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Mail 213 July 8 - 14, 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).

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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  July 8, 2002

Hi Jerry,

In your Saturday view you wrote, "Regarding the "Under God" phrase in the Pledge: apparently many have missed the point. I know that the Supreme Court claims the sole right to determine what is and is not Constitutional. Why do we grant that to them?" This took me completely by surprise, as I was beginning to think that the Nine Kings were virtually regarded as saints in this country. With a single pronouncement, they can destroy the work of thousands of people and the desires of millions of others. Since my days in High School, I have wondered why, but more importantly how this came about. I have read all I can on the subject. I know Jefferson vehemently opposed the idea when it was initially established, but he did nothing to stop it from becoming a part of the American legal landscape. Why no President or Congress has taken on this issue still stumps me. I don't begrudge them the right to state what they think the Constitution means and why they believe a particular law violates their understanding. What I do not understand is why the President and Congress does not get to also state what they think. If this worked the way I think it should, the Court could continue as they currently do in declaring a law unconstitutional. The President would then either disagree or agree with them. If he agreed, no harm, no foul, two of the branches are in agreement and the law goes off the books. If he disagrees, then Congress should decide using their Article I, Section 8 authority to "make rules for the government" by creating a rule defining what the Constitution actual means when applied to this issue. If the people don't like this rule, they can then elect a Congress that will modify it. This makes the Constitution a living, breathing document. Can this be abused? Of course, but I would trust hundreds of arguing and conflicted individuals to come up with more common sense meanings than nine hermits that have lost all touch with the American people. I even wrote a poem about it back when everyone was complaining because the Court "picked our President" (a fact I think most have quietly forgotten). It is included for no other reason than I think it appropriate to the issue at hand. Keep up the excellent work. As soon as I dig myself out from under all the tasks I have taken on, I will renew my subscription. 

 Braxton S. Cook

Washington and the early Presidents certainly thought they had as good an opinion of what is constitutional as the courts. We should not contest the courts ability to control what they do; but they have no business becoming our masters any more than does the President or Congress.





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Tuesday,  July 9, 2002

Dear Dr. Pournelle,

K5 has an interesting article about Palladium and the Trusted Computing Platform Alliance (TCPA). There's some good technical background, too.;sid=2002/7/9/17842/90350

His general thesis is that this is driven by MPAA/RIAA who control the keys to DVD, and that MSFT and the rest of the personal computing industry are doing this in order to try to insure that digital media will be able to be played on PCs.

But look how locked-down the consoles (PS2 and X-Box) are. Wow! That seems to be where PCs are headed, if we don't watch out.

And this remains my concern: this scheme hands control of my computer (*my property*, dammit!) over to someone else.



Gordon Runkle

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

There is still a market, and Apple still exists. We will see.

July 9, 2002

Dr. Pournelle, As one of many who would like to be free from Microsoft I have considered converting my 4 Windows machines to Linux. My analysis has focused upon nuts and bolts stuff - which distro, the learning curve, what software will I be able to use. But I am beginning to feel a more serious concern about leaving MS. The rapid (enforced) growth of Passport, webmasters designing more for IE than to any standard, the blatant hostility of MS toward other systems, and the covetous glances being cast by MS at the very internet itself make me wonder if the day will not come soon when alternative operating systems and browsers will be so crippled in their ability to use the internet that they are of no use. Do you see this as a real possibility? Certainly I could unhook from the internet and my Linux box would run fine, but at least to me, a computer that can't fully utilize the internet is no computer at all. 


Actually no, I don't see that happening. But eternal vigilance and all that...


You wrote, about one of Microsoft's recent excursions into license abuse:

"Well, I find it hard to believe that anyone would try to enforce that silly provision, or if they tried, that they could. I am curious as to why anyone would put a thing like that in a license agreement."

What a happy land this would indeed be, if 'that sounds silly!' were a puissant enough invocation with which to banish a feral lawyer.

You might want to remember that, rather recently, we got a harangue by a bright bulb in Hollywood arguing that we serfs had a contractual obligation to watch the commercials in our TV ... though the bright bulb in question seemed to concede that an exception might be made for bathroom breaks.

Seriously -- there's a lot of jackasses out there with expensive suits, too much money, too much time on their hands, not much vision of the future (unless "endless revenue stream" constitutes a vision), and who seem to think that any form of technological innovation not immediately useful to very large corporations must be suppressed by law. There's also a lot of lawyers who are probably quite happy to implement this, uh, philosophy.

I wish 'that sounds silly!' meant something to these guys, but it doesn't, or we wouldn't also be seeing stuff like Palladium looming on the horizon.

Yours in fear and loathing,

--Erich Schwarz

There is much to what you say...

From Peter Gaskowsky, who was upset by a recent interview in REASON: 

> Lessig: If you¹re a lawyer, it¹s OK to think of intellectual property
> as property, because we¹re trained to use the word property in
> a careful way. We don¹t think of it as an absolute, perpetual right
> that can¹t be trumped by anybody. We understand property rights
> are constantly limited by public-use exceptions and needs, and in
> that context we understand intellectual property to be a very
> particular, peculiar kind of property -- the only property
> constitutionally required to be for limited terms. It¹s clearly
> established for a public purpose and is not a natural right.

See, this is why Lessig is such a doofus sometimes. Intellectual property IS
a natural right. Your intellectual property starts in your brain, as an
exercise of your will. Nobody else even knows you've created any
intellectual property until you say something about it. If you choose not to
say anything until you've established some contractual relationship, you've
created an item of commercial property in which you have certain rights.

How much more natural can anything get?

If the recipient passes this property along in a way prohibited by the
contract, and this distribution impairs your ability to get paid for
authorized distribution, you have been harmed, and you're entitled to be
repaid. This IS an absolute, perpetual right. There need be no "public-use
exceptions and needs" to this right, except in pathological cases such as
national security-- and none of these cases apply to normal commercial
transactions, so I don't think we need to concern ourselves with them at
this level of the discussion.

Lessig is obviously confused about the significance of patents and
copyrights, which exist solely to give you the freedom to publish your
intellectual property without losing your exclusive rights. The patent and
copyright systems are there to act as a national registry-- an authoritative
source of ownership information about intellectual property that has been
made available to the public.

Lessig goes on to say later that patents are there to produce a certain kind
of desirable outcome, but this is ass-backwards. We should, and often do,
enact legislation to do the right thing. When we do, we get good results.
That's why patents and copyrights were created-- to provide a way to protect
intellectual property in a certain set of circumstances.

The simple fact that the law also protects trade secrets and other private
communications makes it obvious that patents and copyrights do not define
the whole situation. They certainly don't invalidate the whole concept of
absolute intellectual property rights, as Lessig implies.

