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Mail 236 December 16 - 22, 2002 






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Monday  December 16, 2002

An intriguing question which contains assumptions:

I would be interested in seeing something on why every war we have fought with a citizen army we have won, but not so with a professional army.

I expect this has something to do with political reasons for war, but since your views have always been enlightening, I know I would be interested in reading them.

B Yokem

The assumption here is that the US has lost wars, and that the ones lost were fought with a professional rather than a citizen army. Which ones were those?

Viet Nam was a campaign of attrition within a larger war, and wasn't lost, the victory of 1972 was thrown away by a Congress more interested in domestic politics than in preserving what we had won in South Viet Nam. Citizen armies are not very good at long wars without obvious ending points: you might almost say that the citizen army held South Viet Nam, then, as we put in a more professional force, the Congress lost interest. 

There is no doubt that the US could have held South Viet Nam forever with fewer than 500 US casualties,, all professionals, per year, had we chosen to do that. But that would have been conceding that Nixon had been right, and that the Democratic Congress was not prepared to do. Kennedy sent long term professional volunteers into Viet Nam; Johnson made it a citizen army war.

You could argue that we lost Korea, although we achieved the objectives that Truman sent the troops in to achieve. More or less, anyway: the result, after the initial year, was a long war of attrition, a company a day meatgrinder well shown in the TV series MASH, with eventually a return to status quo ante. South Korea was free to become a tiger (which still lets us defend it rather than building its own defense forces) and North Korea became a puppet state and then a hermit kingdom, now a comic opera dictatorship with nuclear weapons and an enormous army. An odd situation we have allowed to fester; but it wasn't created by the US military.

Macarthur, like Patton, thought we were going to have to fight the Russians (or their puppet China) and we might as well do it while we had an army over there to do it with. Truman had decided that containment would eventually bring down both Communism and the USSR. It did that. China remains, neither communist nor free, and is a matter for another generation. History proved Truman right; what would have happened had Macarthur unified Korea is another story. But in any event, Korea doesn't fit the pattern of the question.

The only other war the US arguably lost was the War of 1812, but in fact it cemented US hegemony in this hemisphere: the Brits settled for status quo ante, and the wisdom of that was shown by the Battle of New Orleans, where a citizen army buttressed by some professionals made mincemeat of Wellington's finest Napoleonic veterans.

Citizen armies serve a number of purposes other than military. They are a means of unifying the country, giving a large number of citizens a common experience and shared goals and objectives. Whether in this day and age citizen armies are the key to military victory in overseas adventures is another story. 

At the moment we have an odd situation, with the sharp end pretty well in the hands of professionals, but the means and logistics and support dependent on National Guard and Reserves. 

And see below.

I am looking for the source of Shallit's Razor (never attribute to conspiracy what might be adequately explained by stupidity or incompetence). I e-mailed Jeffrey Shallit and admitted to the authorship of the version above, " but, Jerry Pournelle, (he) later learned, said something similar, and I doubt the sentiment is original with (him)."

When you can, would you please substantiate or deny the paternity of this or a similar phrase?

Jack Linthicum Indialantic, FL

Napoleon Bonaparte 

One note in the smallpox story, where the author blithely asserts "In the civilian world, vaccinations are voluntary". Nothing could be further from the truth: in order to enter any school system, one must provide both a social security number and a vaccination record for each child. You can't get anything done today without this information--all of the systems they touch ask for the same information. Here in Southern California, they are especially concerned about tuberculosis, as lots of cases are brought across the border from Mexico and into the general population. However, not everyone looks blithely at those shot records: we encountered a mindbending amount of resistance from the Western Australian Health Ministry about letting my daughter into the country, as she'd been inoculated for a couple of things they'd never heard of (Western Australia is particularly isolated) and they thought she might DELIVER the disease unto Western Australia. (The story did eventually have a happy ending, but it someone at an alarmingly high level of the administrative food chain to understand the folly of the position.) Sometimes I worry, because I don't really KNOW what's being injected into my family, but it is the only way business gets done. I don't recall the vote about it, though.


Proof of smallpox vaccination was required for admission to public schools when I was young. Diphtheria inoculation became required at least in Tennessee. I think these were matters of state law at the time.

Various states have different requirements today, but in California at least it's fairly easy to get out of them through religious objections. There is some resistance to inoculations based in part on (mostly anecdotal) evidence of a possible connection between inoculation (or at least the preservatives in the serum) and autism. The last I heard, a definitive study has shown no correlation between having received the standard DPT (Diphtheria, Pertussis [whooping cough] and Tetanus) shot California requires and becoming autistic, but controversy remains over whether the study answers the questions concerning perservatives.

The increase in autism is itself controversial in that some have put forth good reasons to wonder if it's not more an increase in diagnosis than incidence. It is certainly the case that the authorities wanted to drug two of my children when they were in school, and we refused; a decision I am quite happy to defend to this day.

Public health officials who think someone inoculated against a disease becomes a carrier are I guess not rare, but they ought to be.


In another place, the following comment:

> Unfortunately this article provides no indication what evidence has led this > scientist to this belief. > >
  > BBC NEWS | UK | England | Bacteria 'may cause cancer'

Which drew this response from Greg Cochran. I thought it worth posting here as a summary of what is known:

That article had little information, but sure, bacteria can cause cancer, and are the primary cause of most of at least one fairly important one, that being stomach cancer. An ongoing h. pylori infection raises your risk of stomach cancer by something like 6 to 10 times. Long-term infection of the gall bladder by s. typhi - the 'Typhoid Mary' phenomenon - also greatly increases the risk of gall bladder cancer.

Viruses often cause cancer by introducing new genetic material that in one way or another deregulates cell division. That's the case for papilloma virus and cervical cancer, Epstein-Barr related cancers like Burkitt's lymphoma and nasopharyngeal carcinoma, HTLV and adult T-cell leukemia, etc. Might be the case for ordinary basal skin cancer and colon cancer.

Parasitic worms can cause cancer. A form of schistosomiasis had made bladder cancer common in Egypt, while a parasitic fluke (clonorchiasis) causes a high rate of biliary tract cancer in northeast Thailand.

In the case of bacteria like h pylori, or parasitic worms like S. haematobium, there seems to be no chance of any transfer of genetic material to human cells. Rather, it looks as if long-term inflammation itself can lead to cancer. This may, possibly, explain why aspirin halves colon cancer risk (and, probably, significantly reduces the risk of several other cancers).

The third known way in which a pathogen can significantly increase cancer risk is by suppressing the immune system, which can greatly increase the risk of certain cancers, particularly ones caused by viruses. When in working order, the immune system can, apparently, suppress much virus-induced cancer, since it can recognize foreign viral antigens expressd by those infected and transformd cells. Thus HIV greatly increases the risk of cervical cancer, Epstein-barr positive lymphomas, Kaposis's sarcoma (caused by human herpesvirus 8 but rare in immunocompetent patients), skin cancer, etc.

