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Mail 224 September 23 - 29, 2002 






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Highlights this week:

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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If you want to PAY FOR THIS PLACE I keep the latest information HERE.  MY THANKS to all of you who sent money.  Some of you went to a lot of trouble to send money from overseas. Thank you! There are also some new payment methods. I am preparing a special (electronic) mailing to all those who paid: there will be a couple of these. I have thought about a subscriber section of the page. LET ME KNOW your thoughts.

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Monday  September 23, 2002

Roland sends a great number of suggestions: how he has time I can't say, since I don't even have time to look at the ones he thinks worth suggesting, and clearly they are culled from hundreds more. Anyway here are a bunch of things he thought interesting, with or without subject headings depending on the format he sent them in.

Subject: How to boil a frog. 


Subject: All's well that ends well.

The last sentence makes the piece.

I agree


An important little article. 


Subject: The Antikythera Mechanism. 

Thank you: I haven't thought about that device in years, and this makes more sense. 




Hazardous buckets. 

All of which ought to be enough for one day....






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Tuesday,  September 24, 2002

This is another day being eaten fast by locusts.

Dear very busy Dr. Pournelle

I work in the Electrical Utility Generation field and ran across this conversion utility today, and it's a freeware download. 

Energy, light, power, mass, pressure,

It's all in there and at 535k fits on a floppy.

Thanks for all your hard work.

Regards Douglas

Douglas M. Colbary I & C The Electric Plant City of Painesville

Thanks! Very useful indeed.


Subject: Google does it again

First it was their search engine....

Then they bought out DejaNews and made it even better.....

Then they integrated with the OpenDirectory project.....

Then the birth of the Google Search Appliance....

However, without a doubt, Google News has to be the most interesting and potentially useful things they have done lately. Check it out at: 

It seems to be done rather well and since its google, no popups.

-Dan S.

And in fact it was worth bookmarking...

Subject: Airline Buyout

They are at it again. Now they want a reduction in fuel taxes among other things. What about motorists getting a tax break on gas tax instead of the airlines?

USAir may be in bankruptcy protection, but that is far from going out of business. In this downturn, the ONLY airline to go out of business was SwissAir. Maybe it's time for some creative destruction instead of more bailouts.

 To view the entire article, go to

  Airlines Put Hands Out -- Again 
 By Keith L. Alexander and Sara Kehaulani Goo

  Just a year after carriers won a multibillion-dollar bailout for the   U.S. airline industry, they are back on Congress's doorstep, asking for  more help. This time they want relief from the additional security costs  they have faced since last year's terrorist hijackings.

Rich Pournelle

Indeed we are all for laissez faire capitalism for everyone else...

And on a related subject 

It's sad that when someone in charge actually has a moment of common sense, they can't get away with it without someone calling foul.


Dr. Jerry,

For your, and your readers, enlightenment of the services available to WindowsXP Pro I offer THIS URL. 

 "Black Viper" has been around a few months and presents fairly complete, useful and easily-understood info on "tweaking the beast" and other such relevant subjects.

In the event you've posted this in the past please disregard the above.

Do hope you're feeling better!



From: Stephen M. St. Onge                                 
subject: pop quiz
Dear Jerry:
    Once again, it's time to try to figure out which is the parody. & are both tales of left wing lawyers supporting the right of terrorists to murder them.  Which one is serious?



There is a fake email making the rounds that masquerades as the frontpage when you launch it. It steals your login and password, sending it to and then forwards you to the real webpage.

Embarrassingly enough I got nailed by it. For about 30 seconds, and then I realized what I had just done and changed my password and notified CitiBank, Charter (where the mail came from).

Needless to say, even when you are using Linux and mutt for your mail you can get caught unaware if you aren't careful. It opened a local file with the webpage in it (it requests the images from the real c2it site, a problem with viewing html attachments with mutt and mailcap). I didn't notice that it was a local file and logged in normally (dumb, dumb, dumb!) and when it forwarded me to the real page I realized I'd been nailed.

I then logged into the real thing (in a different browser by typing in the url by hand) and immediately changed my password and checked for activity. I then called CitiBank and notified their fraud department and then notified Charter Communication's abuse people (I've got the IP of the person who sent me the mail).

I would have notified the owners of but it appears to have fake info in its tucows registration entry. But I am notifying tucows to see if they will delete the entry.

Hopefully they catch this person quickly.


-- Linux Consulting and Software Development  DigiTemp --[Inside 76.0F]--[Outside 57.1F]--[fozzy 74.0F]--[Drink 70.7F]--

 Subject: Software Pioneer Bob Wallace Dies

From the Seattle Times: "Bob Wallace, a pioneer in Seattle's early software community and Microsoft's ninth employee, died unexpectedly at his home Friday in San Rafael, Calif. ..."

Jim Whitlock

God rest him. I knew him for many years, since CP/M days, mostly at the West Coast Computer Faire but also at Hackers meetings. He was the author of one of the few shareware programs to make a bit of money in the early days, and he knew as much about text editors and word processors as anyone. His significant other Meagan drew the cat picture on the cover of the documents. If a small outfit could survive in the growing PC world it would have been Bob Wallace's, but he was no manager.

A good man and an old if not close friend. More below.









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Wednesday, September 25, 2002

Open with the Canadian mail. My general reply is in View.


Appease Canadians?


Won't be important for anyone BUT THE TWO OFFICERS??

Who speaks for the dead and injured, I wonder.

I realize that events transpire, and war is hell, but no one signs up to be killed by "friendly" fire. No one.

Someone screwed up. If it wasn't the pilots, then, sir, SPEAK UP!

John Murphy



Hi Dr. Pournelle;

In response to your article in the view about the US pilots being prosecuted here is how the incident has been reported in Canada.

A unit of Canadian forces was training at a US facility in Afghanistan. The two pilots flew overhead, saw the small arms fire & asked for permission to fire in self defence. They were ordered to hold their fire & take evasive action. Neither pilot took evasive action, one dropping a bomb shortly after receiving the order to hold his fire. That bomb killed four Canadian soldiers and severely wounded eight more.

Speaking as a Canadian it would be nice to see some accurate reporting about my country in the US media.

Regards Josh

It wouldn't hurt to have an accurate picture of what happened, for that matter.

Dr. Pournelle,

You're a published author (of books I quite often purchase and enjoy) so you might be aware of another meaning of the word clients but I am not. When you refer to Canada as "our Canadian clients", I assume that you think of Canada as a client state (or the hated moniker 51st state of the US).

It's not that I haven't heard this from other CotUS (Citizens of the United States) but generally we dismiss those sort of people as the kind that arrive in Halifax in June with a ski-rack attached to their car asking for directions to the ski-hill (actually happens on alarmingly regular basis).

Because you are someone I've read not just because I enjoy your fiction but also for your many thoughtful essays I'm curious about your real opinion of the Canada/USA relationship and your uneditted feelings about the punishment your government is proposing for the two trigger-happy reservists who sent our Patricia's (PPCLI - Princess Partricia's Canadian Light Infantry) home in boxes.

