley |*| Waltham, Mass. Opera browser fan -- Registered, too Sent by Opera e-mail

Well, given that I have been a strong advocate of strategic defenses -- "Star Wars" if you will -- I can hardly agree. Dos Pasos caught the spirit of the IWW with his "Blackie" character in MidCentury, but of course the intellectuals then read Dos Pasos out of the human race.

And maybe there's a reason for more spam?


In case you haven't seen these before:,1367,51218,00.html 

Apparently, some clueless clerks in Battle Creek, Michigan found it easier to file criminal charges against an anti-SPAM service than to fix the broken mail software they've been running. Well, okay, they did apologize afterwards. But ORBZ.ORG ( ) is gone.


Why would you expect government people to care about the purpose of their jobs? So long as the regulations are satisfied, they are. The purpose of government is to pay government workers. It then tries to keep taxpayers just happy enough that they will continue to pay and not revolt. 

And from Frank:

Hi! I thought you'd be interested in this story from Science@NASA:

Researchers have trapped a kilometers-long laser pulse inside a small glass chamber --and released it again intact. Such extraordinary command of light could lead to mind-boggling new technologies.  (or <a href=""> Sit. Speak. Good Photon! </a>.)

Well well...

And for the height of irresponsible Spam:

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Subject: 20/20 Cell Phone Report
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joy Your Mobile Phone might Cause Cancer!

Studies have shown that electromagnetic waves that come from your cell phone may be correlated to Brain Cancer.

In May 2000 A large US media outlet performed a test. They took the 5 most popular phonessold in the US and tested them at a highly respected German laboratory. Four out of five phones tested were above the radiation limit.

The worlds largest Cell Phone Manufacturers have patented devices to reduce the risk of Brain Tumors, yet they insist on rejecting claims of any health hazards from using mobile phones.

It will take thousands of tests and many years before the effects of electromagnetic radiation on the human body is known. Just Like It Did With CIGARETTES! Don't be the phone companys guinea pig. Protect Yourself Today!

We sell a product that helps reduce harmful electromagnetic radiation from your head. It is brand new, patented, easy to install, easy to use, fits every phone made, and very affordable.

If you are interested in Cell Phone Safety or would like more info about our New Cell Phone Anti-Radiation Shield, please email me at  with the subject "safety"

or click below 

joy This is a one time mailing. To be removed from any future mailings please send an email with the subject "remove" to  5838NULW2-069oZUd6250PELml24










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Friday, April 5, 2002

I do wonder if I have an extraordinarily well developed sense of humor: 

Looks as if it never was illegal to have contact with ET. And it was removed from CFR in '91 anyway. Cute, though.

As to "snopes" they may be right usually but the unrelenting liberalism and lack of humor at that site keeps me away. Your mileage may vary and no hard feelings...

But in fact I really don't care if there are old regulations in the Federal registry. There's enough problem with the real ones that force contradictions and close down businesses and harass startup companies. If we find a few that are funny and do no harm perhaps we could exchange them for some of the real ones?



Dear Dr Pournelle, I enjoyed the International Herald Tribune article ( Tony Brown refers to. America, though, is not an empire in any commonly understood sense, because it is still a republic, albeit with the military trappings of empire.

Rome lost its republican status after a period of civil wars which shredded public confidence in republican institutions, but the rot went back as far as Hannibal. To fight him the Roman state pledged its economy to an oligarchy which became a landed tyranny able to swallow small farmers vis et armis, whose bully-boys ruled the countryside in the way the Roman mob ruled the streets. With such lawlessness the Twelve Tables became a dead letter, and the courts were politically biased in a way which no American would accept. By contrast, the war between the states only strengthened the US constitution, which still functions:

No freedoms have been infringed which the American electorate cannot take back more or less at will. The plague of lawyers is tolerated because they are not arguing predetermined cases; any low peon has a reasonable hope of success in court if written law is on their side. The economy has a divide between rich and poor which appears huge - except in the eyes of those who have lived under régimes which promise economic equality and deliver five classes of poverty. Lobbyists influence Congress only within the limits of what voters will tolerate, and under the gaze of American media, a thousand-eyed Argus if ever there was one, voters have a very good idea of which politicians disagree with them. They are also on the whole well aware of who is has the best interests of the nation in mind and who is in the pocket of, say, Disney or the tobacco industry. It is precisely the strength and versatility of American republican institutions which allows the federation to survive and prosper in storms which sink planned, hidebound, or crony-dominated economies. But most tellingly, America - unlike Rome - has good relations with friendly states who are not socies or allies, and can by no stretch of the imagination be called clients. To take just one example, New Zealand continues to openly defy the US by refusing entry to nuclear-powered vessels of any kind - and yet, along with the British, sent SAS troops to Afghanistan before Delta Force got there. Helen Clark - the current Prime Minister - brushed back tears when visiting Ground Zero, and not just because a few Kiwis died there. Rome conquered Greece and Macedonia; there are plenty of US forces in Britain, but no-one sees them storming Parliament. Rome was constantly at odds with Persia; America fought two wars on the same side as Russia. Even at the height of the Cold War, Khruschev's foreign ministry noted that America and the Soviet Union had no formal territorial dispute.