Gregory Cochran

And this from Space Access Society

(Our apologies for the delay in mailing out this Update - our email arrangements took a couple days to get up and running again.)

Space Access Update #99 12/13/02 Copyright 2002 by Space Access Society 


Reports of our demise have been greatly exaggerated.

We are still around, watching developments and thinking about what comes next. We did spend much of the last six months otherwise engaged - we prefer to avoid sleeping on park benches. (Our apologies to everyone whose mail we haven't answered over that stretch. We'll be working through the backlog RSN.)

But then, not coming close to making a living off this space stuff can be a blessing as well as a curse, in that we are not obliged to constantly make a public fuss whether we have something to say or not. We do, now, have a number of things to say.

For starters, this: One of the more useful things we do is putting on our annual conference, bringing players in the cheap access game together in one place to focus intensively on access issues. (For those of you who like what we do but worry whether we'll keep doing it, we'll stop either when cheap access is an accomplished fact, or when they pry our cold dead fingers off our last hotel contract.)

Last spring's Space Access '02 conference went well, with attendance up and considerable useful work done. Our take on the theme of the event: "Building a Place to Stand" - what a number of startup low-cost launch companies have spent the recent investment downturn doing. Here are a couple of reports from the conference:

Meanwhile, preparations for next spring's Space Access '03 conference are underway. We have a hotel contract for our traditional last- weekend-in-April date at an old favorite site - SA'03 is set for Thursday evening April 24th through Saturday night April 26th, 2003, at the Old Town Hotel and Conference Center, in downtown Scottsdale Arizona. This is the same hotel we were at two years ago, the former Holiday Inn Old Town, with new owners and name but otherwise largely unchanged, in the heart of Scottsdale's restaurant and shopping district, a fifteen minute cab ride from the Phoenix airport. For SA'03 room reservations, call 800 695-6995 or 480 994-9203 and ask for our "space access" rate of $74 a night. (Our rate is available for three days before and after the conference dates.)

As for our current view of things, here, briefly, it is:

- Radically cheaper space access (ten to a hundred times less than current costs) would be a massive public good, enhancing existing space markets and opening up potentially huge new ones, creating new opportunities for research, exploration, commerce, and defense.

- Such access is possible in the near term with current technology, at sufficiently high flight rates. Rocketry has become more medium- tech than high, as witness among other things growing third-world missile proliferation. At the same time, modern lightweight materials and electronics greatly ease combining high performance with intact reusability, allowing breakout from the traditional expendable-missile ammunition design mindset, with potential huge benefits to low-cost reliability.

What's been lacking to date has been the proper combination of reasonable goals (it's DC-3 time, not 747), sensible focused management, good engineering (KISS), and funding. Much depends on a leap of faith that large new markets will emerge to support the necessary higher flight rates - "if you build it, they will come". At least one such new market, tourism, is growing steadily less speculative.

As for who might produce such access anytime soon...

- Certainly Not NASA

In the best of all possible worlds, we'd have long ago dismantled the NASA "human spaceflight" empire for being a massively inflexible bureaucracy neither capable of making nor willing to make any significant changes in what they do: Flying a half-dozen people on a half-dozen missions a year at over a billion dollars a mission. We'd have put money into low-cost access X-projects and investment incentives, and once the results started flying we'd have rebuilt NASA as a genuine leading-edge research and exploration agency flying hundreds of times a year on other people's rockets at less cost than it now flies a half-dozen times a year on its own.

Alas, in this imperfect world NASA JSC/KSC/MSFC represents a volume of Federal funding impossible to radically redirect with the available political capital. The current White House still has only thin Congressional majorities, and obviously has higher priorities than radical reform of NASA - for now at least. Administrator O'Keefe's immediate brief at NASA seems to be to stop the bleeding - to impose actual accounting of where the money goes, and to steer the agency back toward meeting existing obligations without busting future budgets.

In this context, we see the new "Orbital Space Plane" (OSP) project as being the best ("least bad", if you will) use of the existing SLI funding wedge practical under current political constraints. It is a huge improvement on SLI's previous direction, a budget-busting all-up Shuttle replacement designed primarily to drop painlessly into the current Shuttle operations bureaucracy, yet also touted as meeting US commercial launch needs - seriously muddying the waters for genuine commercial space transportation investment.

OSP has the virtue of assuring NASA's minimum manned launch needs (whatever one may think of the current agency, we do now have international obligations to meet) without the slightest chance of anyone plausibly pretending it addresses commercial markets too.

We still would like to see NASA formally declare itself out of the business of developing commercial space transportation. Further, we would like NASA to make explicit that launch cost reductions impractical in the context of their large and inflexible organization, complex requirements, and miniscule flight rate may be eminently practical elsewhere.

- Probably Not DOD

The Defense Department is starting to get interested - discussing the military implications of near-term radically cheaper on-demand launch is no longer career suicide for officers, and DARPA is funding some useful work as part of their RASCAL project - but DOD's latest reorganization consolidated space under USAF, whose space people are currently wrapped up in bringing EELV online, and which over the medium term isn't interested in anything which might interfere with F-22 funding. DOD in general has other more pressing budget priorities for the foreseeable future. We don't expect DOD to produce radically cheaper access anytime soon.

- Almost Certainly Not BoeMacLockMart

The existing major aerospace companies may or may not still be organizationally capable of developing radically cheaper space transportation - recent signs are not good - but this is a moot question, since absent a deep-pockets government customer, none of them will try. They've had that sort of risk-taking thoroughly squeezed out of them over the last generation. It ain't gonna happen.

- The Startups

This leaves the entrepreneurial startups as our main hope for a cheap space transportation revolution. None of them yet look like much - a few of them have test-flown hardware, but on average they tend to be a handful of engineers with shoestring funding, an ambitious business plan, and a partially refined design - but historically, every time there's been a revolution in transportation technology, new companies have taken over from the old established leaders. The massively complex organizational structures that evolved to squeeze marginally acceptable reliability out of modified artillery rockets are more hindrance than help in dealing with the new high-flight-rate reusable paradigm. The startups should be supported and encouraged - individually they're long shots, but collectively they're by far our best bet for a spacefaring future.

Space Access Society's sole purpose is to promote radical reductions in the cost of reaching space. You may redistribute this Update in any medium you choose, as long as you do it unedited in its entirety. 

Space Access Society 

"Reach low orbit and you're halfway to anywhere in the Solar System" - Robert A. Heinlein

From Dave Colton:

Subject: DoD's Twelve Days of Christmas The President has authorized the Department of Defense to assist Santa with the Twelve Days of Christmas.

Status of acquisitions follows:

Day 1- Partridge in a pear tree: The Army and Air Force are in the process of deciding whose area of responsibility Day 1 falls under. Since the partridge is a bird, the Air Force believes it should have the lead. The Army, however, feels trees are part of the land component command's area of responsibility. After three months of discussion and repeated OpsDepsTank sessions, a $1M study has been commissioned to decide who should lead this joint program.