Pardon the last bit of that sentence, it's rude and I don't mean to make you feel like you have to defend the actions of others. As I said, as I long time reader I am curious about your opinions on the subject in light of your recent comments.

Kelly Brown

We use body bags rather than boxes.

Dear Jerry,

In Tuesday's view, regarding the prosecution of the two National Guard pilots, you said, in part "This incident won't be important for anyone but the two officers".

I suppose in the grand scheme of things you are right. But as a Canadian, and a retired member of the Canadian Forces, it is important to me that these men go to trial, and I am sure the families of the dead and injured think it is important also. I obviously don't know what happened that night, but the investigations so far seem to indicate enough problems in communication and not following procedure that a trial may be the only way to cast light on the solutions. If my son were killed because a pilot reacted poorly to seeing flashes of light, I would want to know what happened, and why.

Please note that I say it is important that this matter go to trial, NOT that the two pilots be found guilty. In fact I expect they will not be found guilty. A trial would, however show that this incident cannot be brushed aside by saying "oops". It is unfortunate, but it seems likely that whatever the outcome, their careers are probably over. Nevertheless, the US and Canadian governments really have little choice - this is a case of "Justice should not only be done, but should manifestly and undoubtedly be seen to be done."

I think, and hope, that I would feel the same no matter what the nationalities involved, but of course this event has gotten a lot of press here, and my feelings are a little stronger.

Greg French

Middleton, Nova Scotia, Canada

Sure will be a comfort to have those chaps in Leavenworth, won't it? Oh. It's just enough to ruin them with legal fees and such.

Clearly these monsters intended to kill Canadians. No? Then what is "Justice" here, in a war situation?

Illinois Air National Guard pilots charged in friendly-fire deaths

For those interested in the reports that lead to charges being laid:

The US report is online at:

And the Canadian report is online at: 

A copy of the Reuters article is online at: 

The Chicago Sun Times has a commentary piece pointing out that the Illinois ANG has an accident rate five times the rate of the USAF: 

Another piece detailing some failings of the Illinois ANG is at:

And finally, the reaction of the State Governor is at:

The American report is particularly interesting; the list of 11 findings suggest it was a question of when such an incident would occur; the systemic failures were that bad.

Of course, it's convenient to hang the whole thing on a pair of Air National Guard pilots; addressing systemic failures might imperil the careers of senior active officers, and that would never do.

My impression: the pilots should never have been charged with four counts of manslaughter or eight counts of assault. They were not briefed that friendly forces were in the area. They did disobey their rules of engagement; that's about the only charge I can see that should stick.

Just my thoughts...

David Paterson

Of course it was merely a question of WHEN; but then that is the case in every war that has happened since Homer. I am sure it would have made sense for Virginia to charge the troops who shot Stonewall Jackson. Or -- but as you say, it was inevitable. And again my general reply is in view.

Dear Jerry: I read your comment on the pilots being prosecuted for the deaths of the PPCLI soldiers. I do not believe that political correctness has a great deal to do with it, or the fact that they casualties were Canadian. I used to be in the armed forces ( tank commander) and am aware of the possibility of being killed by friendly artillery or air bombardment. In a close engagement these things will happen through bad map(GPS) readings bad information or bad target identification. This was not the case here. The pilots should have been warned that there was training going on in the area, they were not, the element commander should have maintained control over his other call sign he did not.

The immediate action for the pilot who is taking ground fire is to get his very expensive aircraft out of harms way as fast as possible, examine the situation from a safe distance and evaluate it , following the evaluation of the situation then take action.

If this had been done there would not have been any casualties, one radio call would have confirmed the identity of the people on the ground.

As it happens once again hind site is twenty twenty , but this was an entirely avoidable incident, following standing orders would have avoided it.

Glen Shevlin Markham Ontario Canada

P.S. what was the disposition of the Gunship pilot that was involved with the friendly fire incident in desert storm , are the situations not similar?


You have far more faith in standing orders than I do.


Subject: Fallen Angels reference

Kevin Krieser

Thanks! Shows how scientific the politicians can be, too.








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Thursday, September 26, 2002

There are times when I think I have lived too long, and ought just get out of the way. Apparently if I don't state that I know the obvious, then everyone assumes I am unable to grasp it.

Dr. Pournelle,

I always enjoy reading your comments. They are well thought out, concisely articulated, and thought provoking, whether I agree or not. Usually, I don't even feel qualified to comment. However, on the case of the Air Force pilots in Afganistan, who killed the Canadian soldiers, I do wish to comment.

I don't think I have enough first hand information to be sure what happened, and it will evidently have to wait for the trial and its reporting for us to feel sure. I read the links provided by David Patterson, particularly the one from centcom. That is an amazing document. I don't know when I have seen the military kick itself around so much. I was also surprised to note that the US Army began conducting an investigation even though Air Force pilots were presumed to be at fault.

Assuming its correctness, I don't see your objections. Especially as regards command and control. That is crucial to the military. When it fails, missions fail, and the military fails. From what I have read in the media, the incident at My Lai seems to have been largely due to a lack of proper leadership in that company first, then at the division level.

In this case, the actions of the pilots as outlined in the report led to the death of the soldiers on the ground. If they were not following the orders given to them, and more specifically, apparently disobeying them, then they are responsible for the deaths. The actions of Pilot Y sound like what I have heard pilots were reported to do in Vietnam over the DMZ, when they were not allowed to engage enemy forces unless fired on. That is, fly in such a way as to invite attack, then respond to it. The centcom report almost says as much. Well, when you are killing enemy and not losing aircraft, maybe that can be winked at. What do you do when it causes friendly deaths? Do you just forget it and hope it doesn't happen again? That isn't to say that all things that cause deaths rise to the level of criminally culpable actions.

If that is your argument, and you believe that some action should be taken against those who did not maintain order and discipline, but not rise to the level of court martial for homicide, ok. Say so. If you don't believe the centcom report, I could hold judgment until its accuracy could be determined. I can even wink at minor rules infractions that aid in overall mission as long it doesn't kill friendly forces. However, when a person goes outside the rules, they have to know they may face consequences, and be ready to stand up to it without complaint.

Bottom line. What do you do in this instance? People are dead. Someone appears to be to blame. If someone got off before, that doesn't excuse anyone in the future. Canada is a sovereign nation which can legitimately request we look into this and take action deemed necessary. But, what do we care about whether it was Canada or not. What we need to worry about is whether or not our people did something illegal. If we think so, we should take action whether Canada wants us to, or asks us not to. It is our concern first. It is our military discipline we should worry about, politics not withstanding.


I would have thought it obvious that there is a difference between willful disobedience to standing orders, and homicide. In one of my "lectures" in The Prince I have the lecturer say that soldiers will accept harsh discipline but they must believe it just: even the man being unjustly punished must believe that the crime he is being punished for warrants the punishment. That's one difference between an army and a mob. 