There are other weaknesses in Lessig's belief structure that leap out at me
from this discussion:

> Lawrence Lessig: A resource is in the commons as long as access to
> it is not governed by someone¹s subjective decision.

Boy, how many ways are there to pervert THAT definition? How the heck are we
supposed to build a complicated structure of public policies on a foundation
softer than a Louisiana bayou?

> Lessig: ...In our culture, whenever we think about commons, we
> instantly affix the idea of tragedy. But logically, that can only be
> true if there is some rivalrousness about that property -- if my
> use of it interferes with your ability to use it the same way. Obviously,
> intellectual goods are not like that.

Obviously, they sure are! If you're selling my intellectual property for a
dollar, which you can afford to do because you didn't pay me for it, you're
sure as heck preventing me from selling it for ten bucks. What was he

> Lessig: As with any principle, this isn¹t absolute.

Except that one. "No principles are absolute, except for this one." Duh.

> Reason: To what extent are you willing to use the government to
> enforce the idea of open architecture?

> Lessig: Not unless necessary.

The correct answer: Only as required to enforce the property rights upon
which the architecture is based.

His answer: Whenever HE thinks it's necessary to achieve some desirable
outcome. Well, Lawrence, think again.

> Lessig [about anti-spam laws]: Both of those would be rendered
> unnecessary by a rule that effectively said you needed to label your
> unsolicited commercial e-mail as spam. If people had to do that, it
> would be very easy for those who don¹t want to receive it to chuck
> it or have the server itself filter it out.

He can't possibly be that naive, can he? What we NEED is a law defining
standards for authenticating email senders and requiring SMTP hosts to add a
header to each email saying whether they have authenticated the sender. We
could settle for authenticating all email to external recipients (that is,
not on the same ISP, on the theory that what takes place within a single ISP
isn't anyone else's business), but ISPs would tend to impose the same
requirement on internal messages to protect themselves anyway. This rule
would apply to third-party transmission, as when one ISP forwards email to
another; inbound email from untrusted ISPs would have the authentication
flag reset. Some ISPs could then add another flag to authenticated emails
saying whether the email is commercial or not, or unsolicited or not.

Recipients can then decide what types of email they want to receive-- for
example, solicited-commercial and unsolicited-noncommercial email only,

We have all the technology to establish the necessary web of trust
relationships. It would only take a few months to put this system into full
operation, and it would solve the spam problem. It would also get in the way
of a lot of ad-hoc email arrangements, and would probably oblige the (good)
hacker community to create parallel systems without such authentication--
but hey, at least you'll be free to decide whether to participate in these
alternatives. Right now, you really don't have the option to NOT read your
email, and no matter how aggressive your filters, you're either letting spam
through, or missing messages you'd want to see.

> Lessig [about Slashdot users]: The idea that you are going to get lots
> of civil disobedience against the Digital Millennium Copyright Act is just
> crazy.

There must be hundreds of millions of people on the Internet who don't know
and don't care what the DMCA says. I constantly poke around in software to
see what it's doing. I never stop to think about whether my actions are
legal under the DMCA. People who use cheat codes in video games, people who
add their own hard disks to TiVo boxes, and those who use Morpheus or Kazaa
or Limewire are probably doing so with supreme disregard for the DMCA.
Virtually none of us will ever be punished unless we start redistributing
pirated software, and people who do that deserve to be punished. That's not
a matter of disobeying a stupid law, that's a matter of disrespecting
intellectual property rights.

> Lessig: I am not writing because I think it¹s likely that policy makers
> will sit down and figure this stuff out right now. I¹m more writing about
> what I think is true, and hoping that eventually a group of people who
> have the time to think through it will try to do something about it.

It's apparent to me that Lessig himself hasn't figured much of this stuff
out, and I'll stipulate he's spent a lot more time thinking about it than
any legislator I can name. The problem is that from his starting position we
can't possibly achieve any good results, so there's no point to anyone using
Lessig's work as the basis of future legislation.

. png


Peter N. Glaskowsky

Proudhon said "Property is theft." Most social democrats don't say quite that, but they do believe that property is a creation of the state; and what the state gives it can take away. 

Dear Jerry, I never agreed with your occasional complaints that we're exporting our industrial base and sacrificing our working class for the sake of free-trade ideology, but in this age when so many CEOs and CFOs have been tried and found wanting in their morals, this hit home:


"The United States has become a country that imports poor people and exports jobs that provide upward mobility. It is a mistake to see the loss of jobs and income as the workings of free trade. The downward pressure on incomes does not result from an exchange of goods. Something different is occurring. Middle class incomes are being traded away in order to gain larger bonuses for top management, and politicians are pandering to the immigrant vote at the expense of lower income native-born citizens. The longer this process continues, the more explosive it becomes, both socially and politically." --Paul Craig Roberts

From "The Federalist 2-28 Brief"

Kevin Trainor




Joel Rosenberg keeps a "Crazy Years File." Here is another entry: 

"22nd DWI still would bring only year in jail"

(The previous Minnesota crime entry was when a young girl was raped and murdered by a 7-times-convicted sex offender....)








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This was sent to me as funny. It's a very good satire and a good political commentary.

From The Guardian (ahem):

Frodo Baggins Charged With War Crimes Frodo Baggins of Bagshot Row, Hobbiton, The Shire, Middle Earth, has been called before the International Criminal Court to answer charges of war crimes brought by Sauron the Dark Lord and Saruman the White in a joint filing.

Baggins refused comment on the matter from his home at Bag End, simply moaning and holding his head. But his former valet and gardener (now mayor of Hobbiton) Samwise Gamgee spoke with reporters from his "bit of garden," saying that "you people ought to know better, coming here bothering my master and trampling my taters and all. This is just about the dumbest thing I've heard of since Master Merry and Master Pippin started up that Broadway show of theirs. That didn't work out so well, either, but all's well as ends better, as my Gaffer used to say." Gamgee was referring to the spectacular failure of "Mount Doom - the Musical," which debuted on Broadway last year and closed the same night, bankrupting its producers and principal investors Meriadoc Brandybuck of Buckland and Peregrine Took of the Tookland, both in the Shire.

The charges brought by Sauron and Saruman are serious and were commented on at length by the Dark Lord himself at a press conference held after he delivered the formal papers to the Court. As a full signatory to the Court's original charter, Sauron is legally entitled to bring charges before the Court, and the Court's decision will be binding on Mr. Baggins, per the charter establishing the authority of the Court over the entire world, whether the particular defendant lives in a member country or not. The Shire has repeatedly refused to ratify a proposal to join the Court; the proposal has languished in the legislature, bogged down by stalling tactics employed by right-wing and unilateralist legislators intent on blocking it. Gondor and Rohan have likewise not joined the ICC, for similar obstructionist reasons.