One more thing. It took Hitler only eight years to remake Germany's armed might. Europe, Britain, Russia, and China don't spend anything like the amount of money and energy on their military that they could. If they armed themselves to the same degree as Israel, there would be shortly be three or four more superpowers in the world. And why do they not? Because on the whole, they feel safe. And why do they feel safe? Because despite punctured pride, and their public condemnation of the occasional disagreeable aspects of US world domination, no-one feels their national existence is seriously threatened.

America an Empire? Please, give me a break.

Regards, TC

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

I hope you are right, but we are more and more being urged to govern places and peoples who have not asked for us and will not be given any say in their affairs.

More though: this nation was a nation of states, with the individual states governing themselves. Things like the Americans with Disabilities Act would have struck the Framers as ludicrous but tyrannical. Now this is the norm.

Dr. Pournelle, Sorry to bother you as you sift through your mail problems, but, since you have one of the best networks for problem resolution that can be found, I though of you and the rest of your readers. Here's my problem - A dentist, using a Matrox Marvel G400 tv card under Windows 98 with a Welch Allyn Reveal Digital MLR+ camera has the following issues: Image is reversed. The software that comes with the card, PC-VCR. cannot take a "snapshot" fast enough to prevent blurring (he can't hold the camera steady long enough). What alternate solutions (other software packages if necessary) can the graphics gurus suggest? I've received nothing but silence from Matrox web support up to the moment.

Also, I wish I could recall Hollings. He's one of my senators (I didn't vote for him). I wish we could send him to Disney. Maybe we here in SC could get a petition going, but the voting base seems to be swinging Leftward at the moment.


Semper Fi George A. Laiacona III <>

Hollings, D, Disney






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Saturday, April 6, 2002

Fukuyama was right, democratic capitalism did win conclusively sometime around 1990.

The various Arab incompetent despotisms these days are all maneuvering desperately to put off formal surrender till either we go away or the various despots die.

Arafat's Palestinian revolution is his exceedingly ill-timed attempt to join the ranks of the doomed despots.

Bin Laden's attempt at pan-Islamic revolution was aimed at displacing the doomed despots wholesale, perhaps the one thing almost as unifying to them as the threat of our ongoing success.

There's not much future in any of it. It'll be messy, but in a generation or two they'll all be gone. Unless they *do* somehow figure out how to destroy us first. It seems unlikely.

Henry Vanderbilt

I am fond of optimism and sometimes I can make myself  believe in it but I am not sure I see all that many signs of inevitable triumph. Rule of law seems endangered everywhere including in the US. Without that, there is no democratic capitalism. For a thousand years the only place in China where one could go to bed secure in the knowledge that the government would not seize all you had and jail you in the bargain was for a hundred years in Hong Kong. In the United States is that kind of security in one's person and property more or less secure now than in, say, 1990?

In a word, it's not what they do to us that I fear. It's what we are doing to ourselves.

The seder had only begun in the resort town of Netanya, and the families gathered there couldn't have gotten to the words "in each and every generation they rise up against us to destroy us" when Abdel-Basset Odeh walked in and detonated the explosives he had strapped to his body, murdering twenty-five men, women, and children -- then just that latest of the suicide bombings that have become the Palestinian's stock in trade.

That was a week ago.

Now, while Arafat gets his cheese and crackers delivered by the IDF for his romantic candlelight interviews with CNN, and calls everybody he can think of on his cell phone, the regularly scheduled pleas for US intervention to save the Palestinians from the plight they've inflicted on themselves are, as the mobs have figured out, not merely falling on deaf ears.

It's much worse than that: they're being responded to by gestures.

The more screaming, the more gestures they get. And the more gestures, the more they scream. Arafat's lieutenants flee their compounds, leaving behind instructions to fight to the death, which result in quick mass surrender, and the surviving shaheed candidates being led away in their underwear.

Gestures traditionally are something that Israel is supposed to get as a payoff for major concessions. Give up the Sinai? You get a gesture. Let Arafat have the West Bank and Gaza for his kleptocracy? Another gesture.