Dear Jerry,

I agree the Canadians are being a bit precious about having their troops bombed by US aircraft. After all, the US killed a New Zealand Army major in a bungled bombing demonstration in Kuwait in March 2001, and the NZ Government was really understanding about it.

I know the Americans are supposed to kill enemies rather than allies, but people should realise they're only human. And in return, maybe some Canadians or New Zealanders can kill a few Americans by accident; I'm sure the US would be just as tolerant and understanding as new Zealand was.

Still, I think you may be over-simplifying when you say "This incident won't be important for anyone but the two officers." Don't Canadians have families?

Yours, Gregor


Gregor Ronald Christchurch, New Zealand 03-385-0577

History may not repeat itself, but it does rhyme a lot. (Mark Twain)

My initial response to this letter was a bit snippy. I'll try to do better after my hair appointment. 

Meanwhile, write five hundred times: War is Hell. When you decide that you want to be in one, understand that many things will happen that you did not want or intend.

And oddly enough, yes, I knew they had families. What I don't have is time to say everything I think and feel about a subject; to insist that I must restate the obvious every time I write is to say I shouldn't write at all. Perhaps that's the right lesson to be drawn. God knows I don't get paid much for doing this. But let me repeat: yes, I knew they had families, and the matter will be important to the families of the dead. That statement would be true had they died in a jeep accident. Apparently I should apologize for not saying that?

I am going to end this with two more letters from Canadians, and I am going to do Canada the favor of NOT printing a dozen and more really vicious letters.

"And we can always sentence them .... and commute their sentences, and everyone will be happy"

I wouldn't bet on it. That was the attitude the execrable French adopted after they'd sent in their troops to murder people in New Zealand. They negotiated a prisoner transfer, got the murderers home to France, then released them. New Zealand hasn't forgotten, they haven't forgiven the French, or the domestic political party that let the murderers go. More to the point, I'm writing from Australia, and I haven't forgiven them either. I think you can take it as a given that when there was a culpable death, neither the nation suffering nor their allies will forgive. If there isn't a true punishment for the guilty, then the Empire of the United States will have lost the goodwill of (at least some of) their allies.

Now, granted, the USA is incredibly powerful, and it can probably manage to exist without allies. However, it wouldn't be a pleasant life. If you try to insult Canada, you'll likely find you've insulted the Commonwealth. Check the list of active allies you have, and consider how your international stance would look without Britain, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and the rest of the Commonwealth.

That's not to say that I don't understand that accidents will happen. They do. Some of them deadly. But I don't think even the USA is in a position to be able to start killing off their allies without at least a full and open enquiry - much more so than they would have if they had just had some jet jockeys blasting some US marines into thin goo.

Regards, Don Armstrong

What this says is that we need some scapegoats, and we can't even mitigate their sentences. And of course given "culpable deaths" perhaps Leavenworth is too light a punishment? What will the clients demand of us to gain their continued good will?

As to the "International Stance" of the United States without the entangling alliances and concerns with territorial disputes in Europe, I would have thought my views clear enough. 


Dr. Pournelle...being a Canadian by birth and an American Citizen by parentage I have a slightly different view on the "friendly fire incident". As a small aerospace company owner I travel often and by the nature of my business I talk to all sorts of people and hear their comments. 

Most folks in general (Canadian) wanted answers to the questions posed after the incident. Those people are now genuinely appalled at the outcome. The answers are reasonable , understandable, and sadly commonplace. The actions taken against the flyers are not and therefore both confusing and embarrassing to the average Canadian citizen. Many of my managers are former Air Scouts and ALL of their families understand the hazards of combat. A typed (not written) apology from on high to the aggrieved families would have been sufficient and warmly welcomed by them. Fighter jocks MUST be cocksure and aggressive or the job does not get done. That simple. The old adage goes...mistakes happen and people die. But you have to be willing to learn from those mistakes and not punish those that made the mistakes on the front lines so brutally that others take notice and question the wisdom of the initial enterprise.


Well that is fairly close to my view; but of course it's impossible now. The lawyers and politicians will have to settle the matter now. We can wish that lawyers and politicians will work to achieve justice.


From: Stephen M. St. Onge

subject: Europe vs. the U.S.

Dear Jerry:

There's a long but fascinating and important article at  that's very relevant to the Republic or Empire? debate. It's by Robert Kagan, and the subject is how relative power affects a country's approach to questions of war and peace, and Europe's belief it has achieved Kant's "Perpetual Peace". Three quotes:

"The psychology of weakness is easy enough to understand. A man armed only with a knife may decide that a bear prowling the forest is a tolerable danger, inasmuch as the alternative - hunting the bear armed only with a knife - is actually riskier than lying low and hoping the bear never attacks. The same man armed with a rifle, however, will likely make a different calculation of what constitutes a tolerable risk. Why should he risk being mauled to death if he doesn't need to?"


"The differing threat perceptions in the United States and Europe are not just matters of psychology, however. They are also grounded in a practical reality that is another product of the disparity of power. For Iraq and other ‘rogue’ states objectively do not pose the same level of threat to Europeans as they do to the United States. There is, first of all, the American security guarantee that Europeans enjoy and have enjoyed for six decades, ever since the United States took upon itself the burden of maintaining order in far-flung regions of the world - from the Korean Peninsula to the Persian Gulf - from which European power had largely withdrawn. Europeans generally believe, whether or not they admit it to themselves, that were Iraq ever to emerge as a real and present danger, as opposed to merely a potential danger, then the United States would do something about it - as it did in 1991. If during the Cold War Europe by necessity made a major contribution to its own defense, today Europeans enjoy an unparalleled measure of ‘free security’ because most of the likely threats are in regions outside Europe, where only the United States can project effective force. In a very practical sense - that is, when it comes to actual strategic planning - neither Iraq nor Iran nor North Korea nor any other ‘rogue’ state in the world is primarily a European problem. Nor, certainly, is China. Both Europeans and Americans agree that these are primarily American problems."


" ‘The genius of the founding fathers,’ European Commission President Romano Prodi commented in a speech at the _Institute d'Etudes Politiques_ in Paris (May 29, 2001), ‘lay in translating extremely high political ambitions . . . into a series of more specific, almost technical decisions. This indirect approach made further action possible. Rapprochement took place gradually. From confrontation we moved to willingness to cooperate in the economic sphere and then on to integration.’ This is what many Europeans believe they have to offer the world: not power, but the transcendence of power. The ‘essence’ of the European Union, writes Everts, is ‘all about subjecting inter-state relations to the rule of law,’ and Europe's experience of successful multilateral governance has in turn produced an ambition to convert the world. Europe ‘has a role to play in world 'governance,'’ says Prodi, a role based on replicating the European experience on a global scale. In Europe ‘the rule of law has replaced the crude interplay of power . . . power politics have lost their influence.’ And by ‘making a success of integration we are demonstrating to the world that it is possible to create a method for peace.’ ". . . The transmission of the European miracle to the rest of the world has become Europe's new _mission civilatrice_. Just as Americans have always believed that they had discovered the secret to human happiness and wished to export it to the rest of the world, so the Europeans have a new mission born of their own discovery of perpetual peace.