"Mr.Baggins is guilty of some of the most egregious violations of International Law as expressed in the Court's founding documents and must be brought to answer for his inhumane actions," Sauron said from the cardboard box behind the Emyn Muil 7-11 he's been living in since the scandalous and irresponsible destruction of Sauron's Ruling Ring brought about the downfall of his Empire several years ago. "He's obviously guilty of violating several provisions of Article 8, Section 2, especially the 'outrage against personal dignity' clause and the 'excessive incidental death, injury or damage' clause. When the armies of the Western Alliance marched up to the Black Gate, they were guilty of making illegal aggressive war against a sovereign nation. Our legal team plans to bring separate suits against Aragorn son of Arathorn, the Elfstone King Elessar of Gondor. Also King Eomer of the Riddermark and Elrond Halfelven of Rivendell. But we chose to pursue the suit against Baggins first, since his was the most damaging and egregious crime."

Baggins was responsible for casting the Ring of Power (otherwise known as the One Ring or simply the One) into the fires of Mount Orodruin in Mordor ("Where The Shadows Lie!" according to the Mordor Tourism Board), thereby destroying both the Ring and Sauron's long-standing hope to bring heretofore fractious and inefficient Middle Earth under the central political control of the Dark Tower. Without the Ring, Sauron's legions (defensive in nature and made necessary by the Lords of the West's aggression, according to Barad-Dur spokesmen) of orcs, wolves, trolls, and "evil" Men lost the will to fight and became helpless in the face of the armies of the West. Millions were slaughtered as a direct and immediate consequence of the destruction of the Ring.

Saruman had his own comments on the charges. "The swaggering little cock-a-whoops cast me out, forcing me to live as a beggar wandering through the wilderness of Middle Earth. They brought their own house to ruin when they destroyed mine, and someone has to pay for it," said Saruman, formerly known for his sartorial finesse but now dressed only in torn, filthy rags. Saruman is demanding the right of return to his former home at Orthanc in Isengard, which has been occupied since the so-called "War of the Ring" by Ents, Elves, and other folk.

Both Sauron and Saruman claim that their persecution by Baggins and the Lords of the West is based on their religious beliefs, also clearly in violation of Article 8. With the wanton destruction of the One Ring, Baggins also directly and callously murdered every one of the high priests of the Dark Lord's religious order, known collectively as the Nazgul. Saruman said that the destruction of the pits and forges of Isengard, where he had genetically-engineered his Fighting Uruk-Hai breed of half-orcs, half-men, was done in blatant disregard for the religious rights of an indigenous people. "All my Uruks wanted was the basic human right to practice their religion and to live with their neighbors in peace," said Saruman. "But they were forcibly removed from their homes and slaughtered like cattle by the Riders of Rohan. It was, well, completely inhuman." Saruman then broke down in a touching display of emotion and was tended to by his servant Wormtongue. He refused any further comment.

Baggins was defended in a public statement released by Gandalf the Grey, a well-known right-wing wizard and co-conspirator of Baggins himself. "Frodo made Middle-Earth safe for democracy and now this is how he's repaid - by facing imprisonment because of a suit brought by the very enemies of freedom! The world's press is only humiliating themselves by siding with the Servants of the Lidless Eye on this. They have left the path of wisdom." Gandalf's statement was published in the National Review and certain fascist online journals, known as "warblogs" to their purveyors and media watchdog groups. The New York Times, Washington Post, San Francisco Chronicle, and most other mainstream newspapers refused to publish the statement, calling it "biased and self-serving propaganda from a known cohort of Mr. Baggins."

The suit was hailed as a major step forward in the re-establishment of the authority of international law by progressives throughout the world. Trillions of supporters of the suit gathered on the White House lawn (photo HERE) in the United States this week to express their approval for the suit, and to protest the American cowboy government's refusal to recognize the legitimacy of any international deliberative body in even the most weakend and watered-down form. Several American lawyers, including Johnny Cochran, Alan Dershowitz, and Bob Bennett, immediately expressed their intention to assist the Lord of Barad-Dur in his attempt to bring Baggins and the others to justice.

Elrond Halfelven, when asked to comment on the matter, said merely, "F**k this, I'm outta here," apparently declaring his intention to seek political refuge in the Uttermost West beyond the Sundering Seas.

Baggins will be taken into custody sometime this week to await trial.

Update! In an expression of support for the Dark Lord, demonstrators in France have burned three synagogues to the ground.

John William Zaccone

And thus be it ever....    Now if the Shire had a Navy and nuclear weapons it might be different.

If you ever contemplate buying a seat on America West airlines, read the next two:

From the SF* Chronicle:


 An America West passenger was removed from a plane at San Francisco International Airport after making a comment about the pilots' sobriety in jest. A woman aboard America West flight 83 was escorted off the plane scheduled to depart San Francisco for Tuscon, Ariz. at 9 a.m. Monday after she said to a flight attendant, "Have you checked your crew for sobriety.'' The comment, an apparent joke in reference to an incident in Miami last week in which two America West pilots were arrested for attempting to fly under the influence of alcohol, was not funny to the crew. "No one can make a comment that could compromise the safety of the flight or the flight crew, even if they say it as a joke, especially at these times when airports and airlines face extreme sensitivity to any remarks that could comprise security,'' San Francisco International Airport spokesman Ron Wilson said today. "It is absolutely frowned upon.'' The woman, whose identity was not released, was questioned on the plane about the comment and then removed from the flight for further interviews. The incident delayed the flight for 12 minutes, Wilson said. "She kept saying, 'I was just kidding, can't you guys take a joke,' but it was something the airline took very, very seriously,'' Wilson said. America West eventually put the woman on another flight to her destination at no cost to her, he said. "We get comments every day in a joking manner such as 'Did you get the gun in my suitcase,''' Wilson said. "You just can't do that, you won't get away with it anymore. "People really need to use common sense and not make remarks that don't have any basis of fact for the sake of security and safety at our airports.''

............Karl Lembke

* Given the content of the story, I feel obliged to remind people that in this context, SF stands for "San Francisco", not "Science Fiction"


I found this in the Odd News section of Excite|

To me this is just an overreaction by Americas West, they messed up and are striking back at anyone who pokes fun at them. Kinda like a little kid. Unfortunately in the current emotional environment it is all too easy for them to get away with it.

 SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - An air passenger who jokingly questioned whether the plane's pilots were sober was removed from an Americas West flight Monday, one week after two of the airline's pilots were arrested in Miami on charges of operating an aircraft while drunk.


So let's all go buy tickets and fly on America's West, where the pilots are always sober and the gate agents have a great sense of humor.

On a different serious matter:


The musician Janis Ian makes a quiet, sober case why corporate attempts at blocking the Internet aren't helpful to her: 

--Erich Schwarz

We really need to think about "intellectual property" and the creators of it.


Thought you might enjoy an e-mail I received:

Here's an update on that old "teaching math" joke.