Day 2 - Two turtle doves: Since doves are birds, the Air Force claims responsibility. However, turtles are amphibious, so the Navy-Marine Corps team feels it should take the lead. Initial studies have shown that turtles and doves may have interoperability problems. Terms of reference are being coordinated for a four-year, $10M DARPA study.

Day 3 - Three French Hens: At State Department instigation, the Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs has blocked offshore purchase of hens, from the French or anyone else. A $6M program is being developed to find an acceptable domestic alternative.

Day 4 - Four Calling Birds: Source selection has been completed, with the contract awarded to AT&T. However, the award is being challenged by a small disadvantaged business.

Day 5 - Five Golden Rings: No available rings meet MILSPEC for gold plating. A three-year, $5M accelerated development program has been initiated.

Day 6 - Six Geese a-Laying: The six geese have been acquired. However, the shells of their eggs seem to be very fragile. It might have been a mistake to build the production facility on a nuclear waste dump at former Air Force base that was closed under BRAC.

Day 7 - Seven Swans a-Swimming: Fourteen swans have been killed trying to get through the Navy SEAL training program. The program has been put on hold while the training procedures are reviewed to determine why the washout rate is so high.

Day 8 - Eight Maids a-Milking: The entire class of maids a milking training program at Aberdeen is involved in a sexual harassment suit against the Army. The program has been put on hold pending resolution of the lawsuit.

Day 9 - Nine Ladies Dancing: Recruitment of the ladies dancing has been halted by a lawsuit from the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell Association." Members claim they have a right to dance and wear women's clothing as long as they're off duty.

Day 10 - Ten Lords a-Leaping: The ten lords have been abducted by terrorists. Congress has approved $2M in funding to conduct a rescue operation. Army Special Forces and a USMC MEU(SOC) are conducting a "NEO-off" competition for the right to rescue.

Day 11 - Eleven Pipers Piping: The pipe contractor delivered the pipes on time. However, he thought DoD wanted smoking pipes. DoD lost the claim due to defective specifications. A $22M dollar retrofit program is in process to bring the pipes into spec.

Day 12 - Twelve Drummers Drumming: Due to cutbacks only six billets are available for drumming drummers. DoD is in the process of coordinating an RFP to obtain the six additional drummers by outsourcing; however, funds will not be available until FY 05.

As a result of the above-mentioned programmatic delays, and due to a High OPTEMPO that requires diversion of modernization funds to support current readiness, Christmas is hereby postponed until further notice.

Situation entirely normal...

Now a report on Dragon and Dictation (see the BYTE column that is up today):



I have been using voice typing on & off since the early IBM version with a digital signal processor card stuck in a dx2 pc costing over 1000! Early promise demonstrated by a terribly well spoken (BBC newsreader English) IBM sales person proved impossible for me to match so I went back to using a typist for reports etc.


I tried NaturallySpeaking V3 & 4 in a Dell Pentium II 450 with 256 ram and enjoyed good accuracy and speed but was defeated by one irritating error, it turned out that my speech has a slight sibilance of which I was unaware but was picked up by the headset microphone in close proximity to my mouth. To cut a long story short, a very promising performance from NaturallySpeaking was totally spoilt by the adding an extra s" on the end of random words. The time taken to correct this and my inability to tune this out by training the software, back to keyboard!


This year I decided to look up some reviews on the version 6 of the software and was attracted by a new feature, N. B. S. (nothing but speech) that promised to remove extraneous sound inputs. I decided to "try it before I buy it" by downloading a copy via Kazaa which turned out to be an American English addition but good enough to demonstrate that, on my fast Althon machine, the software flew and the sibilance was ignored. I then bought an official upgrade from version 4 to 6 for C85 from Scansoft UK. I have purchased the select version as this includes all the features I require except for some minor office XP navigation features in outlook and Internet Explorer. The macro facilities enable me to automate a number of boring time-consuming jobs and the advanced scripting and Visual Basic features in the professional version are beyond my abilities and needs at present..


I have now installed this software in my office on a puny IBM 600X 500 MHz laptop with 256 meg ram and whilst it doesn't "fly" it produces a very acceptable result. From my experience to date the best investment for voice typing is a quality headset and microphone both for comfort and accuracy. I have heard good things about and Emkay RF-5615, an ultra light-weight dictation quality radio headset, details on their web site.
  although this is an expensive headset at 2 -- 3 times the price of the decent conventional set up the ability to get out of my chair to cope with frequent meetings and interruptions without strangling myself or tipping over cups of tea with the dangling cable is worth almost any price. In theory, I can continue dictating at up to 30 feet from my desk.. There is no doubt that dictation accuracy improves when you do not look at the monitor, I think this is due to people waiting for the text appear on the screen and this has a self-serving effect of slowing the speech rate down, for some reason the software performs much better when you talk at a fair pace. As an added bonus, a button on the base station enables you to answer the telephone fire the headset rather than having to pick up the headset.


Although I am able bodied thank God, I can clearly see that for a disabled person the ability to navigate just about any Windows program without a mouse or keyboard would be an absolute godsend-believe it This program can do it with absolutely minimal training.

If you are interested, I will let you know how the new radio headset compares with the non-wireless option for convenience as well as accuracy.

Excuse any typos as its real late here and rather than proofreading I'm off to bed.

This message was initiated, typed and sent without using the keyboard, I hope it is not too obvious!

Andy Gibbs

Thank you for that encouraging report!  I have managed to get all the components of Dragon Naturally Mobile and Naturally Speaking, and I intend to install on one of my really fast machines with a very good headset and microphone. I am also interested in the mobile dictation device. I type fast enough at my regular keyboard that I don't need to dictate, but I'd sure love to be able to dictate on the road.









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Tuesday,  December 15, 2002

This day was devoured by locusts.








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Wednesday, December 16, 2002

I have to run to the bank. 

Dragon Naturally Speaking

How interesting that you wrote what you did in this week's column. I went out and purchased version 4 on your recommendation a few years ago, even though it took me days and a lot of effort to find someone who was actually selling it.

A week ago I decided to give it a try again, and hunted down version 6. It works pretty well the same (although my computer is now much, much faster), and I surprised myself by remembering to say "scratch that". It does have an annoying effect on Internet Explorer, making IE freeze for 5-10 seconds every time you open it, but that is solved by configuring Dragon to not do its thing with IE.

As to your pondering why it hasn't caught on more than it has? I suspect I might have at least one answer. I have tried using it to help write the voluminous amount of email that I write each day. When I go back and read what I have written, it is readily apparent which was written by dictation, and which was typed. How I compose my thoughts in my head when I am typing is different than when I am speaking - perhaps because when I speak, I have less time to think through what it is I am going to say?

In any case, I am still going to use it. But not all the time. I still like to type. 

_______________________ Scott MacLean ICQ: 9184011

I tend not to dictate when I need organized thoughts, but the hand held recorder with text to speech seems made for taking a walk with a camera and that, and ending up with a short essay or photo essay. At least I hope to try it.