‘Thus we arrive at what may be the most important reason for the divergence in views between Europe and the United States. America's power, and its willingness to exercise that power - unilaterally if necessary - represents a threat to Europe's new sense of mission. Perhaps the greatest threat.’ "

A lot more, all absorbing and insightful.

Best, Stephen




A lesser known side of the late Bob Wallace, from Seattle's PI... "Psychedelic philanthropist and computer shareware pioneer Bob Wallace -- Microsoft Corp.'s ninth employee -- died at his San Rafael, Calif., home Friday. He was 53." 

PC Write was the only shareware I used and paid for. I wish there'd been a windows version.


Jim Whitlock

Thanks. I was fond of PC Write too.


Just to present the other side of the story on WinXP:

I've had mine installed and running since XP Home was released. I have it loaded on a Pentium II 350 MHz w/ 256MB RAM I built myself. It's on a cable modem 24/7. I run Microsoft Outlook 97, mIRC, Messenger 24/7. I code VB and Access databases regularly. I run a web cam, burn CDs, load digital pix via USB, and update my Palm Pilot regularly. It generally runs two weeks before requiring a reboot. It has never crashed. The auto-update feature has never caused a problem. I installed SP1 without incident.

I find this to be the best O/S I've ever used, from early DOS to Win2K, and from Solaris through Linux. Just my $0.02, YMMV.

Don *************************************** "There are only 10 types of people in the world: those who understand binary, and those who don't." *************************************** Come visit The Misanthropyst at

And on an entirely different subject:

September 24, 2002

Here They Are, Science's 10 Most Beautiful Experiments By GEORGE JOHNSON

Whether they are blasting apart subatomic particles in accelerators, sequencing the genome or analyzing the wobble of a distant star, the experiments that grab the world's attention often cost millions of dollars to execute and produce torrents of data to be processed over months by supercomputers. Some research groups have grown to the size of small companies.

But ultimately science comes down to the individual mind grappling with something mysterious. When Robert P. Crease, a member of the philosophy department at the State University of New York at Stony Brook and the historian at Brookhaven National Laboratory, recently asked physicists to nominate the most beautiful experiment of all time, the 10 winners were largely solo performances, involving at most a few assistants. Most of the experiments ‹ which are listed in this month's Physics World ‹ took place on tabletops and none required more computational power than that of a slide rule or calculator.

What they have in common is that they epitomize the elusive quality scientists call beauty. This is beauty in the classical sense: the logical simplicity of the apparatus, like the logical simplicity of the analysis, seems as inevitable and pure as the lines of a Greek monument. Confusion and ambiguity are momentarily swept aside, and something new about nature becomes clear.

The list in Physics World was ranked according to popularity, first place going to an experiment that vividly demonstrated the quantum nature of the physical world. But science is a cumulative enterprise ‹ that is part of its beauty. Rearranged chronologically and annotated below, the winners provide a bird's-eye view of more than 2,000 years of discovery.

Eratosthenes' measurement of the Earth's circumference

At noon on the summer solstice in the Egyptian town now called Aswan, the sun hovers straight overhead: objects cast no shadow and sunlight falls directly down a deep well. When he read this fact, Eratosthenes, the librarian at Alexandria in the third century B.C., realized he had the information he needed to estimate the circumference of the planet. On the same day and time, he measured shadows in Alexandria, finding that the solar rays there had a bit of a slant, deviating from the vertical by about seven degrees.

The rest was just geometry. Assuming the earth is spherical, its circumference spans 360 degrees. So if the two cities are seven degrees apart, that would constitute seven-360ths of the full circle ‹ about one-fiftieth. Estimating from travel time that the towns were 5,000 "stadia" apart, Eratosthenes concluded that the earth must be 50 times that size ‹ 250,000 stadia in girth. Scholars differ over the length of a Greek stadium, so it is impossible to know just how accurate he was. But by some reckonings, he was off by only about 5 percent. (Ranking: 7)

Galileo's experiment on falling objects

In the late 1500's, everyone knew that heavy objects fall faster than lighter ones. After all, Aristotle had said so. That an ancient Greek scholar still held such sway was a sign of how far science had declined during the dark ages.

Galileo Galilei, who held a chair in mathematics at the University of Pisa, was impudent enough to question the common knowledge. The story has become part of the folklore of science: he is reputed to have dropped two different weights from the town's Leaning Tower showing that they landed at the same time. His challenges to Aristotle may have cost Galileo his job, but he had demonstrated the importance of taking nature, not human authority, as the final arbiter in matters of science. (Ranking: 2)

Galileo's experiments with rolling balls down inclined planes

Galileo continued to refine his ideas about objects in motion. He took a board 12 cubits long and half a cubit wide (about 20 feet by 10 inches) and cut a groove, as straight and smooth as possible, down the center. He inclined the plane and rolled brass balls down it, timing their descent with a water clock ‹ a large vessel that emptied through a thin tube into a glass. After each run he would weigh the water that had flowed out ‹ his measurement of elapsed time ‹ and compare it with the distance the ball had traveled.

Aristotle would have predicted that the velocity of a rolling ball was constant: double its time in transit and you would double the distance it traversed. Galileo was able to show that the distance is actually proportional to the square of the time: Double it and the ball would go four times as far. The reason is that it is being constantly accelerated by gravity. (Ranking: 8)

Newton's decomposition of sunlight with a prism

Isaac Newton was born the year Galileo died. He graduated from Trinity College, Cambridge, in 1665, then holed up at home for a couple of years waiting out the plague. He had no trouble keeping himself occupied.

The common wisdom held that white light is the purest form (Aristotle again) and that colored light must therefore have been altered somehow. To test this hypothesis, Newton shined a beam of sunlight through a glass prism and showed that it decomposed into a spectrum cast on the wall. People already knew about rainbows, of course, but they were considered to be little more than pretty aberrations. Actually, Newton concluded, it was these colors ‹ red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet and the gradations in between ‹ that were fundamental. What seemed simple on the surface, a beam of white light, was, if one looked deeper, beautifully complex. (Ranking: 4)

Cavendish's torsion-bar experiment

Another of Newton's contributions was his theory of gravity, which holds that the strength of attraction between two objects increases with the square of their masses and decreases with the square of the distance between them. But how strong is gravity in the first place?

In the late 1700's an English scientist, Henry Cavendish, decided to find out. He took a six-foot wooden rod and attached small metal spheres to each end, like a dumbbell, then suspended it from a wire. Two 350-pound lead spheres placed nearby exerted just enough gravitational force to tug at the smaller balls, causing the dumbbell to move and the wire to twist. By mounting finely etched pieces of ivory on the end of each arm and in the sides of the case, he could measure the subtle displacement. To guard against the influence of air currents, the apparatus (called a torsion balance) was enclosed in a room and observed with telescopes mounted on each side.