When did you learn math?

Teaching Math in 1950: A logger sells a truckload of lumber for $100. His cost of production is 4/5 of the price. What is his profit?

Teaching Math in 1960: A logger sells a truckload of lumber for $100. His cost of production is 4/5 of the price, or $80. What is his profit?

Teaching Math in 1970: A logger exchanges a set "L" of lumber for a set "M" of money. The cardinality of set "M" is 100. Each element is worth one dollar. Make 100 dots representing the elements of the set "M." The set "C", the cost of production contains 20 fewer points than set "M." Represent the set "C" as a subset of set "M" and answer the following question: What is the cardinality of the set "P" of profits?

Teaching Math in 1980: A logger sells a truckload of lumber for $100. His cost of production is $80 and his profit is $20. Your assignment: Underline the number 20.

Teaching Math in 1990: By cutting down beautiful forest trees, the logger makes $20. What do you think of this way of making a living? Topic for class participation after answering the question: How did the forest birds and squirrels feel as the logger cut down the trees? (There are no wrong answers.)

Teaching Math in 2000: A logger sells a truckload of lumber for $100. His cost of production is $120. How does Arthur Andersen determine that his profit margin is $60?

Teaching Math in 2010: El Loggero se habla with the truckero y se ponen de acuerdo con otro driver de la competencia y etc...











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Thursday, July 11, 2002

The Electronic Telegraph - 7/11/2002 Nigerian 'golfers' missing from Open qualifying By Auslan Cramb, Scotland Correspondent (Filed: 11/07/2002)

Golf officials said yesterday that they were mystified by the non-appearance of 47 of the 48 Nigerian "golfers" who entered the Open Championship, but failed to turn up for qualifying rounds.

The Royal and Ancient Golf Club admitted there was something strange about the large number of entries from Nigeria, which is not famed for its golfers, but could not say whether anything "sinister" had happened.

The golfers would have had to have an interview for a six-month visa, but the Home Office would not say whether they had been granted visas, or whether they had all flown to Britain. If they are in the country, they will not have breached any immigration laws until the visas expire.

A total of 2,200 applications were received for this year's event from golfers not already entitled to play - each applicant paying a £100 fee.

The R&A added that it had "tried its best" to verify the applications with the Nigeria PGA, but communication links with West Africa were "not the best".

A Home Office spokesman said no action could be taken until the visas expired: "Not turning up at a specific address is not an offence."

And fake visas sell for thousands...

But perhaps they are all selling shares in illegal oil profit schemes, and most are related to former prime ministers or oil ministers.

One another subject:

Forbes' technology section this week reports on a technique that "could extend Moore's Law ... for years beyond current theoretical limits". By making chips in three dimensions, researchers hope to crowd more circuits into each square millimeter of silicon.

One design transforms the flat chip into a cylinder, moving distant parts closer together. The designer says this design will be ten times as fast, and cost one tenth as much as current flat designs. The other contender, rather more boringly, has simply found a way to stack layers on top of each other. Heretofore, the problem has been that it's not easy to get current to flow vertically. 

............Karl Lembke

Getting them electrons to climb stairs can be a problem.

Roland finds this. It had to happen:

'Prohibited conduct'.

I've been tempted myself. And God help you if you fly America West.

And here is a view:

Interesting quote from Microsofts Patents: "The Digital Rights Management Operating System," U.S. patent numbers 6,330,670 and 6,327,652.

Quote from one of the patents:

"In a very real sense, the legitimate user of a computer can be an adversary of the data or content provider,"

I'm not very happy with that, but at least Microsoft is talking in plain english. I don't know about you but software and hardware I purchase or use better follow a different rule: if its my computer and my data I damn well better not be considered an adversary by software I purchased.

Heres a quote from an article by David Coursey of

"Palladium systems will utilize "sealed storage"--secure data repositories, such as a hard drive, protected by the Palladium technology"

The rest of this message is some speculation about effects this might cause.

With your hard drive turned into "sealed storage" where *you* don't have the key or documentation on the format, I wonder how easy its going to be to copy your documents to the backup media of your choice or transfer them to Linux? Probably you'll only be able to use "trusted" backup programs that will make an encrypted copy that can only be restored to the original computer. Getting the data out to neutral media or onto Linux doesn't sound easy. Hope that computers motherboard or encryption chip doesn't die!

Just in case it does die, content providers are going to have to keep a record of legitimate purchasers to give them access again to their already purchased content in case the computer with the content dies. So there will be a permanent lifetime record for each individual of every book/document/music clip that they own and when they purchased or read it.

Could it be designed so poorly that a DOS attack on some of Microsofts authorization computers could prevent anyone on the planet from opening any Microsoft word documents, or receiving email? Probably you could still open a document on the original machine but receiving email might be a problem since nothing could authenticate it as "trusted". Even with public key encryption, they must have a key revocation mechanism which would certainly be unavailable with Microsoft's computers down.

With the recent media player license where they demand the ability to "update" your software, in the future maybe it will become impossible to use a computer with Microsoft software without a network connection to the Internet (MicrosoftNet?) since if you were disconnected nothing would stop you from using "out of date" software that a hacker might have found a security/trust bug in. Remember just one computer running an outdated version with a trust bug (buffer overflow) could clear copy an almost unlimited amount of content/songs and once in the clear, its way too late to stop.

It also seems pretty certain that Microsoft wouldn't cryptographically sign any GPL software. Maybe I might not even be able to run software I compile myself since it could be some of that "un-American" GPL type stuff. Certainly without paying Microsoft or getting a developer license there would be no way to distribute software I create. Would they sign an interpreter like a JVM or even a perl executable? Maybe not since an interpreter would run any code the user fed to it, even DECSS (just 7 ASCII lines as a perl script) or something similar. Do you think word processors will still have a "save as .txt" option? Do you think Microsoft would sign "hyperterm" if it had a file transfer protocol like xmodem built in? If you did have hyperterm, do you think you could cut/paste to it?

I've also seen speculation that Microsoft might "extend" TCP/IP itself to add DRM/Palladium authentication to it. That way each packet coming into your machine could be authenticated (for your protection). Ok, I guess that might help Microsoft take care of the "Linux Server Problem" since Linux servers wouldn't be part of the Palladium trusted universe and packets from them wouldn't have the (no doubt) patented palladium trust extensions. And don't try to reverse engineer it to interoperate: that would be illegal due to the DMCA!

I know: "its for my own good". I've seen Microsoft's claim that Palladium won't prevent any software from running that currently runs or any data from being played/read/copied. I don't buy it for a second. Why require completely redesigned computers, monitors and soundcards and completely rewritten drivers for every piece of equipment with built in encryption if it only has an "optional" effect? Replacing every computer, monitor and speakers in the world seems like a pretty big thing to require just in case some users might want to optionally enable Palladium. Maybe the first version of Palladium might be optional: just like a drug dealers first sample. Could it get any worse? I'm ever fearful theres bound to be hidden flames behind this much smoke.