It is curious that taking dictation is not longer required for most office assistants and secretaries. Perhaps the influence of small computers?

You wrote:

>It is curious that taking dictation is not longer required for >most office assistants and secretaries. Perhaps the influence >of small computers?

Nope, small tape recorders. I've been a legal secretary for 16 years and have never "taken dictation," but I've probably transcribed 10 or more tapes a week during that time.

Some attorneys are better than others at dictation. Some attorneys expect me to type exactly what they dictate, while others let me edit it on the fly. Some attorneys dictate a final version the first time through; others dictate and then redraft (mostly on paper, but some times with additional dictation inserts) several times.

There's one attorney here who spells out some of the words...but he spells the easy ones, and not hard ones (like personal names)! Some attorneys dictate puncutation with words (comma, period, new paragraph), others leave it to tone of voice and vocal pauses.

Transcription is definitely a skill one has to develop, but then, so is dictation. -- Kris Hasson-Jones

Ah. I should have figured that out. Of course you're right.

Eric observes: 

Microsoft and Apple keep upping the ante on bundled applications, as in the new Windows Movie Maker 2 and the new iMovie version expected to turn up at MacWorld in January. What amazes me is the amount of argument going back and forth (see bottom of review) on the competing value of each product even though they're free.

Without extensive side-by-side comparison I'd be willing to cede this to Apple on the basis that they have the greater need to pump up sales of the basic Mac systems and have demonstrated little concern for overlapping into the markets of third party developers. iMovie is a training ground for Apple's own lucrative Final Cut Pro market, while Windows users who get a taste for making videos and want more are pointed toward an array of non-Microsoft offerings that'll run on their machines. If you're a Mac developer Apple has made it fairly worthless to produce a video editing product targeting any level below Final Cut Pro. So far Microsoft itself has shown little interest in entering the prosumer or professional video creation markets, satisfied instead to provide a demo of what WMV technology can do and hopefully drive demand for higher end products supporting WMV from the ISVs.

There is, of course, the not insignificant matter of lawyers screaming bloody murder if MS encroaches on an ISV's market as well as criticism from the user base. The same behavior is business as usual for Steve Jobs, though.

Eric Pobirs

Well, if you have most of the market share you do have to tread carefully. Dan brought his new Mac portable by today. looked pretty good. But all the stores where I used to buy Macs are gone, several done in by Apple direct marketing. Ah well.








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Thursday, December 19, 2002

A critical warning:

Microsoft has announced yet another critical vulnerability. This one affects only Windows XP (all versions). Anyone who is running XP needs to be aware of this problem and apply the patch as soon as possible.

Microsoft says:

"An attacker could seek to exploit this vulnerability by creating an .MP3 or .WMA file that contained a corrupt custom attribute and then host it on a website, on a network share, or send it via an HTML email. If a user were to hover his or her mouse pointer over the icon for the file (either on a web page or on the local disk), or open the shared folder where the file was stored, the vulnerable code would be invoked. An HTML email could cause the vulnerable code to be invoked when a user opened or previewed the email. A successful attack could have the effect of either causing the Windows Shell to fail, or causing an attacker's code to run on the user's computer in the security context of the user."

More information is available at <

-- Robert Bruce Thompson

REGARDING that Worm Warning that applied to Windows XP!!

Well, the vulnerability applies to ANY Windows user from 98 on up if they use Winamp, which is distributed with Netscape and also a free download elsewhere. Fortunately, a fix is available free:;?articleid=9680 

-- John Bartley, K7AAY, telcom admin, USBC/DO, Portland OR - Views are mine.

And Roland says:

It means that if you go to a Web site, and download an .mp3 file - a music file - which, along with the music, contains carefully-crafted malicious commands - your box can be compromised and remote-controlled by bad guys, who can steal your data, use it as a DDoS zombie, etc.

In other words, the security of the Windows family of OSes is SO BAD that playing MUSIC downloaded from the Internet can lead to your box being compromised.

Make sense?







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Friday, December 20, 2002

First some good news:

Pumping LOX with piston pump. Whee! Note the high tech hair-dryer to warm sensors in between runs. ;->

Aleta Jackson, XCOR

Pumping LOX_up.jpg (61639 bytes)

I'm supposed to add:

Just add that it's not on fire, just back-lit by the sodium vapor light (some viewers have assumed the liquid oxygen's catching fire!). Merry and Happy! Aleta

And in small steps space research continues, in private companies. Now if we can convince everyone that X-33 was not an X project, but a Lockheed boondoggle from the Lockmart Center for the Absorption of Federal Funds, we may get some real X-projects. If not, outfits like XCORPS continue...

And then not so good. Or is it?


Rumors are currently flying at this end of the world. --

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

The article refers to conditions under which Iranian immigrants whose papers were not in order were detained in Los Angeles.

First Impressions: I may rethink this.

We have here a mixture of incompetence and arrogance on the part of INS, but for once applied to a real problem, and it's not all their fault. What happened was that a number of Iranians whose papers didn't seem in order were told to report to the Federal Building. Most of these had minor irregularities, but all of them had expired visas. In many cases they had applied for a different kind of VISA, or immigration status, and thought erroneously they didn't need to do anything else but wait: and in fact at one time that might have been technically illegal but still correct. Some they were just plain willfully wrong, but wrong in a way that thousands have been willfully wrong in the past and it was no big deal.

This time it was a big deal. They were arrested. The facilities overflowed. The INS people began to panic: there were so many technical illegals! But they had their orders. So --

Now, at the cost of a couple of days of indignities and discomfort, perhaps a lesson was taught: now it IS a big deal to have your papers in order.

Recall David Niven's biography? In order to come legally to the US he had to leave the US and apply: overstaying his visa would automatically get him deported never to come back to Hollywood. He complied. Others did. That was pretty usual until recently, when we began importing people from Iran, Somalia, Russia, Tajikistan, and myriads of other places, and encouraging "diversity" rather than conforming to US law; while the Clinton Administration didn't enforce immigration laws and regulations. Call it kindness if you like.

 It wasn't all that long ago that immigrants were glad enough to be here to conform to regulations and none of this would have happened. Now we have completely lost control, and the INS is trying to get back in control; and while this may not be the best way to do it, it's not the worst either. I have sympathy for those who thought of themselves as law abiding even though they didn't bother to comply with the technical regulations in all details; I have even more sympathy for the INS agents who weren't allowed to enforce the laws, then were told to enforce them, all of them, and now,  and didn't quite know how to do it so quickly.

It could have been planned better. But perhaps a salutary lesson has been learned by all. I can hope so. And see below.

Subject: Imperial Senate

JUNEAU, Alaska - Former Sen. Frank Murkowski on Friday appointed his daughter, Republican state Rep. Lisa Murkowski, to serve the remaining two years of his term in the U.S. Senate. Murkowski, who spent 22 years as a senator, resigned Dec. 2 when he was sworn in as Alaska's governor. As governor, he had the authority to appoint his successor in the Senate.