The result was a remarkably accurate estimate of a parameter called the gravitational constant, and from that Cavendish was able to calculate the density and mass of the earth. Erastothenes had measured how far around the planet was. Cavendish had weighed it: 6.0 x 1024 kilograms, or about 13 trillion trillion pounds. (Ranking: 6)

Young's light-interference experiment

Newton wasn't always right. Through various arguments, he had moved the scientific mainstream toward the conviction that light consists exclusively of particles rather than waves. In 1803, Thomas Young, an English physician and physicist, put the idea to a test. He cut a hole in a window shutter, covered it with a thick piece of paper punctured with a tiny pinhole and used a mirror to divert the thin beam that came shining through. Then he took "a slip of a card, about one-thirtieth of an inch in breadth" and held it edgewise in the path of the beam, dividing it in two. The result was a shadow of alternating light and dark bands ‹ a phenomenon that could be explained if the two beams were interacting like waves.

Bright bands appeared where two crests overlapped, reinforcing each other; dark bands marked where a crest lined up with a trough, neutralizing each other.

The demonstration was often repeated over the years using a card with two holes to divide the beam. These so-called double-slit experiments became the standard for determining wavelike motion ‹ a fact that was to become especially important a century later when quantum theory began. (Ranking: 5)

Foucault's pendulum

Last year when scientists mounted a pendulum above the South Pole and watched it swing, they were replicating a celebrated demonstration performed in Paris in 1851. Using a steel wire 220 feet long, the French scientist Jean-Bernard-Léon Foucault suspended a 62-pound iron ball from the dome of the Panthéon and set it in motion, rocking back and forth. To mark its progress he attached a stylus to the ball and placed a ring of damp sand on the floor below.

The audience watched in awe as the pendulum inexplicably appeared to rotate, leaving a slightly different trace with each swing. Actually it was the floor of the Panthéon that was slowly moving, and Foucault had shown, more convincingly than ever, that the earth revolves on its axis. At the latitude of Paris, the pendulum's path would complete a full clockwise rotation every 30 hours; on the Southern Hemisphere it would rotate counterclockwise, and on the Equator it wouldn't revolve at all. At the South Pole, as the modern-day scientists confirmed, the period of rotation is 24 hours. (Ranking: 10)

Millikan's oil-drop experiment

Since ancient times, scientists had studied electricity ‹ an intangible essence that came from the sky as lightning or could be produced simply by running a brush through your hair. In 1897 (in an experiment that could easily have made this list) the British physicist J. J. Thomson had established that electricity consisted of negatively charged particles ‹ electrons. It was left to the American scientist Robert Millikan, in 1909, to measure their charge.

Using a perfume atomizer, he sprayed tiny drops of oil into a transparent chamber. At the top and bottom were metal plates hooked to a battery, making one positive and the other negative. Since each droplet picked up a slight charge of static electricity as it traveled through the air, the speed of its descent could be controlled by altering the voltage on the plates. (When this electrical force matched the force of gravity, a droplet ‹ "like a brilliant star on a black background" ‹ would hover in midair.)

Millikan observed one drop after another, varying the voltage and noting the effect. After many repetitions he concluded that charge could only assume certain fixed values. The smallest of these portions was none other than the charge of a single electron. (Ranking: 3)

Rutherford's discovery of the nucleus

When Ernest Rutherford was experimenting with radioactivity at the University of Manchester in 1911, atoms were generally believed to consist of large mushy blobs of positive electrical charge with electrons embedded inside ‹ the "plum pudding" model. But when he and his assistants fired tiny positively charged projectiles, called alpha particles, at a thin foil of gold, they were surprised that a tiny percentage of them came bouncing back. It was as though bullets had ricocheted off Jell-O.

Rutherford calculated that actually atoms were not so mushy after all. Most of the mass must be concentrated in a tiny core, now called the nucleus, with the electrons hovering around it. With amendments from quantum theory, this image of the atom persists today. (Ranking: 9)

Young's double-slit experiment applied to the interference of single electrons

Neither Newton nor Young was quite right about the nature of light. Though it is not simply made of particles, neither can it be described purely as a wave. In the first five years of the 20th century, Max Planck and then Albert Einstein showed, respectively, that light is emitted and absorbed in packets ‹ called photons. But other experiments continued to verify that light is also wavelike.

It took quantum theory, developed over the next few decades, to reconcile how both ideas could be true: photons and other subatomic particles ‹ electrons, protons, and so forth ‹ exhibit two complementary qualities; they are, as one physicist put it, "wavicles."

To explain the idea, to others and themselves, physicists often used a thought experiment, in which Young's double-slit demonstration is repeated with a beam of electrons instead of light. Obeying the laws of quantum mechanics, the stream of particles would split in two, and the smaller streams would interfere with each other, leaving the same kind of light- and dark-striped pattern as was cast by light. Particles would act like waves.

According to an accompanying article in Physics Today, by the magazine's editor, Peter Rodgers, it wasn't until 1961 that someone (Claus Jönsson of Tübingen) carried out the experiment in the real world.

By that time no one was really surprised by the outcome, and the report, like most, was absorbed anonymously into science. (Ranking: 1)

Copyright 2002 The New York Times Company

------ Richard F. Doherty, Director The Envisioneering Group 3864 Bayberry Lane Seaford, NY 11783-1503 P (516) 783-6244 F (516) 679-8167

Envisioneering: Informed Intelligence.







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Friday, September 27, 2002

I thought I was done with this, but two more letters:

You wrote: >Recce/Strike missions require fast reactions and considerable aggressiveness. They also require information about what's going on. To come back full circle to the Afghanistan incident: Does anyone believe that it would have happened had someone, anyone, told the pilots "Oh, by the way, the Canadians are conducting live fire exercises over in your patrol area. Look out for them."<

One might try asking that to Dan Murry, the former Squadron Intel Officer for 53rd fighter squadron. He remembers almost mentioning, on April 14, 1994, to F-15 pilots CPT Wickson and LTC May that his fiancée, 1LT Laura Piper, would be flying in the Iraq no-fly zone in army helicopters during the pre-mission brief. But didn’t, as it seemed unprofessional. Two and a half-hours later she was dead, killed when Wilkson and May shot her helicopter down.

Kevin Rose

I am not sure I understand: are you agreeing with me? I fail to see what is unprofessional about telling fighter pilots on patrol that there will be friendlies in their patrol area. Surely there is more to this story? 


Remember the incident involving the Blackhawks over Iraq in 96(?)? Where some goofball misprogrammed the IFF on the choppers, and a couple of F-15's demonstrated again that our weapons work great? As it happens, I knew both of the F-15 pilots, from Spangdahlem Air Base, while I was on a consulting assignment there in 94. Total Professionals, I know that either of them would rather have cut their hearts out than fire on friendlies.