The old cliché about "not touching something with a ten foot pole" needs to be updated. I need a much longer pole with which to not touch any of this crap.

Martin Dempsey

New market. Ten meter poles?






This week:


read book now


Friday, July 12, 2002

Discussion of a subject brought up in VIEW.

Subject: Did we come out of or go into Africa?

Both, of course.

What a fascinating piece. Of COURSE closely related species/subspecies could interbreed! And if they could, they would!!

I remember reading in one of my anthropology assignments (back in the late 60's) that Australian aborigines had Neanderthal teeth. It was taken as evidence of worldwide evolution from Homo Neanderthalensis to Homo Sapiens (I don't believe they had yet merged the species at that time).

But this paper! What a concept! It really pulls the data together. Why didn't I think of that?

And here's a thought: dogs apparently separated from wolves around 135,000 years ago. I'm not sure when their bones started showing up around human campsites, and I don't know whether Neandertals had canine commensals. However, having dogs around might have been one of H sap's competitive advantages. Also speech, of course. But depending on how long we've had dogs around, we could be said to have evolved together, which itself could explain some things.

Wonderful piece. Thanks for highlighting it.


There has always been the question of Cain's wife... who was found East of Eden.

And from the best expert on practical statistical inference I know of, and my sometime partner, Michael Flynn

It is my understanding that the protohuman population was in fact isolated in NE Africa, by a rift valley that opened up ca. 8 mya and isolated the Danakil Highlands, turning the region into an island. Island populations are notorious cooking pots for species, especially if the proto-human population comes down from the trees into mangrove swamps and must learn to walk upright to keep their heads above water.

That is certainly the "mainstream" hypothesis that is now being challenged. Discussion continues below:

Eric reads that hard drives don't hold enough... 

How the hell did we ever get things done before multi terabyte drives came around?

Eric Pobirs

A good question, but I find that stuff expands to fill disk space. Always.

And if we didn't have enough to worry about Roland says

Repent, for the end is nigh.


Read the whole thing - unlikely, but scary. 

Roland Dobbins

And on America West

Dr. Pournelle:

A couple of jokes which are going around the industry these days:

American West officially calls the autopilot "Designated Driver." Also, they are changing the corporate callsign from "Cactus" to "Cheers"

More seriously, the response of my colleagues tends to be either anger, or 'What were those stupid SOBs thinking of?!"

Alan Biddle


To get the attention of a large animal, be it an elephant or a country, it helps to know what part of it feels pain. Be very, very sure, though, that you want its full attention!

Be sure not to make those jokes anywhere near an America West counter. Get your America West credit card! Don't leave home...

On a more serious note:


"See what free men can do..." What about free women? Amjad Radwan was born in 1983 to an American mother, but that's not "American" enough for the State Department...

Say, rather: "Friend to liberty nowhere, and we won't even guard our own!" 


'I Am an American' The State Department sends in the Marines to consign a U.S. citizen to Saudi hell.

Casey Tompkins

BY WILLIAM MCGURN Thursday, July 11, 2002 12:01 a.m. EDT

The words crackle over the phone line from Riyadh, in softly accented English. "I am an American woman," Amjad Radwan repeats. "My mother always tells me how free America is, and how much my grandmother, my aunts and uncles and cousins in America love me. But though I am American I cannot go see them."

If Miss Radwan appears at pains to stress her adult status, it's because the same U.S. government that trumpets its liberation of Afghan women suddenly begins shuffling its diplomatic feet when the subject turns to adult American women languishing in Saudi Arabia. In the last month alone, when asked publicly about Amjad Radwan and Alia and Aisha Gheshayan, at least three senior American officials--Secretary of State Colin Powell, White House spokesman Ari Fleischer, and Assistant Secretary for Near Eastern Affairs William Burns--all muddied the issue by resorting to the State Department line that the fates of at least a dozen American women in Saudi Arabia are "custody" spats involving "children."


Of course these American citizens are not "children" any longer. And what the hell is the Marine Corps for if not to rescue Americans from slavery? Millions for defense, not one cent for tribute, but really, Mr. Decatur, we don't need you any longer...

On Longhorn and Palladium: 

Three interesting things: 1) it appears booting an "untrusted" operating system like linux will be impossible with a Palladium motherboard, even though Palladium is optional. Whats optional (for now) is if you have a Palladium certified operating system, you can run "normal" or optionally "trusted" applications. Booting a non palladium signed operating system isn't an option.

2) Your PC will not work without internet access at intervals since downloading new information will be required.

3) The Palladium subsystem has the ability to delete any and all files on the computer. This means *ANY* file you might have especially if they are not related to Palladium or Microsoft. This is to stop the problem of "Break Once Run Everywhere".

Something like a list of md5 sigs for "illegal content" is periodically distributed to all PCs and if a file with that checksum is found it gets reported and deleted. So if someone breaks the protection of copyrighted song and creates an MP3 and trades it around, as soon as someone reports the checksum, all Palladium computers will see that "illegal" checksum and delete the file. Or if someone makes an application (.exe) that according to Microsoft does something wrong: "poof" its gone.

If there is a document that "the powers that be" don't want distributed, it just disappears everywhere. In 3rd world countries the governments will use this blatantly for censorship. Even in our country corporations the US government will use this to prevent free speech. Look at the scientologists effective use of copyright to silence critics for a sample. In the "Pentagon Papers" incident our government went to court to prevent the NY Times from publishing information claiming that it was classified. Luckily the courts didn't see it that way. With Palladium, the government would just claim claim copyright and "poof" the documents would be gone from all computers with Palladium. Scary

Martin Dempsey

It bears watching, but it hasn't happened yet; and most of us have some fairly good equipment without those chips on board. Do I want to "upgrade" to a "Trusted" system? Not likely.

On Longhorn:

According to this article:,3959,368868,00.asp 

It appears that Longhorn has been delayed until '05 at the earliest. Does this mean they're going to "get it right"? That they are slowing the pace of development to work on non-OS products? That they just don't want to push the cycle too hard? That they realize they have a lot of work to do? That OS sales for XP just haven't been very good?

Of course, they can also piece out product improvements over time--but it appears there's no way to monetize that, except if they do some sort of "XP and a half" version.


Alex Pournelle, Director, PC and LAN Practice, Tech/Knowledge (

And from Dan Spisak in answer

Oh yeah I am sure that MS is pushing it to '05 to "get it right" except in this case it means:

Palladium enabled & secured OS with hardware support from vendors and legal punishments and limitations on unsecured PC hardware.

I don't like the way I see this playing out in my somewhat paranoid head. If I am right on this it's going to push me into Mac territory just to get away from MS.