Lisa Murkowski, a 45-year-old lawyer and mother of two, was re-elected last month to a third term in the Alaska Legislature and had been selected as House Majority leader.

She called her appointment to finish her father's Senate term an incredible and awesome responsibility.

Jonathan S Eveland

I am not sure I see how this is all that different from electing a dead man and appointing his widow to the Senate? At least it's not Caligula's horse.

Uncle Gene observes that at least Rome got the whole horse...

Subject:  - report on academic knowledge

Depressing but hardly astonishing, alas. Fortunately some schools are trying to reverse this, vide the underfunded but nevertheless thriving Mojave Unified School District here in >gasp< California, a state not known lately for its sparkling academic achievements. Aleta

Aleta Jackson 

A good free public education system is one of the best ways of redistributing wealth and giving equality of opportunity. Unfortunately, that is no longer the system's goal: now it's to satisfy a bureaucracy.

When Trent Lott said we might not have some of these problems had the States Rights Party won in 1948 he undoubtedly had this sort of thing in mind: the country may have made great progress in racial equality, but in education it is an equality of putridity, not even an equality of mediocrity. In 1948 Booker T. Washington High School in Memphis,  a segregated school for Negroes, had better academic programs than any of the public schools in Memphis today.

Not that it matters. So long as the purpose of the education system is to satisfy educationists rather than consumers, it will continue to deteriorate. That might have happened under States Rights too, although I suspect it wouldn't have happened to all the schools.

Roland asks a question:

Subject: Why does this picture disturb me?

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

I don't think this picture is disturbing at all. It's about time.

I think that Roland is afraid that Japan will "rise" again..........


Richard Drake

I don't find it disturbing either: as you say, it's about time Japan defended its own interests. The US has been helping China build the Greater East Asia Co Prosperity Sphere...





This week:


read book now


Saturday, December 21, 2002

Hi Jerry

> An Australian Court holds that Americans can be sued in > Australia under Australian Law for views expressed in the > United States and published on the Internet.

There are some facts about this that have had less attention in the media than they might have.

As is normal, the Judge gave a number of reasons for his decision. Two are worth noting.

Firstly, the aggrieved party was damaged in Australia. As a result of the comments made by Dow Jones, his companies (listed on the Aust stock exchange) lost value.

Secondly, the judge noted that Dow Jones has assets in Victoria (the state where the case is being heard). He pointed out that enforcing a ruling against a defendant with no Australian assets would be problematic.

I have a certain sympathy for the ruling in this particular case, but agree that the precedent it sets might lead to some very scary places.

Although I don't recall reading any connections, I cannot help wondering if this might have been less successful had not the US court ruled that Elcomsoft could be tried under US law. The cases are not without similarity.


Michael Smith (in Sydney Australia)

Yes; I knew some of the details, but thought it worth while waiting for someone like you who would be more familiar rather than trying to glean information from a US newspaper. Thank you.

I agree that the Elcomsoft affair probably influenced this: it shows that Empires can and do make grabs they don't allow client states to make.

If I, living and publishing in Hollywood, were to call an Australian politician something insulting in Australia -- something worse than being a politician, and unprovable one way or another, say that he was incompetent and a jerk -- and it could be argured that this caused him to lose votes in Australia, would he then be justified in suing me in an Australian court? Would I be arrested in New Zealand or Mexico and extradited to Australia because I was in default of a judgment?

These matters are going to come up again and again, not in so stark a manner as I have presented, but they'll be around.

I had thought all this rather obvious. But:

One of my US readers wrote and asked me what I thought of this, quoting you. I replied:

The US set the precedent that actions legal in the country where they took place are actionable in the US. This was true before Sklyarov , I believe, in that you could be legally married to a girl that was deemed underage in the US and face statutory rape charges when you entered the US. This in a country that had the age of consent at age seven a century ago in Delaware!

Australian (and British) libel law is an instrument of oppression for the wealthy. I do suspect though that it is not quite as bad as you believe.

Of course our politicians, like yours, are completely insane -- how else could they become politicians? They are also immune to libel actions under what is called "parliamentary privilege". Since their liberal use of this privilege has never yet destroyed those they libel, it exposes the libel laws for what they truly are: a convenient way of silencing one's social inferiors and also making a bit of extra cash.

Cheers and best wishes for the festive season

Jonathan Sturm The world's most famous Pompous Git according to Google!

Tell me who was prosecuted for statutory rape for being married to an underage girl? Someone who lived in Arabia? The Special Forces went over and kidnapped him? As to what Delaware did a century ago, how is that relevant? A century ago is a long time. How do you remember that far? Were you married to a 7 year old then? Do you want to be? 

The obvious answer to not being prosecuted for statutory rape for being married to a 7 year old is, for God's sake, DO NOT COME TO PLACES THAT MAKE IT ILLEGAL. I doubt that anyone from here will go to you and prosecute you. You want to live in Delaware with a 7 year old wife, serve you right.

What you do there is what you do there. How is that analogous to this silliness?

And the Elcomsoft case isn't quite the same either: the sales were made in to the US to people in the US and money was collected here. I find all that stupid as the DMCA is stupid, but once again, there isn't much similarity, is there?

Table of age of consent for different countries and different states in the USA 

A paper about the changes to the age of consent in the USA in the late 19thC 

You ask me how do I remember that the age of consent in Delaware was seven years a century ago? The same way that you remember that Mark Twain wrote Huckleberry Finn, or Milton wrote Paradise Lost! I suspect that your critics might be correct when they say you are losing your marbles.

Jonathan Sturm The world's most famous Pompous Git according to Google!

Clearly our pompous git has lost his sense of humor whatever I may have lost. Also his ability to get the point, which is that local laws apply locally, and the way to avoid prosecution is not to go to places where what you do is illegal. I never quite understood the relevance of Delaware law of the last century to a discussion of the jurisdiction of Australian courts in 2002, so perhaps I should begin a marble search.

Thank you for the enlightenment.

As to some serious implications of this international business, see below.


On the Trent Lott Affair (see previous)


It's not just wacko leftists who wanted Lott to go. It's Republicans. Why that should be so was wonderfully enunciated by Peggy Noonan, Ronald Reagan's former speechwriter and a fiery Republican partisan, in today's _Wall Street Journal_:

"It is a mistake to underestimate the degree to which some black Americans fear they may find themselves at the mercy of the forces that used to keep them down. People internalize memories and absorb the vibes of history. Margaret Thatcher told me a few years ago that one of the things she'd become deeply aware of while in power is how fearful so many people feel in their daily lives, that insecurity itself is a great force in modern life. I was struck by this. I'd never heard a political figure speak so thoughtfully about the varieties of human experience, and I also thought she was right, and I was startled that it was Mrs. Thatcher saying it. She wasn't famous for sensitivity.