But they were both fighter pilots, trained to be aggressive and tough, and one of them made a comment, "Stick a fork in him, he's done." When the cockpit tapes got leaked to the media, and the victims families saw that, they went up in flames. And all of a sudden, these guys are being hauled up on charges. All of a sudden, they should have gone down for a visual, when everyone knew they had standing orders not to expose themselves to ground fire. BTW, I'm sure our pilots in Afghanistan had the same orders.

We have become such a nation of wimps, absolutely unable to comprehend that sometimes things go wrong, and it's no ones fault, just bad luck, or God's will. Until we rediscover that, I fear for this country.

Stephen Nelson

War is Hell. When you sign on for a war you sign on for the course. In war everything is very simple, but the simplest things are very difficult. Apparently this lesson must be learned every generation, and perhaps every three or four years.

Now to get off that subject.

Eric Pobirs and Dan Spisak had an interchange of letters that produced some good thoughts on DVD. I'll reproduce some of that here:

Begin in the middle. It will make sense soon enough:

Subject: Re: Pioneers next big thing

 For me the bigger concern is that its by Panasonic. They have some bizzare  obsession with DVD-RAM which the rest of the DVD industry seems to want to  make die die die asap. Also, from what I seen in there it looks like this  device is supporting 4X DVD-R and 2X DVD-RW which Pioneer hasn't officially  announced drives for yet, but word is the 4X -R and 2X -RW specs are  available via major media makers mid October. 

  -Dan S.

Eric Pobirs replies:

I don't think it's a bizarre obsession so much as a vested interest. They are the creators of DVD-RAM (it's an outgrowth of their phase change technology with little in common to the rest of the DVD variants) thus want as much return on that investment and the associated manufacturing infrastructure as possible.

This is no different from Pioneer's continuing push for the 'minus ' standards, DVD-R and DVD-R/W, which sacrificed certain elements important to data processing concerns in favor of shorter time to market. This has proven to be moot because the price points are reaching parity in advance of the reach the mass market. The shift to dominance for the 'plus' standards is becoming apparent, especially with Microsoft and its partner publicly favoring it and Sony going from 'minus' supporter to currently supplying both sides. It won't be a big surprise if there are little or new new releases of 'minus' hardware from Sony.

> You forget that the DVD Forum does not officially recognize any of the > +R/+RW formats, right? You realize any drive with +R/+RW on them can't use > the DVD logo, right? I don't see sales of Microsoft software dictating a > change in DVD burner purchases. If anything, on the DVD mailing list I am > on (which most of the dvd authoring shops the Hollywood studios themselves > use) most talk, if not 98% of it focuses around -R/-RW burners with a > significant amount of that talk discussing Pioneer dvd burners. Walk into > any dvd authoring/production house and you will find -R/-RW burners made by > Pioneer. > > -Dan S.

And those entities are not concerned with those things that drive data processing centered companies. It would hardly be the first time authoring and production revolved around a different format than that used in the mainstream consumer sector. Long after Beta stopped being a factor in consumer video tape sales it rose to be a major player in professional applications.

Authoring/production types are also not concerned about rewritability nearly as much as DP users and timeshifting consumers. (Assuming +/-R blanks don't become too cheap as I'll discuss below.) Thus dominance there is still in flux regardless of the Forum's desires.

The DVD Forum is mostly controlled by those companies Pioneer convinced to follow their ill conceived lead and push a compromised format in a very premature pursuit of a new standard in home video recording. At one time Pioneer was simply the only vendor for DVD burning on the desktop so their prevalence in professional settings is a natural result. Those $5000 drives had to be available before DVD could become a format for anyone outside the big studios. Like the early days of tape this has little predictive value outside the professional sector. Those other companies in the Forum are slowly coming around to the realization that the DP side matters and that the format that delivers to the needs of the most markets will win. Sony is just the first to make a move. How long do you suppose it will be before more major brands also announce drives that handle both standards? Furthermore, once such drives become common (to my understanding the difference is almost entirely additional firmware so there is little cost difference) and the majority use the format their OS understands natively, will anybody notice as 'minus' support begins to disappear?

The make or break will be for those people who'll never do much of this stuff on a PC but rather by means of an appliance as they always have with tape. Producing write-once discs from either format that plays on a wide range of DVD video decks has proven pretty straight forward. Both rewritable formats have major brands backing them in the decks and the lesser brands are touting support for both as an enhanced feature much as they did before for MP3 playback. Of course, if write-once DVD blanks fall to being only slightly more expensive than CD-Rs the issue of rewritable formats might fall by the wayside for most of the market. 

Think of how many people only own a single CD-R/W disc and they only have that one because it came with the drive. The last time I saw sales figures for CD-R and CD-R/W blanks the ration was over 100:1. The rewritable format could cease to exist tomorrow and a huge number of people who burn CD-Rs daily would never notice. If a DVD+/-R fell below a buck a disc in packs of ten I'd expect to see the trend reproduced.

The idea of people ignoring a rewritable 4.7 GB format may seem incredible but most of us can remember when the capacity of CD-ROM was a years distant promise and the ability to make one's own in a few minutes felt like being in the presence of a miracle just a few years ago. We get used to this stuff quite fast. I expect we'll be utterly blase about making our own DVDs long before the next major capacity jump comes to market.

All of which is worth some attention if you are interested in these matters. Thanks, gentlemen.

A new scam: Aleta Jackson sent this, and it appears to be true:


This was forwarded by my insurance carrier. It checks out with AT&T, this one isn't an Urban Legend.

There are area codes available for direct dialing from U.S. phones, to recipients which are outside U.S. legal jurisdiction - mostly around the Caribbean. Read below for a scam, now exploiting this fact.

Kevin Greene



This one is being distributed all over the U.S. and it's pretty scary, especially given the way they try to get you to call. Be sure you read this and pass it on to all your friends and family so they don't get scammed!


Don't respond to e-mails, phone calls, or web pages which tell you to call an "809" phone number. This is a very important issue with Scam Busters because it alerts you to a scam that is spreading *extremely* quickly, can easily cost you $2,400 or more, and is difficult to avoid unless you're aware of it. We'd like to thank Verizon for bringing this to our attention. This scam has also been identified by the National Fraud Information Center and is costing victims a lot of money. There are lots of different permutations of this scam.


You will receive a message on your answering machine or your pager which asks you to call a number beginning with area code 809. The reason you're asked to call varies. It can be to receive information about a family member who is ill, to tell you someone has been arrested, died, to let you know you have won a wonderful prize, etc. In each case, you are told to call the 809 number right away. Since there are so many new area codes these days, people unknowingly return these calls. If you call from the U.S., you will apparently be charged $2,425 per minute or you'll get a long recorded message. The point is they will try to keep you on the phone as long as possible to increase the charges. Unfortunately, when you get your phone bill, you'll often be charged more than $24,100.