I mean think about it, if the OS isn't coming out till '05 this gives MS and hardware vendors lots of time to develop all new hardware for this new "secure" (eegads that word leaves a bad taste in my mouth now) OS/hardware platform.

How can I, the customer, the consumer, a citizen of the US, get actual fair representation within Congress on these matters? I so far only hear day in and day out about the totally moronic things said by the Senator from Disney (the fact I even call him the Senator from Disney, and that people don't immediately balk and want to go fix Congress bothers me greatly too) and the senators that are trying to protect IP and consumer rights fairly and in a balanced manner is a very very tiny fraction of what I hear going on. Do I have to go run for office myself to go fight rampant stupidity like I see these days? Or does a new PAC need to be formed? The more and more I hear these things taking a turn for the worse and becoming ever more and more ridiculous and stupid I feel like the people are finally going to snap and there will be some kind of uprising (or perhaps I am just delusional?).

Anyone else care to help me feel like I'm not the only one who feels like this?

And Eric Pobirs adds:

If DRM becomes a requirement of law, how does shifting to Mac help? They'd be subject to the same restrictions. Note their complete silence about the WMP EULA. Shouldn't they be jumping all over this? Unless they anticipate including the same thing in QT6 or later.

Step 1) Buy some salt.

Step 2) Consume a grain of the salt whenever reading an article on Slashdot, The Register, or The Inquirer.

Sensationalism is not an ingredient of rational discourse, which is something those sites don't provide. They go into panicked arm-waving mode at the slightest suggestion of anything amiss. If the sky had fallen every time they said it would the entire atmosphere of the planet would be at knee level.

Legislation does not run on Internet time. Just the opposite, in fact, and that is generally for the best. These things can on for years and years. Support or opposition requires patience, diligence, and most importantly, something to do in real life because there's no movement for big chunks of time on the political front.

The article really had nothing say about Palladium. What little information there has ever been never attached it to a specific road map target like Longhorn. Not that Longhorn appears to be adhering to any kind of schedule that might be suggested by a road map. It looks like it will be another in the long history of computer industry products that never really appear but rather dribble out the features over several releases. No longer the code name that will be on a beta startup screen like we had with Memphis and Whistler.

This blog, Better Living Through Software, is written by a Microsoft guy currently working on .NET stuff. He has some pretty on-target things to say on the subject or non-subject of Palladium. I say non-subject because, like Hailstorm, it turns out that almost nobody inside Microsoft agrees as to just what it is. 

Start at the July 5 entry and work back if interested in the history.

I tend to agree with Eric: it's no good going into panic mode given what little we know;  but we had better keep paying attention.

The protection of intellectual property vs. freedom is a very intricate question, and we have not done enough thinking about it. I also say flat out: no encryption scheme will last for long. It will be broken with algorithms or through penetration and betrayal; but it will be broken.





This week:


read book now


Saturday, July 13, 2002

Dear Dr. Pournelle,

Silly me! I always thought of judo as a way of fighting that used mental and physical discipline, along with fighting techniques developed in China, to allow an unarmed man to face up to armed oppressors when there is no other answer. This article shows that politically correct stupidity is not confined to the United States.

The length of the URL does not demonstrate superior intelligence on the part of Netscape.


William L. Jones

Roland sends this link with the title "Imperium"

And this

Incompetent empire, indeed.

Sue Ferrara adds:

To view the entire article, go to

State Detains Reporter Over Leaked Saudi Cable

By Howard Kurtz State Department officials detained a young National Review reporter for questioning at the daily briefing yesterday after he asked about a classified cable involving embarrassing problems with U.S. visas in Saudi Arabia.

Joel Mowbray, 26, said several guards prevented him from leaving the Foggy Bottom building for half an hour and that a department official asked where he had obtained the cable from the U.S. ambassador in Riyadh.

"The thing that blows me away is they were trying to get my source," Mowbray said.

And this is how the Empire treats its friends...


And Randall Parker adds to the case file on incompetent imperialism

Michelle Malkin

July 10, 2002

Deadly diversity, dumb program

In the drawer of dumb, post-Sept. 11 immigration ideas, the State Department's Diversity Visa Lottery program sits near the top of the heap. What could be more out of touch with the national security goals of the War on Terror than giving away visas randomly to thousands of people from the Middle East to fulfill a politically correct social agenda?

< snip >

America remains America so long as our culture can absorb immigrants; we have done well making Americans of Irish, Italians, Serbs, Croats, Ulstermen, Germans, Hessians, Ruthenians, Hungarians, etc., etc.  But you can't dilute the original mix too much, and you have to believe the goal is assimilation, not pockets of "diversity". "Diversity" without federalism produces Empire. Iberia for centuries had different laws for different peoples. So did Rome, with a Praetor Peregrinus to try cases involving foreign law (and indeed this evolved into what we now know as Roman Law...)

Are we coming to that now? Diversity: applying different laws to different peoples. Sometimes when I read the papers I believe that is so.

Is it not time to end immigration for a generation to assimilate our new populations? Immigration as we now know it provides low cost competition to our citizens: is this the right way to go? And yes, I know: there are many who want low cost gardeners and servants, and low cost engineers and doctors; many Silicon Valley firms could not operate without the brain drain. A good case can be made for importing the best and brightest from the rest of the world. But at some point the cultural dilutions reach a critical mass, and the entire nature of the culture changes.

In any event, lotteries would not seem the best selection criteria...

In rural Botswana impregnation of young girls by schoolteachers has always been routine in my experience. No particular impetus to hide it in these essentially matrilineal societies where the women especially are keen eugenicists.

Last time I was there there was a new baby in the village fathered by a visiting road engineer. People proudly called him "our little Englishman".


This in response to the item about "transactional sex" between students and pupils in Africa. It is an interesting notion. The girls do better by having affairs with men they can never marry: they get higher status, and the society being matrilineal have no problem getting husbands.

From Eric

The Center for Strategic and International Studies suggest that trying to plan for biological warfare attacks is a lot like being Buffy the Vampire Slayer. 

An interesting view. I used to be a Fellow of the Strategic Studies Institute. I forget why I gave it up a decade ago.

Dr. Pournelle,

Michael Swanwick has been writing a whole lot of very short (few-paragraphs-long) stories based--sometimes very loosely--on the chemical elements, in ascending Z-order. This week's is iodine, and somehow it seems germane to one of your major discussion topics of late. Here's the link: 

Best regards, JBWoodford


And an interesting essay on games:

To: Jerry Pournelle

Re: your "Everything at E3," July 8, 2002


One of the major things you can do with additional computer power is to attack problems in a more abstract, more generalized, more object-oriented way. To give an example, scalable fonts have by now very nearly superseded fixed fonts. The result is that typeface designers are no longer concerned with the issue of what typefaces are to be used in what point sizes. 