Now, the Palestinians get a UN resolution that calls for Israeli withdrawal, but doesn't say when, and a US administration that can say that they voted for it -- nice gesture -- but don't insist on a timeline, and engages in broad hints that, when Israel leaves the PA areas, the Palestinians will be required to clean up the mess themselves. Americans look at the blue lights where the World Trade Center used to be, and find themselves blithely indifferent to Arab rage, other than to insist that American soldiers not be put at risk to defend Arabs from the consequences of it.

Egypt is willing to recall ambassadors, but doesn't even hint at being willing to do more than that gesture, and the live issue Mubarak is dealing with is exactly what temperature to heat the poker that will be quietly and deniably shoved up Abu Zubaydah's butt. The Saudis hint at considering an oil boycott, but not too loudly, as they don't really want a lot more attention -- or to be laughed at.

The Turks make tsk-tsk sounds, while Incirlik hums with the early preparations for Iraq II: Operation This Time We Mean It.

Saddam ups the blood money payments for the shaheeds' families -- a nice gesture, that -- but with more pressing concerns, the Palestinians aren't dancing in the streets over their newly-found cash flow. A few rocket/mortar attacks along the border in the north is all the Syrians will let the Lebanese allow Hizbullah, because the IDF is on the move, and it can move north, too.

Arab rage has never been at a higher pitch, and it's never been more impotent to affect events. Fatah gunmen in Bethlehem are reduced to hiding behind the skirts of Catholic priests in the Church of the Nativity, and the symbolism of that isn't going to be lost on anybody. It's a curiously self-controlled blind rage -- members of the the Detroit branch of Hizbullah are too busy keeping their heads down to think of strapping on explosives and walking into their nearest synagogue or post office.

And, all the while, Israeli tanks and APCs clank noisily through the Arab streets, and young Israeli privates and sergeants quietly and firmly explain to the young Palestinians that if this war must be be fought, then it will henceforth be fought in the Palestinians' living rooms, and not at their Bubbes' seders.

-- Joel Rosenberg 








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Sunday, April 7, 2002

Begin with this from Roland



Bureaucrat soldier of fortune

A staffer on the House Appropriations Committee publicly proposed Wednesday that he and his colleagues become eligible for the 4.1 percent pay increase that President Bush has requested for the military. Such policy recommendations are usually reserved for elected members of Congress.

John Scofield, the powerful committee's spokesman, told The Hill newspaper: ''Congressional staff who are crafting legislation, whether it is a defense supplemental or a crime bill, are just as important as someone who is serving on the front line.'' Scofield's $72,500 annual salary is more than double the pay and fringe benefits of an enlisted soldier with four years' service.

------------------------ Roland Dobbins 

My guess is that he has just made sure they get no raise.

From Dan Duncan


Thanks for your well-timed questioning re the question of security in the United States.

Security seems to be a matter of what you can afford.

So what can we afford?

I was recently discussing this with a now-retired banker as to the current deficit spending strategy of the Bush White House. What this banker told me was that I was right, but for the wrong reasons: he cared not at all for my misplaced "liberalistic" sense of thrift or morality.

The reason deficit spending is disastrous to the economy, or so he proposed, is that when the government borrows, it borrows from the banks. And since the banks have a good lender who always pays the interest, all the money goes to that borrower, our Federal Government. And if all the government pays is interest, again and again and again, as Shady Grady told Fred Sanford, "you gots yourself a goldmine."

Since the banks do not have to compete for borrowers in the free market, interest rates to ordinary borrowers shoot up. If the banks had to compete in the free market instead of having a ready client in the U.S. government, they would have to make their loans competitive and interest rates would go down.

This would make private investment affordable. Business and industry could flourish. Jobs could increase. Welfare rolls could shrink. Personal security could increase. etc.

Based on his argument, it seems to me that democratic capitalism has one chance to survive, and that is to pay down the national debt, interest on which is the LARGEST SINGLE ITEM IN THE NATIONAL BUDGET.

Right now, we cannot afford security, real security. We take refuge in enclaves instead of building neighborhoods where children can play in their yards and us geezers can sit in rockers on porches, like in Agee and Barber's "Knoxville, Summer of 1915."

Without a campaign to pay off the national debt, almost as if it were a source of terrorism, democratic capitalism in our country is indeed tottering, and with it, all the freedoms we enjoy and hope to preserve for our children and grandchildren.

The alternate is mafias, as there are today in Russia and the Balkans. As the dollar declines, watch your back.

Again, thanks for your questioning of security as it stands today.


I will leave comment for another time; I am certain there will be many from readers.






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