The 809 area code is located in the British Virgin Islands (The Bahamas) and can be used as a "pay-per-call" number, similar to 900 numbers in the U.S. Since 809 is not in the U.S., it is not covered by U.S. regulations of 900 numbers, which require that you be notified and warned of charges and rates involved when you call a "pay-per-call" number. There is also no requirement that the company provide a time period during which you may terminate the call without being charged. Further, many U.S. homes have 900-number blocking to avoid thesekinds of charges, but that does not work in preventing calls to the 809 area code. We recommend that no matter how you get the message, if you are asked to call a number with an 809 area code you don't recognize, just disregard the message.

It's important to prevent becoming a victim of this scam since trying to fight the charges afterwards can become a real nightmare because you did actually make the call. If you complain, both your local phone company and your long-distance carrier will not want to get involved and will most likely tell you they are simply providing the billing for the foreign company. You'll end up dealing with a foreign company that argues they have done nothing wrong. Please forward this entire message to your friends, family, and colleagues to make them aware of this scam.

Sandi Van Handel AT&T Field Service Manager Additional information can be obtained from the following AT&T Web Site

P.S.: (K. Greene) Area codes in the Caribbean which are available to this scam (e.g. not requiring the International Dialing code “011”) include:

809 (as above)
 264 Anguilla 
268 Antigua & Barbuda 
242 Bahamas 
246 Barbados 
441 Bermuda 
284 British Islands 
345 Cayman Islands 
767 Dominica 
473 Grenada 
784 Grenadines 
876 Jamaica 
664 Montserrat 
869 Nevis 
868 Trinidad & Tobagos 
649 Turks & Caicos Is. 

Obviously, as this scam develops these other codes besides '809' may also be used. Be cautious. See your phone book for details.

A few comments: clearly there are some legitimate reasons to call the 809 area code; on the other hand, those who need to make such a call probably know who they are calling. 

Second, this isn't precisely new, of course. We had a warning on this here a year ago, and I think that wasn't the first one. 

Clearly the British Virgin Islands and The Bahamas are two different places; I hadn't noticed until someone just told me.

And I doubt the $24,000 a minute charges. I don't doubt $24 a minute which is steep enough.

And I thank those who took the trouble to point out that the above, while largely true, has its mistakes. Interestingly, for a change I did go look at Snopes, which merely says "TRUE" or did at the time. 

For more on this than you really will want to know, try 

But it does generate an interesting question:

I make my long-distance phone calls using a calling card. I buy the calling cards at Costco; for $20 you can get a card that has hundreds of minutes.

I should imagine that using the calling card would provide absolute protection from the 809 scam. Worst case the $20 card would be used up in an eyeblink, but more likely the long-distance provider would simply refuse to put the call through.

Can any of your readers confirm or refute this idea?

Stay well. -- Steve R. Hastings "Vita est"

I would imagine that would work, but I have never used a phone card in my life...



Dear Dr. Pournelle,

I don't know how often you get STRATFOR's stuff forwarded to you; but it looks as though you really beat them to the punch on the possible re-establishment of the Hashemites in Iraq. Of course, the article begs the question "Should we as a Republic be doing this kind of thing at all?" I am a simple Army sergeant; I have my suspicions on that score but really just don't know. I Do have an opinion about Germany and our relationship with the Germans. You may not want to go there right now, but it might just be the proper time to discus it. I don't know if what I write is worth reading, but I will try to get my opinion into some sort cogent form. Thanks again for your great body of work and the personal consideration you have given me.

Yours truly, Frank 

Actually I don't get StratFor at all, and I am not sure what it is. My son points out that the "Republic vs. Empire" debate seems to have originated here and is now more or less universal with even Al Gore contributing. Whether I started that or not I can't be sure.

As to what we as a Republic ought to be doing, that's another story entirely. We used to be clear: "We are the friends of liberty everywhere but we are the guardians only of our own."  That seems to have changed in more than one way.






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Saturday, September 28, 2002

 Yesterday when I listed Iraq options off the top of my head I was being a bit flippant, but Mr. St. Onge took me seriously. I suppose that calls for a serious answer.

From: Stephen M. St. Onge                         

  subject: Iraq options

  Dear Jerry:

      At the end of your outline of  possible choices in Iraq, you ask "what have I left out?"  Well, Cromwell for one thing.  "I beseech you, in the bowels of Christ, think it possible that you may be mistaken."  Looking at the options from that point of view:

  "Competent Imperial Way:

     "Invade. . . Pump oil and run the world crude price down to $20 a barrel or so. . .The Dow goes to 12,000 and up. Silicon Valley recovers." 

    As I type this, the Dow is about 7700, the S&P 500 about 827. At I find the P/E for the S&P 500 (the Dow isn't cap weighted, therefore no meaningful P/E) at 37 last July 2nd.  (The long term average is about 15.)  This corresponds to a 2.7% rate of return, or 1.027 in rate of return terms.  At I am informed the long term compound annual growth rate of the economy, 1950-1995 was 3.4%, so my long term rate of return should be 1.061.  I find it hard to believe we could pump oil fast enough to significantly increase that 3.4% long term rate.  I find it very hard to believe that we could pump oil fast enough to justify an immediate 50% jump in the current market valuation. 

"The Old Republic Way:

  "Forget Iraq, on the theory that if we don't threaten Saddam he won't have much interest in provoking us by using weapons of mass destruction. . . . Investments in technology and lowered involvement in overseas adventures give us technological means to increase homeland security, because Saddam isn't the only goon with weapons."

    I notice this  solution says nothing about Israel.  Does the Old Republican tell them, 'As of X date, we no longer give you a penny, ever, but on the other hand, if you decide to nuke every Muslim country on earth, we don't care.  Just don't get any appreciable amount of fallout on us.'  If  that's not it, what?

    Another thing the Old Republic solution omits is Islamism.  The only thing that seems certain about 9/11/01 is that the perpetrators were not Baathists dying for the greater glory of Saddam Hussein and the Iraqi state.  Do we just resign ourselves to more terrorist attacks?  FWIW, the frequency of attacks seems to vary inversely with the perception among Islamists that they can get away with them.

     Note that after Bush Sr. left the White House, he was certainly no danger to Saddam, but Saddam was caught trying to assassinate him anyway.  This risky venture might have led to his death if the President had been anyone but Clinton.  Are you really prepared to bet your grandchildren's lives that Saddam won't try to go down in history as the man who destroyed the Great Satan with a surprise nuclear attack?  With WMD funneled to terrorists?  That he won't just screw up? 

      All this assumes special importance in view of the claim by Michael Ledeen (see _The War Against the Terror Masters_, chapter 1, passim) that the Islamists and the secular Baath dictatorships have been partners since before Khomeini took over Iran.  Are we to demand continuing proof from Riyadh, Tehran, Bagdhad, Damascus, Tripoli,  and Sana'a that they ceased supporting Islamic terrorism, and invade any time they don't answer satisfactorily?  Wasn't that what you were trying to avoid?