"But many people are fearful, deep down, that some old bad day will return ... there are blacks in America who fear, deep down, that the whites of America do not accept them truly, will never accept them fully, would move against them if possible and, at the very least, often deride them behind their backs. Do you find that surprising? I don't. I think it's sad and human and understandable. It's what happens when people have been enslaved.

"One of the great patriotic emotions of our time, it seems to me, is to be eager that everyone in our country come to feel as secure and respected as everyone else. Part of that -- just a small part but a meaningful one -- means no speaking in racial code words by political, cultural or religious leaders. Period. Or anyone else if that's possible.

"I believe that Trent Lott spoke at the Thurmond birthday party in racial code words. And a man who does that should not, half a century into the modern movements for civil rights, be allowed to continue as the face of a major political party in politics."

Lott wasn't just a "distraction". He was somebody who could have derailed George Bush's serious efforts to make the Republican Party once again a party that black Americans can vote for -- a national party, a Union party of those willing to be counted for liberty. He had to go.

--Erich Schwarz

Well all that is certainly true enough, but it misses my point. Elementary politeness says one should not speak of rope in the house of a man who has been hanged, but that doesn't mean an absolute prohibition on picking up and hanging clothing.

The issue of Federalism, which is to say States' Rights, isn't much discussed now. It was a real topic in my high school, and ought to be again: nationalization in a democracy does NOT lead to a government by consent of the governed, but rather by will of the majority. The notion of consensual majorities is important and becoming lost in our mad desire never to speak of past injustices.

If we want to talk of past indignities to blacks, the Democrats have more to account for than the Republicans. It was the GOP that freed the slaves, and Nathan Bedford Forest's Klan that negotiated a settlement to the Hayes-Tilden election crisis. And Jim Crow and the Solid South and primary elections were pretty well Democratic inventions. The Republicans came very late to that particular party. As late as 1960 there were no Republican officials in the South, and it was Eisenhower who sent in the federal troops to enforce court decrees -- court decrees made necessary by the failure of a Congress dominated by Democrats to use the undoubted legislative powers given them in the Civil War Amendments.

Moreover, the black racists in the Democratic Party routinely say things that are nearly unthinkable t0 anyone else. Of course the paternalism of the Democrats prevents anyone disciplining them.  It's wink, wink, nudge, nudge, "you know" and all the rest, excuses for the inexcusable.

Lott wasn't a very good leader and won't particularly be missed, but he should have been no more than a distraction. Exaggerated concern for the feelings of one group to the exclusion of the others is not good practice for a republic and ought not be rewarded.

As to blacks voting Republican, not so long as the Democrats continue to insist that the law must not be color blind. The Republicans can never outbid the Democrats on gifts from the public treasury to divisive groups. The Republicans have their own problems, and I don't like some of the things they favor, but they don't dole out money and university positions and civil service jobs by race in the name of diversity. Going after any significant part of the black vote by catering to black Americans as blacks rather than as Americans is a losing proposition for the Republicans, and getting into that kind of bidding war will be a disaster for the republic.

The law ought to be color blind. The past is past. History is history. Every tribe in Africa either oppressed another or was the victim of oppression. Tribal politics is a disaster for a civilized society, and encouraging racism through an exaggerated concern for the feelings of racial groups as groups is a sure road to the destruction of the republic.

Once you have a national government with no limits to its powers, you will find that you have created an engine that can be restrained only by force.

As John Stuart Mill observed, a people insufficiently advanced in political arts to implement a republic of limited powers should count themselves fortunate to have a Charlemagne or an Akbar. I can add that a republic that degenerates sufficiently will find itself in the same situation.

Mandrake gestures hypnotically:

Well, much as I like Mandrake, this sounds like they're going down for just about the second time, alas.

Luckily, there are other very good distros, and RedHat appears to be entirely healthy.

Joel Rosenberg

---------- Forwarded Message ----------

Subject: Please read: MandrakeSoft's Future Date: Fri, 20 Dec 2002 18:51:02 +0100 (CET) From: Mandrake Team <> To:

Flash: MandrakeSoft's Future ----------------------------

Many of you have followed the evolution of MandrakeSoft throughout the past few years. Everyone who is concerned with the company's future is encouraged to read and distribute the following message.

Despite the many financial challenges of maintaining a fully open source business model, MandrakeSoft has always followed the Free Software approach, but in this normally joyful holiday season we are experiencing a serious short-term cash crisis.

In order to reach the next release, MandrakeSoft currently needs to raise cash and quickly complete an Increase of Capital. Please take a moment to read this important message at the Mandrake Linux website:

We know you may have read our previous appeals, but if you are truly concerned about MandrakeSoft's future, now is the time to mobilize and help spread the word.

With the holidays upon us, a great way to spread some "Linux cheer" is by offering the gift of a MandrakeClub membership. The Club is a great way to support MandrakeSoft, and to help others too.


The MandrakeSoft team.


And Microsoft keeps rolling along....

I work with a number of people from other countries so these immigration issues often become a topic of conversation. What I caught in this morning's news as almost an after thought is that when all these arrests occurred, it was because masses of people showed up to register on the very last day. It implies that the INS had the leisure to investigate the situation of those who showed up on previous days, resolve the situation, and send them on their way. On the last day, there was little time to spend on each case, so those with any irregularity were detained.

Mike Thompson

The moral of the story is don't wait until the last minute to get your papers in order. Empires like papers to be in order. 

Subject: Good riddance.

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

De mortuis nil nisi bene

But I am willing to make an exception sometimes.

Subject: Colin Clark, RIP.;

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

Not every man achieves his fantasy even for a week...

Subject: Christmas in Pleasantville.

------- Roland Dobbins

Open up your heart and let the sunshine in... And see below

In a more serious vein than the above,

Looks like Microsoft has finally release DirectX 9 as seen here:

Which also happens to coincide with ATI releasing version 3 of their Catalyst drivers here: 

However, according to reports at The Inquirer recent ex-MS DirectX folks say "Anyone who uses this except on a spare machine is nuts." as seen here: 

So tread carefully.

-Dan S.

And relevant to the Trent Lott affair:

British Red Cross bans Christmas: report

December 22 2002

The British Red Cross has ordered a near total ban of Christmas decorations from its charity shops so as not to offend Muslims, a London newspaper reported yesterday.

"We put up a nativity scene in the window and were told to take it out," Christine Banks, a volunteer at a Red Cross shop in Kent county, southern England, told the Daily Mail tabloid.

"It seems we can't have anything that means Christmas. We're allowed to have some tinsel but that's it ... We were told it is because we must not upset Muslims," Banks added.

Confirming the ban at the charity's 430 shops, a spokesman for the British Red Cross told the paper: "The Red Cross is a neutral organisation and we don't want to be aligned with any political party or particular philosophy".

"We don't want to be seen as a Christian or Islamic or Jewish organisation because that might compromise our ability to work in conflict situations around the world."

The spokesman added: "In shops people can put up decorations like tinsel or snow which is seasonal. But the guidance is that things representative of Christmas cannot be shown".