If we apply the same principle to games, one could envision a game without any characters, plots, settings, or rules. However, such a game would have an authoring system, and provision for importing and exporting the characters, plots, settings, and rules, either jointly or severally. Of course games are starting to move in this direction, but they will go further, until the games themselves are in effect content-free. 

At this point, what you have is a gaming environment, a specialized operating system for the conducting of games. A gaming environment would do for games very much what spreadsheets did for calculations. One might add, of course, that a game is the general case of an animated movie. 

The major game vendors are still operating under what one might call the Hollywood Central Dogma. This "dogma" says in effect that you start with a literary work, such as a novel, script, scenario, etc., and then send in large numbers of technicians to turn it into an audio-visual production, such as a movie or video game. This dogma has various corollaries, such as the presumption that moneymen are to be literary critics, and the expectation that there will be formidable barriers to entry into the audio-visual business. 

With a well developed gaming environment, audio-visual production would tend to get subsumed in literary authorship. The people who manufacture printing presses do not concern themselves with whether or not you are a good writer, or even whether your books sell. They sell printing presses to anyone who pays for them, and what the buyer does with the press is the buyer's affair. For that matter, most publishers do not own presses, but employ jobbing printers on the same basis. 

The internet has merely accelerated this tendency. For example, Amazon so efficiently manages its logistic pipeline so as not to be in the position of investing in particular books or authors, unlike a traditional bookseller. 

By this standard, the movie, record, and game industries are an anachronism. Sooner or later, gaming environments will probably become open-source, on much the same basis as operating systems, etc. The provision of gaming environments will cease to be a commercial affair. At a guess, what will happen is that certain categories of books will command a premium price if they have bundled game components, or rather, that publishers will be more disposed to take a chance on a book which has game components. Adding a game will be part of finishing up a book, on the same basis as edit-and-rewrite or illustration. It will be firmly within the province of the author.

Andrew D. Todd 

[Emphasis added by editor.] A very interesting essay, and well worth thinking about. Thank you.

Harry Erwin on species (Discussion begins above):

The recent results are interesting. Note that we have no evidence for Australopithecus, Ardipithecus, Pan or Gorilla outside of Africa, so the parsimonious hypothesis is that the radiation producing those genera occurred in Africa. The ecological contexts in which these genera are found, plus the variation even within groups of specimens, suggest that prior to Homo, the hominids may have formed a 'species flock' like those seen in the East African cichlid populations, with most populations being quite local and separated by extensive biomes where hominids were not found. The first evidence for hominids in the savannah seems to be for some local populations of Homo habilis. The Turkana Boy provides fairly strong evidence that early H. erectus was well adapted to the savannah biome, but some populations of its predecessors, Australopithecus and H. habilis, probably occupied savannah-edge biomes, especially as bipedalism is useful when foraging in open conditions. (It increases speed of resource localization and identification of predators when combined with vocalization. This is something we are studying in the Intelligent Systems group at Sunderland.) Other than culturally and intellectually, H. erectus was fully human. It was an obligate biped, but the Turkana Boy has anatomical features suggestive of recent evolution from a population that made heavy use of tree-climbing. Also, it probably did not use complex speech. Tool-making and use (which involves complex planning) was not limited to Homo--aside from tool use known in Pan, Australopithecus garhi, robustus, and boisei seem to have been tool-makers.

The Dmanisi specimens recently reported in Science had _very_ small cranial capacities for H. erectus, suggesting that there was migration out of Africa prior to the differentiation of H. erectus to the degree seen in the Turkana Boy.

Africa seems to have been a center of cultural evolution during the last 200 KYr. There is evidence for increasing complexity of social interactions and tool making during that period. The first evidence for anatomically modern H. sapiens is in Africa (Klasies River Mouth) and the Near East about half way through that period, but the culture for the latter was middle paleolithic. There are some complex artifacts from the Congo of about that date. Although H. erectus made sea-going vessels, the first evidence for long distance sea-going movements was in New Guinea and Australia about 60 KYr BP, also associated with the first evidence for productive creative art.

I suspect the emergence of creative art was triggered by a female choice process and is a precondition for complex culture. It seems to have spread through modern H. sapiens after the emergence from Africa, but it is not clear how much of the spread was cultural diffusion (which is a Lamarckian process that can drive genetic evolution).

The report of Sahelanthropus in Nature, today, is actually not as conclusive as the news reports indicate. The material is cranial and mandibular, and they do not have any post-cranial remains. Given the variation in other hominids, we cannot be sure we're looking at a specimen that post-dates the Pan/Gorilla/ Ardipithecus/Australopithecus radiation. I have seen some recent analyses that suggest knuckle-walking is derived relative to bipedalism, so the usual questions still need answering. 

-- --- Harry Erwin, PhD, Senior Lecturer of Computing, University of Sunderland. Computational neuroscientist modeling bat bioacoustics and behavior. <>

Of  course we are very nearly at the point of Lamarkian genetics now, are we not? And on "Out of Africa or Into Africa":

This reminded me of a question I wanted to ask:

In 1962, Carleton Coon published a big book on "The Origin of Races" which argued, largely from bone evidence, that there was regional continuity in Asia and Africa going back to Homo Erectus. This suggested to him that the "Out of Africa" theory (not that it was called that back before the movie came out) was wrong because people appeared to have evolved multiregionally, maintaining some regional morphological continuity over hundreds of thousands of years (although he certainly argued that there was interbreeding across regional boundaries as well - it's a canard that he did not).

Anyway, most (but probably not all) of the genetic evidence seems to have gone against Coon's notion that Homo Erectus contributed a lot to modern humans. The current dominant belief is that anatomically modern humans evolved in Africa between, say, 50k and 200k ago, then emerged and wiped out the Homo Erecti and Neanderthals globally.

So, that leads to two questions:

1. Does this mean Coon was wrong about the fossil record? Did he just imagine regional continuity? Or did he just have too small a sample size and more recent finds of Homo Erecti showed there wasn't regional continuity. Or was there continuity?

2. If there was, yet the genetic evidence suggests no admixture with predecessor species, could that be explained by the theory that modern humans, facing the same regional environmental pressures in Asia versus Africa just evolved in the same ways morphologically as their predecessors?


And back to computers:

Subject: Intel observations...

Dr. Pournelle-

I finally decided to bite the bullet and build the 2-ton gorilla of desktop systems. I bought all my components at I bought an Intel D845EBG2L motherboard, 2.53Ghz processor, 2 pieces of Kingston 512MB DDR PC-2100 RAM, 2 Western Digital 120GB hard drives, 16x Pioneer DVD, ATI All-in-wonder 8500DV video, SoundBlaster Audigy Platinum EX and a TDK 40x-12x-48x CD-R. Now I know I could have bought all of that just as easily at Fry's. But every motherboard box I picked up had one of those white product return stickers on it. If it were a toaster, I wouldn't have a problem buying something that was repackaged and reshelved. But when it comes to computer components, I'd rather buy something new.