      So from where I sit, some combination of the "Incompetent Imperial Way" and the "Weekly Standard Way" looks like what we're going to be stuck with.  The govts. that support terrorism must be made to stop.  But if they stop, they will be overthrown by their own people, so they won't.  So we'll have to invade them, and reform their societies to put an end to the menace.

      Did anyone tell you life would be fair?  Or even guaranteed to be possible?



 I'm not sure of the relevance of Cromwell's exhortation, or to whom it was directed. If to me, it's needless: I'm not in charge. Apparently some of the people who are in charge listen to me, but to what effect I am not sure.

Regarding the Dow and oil prices: if we get oil prices below $20 a barrel, either through dumping more oil on the market or through finding enough alternative energy sources that oil is less of the energy bottleneck that it is now, I don't expect the Dow to rocket to 20,000; but I remind everyone that after the crash in the 80's I was thought mad when I said it would quickly get to 5,000, and during the Long Boom (see among other things my Intellectual Capital articles) it managed to go on to 10,000.  Keep energy prices and taxes low and prosperity will take care of itself. This seems obvious enough that I don't intend to dwell on it. The bowels of Christ need not be of concern here.

Regarding the necessity of the United States to remake the world, I have already said more than once that our best strategy is to make it clear that if you harbor our enemies, we are likely to change your government for you; but we do not undertake the obligation to stay and build a nation out of a collection of peoples thrown together by Whitehall Palace civil servants with a map. We are the friends of liberty everywhere. We are the guardians of our own. Our guardianship includes developing and deploying whatever national means that requires. In the Seventy Years War our defense required overseas experiments: Stalinism really did require something like world hegemony to be stable; the Stalinists knew that (as did the Trotskyites), and containment in The Protracted Conflict was a defense of liberty.

I see no such necessity now. Saddam Hussein or his agents may well have attempted the assassination of Bush the Elder in a fit of pique or revenge, but he's fairly rational: if he has no reason to fear us he has little reason to try to harm us. There remains the spectacle of our bullying: we may have gone too far to pull back now. Moreover, as I said in the first few days after 9-11, there are lessons many ought to learn, and our placing monuments in places that cheered the fall of The Twin Towers is one way to teach them.

My fears of the Iraqi war are not based on my concerns for the armed services. Despite all this talk about urban warfare (which indeed could be the graveyard of our army) we don't have to fight through cities block by block. We can let native elements do that, or we can starve them into submission, or both. One American troops are in Iraq in a serious way, Saddam is doomed: it's only a question of time before a cynical friend of his, or a genuine Iraqi patriot, or both, takes him out. My fears are over what happens after we win. What will we do? And what other countries might we decide to make over?

Osama bin Laden hates us because we are over there. He (well, his heirs and assigns) won't hate us less if we aren't, but if we're not over there we are more or less irrelevant. Militant Islam on the march might be frightening if it were championed by a real power, but I don't see one or any prospect of one. 

Regarding Israel: they don't need our help, only that we leave them alone. Israel has done a good job of throwing away the moral high ground -- this latest action of firing rockets into streets of civilians in order to take out certain individuals quite deserving of assassination seems to me morally indistinguishable from many other acts of terror. What reason have we to be involved in the territorial disputes of the Middle East any more than we had to be involved in the territorial disputes of Europe? True, Israel is more politically relevant than Serbia and Bosnia because there are far more organized friends of Israel in the US than ever there were organized friends of Serbia or Bosnia or Croatia or Albania or the Balkans in general, and our government ignores that to its political peril; but with the moral high ground crumbling, Israel has fewer levers to use here. (comment on this here.)

Incidentally, of course I mean that if we pull out of that part of the world, we won't put a primary hamper on those who have to live there.

If we decide that our liberty requires us to stabilize the Middle East through direct action, we will be undertaking a very worrisome and difficult task. 


And from Joel Rosenberg:

I think, alas, you've summarized them all, save for a few combinations -- the dither-until-Saddam-has-the-bomb choice, which would be the effect of the Democratic choice, if implemented. (Pat Buchanan has argued that that would lead to stability; I think he's wrong, but it is a question worth asking.)

Pity that a repeat of Osirak -- let the Israelis solve the Bomb problem for everybody and take the largely theoretical heat -- can't be on the table.

Meanwhile, the Turks just seized more than 33 pounds of what's described as "weapons grade uranium" 150 miles from the Iraq border. If the same 10-to-1 ratio for drug smuggling into the US holds (I don't have any reason to believe that it would or wouldn't), that suggests that the Iraqis have several hundred pounds.

But, of course, that could be the only shipment. To date.

-- Years ago, airlines used to offer "smoking" and "non-smoking" flights. It would be interesting to see what would happen if airlines began offering "armed" and "unarmed flights." Which planes do you think that would-be hijackers would prefer to take? -- Dave Kopel ------------- 

And Ed Hume reports

Subject: FW: Someone clearly . . .

has a sense of humor and WAY TOO much time on his or her hands. 

[from my wife] S.


And on a more serious note, Ed sends:

The Persistence Principle: An Inside Look at Microsoft's Strategy

It can be argued that Microsoft has changed the way everyone does business in the last 20 years. What you may be surprised to learn is that the company's success is as much about perseverance and endurance as it is vision and talent. Yes, Microsoft has been blessed with the brilliant minds of leaders like Bill Gates and CEO Steve Ballmer. And the company's supercharged work environment draws gifted coders from around the world. But Microsoft typically does not get things right the first time out, says chief financial officer and senior vice president John Connors, during a recent lecture at Emory University's Goizueta Business School. The company's ability to keep at it, while waiting for its competitors to make mistakes or give up, is one of the company's driving philosophies.



Which is what I have been saying for some time. Thanks.

And also from Ed Hume:

Subject: Imperial client


ARMED FORCES OF THE WORLD: Canadian Forces Folding

September 27, 2002; According to CNSNews, Canada's military is on the verge of collapse. A 39-page report from the Council for Canadian Security (a coalition of prominent Canadians concerned about security and defense) warns that the country is at risk of being unable to defend its territory.

Canada, which has the world's longest coastline and second-largest land mass, is becoming increasingly reliant on the capabilities of the United States. However, a greater American military presence north of the border also leads to sovereignty issues.

Since the 1950s, Canada has reduced its defense spending to just over one per cent of its gross domestic product, placing it 17th among 19 NATO-member countries. From 120,000 servicemen four decades ago, the country is now reduced to 60,000 and many of its major weapons systems are getting long in the tooth.

Last week, the National Post newspaper and Global television network released a poll that showed 79 per cent of Canadians believe their nation would need American help in the case of an attack yet only 52 per cent support more government spending on the military. - Adam Geibel

Not astonishing, of course.






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Sunday, September 29, 2002

I took the day off.





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