This story was found at:

Why not? Cromwell abolished Christmas, but it didn't stick. Now it looks as if it will go.  Ah well.

KAZAA and the RIAA

To view the entire article, go to

File Swapper Eluding Pursuers

By Ariana Eunjung Cha TALLINN, Estonia -- Their office is spartan, with only five computers in various states of repair and nary a decoration on the wall. Few outside this Baltic capital would even recognize their names, though many of the world's largest recording and movie studios are well aware of their accomplishment.

Jaan Tallinn, Ahti Heinla and Priit Kasesalu are the creators of Kazaa.

Over the past two years, the oddly named product has become the most popular online file-swapping system in the world. Roughly 160 million people have downloaded the software, primarily to trade music, TV shows and movies over the Internet. At any given time, more than 3 million people are running the program, double the number that Napster had at its peak.

And on. Very much worth your reading. The implications are, well, interesting... 

See Joel Rosenberg's comments, next rock.






This week:


read book now


Sunday, December 22, 2002

Yup. Whether it's kazaa or gtk-gnutella or limewire, the net has, once again, mutated around the restriction of the flow of information.

I'm*not* saying that's a good thing -- decentralized file-sharing makes copyright violation every bit as easy to do, and in practice impossible to crack down on -- but it was a predictable thing; I was hardly the only person who predicted it. I guess the Feds will, at some point, haul a few folks into court for DMCA violation -- but I doubt that'll make much of a difference.

About the only unpredictable part is which clients are going to be used, and that is, obviously, trivial.

Meanwhile, an interesting report from Ken MacLeod on the recent Al Qaida rollup in Scotland and London -- blogged at my own

DNQ this next, please:

Some interesting side effects -- if you do a search for .doc files, you'll often find that some people aren't quite as careful about segregating their shared drives/directories as they could.

My guess is that the Feds are doing quite a lot of that, of late, hoping that some Al Qaida folks with computers are careless. And who knows? They might get lucky. I frankly doubt it, but on the off chance, I'm sure you're no more eager to spill any beans than I am.



I keep Kazaa security by not installing Kazaa, in part because I haven't made up my mind yet on what I think about this.

Are we all feeling more secure now that the new Federal Employees are On The Job? 

Those who would give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety, said Ben Franklin: and we are getting what we deserve, I think. The question is why? 

What we are doing is not sane or rational, and it's not hard to see that it is neither sane nor rational: so why do we keep on doing it?

For many comments on all this, see mail.


Has the Homeland Security team gone insane? For a beginning see:

Subject: Instructor-pilot subpoenaed for buying manual on E-bay, then muzzled by Patriot Act 

"But from a personal perspective - as a career pilot qualified to captain the Boeing 737 and an instructor pilot - I reluctantly must conclude that the FBI -supervisors- involved in this particular effort are facilitating the Bureau's demise - as proposed by at least one Congressman, who has lost total confidence in the FBI."

Dear Jerry,

Apparently, flight manuals are now classified as threats to National Security, and purchasing one can draw a federal grand jury subpoena: 

"Sometimes I wonder whether the world is being run by smart people who are putting us on or by imbeciles who really mean it." -- Mark Twain


Gordon Runkle

I'll let those stand for the several I have received. While I can understand, perhaps, an agent visit, a subpoena? Grand Jury actions? Are we safer for all that?

I have half a dozen pointers to the next one:

Subject: Coffee, Tea, or Should We Feel Your Preg***t Wife's Br**sts Before Throwing You in a Cell at the Airport and Then Lying About Why We Put You There? 

--- Lee Plaisted Skeptical Maine-iac ---

But I have no experience with the reliability of the source. I would appreciate mail from anyone who knows the story to be true: it seems like something that the news media would pick up on, and I have heard nothing except on the web.

I do know that stories like that have made me decide to fly as little as possible. I probably will not go to AAAS this year because of this kind of thing.


Information on new FBI monitoring of internet traffic. Short but important. Suggest you read right away. 

Mike Juergens 

I -- see.

Seriously, have we not done to ourselves far more than Bin Laden hoped to do to us? And it goes on and on. The airlines are tanked, science conferences are collapsing, no one wants to travel, and we have a new bureaucracy, unionized, that can never be laid off, fired, disciplined, or restrained. And you ain't seen nothing yet.


My own (limited) experience is that the professionalism of the airport screening process has, in fact, improved since the substitution of Federal screeners, although the process is still ridiculously inconsistent. And, I'm not sure that material on is terribly reliable. Still, I would be interested to hear if corroboration of this tale turns up.

On the other hand, I have witnessed searches at the San Jose, California airport that were clearly improper. In the period before the Feds took over I found myself stuck for several hours adjacent to one of the security checkpoints while waiting for a delayed flight.

It soon was apparent that if you were young, female, and attractive and had the misfortune to pick the right hand line you would be "thoroughly" patted down by the male screeners working the gate, whether the magnetometer alarm went off or not. The female screeners were working the x-ray machines, and not taking part in the physical searches. Those few who protested were yelled at and intimidated.

I sent a letter detailing my observations to the management of the airport, but received no response. Like you, I now attempt to avoid the whole hassle of air travel.

I fear that there is no short term solution. The Secretary of Transportation is clearly incompetent, and I believe that the Department of Homeland Security will be mired in bureaucratic shuffling to try to merge the disparate agencies that the congress has jammed together for the foreseeable future; little hope there. If each airline were responsible for screening its passengers there would be an incentive, however imperfect, to make the process effective and less intrusive. I see little hope for the present system.


Bill Beeman San Jose, CA

The question is, who supports this idiocy? And will anything be done?

Subject: Zero tolerance.
 ----------- Roland Dobbins

Ordnung. We are all so much safer now.

Subject: Vestiges of backbone?
-- ---- Roland Dobbins

Or a few vestiges of sanity? And will it matter?

Terrorism is effective to the extent that it can use the target's resources as a force multiplier. It's really the old revolutionary strategy of provoking the target government into doing something so atrocious that the populace decides that living with that government is even worse than what it takes to overthrow it.

You'd think that people smart enough to run a successful campaign for public office would see this. Instead, we look like a drunken redneck trying to fight an martial-arts master.

Stephen J.Rush 

Well, perhaps it is not quite as bad as all that. Or is it? I confess a certain depression when I think about the situation.


In the last several months, AvWeek has published a letter of mine, along with another on the same theme: people aren't flying because they fear the security personnel. A whole industry has taken a nosedive costing many billions of dollars, and no one can seem to get a grip on reality. 

Instead, you read that the airlines are focusing on cost. Fewer people are flying. It's a top line problem, but the airlines focus on the bottom line. They are being strangled and they are letting it happen. You'd think Boeing, at least, would try to do something: when people aren't flying, the airlines won't buy airplanes. 