After mounting the motherboard in the case (Antec Plus 1080), I had to look at the mobo documentation to check on the Power/LED/USB connections. I'm still confused about that, but what puzzled me even more was that the documentation said it only supported a P4 CPU running at 2.4Ghz. I thought I had researched this enough and knew I read in numerous places that the EBG2L board supported the 2.53Ghz CPU. Rather than let doubt get the better of me, I jumped over to to see if this was true or if there were some sort of updated info I could read. This was about 3pm. Well, I couldn't connect to the Intel web site. Kept getting the "could not find the page..." error. I kept trying to connect until about 10:30pm. This morning I was finally able to connect and found out that the mobo I had did support the CPU I bought.

I did try to find this info on other web sites, but had no luck. This was a serious waste of my time. And so far I haven't found any reason why Intel's site was down.

Anyway, just wanted to let you know that this type of stuff also frustrates the hell out of your loyal readers. And I do appreciate that you do all these silly things so I don't have to.

Keep up the good work!

Rob Madison

Interesting rounding error. 

Note that Intel has a highly standard system for connecting Power On/Off, HDD light, Reset, etc., and if you have documents for any recent Intel board you have them for all; there is a missing pin in the 2 column array of these, and note also that there is always an alternative Power Light set with 3 pins since many cases come that way. It confused me at first because I got an Intel board without the little diagram showing which pins were for what, until I realized that they haven't changed that in about 3 generations now; Intel really hopes that case makers will standardize and make a single keyed plug for all those functions.

I haven't advised anyone to get WD drives in some time, which is to say that while I have some WD drives in operation, all but one of my recent failures have been Western Digital. Which is not so say yours will, but I would run Scan Disk fairly often just in case...

And now from Dr. Ed Hume:

July 13, 2002; 
U.S. combat troops in Afghanistan are very deliberately avoiding the mistakes the Russians made. A lot of this has to do with combat support. One major problem the Russians had during their 1980s war was keeping their 100,000 troops healthy. Most of the Russian soldiers who served in Afghanistan got sick, often very sick. The Russian troops always had trouble getting clean water, or clean quarters to live in. American troops have always paid more attention to keeping illness down and they have succeeded in Afghanistan. This means more water purification equipment, plus showers and latrines that use clean water and keep the troops clean at the same time. Russian troops also had trouble with the Summer heat and sandstorms in southern Afghanistan. American troops now have air conditioned tents to sleep in, and other air conditioned tents where they eat and have access to the Internet (for email) and short phone calls home. And most Afghans aren't just "used to it." As the Special Forces discovered when their medics began treating their Afghan allies, a lot of Afghans are constantly coming down with one bug or another, and many have just laid down and died up in the hills. American troops are kept healthy and in good physical shape, so that when they do head off for the hills in their helicopters, they hit the ground in much better physical shape than their opponents. Nothing like a good night's sleep to keep you sharp for combat.

Something any Roman Centurion could have told you. Ancient and medieval armies lost more to disease than to the enemy, time after time after time. 

"My privy and well run into each other, after the practice of Christiantee,
The plague has taken my mother and brother, why has my God afflicted me?"

And  another note from Sue Ferarra:


Best of the Web Today - July 12, 2002 By JAMES TARANTO

Cow Tripping

"Faced with some of the world's strictest anti-drug laws, some addicts in Malaysia are sniffing fresh cow dung to get high," the Associated Press reports from Kuala Lumpur. Apparently the sulfur in cow dung has an intoxicating effect.

Now that's disgusting!


Dr. Pornelle,

I don't know who Victor Davis Hanson is, or what his credentials are, but he makes a lot of good points in this article: . I too remember a time when the public schools seemed to understand that their job was to produce good young citizens.

Ken Jancaitis

Hanson is author of two books I have chosen as Book of the Month. The first was The Western Way of War. He is a classical historian and always worth reading.







This week:


read book now


Sunday, July 14, 2002

And Joanne is profoundly silly again:

A stray comment I heard on the radio tonight set off one of my typical flights of fancy. Some guys were talking about how a cell phone tower implemented in vacuum tubes would be the size of the Empire State Building, give or take a little. Someone else remarked about Eniac is exceeded by the wee tiny chips in your home computer.

So my brain short circuited to a different sort of comparison. I wondered how my machine compares to the computing power that was available in the world at a given date near that of Eniac. I had to slide rather forward in time to get the comparison. So I expanded it to include ALL computing power presuming humans were "computers" banging away at numbers at a speed of about one addition per second.

Now, a Linux "BogoMIP" is a fanciful unit. But it does give an estimate of how fast the machine ticks over for simple things. My newest machine ticks in at about 2 billion instructions per second. String out a million addition operations and loop on it. You would be running on the order of a billion to two billion additions per second for numbers larger than humans can add in a second. So an interesting unit of measure for a desktop computer has become "One World Power", the human "organic" computing capacity that exists in the world. And there are desktop machines that have a capability to push or exceed that level of calculation effort.

{^_^} Being sort of silly again. But it's fun.

The Wizardess being silly makes folly look wise...

From the license included in a security patch for Windows media player:


*Digital Rights Management (Security). You agree that in order to protect the integrity of content and software protected by digital rights management ("Secure Content"), Microsoft may provide security related updates to the OS Components that will be automatically downloaded onto your computer. These security related updates may disable your ability to copy and/or play Secure Content and use other software on your computer. If we provide such a security update, we will use reasonable efforts to post notices on a web site explaining the update.


“Wait a minute! Did you just give Microsoft the right to go inside your computer and change pretty much anything they like even if it disables applications from other vendors -- applications you paid good money for? And if they do mess with the inside of your computer they don't have to ask permission or do anything except post an explanation on some web site somewhere? “


The part within quotes is taken form a column of “The Pulpit” I could not put it in better English myself. You seemed in your columns taking for granted Microsoft good faith, distinguishing it from some of their bad practices. Now, I cannot judge in advance what they may be doing with the rights, users are granting them if they agree with the license stated above but, for the terms in which that license is spelled, all the bed thinking is authorized. That company is supposed to produce and sell software, it is not up to them entering my house (where my computer is) and messing around with what I own, and they smuggle this whole story, in a security patch, therefore I am left with the choice of having an insecure machine (because of their negligence) or giving them the right of controlling part of my privacy. For the moment I am safe, I do not use Windows Media Player anyway, but they could be putting this terms on a security patch I’ll be in need of one day. I am not into the “Anything but Microsoft” club, but, for sure, they are really doing everything they can to make me join it.


Renato Dall’ Armi

I welcome comments on this. I don't need more rants.









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