Ah, well. As you said, we are doing to ourselves what bin Laden could never do to us. OTOH, that's what terrorism is all about. Yet it's not our people who were spooked by the terrorists, it's the people running our laughable excuse for security systems. Hmm. If it gets bad enough, maybe Amtrak will start running cross-country trains again.

Ed Hume

Precisely. I don't fly because I don't want to be arrested, and I do not suffer fools very gladly. I am not afraid of terrorists, I am afraid of the Homeland Security clowns. But they are unionized now and have Civil Service rules protection, and nothing will ever be done. Perhaps we will get trains again.







And whilst this is meant to be in aid of a different discussion, it may be relevant here as well:

I thought of another observation on this "professional/amateur army" win/lose question: Perhaps the only war's the USA ever fought with totally professional armies were the Indian Wars of the Post-Civil War era, and the "small" wars fought by the Marines in Central America and the Caribbean in the early 20th century (where Chesty Puller learned the right way to fight an insurgency). Leaving aside the weighty question of whether these wars were just, the USA won all of them, in rather decisive fashion

Not a USA example, but don't forget that it's accepted by most military historians that the best army in the world in 1914 was not the German or the French. It was the "contemptible little army" of George V of Great Britain, long-term professionals.

Empires, successful ones, have such armies. Think it's a coincidence we've turned that corner ourselves in the USA? Even the reserves and National Guard are turning more into professionals, with long-term deployments. I would not be surprised to see, in the next decade, the reserves and Guard becoming by statue full-time jobs, with some sort of legal folderol to make them "not part of the standing military establishment", but in fact being so.

"ave imperator, ave atque vale respublica"

Kim Owen Smith


An intriguing question which contains assumptions:

I would be interested in seeing something on why every war we have fought with a citizen army we have won, but not so with a professional army.

I expect this has something to do with political reasons for war, but since your views have always been enlightening, I know I would be interested in reading them.

B Yokem


And we have:

Dear Dr. Pournelle,

With regard to that "Christmas in Pleasantville" story <
> that Roland Dobbins sent you for your don't-call-it-a-blog: two quotations stand out from it:

> Abby Alter, one of two performance > artists brought in to put on the > production, said..."I felt bad for the > kids.... They had a great time (putting > the show together). It was school, but it > was also a learning experience."

That says a world, doesn't it? I guess in Pleasantville, normally school is *not* a learning experience.

> Janice Duquette, president of > Pleasantville Parent Teacher Group, > said she was opposed to the school > teaching violence. "Violence doesn't > belong in school, and does not need to > be portrayed in school theater," > Duquette said.

So much for the high school productions of HAMLET, MACBETH, or most anything else of Shakespeare.

Ad astra, laissez-faire, and never thirst,

David K. M. Klaus

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

And continuing the INS story:


First, some thoughts on the INS from a former supplicant.

My family moved from Britain to Canada in 1974, then to the US in 1978. My father being a well-regarded engineer, we were hardly poor or without means. We secured the advise of an allegedly competent immigration attorney, moved in, bought a house and settled down.

Our visas expired a year later, leaving us in an undefined but illegal alien status for THREE YEARS until we could get an appointment with an INS agent. It was explained to us that, legal advice aside, to enter the US on a temporary visa with intent to stay was fraudulent, and that there was no legal way to "upgrade" the visa from temporary to permanent. Fortunately, through employer intercession, proof of good intent and taxes paid in the interim, we were granted an exemption that secured us permanent visas and eventual citizenship in "only" seven years total.

This might seem like an unusual case, and I would have thought so myself.


My friend Nicki and her family are former Soviet Jews who escaped in the early 80s. They had a similar runaround. Then, recently, she and her husband adopted her Israeli half-brother's children, he and his wife being destitute heroin addicts.

There was no trouble with the adoption process. She flew to Israel, the papers were signed, they came back. She's a reservist PA for the Pentagon, her husband a federal agent. Not people to engage in questionable activity. The children are legally theirs and could not be deported from the US, but for 2 years were not citizens, nor even legal residents, thus not being claimable as exemptions for taxes. INS personnel demanded paperwork notarized by a "US Notary, which is not a Notary Public" (no such entity exists), "Who can be found in any US Embassy." None of the flunkies in question seemed to understand that the children were already here. Lawyers, friends, congressmen, none were of any help. It took personal visits into Washington and much time wasted to get the point across.

Another Russian Jew, Max, was hired over here by a company that went bankrupt shortly after his arrival. Being unemployed, his visa invalidated, leaving him in the situation of needing a visa to get a job and an employer to get a visa. He, too was left in an undefined but illegal alien status, despite filing a request for an extension, for over a year, until he could arrange a student visa.

You're likely aware of David Weber's problems adopting Cambodian twins, with all and sundry accusing people of "selling children into slavery." (Slavery from Cambodia, into the house of a well-to-do American writer. Such a strange concept.) With both State and INS crushing every attempt to comply with the rules by finding or inventing more rules.

Then there's Leo, from Australia...and Kate...and Viesturs...

Based on personal experience and that of friends, I'd have to say that INS is incapable of operating within its own rules. It might, in fact, be best to abolish it and let State and Justice handle immigration and enforcement respectively.

Michael Z. Williamson []

BTW: I appreciate the powers of ten animation. My 5 year old daughter is watching it endlessly and asking questions about stars and cells. Well worth it, in my book. 

-- "Freehold" by Michael Z. Williamson, September 2003 from Baen Books "The Weapon," work in progress "Hero" with John Ringo, 2004 from Baen Books "Target: Terror" series: "One Shot, One Kill," "Scope of Justice," "By The Book," pending  Custom knives and historical costumes -- 

Many politicians are in the habit of laying it down as a self-evident proposition, that no people ought to be free till they are fit to use their freedom. The maxim is worthy of the fool in the old story, who resolved not to go into the water till he had learned to swim. If men are to wait for liberty till they become wise and good in slavery, they may indeed wait forever. -- Lord Thomas McCaulay

I do not really expect the bureaucracy to be efficient or effective, although parts of it can be. I note that all teh tax increases lately seem to have gone for raises for government employees. The purpose of government is to collect taxes and pay government employees, who may or may not be doing a job you want done. Sometimes they do. A few do so splendidly. But most need rigid rules, and then aren't capable of following them.

Which is why I expect little from government nowadays, and less from "civil service". A spoils system at least puts people in who are responsible to SOMEONE. When I was Deputy Mayor of LA (the post was called Executive Assistant but a few years ago they changed  it to Deputy Mayor which sure sounds more impressive) I had full control of the Civil Service Exempt employees. Or some of them. Some were the Mayor's old friends and we didn't expect them to work. We expected the others to work: they may have been friends and cronies, but if they didn't get the job done, out they went. With the Civil Service people it was a bit different...

When I was a lad the Hatch Act forbade US Civil Service people from contributing to political parties or doing any political work, and that was reasonably well enforced. Of course there was no civil service union. And in those days things worked a bit better than now.

The government can't do anything but hire and pay people, and some of its work is important. It may be an insoluble dilemma.









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